The seeds of a new parish

Catholics in the growing Riddrie area faced a fairly long trek to their Parish Church, which was St Michael’s, Parkhead. St Michael’s parish served a large area of eastern Glasgow, but as the population of Catholics grew in outlying areas such as Riddrie, the possibility of forming new parishes was being discussed by the Church. Archbishop Mackintosh decided to act and began to look for a suitable plot of land in the Riddrie area so that a small mission could be established.

In the early twenties a large rambling country house, then known as ‘Rosemount’, stood near the Cumbernauld Road. The house was in a run down condition and the surrounding land was overgrown and wild. It was in a good position to serve the growing Catholic population of the Riddrie area. The named owner of the property was a man called Francis Doherty and the general register also records that he gifted the land to the Church ‘Without any price being paid”

Mr Doherty’s generosity was not all it seemed to be. Certain local land owners refused to have any dealings with the Catholic Church and Mr Doherty was asked by the Diocese to purchase land in his name, and transfer it to the Church. He did this, using Church funds, and purchased the property known as Rosemount. It has to be kept in mind that such subterfuge was necessary given the hositility the Catholic Church faced in certain parts of Scotland in those days.

The man choosen to establish the new mission in the Riddrie area was the Rev. Thomas McEwan. He was born in Glasgow, of Irish Parents, on 18th November 1881 and attended St Aloysius school in Springburn. After completing his studies at St Aloysius College in Glasgow, he entered Blairs College in Aberdeen to prepare for priesthood. After two years at Blairs College, he was sent to Rome and was raised to the Priesthood in the German College there in October 1906. Rev McEwan returned to Glasgow in the summer of 1906 and celebrated his first Mass in St Aloysius, Springburn.

He was sent to work for a short period at Holy Cross Church in Croy before being moved on to the large parish of St Mary’s in Abercromby Street. He was to serve St mary’s with great energy and devotion for eighteen years and threw himself into his work with tremendous dedication. Rev McEwan orgainsed the Sacred Heart Association in the East end of Glasgow and took a keen interest in developing Cathloic schools in the area.

In early 1924, he was asked by the Archbishop to assist Father Stack at St Bride’s, Cambuslang. This appointment was short lived, as he was asked in November 1924 to found a new mission in the Riddrie area. We can only speculate what Rev McEwan thought as he looked at the ramshackle house that was to be his home for the years to come. Rosemount was in need of great repair and it must have been a daunting task that faced him when he arrived to begin his work.