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In 1940 Michael Young published a booklet entitled "A History of Catholic Jarrow". It was sub-titled "St Bede's 1860-1940", although the author commenced his account somewhat earlier, with the early monastic foundation at St. Paul's. It comprised a detailed account of the foundation of St. Bede's Parish and its first eighty years of existence. This booklet has long been out of print, and, it is my belief, out of copyright also. A copy is preserved in the Tyne and Wear Archives, but I feel that a document of this importance deserves to be more readily accessible to the public. Thanks to the generosity of Jerome Hanratty I have a personal copy, and have prepared the following transcript, set out to mimic as closely as possible the layout of the original.
The author was not a critical historian, and his account is somewhat rose-tinted, especially concerning the relationship between the Catholic clergy and their flock. Catholics were loyal to their priests, but many were also intimidated by them, especially during the time of Father Mackin, who ruled, as one of my relatives has described, "with an iron fist - in an iron glove".
On another issue - the relationship between the Catholic and non-Catholic communities, the author gives a similarly unbalanced account. The Catholic community did indeed suffer discrimination, but also practised it. When it came to hiring and firing, Catholic foremen were just as likely to favour their co-religionists as were non-Catholic foremen, and the Catholic attitude towards mixed marriages was well-known. (Father Mackin refused to marry my own great-uncle, George Rooney, for this reason.) However, despite the problems they encountered, many Catholics prospered, and a Catholic middle-class had emerged long before the Great War. He also errs in presenting an impression of a united community speaking with one voice. This was not the case, and I give three examples to illustrate this point. In the 1880's, the issue of Home Rule for Ireland impinged upon local politics and sharply divided the community. During 1921-22, Jarrow was a hotbed of IRA activity, which even divided families. In the 1930's, Labour Party candidates (ironically, many of them Catholics) and Independent Catholics fought against each other in Municipal Elections, and Father (by then Canon) Mackin, was defeated by Alderman David Riley, himself a Catholic, in the County Council Elections of 1934. However, by presenting his account in this way, the author has given us an insight into the siege mentality which develops within an immigrant community, and which persists well into the second and third generations. Perhaps there is a lesson here for modern-day Britain.
The subject matter will be of particular relevance to the Catholic population, but others with an interest in the development of the town of Jarrow will also find much in it. I have added some explanatory footnotes, and also an appendix which covers, regrettably in far less detail, the period from 1940 to the present day.
For those who may wish to print this document a version in PDF format can be downloaded here (Note: it is 5.3MB in size). My thanks are due to Mike Ellison for making this suggestion.
With enthusiasm and patient diligence Mr Young has combed the records of the past and the memory of the "Elders" to bring to light the History of Catholic Jarrow and here presents the highlights woven into the history of our parish - great names enriched by the deeds that made them great - familiar customs traced to remote origins - the past, and only in the nick of time, snatched from the brink of oblivion.
It is, alas, only with the highlights that history can be concerned, so much of deep human interest is gone beyond recall, thus for the one whose name appears here, many thousand must go unmentioned. As I read, I find myself thinking of all those men and women who laboured loyally yet unnoticed through the pages of this history, and without whom its events would never have been possible - their prayers, sacrifices and enthusiasm - their willing response to every call - their hearts torn with anxiety as each new difficulty presented itself, leaping with joy as it was surmounted - those who fetched and carried so that others might build - those who through infirmity or age were denied an active part - those who hoped and never saw - those who loved and were loyal to their priests - of such there is no record, save that cherished in the circle of each family. Here we may acknowledge the part they played, proudly recollect and, if need be, humbly remind ourselves that this is the stock from which we spring.
To-day, we stand at the postscript of this present volume, rightly proudly of the past, yet, it seems, at the preface of a new one, humbly confronting the future: Our hopes and fears, our failures and achievements some future historian will reduce to cold print, that others might read; the details are mercifully hidden, but one thing is certain, there must be the loyal band of the unnamed, in which it will be the lot of most of us to find a place. If there be no army of unknowns, there will be no deeds worthy of record, for on the faith and devotion of the humble catholic the greatness of the work will depend. Therefore, without apology, I ask every family to buy, read, and preserve this book, that from careful reading they may imbibe the spirit of the past and renew their own spirit and resolution.
Jarrow, the Diocese, and Catholic History, are the richer for this little volume; the author is a well known and respected Northerner, a loyal servant of the Church and Civil Community, and by the provision of this book places us, and posterity, under a further obligation to him. That debt I gladly acknowledge and thank him on my own behalf and on behalf of all who will read, I know with pleasure, this History of Catholic Jarrow.
The record of how the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was restored to Jarrow is one of absorbing interest. It cannot fail to attract the attention, not only of the Faithful in Jarrow, but also of those in the neighbouring towns on both sides of the river which were included in Jarrow's area of which Father George Meynell was Dean. Father Meynell succeeded to the important preliminary work of Father Edmund Kelly, who built the Church eighty years ago.
It is a story of noble effort for God, of self-sacrifice, of suffering borne with fortitude and of other qualities of head and heart displayed by those who have passed away, and whose book of life here has been closed. The recital of the qualities of men and women of the past must become an inspiration to those of the newer generation and cannot fail to be a source of encouragement to them.
In this effort to recall the past, there lies the hope that the present and future congregation of St. Bede's may be filled with a proper pride in the men and women of eighty years ago, who worked so zealously and with so much success for the restoration of the Catholic Church in this district. Their achievements will live when we have "folded our tents," and they may help to quicken enthusiasm, so that those who follow may preserve and pass on undimmed, the light of Holy Faith.
Most grateful thanks are given to all those who have assisted in providing information upon which this record is based. Included in a long line of willing helpers are:- The Very Rev. Canon Byrne (St. Bede's, South Shields), The Revv. E. Witty (St. Aloysius', Hebburn), Michael O'Leary (St. Aidan's, Willington Quay), William Toner (St. Columba's, Wallsend), Frederick W. Savory (St. George's, Bell's Close), James Bradley (SS. Peter and Paul's, Tyne Dock), Joseph Scarr (St. Edward's, Whitley Bay), Edward Avery (Sacred Heart, Boldon); Miss Foster (Yarm), Miss Frances McParlin, The Misses McMullen, Mrs. Graham and Mr. Joseph Duggan. In particular is this expression of thanks due to the Editor of the "Shields daily Gazette" for the permission, so readily given me, to peruse the office files of his newspaper for the years in which our Parish was being formed.
We cannot, in considering the Church in Jarrow, omit a reference to St. Paul's Monastery, but this must necessarily be brief because the primary purpose of this book is to deal with persons and happenings since the restoration of the Hierarchy in this country.
The earliest ecclesiastical foundation in Jarrow was begun by St. Benet Biscop in A.D. 681 and dedicated to St. Paul in 684. This monastery was a sister-foundation of the monastery of St. Peter, established " at the mouth of the River Were on the left bank in the 674th year of Our Lord's Incarnation." King Ecgfrid, who had given the lands on which both monasteries were built, laid down the condition "that no man should ever try to divide these two monasteries which had been united under the names of the first of the Apostles." Accordingly, St. Ceolfrid, appointed by St. Benet Biscop, "completed and ruled the monastery of St. Paul's seven years and afterwards ably governed.......the single monastery of St. Peter and Paul in its two separate localities."
About the same time as the dedication of St. Paul's there came to the monastery, Bede, then a child of seven. He was born, as he himself tells us "in the territory of that same monastery" and was sent there to be educated by Abbott Ceolfrid. This "territory" is thought to have included the present village of Monkton and we can imagine the small child being taken from his home through the woods and fields to the monastery buildings - the only buildings of any size between the Tyne and the Wear. They stood on a slight eminence above the clear waters of the River Don, where, in winter, were moored the ships which sought refuge from the storms in the open sea. Further on, to the east of the monastery, the Don emptied itself into the River Tyne by means of a broad estuary in extensive marshlands - now Jarrow Slake "called by Roger Hoveden the 'haven of Ecgfrid' as it sheltered his fleet,
and later, no doubt, was the winter anchorage of the Danes." To the south lay the extensive Hedworth Woods, whence was obtained most of the timber used for the erection and heating of the ecclesiastical buildings. Across the river, in the distance, to the north-east, could be seen the outline of the monastery buildings of Tynemouth - another foundation due to the work of the monks from Holy Island.
St Paul's itself covered a large area of ground, for besides the church and the smaller monastery buildings, accommodation was necessary for the community of over six hundred monks besides numbers of strangers who flocked here to acquire learning. The Church, we can imagine, would be built probably "in the Roman style" as was St. Peter's in Wearmouth.
This style of architecture was much admired by St. Benet Biscop, who, returning from one of his five pilgrimages to Rome (Bede: "Lives of the Holy Abbotts"), brought back from Gaul, masons who could build churches and "artificers" who could glaze the windows of the churches and monastery buildings. This was the first glass to be used in Britain. The sacred altar vessels and vestments, unprocurable in Britain, were brought by St. Benet Biscop from abroad. The interior of the Church was decorated with pictures obtained from the same source, pictures of Our Lord, Our Lady and the saints, and scenes from the Old and New Testament "so that every one who entered the Church, even if they could not read, wherever they turned their eyes, might have before them the amiable countenance of Christ and His Saints." St. Benet Biscop too, by special permission of the Pope, brought back one, John, "the arch-chanter of the Church of St. Peter, so that he could introduce the Roman mode of chanting and singing."
Around the church and the monastery were the outlying buildings - the farm, the barns, the stables, the bakehouse and the workshops, and beyond these again were extensive pasture lands, fertile fields and large gardens - all tended by the monks.
In these charming surroundings, Bede, the Mass Priest of Jarrow, spent the whole of his life. It was a busy life and a fruitful one, and he gives a short account of it at the
end of the "Ecclesiastical History." "Spending the remaining time of my life," (i.e. from the age of seven) "in that monastery, I wholly applied myself to the study of Scripture, and amidst the observance of regular discipline, and the daily care of singing in the church, I always took delight in learning, teaching and writing. In the nineteenth year of my age, I received deacon's orders; in the thirtieth, those of the priesthood, both of them by the ministry of the most reverend Bishop John, and by the order of Abbott Ceolfrid. From which time, till the fifty-ninth year of my age, I have made it my business, for the use of me and mine, to compile out the works of the Venerable Fathers and to interpret and explain them according to their meaning."
Not only did he offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and perform the daily tasks which fell to the monks in common such as "threshing and winnowing, milking the cows and working in the bakehouse, garden and kitchen," but he was a prodigious worker as well as a proficient teacher. It is not necessary here to refer to the sanctity of St. Bede's life; Holy Church has raised him to her altars, and, therefore, no more need be said.
A short reference, however, may be permitted to his labours in the field of knowledge. Professor Albert G. Latham, M.A. in his treatment of "Jarrow, the Cradle of English Learning," says:- "Bede's own writings are voluminous and varied. Of him can be said what has been said of few Englishmen - that he mastered all that was to be known in his time. The works that he left, apart from the various theological treatises to which he himself attached most importance, included text books on astronomy and meteorology, physics and music, philosophy, grammar, rhetoric, arithmetic and medicine - a whole encyclopaedia, in short, of contemporary knowledge." But of these, his best known work is "The Ecclesiastical History of the English People," the only authentic record of the early history of England. Of him, it has been said "Semper legit, semper scripsit, semper docuit, semper oravit" - "He was always reading, always writing, always teaching, always praying."
In conclusion, Professor Latham writes:- "Put off your shoes, ye who shall tread the
ruined cloisters of the abbey of Jarrow, or at least hush your voices and doff your caps, for the place on which you stand is holy ground - in all England, none holier."
Bede died as he had lived, thinking and working for others. Towards the end of the year 1022, Elfrid Westoe, a monk of Durham, made it a practice to visit frequently Bede's tomb in the monastery at Jarrow, until one morning he returned to Durham shunning observation. He confided to the other monks that he had secured his object: "The bones of Bede now lie in the shrine of St. Cuthbert." He warned them to guard the secret carefully. It is of interest also to mention the probability that in the journeyings of the monks who were carrying St. Cuthbert's body to Durham for burial, they rested for a night at the monastery of Jarrow.
The monks brought to Jarrow the Catholic Faith with the Holy Mass, the Sacraments, devotion to the Blessed Virgin and recognition of the Authority of the Pope, the Vicar of Christ. To the priests and brothers of the monastery we are deeply in debt, and particularly to St. Bede, under whose patronage we exist as a parish.
In the sixteenth century there came the so-called Reformation, associated with which was the spoliation of the Church, the destruction of the Altars of Sacrifice raised to the honour and glory of God, the banishment and often imprisonment - in many instances, the death under the most brutal conditions - of the Mass Priests. This period, when the Spirit of Evil had free scope resulted, for Jarrow, in the closing of the Monastery Church and the loss to the laity of the benefits of the Holy Mass and Sacraments.
But there were, in this area, men who rose superior to legal prohibition. Father W. Vincent Smith in "Catholic Tyneside" states: "Sir Robert Hodgson, of Hebburn Hall, was a leader in the Rising of the North in 1585 and he, together with John Daval and Anthony Berry, of Jarrow", were reported as "convicted recusants": they refused to acknowledge the Royal Supremacy in Religion. They were reported for harbouring "persons of all sorts ill-affected to the State".
This deprivation of religion had continued for over three hundred years when Father Edmund Joseph Kelly, an Irish Priest, was called upon by God to build up once again a Mass Altar in Jarrow - to bring back the Mass to the people.
The attempt to impose a new religion upon the people of England by Act of Parliament was not as successful as the so-called Reformers had hoped for but, nevertheless, the effects of the Penal Laws were very serious upon priests and people. In this northern district a number of priests laboured among the people, and everything possible was done by priests and people to keep the Church alive under the direction of Vicars Apostolic.
The ordination of Father James Worswick became a matter of supreme importance to the people of Tyneside. Mr. Worswick was a student at Douai when the French revolution broke out. He escaped from France and repaired to Crook Hall near Durham, where he completed his studies, and later, was appointed to Newcastle where he founded St. Andrew's Church. Travellers by 'bus to Worswick Street, Newcastle, may find interest in the fact that the street was named after this intrepid pioneer priest.
Catholics as far down the river as North and South Shields had to travel to St. Andrew's to Mass. Miss Errington, a Newcastle lady, who took a full share in the Catholic movement of the time, remarks in "The History of St. Cuthbert's, North Shields", that "the people from the lower reaches of the river had to walk to St. Andrew's Church, as the river boat did not run at a convenient time". She goes on: "They spent the whole of Sunday in the pursuit of their religion. After Mass they walked over the bridge to Gateshead where they had tea made for them by a widow, who let them have the use of a back room behind her shop. In the afternoon they attended Vespers and returned home".
Father Worswick determined to do something to ease the lot of these fervent Catholics and he "established a Mass House at North Shields. As he could not leave St. Andrew's on Sundays, he rode on horse-back to North Shields every Tuesday three weeks". In 1821, St. Cuthbert's Church, North Shields, was opened by Father Worswick, to serve the people of that town, South Shields, Willington Quay, and Jarrow. This measure of relief was welcomed. To reach North Shields, the people from Jarrow and South Shields had to cross the Tyne in rowing boats. Miss Errington tells us:
"The fare for a single person was 2d., and for more than one, 1½d. each. It was found too expensive for those with families to cross twice every Sunday, and, in order to remedy this, the Catholics of South Shields formed a committee of management. They hired a boat rowed by two men, the fare being a penny a week".
Jarrow, at this time, had four known Catholics:- a Mrs. Russell (an Irish widow) a Mrs. Rankin and a Mr. and Mrs. Curry. This number was increased when the chemical industry developed. In this industry a fair number of Catholics found employment and, as a consequence, quite a respectable body of Jarrow people travelled each Sunday to North Shields for Mass. Further relief for these earnest people was on the way. In 1849 Father Richard Singleton, opened, at South Shields, a Church dedicated to Saint Bede. Three attempts were made to secure suitable sites for a Church, but landowners could not be induced to sell land for such a purpose. As a consequence, Father Gillow (North Shields) bought an unused Baptist Chapel in Cuthbert Street (Green Street) South Shields, and to this Mission Father Singleton was appointed. Jarrow was included in this missionary effort.
Of Father Edmund Kelly, who succeeded Father Singleton, very little is known. During the Penal times, native English priests had many difficulties to face. They were hampered by the law, so that they were not free to reach the people as they would have done under favourable conditions. When the most vicious parts of these laws were revoked by Parliament in 1829, the Catholics grasped the opportunities offered by this permission to worship God freely according to their conscience. There was, however, no big forward movement, until, in 1850, His Holiness Pope Pius IX restored the Hierarchy in England. This was an opportunity for the Catholics of Ireland to demonstrate their eagerness to help their co-religionists in this country. The Irish, though suffering very much in the Penal Times, resisted most successfully the efforts to separate them from their faith. Priests and people alike were eager to assist the Catholics in England. Among the priests who came to Tyneside was Father Edmund Kelly. He came from the Diocese of Waterford and Lismore and was, apparently, a native of Moincoin1 in the County of Waterford. He was "of medium height, stout, and wore knee breeches with gaiters" and this conveys all that is available in the way of description. It was said of him that he was a successful organiser and his work here supports this statement.
In 1856, Father Kelly, Miss Errington states, "came from South Shields and said Mass in a house in High Street, Jarrow". The question arises as to whether Miss Errington had good grounds for the statement that "Mass was said in a house in High Street". To-day, none of the old residents from whom direct knowledge evidence might be procured, are alive. Father H. Mackin was responsible for a statement published in a handbook marking the Jubilee of the Borough, that: "In 1856, Father Kelly of South Shields opened a Mission in a house in High Street".
Father Mackin was Parish Priest of St. Bede's at a period when there were still a goodly number of the original members of the congregation alive and, therefore, he
1. According to the 1851 census, Father Kelly, who was then ministering in Wigton, Cumberland, was born in Kilkenny.
may be accepted as an authority on the subject. Close enquiry, however, among the families of the people who lived in Jarrow between 1850 and 1860 failed to procure any certain knowledge as to this. Canon Byrne, of St. Bede's, South Shields on being asked for information of the period wrote: "There are no records here of any of the great doings of the past in this parish. Possibly, at the time, there would be mention in the Notice Book of the cutting off of the New Parish of Jarrow. It was in Father Edmund Kelly's time, but the Notice Book is missing - if there was one".
Mr. Joseph Duggan, of Hebburn, is definitely a supporter the statements made by Miss Errington and Father Mackin. Mr. Duggan says:- "Beyond a doubt, Father Kelly celebrated Mass at 175, High Street. My mother and grandmother attended Holy Mass and received Holy Communion in that house, my parents occupied it and my mother frequently remarked to me: 'you are very lucky to be sleeping in the same room where Holy Mass was said'".
Mr. Duggan was one of the first children to attend what was the beginning of an organised Catholic School in Jarrow, under the Church Gallery, and as the best available evidence, his statement stands. Tradition supports Mt. Duggan. It has been accepted by individual Catholics that the house indicated was the place where Father Kelly said Mass and heard Confessions. Catholics have pointed out this house to visitors, and parents have drawn the attention of their children to it.
At the period under consideration, Jarrow was in its village state, the population being 3,500. High Street, on the north side, consisted of the well-known White Cottages which extended from the railway crossing to Monkton Road. Cottages of a like nature were to be found at the south end of Ferry Street and were known as Weaver's Row. Weaving, for the making of ships' sails, was an industry of some importance here, prior to the coming of steamships. At Ellison Place was another row of these cottages which were ultimately demolished, and the ground they encumbered was taken into Palmer's Engine Works. The north end of Walter Street,
Tyne Street (Dunkirk Place), Curlew Road, Pitt Row, St. Bede's Row, were other descriptive names for rows of houses. The south side of High Street was in the course of erection. Apart from these scattered dwellings, there was open country as far as the eye could see to the south and west. On the south side of the Don Bridge were Straker Street, Don Bridge Road, Bell Street and Cleveland Place. To the north was an almost uninterrupted view to the river on the bank of which were chemical works, a small shipyard and a slipway. In the year 1852, the hull of the S.S. John Bowes was launched from the shipyard, an event which brought to an end Jarrow's village era and heralded the industrial greatness to which Tyneside has attained. Of this, and its effect upon the future of the Church in Jarrow, more is to be found as the Parish story is unfolded.
For the moment, the chief interest is in visualising the opening of Catholic activity. It is not difficult to imagine the enthusiasm with which Father Kelly was received, not only by those who had to travel considerable distances for the privilege of attending Holy Mass, but, particularly, by those whose zeal did not rise to making great personal effort, but who, nevertheless, felt the loss of not having at hand the means of practising their religion. There was the gathering together of the practising Catholics and the looking up of the negligent ones. There would be meetings and planning, schemes to work out for raising money to buy materials, and also the important question of providing the necessary labour when the time would arrive for building a church. It was, surely, a period of lively interest to the priest and people.
Father Kelly soon had to face a difficulty which endangered the whole of the plans agreed upon. In the lease of the selected site for the Church there was a condition inserted by the owner of the land, Drewett-Brown, that no religious services were to be held thereon. Nothing is known as to how or why this condition was waived. The site becoming available, there followed the cutting of the foundations. In all, quite four years were taken up in carrying through the business of setting up the parish and raising the walls of the Church.
It was a time of thrills as the Church building rose to a point at which a foundation
stone laying ceremony could be arranged. On the 30th October, 1860, this ceremony was carried out. Fortunately, a report of the proceedings exists, from which the material facts relating to the building and a description of the religious ceremony have been culled. It is stated: "The new Church is being built on a site in the High Street part of West Jarrow. It is dedicated to Saint Bede and when finished will afford accommodation for six hundred persons".
The scene is worthy of some attention. "Flags", we are told, "waved from various parts of the walls and scaffolding. The foundation stone forms part of the Sanctuary and over it was erected an awning, beneath which was placed a seat and a reading desk for the Bishop, Dr. Hogarth. A cross and a reading desk for His Lordship the Bishop (The Right Rev. Wm. Hogarth). A cross was also erected on a platform beneath the awning. A procession to the site, which was headed by the South Shields Catholic Band, included Revv. Bernard, O.P.. Prior of the Dominicans in Newcastle, Francis O.P., Edward O.P. (Newcastle), E. J. Kelly, South Shields, E. Consitt, Gateshead, G. Belaney, Seaham Harbour, J. A. Brown, Houghton-le-Spring, G. Meynell, Gateshead, G. Meynell, Gateshead, G. Foran, J. W. Bewick, North Shields and T. Hannigan, Felling. The Bishop, vested in cope and mitre, proceeded with the ceremony of laying the stone. He deposited in a cavity, a bottle containing a parchment, setting forth that: 'On 30th October, the Right Reverend Father in God, William, Lord Bishop of Hexham, laid and blessed the foundation stone of the Church of Jarrow-on-Tyne, built in honour of the Most High and Blessed God, and under the invocation of St. Bede, Confessor'. The ceremony over, the procession was re-formed and the Bishop and Clergy perambulated (blessing) the boundaries of the walls, choristers chanting psalms. Rev. Fr. Bernard delivered an address in which he said: 'This day the Church has returned, after three hundred years, to take its place at Jarrow'. Benediction was given at the close".
The population of Jarrow, at this time, was between 6,000 and 7,000. It should be
stated that this Church building scheme was commenced and carried through by free labour, to which practically the whole of the men of the place and many of the women contributed. Mr. Thomas Lumsden, a joiner, who subsequently became the head of a building and contractor's business holding a premier place in the North of England, and Mr. McGlinshey, who was skilled in the building trade, appear to have been in charge of the work, and the workers carried out their directions so readily, that, though the voluntary labour was given mainly in the evenings and on Saturday afternoons, good progress was made with the erection of the Church. When the building had been raised to a point at which Mass could be said within its walls, although there was much still unfinished, it was arranged to have the Church officially opened. Meantime, during the period between the foundation stone laying and the Church opening, Father George Meynell was transferred from Gateshead to South Shields to work in conjunction with Father Kelly. This brought him into direct touch with the building operations, in which he took part as a worker.
The reward for such personal sacrifice by the Priest and people came at last, when the arrangements were made for the opening of the Church for Divine Service. This historic event took place on Sunday, 27th December, 1861. The Rev. E. Kelly, South Shields, sang High Mass, with Monsignor Eyre, Canon of St. Mary's Cathedral, Newcastle, as Deacon and the Rev. G. Meynell, the new priests of the Mission, as sub-Deacon.
Of the ceremony, we learn that: "By the hour appointed for the commencement of the Service, the Church was tolerably full with the Catholics of Jarrow. There were a number of Protestants who kindly attended on the occasion. After Mass, a sermon was preached by Monsignor Eyre (afterwards Archbishop of Glasgow) on the words: 'This is no other than a gate of heaven'. There were evening prayers and Benediction at 3 p.m. when the Rev. E. Belaney, M.A., formerly a clergyman of the Church of England, preached from the text: 'A certain man planted a vineyard'. There were collections at both services, which united, did not amount to more than £30".
From this point, Father Kelly, his object accomplished, withdrew from the scene. He had raised a new home for his Divine Master, and had opened a way for a measure of expansion which, even in his most sanguine moments, he could not have expected. He confined his further activities to South Shields where he continued up to his death, on 8th June 1871. His body was conveyed to Moncoin, County Waterford, where it was interred in the family burial place.
An illuminated window in our Church, of which the central light is said to be a representation of Father Kelly saying Mass, is a tribute to the work of this priest. The window bears the inscription: "This window has been erected by the congregation of Jarrow to the honour and glory of God in memory of their late beloved Pastor, the Reverend Edmund Joseph Kelly who founded this Mission and built this Church. He died at South Shields on the 8th day of June in the thirty-first year of his Sacred Ministry, aged 72 years".
From the opening of the Church, Father Meynell took over entirely, the charge of the Mission, and, as it transpired, he had the call made upon him to assist in bringing into being other Missions, namely, Willington Quay (from which Wallsend is an offshoot) Hebburn, Tyne Dock and the Boldons (by way of Tyne Dock). Apparently, in the missionary period, priests were not restricted in their labours by parish boundaries. The Mid-Tyne District parishes were formed - directly or indirectly - as a result of the labours of Father Meynell and the priests who were associated with him.
Father Meynell was born on 1st April, 1817, in the small village of Crahorne, near Stokesley, a district in Yorkshire noted for its interesting and monastic associations. His parents were John and Mary Meynell and they had nine children, of whom George was the second. John Meynell was steward of the estate of his kinsfolk, the Meynells of Fryerage, the lords of the manor. Of the Meynells, it may be stated that they were the oldest of the Catholic families in that part of Yorkshire, and in troublesome times, prior to the birth of Father Meynell, they preserved intact, the principles of the Faith. "This", states a biographer, "his family relationships were of a pronouncedly English type. From his earliest days he aspired to the priesthood. Previous to his college career he received the first instruction from the Rev. H. Bradley, resident Chaplain to the family, and at the age of thirteen years he went to the famed college of Van-Girard, Paris, where he spent nine useful years in acquiring knowledge. His progress was marked.
On leaving Paris, the young student went to St. Cuthbert's College, Ushaw, where he was ordained by His Lordship the Bishop (The Right Rev. William Hogarth). Two years were spent as a professor at the College after which he was sent to Wooler to discharge the duties of a missionary priest. Subsequently, he served at St. Andrew's, Newcastle, Haggerston Castle, Barnard Castle, Gateshead - thence to South Shields
where he became associated in the work then proceeding in what was to be his first parish.
When the Church was opened there remained much to be done. The window spaces were not glazed, there was no seating provided, and there remained the usual "hundred and one" details in fitting up and furnishing the building. The Church, it is stated, was then the most westerly building in Jarrow - all around being open land with an occasional farmstead in the distance. It was registered with the Registrar General, and "certified as a place of meeting for religious worship", on 12th February 1862, about six weeks after the opening ceremony. Services in the Church commenced shortly after the foundation stone was laid, several months before the building was registered. While the seats were being constructed by members of the congregation, worshippers sat on builder's trestles, planks, cross-beams and such things used in the building of the Church.
At this time there was no Presbytery, and Father Meynell, having made his home for some time at 83, High Street, moved to 129, High Street, where he remained till the Presbytery was provided. This building was commenced with as little delay as possible, and in the manual labour, Father Meynell took a man's share. He became a labourer in the full meaning of the word. He dug the foundations and took part in the excavations which provided the cellars beneath the Presbytery, and, later, the school. The parishioners continued to work on the buildings in the evenings, but Father Meynell occupied, as well, his spare time during the day in furthering the work.
On those occasions, school children assisted him by carrying bricks. It is said that he preferred girls as helpers because "boys were too rough". Elderly women in the parish mention, with pride, that when they were children they carried bricks and other materials to Father Meynell, who, they recall, "wore a funny-looking hat" when he was working.
The original Church (now known as "The Old End") was entered from St. John's Terrace. On the street level there was a wide wrought-metal gateway, beyond which
a walk of about six feet led to steps by which the Church level was reached. At the head of the steps was a wide porch leading to swing doors. Before this was reached, there was on either side a flight of steps leading to the Gallery which extended across the Church and provided seating accommodation for over one hundred persons. On the ground floor space there was seating accommodation in the full length of the building up to the Sanctuary. A wooden altar and steps served in these days of modest beginnings. From the Sanctuary, on the Gospel (West) side was a door leading to a very fine Sacristy, and, on the same side, by descending two steps, another door was reached leading to the boys' vestry. Near this point, the confessional and pulpit added to the furnishings. There was another confessional near the Church entrance.
The congregation was made up of English and Scottish families, but the majority of the men engaged in the Chemical Industry were Irish. The "rush" of the new population was approaching. In the order given, there were established by the Palmer Brothers, a small shipyard in 1851 and shortly afterwards, a rolling mills, blast furnaces in 1867 and steelworks in 1888. During this period the engine works department was introduced and developed. The building of the first screw collier "John Bowes" of 560 tons, driven by steam engines capable of maintaining a speed of nine knots, inaugurated a new era in ocean travel. This crowning point in the Palmer enterprise gave a fillip to the industry. Marine engineering became of supreme importance, iron ships took the place of wooden ones, and the coalfields had to increase their output. The whole business affecting ships and shipbuilding was revolutionised, and Jarrow was the place of innovation. Workmen were wanted in thousands to prepare a largely-extended building yard, and to inaugurate the new era. From rural England came a steady drift to Tyneside, but men arrived in droves from Ireland and Scotland, though chiefly from Ireland. The immediate effect of this upon Father Meynell's plans was to produce a large and growing congregation much earlier than could have been expected under normal conditions. In 1871, there was a general population of 18,000 - an increase of 11,000 from the date of the opening
of the Church; in 1881, it was 25,000, and ten years later 33,000. At the present time the general population is is 35,750, and the Catholic population 10,000. When Father Meynell was leaving Jarrow he estimated the Catholic population at 6,000. The Irish immigrants became shipyard labourers, but later, many of them found more remunerative employment at the rolling mills and blast furnaces. A large proportion of them spoke Gaelic more fluently than English. While they were not received with any noticeable warmth by the English, Scottish and Welsh settlers, they found a true friend in the little Yorkshireman who had the care of their spiritual needs. Housebuilding became a considerable industry. It was an advantage that the earlier dwellings had been erected almost at the Church door. Some years passed before any houses were built beyond a five-minutes time distance from the Church
St Bede's became, in every respect, an Irish Parish. Some of the practices adopted in administration were borrowed from "what was done at home". These immigrants were men and women of two consuming passions - their devotion to their Holy faith and their love for their native land. From the outset, they made their presence felt. Irish gatherings were frequent; every concert programme was made up of songs and recitations distinctly Irish, while the Irish Jig was never omitted. National games also were introduced. It is from this intense national spirit, so closely linked with devotion to the Church, that Jarrow came to be referred to as "Little Ireland".
That the Irish proved to be hard workers was freely admitted, and they were frequently referred to - sometimes in ridicule, often in praise - for the strict attention they gave to their employment. Through this attention, the Catholics of the town may fairly claim that their forebears made a notable contribution to the foundation of Jarrow's greatness. The achievement associated with the "John Bowes" was a presage of the great ships which today represent England's pre-eminence in the commerce of the world. The enterprise of Mr. C. M. Palmer (when in his twenties) opened out, to sea transport, the ports of the world in a way that sailing ships could never have achieved. As in monastic days the known world looked to Jarrow for education, so
again, Jarrow became an attraction to the world because of trade and commerce. To the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle, iron shipbuilding and steam propulsion brought a large number of Catholics, and a development in Churches and schools which has steadily increased with the passing of years.
In the year 1940, when, by common consent, men and women are free to serve God and the country according to the dictates of conscience, and the principles into which they have been instructed, it is difficult to understand that this individual freedom was not willingly accorded eighty years ago. Yet, the records of the period prove conclusively that there was no very strong desire to extend to Catholics their spiritual and natural rights.
There were, perhaps, some grounds upon which the non-Catholic residents would consider their attitude warranted. The unification of Italy sharply divided the peoples of England and Ireland - nowhere more so than in these Northern Counties - and this had an influence in forming an anti-Catholic-Irish bias. Garibaldi was regarded as a hero and "every possible assistance" was given to him by certain influential organisations in this country. In Ireland, however, there was no love for the Italian or his mission, and Ireland sent hundreds of young men to fight for the Pope when the Papal States were being defended against attack. Some of these brave men, on returning from Rome, settled in Jarrow. Mr. Patrick Carr is best remembered in this connection. He was, for several years, a church collector. The fact that Ireland so vigorously defended the Pope, and the additional one that the Irish, traditionally, showed unwavering opposition to English rule, combined to create a strong suspicion of, and dislike for, the Irish. Among the less enlightened and rougher elements of the population, even the erection of a Catholic Church in the town was an offence. The Irish were driven to depend upon themselves to a considerable extent, although they were welcomed by their English and Scottish co-religionists. They did not appear to worry much over the attitude of the general population. No doubt they preferred to be left alone. The animosity of the general population was not concealed, and there was often friction. Jarrow was a rough place on Saturday nights. In a town over-
crowded and ill-housed, with no form of recreation, it was to be expected that the public houses, which were numerous, would be in demand at the weekends. When the two elements met in these places, heated arguments often led to blows. The non-Irish element ascribed the disorderly scenes to the "drunken Irish", but it would be more accurate to say they they were the aggressors, and the Irish acted in self-defence1. The Irish settlers, in their manner of life, were as worthy as those who came from other parts. They attended their Church services and to their work. It was also noted of them that they made business brisk at the Post Office, each weekend, despatching money to their parents "at home". This, at least, would suggest that they did not shirk their duty to their parents.
This defence of the young Irish settlers is not out of place here. The purpose of drawing attention to the not infrequent street disturbances is to bring out the fact that, often, Father Meynell would take a walk along Monkton Road and Grange Road, and, if there was street fighting in progress, his appearance brought the trouble to an end. On One occasion, Sir Charles Mark Palmer, Bart., the M.P. for Jarrow Division, remarked at a public meeting, that in these early days, his "friend, Father Meynell, was as good as a number of policemen". It was proof of the respect in which the person and the sacred office of the priest were held, that the intimation that the priests was approaching would cause excited young men to retreat from the scene.
Men of the congregation formed a brass band and it became a real help to the parish, as well as in other districts where Catholic life was showing itself. The chief purpose of the band, however, was to provide the music for the services in the Church. There was a mixed choir. While the men were seated in the Sanctuary Stalls, the lady members of the Choir stood outside the Altar rails.
There were processions in Church on Sunday evenings and processions of the Blessed Sacrament on Feast Days. A harmonium usually provided the music, but the brass band used to alternate with the Choir in the "Lauda Sion". It was a custom for
(1) According to Professor Frank Neal, University of Salford, in "The English-Irish Conflict in North-East England ", the first serious sectarian clash took place at Felling on 12th July 1856, when a party of Orangemen were attacked as they marched through the town. An even more serious conflict broke out on 18th April 1858 when a crowd attacked the Commercial Inn at Blackhill. As the situation worsened, the English side set up cannons, and the riot had to be quelled three days later by a detachment of the Nottinghamshire Militia. Other notable intercommunal riots took place in East Jarrow (1867) and Hebburn (1873).
the bandsmen, at four o' clock on Christmas mornings, to play "Adeste Fideles" in the streets, to arouse the people for Mass at five o' clock. After High Mass the Choir was entertained to breakfast.
The Confraternity of the Holy Family was established. Each body of the members was divided into sections, each section having a shield bearing the name of the saint under whose protection it had been placed, and also a Prefect whose duty it was to keep a register of attendance. The backsliders were, by this means, known and looked up. In several of the Church pews round holes will be noticed. These were cut so that the shields could rest in them.
Several Missions were given by the Passionist Fathers and the first of these, held shortly after the completion of the Church, ended with an open-air service, the congregation being too large for the Church. On the following morning a number of the congregation accompanied the Missioners to the railway station, then in Ormonde Street, and, it is stated, many tears flowed at the parting.
While engaged so actively in organising the parish, Father Meynell found time to assist the people to acquire a further knowledge of their Faith. He wrote and published a Catechism, and, later, he published his sermons in three volumes. A Christian Doctrine Society was formed for the instruction of those requiring help. The priest conducted these classes in the Sacristy, and Catechism instruction was given to classes of younger people in the Church, on Sunday afternoons.
On the 18th February, 1862, a few members of the congregation met and decided to apply for aggregation as a Conference of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Mr. Patrick Lamb, Curlew Road, was put forward as President, Mr. Andrew McCord, Pit Row, vice-President, Mr. Bernard McKay, Don Bridge, Secretary, and Mr. John Johnson, St. Bede's Row, Treasurer. Other proposed members were: Messrs. P. Morrison, P. Duffy, James Melvin, L. Keenahan, A. Lalley, Coleman Morgan and Peter Murray. Two years later aggregation was granted and the Society was officially established. Mr. John Foxall became first President, and others in the office
since that time were: Mr. John McCann, Mr. James Short, Mr. John O'Connor, and Mr. J. S. McLarney. In the first report of the conference in 1869, it was stated that the Conference "through the exertions of the Brothers made one Convert, and had brought to their religious duties five persons who had been away for a long time, one in particular, eight years".
Needless to say, financial support for the Mission caused much anxiety. Ways and means called for consideration. One method, which Father Meynell carried out personally, required him to stand outside the works' gates and receive contributions from the men as they left. On another page will be found a humorous reference to this by Father Meynell. The intention was that each contributor should give half-a-crown. Possibly this gave rise to the taunt the Catholics had to pay half-a-crown to get their sins forgiven
One of the early parishioners states that "the money just rolled in", but it is evident that the good priest had to help it to do so. The Palmer Company, becoming aware of Father Meynell's work as a collector made a much happier arrangement. They agreed that all Catholics willing to contribute to the support of the Church should be assisted in that desire by having a fixed amount - the nimble sixpence- stopped weekly at the pay offices. This method continued until the works passed to a new company, when it was stopped. A fruitful source of revenue was an occasional call for "a day's pay". Working men responded to these requests by giving amounts much in excess of the wage earned in any given day. In arranging for the provision of the High Altar, Father Meynell asked that those in a position to do so should make personal gifts to cover the cost of the representations of the Twelve Apostles which stand on a line with the Throne. The parishioners availed themselves of this opportunity. The Altar was ordered by Father Meynell and the cost set aside for payment, but it was not erected until his successor was in charge of the Parish. A very useful contribution of £7001 to the financial effort was made by Mr. John Slevin,
(1) £700 in 1868 is approximately equivalent to £41,000 in 2004
a grocer. He had advanced the amount on mortgage and, at a favourable opportunity, cancelled the debt.
The provision of school buildings was something of a problem. There was resort to private house schools, and the Salem Mission Hall in High Street was also taken over. One of the house schools was in Caledonian Road, conducted by Mrs. McGlinshey; another, taught by Miss Taylor, was in Hibernian Road, and, at Old Church, a similar school was conducted by Miss Ann Hadaway. The Salem Mission Hall occupied the site now covered by St. Mark's Parish Hall. It was a one-storey and was erected by a body of Mormons or "Latter Day Saints". Children were later assembled in a screened-off space under the Gallery in the Church. Older boys walked to South Shields for instruction. A Miss Davis (who became the wife of Mr. Thomas Lumsden) taught in the Salem Hall, and, when her services were no longer required in Jarrow, she assisted in a "school" in the upper room of a public house in Willington Quay.
The first school - the building in Chapel Road - was opened on the 19th October, 1868, the Head Teacher being a Miss Maria White. There is a record that "the furnishing of the school consisted of five groups of desks, a blackboard, an easel, with a few reading sheets, books and slates which had previously been used".
The school was entered from Chapel Road, through a passage leading into the school yard. In the passage, a door on the left gave access to the school which consisted of one room. The evidence of the closing up of this passage is still traceable. The development of this building is of interest. The section in Chapel Road has, externally, little connection with the erection in Monkton Road. The former was built to accommodate the Senior Girls. A new section was added in Monkton Road and opened on the 28th March, 1870, with Miss Fanny Wood1 as Head Teacher. This section was for Junior children. A room in the basement was turned to use as an infant school, with a Miss Kirby as Head Teacher. There were thus, at this time, three departments in the building, each with a Head Teacher and a separate log book.
(1) Fanny Wood was born in York in 1841, She lodged at 68, Caledonian Road with the Mary McGlinchey who is referred to above.
Among the Monitresses who taught here was Miss E. McGrory (afterwards Mrs. Conway)
In 1872 - on the 8th January - the East Jarrow School was opened. It was for boys and girls, and the first Head Teacher was Miss Anne Heffernan, a lady who will still be remembered affectionately by many of the parishioners. After six months Miss Heffernan was transferred to the Senior Girls' Department in Chapel Road. In 1873, the first male teacher - Mr. Bertram Edwards - was appointed to the East Jarrow School, at which, Miss Esther Foster, a niece of Father Meynell, served as a Monitress. In 1880, after completing her training at Wandsworth Training College, Miss Foster returned to the parish and became Head Teacher of the Infant School - a third section, that which abuts on to St. John's Terrace - having been added. The basement ceased, at this stage, to be used as a school. The reorganisation carried out by Miss Heffernan brought into being a school for Senior and Junior Girls, and, as a separate department, an Infant School under Miss Foster, whose present day successor is Miss Adelaide Dolan. By this time the last of the "emergency" aids to accommodation had been dispensed with.
It has frequently been remarked that it seemed to be a mistake to provide a school at East Jarrow, at such a distance from the residential part of the town. The answer to that criticism is that the school was situated as near as possible, to the centre of the built-up area in 1872. There were the people on the South Shields side of the Don Bridge to be provided for as well as those in "West Jarrow".
Mr Edwards retired for the East Jarrow School in 1876, and from this time the building was reserved for boys. The date is a notable one. It marked the beginning of a wider outlook in education, under the direction of the Marist Brothers. The first Head Teacher under the new order of things was Brother Valence - a Frenchman. He was succeeded in 1879 by Brother Alban who was loved by the boys, notwithstanding that he proved to be a strict disciplinarian.
The Brothers served the parish for 30 years, when they resigned under circumstances related on another page.
In 1879, the parishioners were sorely grieved by the death of the Curate, Father Thomas Wilson. Although this young priest had been attached to the Mission for only a short time, he came to be much loved for he was kindly and hardworking. He was a native of Darlington and was educated at a seminary in France until he entered the English College at Douai. After five years there he came to England and entered St. Cuthbert's College, Ushaw, where he was ordained.
The circumstances in which this young priest gave up his life, aroused the sympathetic attention of the townspeople. There was an epidemic of fever in the town. Father Wilson was untiring in visiting sick parishioners, and he contracted the disease. His illness was a short one.
At the Requiem Mass, His Lordship the Bishop (The Right Rev. James Chadwick) occupied a position in the Sanctuary. Father Turnerelli (Sunderland) was the celebrant, Father Little (South Shields) deacon, Father Wood (Stella) sub-deacon and Father Nolan, Master of Ceremonies. There were present twenty three other priests, one being Father E. Wilson, of Gateshead, brother of the deceased. The school children were in a prominent position in the procession to the cemetery. The handsome memorial cross which surmounts the vault in the cemetery was provided by the priests and the congregation, the intention being to provide a last resting place for priests of the Parish. The inscription at the base of the cross reads: "Of your charity pray for the soul of Rev. Thomas Wilson, sometime of St. Bede's, Jarrow. He deceased on 7th May 1879, aged 28 years. 'The Good Shepherd giveth his life for his sheep'".
Before St. Bede's came into being, Catholics at Willington Quay attended Mass at North Shields and those of Hebburn at Felling. Representative men from both areas got into touch with Father Meynell seeking his guidance and help. Attention was given in the first place to Willington Quay. Among those associated with Father Meynell in seeking permission to have a Church, Mr. Esler and Mr. Hearn are named.
The first sign of Catholic organisation at this place was in 1857, when children were gathered for instruction at the Red Lion Inn. This was the "school" to which Miss Davis (later) attached herself. It is reasonable to conclude that she took upon herself this new work at the request of Father Meynell.
Jarrow, however, comes more directly into the plans for Willington Quay. In 1862, a bazaar was promoted by the Catholics there, to inaugurate a Church Building Fund. The effort produced £43. This money gives reasonably good proof of Father Meynells' association with Willington Quay, for it was banked in his name. Subsequently, the bank got into difficulties, and the appointed trustee, later, paid three separate dividends to Father Meynell, who thus became the custodian of £22 14s. 2d., which these dividends yielded. This money would not have been placed in the care of Father Meynell had he not been the rightful person to receive it.
In 1865, Willington Quay was made a separate Mission and the Rev. Henry Riley of Gateshead, was appointed to take charge of the congregation. He said Mass in the old Rose Inn, at the foot of Rosehill Bank, and baptised forty-four children there between 8th October, 1865, and 20th May, 1866, when a school-chapel was opened. The area of this Mission increased until it touched upon Backworth in one direction an upon Bigges Main on the west.
Following up this association of Jarrow with Willington Quay, it may be recalled, that, in a sketch of "The Life of Father Meynell" in the Northern Catholic Calendar for 1898, the following appears: "Even with the help of two or three priests, the work of the Jarrow Mission became too extended, and other Missions were founded - South Shields (presumably Tyne Dock), Hebburn, Willington Quay and Walker". This suggests, at least, that Willington Quay was originally in the Jarrow Mission area. Support for that might be taken, too, from the fact that Willington Quay and Walker were in the Deanery of Jarrow under Father Meynell, and later.
The Catholics of Wallsend had availed themselves of the provision made at Willington Quay. Father William Toner (St. Columba's, Wallsend) informed me that
at Wallsend there was a site (that of the present Church and Presbytery) on which was a school used as a school-chapel when in 1885 Father Michael Devane was appointed the first resident priest. Thus Wallsend Parish is a "grandchild" of St. Bede's.
At Hebburn, where Catholics had increased in number owing to the development of the industries there, Father Meynell assisted the people in the formulation of plans. The result was, that in December, 1871, Father J. J. Corboy, from Jarrow, became the first resident priest. The site site of the present Parish buildings had been secured and a school-chapel built upon it. Thus, Hebburn became Jarrow's second "child".
Much progress was made during the twenty-two years of the pastorate of Dr. M. Toner who built the Church, and advancement has been continued during the thirty-five years in which the Parish has been administered by Father Witty, who enlarged the school and the Presbytery, and built an Infant's School. Plans for a Senior School1 are due to be carried on after the war.
Boldon Colliery depended entirely upon the Jarrow priests and Church for their spiritual needs. The people there attended Mass at St. Bede's and priests visited the Colliery each week to lead in the recital of the Rosary and other prayers. These meetings were held in a house, 4, Cross Row. For Boldon Colliery, the separation came through the setting up of Tyne Dock Mission.
The Parish of S.S. Peter and Paul was formed through cutting of from St. Bede's, South Shields, a goodly part of the west end area; by cutting off East Jarrow from St Bede's, Jarrow, and by the inclusion of Boldon Colliery. Father J. A. Kirwan, who had laboured among the people of East Jarrow and Boldon Colliery, became the first resident priest. Fortunately he had among his flock some families who had been associated with the work of Father Meynell from its beginning, and who were people of some local standing and influence. Towards the close of 1884, Father Kirwan took possession of the basement of the Exchange Buildings, the back of which abuts upon the railway embankment. From the "down" platform of the railway station there is a good view of the windows in this basement, wherein there was a school-chapel. The priest was lodged in two rooms of a small house nearby. He was succeeded by
(1) The Senior School referred to above was never completed. Building commenced on the site, which was located on the south side of Victoria Road East, between Campbell Park Road and Halls Garage, but it did not progress beyond the first few courses of bricks. The site became overgrown and lay in that condition until the middle of the 1960's, when it was acquired by the local council, and a swimming pool and Council Offices were erected there. A police station and a public house have now joined these buildings.
Father (afterwards Canon) Taylorson, who procured the site upon which the Parish buildings stand. He built the Presbytery, and also established a Mass Centre at Boldon Colliery. As Jarrow was considered more convenient than Tyne Dock, some of the Boldon people continued to attend Mass at St. Bede's. The provision of the Chapel-of-Ease supplied a real need and ended the connection with St. Bede's. The Church and school at Tyne Dock were built by Father Bradley and have been free of debt for some years.
From Tyne Dock Parish came the new Mission at Boldon Colliery (including the Boldons) to which Father E. Avery, D.C.L., was appointed as first Priest, and where considerable progress has already been made. There is a beautiful Church, a commodious Presbytery, and sufficient land for a school. Thus, via Tyne Dock, the efforts of Jarrow's priests to keep the Faith alive at Boldon Colliery from 1860 to 1884, came to full fruition.
A scheme of Church expansion at St. Bede's was decided upon, and, as the congregation had reached the 6,000 mark, it was necessarily, an expansion on generous lines, particularly so, as it included the removal of the Gallery. The effect of this work - carried out by Mr. James Storar, a local builder - was to change the principal entrance to Chapel Road, and to replace the original entrance by one on the west wing of the building. Thus, the "New End" came into the scheme of things. Internally, this necessitated several changes. The Altar was removed to its present position, the Sanctuary, and the arch thereof, occupying the space previously serving for the porch and entrance from the street. On the east - or Gospel - side, the work was carried beyond the original main wall, so as to allow for the Lady Chapel and the organ loft above it. In this an American organ was erected. This extension was blessed and opened by His Lordship the Bishop of Galloway (The Right Rev. John McLachlan), on the last Sunday in March, 1883. The music of the Mass was played by Mr. Chambers, organist, of Barnard Castle, who attended specially for this service. (Miss Foster became the first Church organist. She had previously played the harmonium for the services, a responsibility given her when she was only twelve
years of age.) The bells were blessed during the opening service. A description of this ceremony is given by Miss Foster: "The bells were baptised with holy water, and oil and chrism were used, like a baby being baptised. As the Bishop performed this ceremony, the Choir stood around the bells and sang appropriate anthems".
For some time, Father Meynell's health had been causing anxiety. Membership of the School Board and other outside responsibilities had been undertaken in his stead by a curate, Father J. A. Kirwan. Finally, the aged priest found himself too enfeebled to continue in charge of the Mission, and, at the request of his superiors, he determined to vacate a Pastorate, honourably filled.
During High Mass, on November 2nd, 1884, Father Meynell preached his last sermon in St. Bede's. At the close of twenty-three years' service, he said, he was pleased to be given to understand that his approaching departure had filled the people with sorrow. He was "sixty-eight years of age, and one's mind and body became worn out".
Referring to his love and affection for the people of St. Bede's, he said he did not think it was possible for anyone to love them more than he did. The Church, he described as "a convenient Church", and he considered it to be "a beautiful Church; a working Church; a Church in which a priest could Mass devoutly". He mentioned that it would soon have an Altar befitting such a Church. He did not think it would be possible to find, anywhere, a parish such as Jarrow would be in ten year's time, when the school children had grown to manhood and womenhood. In the future, St. Bede's was sure to have a faithful and devoted congregation, in which would be the true Catholic Faith. He spoke of the children as "the apple of my eye", and added "I have no reflection to make upon myself with regard to the children, as I have always loved and cherished them".
Father Meynell commended the generosity of the congregation and said that a new school (Grant Street) would soon be opened. Speaking of the position of Catholics in the town, he said that the employers of labour had been open-hearted to all Catholics,
and had given them the same privileges as those enjoyed by other people. There had been no distinction made.
On the same evening, a meeting of the congregation was held in the schoolroom and it was agreed to promote a testimonial to Father Meynell. Dr. M. M. Bradley was appointed Chairman of the Committee, Mr. Peter McParlin, vice-Chairman, Mr. Thomas Lumsden, Treasurer, Mr. John O'Connor and Mr. W. V. Mitchelson, Secretaries. A letter was read from Alderman John Price, J.P., General Manager of the Palmer Company, enclosing a donation of £10 from the firm, two guineas from Mr. George Palmer, and two guineas from himself. Among those taking part in the meeting were: Councillor Hugh McGrorty, Mr. P. McMahon, Mr. G. T. Swales and Mr. M. H. Mallen.
A resolution was put on record, expressing regret at the departure of Father Meynell, and satisfaction that "our good Bishop, Dr. Bewick, in his wisdom and kindness, has selected for him a parish (Penrith) in which he can enjoy ease and dignity and wherein he can spend his declining years".
On the 2nd February, 1885, after the Confraternity Service, the schoolroom being crowded, a presentation was made to Father Meynell. Father Hayes, the Parish Priest, presided and was supported by Father Meynell, Father J. A. Kirwan (Tyne Dock), Father O'Brien, Father Kippersluis and Father O'Connor. An illuminated address was included in the gifts.
Father Meynell, commenting upon the sentiments contained in the address, said he preferred the affection of his old congregation to anything else in the world. Remarking upon the methods he had resorted to in the early days to procure money for the Mission, he made reference to his collections at the shipyard gate. The fact that the boys, girls and adults in Jarrow always reverenced the priest, he said, helped him when he was taxing them so heavily by requiring them to give half-a-crown. "How", he asked, "Did I know them when they came out of the shipyard gate"? "Because", he explained, "When they saw me they always showed reverence to me
and, immediately, I advanced for the half-crown subscription". It was at this meeting that Father Meynell made known his desire to be buried at Jarrow. He remarked: "When my body is placed beneath the Cross in the cemetery here, and beside that of another priest, my name will be read and re-read with reverence, similar to that always shown me by my Jarrow congregation".
It is convenient, at this stage, to make record of some minor matters, some of which have a bearing upon the work of Father Meynell, and others which refer to persons who were associated with the Parish during his Pastorate:
To inculcate the virtue of Temperance, batches of older boys, were, from time to time, taken to Church, where, kneeling at the altar rails, Father Meynell received from them a promise not to enter public houses before they were twenty-one years of age. A good proportion of these pledges were kept, and, when the young fellows reached manhood, they realised that they had no use for public houses.
The school children were frequently given outings by Father Meynell to Marsden Rock. Though the journeys were made in carts, they were enjoyed by the youngsters. Finchale Abbey and other places of Catholic interest were visited by the congregation.
Bricks for the Presbytery and school were burnt in a kiln on vacant ground on the site of the Infant School. The bricks were conveniently piled for the use of the workmen.
During a smallpox visitation, Father Meynell found favour with the afflicted families through visiting them - irrespective of what form of religion they professed.
Mr. Thomas Larkin became General Manager of Black's Chemical Factory, and Catholic workmen found a large measure of employment there. The Larkin family was talented. Miss Theresa gained more than local fame as a pianist, and for a time she was Church organist. Another daughter entered St. Anne's Convent, Newcastle, and Miss Mary was popular at concerts for her performances on the harp.
The license to erect the Way Of The Cross was granted in 1862
The first boy of St. Bede's schools to be ordained to the priesthood was Father William O'Hagan who died on 25th April, 1935, aged 63 years.
The first baby baptised in the Church was Ellen Gilespy, daughter of William and Martha Gilespy, formerly Williamson. This was on 29th December, 1861. On the 7th April, 1863, Charles Docherty, son of Hugh Docherty, was married to Catherine Brennan, daughter of Patrick Brennan. This was the first marriage to be solemnized in the Church.
Mr. Joseph Duffy, who was a parishioner in the early days, married Miss Jane Braniff, the first pupil teacher in the East Jarrow School. After some years, the family moved to Wallsend, where Mr. Duffy became Mayor in 1909. One of his sons, Patrick James, was an officer in the R.A.F. in the Great War, and was killed in France in 1918. The other, Councillor Hugh Duffy was Mayor of Wallsend for two successive terms from 1929-1931. Councillor Hugh Duffy is an "old boy" of St. Bede's.
Mr John O'Hanlon who was a member of St. Bede Conference of the S.V.P. also settled in Wallsend, and became Mayor there. He married Miss McGrory, one of the earliest teachers appointed to our Schools. Mr. O'Hanlon was a candidate in a by-election for the representation of Jarrow Division arising out of the death of Sir Charles Mark Palmer, Bart. M.P. He was an Irish Nationalist candidate.
The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul conducted a library - with a reading room - at No. 71, Monkton Road.
St Bede's hymn was sung in Father Meynell's time, and was re-introduced by Father Mackin with the addition of the refrain.
Mr. Christopher Halligan and his wife were appointed first caretakers of the school in Monkton Road, and for seven years their home was in the school basement. Mr. Halligan, in addition, served as school attendance officer for the parish schools.
Mr. Robert Lumsden, J.P., whose father was a very useful worker in the building of the Church and schools, was the contractor for the building of an important extension to Armstrong - now King's - College, Newcastle. The extension was opened by King Edward VII in 1906 and Mr. and Mrs. Lumsden were presented
to the King. Mr. Lumsden began his education in our Parish schools and it was continued at the Marist College, Dumfries.
The altar erected eighty years ago for the opening of the Church, was removed to Tyne Dock when that Mission was founded and it is now doing service at St. Alban's Church, Pelaw.
Miss Connie Foster, a member of the present congregation, is a grand-niece of Father Meynell. Her father, Mr. George E. Foster, was the priest's nephew, and her mother was formerly Miss E.J. McParlin, whose father, Mr. Peter McParlin, was the village Postmaster.
On 11th February, 1897, Father Meynell died at Penrith, where he had laboured for over 12 years. Miss Foster wired the news to Jarrow and it was decided that his express wish to be buried at Jarrow, should, if possible, be carried out. A deputation was appointed to go to Penrith. Difficulties met them. Father Meynell had no estate, and it would be an expense to convey the body to Jarrow. Miss Foster explained that, even on his bed of sickness, Father Meynell had asked to be buried at Jarrow, and the deputation gave the assurance that the Jarrow congregation would met the funeral expenses. All difficulties were overcome. The Church of St. Catherine, Penrith, "has never", stated a press report, "witnessed a more imposing ceremony then that which took place on Monday morning when Requiem Mass was celebrated for Father Meynell. The Vicar-General, The Right Reverend Monsignor Canon Rooney, was Celebrant and the panegyric was delivered by Father Buckley. Father Hayes, Jarrow, was present at the Mass. That evening, the body reached Jarrow and was accompanied from the railway station to the Church by a large procession of men. In the Church, Father Hayes led the recital of the Rosary and the congregation remained in the Church for some time. On the following morning, Monsignor Rooney celebrated the Requiem Mass, after which the body was taken to the cemetery and placed in the vault. The route to the cemetery was lined with townspeople, and there was a large gathering of sorrowing Catholics at the burial ground.
Many tributes were paid to the memory and work of Father Meynell in Jarrow.
Probably, that given under the title of "In Memoriam" will not be out of place here. It was written by Mr. William Jackson, a Nonconformist, then the Editor of the "Jarrow Guardian".
"After life's fitful fever he sleeps well"
Calm be his rest; for rest was nobly won;
His was the joy that springs from duty done.
The rich reflect of love's all-hallowed spell,
The harvest of his sowing who can tell?
For like some heaven-sent messenger, his smile,
Made world-worn hearts forget their griefs awhile
As his sweet words dropped comfort where they fell
An oh! the children! how they crowded round
To feel his gentle touch - his blessing know
While hot, imperative a mentor found
Who strove to guide young life's impetuous flow
So lived he
- Poor he died inland or gold
But of Heart's love possessing wealth untold."
Father Martin Hayes, a native of Tipperary, who had served as an assistant priest at Felling and Bishop Auckland, became St. Bede's second Parish Priest. He was young, and energetic, and his arrival was received with enthusiasm by the congregation, which , as stated, so largely consisted of Irish men and women.
It fell to the lot of Father Hayes to be the first Parish Priest whose activities were confined to the town of residence, as the Ecclesiastical Boundaries then set up coincided with those of the Borough.
With the inception of this Pastorate, it became evident that the congregation was about to be given a new attitude to public affairs. While Father Meynell had led them along on serene lines, even to the extent of bearing patiently with insult and contumely from other residents, Father Hayes soon revealed that in relation to the town generally, a definite place would have to be found for Catholic people. His own election to the School Board, to be followed in so short a while by his appointment as Chairman, appeared as a danger signal to those who had hitherto managed the Borough, and who had not shown any eagerness to include Catholics within their plans. There was a coming-together of the non-Catholic sections of the Community, to resist, what they were pleased to refer to as "Catholic Aggression".
Where it was found that Catholics had good voting strength in a ward, Catholic candidates with progressive programmes were put forward, and, in other wards, non-Catholics who were likely to be more broad-minded than those in office, were given the support of the Catholic vote. The men of the parish were absolutely loyal, and they found much to approve of in the leadership of this new priest. This daring leadership and the unity in the Catholic body, brought about fuller civic recognition.
The right of Catholics to the complete exercise of citizenship was secured, and Father Hayes won the hearts of the people. A non-Catholic journalist who was engaged in Jarrow at the time, recently gave an address to the local Rotary Club. Recalling men of note in the town of his days, he mentioned "the jovial Father Hayes,
whose influence was by no means negligible at election times".
Father Hayes had already gained some distinction as an educationalist and he, early, turned his attention to the schools. The completion of the building in Grant Street was carried through and the school was opened on the 23rd November, 1885 as a Senior Girls' School for Standards Four, Five, Six and Seven. A Miss Mary Stevens1 was appointed Head Teacher.
It had been in the original plan that this school would be a means of introducing nuns to labour in the town, in assisting women and girls. With this in view, the scheme included the erection of Acca House - named by Father Hayes after St. Acca, Bishop of Hexham in the year 710. Bishop Acca was a friend of Bede. It was at his request that Bede wrote his "Commentary on the Scriptures". It was realised that the site was too exposed and the garden space too restricted for the building to be suitable as a Convent. Therefore, the house was let to tenants. It may be added that, through this means, Acca House has been a source of revenue up to the present time.
The original schools also received attention. The buildings had open floor spaces. By a plan of partitions, Father Hayes brought the school in Monkton Road and the Senior Boys' School up to their present state in regard to separate class rooms.
While this was going on, Father Hayes was not idle respecting the interior of the Church. As stated earlier, the High Altar was ordered and paid for by Father Meynell. On its delivery and erection, Father Hayes turned his attention to Church improvements. He had a great love for the Sanctuary, and its neatness was his special care. A memorial to a former parishioner (Mr. Michael Slevin) too the form of marble altar rails with appropriate side screens. This necessitated changes in the furnishing of the Sanctuary. The floor of decorative tiles was laid, and stalls of oak placed inside the screens. On Low Sunday, 12th April, 1885, His Lordship the Bishop (the Right Rev. Thomas William Wilkinson) who dedicated the new High Altar, preached on "The Altar of The Christian Sacrifice". The sermon was
(1) I believe this is Mary Stephens, who lived at 7, Kells Lane in Gateshead.
published in pamphlet form and the proceeds, it was announced, would be devoted to a fund for the provision of a statue of St. Bede. In due time, the splendid marble statue of Jarrow's famous monk was given a place of distinction inside the Sanctuary.
Other improvements carried out by Father Hayes included the installation of the organ, the erection of the present Sacristy, the installation of the heating system, the marble altar steps, the pulpit, and the Stations of the Cross. The additions gave an enrichment which fitted appropriately the spaciousness of the Church.
The first Catholic outdoor procession, on a large scale, was held on Sunday, 25th March, 1906. At the time the Catholics of the country were "up in arms" against the Education Act Amendment Bill introduced into Parliament by Mr. Augustine Birrell. The Jarrow demonstration was carried out with an enthusiasm and determination of purpose which had behind it the wholehearted encouragement of Father Hayes. It is worthwhile recording that procession through the streets of the town. A large school banner was carried in front of the Birtley League of the Cross Band. School children and parents made a gallant show, and at the rear walked the Chadwick Memorial School Band. The spirit of the times may be gathered from the banner-scrolls which were carried by the older scholars and teachers:- "Peace Not Strife", Defence Not Defiance", Our Fathers Built Our Schools", "We Want Catholic Schools And Catholic Managers", "Faith Of Our Fathers", "United We Stand", and "God Bless Our Pope". At the close of the processions, Father Hayes gave Benediction in the Church. It was a great Catholic Day, and prepared the way for a crowded meeting in the Co-operative Hall on the following night.
The issue of the moment was discussed and a suitable resolution was passed. This emphasised:-
(a) Catholics pay rates and taxes for all the schools of the land which give a Protestant form of religious education.
It is proposed:-
(b) To confiscate the schools built by the Catholic poor for educational purposes.
(c) To put Catholic schools under Protestant control.
(d) To place Protestant teachers and Protestant religion inside Catholic schools, and the Catholic priest and the Catholic religion outside.
(e) To prevent the further building of Catholic schools.
These proposals were described as "an outrage on the Catholic conscience".
At this time of roused Catholic feeling, there came a bolt from the blue in the form of a resolution of the Education Committee. On 4th October, 1906, the Education Committee stated that they had considered a report on St. Bede's Boys' School by H.M. Inspector. This stated that, under the present Head Teacher, pupil teachers could not be continued there. Subsequently, the Committee directed that the Head Teacher should be replaced by a trained certificated teacher.
It was realised by the congregation that this was an effort to remove the Marist Brothers from the school as, it transpired, the Committee required a Head Teacher with two year's College training, whereas the Brothers had only one year's training. In the early days, one year's training was accepted. The Committee had power, under the law, to refuse to recognise the Head Teacher on educational grounds. A deputation of the congregation met the authority to present their view of the matter. Included in this deputation were Mr. W.V. Mitchelson, Councillor J. Casey, Mr. P.J. Casey, Mr. E. Graham, Mr. G.T. Swales, Mr. Martin Conroy, Mr. Patrick Finnegan, Mr. J. McAnaney, Mr. M.J. Killeen, Mr. T. O'Connor and Mr J. Kenny.
The assistance of His Lordship (The Right Reverend R. Collins) was sought and the upshot was that, in the closing weeks of 1906, Father Henry Mackin, B.A. (who had had a close association with the Jarrow schools for some years) was transferred from Washington to Jarrow, evidently in the hope that a younger parish priest, who had not had conflict with the Authority, would be able to bring about a more considerate attitude by the Committee. Father Hayes, whose health was not good at this time, agreed to the arrangement, and succeeded Father Mackin at Washington.
The new Parish Priest failed to influence the Committee, although he submitted the
name of Brother Francis, who had previously served in the school with complete satisfaction. By a bare majority the Committee carried their view, and the Brothers' association with the parish came to an end. Mr Joseph Parkinson was appointed Head Teacher, in succession to Brother Michael.
There is a record in the school Log Book,of a resolution passed after a meeting of the School Managers on 27th April, 1907, in which they express their "great regret at the departure of the Marist Brothers from the Boys' School"; they "put on record their high appreciation of the services they have rendered to the school" and wished them "all success in their future educational work".
Some time afterwards, Father Hayes attended a gathering in the Mechanics' Institute where he received a Parish Testimonial. He was, obviously, in ill health and his death occurred shortly afterwards, on 11th June, 19071. The school teachers gave to the Church the statue of the Immaculate Conception in memory of Father Hayes, whose body was interred at Ashburton Cemetery, in a tomb which already contained the remains of his close friend, Father Henry Matthews.
(1) Father Hayes was only 52 when he died.
Father Henry Mackin, B.A., was born in the Felling Parish1. After his education and ordination at Ushaw College, he remained there for some time as a Professor, after which he was appointed to the Cathedral. He was Parish Priest at St. Bede's, Washington, before being appointed to Jarrow.
The coming of Father Mackin, was attended by a spiritual quickening. He turned his attention, first of all, to the work of more closely associating with the Church the everyday life of his congregation. Except on Mondays there was, nightly, some form of service in the Church, and the number of priests was necessarily increased, so that home and school visiting were more closely attended to than heretofore. The Children of Mary Sodality was introduced into the Parish and it proved to be a potent way of interesting the young women. Fortunately, it had an earnest first President in Miss M.E. Hymers who gave most devoted work to this Society. Confessions were arranged for after night services and daily during Mass. By fervent sermons, the congregation - ever responsive - were attracted. The Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament replaced that of the Holy Family. In time, Father Mackin was in a position to speak of St. Bede's as a Sacramental parish. Fifteen hundred Holy Communions weekly became the normal condition. Redemptorist Fathers proved most acceptable as Missionaries2, and it was not long before the Church came to be in the fullest sense a spiritual power house. It followed that this quickening of spiritual life had an effect on the financial side of the Church. Appeals for special objects were generously responded to, and money was soon forthcoming for further advancement of the Catholic cause in the town. Father Mackin believed in societies within the congregation3. The Catholic Women's League - of which he was Diocesan Chaplain - the Guild of St. Agnes, St. Patrick's Guild, St. Bede's Guild and the Catholic Social Guilds all took form under his direction. The congregation had an excursion to Holy Island in 1909, and also its first bazaar in 1911, both of which were highly successful as social events. The bazaar was the forerunner of the Sales of Work which have been held since, each year, in Whit Week.
(1) He was born at Heworth in 1868, the son of Patrick Mackin and his wife Ann. Both parents were born in Ireland. He was obviously a bright boy, being a Pupil Teacher at the age of 13 (possibly at Jarrow). Prior to his ordination he taught Classics at Ushaw College.
(2) Fathers Creagh, Giblett and Prime, C.S.S.R. gave one of the first Missions in October 1908.
(3) Within limits - my great-uncle Charles Hanratty approached him during the 1920's with a view to forming a tennis club. At first Father Mackin seemed responsive, but when he discovered it would be a mixed club my great-uncle was shown the door.
After the spiritual side had been fully provided for, attention was again turned to the position of Catholics in the affairs of the town. This was somewhat forced upon Father Mackin. The attitude towards the Catholic body - never sympathetic - had hardened because of recent happenings that something had to be done, to procure an improvement. The new venture into public affairs was not so openly pressed as in the time of Father Hayes, but it proved to be no less insistent. Mr. Terence O'Connor secured a seat on the County Council, and on his retirement Father Mackin became his successor without a contest - the Division being a Catholic stronghold. This put the priest in a position to look after Catholic interests in the County, with happy results for several parishes. At that time, there was a question of deep interest to parents who wished to give their children higher education. Father Mackin, in association with the Very Rev. Monsignor Canon Rooney, V.G. (Darlington) and the Very Rev. Canon Magill (Brooms) became a leader in an agitation to gain for the people the right to have scholarships, gained in competitive examinations, transferred from County to Catholic Secondary Schools. The County Authority insisted that all scholarships should be held in the County Schools. Quite a number of parents, whose children had qualified for scholarships, refused to accept them under the County conditions, so that the matter became one of urgency. In this activity, Jarrow took a very prominent part. The people of St. Bede's had no little share in bringing about a change of policy by the County Authority, under which the Catholics of the whole County area became entitled to have the scholarships gained by their children, transferred to Catholic Secondary Schools - a measure of justice which has since been firmly established.
In the local elections, the line of action was to bring forward Catholic trade-unionists as Candidates, and this proved popular among the working men of the town generally, so that Catholic successes in contests became almost foregone conclusions. As a result, questions affecting Catholic interests had, in the Council Chamber, a large measure of support from practical catholics. Thus, it came to be realised for the
first time, that trade unionist working men were as capable as members of the Town Council as were tradesmen and others, who had hitherto been looked upon as the natural representatives of the people.
But this activity was only a sideline with Father Mackin, who was an untiring worker. Soon, he discovered that there was a problem to be faced. When he came to the parish, it was thought that the school provision was adequate. Changes in educational requirements had affected, adversely, the numbers of places in the schools and besides, there was overcrowding. The people responded to the new call upon their resources, and, each year, at least £1,000 was set aside for a proposed new school. The outcome of the effort was that the Junior School, Harold Street, was opened by Bishop Collins on 1st February, 1914. It was not only the largest, but the most up-to-date school in the town. Including the cost of the site, it was provided for £10,000 and had accommodation for 900 children. At a later date four extra classroom were added with accommodation for another 160 children, at a cost of £2,000.
The first Head Teachers were:- Boys' Department, Mr. J.S. McLarney, Girls' Department, Miss M.E. MacFeeley1. When Mr. Parkinson resigned his appointment in 1922, Mr. McLarney was transferred to the Senior Boys' School and Mr. Edmund McPeake succeeded him in the Junior Boys' School. On Miss MacFeeley's retirement, Miss Brennan2 was transferred from Grant Street School as her successor.
The Great War held up further development for the fateful four years. The number of young men with the Forces was large and the casualties not few; even those who gave up their lives made a saddening roll. It was a compliment to the teaching in the Church and Schools on duty to the State, that there were no conscientious objectors to be found among the Catholic young men. When the war was over, Parliament passed the Fisher Education Act under which Central Schools were authorised and this new educational opportunity was seized upon by the Parish Priest.
A commodious residence, in spacious grounds, was procured in Bede Burn Road
(1) Margaret E. McFeely was born in 1861 at New Brompton, Kent to James and Mary McFeely. She trained as a teacher at St. Thomas's Convent and Training College, West Hill, Wandsworth, which was operated by the Society of the Sacred Heart.
(2) Cecilia Brennan was born in 1890 at Jarrow to Michael and Sarah Brennan. She was educated at St. Anthony's, Sunderland and trained as a teacher at St. Mary's College, Fenham. A lifelong Jarrow resident, she never married, and died in 1962.
and the necessary alterations having been carried out, the Central School, "Belsfield", was opened by the Mayor of the Borough, Mr. Robert Andison, on 22nd May, 1920. It was one of the first schools of this type in the North of England. A garden party was a feature of the opening ceremony and the newly-acquired grounds were afterwards the scene of similar parties in succeeding years.
The new school was staffed by Nuns of the Daughters of the Cross and the "Convent School" became an attraction, parents being eager to give their children the advantage of the new form of Higher Education. After successful labours, the Sisters found difficulties in staffing the school, and resigned. It has since been in charge of lay teachers, a proportion of them being university graduates who received their introduction to higher studies at "Belsfield". Miss A.M. Hetherington, M.A., is the present Head Teacher.
Believing that ignorance of the inner meanings of clauses in proposed legislation was one of the principal reasons why earnest Catholic men were found, on occasion, wholeheartedly supporting proposals which were not quite acceptable in the light of Catholic teaching, Father Mackin took opportunities to instruct such members of the Congregation as desired to be helped. There were many such opportunities. Through the Catholic Social Guild, at which meetings he presided, the social policy of the Church was considered. One of his aims was to train a body of men who could - to use his own phrase - "think on their feet". He had the satisfaction of realising, in time, that his efforts were rewarded. Among the members of the Guild were men who had acquired the power to understand questions of social policy, and to present intelligently the Catholic view of proposals to the consideration of the general population. A proposed Poor Law Reform and the Fisher Education Bill were types of the subjects considered. More interesting discussions took place, and men found themselves capable of defending the Catholic view on points which, without the guidance given them, they would not have regarded as matters of special moment to them. Incidentally it may be mentioned, St. Bede's had the first branch of the Catholic
Social Guild in the Diocese. Father Mackin and Mr. J.S. McLarney represented the branch at the first annual meeting of the Guild. Occasionally, also, efforts were made to attract the general public. Bishop Keating, of Northampton Diocese, was invited to a meeting in the Empire Theatre where, to a crowded audience, he explained the Social Teaching of the Popes. Similarly, Father Thurston, S.J., addressed a packed audience in the same building on Spiritualism. On another occasion, Father Mackin lectured in the Picture House on "The Northern Martyrs" and again, in the Mechanics' Institute on "Durham Cathedral". These, and other efforts of a like kind, not only became a means of instruction for adults; they provided funds for the school building schemes.
It was a strong point with Father Mackin to have a separate provision made for Catholics in any approved activity affecting social well-being. There grew up in the country a demand for Child Welfare Clinics. In Jarrow, a voluntary committee made such provision as they considered necessary. The Parish Priest saw possibilities in this for Catholic Action, and he gave the work to the Catholic Women's League. The ground floor rooms in the Institute were set apart for their use. In a short while the Catholic Clinic found great favour with the mothers, and, as it was served by the Medical Officer of Health and the Health Service Nurses, it gained the approval of the County Authority, which gave a grant in aid. The women of the League worked enthusiastically. The administrative duties were carried out by Mrs. Mulholland and Miss Hymers to the satisfaction of the Town and County Authorities. In time the members of the Town Council recognised the good work that was being done, and its possibilities. The Authority set up a Clinic for the Town, and the Catholic activity was absorbed in this, Miss Hymers being co-opted on to the Council's Committee.
On three occasions, the congregation took opportunities of giving tangible proof of their appreciation of Father Mackin's Pastorate. There came his Silver Jubilee in October, 1920, the date of the celebration being October 13th, the Feast of St.
Edward the Confessor. His Lordship the Bishop (The Right Rev. R. Collins) was present along with the clergy from several parishes in the Diocese. The Palmer Shipbuilding Company, which contributed a generous sum to the testimonial fund, was represented by the Secretary, Mr. H.C. Broadhurst.
The meeting, which was held in the Kino Theatre, was crowded and had been preceded by an assembly of the school children when an address from the teachers and scholars, together with a gold Chalice, were presented to the Jubilarian. The gifts from the congregation included an illuminated address, a cheque for £830, a crucifix from the Children of Mary, a humeral veil from St. Agnes's Guild, a monstrance from the Brothers of St. Vincent de Paul and the Knights of the Blessed Sacrament, a timepiece from the Catholic Women's League and a set of Mass Vestments from the Young Men's Institute. The gifts represented a total value of over £1,100. In returning thanks, Father Mackin mentioned that it was his intention to use the cheque to purchase land to be a site for a school for boys. (The site is known as the Jubilee Field1, and is intended to be used for a school for Senior Boys for the two parishes.
In 1925, His Lordship the Bishop (The Right Rev. Joseph Thorman), in recognition of Fr. Mackin's great work, appointed him to the Cathedral Chapter2. This honour to their priest was a source of joy to the congregation, and they decided to mark their interest in the happy event by making him a presentation. In the short space of four weeks £120 was raised for this purpose, and a cheque for this amount was handed over to him at a crowded gathering in the Empire Theatre.
There was another occasion, when the Canon came from Hexham to receive a farewell gift of over £300 from the congregation. There was a large gathering at the Theatre Royal and an overflow assembly in the Junior School. The Canon was obviously touched by the affection demonstrated at these gatherings.
While this work was going on, the Canon went outside the scope of his pastoral duties to assist the progress of Catholicism in a wider sphere. He was a member of
(1) This field was situated behind Belsfield School and was always known simply as "Belsfield". It was never used for its intended purpose, and instead served as a Parish playing field until it was sold for housing development in the 1990's.
(2) Following this appointment he assumed the title of Canon.
the Executive of the Catholic Education Council for England and Wales, and Secretary of the Diocesan Schools' Association. He served for many years on Jarrow Education Committee, the Durham County Council, the Durham County Education Committee and on the Joint Board for the Administration of Science and Education in the University of Durham. His interest in Education was recognised throughout the country in Catholic circles. It was his aim to procure for Catholic children, schools equal in structure to those provided by the public authority. That he succeeded in this, our parish gives ample evidence.
There was yet another school needed. The increase of numbers in the Infant School and also in the Senior Girls' School became a problem. The settlement lay in the opening of "Mayfield", the Senior Girls' School in Pine Street, on 11th June, 1928. The Head Teacher was Miss Jackson, who, on her retirement, was succeeded by Miss Baker. Some of the infants were then transferred to Grant Street so as to reduce the pressure on the Monkton Road School. It may be mentioned that this was the second time that the Grant Street building had housed infants. For a short period after its erection, it served as an infant school until it was recognised by the Board of Education, after which the Senior Girls were transferred from Monkton Road. Miss Brennan became the first Head Teacher of the Infant School opened in 1928, and was succeeded by Miss Husband.
The ceremony associated with the opening of "Mayfield" proved that the interest in Education among the congregation had not lessened. The procession form the Church to "Mayfield" was a memorable one. Albion, Stanley and other streets were attractively decorated with a wonderful display of colour. His Lordship the Bishop (The Right Rev, Joseph Thorman), appreciated the fact that the people had gone to some expense and much labour to make their streets attractive for this visit. Commenting, and noting the order in which large portraits were suspended across Albion Street, he humorously remarked, "First there was a portrait of myself and the words 'God Bless Our Bishop'; a little further along the street a portrait of His Holiness the Pope and the words 'God Bless Our Pope'; and still further along a
portrait of the Parish Priest and the words 'God Bless Our Canon' - all in the correct order of ascendance". The Bishop blessed and opened the school in the presence of a large gathering of the congregation and other interested in education.
By the completion of this school, Canon Mackin brought to an end his forward educational plans. In furtherance of these plans, he, in twenty-four years, raised £35,000 for school purposes and had the satisfaction of knowing there was no school debt. The Assembly Hall and the Science Room at "Belsfield" had associated with it facilities which enabled it to be used for Mass on Sundays, and so, for some time, the building became a Chapel-of-Ease served by the priests from St. Bede's. The first Mass was said by Canon Mackin, who, by appealing to the people of St. Bede's, was in a position to provide the Altar and other requisites for the Sanctuary, which was screened off from the main body of the Hall. The date of the first Mass was Easter Monday, 1931.
Monkton area became a new area on 8th September 1935 and was placed in charge of Father John M. Conlon. The house, formerly used by the nuns as a convent, became the Presbytery. Father Mackin also procured a site at the entrance to the Housing Estate to be reserved for the time when the Parish of St. Matthew's will be in a position to build a Church. This site gave an opportunity for the Catholic men of St. Bede's to prove they were still willing to give their labour free in the cause of religion. The substantial ornamental wall around the site was built by free labour, by men who devoted their evenings to the work. Further, he purchased a site for a junior school for the area of the new parish.
At this time, Canon Mackin was in charge of seven school departments providing for over two thousand children, a business which imposed much work upon him as Corresponding Manager, in addition to his parochial and public duties. It was not at all surprising that his health, which had been declining for some time, should break under the strain. In 1931, to the great grief of the congregation, he was compelled, under the advice of his medical attendant, to relinquish the care of Jarrow and to accept the parish of Hexham, vacant through the death of Father Hartley. There took
place a very noticeable improvement in his health and he was able to take over the duties of Provost of the Cathedral Chapter in 1934, and also the Chairmanship of the Diocesan School Commission set up to formulate plans under the Hadow Scheme1. A few months before his death on 10th February, 1938, he was elevated to the dignity of Domestic Prelate, in recognition of his great and outstanding merits. His Lordship the Bishop (The Right Rev. Joseph McCormack), the Canons of the Chapter, about one hundred priests, and a crowded congregation attended the Requiem Mass at St. Mary's Church.
At the same time, Father McDonnell was celebrant of a Requiem Mass at St. Bede's, Jarrow. This service was largely attended.
The Canon's pastorate was fruitful in producing gifts to the Church from individual members of the congregation. The stained glass window behind the High Altar was given by Mrs. Bradley in memory of her husband, Dr. M.M. Bradley. The Sacred Heart Altar by Mrs. Mary McLarney (by bequest in her will), the Lady Altar by Mr. Robert Lumsden, in memory of his father; the Lourdes Grotto by Mr. Michael J. Young in memory of his wife; the Sacred Heart Statue by Canon Mackin; the Immaculate Conception Statue, by the school teachers, in memory of Father Hayes,; St. Joseph's Statue by Mrs. Bradley, in memory of her father, Mr. William Fenwick; St. Patrick's Statue, by Mr James Mulholland, in memory of his wife; Our Lady of Sorrows by the Misses Corr in memory of their brother; the Sanctuary Lamp by Mr. James Daley, in memory of his wife; the picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour by Miss Mulholland; the picture of the Holy Face of Tours by Miss S. MacFeeley; the Statue of Saint Teresa (The Little Flower) by Miss Catherine Conroy, of New York, a former member of the congregation, and the Statue of Saint Anthony by Miss Ellen Gavin - now resident in U.S.A. - whose father had a tailoring business in Jarrow.
(1) This refers to two reports on future education provisions which were produced by Sir Henry Hadow - "The Education of the Adolescent" (1926) and "The Primary School" (1931)
Father Martin McDonnell1 became Parish Priest in 1931. Shortly after his ordination he was appointed to the staff of the Chadwick Memorial School; later, he served as a Curate at St. Columba's, Wallsend, before being appointed to the Cathedral Staff. From St. Mary's, he was appointed Parish Priest at Houghton-le-Spring, in succession to the Very Reverend Canon Hayes. He had, therefore, a good measure of experience before entering upon the charge of St. Bede's.
He came at a period when the town was at its worst in regard to industry. A large number of young people had gone elsewhere to work and the Corporation was proceeding vigorously with its housing scheme, which led to the transference of many families to an area which became a new parish. Notwithstanding, he faced the situation with a brave heart, and his cheery manner was a tonic to a people who had suffered greatly from long industrial depression. The Church services continued in all their fullness, and he proved that he had a flair for organising processions in a Church which is not designed for these attractions, The Church seating was improved and the aisle spaces widened. But, more important still, was the provision of two doors at the "Old End", where, previously, one had served. This was not only a structural improvement but a convenience, as it gave a door leading direct from the street to each aisle with the Baptistery and Repository between the porches. The steps leading from the original Sanctuary were removed and the floor made to slope to the level of the aisles. This provided an increase in the seating accommodation.
This valuable Church improvement was provided by Mr. Bernard Campbell, in memory of his parents, Michael and Theresa Campbell, and his sister Margaret. Mr. Campbell is now resident in London.
Father McDonnell also established, in the Parish, a branch of St. Joseph's Foreign Missionary Society.
Early in his settlement here, Father McDonnell took a determined stand against the
(1) Martin McDonnell was born at Aspull, near Wigan, in 1884, the son of Patrick McDonnell, a coalminer from Mayo, and his wife Mary Jane, from Ince, near Ellesmere Port.
Church being associated with the Municipal Elections, and "Catholic Candidates" ceased to be a fact in public affairs.
A Choral and Orchestral Society was formed and received much encouragement from Father McDonnell. Under the conductorship of Mr. John Keegan, B.Sc., a number of highly-successful concerts were given. At the outbreak of war, in 1939, the Society was closed down until peace returns.
Mr. John Duffy, a member of the congregation, was fortunate in the Irish Hospitals Sweep. He had a half-share in a premier prize, and he made a gift of £1,000 to the Church.
Jarrow again came into nation-wide notice, this being the third occasion on which the town stood out prominently, not only in the British Isles but in Europe, and the third occasion, like the first, was because of Saint Bede, the lowly monk who had spent the whole of his life - save the first seven years - within the walls of the monastery. The twelve hundredth anniversary of the death of Saint Bede was celebrated on 11th June, 1935, and it brought together what was, possibly, the greatest assembly of Catholics ever seen in the North of England. Moreover, it attracted the attention of devotional people all over the country and beyond, and became front page news in the National Press. The day's proceedings commence with a procession to the Drewett Playing Field, where Pontifical High Mass was celebrated.
The local arrangements for the celebration fell to Fr. McDonnell and the assistant priests. A large altar with a solid wood foundation and glass for roof, back, and sides, was constructed by unemployed men, to be erected in the Drewett Playing Field.
While this work was proceeding, there occurred St. Bede's Feast Day, 27th May. Father McDonnell made the occasion notable by arranging for the presence of His Lordship the Bishop, (The Right Rev. J. Thorman) who, during the Mass, occupied a throne in the Sanctuary. The Church was crowded and Canon Mackin delivered a sermon on St. Bede.
This service fixed the attention of the congregation upon the larger celebration - now only a fortnight removed. The President, Mrs. McGrath, and members of the Women's Guild, with other ladies, devoted much time to making sashes of red, green
and yellow to be worn by the members of the respective Guilds, and in the procession on the Celebration Day, these sashes gave a welcome dash of colour to the proceedings.
There was a point of peculiar interest in the selection of the Drewett Playing Field for the celebration of the Pontifical High Mass. Jarrow Hall stands on a eminence overlooking the Playing Field. The Drewett-Brown family lived in the Hall when the condition was made in the lease of the Church site that the land should not be used for religious services. Truly, "The mills of God grind slowly" - and unerringly. Over 50,000 people assembled in front of the former residence of the Drewett-Brown family and assisted at the most solemn of all religious services, the celebration of Pontifical High Mass, the sacrifice instituted at The Last Supper by Our Saviour, who left with His Apostles and their successors the command: "Do this for a commemoration of Me".
On the eve of the Celebration, the altar was removed to the south end of the field and erected within a short distance of the monastery ruins. So as to provide against accident, men of the parish formed a guard for the altar during the night, and until the clergy took it over to prepare for the celebration of Mass. During the night rain fell heavily, so that the guard had much discomfort to bear.
Members of the congregation residing on the processional route in Albion Street, Stanley Street, Stead Street and High Street spent the eve of the celebration in decorating the streets and houses. The good folk had barely completed their street adornments when the rain commenced, and it continued without abatement until two o' clock in the morning. About the state of the decorations there was no little concern and, when the rain ceased, the men residing in Albion and Stanley Streets left their beds to examine the extent of the damage. Two hours were spent in the work of restoration. When this had been carried out satisfactorily, one of the men considered that the occasion was deserving of recognition in some special way. Calling together his neighbours, he addressed them with much earnestness and becoming brevity,
"Now lads", he said, "We are all Catholics, some good, some bad. I'm a bad 'un, but I think we should not go back to bed until we've sung 'Faith of Our Fathers'". It was a welcome suggestion and soon some of the other residents were awakened by a vociferous rendering of Fr. Faber's well-known hymn.
The singing of the hymn was in keeping with the mind of the whole congregation. It was realised that rain on the day of the celebration would militate against much of the attractiveness to which they were looking forward. They had all been praying for fine weather, and it would seem that their prayers were not to be favourably answered. Yet, the morning of the pilgrimage was a truly beautiful one, and, as a sign that the prayers of the people had been answered, it should be added, the fine weather lasted until the end of the Mass. Almost the moment the Celebrant and Clergy had retired to the Senior Boys' School (where they had vested) a sharp shower of rain fell.
While the priests and people of Saint Bede's worked "heart and soul" to prepare for the great event and for the huge number of visitors, Father Jacobs, of Saint Andrew's parish, Newcastle, was busy making arrangements for the transport of pilgrims from all parts of the Diocese to Jarrow. All roads led to the town on Whit Tuesday, 11th June, 1935. By train, 'bus and ferry, as well as on foot, earnest catholics poured into the town. Over six hundred 'buses had been chartered for transport. The Jarrow and Howdon Ferry carried record loads of travellers from the north bank of the river. Hebburn pilgrims, led by Father Witty and the Drum and Fife Band, walked in procession to the point of assembly. Careful calculation led to the conclusion that at least 50,000, and possibly 60,000 men, women and children took part in the procession which started from St. Bede's Church. Such a large gathering of people made it necessary for special police arrangements to be made. Extra police were drafted into the area, and Supt. J.G. Hammond had the road traffic of Jarrow diverted, so as to ensure the comfort of the processionists.
To this ruling there was one exception - that inspired by a kindly thought on behalf of the aged, the weak and the infirm. These were conveyed in private cars, by
members of the congregation, along the processional route to the scene of the celebrations where the Bandstand had been reserved for them.
Members of Saint Patrick's Guild were given the important business of marshalling the procession.
As the various contingents from other parishes arrived they were directed to appointed streets in the immediate neighbourhood of the Church. This business of receiving and placing the contingents went on steadily until at 10-30 a.m. the procession took form and moved away. The school children led and were followed by the Jarrow Confraternities. Carrying banners and singing hymns, the processionists moved down Stanley Street, Albion Street and Stead Street into High Street. On the line of route, Papal colours were flown and there was a noble show of bunting and other decorations. In the windows of the houses were devotional pictures, miniature altars, Statues of the Sacred Heart and of Our Lady. It was a magnificent display of a firm Faith, which was freely and favourably commented upon by the Catholics from elsewhere. St. Aloysius' Band, Hebburn, and St. Hilda's Band, Sunderland, played hymns en route.
By mid-day all the pilgrims were assembled in the Playing Field facing the altar. Pontifical High Mass was sung by His Grace the Archbishop of Westminster (now Cardinal Hinsley), who made his first public appearance since his appointment. He was assisted by the Right Reverend Monsignor McCormack, V.G., Very Rev. Provost H. Mackin, The Very Rev. J. Canon Rogers, Rev. E. Wilkinson and Rev. H. McCartan. Canon G.B. Pippet and Father J. Deans were Masters of Ceremonies. Monsignor Collins assisted the Archbishop. Kneeling before the altar were His Grace the Archbishop of Liverpool, His Lordship the Bishop of Lancaster, the Right Reverend Monsignor C. Corbishley, President of Ushaw College, the Very Rev. Monsignor Gonne, the Very reverend J. McShane, the Very reverend Monsignor F. Tindall and representatives of the Order of Saint Benedict to which Saint Bede belonged, the Right Reverend J.S. Cummins, Abbot of York, the Right Reverend J.S. Mooney, Abbot of Douai, and the Right Reverend H.P. Turner, Abbot of
Westminster. More than two hundred clergy, regular and secular, were also present, as were nuns representing all the Orders and Communities established in the Diocese. A choir of Ushaw students, conducted by the Reverend J. Whittaker, sang the Proper of the Mass, while the whole of the congregation, led by the school children, joined in the singing of the Ordinary of the Mass.
The sermon was preached by His Grace the Archbishop of Liverpool on the text: "He shone in his days as the morning star in the midst of a cloud". It was a panegyric of Bede in which the Archbishop stressed the identity of Bede's Faith with our own, his devotion to the Holy See and the the Holy Mass which he said daily in the monastery Church, "almost exactly as we celebrate it today".
At the conclusion of the Mass, the clergy retired to the nearby school and a sharp shower of rain caused a rapid dispersal of the congregation. The clergy were the guests of Father McDonnell at luncheon in "Belsfield", and the nun-visitors were the guests of Miss Jackson at Greenbank Villas and Miss Young at 10, Borough Road.
The closing reference to happenings during the pastorate of Father McDonnell covers the Ordination of two "old boys" of the parish schools. This ceremony aroused considerable interest. Never before had an Ordination taken place in the Church, and besides, the Ordinandi were members of a family which, coming from Scotland, had settled in Jarrow when the parish was still in its infancy. The solemn ceremony of Ordination was closely followed by a large congregation as His Lordship the Bishop (The Right Rev Joseph McCormack) Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle, conferred upon these young Deacons, The Revv. Gerard and Raymond1 Crumbley, the powers of the priesthood.
Father McDonnell died on Wednesday night in Holy Week (April 10th,) 19412. This date is beyond the scope of this historical record, but it is of such importance that it cannot be omitted.
(1) Raymond Crumbley served as Parish Priest of St. Anne's, Winlaton from 1975 to 1996 (dates approximate). Whenever, during his sermons, he had cause to refer to the town of his boyhood, he always called it "The Holy City of Jarrow".
(2) It was actually April 9th.
In 1938, Father McDonnell became unwell, so much so that he was unable to fulfil some of his duties. His condition gradually worsened, and early in the following year he became so weak that the Clergy and Congregation could not conceal from themselves the fact that he was not likely to recover his former vitality. Daily, he was to be met with having short walks, accompanied by his spaniels, "Peter" and "Paul",, and the heart of the town went out to him as it was recognised that this virile, loveable priest was making a brave, if hopeless, effort to regain good health.
There was a tragic touch about his last day with us. For some hours he was in church directing the preparation for the services on the following day - Holy Thursday, and in arranging the Altar of Repose. In the evening at Benediction he was noticed kneeling in his accustomed place. Little did the people think that that was the last time they would behold their beloved Pastor in life.
That night Jarrow was subject to a German "blitz" raid in which lives were lost and 200 families were rendered homeless.1
The people of St. Bede's associate this raid with the death of Father McDonnell. When the raid commenced the other priests left the Presbytery to attend to the needs of members of the congregation who became casualties. Father McDonnell was left alone, with the household staff. When the destructive bomb fell in Station Street he had a heart attack, and quietly yielded up his life.
It is particularly distressing to reflect that a priests who was filled with "the milk of human kindness", one who found much that was loveable in his fellow men, should receive the last call when the people of whom he had charge, and for whom his heart
(1) For a personal account of this event read the war-time letters of Cissie Brennan on this site.
beat with warm affection, were being subjected to a particularly violent display of hatred.
On Easter Monday the burial took place. At the Requiem Mass the Bishop (The Right Rev. Joseph McCormack) was present with about 100 priests and the Church was packed by a grief-stricken congregation. Father Deans, of Harton, was Celebrant of the Mass, Father McCartan, of St. Mary's Cathedral, deacon, and Father J. Moloney, of Stockton, sub-deacon. The panegyric was delivered by Canon Forkin, of Darlington. At the Cemetery the service was conducted by the Bishop.
The assistant priests who served the Mission during the past eighty years included:
In Father Meynell's time:- The Revv. J. Conaghan, J. Connolly, J.J. Corboy, W. O'Kelly, A. O'Neill, T. Wilson, J. Du Floer, H, Walmsley, R. Harris, J. Scott, J.A. Kirwan, G. Van Kippersluis, M. O'Brien, D. Hassett, D. Duggan, R. Hannon, J.J. Mealey, F. Elkins, J.A. Johnson, J. Grant, A. Graham, T. O'Connor.
Under the succeeding Parish Priests:- The Revv. J. O'Dwyer, W. Condon, D. O'Kelly, H. O'Connor, J. Pattison, P. Grace, W. Ryan, M. O'Herlihy, J. Byrne, E. Wilkinson, J. O'Shea, J. Fitzsimons, W. Kearney, J. Morrisey, H. McCartan, F. Barry, P. Toner, W. Brennan, W. Conway, J. O'Holohan, J. McLeary, J. Moloney, H. Higgins, J.R. Corboy, D. Cronin, L. Deegan, R.P. Redmond, Ph.D., D.D., G. McElhannon, M. Sands, R. Delany, D.D.
There is much in our parish story which calls for general reference rather than for classification in the affairs of any given pastorate. What follows is therefore miscellaneous and not necessarily governed by stated periods.
From the beginning of local government in the town, Catholics showed their willingness to make a contribution to the advancement of the interests of the people,
and the names of Mr. John Slevin, Dr. M. Bradley and Mr. Hugh McGrorty1 are to be found among those who formed the earliest governing body. Yet, it should be noted, it was not until sixty-five years after the Incorporation of the Borough, that a Catholic attained the position of Mayor. There was an ample supply of Catholic members of the Town Council from whom selection could have been made had there been a desire to "pass round the honours".
Mr. Terence O'Connor, when he became Mayor for the year 1939-1940, had only a few months of office, as he was chosen to complete the period of a Mayor who had died during the municipal year. Mr. O'Connor marked his election (with a period of only five months to serve) by attending Church in state, and the members of the congregation were interested that one of their number had at last been chosen as "first citizen" and chief magistrate. Alderman D. Riley succeeded Mr. O'Connor in the office.
It was, however, in the works of education and charity that the congregation had more interest. When the School Boards were established by the Act of Parliament of 1870, an authority was set up for the area of Hedworth, Monkton and Jarrow (including Hebburn) and in 1871, Father Meynell and Father J.J. Corboy (Hebburn) became members. These priests continued to serve until 1883 when the Reverend Dr. Toner succeeded Father Corboy and Father James A. Kirwan took the place of Father Meynell who did not seek re-election. For short periods, Mr. P. McParlin, Mr C. Dougherty and Dr. J.E. Norman were members.
In 1886, Father M. Hayes and Mr. Hugh McGrorty represented the Jarrow Catholics, and this continued until 1895 when Mr. John O'Connor took the place of Mr. McGrorty. In a very short time, Father Hayes became Chairman of the Board, and he was again in this position when the School Boards were dissolved on the setting up of Education Committees under the Act of 1902. It was only after some delay, and much agitation, that Father Hayes was given a seat on the Committee. Miss Livingston resigned from the Committee so as to open the way for this.
Father Hayes also served on the Board of Guardians, and was Chairman for a term.
(1) On 8th November 1884 Councillor Hugh McGrorty was vilified in "The Nationalist" - the organ of the Irish National League, (Charles Parnell's party). To quote: "But what should be said of the renegade Councillor McGrorty who first set the pile of prejudice alight in the columns of the local press and fanned the flame by every means in his power.......Drive him and every man who acts as he has done from every post they occupy". His offence was having written to the local Press, urging Catholics not to vote for the League candidates in the Municipal Elections. His intervention was successful, in that both League candidates, Messrs. Cooney and Duffy, were defeated. However, the fact that Hugh McGrorty continued in public office for another ten years demonstrates that there was more than one thread of opinion within the Catholic community in Jarrow.
Father Mackin too entered into this work and served until the Guardians were dissolved on the inauguration of Public Assistance Committees. Others who served on this Authority included Mr. W. Connor, Mr Terence O'Connor, Mr. Henry Jennings and Mr. Thomas Kerr.
During the pastorate of Father Mackin, a statement of the Catholic case for appointments to the Magistracy was made. Thereupon, Mr. Thomas Lumsden and Mr. John O'Connor were appointed. In the next selection of Justices were the names of Mr. Robert Lumsden and Dr. Louis S. Norman. Mr. Terence O'Connor, Mr. Michael J. Young and Mrs Ellen A. Trainor were added later.
The parish has produced a number of priests. In addition to those who were ordained for Diocesan work, some joined Religious Orders. Foreign as well as home missions have been served by priests whose first steps in education were taken in St. Bede's Schools. Nuns also trace their vocation to the instruction given here in the Church and schools. They are to be found in Teaching, Nursing and other Charitable Orders. Members of the Xaverian Brothers and Marist Brothers recall, with satisfaction, their early training in Jarrow.
In another place it is stressed that the men from Ireland came to be labourers in the works. In their own country they were skilled in agriculture, but that knowledge was of no value in an industrial centre. Their children and grandchildren, however, have adjusted the scale, and Jarrow schools are represented in the medical profession, in the teaching profession - some being University Graduates - in journalism, in accountancy, in chemistry and in the Civil Service. In addition, there are Jarrow men holding important positions in big business and industrial concerns. Catholic working men are skilled in all the trades associated with shipbuilding and marine and electrical engineering. This side of the progress is worthy of note.
"Glorious St, Bede, pray that we,
May praise God for all eternity."
1796 - St. Andrew's Church, Newcastle, Founded
1821 - St. Cuthbert's Church, North Shields, opened
1849 - Church opened at South Shields
1850 - Hierarchy restored in England
1856 - Father Edmund Kelly commenced to visit Jarrow
1860 - St. Bede's Church Foundation Stone Laid
1861 - St. Bede's Church opened
1861 - Father Meynell became first resident Priest
1862 - On February 12th, Church registered as a place of Worship
1864 - S.V.P. Conference aggregated
1865 - Willington Quay formed a separate Parish
1868 - First School opened
1870 - School Extension (Monkton Road) opened
1871 - Church founded at Hebburn
1872 - East Jarrow School opened
1876 - Marist Brothers came to the Parish
1879 - Father T. Wilson (a Curate) died
1883 - "New End" of Church opened
1884 - Mission commenced at Tyne Dock
1884 - Father Martin Hayes becomes P.P.
1885 - Parish Presentation to Father Meynell
1885 - Grant Street School opened
1885 - High Altar dedicated
1897 - Father Meynell died at Penrith
1906 - First Outdoor Procession held
1906 - Father Henry Mackin becomes P.P
1907 - Marist Brothers leave the Parish
1911 - First Parish Bazaar held
1914 - Harold Street School opened
1920 - Belsfield School opened
1920 - Father Mackin's Silver Jubilee celebrated
1925 - Father Mackin appointed Canon
1928 - Mayfield School opened
1931 - First Mass said at Chapel-of-Ease
1931 - Canon Mackin removed to Hexham
1932 - Father Martin McDonnell becomes P.P.
1934 - New entrance in Chapel Road completed
1935 - St. Matthew's Parish Founded
1935 - The 1200th anniversary of the death of St. Bede celebrated
1938 - Father Martin McDonnell's illness commenced
This appendix comprises my personal reminiscences rather than a detailed history
Father Charles Wilfrid Blenkin was a native of Darlington, having been born there on 30th November 1893, the son of George Blenkin, an engine fitter, and his wife Sarah. As a young priest he was a teacher, and one anecdote that was told of him was that he kept a large dog which he used to take into the classroom with him. This no doubt helped to maintain order. He arrived at Jarrow as Parish Priest on 11th May 1941, only a month after the air raid which killed so many in Sheldon Street and precipitated Father McDonnell's fatal heart attack. Many years later, when celebrating his Silver Jubilee, he said that the first voice he heard was that of a man in the darkened Church saying "Welcome Father, you'll find we are rough and ready, but we love our priests". He said that this had been proven true many times in the subsequent twenty-five years.
His arrival was some time before my birth, and therefore I cannot personally testify as to the spirit of the Parish during the latter stages of the war, and in the decade that followed it. I believe, however, that it would have very closely resembled the Parish into which I came of awareness. Jarrow in the 1950's was a bustling place. With hindsight, I recognise that the odour of decline was already discernable. Many areas still had unrepaired bomb damage, and the back to back houses in places such as Wear Street were hardly fit for human habitation. Nevertheless, Monkton Road, Grange Road and Ormonde Street still thronged with shoppers much as they had done in the heydays of "Palmerstown".
I was born in 1948, and can date my earliest memory to the birth of my sister in 1952. At that time we were living in 12, Maple Street. My first memory of St. Bede's is, peculiarly, of not going there. While my sister was still a baby my parents went to separate masses, and we children stayed at home. This state of affairs did not last long however, and well before I entered St Bede's Infants' School in Monkton Road I had become a regular Sunday Mass attender.
As previously noted, Monkton Road school was built onto the eastern side of the Church. The school is no longer there, and when one stands upon the open space that it used to occupy, one marvels at the fact that it accommodated not only a suite of classrooms, but also a spacious school yard. The location of the school in relation to the Church is shown in the picture below, and beneath it is a recent picture, taken in 2005.
When I entered the school in 1954 it was staffed by female teachers exclusively: The Head Teacher was the formidable Gertie Brown, assisted by Miss Mary Finlay, Miss Harrab, Mrs Slaine, Mrs Dale and Miss Mary O'Connor, who for many years was the Church organist.
The life of the Parish mirrored the activity of the town. Mass attendance, particularly on a Sunday, was high, so much so that the faithful had no fewer than seven Masses to choose from:- 6:25, 7:00, 8:00, 9:00, 10:00, 11:00 and 12:00. Sometime around 1957 this was reduced to six, an 11:15 Mass replacing the 11:00 and 12:00 services. The Church was invariably packed to the gills at the 10:00 and 11:15 Masses, and this necessitated the presence of doormen, usually members of the Saint Vincent de Paul Brotherhood, to assist latecomers in finding places. The 11:15 service was
always a sung Mass, with a well-drilled Choir singing the main Mass parts - Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus and Agnus Dei. The Choirmaster for much of the 1950's was Mr Frank Sutherland, a teacher at Harold Street (and later Belsfield). The repertoire of Sunday services was completed by a Children's Benediction service at 3:00pm, and an evening service at 6:00pm comprising the Rosary, a Sermon and Benediction.
Such a heavy workload could not have been supported by one priest alone, and Father Blenkin had three curates to assist him - Frs. Robert Elliott, Noel Phelan and Sean Conaty. He reserved the 6:25am Mass (intended mainly for shipyard workers) for himself, and despite the early hour this was quite popular, one factor being that it was the only Sunday Mass without a sermon.
Weekday Masses did not have a sermon, and took place at half-hourly intervals, at 7:00, 7:30, 8:00 and 8:30. The 7:30 Mass each Friday was a Children's Mass, alternating on a fortnightly basis between Boys and Girls. These too were well-attended, but this was probably due to the fact that in those days the schoolteachers kept a Mass register in addition to the normal attendance register. Friday was also the day on which Catholics were not permitted to eat meat, a prohibition which was eventually lifted in 1967. Other weekly services included Confessions on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday evenings, and the "Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour" on a Friday at 7:30pm.
The regular weekly cycle of services was overlayed with the longer term cycle of the Liturgical Year. Christmas was celebrated with a Solemn High Mass at midnight, in which curates played the roles of Deacon and sub-Deacon, and the Choir sang a specially rehearsed Mass. February 2nd was Candlemas Day, on which Mass attenders would approach the Altar rails twice - once to receive Holy Communion and once to receive a candle. The following day was the feast of St. Blaise, the patron saints of sore throats, and again the people would make an additional trip to the Altar rails - this time to have their throats blessed. Ash Wednesday provided the next occasion when such an excursion was required - to have the sign of the Cross
marked in ashes on one's forehead, accompanied by the exhortation "Memento, homo, quia pulvis est, et in pulverem reverteris" (Remember, man, that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return).
Ash Wednesday marked the beginning of the season of Lent. This was taken more seriously in those days, and most regular churchgoers would make the effort, (not always successful) to "give something up for Lent". For the children it was usually a pledge to avoid sweets. During the six weeks of Lent an additional devotion was added to the cycle - the Stations of the Cross. The fifth Sunday, or Passion Sunday, provided a bit of extra interest in that one discovered all the statues in the Church had been covered with purple shrouds, and would remain that way until Easter. The following Sunday was Palm Sunday, and this provided another occasion for an extra trip to the Altar - this time to receive palm branches.
Palm Sunday marked the beginning of Holy Week, and the culmination of the Church's year. Major services took place on Holy Thursday, including watching at the Altar of Repose which lasted through the night, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday itself. The season of Lent had, since the Middle Ages, officially ended at noon on Holy Saturday, at which time the Easter Vigil service was held, but this changed in 1956 with the introduction of a new liturgy. Henceforth the Vigil Service was to commence at such an hour that the Mass, which brought it to a close, would start around midnight on Holy Saturday, and that midnight would now mark the end of Lent.
Following the great solemnities of Easter, the next events in the St. Bede's calendar were the May processions held in honour of the Blessed Virgin. These took place on two Sundays in May, and involved all of the schoolchildren, the boys wearing white shirts, ties and sashes, and the younger girls in white dresses and veils. The picture below shows a rehearsal for this event taking place in the (girls') school yard of Harold Street Junior School.
The two older girls are Kathleen McCann (l) and Eileen Maloy (r). The girl representing Our Lady is Margaret Schembri
May 27th1 was the feast of St. Bede, and to mark this event, each year Parishioners would gather on the ruins of the old cottages adjacent to St. Paul's Church for a recital of the Rosary. This was usually led by Father Blenkin himself 2. As parishioners of St. Bede's, we were immensely proud of the fact that the Saint had lived his life in Jarrow, and was therefore a local lad.
The month of June brought the Feast of Corpus Christi, and this was traditionally the date for First Communicants. On the Sunday following, the men of the Parish held a procession in honour of the Sacred Heart in which the First Communicants also participated.
Periodically (at intervals of five to six years approximately) the Parish would act as host to a visiting "Mission". This event was intended as an opportunity for all parishioners to renew their Faith. For a week, the complement of priests would be enhanced by (usually) three members of a religious order such as the Passionist Fathers. Each evening they would hold services which were intended to rouse the spirit of the Faithful, and although they did not employ the techniques used today at charismatic services, they generated the same sort of electric atmosphere. Once again, these services were extremely well-attended. One interesting side-effect of having an extra three priests was the means which were adopted to ensure that they each could say their daily Mass. They were accommodated on the side altars,
1. St. Bede's feast is now celebrated on May 25th.
2. A photograph of this annual event dating from 1954 can be found in "Images of England - Jarrow" by Paul Perry, published by Tempus, 2004; ISBN 0 7524 3336 9
of which the Church possessed three - two in the "New End" and one under the Choir loft. As there were no additional time slots available these Masses took place simultaneously with the main service on the High Altar, which caused some confusion for us altar servers, and no doubt for the congregation too.
When the Missioners finally departed they left mementoes of their visit in the form of small cards bearing a reminder of the resolutions to which the attendees had committed themselves. Two of these are reproduced below; one from the Redemptorist Fathers Mission of 1948, and the other from the Passionist Fathers in 1961.
In 1952 another visitor, not to the Parish, but to the Diocese, also stirred the Faith of the people. This was Father Peyton, an American priest (though born in Mayo) who in 1945 began a Crusade to encourage Catholic families to regularly say the Rosary together. He visited England in 1952 and held a number of open air rallies, which were extremely well-attended. Local venues included Roker Park and Belle Vue Stadium in Consett, and many St. Bede's parishioners attended these events.
The Parish had a number of characters - two I can remember particularly well. One I knew only by his nickname - "Double Maxim". This was given to him, (it is said), when he fell asleep during a service and woke up abruptly shouting for his favourite beverage. The other - Dinky Derrick, was a sad figure. He had suffered great personal tragedy during the war, and this had unhinged him to the extent that he became a serious alcoholic. A number of Parishioners and others knew of his
history, and always showed him great kindness, including Father Blenkin, who, in order to encourage to maintain a link with his Faith, gave him permission to smoke in Church. The clergy themselves had idiosyncratic traits. I have it on good authority that, following the discovery of some disorder in the Church administrative records, the Bishop arranged for a filing cabinet to be delivered to the Presbytery. Rather than using it to improve Parish administration, Father Blenkin decided that it was just the thing he needed - to keep his shoes in. Father Phelan was a tall, good-natured priest from Ireland with a puckish sense of humour. When making home visits he would not knock on the front door but would walk straight in (at this time people still kept their front doors unlocked). On one occasion he visited the home of a new parishioner in Monkton Terrace and announced himself as "Father McGinty - the new curate". Her reply was, "the only McGinty I know is Paddy McGinty's goat".
The Parish had a strong social life. For the men, this was based around the Parish Club in Chapel Road, which was situated in the house formerly used by the Marist Brothers during their time in Jarrow. In addition to the normal indoor activities of a working man's club there were also sporting activities, including a Football team1 and a Bowls team. Notable stalwarts of the latter included Raymond O'Connor, Frank Sullivan, Jack Kilminster, Jimmy Bartley, Charlie Watt, Bobby Melvin, Harry Brennan, George Paxton and others. The picture below dates from 1966 and records the success of a St. Bede's rink in the Evening Chronicle Rinks Championship.
(1) For the history of the Football Club click here
During the 1950's and early 1960's the Parish experienced major changes to its community of residents due to the programme of slum clearance in Jarrow. Whereas pre-war clearances had moved the residents of Low Jarrow to Primrose Hill, the post-war clearances were much more extensive in terms of demolitions, and the new estates in which people were rehoused were even further afield, up to the boundaries of South Shields and Boldon. To serve these estates a new Church, St Mary's, was opened in Glasgow Road in 1952. This was followed in 1958 by a fine new Church in York Avenue for the daughter parish of St. Matthew's, which had been served by a chapel of ease in the Belsfield school complex since 1931. The clearances removed large swathes of St. Bede's catchment area, the demolitions extending right up to the Church buildings themselves. Further relocations led to the opening of a fourth Church, St. Joseph's, Hedworth, in 1962
Despite this, Parish life continued much as it had done. A period of dramatic change was approaching however, which would profoundly affect not only St. Bede's and Jarrow, but the global Catholic Church, and indeed the whole world.
In October 1958 Pope Pius XII died, after a Papacy which had lasted 19 years and which had, in its first five years, been an impotent witness as the world tore itself apart during the Second World War. His successor, who took the title John XXIII, was 77 years old, and was widely expected to be a stop-gap Pope. In the event he proved to be an immensely popular figure with the laity, and astounded the hierarchy of the Church by convening an Ecumenical Council which opened in 1962 and closed in 1965 under his successor, Paul VI. It ushered in widespread changes to many aspects of Catholic life, particularly the Liturgy, which many in the Church found difficult to accept.
Great changes were taking place in the secular world too. The final dismantling of Empire was essentially completed, and tremendous shifts in social attitudes took place during "The Sixties". It is beyond the scope of this account to attempt a detailed
analysis of this process, but I believe I am on safe ground in dating the commencement of a decline in church attendance to this period. St. Bede's was not the only community to suffer, - several Churches in Jarrow succumbed to the demolition squads as their congregations dwindled away, including the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel in St. John's Terrace, the Congregational Chapel in Napier Street, Ellison Presbyterian Church, the United Methodist Church in Wear Street and St. Peter's. Some, for example St. Kilda's Presbyterian Chapel in Wear Street, had already ceased to function as a Church, and in this case the premises were being used by Reavley's Lemonade Factory as early as I can remember.
Canon Blenkin witnessed all of these changes, and no doubt he wondered on occasions what would be the future of his Parish after his eventual departure. He died in early 1972, at the age of 79.
Today1 St. Bede's is still functioning as a Catholic Church, albeit at a much lower level of activity than hitherto. There is now one Mass on Sunday compared to the previous seven, though there is a vigil Mass on Saturday night. The Parish forms part of a cluster, together with St. Matthew's, St. Mary's and St. Joseph's, Hedworth, under the guardianship of a team of three priests and one nun. Old Jarrow, (i.e. north of the Railway Line), has all but disappeared, and of the buildings which used to surround St. Bede's Church, only the Crown and Anchor public house is still standing. The town itself lost its unique identity and its independence long ago, being subsumed within the Metropolitan Borough of South Tyneside. The old street plan has vanished, to be replaced by a chaotic jumble of dead-ends and waste lands, dotted with a pot-pourri of ugly modern buildings with no discernable style. Certainly the slums needed to be replaced, but things could have been done much better. The good citizens of Jarrow deserved it.
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