History of St Ninian’s

When the Second World War came to an end in 1945 Hamilton’s population had increased to such an extent that the pre-war housing areas were now regarded as inadequate. In 1950 after the lifting of the post-war restrictions imposed by the government, the Town Council acquired land for council housing outside the burgh boundaries. The lands embracing the farms of Little Udston and Hillhouse became the site for the new housing scheme which started in 1951.

In the planning stage of the Udston-Hillhouse scheme, provision had been made for possible sites for the Church of Scotland and the Catholic Church and their respective schools. This plan was accepted by the Planning Committee of the Council on 27th January, 1954. However, when the planning committee saw the architectural drawings for the new Catholic church, they decided that such a fine building, as envisaged by the Catholic authorities, should have a more prominent siting, and consequently, the present ground was earmarked for this church on the main Hillhouse Road.

On the 15th April, 1955 the Parish of St Ninian’s was formally constituted by the then Bishop of Motherwell, the Right Rev. James D. Scanlan, who appointed Fr. Ian McLaughlan to be the first parish priest. To him was given the task of building a new church and chapel house. The new parish boundary included part of what was then St Mary’s, Hamilton; St Cuthbert’s, Burnbank and St Anne’s Cadzow.

The primary school was completed before the church building and Mass took place in the school premises along with the other sacraments of Baptism, Penance and Marriage. The school was officially opened on 29th April 1957 by Bailie Frank McMenemy. The dedication ceremony was performed by Bishop Scanlan, Bishop of Motherwell; Mr William A. Deerin was the first Head Teacher.

The first Mass was celebrated in the church itself on Sunday, the 7th December 1958. The Solemn Opening of the Church took place on Sunday 19th January, 1959 when the Right Rev. Bishop Scanlan celebrated the Solemn High Mass and preached the Homily. The efforts of Father Mclaughlin managed to get the church and the house built in 3 years (1955-1958), the church with its imposing “bell tower” due to the determination of Fr. Mclaughlin persuading the Bishop to agree to it, and the pebble dash on the exterior walls of the church by a plasterer brought over from Ireland to apply it.

For the opening of the church the parishioners donated the Missal and a Missal stand. The stations of the cross came from Oberammergau in Bavaria. The tower bell and a Shrine were imported from Rome; a granite altar from Ireland; the lights (Celtic design) were hand-made by Mr James Regan; the altar rail and baldachino (Canopy over the altar) were made by Mr Campbell McFall. The wall surrounding the church property was built under the direction of Mr T Duffy, who also installed the bell in the tower.

There have been some changes to the church over the years eg. there is no longer a baldachino or altar rail, the sanctuary area has been raised and both it and the aisle carpeted.

The first major changes came after the Second Vatican Council, when Father Denis Garrity with his assistants made changes to the sanctuary to bring the church in line with the new liturgy; the altar was brought forward and specific new items of furniture were installed as well as an amplification system.

The next major changes were carried out in 1993 by Fr. William P Sproule assisted by Fr. J. Thomson;

  • Wood panels were used to cover most of the brick in the sanctuary and on the ceiling of the church, and the metal support girders were covered.
  • Two new side altars were made, one to the Sacred Heart and one to Our Lady
  • The wood-work done by Mr Joseph McNally and his team.
  • New lights were also installed and the original granite baptismal font reinstated.
  • At this time the church had to be re-roofed since the copper roof was pitted with acid rain damage and rain water was coming through it.
  • A new organ was also installed in the church.

The present hall (Mir Centre) was constructed next to the church and on 5th January 1989 was formally opened by the Right Reverend Bishop Joseph Devine. The original Hall was in Farm road which is in St Cuthbert’s parish, and was rented from the CO-OP then converted for parish use.

After all this renovation work was carried out, a Solemn Dedication of the church took place on Tuesday, 18th January, 1994 on the 35th Anniversary of the Opening and 39th Anniversary of the foundation of the parish. The principal celebrant was the Right Reverend Bishop Joseph Devine.

During this mass two of the parishioners, Mr James Caroll and Mrs Kearny were presented with the Bene Merenti medal for their service to the Church.

During his time as parish priest, Fr Bogan made changes to the chapel house. He had a meeting room (St Martin Room) and a new reception room constructed.

The first permanent Deacon appointed to a Motherwell parish was Dr James Douglas, he came to St Ninian’s when Fr. Sproule was the parish priest.

Ordained at St Ninian’s –

The first ordination in our parish was Fr. Robert Kane in 1971 by His Lordship Bishop Thomson. Archbishop Winning concelebrated the Mass.
Fr. James Gerry Higgins was ordained in 1990 by His Lordship Bishop Joseph Devine.

Ordained from the Parish –

Fr. Patrick Gaffney C.S.Sp. was ordained on the 15th August 1963 at St Joseph’s College, Upton, Newarks, Notts.
Sister Veronica Hodgson, with the Poor Clare Sisters in Bothwell.

(Information compiled by Jim Reilly)

Bishop Scanlan cutting the first sod of turf

St. Ninian’s Clergy Past and Present

Parish Priests

1955-67            Fr. Ian McLaughlin

1967-73            Fr. Denis Garrity

1973-83            Fr. James Quinn

1983-97            Fr. William P Sproule

1997-2016        Fr. Gerard Bogan

2016-Present Fr. Charles Dornan

Assistant Priests

1959-67            Fr. Edward Glackin

1967-69            Fr. Edward Docherty

1967-70            Fr. Henry Allison

1969-73            Fr. Laurence Kenny

1973-79            Fr. Francis Darroch

1978-82            Fr. Hugh P. Kelly

1982-85            Fr. Eamonn Sweeney

1982-83            Fr. Jeremiah O’Riordan

1985-87            Fr. John Taylor

1990-95            Fr. James Thomson

1995-97            Fr. Stephen Miller

Permanent Deacons

1986-90           Dr James Douglas

2011-17            Mario Vannini