In the Beginning
The founding of a new parish in Bellshill was announced from the pulpit in Holy Family, Mossend, on Sunday, 19 September, 1949 - the 15th Sunday after Pentecost. Fr James Butler - a curate in Mossend - was named as Parish Priest and given the task of establishing and building a new church. Fr Niall Hayes, from All Hallows, Dublin, was named as his assistant. Fr Butler had served in Sacred Heart, Bridgton, for 14 years and when he came to Bellshill, he asked that the new parish also be dedicated to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and be named 'The Sacred Heart'.
Our Mother Parish
The members of the Holy Family congregation who lived within the new parish boundaries were now members of 'The Sacred Heart', and to them fell the task of building the new Church under the able leadership of Fr Butler, Fr Hayes and Fr Augustine McCauley who was appointed in September 1950 from Maynooth, Ireland.
The people of Bellshill worked relentlessly, running functions, making collections, and supporting in every way the necessary fund-raising. In this aim, they were assisted fully by the Holy Spirit which gave advice, supported their every enterprise, showered them with generous donations and did all this with a unique friendliness.
We, the present parishioners, owe a great debt of gratitude to all those who helped build our Church.
Report from Bellshill Speaker, December 1949
New R.C. Church Car Park to be provided - Approval of an application by the R.C. Church authorities for permission to build a church at Crossgates has been given County Planning Committee.
The building will be one storey erection with priests' sacristry, boys' sacristy and baptistry as well as the Church.
The County Council has placed two conditions on its approval. The hedge on either side of the access is to be kept trimmed to a height not more than three feet or alternatively remove and replaced by a suitable fence. Secondly, within 3 months, plans are to be submitted for approval showing car parking facilities to be provided within the curtilage of the Church.
The Site of the New Church
...was at the junction of Park Road and Crossgates a 2,369 acre plot which had been acquired by the Archdiocese in 1939 with a view to serving approximately half the Catholic population of Bellshill and Mossend.
The parish was spread over a great area; from Bellshill Hospital in the north to Orbiston 'Raws' in the south, and from the old N.B.R. station in the west to Thorn Road - including the Thorndean and Motherwell Road housing schemes - in the east.
New Housing leads to New Parish
In 1948, a two-phase house-building programme of 886 houses in Orbiston, east of Hamilton Road, had necessitated the founding of this new parish.
A third phase of house-building (1954-60) provided a further 804 new houses sited west of Hamilton Road and at Strachan Street (c.1962), the completion of which saw the final demise of all the old Miners' Raws.
Most of these new homes wee occupied by existing Bellshill/Mossend tenants but a considerable influx from Carnbroe, Bothwellpark and 'The Pailis' swelled the population of the infant parish.
What's in a name? We're streets ahead!
The street names in the first building phase were taken from Robert Owen's early eighteenth century 'Socialist Experiment' at Orbiston: Liberty Road, Register, Babylon, New View and Community.
Place names in the second phase came from old local areas - Crofthead, Croftcot, Farmgate, Footfield, Bogs View and Orbiston.
The exception was Busby Road which was named in honour of Sir Matt Busby, the renowned footballer and manager of Manchester United.
Sir Matt Busby was born in Old Orbiston Raws, which were situated just across from were the gates of Lawmuir Primary School are today.
The third phase place names came mostly from old local areas - Blackmoss, Greenend, West End, Bellvue, Alderston, or their aspect and seven were named after people
The Generosity of our Parishioners
Ultimately, the cost of church building is borne by the parishioners. Some generous donations came from individuals, but the bulk of the necessary finance comes from the purses and pockets of the Catholic community which gives freely in support of the Church.
Our parents and grandparents built our fine church by their hard work, sacrifices and relentless faith in God. The post war years were hard for most of our community, but nevertheless, they gave what they could give and gave constantly.
Parish collectors (each had a district) went round each week collecting offerings from the parishioners. Collections were taken in church and all fundraising events were faithfully supported.
Snippets from the Bellshill Speaker
January 27, 1950 - Sacred Heart fundraisers were entertained by Fr James Butler.
May 19, 1950 - Local Catholics group visits Rome for Holy Year.
May 31, 1950 - Modern Motleys give concert for Sacred Heart Building Fund.
June 23, 1950 - Sacred Heart Building going up by leaps and bounds.
June 30, 1950 - Old Crooks V Lanarkshire Select at Brandon Park in aid of Sacred Heart Building Fund.
November 5, 1950 - Sacred Heart Church holds an 'At Home'.
Underway - as building difficulties were overcome
The actual building of our Church was fraught with difficulties.
Church building in post war years was subject to a system of 'Church Building Licensing' and could not proceed without this licence. Also, all materials - particularly glass and wood - were scarce.
Despite these many handicaps, Mr Corionder and the contractor, Mr L.B. White, ably supported by Mr Malcolm McKenzie, his foreman, and all his workforce, worked constantly and efficiently and, to their great credit, the new Church was completed just 18 months after its founding.
Fr James Butler described the building of The Sacred Heart Church as:
'A story of permits, of shortages, of heartbreaks, of hopes and dispair, but our faith was in God Almighty'.
The Original Plans
It was initially intended to erect a 'Hall Church' (see plan) with presbytry and at a later date a new Church, to be sited where the hall is now.
The reason this did not happen is not clear: though it was probably financial.
The cost of building our church was in the region of £20,000 - exclusive of decoration and furnishings.
Mr L.B. White of Woodend, Bellshill, one of several tenders, won the contract.
The Solemn Opening
The Solemn Opening of The sacred Heart took place on Sunday 8th April 1951 - the second Sunday after Easter. His Lordship, the Bishop, Right Reverand Edward Douglas, presided.
Several hours before the opening ceremony, A High Mass at noon, a crowd of hundreds gathered in the vicinity of the church. Entry was by ticket only, as there was only seating for about 700, and many dignitaries and special guests had to be accommodated. Therefore, the vast majority of the faithful had to be content to stand and watch from the outside. The police were in attendance to control the large throng and to make sure that the traffic moved smoothly as that area of Bellshill, 'The Angle', was a busy bus route.
Monsignor Rodgers V.G. was the celebrant, Fr John Gogarty, the deacon, and Fr Denis Garrity, the subdeacon. Fr Anthony Kilcoyne was the preacher and the M.C. was Fr John O'Donnell. The Sacred Heart Choir, with local tenor Tommy Donnelly, was conducted by Miss Margaret O'Neill and Miss Margaret Reid was the organist.
The Evening Service and Solemn Benedicition at six was celebrated by Fr James Donnelly, Fr Niall Hayes (deacon), Fr Augustine McCauley (sub-deacon). The Very Rev. Fr Kevin O.F.M. CAP, preached, and the music and singing was provided as at High Mass.
Report from the Bellshill Speaker, April 1951
The Sacred Heart Church
The opening of the new Catholic Church took place on Sunday by the Bishop of Motherwell. I think the building of the Church just about holds the record for speed, there certainly seemed to have been the closest co-operation between the builder, his workmen and the architect, because there were no hold-ups so far as I can recollect.
Mr L.B. White
It was Mr White who took charge of the building of the Church, and he has been suitably rewarded by the letters of thanks he has received from interested parties. He seemed to have had the right type of foreman on the job, a man who could get the maximum amount of work out of his men. Mr Thomas Cordiner, F.R.I.B.A., Glasgow was the architect.