Parish History

History of St Mary's Church

Records in the Glasgow Archdiocesan Archives testify to the exisitence of a Catholic Church on Castle Rock, Ardrossan with a dependant Church in Saltcoats for the catholic people of this area way back as far as 1226. In about the year 1580 we know a Catholic Church existed in Saltcoats (Chapel Brae as it was then known) closed as a vicitm of the Reformation. The "modern" catholic Mission of Saltcoats was established in 1853 under the care of Father William Hallinan a Co. Limerick man (1826-1886). His new mission covered the area from Kilwinning to West Kilbride.

The first church was in the loft above the Queen's Hotel in Bradshaw Street. We are told that this was immediately too small and quite inadequate-Mass was often interupted by the noice of the horses in the stables below!! Fr Hallinan met with the Earl of Eglinton who gave him the choice of land for the new church and school and the spot on which the present St Mary's now stands was obtained-the thinking being that it was more central than building out on the Castle Rock again! The Church was begun in 1855 thanks to the hard work and determination of priest and people-the estimated cost of Church and house was £2,533 11s 10d. The school took a little longer and was opened in November 1868.

Here is an extract from the report of the opening of the Church from the local newspaper The Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald (April 19th, 1856):

"The Roman Catholic Church, which has been in course of erection for some time, was opened for public worship on Sabbath last (April 13th, 1856). On a previous occasion we mentioned its appearance from outside, which we considered neat and chaste in design. The inside of the building is in keeping with the outside....the opening of the Church created considerable interest. By ten o'clock the crowds began to assemble around the edifice, and before the hour for divine service upwards of 800 persons were waiting to witness the dedication of the Church.....before the opening service was commenced the Church was blessed by the Reverend John Gray, parish priest of St Andrew's Cathedral, Glasgow (afterwards Bishop Gray of the Western District from October, 1862, till January, 1872)...".



For information on our Parish Priest see here.