The History of Leith

June 20, 2004

St Mary Star of the Sea Timeline

Since the Reformation of the Church of Scotland in 1560 harsh laws were imposed in Scotland just for being a Roman Catholic and this only being changed in the early years of the 19th century.

However the main reason for the formation of St Mary Star of the Sea was due to the many Irish Catholics families coming into Leith in the wake of the Potato blight in Ireland. Instead of being met with understanding and kindness as you would expect after what they had suffered they were met with fear and resentment. Accused of everything from causing poor wages to poor housing and in fact being guilty of nothing except being poor and being no different from anyone else and the strange thing is the people condemning the Catholics were just as poor as the Irish themselves and suffering under the same cruel system.

This continued up to after the first World War and the 1918 Education Act with the formation of “The Protestant Action Group” of John Cormack. Fortunately his views were so extreme and ridiculous that in time he was sidelined and eventually ignored. In the long run Leithers are sensible people.

Today all the Churches and denominations are working together in Leith under the “Leith Churches Together” (LCT) and all working towards unity in diversity. In short working together where they can work together and accepting differences without any resentment or bad feeling.

Although some anti-Catholic feeling does still exist in leith it is rapidly dieing out. It is the one thing from the history of Leith that most sensible people want to see the end of once and for all and the sooner it happens the better for everybpdy.

Timeline of Parish Events 1847-2004

1847 Fr Thomas Carlyle arrives-the first full time priest in Leith

1850 Foundation of St Vincent de Pul Society Society
Balmerino House bought and used as Church, School and Prebytery
First visit to Leith of Oblates of Mary Immaculate led by Fr John Noble OMI

1852 Oblates arrive to run parish but leave shortly after for Galashiels
Foundation stone for new Church laid 25th March

1854 Church of St Mary Star of the Sea Completed
First Mass said by Fr Archibald NacDonald on Sunday 12th February
Statutes of St Joseph and Sacred Heart positioned on either side of alter

1859 Oblates of Mary Immaculate take over running of Leith Parish

1861 Presbytery built in the grounds of the Church

1863 Arrival of the Sisters of the Blessed Institute of Loreto to assist Oblates with Parish
Convent established in Johns Place.

1867 Death of Fr Noble in Leith Docks. He is buried in St Mary’s and a monument errected.
Sisters of Loreto amalgamated with Holy Family Sisters

1874 Foundations of Catholic Young Mens Society

1878 Foundation of Confraternity of the immaculate Conception-the womens Guild

1880’s Stained glass windows installed in South Aisle&above high alter (now the choir)

1903 New School built in grounds of Church
Catholic Young Mens Society (CYMS) given rooms in basement of School

1910 Children of Mary Immaculate established in St Mary’s by Fr Gorman OMI

1910/20 Church reoriented to face east
New Chancel and alter added at east end of church
Paintings added chancel walls
Altar rails installed and Ladt altar constructed dedicated to Fr Moughty OMI

1920 Grotto built to commemorate parishioners who died in WWI

1927 St Anthony School established

1928 Crib figures bought and used for the first time at Christmas

1938 St Mary’s School moves to Yardheads Building

1953 Statute of Sacred Heart erected in grounds of Prebytery commemorating the
Priests and Sisters of the Parish

1954 12th February-Century of St Mary Star of the Sea

1960 Kirkgate demolished and rebuilt
Balmerino House demolished

1974 Century of CYMS

1975 Beatification of Eugene de Mazenod

1970’s Changes made to Church interior, Cry Chapel built, stone pulpit removed,
carpets laid, heating improved.

1978 St Mary’s School moves to Leith Links Site

1995 Canonisation of Eugene de Mazenod Founder of the Oblates on 3rd December

1996 Cry Chapel renamed the Eugene de Mazenod Chapel Statute of St Eugene erected
First Feast Day Mass celebrated May 21

2002 Extensive repair work to Church building
New paintings added to Sanctuary and older paintings cleaned.

2003 Plans formulated of building a new Parish Pastoral/Community Centre
Holy Family Sisters leave

2004 150 anniversary of building of St Mary Star of the Sea
implementation of plans for new Parish Centre.

Source St Mary’s Star of the Sea Leith 1854-2004 with acknowledgement to the writer and Father Tony Clancy (C)

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