Explore the History of the Parish

In 1960 the parish church celebrated 100 years and a special book was produced. Download a copy here.

In 1979 the Convent of St Joseph of Cluny celebrated 100 years in Girvan and produced a small pamphlet about their work here. Download a copy here.

Our History - Girvan

Catholic emancipation came to Scotland in 1829, and the Irish potato famine in the 1840s drove many people out of Ireland, Scotland being a popular destination. These two factors resulted in many Catholic parishes in Scotland, including Girvan, dating from the 1850s.

At the time Girvan was part of the Western District of Scotland, presided over by Bishop Murdoch, and had been served from Ayr. Bishop Murdoch resided in Glasgow.

The first priest appointed to the mission of Girvan and Maybole was Fr William Casey. Mass was said in a little hall in High Street, Girvan. (The site is now part of McConnell Square). In the four years beginning at the end of August 1850, Fr Casey baptised 382 children and adults.

In 1854 he was succeeded by Fr Walter Dixon, who was in charge of the mission until 1863. He baptised 610 people, and was instrumental in the building of the present Church of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in Harbour Lane.

The years from 1863 to 1869 were marred by feuds between Irish and Scottish clergy, and several priests came and went. Matters became more settled with the appointment of an English Bishop, Charles Eyre, in 1869, who later became the first Archbishop of Glasgow since the Reformation. A long period of stability now came to Girvan, and Fr William O’Shaughnessy became priest in June 1872.

In 1878 the Sisters of St Joseph of Cluny arrived in Girvan to teach in the school. This was also the year in which the hierarchy was restored, and six dioceses replaced the three missionary vicariates. Girvan now became part of the new diocese of Galloway and its Bishop, Bishop McLachlan, resided in Dumfries.

Parish priests came and went rather frequently until 1909. The notice book preserved by Fr Bohan (1907 - 1909) presents a vivid picture of parish life. On a typical Sunday there would be Holy Communion at 8.30 am, Sunday school at 10.30 am, Mass at 11 am, and Evening Devotions at 6.30 pm. In addition the Children of Mary and Aspirants met at 5.45 pm and the Catholic Young Men’s Society at 7.30 pm.

Fr O’Connell, who was parish priest from 1931 - 1954, purchased an old cinema in Henrietta Street and converted it into a parish hall. His great hobby was woodwork, and with the help of parishioners, he installed a sprung dance floor which was the best for miles around.


During Fr Joseph Kerr’s time (1954 - 1974) the Catholic Young Men’s Society received a new lease of life under the leadership of Canon Joseph Daniels of Glasgow. Its members were encouraged to become well-versed in their faith, able to defend it, and prepared to take their full part in trade unionism, politics etc. Joint meetings were held with other branches, and much was achieved.

In Girvan, Catholics became active in public life and two became provosts; Dr James Boyle and Daniel MacNeill, and Nicholas McWhirter was a member of the town council.

The Church of the Sacred Hearts was extended and renovated for the centenary in 1960; and after the Second Vatican Council the altar was turned to face the people. A new hall was opened to replace the old one, which was in need of extensive repairs. Unfortunately in 1991 the Sacred Heart Academy closed due to falling numbers.

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