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.