A Short History of St Mary's,
Our story began in the early 1800s with Jane Catherine Shaw-Stewart, eldest daughter of Sir Michael Shaw-Stewart, 6th Baronet and M.P.; Jane had gathered much admiration from her service with Florence Nightingale in the Crimea. She paid for the building of the church, parsonage, school house and school-masters house, having inherited a “considerable fortune” from her late mother.
(The school closed in 1887, not on any educational grounds but rather the Scottish Education Department refused a grant to keep it open maintaining that it was too noisy – being in close proximity to the shipyards and Caledonian Railway line).
St Mary’s Church foundation stone was laid on December 1st 1855, the patrons being the Shaw Stewart family and the Bishop of Glasgow and Galloway. It was consecrated on March 25th 1857 – the Feast of the Annunciation of Mary.
As the town of Port Glasgow grew so did St Mary’s congregation - slowly at first but by the early 1900’s its mission and spiritual vibrancy spread and the St Fillan Mission in Kilmacolm was placed under the pastoral charge of St Mary’s Rector.
The First World War affected St Mary’s just as it affected every community. St Mary’s lost a number of men, their names remembered today in the chancel as well as in the Marble and Alabaster High Altar. But the church community recovered and it started a mission at Bishopton in 1925.
The Great Depression of the 1920s cast a deep shadow on Port Glasgow. It was a sad, sad town with high unemployment. The incumbent, the Revd Canon Patrick Walker stayed with his people, and wrote after the Great Depression lifted, “… to this day as I think back I am filled with pride to have been associated with them in such a tragic blow to their hopes and fortunes.”
Then WWII brought its trials; St Mary’s men and women served in the Armed Forces and Merchant Navy - some never returning. Their names too are remembered in the Chancel. Most of the congregation were engaged in the war effort in the shipyards and its associated industries. The church hall was used for the RAF Barrage Balloon Port HQ and later by the Army and Navy Commando Forces. In May 1941 the church was badly damaged by German bombs during an air raid where members of the Congregation were killed. For many years the roof of the Epiphany Chapel was supported by the mast of a ship!
The church though had grown and its witness spread to the surrounding areas. So many were the children attending, that the bowling pavilion at King George V’s Playing Field was used for the Sunday School overspill.
It had been a traumatic and challenging 30 years for St Mary’s and Port Glasgow. Nevertheless, the church continued to grow robustly. St Mary’s has served the community of Port Glasgow well until this present day. The church building was a victim of a compulsory purchase order to make way for the new A8 in the 1970s. Today, the new St Mary’s of modern distinctive design, is adjacent to the Kilmacolm Road.
Its lively congregation of around 70 is as loyal, hard-working and as outward looking as it always has been. Some things don’t change.
St Mary's Stained Glass Windows more...
St Mary’s Scottish Episcopal Church