The Ceremony of Solemn Opening of the Church of Saint Peter in Chains was planned by Father Joseph Doherty (1879-1964) of the Church of Our Lady, Star of the Sea, Saltcoats. One of the invitations, number 84, to James Langan (1873-1954) and family, is shown below.

The new Church was officially opened on Sunday 2 October 1938 at 12 noon by His Grace the Archbishop of Glasgow, the Most Reverend Donald Mackintosh as shown in the photograph below. The principal celebrant of High Mass was Father Archibald McSparran. He was assisted by Father Robert McCliment as deacon and Father James McCarroll as sub-deacon. Fittingly, all three priests were natives of Ardrossan. A story, handed down, is that the the celebrant would normally sing the Latin Mass, the deacon would either sing or say the Gospel and the sub-deacon would sing or say the Epistle. Father McCarroll, recognising that he was not as good a singer as Father McSparran, probably read, rather than sang, the Epistle that day. The choir, accompanied by Cathy Langan on the organ, sang Palestrina's 'Missa Brevis'.

Clergy attending included:
  Father William Bradley (1890-1943), Saint John's Church, Stevenston
  Father Thomas Cahill (1910-96), Church of Our Lady, Star of the Sea, Saltcoats who was Master of Ceremonies
  Monsignor William Daly, Vicar General
  Father Joseph Doherty (1879-1964), Church of Our Lady, Star of the Sea, Saltcoats
  Canon Doyle, Govan, Glasgow
  Canon Fitzgerald, Saint Mary's Church, Glasgow
  Monsignor Henry Forbes, Rector of Saint Peter's College, Bearsden
  Father Alfred Gallaucher, Langloan, Coatbridge
  Brother Germanus, Head Teacher of Saint Mungo's Academy, Glasgow
  Canon Hayes, Troon
  Canon Horgan, Greenock
  Father Thomas Kelly (1896-1963), Church of Our Lady, Star of the Sea, Saltcoats who was choirmaster
  Archbishop Donald Mackintosh who officially opened the Church
  Father Thomas Maguire (1913-), Church of Our Lady, Star of the Sea, Saltcoats who was assistant Master of Ceremonies
  Father James McCarroll holding the missal in the photograph above
  Father Robert McCliment
  Monsignor Canon Joseph McHardy ( -1966), Ayr
  Father Archibald McSparran who was the principal celebrant
  Canon O'Connor, Maryhill, Glasgow
  Father Michael O'Connor (1891-1966), Church of Saint Mary, Star of the Sea, Largs
  Father Frederick Pirrie, Saint Mary's Church, Paisley who preached the sermon
  Father Rooney, Paisley

The altar servers included:
  Frank Coulter
  Jim Courtney
  Joe Long (1928-80)
  Andrew McCarroll (1927-1996)
  Eddie McCann
  John McCourt (-2010)
  Frank McEvoy
  Ian McNamara
  Arthur Murphy

Members of the congregation included:
  Renee Cowan who sang in the choir
  Dan Donnelly, his wife Maggie, son Jim Donnelly, later to be an altar server and choir member and daughter Moira Donnelly who sang
    in the choir and later became a nun
  Isa Gordon who sang in the choir
  Cathy Langan (1910-1992) who played the organ
  James Langan (1873-1954)
  Mary Lennon previously Shepherd née Millar (1884-1954), grandmother of Jim Butler
  Rose McCann who sang in the choir and later taught in Saint Peter's Primary School
  Andrew McCarroll (1885-1967), his wife Isabella McCarroll née Stuart (1894-1968) and their daughters Marie McCarroll (1923-1982) and
    Ishbel McCarroll (1931-1983) who were sisters of the aforementioned altar server Andrew McCarroll (1927-1996)
  Catherine McGrattan née Heaney (1878-1969)
  Jimmy McGrattan (1911-1982)
  Julia McKay later Julia Paterson
  Michael Reilly, his wife Ellen Reilly née McCarroll (1875-1954), their son Peter Reilly, daughter Mary Reilly later Mary Timmons (1916-2011)
    and son Michael Reilly (1917-1995) who guarded the marquee in the Church grounds that was used as an additional priests' sacristy
  Sadie Retzbach later Sadie Cunningham
  Jimmy Steele (1913-2010)
  Willie Tumilty (1896-1980), his wife Jane Tumilty née McIntyre (1896-1984) and their daughter Margaret, later Margaret Gribben

The photograph below is of the back page of a commemorative pamphlet given at a meal after the opening Mass in the Franciscan Convent, Saltcoats. It is assumed that the following signatories, not named above, attended the opening ceremony.

  J Abbott
  Hugh Cahill
  J Conway
  James Durkin
  George Galbraith
  John Loon
  James Ward

Some signatories are priests. This may or may not suggest that all signatories are priests. Some signatures are unclear.

If you know of anyone else who should be included in the above lists, please contact

The following report is from Glasgow Observer and Catholic Herald of 7 October 1938.


Archbishop Mackintosh Presides At Opening


Two hundred yards from where mass was last celebrated three hundred and fifty years ago for the fisher folk of Ardrossan, a new church dedicated to Saint Peter in Chains was solemnly opened by Archbishop Mackintosh on Sunday last. Since the Reformation, Ardrossan had been denied a Catholic Church but once again, almost in the shadows of Castle Hill, where the sad, neglected ruins of the old Church of Saint Peter in Chains still stand, the holy sacrifice of the mass has been celebrated.

A troop of Girl Guides formed a guard of honour for the Archbishop who arrived in a downpour of rain. Almost sixty priests from the west of Scotland were present at the ceremony.

Solemn high mass was celebrated at 12 noon, the officiating priests being natives of Ardrossan - Father Archibald McSparran, Saint John's, Glasgow, celebrant, Father Robert McCliment, London, deacon and Father James McCarroll, London, subdeacon. Fathers Cahill and McGuire, Saltcoats were masters of ceremonies.

His Grace the Archbishop was accompanied at the throne by the Right Reverend Monsignor Canon Forbes, D D and the Right Reverend Monsignor Canon Daly, Vicar General. Other clergy present included Very Reverend Canon Fitzgerald, Saint Mary's, Glasgow, Very Reverend Canon O'Connor, Maryhill, Glasgow, Very Reverend Canon Doyle, Govan, Glasgow, Very Reverend Canon Horgan, Greenock, Right Reverend Monsignor Canon McHardy, Ayr and Very Reverend Canon Hayes, Troon.

Reverend Frederick Pirrie, Paisley who preached, offered his congratulations to His Grace the Archbishop on opening the twenty-third church to be built in his archdiocese since he came to Glasgow from Rome sixteen years ago.

Father Pirrie also congratulated Father Doherty of Saltcoats for furthering the work of the church and also the architect and builders for the realisation of a dignified, beautiful and original conception. The high altar, a photograph of which appeared in last week's issue, was the gift of Mr Harry Kemp.

Speaking to the people of Ardrossan, Father Pirrie said "Now you see fulfilled your hopes, prayers and aspirations of many years for a church of your own. The Eucharistic Presence, expelled and driven out three and a half centuries ago, is restored to you. He has come back to dwell with you, day and night, in the beautiful house you have built for him.

Lastly, Father Pirrie complimented the person - he did not know who it was - who first suggested the title of Saint Peter in Chains for the new church. "No more appropriate title" he said "could have been chosen for a church in Ardrossan.

Father Pirrie read a passage from the Acts of the Apostles, which referred to the fact that Saint Peter, chained in prison by Herod, was freed from his chains by an angel.

He pointed out how the name was appropriate for a church in Ardrossan because about two hundred yards away on the top of Castle Hill, there stood in pre-Reformation days, the little Church of Saint Peter in Chains. "Most of you are familiar with all that remains of it today" he said "sad neglected ruins".

"In opening this church dedicated to Saint Peter in Chains, we have bridged a chasm in time of three hundred and fifty years; much eventful history has been packed into that period; great wars have been waged; human lives sacrificed to greed and ambition; political leaders have arisen, ruled and disappeared; science has beggared magic in its achievements; might has stamped on right; the workers have been exploited to swell profits and dividends; sects teaching divergent doctrines have increased and multiplied; and are we nearer happiness, true happiness, which consists in this and this alone - the love of God and the love of our neighbour for God's sake.

"Love of our neighbour - the words sound fantastically impossible of realisation in the tortured world of today, armed for a devil's dance of destruction, hate and death.

"Back before the crash of three and a half centuries ago" said Father Pirrie "I ask you to contemplate another scene - the simple fisher folk of Ardrossan climbing Castle Hill for mass and the sacraments. What a different picture! They had no multiplicity of churches teaching different doctrines to choose from. It did not occur to their guileness, untortured minds that Christ's truth could be a matter for selection and self-contradictory.

"For them, there was but one faith, one Lord, one baptism - in Saint Peter in Chains in Rome, in Saint Peter in Chains in Ardrossan. Must they not have been proud, these ancestors of our faith, to know that they had a church whose name linked up their tiny Scots fishing village with the great centre of Christianity - Rome? Yet, why not the same name in both? In the great basilica on the Esquilina Hill at Rome and in the little chapel on Castle Hill at Ardrossan were taught the same doctrine, the same sacraments were administered, the same sacrifice of the mass offered under the same supreme authority of the successor of Peter the fisherman.

Father Pirrie said that by opening the new church, tradition was carried back to Rome of the fifth century. "There is clear historical evidence" he said "that a titular priest of San Pietro in Vincoli - Saint Peter in Chains - was papal Legate of the Council of Ephesus in 431. The faith he championed then was held today". "Surely" said Father Pirrie "that must ever be the outstanding characteristic of the congregation of this Church of Saint Peter in Chains - loyalty to the Holy Father, fettered and shackled as he is with the trials, tribulations and responsibilities of his great office. When there is loyalty to the fisherman, the Vicar of Christ, there must be loyalty to Christ himself who made Peter the fisher of men.

"Though Saint Peter is now in glory, his church is in chains today in the greater part of Europe and in Central America. Let us pray without ceasing for its deliverance. By a strange perversity of the human mind, the very men who should most protect and guard and foster Peter's faith are the most opposed to it. 'Fear God, honour the King' was Peter's command to his first converts and in this he did but repeat and summarise the teaching of his master - 'Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's'. Yet that faith which clearly teaches obedience to the legitimate authority of the state in the name of the state is being bitterly persecuted.

"An idolatrous worship of race" said Father Pirrie "has been substituted for the worship of Christ. The repeated protests of the present Pope against exaggerated nationalism go unheeded. The creed of the Apostles has been rejected for the creed of the politicians and in its name, churches are destroyed, nuns, priests and bishops are imprisoned, tortured, done to death. Let us then in the joy that is ours today in the opening of this new church, not forget to pray here in the Church of Saint Peter in Chains for Peter's church in chains in other lands. Our loyalty to Peter demands it."

"Freedom of conscience and worship are ours today, bought at a great price by those who have preceded us in the faith. How they would have rejoiced to be here today. Persecution and death were their daily portion. The saying of mass or even assisting at its celebration was declared illegal and punishable by forfeiture for the first offence, banishment for the second and death for the third."

"All that hideous past seems now but the troubled memory of a fevered dream. Emancipation is long won. The brand of oppression is no longer red upon our brows; the festering wounds of the fetters are quite healed. We stand here today in the eyes of the law equal citizens with equal rights, rendering in return equal duties. I say, note, 'in the eyes of the law'. It would be idle for me to deny that even today you will find distinctions made against you and your religion, but by unenlightened individuals, not by the law of the land."

"Bigotry, the ill-gotten offspring of ignorance and malice, still stalks the streets and lanes of town and country, unabashed and unashamed. There are still to be met credulous creatures who believe that the Church is the enemy of education, that priests pardon sins for a price, that Catholics pray to statues and images, that confessors reveal sins heard in confession and that we regard Mary as equal to God. In these days of enlightenment, the foundation of falsehood, misrepresentation and calumny upon which bigotry against the faith had so long rested, was crumbling away before the advance of education."

"People are beginning to see that their gullibility has been played upon to fill the pockets of the modern imitators of Titus Oates" he said. "As a matter of cold, unadorned fact, far from the Church being the enemy of education, she knows that her greatest friend and ally is the advance of knowledge and culture."

"The more our fellow countrymen know about our religion, the better for our religion, for us and for themselves. A Scotland fully understanding the doctrines of Catholicism would, through God's grace, be a Catholic Scotland. God speed the day must be our fervent prayer."

During the mass, a choir from Saltcoats, under the direction of Father Thomas Kelly, rendered the music.

After the ceremony, many people waited outside in the rain to cheer His Grace the Archbishop as he left for the Franciscan Convent to preside at lunch.

The Church of Saint Peter in Chains will be served from Saltcoats until a staff has been appointed.


The following report is from The Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald of 7 October 1938.


Archbishop of Glasgow at Opening Service


The new Roman Catholic Church, built on the site of The Pavilion, South Crescent, Ardrossan was officially opened on Sunday at noon in the presence of a large congregation. A description of the Church appeared in our issue of last week. It has been given the name 'Saint Peter in Chains' and the interior presents an impressive appearance.

His Grace the Archbishop of Glasgow, The Most Reverend Donald Mackintosh, DD was present and the opening service was carried out with the solemn and impressive ritual associated with the Roman Catholic Church.

High mass was celebrated and an interesting fact falls to be recorded in this solemn service on this occasion - all the three officiating priests being natives of Ardrossan. Reverend A McSparran, Saint John's, Glasgow was celebrant, assisted by Reverend R McCliment, OBE, MA, Saint Dunstan's Grammar School, London and Reverend J McCarroll, Highbury, London.

The Archbishop was attended by Monsignor Daly, Glasgow, The Vicar-General of the Diocese and Monsignor Forbes, rector of Saint Peter's College, Bearsden. Father Pirrie, Saint Mary's, Paisley preached the sermon, and Father Cahill, Saltcoats was Master of Ceremonies, assisted by Father McGuire, Saltcoats. The choir was conducted by Father Kelly, Saltcoats. A large number of clergy was present.

Father Pirrie, at the outset of his address said he desired to congratulate the congregation in Ardrossan on securing such a nice church. He then expressed pleasure at the presence of the Archbishop and said that this was the twenty-third church which had been opened since His Grace came to this diocese, the largest in Scotland, from Rome sixteen years ago. They all desired for him very many more happy years in which to preside over the diocese.

Proceeding, Father Pirrie said his next duty was to give his felicitations to Reverend Joseph Doherty, Parish Priest, Saltcoats, the architects, builders and all others associated with them for the realisation of a very beautiful ideal for the congregation In Ardrossan. Today the aspirations, prayers and hopes of many years are now fulfilled. The Eucharistic Presence had now come to dwell with them, day and night, in the beautiful house they had built for Him.

No more impressive title could have been chosen for this church than Saint Peter in Chains. He had been asked why the name should be "Saint Peter in Chains". The answer was to be found in the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 12. There they read that Herod the King stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the Church. He killed James, the brother of John, with the sword, and because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. He put him into prison, but prayer was made for him without ceasing. Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains and an angel of the Lord came to him and a light shined in the prison. The angel smote Peter on the thigh and raised him up saying "Arise quickly." and his chains fell from off his hands.

Continuing, Father Pirrie said that 200 yards from this church on the Castle Hill, Ardrossan, stood a little Church of Saint Peter's in pre-Reformation times. They could still see the remains of it in a few sadly-neglected ruins. In building this new church, they had bridged a chasm of 350 years. Many things had happened during that time and were they now any nearer a state of happiness, true happiness which consisted in loving God and in loving our neighbour for his sake? "Loving our neighbour" seemed impossible in the world as it is today.

In the days of the old church on Castle Hill, Ardrossan the people would not know of the multiplicity of churches teaching different doctrines such as we had to-day. It would not occur to them that the day would come when religion would be a matter of selection. For them, it was "One Faith, one Lord, one Baptism". They would know, however, that their little church was linked up with the great Church in Rome, the centre of Christianity and that it taught the same doctrine and made the same sacrificial offerings, under the same supreme authority of Peter the fisherman. In erecting this church, they had linked up tradition with the rule of the fifth century. After a brief reference to events of that time, Father Pirrie said the Church was a symbol of loyalty to the Holy Father, shackled and fettered as he was by the responsibilities of his great office and loyalty to Christ who made Peter, the fisherman "a fisher of men". Everyone must show submission to the authority of the Church in his own town. The first Christians united in prayer for Saint Peter in chains. Saint Peter was now in glory but his Church was in chains today.

By a strange perversity of the human mind, some people who should foster the name of Saint Peter were now opposed to him. Saint Peter enjoined them to fear God and honour the King. Peter's faith led him to acknowledge the authority of the State, yet today, in the name of the State, in some countries, the Church was being bitterly persecuted, owing to the pursuance of the creed of exaggerated nationalism and racism. Saint Peter's appeal seemed be unheeded. The creed of the Apostle was being abandoned for the creed of the politician. Churches had been destroyed and nuns and priests had been done to death. Freedom of worship according to conscience was won for us in past ages at the price of suffering and death and these people would be proud to be here today.

By law, Catholics in this country had equal citizenship, rights and duties with other people. At the same time, it would be idle for him to deny that Catholics would not find implications made even today against their faith. These were made by ignorant people, not by the law. For instance, they found leaders of opinion who said their church was the enemy of education and that it was crumbling away before the advance of knowledge and culture. That was not the case. They realized that education was the greatest friend the Church had in the land. They were convinced that the more the people knew about Catholicism, the better it would be for the Church. It rested on the members of the church to show in their daily lives what their faith really is. Their faith must enter Into their daily life - social and commercial. They must hope that in God's good time, Christ would make them free and fit them for "the citizenship of Heaven".

After the service, luncheon was served in the Franciscan Convent, Montgomerie Crescent, Saltcoats. Reverend Joseph Doherty presided and the catering arrangements were carried out by Mr C F O Lee, Hotel Kilmeny, Ardrossan. After the luncheon, the toast "The King" was loyally pledged and the Chairman proposed the health of the Archbishop in brief but fitting terms.

Doctor Mackintosh, in replying, expressed the pleasure it gave him to be present on such an important occasion and expressed thanks to Father Doherty and the other clergymen at Saint Mary's, Saltcoats for their arduous work in making the arrangements and for their enterprise in erecting a new church in Ardrossan.

Father Doherty then referred, in appreciative terms, to the three priests who officiated at mass.

Father McSparran said that, as a native of Ardrossan, he could assure His Grace that there would be loyal attendances at the new church and that the people would do all in their power to ensure that it was well supported. It was a very beautiful church and although simple in design, it appealed to him very much. He thanked the Archbishop for coming amongst them that day.

Father McCarroll said that with the opening of this church, the people in Ardrossan would now have "the glorious privilege of being independent". He was very glad to have the privilege of officiating at the opening service.

Father McCliment said that, although he was taken away from Ardrossan when he was very young, he still had an affection for the town. The family had had it instilled into them that there was no place like Ardrossan. He was pleased, however, to hear of the friendly rivalry which existed between Ardrossan and Saltcoats and he felt that Saltcoats people would not grudge the Ardrossan people their new church. It was a very happy arrangement that the three priests officiating at the opening service should all be natives of Ardrossan.

Father Doherty said he desired to publicly express his thanks to the preacher at the opening service as Father Pirrie and himself were old friends. He felt that in choosing Father Pirrie he was making a wise choice and the sermon be had delivered showed that his judgment was correct. He therefore desired to thank him most sincerely.

Father Pirrie said he was only too delighted to accede to the request made to him by Father Doherty.

Father Doherty proposed a toast to the guests and referred particularly to the valuable public work done by Canon Hayes, Troon. Canon Hayes replied in suitable terms.

The priests present at the service and luncheon included Father Gallaucher, Langloan, Coatbridge, formerly of Saint Mary's, Saltcoats, Father Rooney, Paisley also formerly of Saint Mary's, Father Bradley, Stevenston and Father O'Connor, Largs.