Reflections on the 150th Anniversary of the Immaculate Conception, Lochee

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1866-2016
“To God alone is known the full and wondrous record of all the good achieved in Lochee as the result of the opening of the Immaculate Conception, St Mary’s Lochee one hundred years ago” So wrote Bishop William Andrew Hart on the occasion of the Centenary. Now as we have the joy of celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the opening of this beautiful Church, we can do no better than to associate ourselves fully with these inspiring sentiments.

On Friday 13th May 2016 as the Church community gathered with our Bishop Stephen Robson, the Priests of the Diocese, honoured guests from Civic and Educational Life, we give thanks anew to God who alone “knows the full and wondrous record of all the good achieved in Lochee as the result of the opening of the Immaculate Conception, St Mary’s Lochee.

IMG_0012Lochee is a bustling suburb of Dundee nowadays but its inhabitants are fiercely proud of their locality ( it was once a separate village) and even today still speak of “going in to Dundee”. The presence of the Catholic community has done its fair share in forging the character of this local community. Prior to the 1830s there is no record of there being any Catholics in the village at all, but if we jump ahead a few years we discover that with an increase of prosperity brought by industrialisation in Dundee, industrialists of that period even chartered boats to bring Irish workers over to their factories and so the Jute Mills of Dundee and Lochee were soon filled with workers and soon Lochee would boast of an area called “Tipperary”.

By 1847 there were 200 Catholics in the village of Lochee and district. They had no Church or place of worship and had to walk the two miles or so into Dundee to attend Sunday Mass in St Andrew’s Church in the Nethergate, come snow, rain or sunshine. Soon a Chapel was available for them in the newly acquired property of Wellburn, much nearer home. However soon this Chapel too became too small as the Catholic population kept on increasing. And so to cut a long story short, we must mention a certain Fr Davidson who work seriously hard and collected funds for a new Chapel in Lochee. It fell to his successor Fr McKerrell to continue this work, with great success, when this beautiful Church designed by the famous Architect Joseph Hansom (who is well-known for having also designed the Hansom Cab) was finally opened on 13th May 1866.

Quoting the Centenary booklet again, we learn that “the Church is a magnificent, highly ornamental building, partly Norman and partly Early English in style of architecture.. it was built at the time of the Gothic revival in architecture in Britain and is one of the finest examples of this style. Hence it is today a Grade-A Listed building.

It was on Sunday 13th May 1866 at 11.30am that this beautiful Church, named in honour of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (a dogma of faith only defined in 1858) was Solemnly Dedicated in a Pontifical High Mass led by the Rt Rev Dr John Strain Vicar- Apostolic of the Eastern District, soon to be
Archbishop of Edinburgh.

To the glory of God and to the loving memory of all the people who gave their love, toil and hard – earned money then, to build this beautiful Church, to the beloved memory of all the families who through these past 150 years gave witness to their Catholic Faith and who worked hard for the Schools to educate their children in the faith and to all who went on to give of their gifts and talents to the wider Community of Lochee and Dundee, which has made its own harmonious mark on our local area, bringing the whole community together, we renew our Dedication to God and our thanksgiving to the Motherly care of Our Blessed Lady, the Immaculate Conception.

Photos by Eddie Mahoney