Canon Thomas McGarvey
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Some memories of Canon Thomas McGarvey
February 1956, Canon McGarvey was appointed to serve as the Parish
priest of Kilsyth who, like his predecessor, had been parish priest
in the neighboring parish of Bonnybridge.
Very Rev. Thomas Canon McGarvey was born in
Uddingston on 1st December, 1896. He received his early education
in Broxburn and his secondary education at Blairs in Aberdeen.
During the First World War he served with the Armed Forces as
a gunner in the Royal Artillery.
He studied for the priesthood in the Scots College, Rome from
1920 to 1926, and was ordained there during his final year in
His first posting as assistant Priest was to St Patrick's Edinburgh
where he served from 1926 to 1930. From there he was transferred
to St Anthony's Polmont near Falkirk from 1930 to 1936.
His first appointment as Parish Priest was
to St Kenneth's Lochore where he served the whole of the War
Years and more from 1936 to 1949. As he did not have a Chalice
of his own the poeple of Lochore paid for him to have a second
hand one for his presentation which his family then had guilded
with gold from melted down family jewlery.
From 1949 to 1956 Canon McGarvey
was the Parish Priest of St Joseph's Bonnybridge. His last posting
was here to the Parish of St Patrick's Kilsyth where he was
Parish Priest from 1956 until his retirement in 1972.
Canon McGarvey was the first native born priest
to serve as parish priest in Kilsyth. During the early years
of his charge here, Canon McGarvey, in his own unobtrusive way,
sought to know his parish and its needs, both spiritual and
temporal. He turned his attention to the youth of the parish
and saw the need for some established organisation to cater
for the development of young people, both boys and girls, in
the earlyteenage years. With this in mind he founded the first
Boy Scout Troop in Kilsyth, and with it the attendant Cubs for
the very young boys. At the same time he promoted the Guides
and Brownies for girls, and so originated what is still to-day
a very worthwhile and rewarding part of Kilsyth social life
for the young.
The young men's club, under the expert
leadership of his curates, was given a renewed lease of life
in the Boys' Club. This club filled a much needed want for this
age group, and the activities carried on under its aegis reflected
great credit on all who took part.
Since very little had been done to the church
since the fire in 1954, it was now looking very dilapidated
and the need for a new church was now very evident. Nevertheless
a beginning on the new church could not be made until a substantial
sum of money could be provided, and so Canon McGarvey set about
raising funds for the building. He organised socials on a regional
basis so that each district in the parish would play its part
in this effort. These were very successful and engendered a
spirit of unanimity which has been maintained ever since in
all the activities promoted for the raising of funds for the
When Canon McGarvey retired in
1972 a council house was found for him in Johnston Avenue Kilsyth,
close by two sisters, Eileen and Lucinda Robinson. Eileen had
been sacristan in St Patrick's for many years for Canon McGarvey
and knew him very well. The two spinster sisters looked after
Canon McGarvie in his retirement and nursed him through his
eventual ill health right through to his death on 6th Oct 1987.
Shortly before his death and by this time confined to a wheelchair
Canon McGarvey was able to celebrate the diamond jubilee of
The overarching legacy of Canon
McGarvey is that during his time he was able to fund and build
the current St Patrick's Church to the design of Gillespie Kidd
and Coia which is now a part of Scotland's architectural heritage
and which remains a modern looking building 50 years after is
construction, providing a magnificent space in which to celebrate
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with Scottish Football Honours
McGarvey receives a donation from
Supporters Club who were on a visit from
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A House Mass for Canon McGarvey in 1986.
Canon McGarvey and Fr. David Brown
on a trip to Lourdes
. Date unknown.
Papal Blessing on the 100th
Anniversary of St. Patrick's
With Local dignitaries - St Patrick's Church was hosting the
the 'Kirkin O' the Council
' in the old Kilsyth Town
Portait by Sr Clement
On a pilgrimage to Lourdes
|Above left Canon McGarvey with local
dignitaries. It is 1965 and the picture is of the “Kirkin’
O the Council”of the Burgh of Kilsyth. To the right of Canon
McGarvey is ex Provost Robert Callaghan, a Parishioner of St Patrick’s.
To the left of Canon McGarvey is Provost Patrick McCann OBE JP
another Parishioner. Behind Robert Callaghan is Bobby Meechan
the father of Father Alan Meechan and another parishioner of St
Patrick’s – Bobby went on later to become Provost
himself in the early 1970’s. In the back row in glasses
is Alistair D Mathie, Clerk of the Council and founder of Mathie
Lennox legal practice which still operates in Kilsyth.
Isobel Hudson and her new husband James Montage with Canon McGarvey
after their Wedding in the spring of 1967. Shortly afterwards
the Montage's left Kilsyth for a new life in Canada. This was
one of the first weddings in the new St Patrick's Church building.
December 1964, Canon McGarvey presides at the wedding of Charles
Trower and Nan Penman in the old St Patrick's hall which was
being used at that time as a church between the demolition of
the old and construction of the new St Patrick's Church building.
Invite to The Canon's Golden Jubilee Dinner Dance
McGarvey's Diamond Jubilee Photo Gallery
Canon McGarvey was a frequent visitor to Lourdes and can
be seen concelabrating Mass in the groto (centre beneath the statue).
St Patrick's Kilsyth Trip to Lourdes in 1956 with Canon McGarvey
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a larger picture
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Archbishop O'Brien visits Canon McGarvey in Johnstone
Avenue in Kilsyth in 1986 to say Mass with Fr O'Connell.
Canon McGarvey although he was retired was,
above and before anything else, a priest first and foremost.
Throuought his retirement years he was always willing to step
in to say Mass in St Patrick's or take devotions or benediction
if one of the other priests in the Parish had another commitment.
Later after he was less mobile, he still said Mass every day
in his own home until he was no longer able and was always
diligent in reading his Daily Office. Sometimes he would say
Daily Office twice - 'just to make up for some other priest
somewhere else who was perhaps to busy to do it'. In
the end when he could no longer see properly he would ask
Eileen or Lucinda to read the Daily Office for him. The photograph
above shows a visit from the then Archbishop O'Brien who came
to Kilsyth as assistant priest in 1972 - just as the Canon
was going into retirement. There was a great bond of respect
for the Canon from all the younger priests who met him and
saw his example of faith and devotion as well as his deep
love for the people of Kilsyth.
The 3 priests, the retired Canon, the Parish Priest and the
Archbishop said Mass together for the Canon who was clearly
failing and for whom this was probably his last concelabrated
Canon Thomas McGarvey died on the 6th October
1987 after spending more than 62 years of his life as a priest
and a faithful servant of God. May he rest in peace!
Very Rev. Thomas Canon McGarvey –
6th October, 1987.
Canon Thomas McGarvey, retired Parish Priest of St Patrick’s,
Kilsyth died in Kilsyth on the 6th October 1987, in the 92nd
year of his age and in in the 63rd year of his priesthood.
At a Month’s Mind Mass in St Patrick’s on 6th
November, the following homily was delivered by the Most Reverend
Keith Patrick’s O’Brien, Archbishop of St Andrews
As you know I was abroad over the last few weeks – in
El Salvador and the United States of America.
It was with deep sorrow that I heard of the death of Canon
Thomas McGarvey. My sorrow was not at the death of a great
and good priest and a dear and valued friend – but at
the realisation that as Archbishop, I would not be in Kilsyth
in person for the Funeral Mass. I rejoiced on my return to
Scotland, however, to learn from Canon O’Connell and
Father Paul of the funeral ceremonies for the Canon –
and of how they had been carried out in such a solemn, dignified
and yet loving way in the presence of Bishop Monaghan, Bishop
Mone, Monsignor Grady and so many civic and church representatives
from Kilsyth and further afield as well as with the assistance
of so many of you, the good people of St Patrick’s Kilsyth.
What you were doing one month ago was two-fold:
a) You were looking back over the long and priestly life of
Canon McGarvey and thanking God for it. Yes indeed a long
and priestly life, the details of which were recorded for
you by Monsignor Grady. It was indeed a life of service -
initially in the army during the 1914-1918 War; service at
seminary in Rome until his ordination in 1925; service as
an assistant in St Patrick’s Edinburgh, before service
as a Parish Priest in Polmont, Lochore, Bonnybridge and last
of all here, in St Patrick’s Kilsyth from 1956 until
1972. It was a life of service but it was also a life of great
joy as it soon became known that the Canon was never happier
than with the sick in his parishes or on his many pilgrimages
b) The other thing you were doing one month ago was praying
for the happy repose of the soul of the Canon. In a long,
varied and pastoral ministry, I am sure the Canon would be
only too well aware that at times he may have made mistakes
and hurt or offended some people, despite all his efforts
to the contrary. I am sure he would ask nothing more of me
this evening than that I would ask of you to pray for him
at this time.
Yes tonight we are doing much the same as happened one month
ago, looking back over the Canon’s life and praying
for his soul.
But perhaps we could all do something else; Perhaps we should
all be asking God for a share in the graces and blessing which
the Canon enjoyed; perhaps we should we should be trying to
recapture in our lives something of the joy and the goodness
of the Canon which he showed in the practice of his faith;
in the exercise of his priestly ministry. Canon McGarvey was
an uncomplicated man; there was no identity crisis about him
– he knew he was a priest and he knew why he was a priest.
He had been ordained a priest on 10th May 1925, to pray, to
offer the Holy sacrifice of the Mass and to serve others -
which he did to the best of his ability – right up to
the moment of his death.
One thing which the Canon did which I am sure not many will
do – he spent fifteen years in retirement. I think I
can honestly say that those fifteen years were blissfully
happy years, thanks to you the people of Kilsyth who did not
want to lose him from your midst; thanks to the Priests and
Sisters of this Parish who always made him feel welcome and
at home; and thanks especially to Eileen and Lucinda, who
loved and cared for the Canon devotedly as they had indeed
their own father before – they looked for no reward
save that of knowing what they were doing for Canon McGarvey
was as if it was being done to Jesus Christ himself, the Great
Do you know that during the Canon’s fifteen years in
retirement, I myself was in two different Parishes; two seminaries
and already spent two years as Archbishop – having served
three years in Kilsyth, three years in Bathgate, two years
in Drygrange and five years in Blairs and now over two years
as your Archbishop? I know that many of my brother priests
here present, during those fifteen years have had as equally
busy and varied ministries. But I would hazard a guess that
perhaps the Canon used those fifteen years to greater advantage
than any of us – during those fifteen years he did not
serve on any committees or commissions, he had no meetings
to go to, he was not involved in running around his Parish
or Diocese, he did not see the need for any great further
study of philosophical or theological text books – but
what he did see the need for was the need to grow holy, to
become more and more closely united to Jesus Christ and to
Our Blessed Lady during his life here on earth. He was an
example of prayer to anyone who came to his home, his breviary
on one side, his Rosary on the other. Each day of his retirement,
right up to the day of his death, he faithfully celebrated
the Holy sacrifice of the Mass for which he was ordained.
He remembered those in his prayers those who came to him and
those who had gone before him; he prayed for the needs of
the Parish and for the needs of the Diocese; he prayed for
the missions, remembering especially his many friends in the
White Fathers and the African Bishop he had befriended, when
he was Parish Priest in Lochore, Bishop Budububage.
We are told in Sacred scripture that:
“The life and death of each of us has an influence
I think the life and death of Canon McGarvey has had an influence
on me - and I am sure an influence on all those who knew him
and loved him. Perhaps the greatest lesson he taught us is
that of the simplicity and joy of the life of a Christian,
and the lesson that a priestly life well lived must be rooted
and founded in prayer, especially the prayer of the Mass,
linked with a love and devotion to our Blessed Lady.
May God grant him eternal rest and may perpetual light shine
upon him; may he rest in peace.
By kind permission of The Scottish Catholic Directory,
1988 edition, pages 418 - 420.
Canon McGarvey's Prayer Card and Headstone
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