Premature end as Our Lady and St Patrick’s comes under the hammer

The former Our Lady and St Patrick’s High School in Cardross Road, Dumbarton. Pictures by Bill Heaney

Who remembers Gerry McDonnell, the first head teacher of OLSP at Castlehill? Or Charlie Rooney, Greg Bell, Susan Jo Hanna, George Dunn, Hugh Scullion, Eamon Cullen, Gerry Kelly, Maureen Lynch, Scarla Connelly, Musky Moore and many of the other well kent teachers there?

It was a great old school, famous for its footballers and for the amount of money the pupils raised for charities.

Gerry wanted to call the school St Paul’s until former pupils of St Patrick’s High School stepped in and told him to go and get raffled.

Like so many local government officials, he was appointed to a job in an area he knew little about.

The local people asked Cardinal Tom Winning to throw that idea into the waste paper basket, where it belonged, and he did.

The “men who have gone before” – remember the school song? – rallied round a campaign led by local journalist Bill Heaney and his friend Dan Lynch JP, pictured below right, to respect and keep the St Patrick’s name, which was associated with the saint who was born in Dunbartonshire at Old Kilpatrick.

Dan Lynch 2And the Notre Dame name too, a French teaching order brought to Dumbarton by the legendary Monsignor Hugh Canon Kelly, the man they called the Pope of the Clyde.

Gerry was furious when the Cardinal agreed with the former pupils and told him and his mentor Divisional Education Officer John Mulgrew, another one of those “secret service,” easily upset types to back off.

The Dumbarton, Helensburgh and Vale Co-op had to send back the school ties and uniforms they had ordered for St Paul’s.

And so it came to pass that Our Lady and St Patrick’s got its name – a joint name for the two schools it succeeded, St Patrick’s High School and Notre Dame (Our Lady) at Clerkhill.

“It was something that doesn’t happen very much these days – people in power listening to the people on the ground; people who knew and loved the area and had great respect for the men and women who were former pupils of the school and had brought so much credit and success to the town of Dumbarton,” said Bill Heaney.

This week OLSP, which was built by the old Strathclyde Regional Council, was being demolished. The bulldozers and diggers have moved in to the Monument Park on the Cardross Road, where it was built.

The new OLSP, which was built on the site of the high flats in Bellsmyre, is – in some people’s view – the biggest and costliest mistake ever made by West Dunbartonshire Council.

OLSP badgeIt’s too small, not fit for purpose and too far out of the way for the community that it serves, people from Old Kilpatrick to Loch Lomondside to Coulport and the Rosneath Peninsula.

The school was purchased with a much maligned PFI-typed deal which cost the Council, on the advice of the then Education Director Terry Lanagan, and council taxpayers many millions of pounds more than it should have.

Children in primary schools today will still be footing the bill for the new school when they are old and grey and their schooldays are just a distant memory.

They can thank West Dunbartonshire Council for this, which had the ruling Labour administration at that time.

Although the bulldozers were knocking it down this week, it could  have done with some maintenance work and a few coats of paint. That would have seen us out until maybe 2040 and saved us all that money.

Millions of pounds instead of the two or three hundred thousand a refurbishment would have cost.

The deprived West End would not have had its heart ripped out. Cleaners and maintenance people would still have gone to work on their doorstep. A few small shops would have continued to benefit.

Our children would not have had to be burdened with of a legacy of debt. We are told the decision to take OLSP out of the West End was made out of necessity. It wasn’t.

Because Dumbarton Academy and the Vale of Leven Academy had new schools, the Labour Party believed it was politically necessary for them to give St Patrick’s High and Notre Dame a new school.

Some people would call it Buggin’s Turn. Others would say it was about religion and the fact that the Catholics had to get the same as the Protestants or they wouldn’t vote for the Labour Party. Who knows?

Will the pupils be all Jock Tamson’s Bairns, educated together by 2040 and living in an independent Scotland as part of a United States of Europe?

Everything changes.

The schools of last century – St Patrick’s HS and Notre Dame, Clerkhill.


One comment

  1. I attended this school from 1976-80.

    One night at football training. The red blaze gravel pitch graced well – when I scored 8 goals for Mr McGarvey’s school team. A well pleased Mr Docherty said, “definitely get a start for Saturday, young man!”

    I felt chuff. And to my horror, I never got that start? Nonetheless, it was a great school!

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