HISTORY OF THE SACRED HEART PARISH
(Adapted from Sacred Heart Church, Penicuik 1882-1982.
A Short History by Michael McGowan)
In the early part of the 19th Century, the number of Catholics in Penicuik was very small but the latter part brought an influx of Irish immigrants. The first Catholic Church in Penicuik was built in 1882. The first Mass was said on Christmas Day that year, the parish priest being a Rev Thomas Boilson. The Church accommodated 300 and was built at a cost of £800. The building was designed and built to serve as a school but was not used as a school for another three years. Fr Boilson remained as parish priest for another three and a half years and during this time the house at no.57 John Street was purchased. The Church was not consecrated until 1886 by which time the parish priest was Rev. W.E. Rooney.
There was a strong social and community spirit within the Catholic congregation in those early days of the parish. There were St Patrick’s Day celebrations each year, summer outings to the coast or the Borders, and the school children’s annual concerts which often proved so popular that the children were asked to give repeat performances.
In the early years of the 20th century the parish priest was also responsible for serving the Catholic communities in Roslin and Rosewell and in 1920 the first curate was appointed to Penicuik to assist the parish priest Fr Woods. Fr Woods was the longest serving parish priest in the first 50 years of the parish serving from 1909 to 1932. Following the building of St Matthew’s Church and Presbytery in Rosewell in 1923, he was moved there, although continuing to have responsibility for the Sacred Heart Church until Fr Maxwell was appointed as parish priest in Penicuik in 1932.
Another long-serving parish priest was Rev Gerard McGarry who arrived in Penicuik in 1941, remaining there until his transfer to Cowie in 1954. His successor was Fr (later Canon) Edward Hyland who remained until 1967 when Fr (later Canon) Michael Jackson was appointed, remaining until 1998 when ill-health compelled him to retire. Since then the parish has been served by Fr Thomas McNulty, Fr John Robinson, Fr John McInnes and Fr Tadeusz Majcher who is the present parish priest.
Several alterations have been made to the Church since its opening in 1882. In the early years these were the result of School Inspectors’ Reports on the inadequacy of the building as a school. In 1913 roof lights were put in and in 1933 electric light was introduced. In 1960 the flooring and seating was replaced. After Vatican 2 in the late 1960’s a new Altar was built in the middle of the Sanctuary so that the priest could face the congregation. This was later replaced by the present ‘Mouse Altar’ made by the famous Thomson Company of Yorkshire wood-craftsmen whose founder was Robert Thomson, known as the ‘Mouse-man of Kilburn’ after his endearing habit of carving a small mouse onto each piece of his distinctive and highly prized items of furniture.
In 1979 the parish house at 57 John Street was sold and from the proceeds the 2 houses opposite, numbers 56 and 58 were purchased and renovated. One become the present Parish House and the other being converted into offices and rented out.
To mark the centenary of the Sacred Heart Parish, the original Church was extensively remodeled and extended in the 1980’s. The architect being one of Sacred Heart’s own parishioners, the late Gilbert Gray. Recent developments have included a new sacristy and toilet facilities. A parish hall and new purpose-built parish house will be built as and when finances allow.
Built in a plain Gothic style in 1882 as a chapel school; it may be the only (Catholic) chapel school still in use. Altar by Robert Thomson of Yorkshire, known as the 'Mouse-man of Kilburn' after his endearing habit of carving a small mouse onto each piece of his distinctive and highly prized items of furniture. Stations of the Cross by Vampoulles. To mark the centenary, the church was extended in 1982 by Gilbert Gray. The curved roof connecting the old and new is a striking feature.