My Parish Church

 

 

by Charles Gray, F.R.I.B.A., F.R.I.A.S.

 

St Margaret’s has been my parish church for many years, and I was very pleased when Fr. Rhatigan asked my help in redesigning the interior, in line with the recommendations of Vatican II. Architecturally speaking, St. Margaret’s is a very solid stone building of good design, but I had always regarded the interior as generally uninteresting. Fr. Rhatigan’s predecessor, Fr. Carden, had hoped to change things shortly before his untimely death. Great credit must, however, be given to Fr. Carden for the installation of the memorial Rose Window to Bishop James Maguire in 1947. This magnificent window of excellent design and colour scheme was the work of Edinburgh stained glass artist Mr. McGourty. Fr. Carden was also responsible for the present benches in the church.

However, I must get back to my part in the recent changes. As there was no structural division between sanctuary and nave, the first thing done was to build a gothic arch of wood and plaster emphasising' the separation, and to build a new sanctuary floor in oak two steps up. The sanctuary had little depth, and the need to bring the altar forward, so that the priest could say Mass facing the people, made it impossible to place the tabernacle immediately behind the altar. Accordingly, it was decided to place the tabernacle on a podium at an angle between back and side wall on the right hand side on a six inch platform, with the priest’s chair at a similar angle on the other side.

 

The altar was redesigned as a five inch thick table top with a two foot wide leg at each end. When the old altar rails were removed, it seemed a pity to discard the wrought iron gates which were made up ot he Greek letters ALPHA, OMEGA, CHI and RHO. Both parish priest and architect still disagree as to who was the author of the brilliant idea that the gates be adapted to form a wrought iron panel under the altar table. This adds immeasurably to the dignity of the altar.

 

The wooden pulpit was removed and an ambo in wrought iron was installed, jutting out from the sanctuary steps on what we used to call the Gospel side. One unique feature of this ambo is the provision made for placing the open Lectionary on it at the congregation’s side, outwith of Mass times. This is now the regular practice at St. Margaret’s.

 

A standing sanctuary lamp in wrought iron (moveable) replaced the usual hanging one With the removal of the old altar, the vast wall space in the sanctuary asked for a large crucifix. As it happened, I had in my possession at full size plaster model of a crucifix sculptured bythe well known sculptress Miss Julian Allan, who at the time lived in nearby Balemo. A special feature of this compelling piece of work is that the arms of the crucified Christ are almost vertical. This had aroused criticism in some quarters, but we were prepared to take the risk. The effect of this crucifix when put in position was and still is extraordinary.

 

When some of the original windows in the church began to give trouble it was decided that the ordinary leaded lights should be replaced. Having 'been responsible for introducing to Britain the work of the famous French artist Gabriel Loire of Chartres, I was excited by the prospect of bringing his windows to Loanhead. His type of window is made of coloured glass (not stained) about one inch thick, ‘sculptured’ and set in concrete. The French term ‘Dalles de Verres’ means ‘glass tiles’. Alas, we could not afford to go to Gabriel Loire for all our windows, so Fr. Charles Norris from Buckfast Abbey was commissioned to do the windows in his style. His blend of colours is delightful and when the sun beams in from the South the effect is beyond words.

 

I have mentioned Gabriel Loire. The Stations of the Cross are his work--wood carvings in the form of a cross. Similar Stations have been erected in a few other churches in the diocese.

My words cannot convey the simple charm that St. Margaret’s holds for the worshipper, but there is one word I never tire of hearing used about my parish church and that is, DEVOTIONAL.

 

 

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