One I know The Canon
“Take him for all small, we ne’er shall look upon his like again.”
“A man’s a man for ‘a’ that.” R. Burns
The latter written as motto in examination at the Gregorian University, Rome.
‘One had to meet him once only to know him and never to forget him.’
He was ‘something of a character’, and the same words have been used by many. He was a living force. His mere physical presence seemed to fill a room, charging its very atmosphere with restless urgency which makes quiescence and indifference impossible.
His wonderful voice could be so startling and arresting as a streak of lightning, or as soothing as the warmth of the noonday sun. Every word that he uttered, however small or inconsequent, became invested with an importance one never attributed to it before. The “God bless you my child!” with which he never failed to greet and leave you, struck each time with a new and fresh force. It was a blessing, real, disturbing, challenging, a dynamic force.
But he was the mildest, gentlest, kindest of men. There never was anyone so humble yet so great, so clever yet so simple withal. He spoke to one, and could read the personality of a creature immediately. There seemed nothing hidden from him. One word and he knew and understood all.
From Mgr. Barry, Leamington. June 18th, 1919
The Lone Journey
To J.J. D. (Unde Te Habemus. Bone Juvenis?)
In Roman days a friend stole to my side,
Half shy, half-smiling, youth in every glance,
Keen as the lightning, quiet as in trance;
Pure intellect, pure heart, no touch of pride.
An angel surely, yet who fain would hide,
Told me my stroke would break his mightiest lance,
I was the master; thus did he enhance
Those rays of splendour which his lips denied.
And so mine angel reasoning went afar,
While I moved on alone; until to me
Our friendship rare, once blazing like a star
Above the desert, seemed all memory.
Angels must not be shy; we want their wings,
If they would lift our hearts to heavenly things.
Mgr. Wm. Barry
Written after having preached the sermon at the reopening of the church.
From Mgr. Barry’s “Memoirs”
“Hence whilst I passed my Degrees with due recognition, I sought no prizes, nor did any of us. All this, in contrast to the Scots College, where the young men found a severe training, which would not allow them so much as to read their National Literature, but they won gold medals in profusion, and my very devoted friend, John Joseph Dyer, took, I believe, four of these trophies in a single year. However, he became the most learned priest in Scotland, whilst refusing to take the Doctor’s Degree, and that of Monsignore. Both he and I were wholly wanting in ambition of this kind; moreover we suffered, perhaps to this day, we suffer still, from an incurable shyness, which makes dealing with Superiors very difficult.
Before this Chair of the Apostle as when I knelt there years ago, with my dear Comrade John Joseph Dyer, I recited St. Peter’s Confession, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”
My visits across the Border were few; but they brought me the keenest of enjoyments. I preached in Glasgow for my friend Canon Dyer, to a congregation of two thousand, conning my sermon as I walked in sight of Loch Lomond.”
My Associations with the Canon
I was fourteen years of age. Called to St Mary’s School from Charlotte St. Convent, to sign my indentures for teaching, for pupil teacher. Playing a ball game in the playground I happened to send the ball through one of the tiny windows of the Church, whereupon I was immediately seized by the janitor, Mr Pat Kane, by the ear, and brought to the back door of the Chapel House. There I was brought face to face with the canon for the first time. Of course I expected a scolding, but seeing the Canon’s smile, I said, “Please Canon, can I have my ball?”
“Certainly child, go into the Church and get it.”
Such was the introduction, and from then on we were friends and my first experience of his gentleness and kindness.
From then, until I was twenty years, I was a teacher in St. Mary’s School. It was not a pleasant time, but on the contrary, a most wretched preparation for the hard life to follow. Yes, but a life mitigated by the daily visits of the Canon, who never failed, and the occasional visits of Archbishop Eyre, who was his great friend, and appreciated and upheld everything that he did.
My childhood days were uneventful and there is nothing much to recall apart from the usual routine of school life, except one small incident which happened when I was in what we termed the fifth standard. I was then ten years old. Then we had a Cookery Class after school was ended, once a week. One afternoon the teacher of the Class asked me to finish up, as she had a special message to do. I agreed, and when everything was complete, my friend and I locked up the school.
Then, the time was between six and seven o’clock and beginning to get dark. We had to deliver the keys of the school at the Chapel House, and proceeded to cross the playground to where a wall separated it from the house. Suddenly I stopped, as a procession of nuns dressed in white, with veils covering their heads and faces, came in pairs round the wall from the school gate.
“Look,” I said, but my friend saw them not. I stopped her as she walked on towards them, but she insisted when I described them, that she saw nothing. Off she ran, and I waited until the procession disappeared through the little gate at the side of the wall which led to the chapel path.
The Procession having gone as I thought into the chapel I went round to lock up the gate and found that it had never been opened. The denouement of this strange happening was without explanation until many years later.
(See Preliminary Paper, in Part 2)
The Preliminary paper settled, published and finally distributed in the parish to each family by the Committee appointed, everything was ready for the plans to be made.
The old four storey building belonging to the Parish at the top of what was termed the Avenue, bordered by railings of the cemetery to the South and to the North by the convent occupied by the Orphan School under the care of the Franciscan Sisters, was luckily free and unoccupied at this time.
This building was immediately cleaned and prepared and the Girls’ and Infants’ Schools were once again set in order, and begun, without any serious effort or trouble, and the work proceeded and progressed.
Meantime below, the foundation was begun, and here was the Crux. (Special Note)
And now, one will ask, what does all this lead up to?
Well! To answer this question one must go back to the beginning of the century again, or rather to the end of the last few years of the old one. In 1896 the Canon came to St. Mary’s. He took over from a very old friend, the one who had been the means of sending him to Blairs College, namely, the Very Reverend Canon Carmichael. His first action in the Church was to offer the Requiem Mass for his only sister, Josephine R.I.P., and that was an extremely sad day for him.
Before leaving Rome, the Jesuits asked him to join their Community, knowing how brilliantly clever he was, and after topping first place in the Gregorian University, of over 3,000 students, but the Canon was anxious to be with his parents and his one sister and brother-in-law. Mother and Josephine both dead, the Canon tried to make his father, totally blind, and Tom, an invalid, happy. He secured a housekeeper, who attended with her sister to their daily wants faithfully. Captain Dyer died in 1906, and Tom lived on until 1914. Every day, they were visited by the Canon, unless he was prevented by unforeseen circumstances. When the old man died, he left a considerable sum of money, accumulated in a safe. Apparently, this was the amount given by the Company of Irish Shippers and Passengers, in return for having saved crew, ship and people in a dreadful storm.
But during the storm the mast a heavy pillar, was blown down, struck the Captain on the forehead and eyes leaving him totally blind until his death. For this he was rewarded with the sum mentioned. This sum bought the business which was the chief means of their livelihood.
The Canon brought the total sum to the Bankers in the Bank of Scotland at Glasgow Cross, and he invested all in the best investments of the time. This money helped the Canon to pay off many debts later, mainly concerning the Parish, Schools, Teachers and the extra hardships of the two World Wars, which were many, great and heavy. Many of the older people, if alive, can vouch for what I have written, but the Canon did not believe in writing down his good deeds, therefore there is no proof left of what he did. One outstanding item does occur to me. As First Assistant of the Girls’ School, I was called upon to do the accounts. The Grants of the Government for the total year in 1914 arrived in March. At the end of that month the Teachers were paid, and the whole amount sent for the year was used in that first payment, so the money for the following months, duly paid, had to be found. Where?…. From the Private account, as usual, when debts arrived.
Canon Carmichael was succeeded by Canon, or Father Dyer, as he was then, in 1896, and the first thought of the latter was for the Church which was in a most wretched state of decay from the roof to the basement. Everything required renewal and Canon Carmichael being old and ill, could not begin the work. This, then, Father Dyer set out to do. Church, crypt, sacristy, Chapel House, all were entirely gutted. Nothing remained in the Church but the High Altar and the four walls. The gallery could not be removed as it was absolutely necessary for the support of the roof.
Suffice it to say that everything added to the Church was entirely new. Central heating, electricity, new floor, roof windows, seating, side altars and a new pneumatic, beautiful organ, costing over £2,000 or £3,000, took the place of the old one which was entirely finished. I believe this lovely instrument, perfect in every way, was burned down in later years. The three beautiful pictures over the High Altar, and those representing the Stations of the Cross were sent to the great firm of Hardman & Co. to be renewed and cleaned by great artists, and so everything in the Church was renewed.
Great alterations were made in the Sanctuary including new altar rails and a marble pulpit. The altar rails were extended to the two side chapels and the walls were decorated in excellent taste by Hardman. A new Sanctuary lamp and two for the Sacred Heart and Lady chapels were also added. All was ready for the great reopening of the Church, but during the alterations there was one night when the floor of the Sacred Heart Altar Oratory was left open and unguarded. Although new Confessionals had been added, the Canon kept to his own old corner at the lady Altar, and entered the Church by a new door which led to a back passage, behind the Sacred Heart Altar. This quiet way led him to his confessional, which he occupied at five o’clock each Saturday evening.
On this particular night, again he entered by the back door, not knowing that the floor was missing. Unfortunately, he fell down into the crypt below, and must have been badly hurt. However, instead of returning to the house, he made his way to the sacristy where a trap door let him out, and he went to hear confessions until well past seven o’clock. From that night the Canon was never well again.
In 1907 he had a terrible operation in the Nursing Home owned by Miss Taylor who was a wonderful nurse. After the operation she told us that the Canon would require to learn the alphabet again and his memory would be gone. But he did recover and did much good work. But then came sickness and operation succeeded operation without result.
In 1909 he went to London to meet his great friend, Dean Bayaert, and have a good holiday with him. There one of his terrible sicknesses attacked him, and he had to remain in the hotel for six or eight weeks at death’s door, nursed night and day by two Bon Secours Sisters who got him well enough to travel home to Glasgow.
Honouring a Scottish Canon
Silver Jubilee Rejoicing in Glasgow
St. Mary’s Parish en fête
Wednesday, April 18th 1900; the now memorable occasion of the Very Reverend Canon Dyer’s Silver Jubilee rejoicings in Glasgow city Hall, is destined by every endearing association of the great event to live forever in the minds and hearts of the people of
St. Mary’s Parish, and of all who were privileged to take part or witness the touching and affectionate proceedings of the brilliant function. Not for many years was so great a social gathering in connection with the catholic life of Glasgow, and then the meeting represented the Faithful not of one, but of every Parish in the city, the occasion being a great Catholic reunion, organised by the united local Young Men’s Societies in the year 1880, and at which the venerable Father Nugent, Mgr. Munro, as well as the Bishop Auxiliary of Glasgow, then Father Maguire, were the principal speakers, and the writer of this report remembers Father Nugent in eloquent terms expressing great astonishment and unbounded joy that the combined forms of Catholicism in the city, were then able to bring together so magnificent a concourse of the faithful, yet here we have twenty years later, one parish marshalling in its own name, a greater multitude to do honour to the much loved pastor of their hearts and highest hopes – Canon Dyer M.R. of St. Mary’s.
Punctually the Chair was taken by His Lordship J.J. Maguire who was accompanied to the platform by the guest of the evening, the Very Reverend J.J. Dyer, amidst deafening cheers. These were immediately followed by the Canon’s venerable predecessor, the Very Reverend Canon Carmichael, now Rector of the Ecclesiastic College of New Kilpatrick. Canon Carmichael’s appearance on the platform evoked extraordinary enthusiasm. About forty priests including Father John, C.P. of Belfast, Canon Crumley of Crieff, as well as an influential number of leading laity of the West of Scotland, occupied every available space on the large platform.
After tea, and it was certainly a most wonderful sight to witness over two thousand Catholics sipping the beverage together, and most heartily enjoying themselves in the company of the Bishop Auxiliary and so many good priests who seemed to enjoy the delicacies before them, the following address in vellum, encased in a beautiful silver casket, the design of Mr. Michael Shannon, the Secretary of the Testimonial Committee, was read by that gentleman amid a breathless silence.
Address to the Very Reverend John Joseph Canon Dyer M.R.
Presented by the Clergy and people of St. Mary’s, Glasgow
on the Occasion of His Sacerdotal Silver Jubilee
The Silver Jubilee of your Ordination to the Priesthood which occurs this year, is an event of such importance to you and to us, that no apology is needed in asking you to listen to the few sentences of congratulation and hope, which we wish to address to you this evening. – Congratulations on the past – Hope for the future.
Twenty-five years in the Priesthood. This of itself would be sufficient reason for congratulation and joy, but when we remember that these years have been “fruitful in every good work,” our grounds for congratulation are still greater. Ordained in Rome in 1875, after a most distinguished Course in the Gregorian University, your first appointment was to St. Vincent’s, Duke Street, Glasgow, as assistant to Father -. After a short stay of two years here, you were promoted by His Grace, the Archbishop of Glasgow to the more important work of Education, educating the young aspirants to the priesthood in St. Peter’s College, Partickhill, the Seminary of the Archdiocese, as Professor of Philosophy. After seven years of successful and congenial Professorship at St. Peter’s you were sent to take full charge of the important Mission of Springburn, and while here, His Grace appointed you as Missionary Rector, and a little later conferred upon you the dignity of Canon.
Twelve years afterwards a heavier and more arduous burden was laid upon your shoulders. You were transferred to the very heart of the city of Glasgow, to preside over perhaps the largest Catholic congregation in the west of Scotland – the Mission of St. Mary’s, with its numerous committees and institutions, which depend upon the Rector for guidance and help. What made your task the more difficult, (and you will excuse us, we know, for drawing your attention to it,) was the fact that you were asked to succeed to, and to walk in the footsteps of the saintly Father Peter Forbes of happy memory, and our late venerable and beloved Pastor, the Very Reverend Canon Carmichael.
Dear Reverend Canon, you have not been many years amongst us in St. Mary’s, but long enough for us to see by your administrative capacity, your work on the Public Board, your learning and eloquence in the pulpit, your interest in all that concerns our welfare and most of all by your efficiency as Manager of our Schools, that you are more than equal to the work which His Grace has imposed upon you, and that with God’s assistance, you will perform it with all your strength.
It has fallen to us then, amongst whom you have spent a comparatively short period of time, to have the privilege of congratulating you on this happy occasion. But full well do we know that your old friends in St. Vincent’s, the many students who are now priests on the mission, and who benefitted by the masterly and scholarly lectures which you delivered to them during their college days, the good people of Springburn, among whom you laboured so long and so well, will echo the sentiments we have already expressed of congratulations on the past, and hope that God may spare you yet many years at His Holy Altar in the future.
In conclusion, dear Canon, we have to congratulate you on the high esteem in which you are held by your ecclesiastical superiors, and in the presence here tonight of our beloved Bishop, and of so many of your friends to accept this purse and casket, which we beg of you to regard not as the measure of our esteem, but rather as a mark of appreciation from an affectionate and grateful people.
Signed on behalf of the Clergy and Parishioners of St. Mary’s Charles Haeger (Chairman) Stephen Henry (Vice Chairman) Charles Logan (Treasurer) and Margaret O’Rourke (Secretary).
Mr. Charles Logan then formally made the presentation which consisted of a Purse of close on two hundred pounds.
Immediately after the reading of the address, Bishop Maguire intercepted between the Canon and his congregation with a bright, becoming and happy little addition, lit up here and there with those bright flashes of wit and humour for which His Lordship is so highly renowned. His Lordship first of all expressed great regret at the absence of their beloved Archbishop, who was unable to be present owing to the state of his health, and the natural consequence of which was that he was there that night to occupy, though unworthily, his place. He however, would have been pleased to be present even had His Grace been there, to testify his regard for his old, valued and personal friend, Canon Dyer. The Canon asked him to come as he (the Canon) behoved it would give the meeting the appearance of a private gathering, but instead they had a magnificent demonstration. A parish of the enormous size of St. Mary’s had advantages over the others in the city with which he was associated, and the result was that they had that night an enormous public meeting, while gatherings of a similar kind, and there would be no amendment to the address. He was sure that what was contained in the address was an expression of the feelings in their hearts. He did not think there was a parish more devout, more faithful to its pastors than St. Mary’s. They had been blessed with good ones.
The name of Peter Forbes was known far out of Glasgow, and dear Canon Carmichael was honoured and respected throughout the Archdiocese. He hoped that Canon Dyer would carry out the work with the same spirit as he had already done in St. Mary’s, in Springburn, and work which was so dear to the heart of the Archbishop in his own College in Bearsden. If the Canon was appreciated by them, he was no less appreciated by his Archbishop. They knew that every mark of confidence and every honour that lay within the power of his superiors had been conferred upon him, and everyone would agree that he had shown himself worthy of it.
He remembered when Canon Dyer and he were boys together in College, which was the real beginning of his life studies. Even at that early age he gave full promise of what was to come in the future. At Rome he won the most prominent position among the students there. He had a most distinguished career at Bearsden College, and for a man to occupy the high position the Canon occupied as a mere boy, placed him in the front rank as the first of their scholars, and first of their preachers and teachers. The work which the Canon performed in the College in the training of the young had been invaluable to the Archdiocese. It was a great blow to the Archbishop, when Canon Dyer announced his intention of leaving the College. In pulpit or platform they had in Canon Dyer, a great priest, a great teacher, a great organiser, a great man, well worthy to be placed alongside his predecessors, and the Venerable Monsignor Munro.
The Canon’ speech follows in full, after being the deeply moved recipient of a magnificent and impressive oration.
“I should not be human, nor should I speak my true feelings, were I to say that I am not deeply touched by the many words of esteem and affection which have been showered on me tonight, the occasion of my Silver Jubilee in the priesthood. The whole thing has come to me as a complete surprise, not in the sense that I did not know that some celebration was in preparation. One paper, I am told made the remark that all the world knew it was Canon Dyer’s Jubilee, but it has come as a surprise in the sense that never for a moment could I have imagined that I, of all people in the world should be the object of the magnificent demonstration, which my dear friends in the priesthood, and my good people of St. Mary’s, have this evening prepared for me. My own idea of my Jubilee, and it is in no spirit of mock humility that I speak, would be to retire within myself, and “in amariludine anima mei” in the bitterness of my soul – think of all my shortcomings. For a jubilee means in this instance, to quote the words of our dear Archbishop used on a similar occasion, but surely unnecessary in his case, “A jubilee means twenty-five years that might have been much better spent – twenty-five years of neglect of opportunities – twenty-five years of evil done, and good left undone.” But now you in your goodness do not view the occasion from my vantage ground. Your goodness has lit up as with the sunlight, a very ordinary picture, and you have told me in your address, in affectionate words that will ever be treasured by me and mine, that these years have not altogether been, misspent, and viewing them for a moment from your standpoint – and it is sometimes pleasant to linger in the past – they have been in many ways years of happiness and joy.
I recall with pleasure the dear old Roman days, when under the shadow of St. Peter’s, in the eternal city, in the happy days of College life, I renewed my friendship, which I hope will last for may more years to come, with him who so worthily fills the important post of Bishop Auxiliary of this Diocese and who reigns so worthily in the hearts of his people – Bishop Maguire.
Other dear ties were formed there too, and the presence of my old fellow students here tonight, shows that these ties will not readily be broken. I recall too, the days I spent in St. Vincent’s, where I was initiated into the mysteries of missionary life by my dear old friend, Father Power, who, I know, would be here tonight if it had been a kindness to call him from his to distant home down there in Stranraer, facing across the Irish Sea.
I recall the many days and years I spent in the Seminary at Partickhill, days that brought their own joy and consolation, as I saw my young students turning out year by year to take their place upon the mission. Many of them hold honoured places in the diocese today, and have done noble work, that reflects infinite credit upon that great foundation of the Archbishop, his Ecclesiastical Seminary.
I cannot forget – and you have referred to it in the address – the long years I passed in Springburn, when I was supported by an earnest, zealous, generous and loyal people. Springburn, where I learned for the first time that the noblest work, as well as the sweetest consolation, lay in the care and training and education of little children. I felt it hard to leave them, but the wrench was made comparatively easy by the change to St. Mary’s. I have been only a short time among you, the good people who have organised this splendid demonstration – but let me say it- not by way of flattery, but as my sincerest thought – that of all the places in which my lot has been cast, there is not one where I have been more happy and at home, there is no place that I love more than the grand old mission of St. Mary’s.
From the first day I came I found myself among a people who in their simple humble faith, in their piety and fervour, in their loyalty and affection for their clergy, are not surpassed by another congregation in the Archdiocese of Glasgow. I found myself among a people who remembered the lessons, who had imbibed the spirit of two of the grandest missionaries that Scotland had ever known. I mean those to whom you have referred in your address – Father Peter Forbes of happy and revered memory – and he will pardon the liberty that I feel I can take with his name, to whom I owe it that I am a priest today – Canon Carmichael – your late worthy pastor, and the present rector of St. Peter’s College.
And now, if I have been able to walk less unworthily in the footsteps of such predecessors, if I have achieved any little success in St. Mary’s, I wish to make public acknowledgement tonight to my four dear friends, Fathers Haeger, Fitzgerald, Ambrose and Brotherhood, who, by their loyalty, devotion and forbearance have been my help and support to a degree that no one but I could tell.
I have already kept you too long, but before I sit down let me repeat once again the expression of my gratitude to you, My Lord, to all my brothers in the priesthood, to the parishioners of St. Mary’s, and very particularly to the members of the Committee, and all dear friends of mine, for the time and labour and goodness they have expended in getting up this valuable presentation, and in doing me honour tonight. And the remembrance of your kindness will only be another tie to bind me more closely to you all, it will be a spur and incentive to try to realise the beautiful picture you have drawn, not of me as I am, but of what I should be. Once again from my heart I thank you!!!
Immediately after the Canon’s splendid address, the Reverend Professor Stack proposed a vote of thanks to the Bishop for presiding as His Lordship had to leave early. In proposing the vote the Professor in his complimentary remarks made some very happy hits, but the Bishop in his reply not to be outdone, as he never is, not even by local pressmen who are real geniuses in helping His Lordship to manage the affairs of the Archdiocese utilised the points raised in turning the laugh “Westward Ho” towards Kilpatrick. Professor Stack had said, after scoring happily once or twice, that the Bishop and himself resembled each other in this respect, that neither of them had a parish of his own. That was very true. The Bishop rejoined in his easy reply, but there was a distinction and a difference in the similarity all the same; for although he, the Bishop possessed no parish of his own, he could nevertheless give a parish to any priest he chose. In conclusion the Bishop very cordially thanked the Professor for the kind words with which he had referred to his name.
When the Bishop had retired, Canon Carmichael was requested to take the Chair, amid a hurricane of applause, and as the venerable priest rose to say “a few words” the storm of never-to-be- forgotten hurrahs and waving of hats and handkerchiefs rose to its grandest height. The whole memorable scene was touching in the extreme. When at length quietness was restored the aged and beloved priest said that he had come all the way from the country that night to do honour to Canon Dyer; but he feared, had he known that this reception was in store for himself he would have remained in the country, notwithstanding the grievous disappointment it would have been to him, to be an absentee on a great occasion like that. He had known the dear Canon from childhood, since the time he was no bigger than the little table before them, and how well he, then a priest of five years standing, remembered going with the Canon’s worthy father, Captain Dyer, to the late Bishop Murdoch, and having the “little promising boy” as the Vicar Apostolic of the West then termed John Joseph Dyer, very readily accepted for the Western Diocese. How well “the little promising boy” had turned out the proceedings of that evening declared more eloquently than mere words could tell.
The first part of the Concert was then proceeded with, and at the termination Father John McMullan, C.P. Belfast, who was for many years stationed in Glasgow at St. Mungo’s, and who had crossed the Irish Channel specially to attend this demonstration, was called upon to address the meeting. The distinguished Passionist, who was received with loud cheers, said it was a great happiness for him to be there that evening. His recollection of their worthy pastor did not date back to the days of childhood, but what his great friendship for him lacked in years it more than made up for it in warmth of affection. He was proud to call the Reverend Canon Dyer, whom he had known intimately for the past ten years, his friend. He had during those years, with the affectionate scrutiny of a true friend, studied Canon Dyer, and he was bound to say that the more he knew of him, the more he came to love him. Since last addressing any big meeting in Glasgow, Father John said that he had been round the whole world, had crossed the five great oceans, and he had not encountered in all his travels a priest he thought more of, or loved so much , as dear Canon Dyer.
The remainder of the Concert was then carried through, a special and delightful feature of the second part being the Maypole dance of the children from St. Mary’s, who were specially dressed, and most becomingly equipped for the occasion. Their clever performance called forth enthusiastic applause from their eminently placed parents and friends, and the lady teachers who so efficiently trained the girls for the dance are one all worthy of the highest possible praise. At the close of the Concert, the Reverend Charles Haeger, the Senior Curate of St. Mary’s came forward to propose a hearty vote of thanks to Canon Carmichael for presiding over the final part of the proceedings.
Father Haeger said that Canon Carmichael loved, and took great interest in the Sodality of the holy Family, and so now they had evidently, that evening from St. Mary’s a great Catholic family who would no doubt join with him in honouring and thanking for his presence there that night the great spiritual father, who, in days gone by, had so long and worthily ruled over the destinies of the great Abercromby Street Mission.
During the extraordinary cheering renewed again and again, Father Haeger intimated that the proceedings would terminate with the singing of “Faith of our Fathers”. When this stirring hymn had been duly sung, the venerable Chairman added a pathetic touch of interest, by remarking amidst a deathlike stillness which was only broken by the cannonade of cheering which greeted the termination of his touching little speech that he could not allow the good people of St. Mary’s Parish, whom he might never meet again in such great numbers on this side of the grave, to depart from his sight, or go beyond his hearing, without telling them from his heart how very much he highly appreciated and deeply felt their great kindness to him. He was an old man, a very old man. His life was fast ebbing away, and at most he had but a few years more to live. There was just one parting favour he desired to ask of them, and it was this; whenever they knelt at the beautiful altar of St. Mary’s, let them always remember in their prayers, Canon Carmichael.
April 27th 1900
Part 2 The Schools
ST. MARY’S ABERCROMBY STREET
The New Schools
After having served their purpose for over 70 years, the old schools must now be replaced by new ones.
1. The erection of the New Schools is not a matter of choice – not a wish of any clergyman to erect a monument to himself, but a matter absolutely insisted upon by the Education Department, who refuse to sanction any longer the old schools, as far behind modern requirements.
2. The plans of the new school are not left to our choice; it must be erected according to Government requirements and specifications.
3. With every regard for economy, and not spending a penny on useless adornment, the lowest estimated cost of the building will be £20,000.
4. What this exactly implies will be brought home to everyone when we consider that even at 4 per cent interest (and it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to get money at that cheap rate), it will mean a sum of £800 a year, or some £16 a week for interest alone.
5. How will this heavy obligation be met?
(1st) After consultation with the Ecclesiastical Authorities, and with priests who have been obliged, like us, to undertake a similar burdens, the only practical way is this:-
To ask all the working members of the Congregation to give us a Week’s Wage, and to do this within the space of 12 months. Spread over this long period it will not be to great a sacrifice for everyone or for anyone.
(2nd) To carry this out, the priests of this parish will call upon all the members of the Congregation, and receive their promises.
Special cards for this purpose will be left in every house, and a body of special collectors will be appointed.
(3rd) We have hopes too, that some of the better-off members of the congregation may become founders of the School by giving a generous subscription.
(4th) This Building Fund will be kept as a special account, and a statement will be made periodically from the Altar and affixed to the Church door.
(5th) After this special collection is completed, some other propositions will be made for the future, but these will be small and unpretentious, and will scarcely be felt.
And now with confidence we ask for your co-operation in this great work.
(a) It is the first sacrifice the people of St. Mary’s have been called upon to make for many years. The Church was renovated, the Presbytery rebuilt without asking you for anything. This was no small undertaking, and costing some £10,000 swallowed up all the savings of fifteen years.
(b) The schools are entirely for your benefit and that of your children.
(c) It is the last sacrifice that this generation will be asked to make, for when the Schools are erected the parish will be perfectly equipped with Schools, Church, Halls and Presbytery.
(d) Since, then, every Catholic is persuaded that the Catholic Education of our children in Catholic Schools is the first, the most important, the most essential duty of priests and people, we feel sure that the parishioners of St. Mary’s, known everywhere for their faith and generosity will rise to the occasion, will help us to bear this heavy burden of debt, and will, by their so-operation, enable us to meet the interest required, and gradually extinguish the capital expenditure.
Let us all pray that the blessing of God may accompany the work, and we promise to say Mass every Sunday for the Collectors and Subscribers.
The Clergy of St. Mary’s
St. Mary’s New Schools
Opening Ceremony by Archbishop Mackintosh
Sunday, 22nd June, 1913, marked an eventful epoch in the history of St. Mary’s, Abercromby Street, Glasgow in the solemn blessing and opening of the newly-erected school buildings, which are such an imposing addition to the architectural beauty of that part of the city, and which provide a solution of the long-felt difficulty in the matter of accommodation for the children of that very populace and growing parish.
The magnificent buildings, which have been in course of erection for the last eighteen months, are probably the largest of their kind in Glasgow, having accommodation for upwards of 2,500 children, and the estimated cost will not fall short of £20,000.
It was with a pardonable feeling of pride that the parishioners, one and all, young and old, looked forward to the opening ceremony, and concourse which witnessed the event was probable the longest seen for many years at a similar function.
At last Mass, which was celebrated by Dr. McEwan, the beautiful Church, which adjoins the Schools, was filled to overflowing, and at the conclusion of Mass the entire congregation, as well as an immense throng in waiting outside, formed themselves into processional order, and marched four deep to the Schools singing en route, “Faith of our Fathers” the beautiful strains of which could be heard a long distance away.
The various parochial Societies in their regalia lined the route, of the procession, and otherwise in the capacity of marshals etc., preserved complete order in the ranks of the processionists. Arrived at the schools, the Archbishop, carrying the crozier, accompanied by a good number of clergy, and preceded by a cross-bearer and acolytes, and altar boys dressed in white surplices and red soutanes, entered one of the capacious class-rooms, which was beautifully decorated by the Franciscan Sisters for the occasion. The ceremony of blessing the schools having performed by His Grace, a choir of school girls, under the training of Miss Susan McLennan , rendered with beautiful modulation and effect the hymn “How lovely are Thy Dwellings, O Lord of Hosts” by Henry Sinart.
Immediately afterwards, the Archbishop was presented with an exquisite bouquet of flowers, on behalf of the teachers, by Miss Mary Agnes Camilla Higney. Another interesting event in the programme was an address from the school children read with beautiful voice and deportment by Master John McBride. This marked the conclusion of the ceremony and was followed by a perfect salvo of applause and unbounded enthusiasm.
A large number of clergy accompanied His Grace then, to the raised dais from which he delivered his address. Archbishop Mackintosh, who was warmly greeted on rising to reply to the addresses presented to him, said it was “difficult for him to find suitable words to express his feelings that morning.” He did not expect all the beautiful things that had been said and all the beautiful mementoes presented to him. To come and to perform the ceremony of solemnly blessing and opening the new schools was to him a real pleasure. St. Mary’s had always, as long as he could remember, and longer than that, been looked upon, and he would say even in Canon McCarthy’s presence – as the premier Parish of Glasgow. Canon O’Reilly was protesting but in spite of protests it must be admitted by all that if St. Mary’s was not the very first, it certainly was the very second. In point of population and the importance that population gave it, it was certainly first. They could form an opinion of or judgment on that point from the enormous size of the new schools. If there were children enough to fill these schools, then he said it would not be contradicted that St. Mary’s was the first parish in the city. St. Mary’s people had always been noted for their devotion to religion, for their attachment and fidelity to their clergy, for their love of seeing everything that appertained to the service of God well carried out, as exemplified in their beautiful church, and after that they had always been noted for the interest they had in the education of their children – and not only their own children, but in the children of others. It was the case that St. Mary’s for not one generation, but many generations, had been the centre of education and instruction for the children of the whole country, in first, the orphan schools, and secondly, in the industrial schools. St. Mary’s had provided themselves with a church which was second to none. The people who went to church there could all see the altar – they had not to go behind huge granite pillars. After seeing the altar and the priest on the altar saying Holy Mass, the second best thing in a church was that they should hear easily everything that the priest said in the pulpit. That was the case in St. Mary’s, where things were said that were worth being heard. Yet, notwithstanding all the great work performed, there was one thing still wanting, and that was a school worthy of the parish, worthy of the people, and worthy of the children. He was giving away no secret when he told the, that for a long time Canon Dyer manage very successfully to dodge the Government, the Archbishop, and the Finance Board, by delaying the building of the new school until he felt that he was really justified in undertaking the work, both from an educational point of view, and from a financial point of view. He did not know what the Government said, but he knew that the Canon settled them, and although the Archbishop, and those immediately connected with him, had their own private opinions, still they had now come to realise and admit that Canon Dyer showed great prudence, tact, and common sense. He was not now going to pass critique on the schools. All he would say was that from what he had seen, both inside and outside, there was nothing to beat them.
He offered most sincere congratulations to both the Canon and the people of St. Mary’s on the possession of such a magnificent school, and he congratulated the children who were undergoing a certain kind of punishment for some time back, on taking possession of these palatial rooms. He hoped that, clever as they were before, they would be far more clever in the future.
He thanked the children for their beautiful songs of welcome, for their charming bouquet of flowers, and their flattering address. He hoped that the young gentleman who read the address would yet be the Archbishop of Glasgow, and that the bonnie little girl who gave him the bouquet would be a Reverend Mother.
He thanked the architect and the contractors and the Canon for the lovely gold key that had been presented to him. As the Canon so nicely said, if it served no other purpose it would at least serve one, that, as often as he looked at it, he would think of the people, the children, and the priests of St. Mary’s.
He was almost forgetting an important point which he should emphasise. Canon Dyer, with his usual modesty, said nothing to him about it but Canon O’Reilly with his usual boldness prompted him to remind them that this magnificent building was not erected for nothing. He (the speaker) asked the people of St. Mary’s to be true to past history to themselves, and the instincts of their faith, by being loyal and generous in supporting the Canon, in all future efforts to pay the coat of that grand building, their pride and their glory, next to their beautiful Church.
(Loud and prolonged applause at this the end of the Archbishop’s speech)
His Grace administered the Sacrament of Confirmation to about 400 children in the afternoon.
The Children’s address to the Archbishop
May it please Your Grace,
We the Children of St. Mary’s are proud of the privilege of welcoming you here today on the happy occasion of the opening of our new Schools. It is most appropriate that you, Your Grace, should perform the ceremony. You have done great things indeed, in every department of Missionary Life, still your principal work has been the organising and perfecting of Religious Instruction in our schools, and the maintaining of the great principles of Catholic Education.
It will be our part to try to follow in the path you have traced out for us – to endeavour always to be earnest, loyal Catholics, and ever to remain true to the ‘Faith of our Fathers.’
We pray that God will spare you many years and bless all your labours in the future as He has done in the past. This is the earnest wish of your faithful and devoted Children.
22nd June, 1913 The School of St. Mary’s
The schools were open throughout the day for the inspection of the parishioners and their friends, and the opportunity of visiting tem and going through the fifty classrooms was taken advantage of to the full. The building well repays inspection both in its outside and interior appearance. Viewed from the exterior it is quite an imposing pile, with a beautiful statue of the Blessed Virgin surmounting the main entrance, while the interior shows all the present day necessities and improvements of a building of the character amply catered for – each piece of furniture, desks, tables, chairs, etc. perfectly new. The different classrooms are high, airy, and hygienic, while the sanitary accommodation is on the latest approved system with ample space reserved for bathroom fixtures. Classrooms for manual construction, domestic economy, dressmaking, cookery, etc. are provided, and in every respect the building is destined to fill its present and future necessities. There is an ample playground space to the front and rear, but to avoid congestion, there is a beautiful roof playground provided for boys and another for girls.
Considerations of a limited site, congested on the west and east boundaries by large blocks of the Church and Marist Monastery respectively, were important factors in determining the position of this large school. Not only had the new building to occupy the site of the old school, but care had to be taken also to secure an amplitude of light and plentiful access of free air to the numerous classrooms without undue interference with existing buildings. Fortunately it was possible to set back the frontage some sixty feet from the building line of Forbes Street on the South, and, to the North, the site is perfectly free and unobstructed on account of the closed cemetery which is enclosed by mission property.
A further complication consisted in the inevitable curtailment of playground arising out of the erection of a new building covering more than twice the area of ground formerly occupied by the old school. To compensate for this loss it became necessary to utilise the flat roof for a playground and this and other circumstances led to the provision of unusually ample staircases and exits. The exigencies of the site determined not only the position but also the general arrangement and plan of the school which is of the central corridor type. The corridors, ten feet wide, are in the direction of east and west, and are lighted direct, as well as by borrowed lights from the classrooms. The staircases are so disposed in the four corners of the block as to facilitate entry and exit to each department.
Liberal provision is made for children’s cloakrooms and teachers’ retiring rooms, which are entered in some cases from the corridor direct, and, more often, from entresols served by the main staircases. There are 43 classrooms for 50 pupils in each, and an assembly hall which can be converted into two additional classrooms if it is found more convenient to use the large hall in an adjacent building for drill purposes. In addition there are classrooms for instructions in woodwork, and cookery, and there is a room set apart for medical inspection of the children.
Throughout the building special care and attention has been given to the lighting of the classrooms, and the bright and cheerful atmosphere of the rooms in this dull and smoky locality, is a feature of the school. Besides other means for the admission of fresh air, the large windows re so constructed as to permit of complete air flushing of the rooms without perceptible draught even when the rooms are occupied. Extract flues for the withdrawal of vitiated air are provided in the corridor walls and elsewhere.
The heating is on the low pressure hot water system, and promises to be very a successful installation. Throughout the building care has been taken to make the finishing plain but very substantial to reduce future expenses of maintenance to a minimum. The walls of entrances lobbies, vestibules, corridors, and staircases are tiled to a height of five feet, and the walls of classrooms are lined with wood to the same height. Meantime, an attempt has been made to colour the walls, but when the plaster permits of decoration the school will present a very handsome appearance.
The school has been entirely re-furnished throughout. The roof playgrounds provide a considerable additional area for recreation, and the breezy height of the building can be judged from the extensive view in all directions over the city.
It only remains to add that the plans of the school were prepared to the satisfaction and approval of the Scotch Education Department. Externally the building is kept as plain as possible consistent with it s position between other important buildings belonging to the mission, and the work has been efficiently carried out by the contractors.
The school was designed by Mr Walter R. Watson, Architect, and Mr J.J. Devlin acted as an indefatigable clerk of works, discharging all duties with conspicuous success.
Contractors, Mason Work Messrs Kirkwood Smith, Cathcart Road
Asphalt Work Messrs Currie & Co. Bothwell Street
Plaster Work Messrs George Rome & Co Blythswood Square
Heating Installation Mr B. Tomlinson Argyle Street
Furnishings Messrs James B. Bemet, Ltd Brook Street
Tributes from the St. Aloysius Magazine
1. To the present generation the death of Canon John Joseph Dyer will mean little more than the passing of an octogenarian in the fifty-seventh year of his priesthood, with a record belonging to a remote past. But there are some left, like the present writer, who knew him intimately in his early days as a man of brilliant talents that held out for him the promise of high distinction in his future career. To a phenomenal memory was added a keen intellect “as sharp as a needle” which he brought to bear on his wide range of reading. During his years from 1868 to 1875 at the Scots College in Rome he made many friends – among them, the future Archbishop Maguire, and the author, Mgr. William Barry, both of whom more than once attested that J.J. Dyer was by far the most brilliant student of their time in the Gregorian University. In fact it used to be a moot question which of the two, he, or Archbishop James A. Smith, had been the greater gold medallist for the honour of Scotland. It is not then surprising that after three years of curacy at the St. Vincent’s Church, Duke Street, Glasgow, he was appointed by Archbishop Eyre to the Professor ship of Theology in St. Peter’s College, Partickhill. This gave him the requisite sphere for the exercise of his exceptional talents. Here he wrote out every lecture he gave by hand, and pinned each copy to the wall for every student to copy if he wished to do so.
In 1884 he prevailed on Archbishop Eyre to allow him to undertake pastoral work on the mission. His record afterwards was twelve years in charge of St. Aloysius, Springburn, where, each Sunday, after offering last Mass, and preaching a Sermon, he went off at once, to the Poor House in Parliamentary Road. There the men were collected and waiting, and again he gave Sermons, conversed freely with each one, leaving them happy. As Parish Priest he had the usual success of every zealous local pastor winning the love and esteem of his people. He also did much good work of a public nature especially as Canon Theologian of the Cathedral Chapter, and as member of the old School Board of Glasgow. Added to these he was Canon Penitentiary for Scotland, and made many happy. He was as well read as Mgr. Barry, his great friend, but in vain was he urged to follow Mgr. Barry’s example. The only explanation that can be given is that it arose from a strange diffidence which he shared with Archbishop James A. Smith. It is the man of ordinary talents who rushes into print without fear of making mistakes.
For very many years the Canon was an invalid, and in spite of great suffering, carried out his priestly duties. In the eyes of God the patience and conformity to the Divine Will, with which he bore his affliction were of far higher merit than would have arisen if he had followed the example of Archbishop Maguire as a speaker, or Mgr. Barry as an author. He could have quoted 1 Cor.4/3, “But to me it is a very small thing to be judged by you, or by man’s day: he that judgeth me is the Lord.”
It is well known that the Canon wrote every word of every sermon which he preached, and had many books filled with the sermons which he gave, but no one knows what happened to these books after his retiral. Every spare minute of the week was given to his sermon.
2. Another Contributor writes:
The death of Canon Dyer removes from this earthly scene one of the last remaining school of priests who served the Archdiocese of Glasgow so faithfully and effectively during the episcopates of Archbishops Eyre and Maguire. Canon Dyer died in the Nursing Home of the Alexian Brothers at Twyford Abbey where his friend and colleague the late Canon John McCluskey of St. John’s also passed away.
An Irishman by birth the whole of the Canon’s priestly life was spent in the Archdiocese of Glasgow. After serving as Professor in the Diocesan Seminary, and parish priest for many years of Springburn, Canon Dyer was promoted to the pastoral charge of St. Mary’s, one of the largest and most important parishes in Glasgow. That was when the late Canon Carmichael relinquished the pastorate of St. Mary’s to take up the rectorship of St. Peter’s College, Bearsden.
For a time the Canon served as a representative on the Glasgow School Board, a position which he held for many years as Chairman. Canon Dyer was a man of exceptional intellectual gifts. Of brilliant mentality he was naturally a student and a man of deeper scholarly attainment than the general public ever knew. He was rather a shy man; never courting the public limelight; never seeking publicity for his gifts or his work; almost timid in his meeting with strangers of in his participation in public affairs. He possessed a fascinatingly bright manner, ineluctably charming, together with a kindness of heart of which only his intimate familiars knew the depth and warmth. Canon Dyer was pre-eminently an ‘intellectual’, but never a ‘high brow’ carrying his learning with almost boyish modesty.
Among his friends he numbered the late Canon Barry, D.D. of Dorchester, one of the ablest writers the English priesthood has possessed in recent times. Dr. Barry preached in St. Mary’s, on the occasion of the reopening of the Church, after the completed renovation, but, although a writer of notable brilliance, his pulpit oratory was not too impressive. In that he differed from his friend. Canon Dyer’s preaching was one of the most appreciative parts of his pastoral work. His sermons reflecting the beautiful thoughts of a cultured mind and cast in perfect English with Irish fluency of delivery were followed by his hearers with absolute avidity. Unfortunately, he could rarely be persuaded to preach outside his own church. He had a great friend in Mgr. O’Reilly, of St. Alphonsus Parish, but now, both are gone, and the Archdiocese is much the poorer for their loss.
He was much appreciated and loved by those outside the Catholic Church, whom he met in the various duties imposed upon him by the School Board and other works in the city, which demanded his attention. Among these was one who was, in fact, very devoted to him. He was Mr. Allan, Head and Owner of the great Shipping Line, of the same name. At his retrial from the latter, he gave a great banquet, to which all the elite of the country were invited. At the table, on this particular night, the chair to the right of Mr. Allan was vacant, and kept empty all during the Feast. On being asked the name of the missing guest, Mr. Allan replied, “A great and honoured friend, Canon John Joseph Dyer, who is very ill. No one can take his place.” Of all his tributes is not the last, the most simple and most touching – that of a non-catholic for a Catholic priest.
Tributes do not last, and the Canon’s critics were many, and those who loved and cared for him are long since dead and gone. But in St. Mary’s his name will live, please God, and as each Feast of the Epiphany – the Feast he himself loved so much – comes round, and on the day of his Ordination, when he gave himself to God, the Holy Sacrifice will be offered for him, and he will never be forgotten. R.I.P.
He passed to his reward as had lived, quietly, peacefully, happily, in God’s dear hands on the 7th January, 1932, assisted and surrounded by those who had loved, respected, and honoured him during the many year she had lived with them, viz., the chaplain, the Reverend Arthur Barrett, and the good Brothers of the Abbey, all of whom tended and cared for him, and were with him during his last illness. He is gone, but his memory will remain as long as the Abbey lasts. God bless him ever.
(It can be said of him, “He came unto his own, but his own received him not.” Had he remained in Rome when requested, how different his life would have been for him, and yet what would have happened to the great work he was destined to do?)
The Canon Resume
Born 1851 1st September
“ 1875 Ordained 2nd May
1875 First Appointment St. Vincent’s, Glasgow
1876 St. Peter’s College, Partickhill
1883 First Parish St. Aloysius, Springburn
1896 Second Parish St. Mary’s, Calton
1932 Death in Twyford Abbey, London, 7th January
1921 In Convent of Blue Nursing sisters in Fiesole, Italy
1923 In Belgium, at home of Rev. Arthur Beyaert, where he
Lived till 1928
1928-1932 Twyford Abbey with the Alexian Brothers,
A nursing Community, under Brother Vincent,
Head of the Order
One Solitary Life
He was born in an obscure village.
He worked in a carpenter’s shop until he was thirty.
He then became an itinerant preacher.
He never held an Office.
He never had a family or owned a home.
He did not go to College.
He had no credentials but himself.
Nineteen centuries have come and gone
And today He is the central figure of the human race.
All the armies that ever marched,
And all the navies that ever sailed,
All the Parliaments that ever sat,
And all the kings that ever reigned,
Have not affected the life of Man
On this earth,
As much as that.
Words of John B. Gough in America at the end of a Speech
The chosen Heroes of this Earth have been in the Minority.
There is not a social, political, or Religious
privilege, that you can enjoy today, that was
not bought for you by the blood, and tears,
and patient sufferings of the Minority.
It is the Minority that have vindicated
humanity in every struggle.
If a man stand for the Right and Truth,
though every man’s finger be pointed at him,
though every woman’s lip be curled at him in scorn,
He stands in a Majority,
for God and good Angels are with him,
And greater are all they that are for him,
Than all they that are against him.
The Parish of Saint Mary of the Assumption is a
Parish of the Archdiocese of Glasgow
a Designated Religious Charity Number SC 018140