St Mary’s School for boys, girls and infants was built in 1850 behind St Mary’s Church. The building was one large room with a gallery at one end for the infants. The pupils were the children of mainly Irish cotton weavers and manual labourers employed on roads, canals and coal pits.
Women and children found employment in the subsidiary trades of the cotton industry such as bleaching, dyeing and calico printing.
Father Peter Forbes, parish priest of St Mary’s Church, Abercromby Street, opened the school. He employed a master and pupil teachers for the boys department while the girls and infants were in the care of the Sisters of Mercy who had been invited to Glasgow from Limerick by Bishop Murdoch in 1849.
Needy children were supplied with food, clothing and after school care in sodalities and clubs because at that time there was no state assistance.