A planning application to completely replace the roof of Lanark’s St Mary’s Church has sparked rumours that the multi-million pound refurbishment of the building just five years ago was a ‘botched job’.
The parish priest, Father Jim Thomson, has moved quickly to scotch talk that the town’s Roman Catholic place of worship - Lanark’s biggest single building - has suffered the same fate as the Church of Scotland’s St Nicholas Church, now facing its THIRD re-refurbishment in less than twenty years following a series of mishaps.
The St Mary’s application to South Lanarkshire Council for planning permission to replace the entire roof had many Lanark hearts sinking, not just amongst the Roman Catholic community.
The church is widely thought of as the town’s architectural gem and during its rededication Mass after its 2011 refurbishment, the Bishop of Motherwell admitted the building was more impressive than his own cathedral!
Concern at the application led to a debate at last week’s Lanark Community Council meeting, one member bemoaning “Lanark’s incredible run of bad luck when trying to do up its churches.”
The recent, extensive St Mary’s facelift was a major undertaking for the relatively small rural parish of 1300 souls; the then new parish priest, the late Father Joe Brannigan, threw himself and his flock into an intensive fund-raising campaign and worshippers spent long periods ‘decanted’ to other church buildings to hold Masses while work went on.
When ‘Father Joe’ died tragically prematurely, his many friends and parishioners took some comfort in thinking he had lived long enough to ensure the survival of the beautiful church,
The roof replacement application raised fears that that aim had not, in fact, been achieved and the St Mary’s parishioners faced yet another long period of disruption and fundraising.
However, Father Jim Thomson stressed this week things were not as black as some are painting them although there are major challenges ahead.
He told the Gazette in a statement: “Although St Mary’s went through extensive renovations to the stonework of the church, the interior, the grounds and the parish hall in 2011, the church roof was not renewed, though some repairs were made to it.
“Recent inspections have revealed that the whole roof will now have to be replaced.
“St Mary’s is an ‘A’ Listed building and an application to the Heritage Lottery Fund and Historic Environment Scotland has been awarded a first round pass.
“A full application is currently being made, while fundraising efforts have already started to raise funds for the roof work.
“At this time it is not envisaged that we will lose the use of the Church while this work is being carried out, although we may make alternative arrangements for the normal weekday Mass so that work on the roof can proceed and we are not disturbed during Holy Mass with noise.”