Braes church prepares to celebrate its centenary

St Anthony's Church
St Anthony's Church

The first Catholic church 
to be built in the Polmont area after the Reformation is to celebrate its 100th year as a parish.

St Anthony’s Church in Brighton’s Maddiston Road has served the villages of the Braes for the past century and parishioners are marking the event with a special mass on August 30 to celebrate its rich and colourful history.

The church was actually first built in 1898 as a chapel-school, which was common at the time. But it ceased to be a school 20 years later when local authorities took over the running of education facilities across the country and local children then had to attend St Andrew’s School on the east side of Falkirk.

After it was first built the church was served by the priests of St Francis Xavier’s Church in Falkirk, who often arrived on Sundays on horseback for mass.

In 1913, however, it became a parish in its own right and welcomed Father William Grant as its first priest to serve the families of the thriving Braes mining villages.

Rosemary Taylor, of the parish council said: “We are looking forward very much to celebrating our centenary as a parish church with Bishop Robson, who will be our special guest for the mass.

“We still have a very steady congregation which supports the good causes in our communities, as well as church charities. The ladies of the Guild are very passionate supporters of Strathcarron Hospice and Rachel House.

“Churches play a very important role in modern society and we hope we will be doing this here at St Anthony’s for many years to come.”

With the congregation growing in the 1970s the church had to expand and it moved from its previous home further up the road to its present location in Maddiston Road, opened on July 2, 1985, by the late Cardinal Gray, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, the last of 40 he opened in the archdiocese before he retired.

The timber frame extension raised the capacity from 120 to up to 350.

In true Christian spirit the seating was made by parishioner John Young and the plumbing was done by volunteers who all only charged for materials.

These days the church is being served again by St Francis Xavier’s Church’s Monsignor Kerr following the death of the long-serving Canon Thomas Hanlon, the church’s longest-serving priest, two years ago.

Mrs Taylor added: “Canon Thomas Hanlon was the driving force behind the new church and also encouraged better relations between other churches through his ecumenical work. He was ahead of his time in many ways.”

Monsignor Kerr said: “The parish community is very vibrant at St Anthony’s. It’s a strong congregation and we look to the future with 
confidence working in partnership with other parishes in the area.”