St Brendan: The Early Years

On June 6th 1954, Fr William O’Connor was ordained a priest. After serving as a curate at St Columbas, Tonge Moor, he took up the position of Parish Priest at St Brendan, Harwood and lived for a time in a semi-detached house on Longsight. Mass was held in the school hall where a very heavy canvas carpet had to be rolled out every week by a party of very fit volunteers. A new parish was born. The foundation stone for the new church at St Brendan’s was laid by the Rev Thomas Holland, Bishop of Salford in May 1974.

Parents, parishioners and friends were recruited to plan, arrange, promote and produce fundraising activities to pay for the new church. Among the many events arranged, two proved extremely popular; an annual variety show/pantomime and an annual themed dance.

The original stage for the shows was built from materials given to us by John Kay’s Timber yard. No matter what the performance, the scenery was always the same with a backdrop containing a window obviously taken from a demolition site (see photo below) which shows Gerry Cambridge on banjo, a guest banjo player, George Denton on drums and Terry Smith on tea chest bass. The show “Jamboree for ‘83” which was the 10th annual show was performed on 15th January 1963.

Lanky Twangers-small

Click on the image to see original size

The energy and enthusiasm of members of the congregation was astonishing. When it was once suggested that a dance should have a space age theme, a twenty-foot space rocket was built in the hall. Then there was the time when we decided to have a grand raffle for a new mini car, which was bought at trade price from a local dealer. We took the doors off the school to take the mini into the hall and the walls were decorated with automobile paraphernalia, posters and even our own real life Michelin Man. Another evening was given a nautical theme. The hall was dressed up to look like the promenade deck of a liner, with life belts all around the walls, sporting the name HMS St Brendan.

The shows relied entirely upon local talent, mainly from the parish. Tickets for these events went instantly, with a long waiting list for cancellations. I do feel that we must have broken the law by the number we allowed in the audience, but who’s counting? Many other events were undertaken by so many members of the parish, not to mention the incredible, very popular Christmas fairs, opened, of course, by the genuine Father Christmas. The summer fairs, with many stalls, games, competitions and welly throwing attracted visitors and competitors from miles around. One year the fair was opened by Joe Gladwin of “Last of the Summer Wine” fame.

A lot of hard work, yes, but certainly worthwhile and the church was paid for in double quick time.

Another major project was the provision of a presbytery for Fr O’Connor and this was built by a local man Brian Turner in about 1979, with Edwin Coope acting as clerk of works.

I am delighted and proud to have been amongst those who helped to make the vision of a new parish and church become a reality.

George Denton, 15/03/2014