Celebrations in Cumbernauld as Our Lady’s High School turns 50

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Once it was simply a blueprint in the office of a fashionable Glasgow architectural firm - namely Gilliespie, Kidd and Coia.

The plan dreamed up by Andy MacMillan and Bob Walkinshaw would see Ravenswood Farm cleared, leaving just a trace of a circular wheeled mill to crush corn drawn round by a horse, that can still be seen today - albeit in a playground.

That land has been occupied now for an momentous half a century by Cumbernauld’s first Catholic secondary school Our Lady’s High School which has taken this Golden opportunity to celebrate this landmark anniversary in style.

Yet the Dowanfield Road site where year-long revels are taking place as a consequence wasn’t the way it was originally intended to be.

Tom Reilly of nearby Westray Court who worked for the architects revealed: “ The first design included a convent and School but that fell through and a new design produced for the main block and a later extension

Tom said: “It was a difficult site due to the steep slope down to the Ravenswood playing fields. “

Along with its workmanlike steel frame and lightweight cladding topped off with a thin layer of copper, Tom revealed an intriguing and more creative detail to the design.

“The cross section through the class rooms has glazing with high level so-called clerestory windows allowing day light to penetrate deeper into the class rooms.”

Any further details from the treasured original plans would be sadly hard to check as these were handed over to Glasgow School of art and were possibly sent ablaze on one of two occasions the landmark went on fire.

Yet what exists to this day is concrete documentation of what happened on the first day of the school on August 22 1968 - when the first ever head teacher first put pen to paper in a freshly opened log book.

This states: “The school opened for the first time today under exceptionally difficult circumstances and with lack of available accommodation, lack of furniture and indeed we shall be fortunate if the complete accommodation is in use by December.

“Despite the difficulties, pupils and staff were in good heart and prepared to make light of the difficulties!

The school would wait until the following May to be opened the Archbishop James Scanlan alongside luminaries like Convenor of Education Robert Kennedy, Provost Gordon Murray and Cumbernauld Development Corporation chairman Jean Roberts.

Fast forward to another gathering that is a bit more up to date -by five decades in fact!

Because last month the school’s feat day was marked with a concelebrated mass with Archbishop Philip Tartaglia plus some very special guests for whom Our Lady’s has extremely special meaning.

Archbishop Tartaglia acknowledged the contribution made to the school by its teachers, staff and young people over the years in his homily

He said::“I think I am justified in saying that Our Lady’s High School has been and is, with its distinctive Catholic identity and ethos, a much appreciated and successful school for the communities which make up Cumbernauld

And the mass was concelebrated by some very familiar faces too. For not only did former chaplains Father Neil McGuire and Father John Donnachie attend, so did Monsignor Peter Smith, Monsignor David Wallace, Father Stephen Reilly plus Father Liam O’Connor who are all former pupils.

Joining them was well known parish priest of Sacred Heart and St Lucy’s Father John Campbell who simply said: “if I were to sum up the school up as a local parish priest it would be easy - it is the most nurturing secondary school I have ever been associated with.”

Meanwhile another familiar face who taught at the school but is now Assistant Chief Executive of Education at North Lanarkshire Council, Isabelle Boyd has extended her congratulations to all.

She said: “The school has particularly special memories for me as I worked there in the 1990s as part of the senior management team. It’s a real focal point for the community and a source of pride and inspiration to so many people who live in and around the Cumbernauld area.”

Head teacher Danny Mc Nulty said: “Our mass was a beautiful and fitting celebration of our anniversary.

“Our Lady’s High School has served the children and families of Cumbernauld, growing as the town has grown itself. We look forward to the next 50 years as being enjoyable and successful as the first 50.”