The work of the Church of Saint Peter in Chains has been supported by two communities of nuns, the Congregation of the Sisters of Misericorde and the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception.
A set of remarkable coincidences led to the arrival of the Misericorde Sisters. At the outbreak of World War II (1939-1945), empty accomodation was liable to be requisitioned by the Government for military purposes. The Franciscan Sisters, based in Glasgow, had a summer house at 22 Montgomerie Crescent, Saltcoats that was used only in the warmer months of the year. Fearing that it would be requisitioned with the potential of damage, Father Michael O'Connor, Parish Priest of the Church of Our Lady, Star of the Sea, Saltcoats advised the Sisters to make more use of the house. Days later, Misericorde House, the London Convent was bombed. An enquiry about accomodation was made to the Franciscans in Glasgow. They immediately offered their Saltcoats house to the Misericorde nuns. Sister Alexandrin, Sister Hilda and Sister Oswald were among the first to arrive. They spent the war years in Saltcoats and returned to London after Misericorde House was repaired. The Sisters wanted to come back to the Saltcoats area so they made enquiries about a suitable house to Father O'Connor. Monsignor Archibald McSparran, the Parish Priest of the Church of Saint Peter in Chains had his presbytery in half of a large house at 9 South Crescent later South Crescent Road, Ardrossan. The other half, number 10, which housed wounded soldiers and Belgian refugees during the war, was for sale. In October 1945, application was made from the French Mother House of the Sisters of Misericorde to the Archbishop of Glasgow for permission to open a new house in Ardrossan. On 6 May 1946, Archbishop Donald Campbell replied agreeing to the request. In May 1947, some members of the Congregation set up their convent at 10 South Crescent under the leadership of Mother Vincent Ferrier, the first Mother Superior. The convent, known as Saint Theresa's House, is the right half of the photograph below, taken in the early 1950s. The inside of the house was painted in exactly the same colour as at their French houses. When Saint Peter's new presbytery was opened in 1957, the nuns took over the whole building. Many of the nuns were trained nurses who tended the sick of Ardrossan and neighbouring towns regardless of religion. They became known as the 'Nursing Sisters' and travelled by foot, on bicycle and on moped. Each year, on 30 November, the feast of Saint Andrew, the nuns invited benefactors and friends to Benediction in their small Chapel in the Convent to celebrate being in Scotland. In 1977, the sisters sold their convent and moved to a smaller house in Irvine. In September 1983, they left Scotland completely and returned to the Mother House at Sees in France.
Sisters who worked in Ardrossan over the years included:
Sister Alexandrin (-1942)
Sister Hilda (-1975)
Sister Leontine (-1960)
Sister Marie Alexis
Sister Marie Ismael
Sister Mary of the Sacred Heart later Sister Catherine
Sister Mary Patrick (-1975)
Sister Oswald (-1968)
Sister Peter Patrick
Mother Vincent Ferrier
The photograph above shows Sister Marie Alexis, Sister Peter Patrick and Sister Bernadette in the grounds of the Convent in 1963. Other photographs of the Sisters are on the Pictures page.
The Nursing Sisters were highly regarded in the community as shown by this report in the Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald of 6 July 1973.
Tribute was paid to the work of the Sisters of Misericorde, Ardrossan, on Wednesday of last week (27 June 1973) when members of Ardrossan Round Table handed over a cheque for £1130 towards the Order's funds. The money was raised at the recent Donkey Derby. Mr Tom Forrest, chairman of the Round Table, said "I would like to say on behalf of all of us that we are extremely impressed by your devotion to your work and by the pleasure you get from it. Since we have decided to support you this year, I have heard nothing but praise from all denominations for the nursing and fellowship you give to our community, especially to the aged. The community at large is well aware of your devotion to us but we did think from the publicity given last year to your somewhat precarious financial situation that some gratitude should take on a monetary form.". Mentioning that the Sisters' origin was in France, he said they deserved support from the people of the district and from France. Mr Forrest said that the Table had been given willing support from numerous organisations at the Donkey Derby, from the Rotary Club, the 41 Club and the Ladies' Circle. There were also Ardrossan Scouts, Ardeer Community Centre, and the Fire Brigade. Commenting that the Scouts, the community Centre and the firemen would also receive a donation, he added "It does strike me that these three could maybe have made more for themselves by mounting their own project. Their willingness to help us to help you speaks volumes.". Mr Forrest told the Sisters that the Round Table in addition to their cheque were presenting them with a food freezer to help reduce their running costs. He added "The remainder of the money is in the form of a cheque for your general funds. This cheque is from the people of Stevenston, Ardrossan and Saltcoats who have enabled us to make a contribution to the support you so richly deserve. We hope that this money will enable the people of the district to realise that financial support for you should be a continuing and desirable aim.". Mother Cecile Marie, accepting the gifts of the food freezer and the cheque suitably replied, thanking everyone concerned for their efforts. Present were representatives of the various bodies involved in raising the money. Donations of £170 were also made to Ardrossan Scouts, Ardeer Community Centre, and to the Fire Services' National Benevolent Fund.
The Franciscan Sisters came to Ardrossan in March 1982 at the request of Father Michael Lynch. They initially lived in a house at 46 Stanley Road where the photographs below or the outside and Oratory were taken on on 11 August 1983. The first three nuns were Sister Mary Annunciata, Sister Vincent and Sister Pius. In May 1986, they moved to 23-25 McKellar Avenue where they resided until September 1999.
Parish work undertaken
by the Sisters included preparing parents for the baptism of their children,
preparing children for First Communion and Confirmation, visiting sick and bereaved
people and preparing adults to enter the Church. Some sisters were members of
the Thursday Club
and the Country Dancing Club.
On 1 March 2001, a presentation and concert were held in the Parish Centre to acknowledge the contribution the sisters made to the community of Saint Peter in Chains. Sister Loyola, Mother Superior accepted a cheque from the parishioners.
Sisters who had lived in Ardrossan and attended the event were:
Sister Mary Annunciata (1916-2008)
Sister Dolores (deceased)
Sister Immaculata, sometimes known as Wee Mac (deceased)
Sister Mary Pius McLaughlin who took her vows on 2 May 1959 and celebrated her Golden Jubilee in Greenock on 2 May 2009.
Other sisters who served in Ardrossan were:
Sister Clement and Sister Maximillian who were killed in a road accident in Kenya in the mid-1990s
Sister Vincent who died in the late 1990s
The concert performers were:
children from Saint Peter's Primary School who recited poetry and sang
the Country Dancing Club who put on a dancing display
Michael McCulloch and George McGrattan who played and sang a few folk songs
The Congregation of the Sisters of Misericorde was founded in France on 16 January 1848, for the purpose of procuring spiritual and corporal assistance for poor mothers and unfortunate girls.
Return to report.
The Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of the Holy Mother of God was founded in Veghel, Netherlands on 24 June 1844 by Pastor Bernardinus van Miert and his niece, Sister Teresia van Miert. Their aim was to care for the needy with special attention to the underprivileged sectors of society.
Return to report.