CANON CHARLES MATTHEWS

Charles Matthews was born on 19 November 1927 at Clooneen, Granard, County Longford, Ireland. He was educated at Saint Mel’s College, Longford and Saint Peter’s College, Wexford where he was ordained on 8 June 1952.

His first appointment was as a curate to Saint Joseph’s Church, Kilmarnock.  In 1953, he came to the Church of Saint Peter in Chains.

In 1963, h
e left Saint Peter’s to become parish priest of the Church of Saint Thomas, Apostle, Muirkirk where he remained till 1970.  He served at Saint Joseph’s, Catrine from 1970 to 1980; Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, Millport from 1982 to 1987; Saint Mary’s, Irvine from 1988 to 1990 and Saint Brides, West Kilbride till his death there on 15 March 1996.

The left photograph above was taken in about 1958; the right one in about 1959; and the one below in about 1960.

The report below is from the Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald of 5 October 1962.


The Reverend Father Charles Matthews (shown centre in the photograph below) who until recently was curate at Saint Peter in Chains, Ardrossan and is now parish priest at Saint Thomas's, Muirkirk, was presented with a cheque from his former parishioners at a ceremony in Castlecraigs, Ardrossan last Sunday evening (30 September 1962).

More than twenty priests from various parts of the Diocese of Galloway were among the large company attending the function at which Police Judge James Dorrian, chairman of the Parochial Committee, presided. The Reverend Father Lawrence Walls Fischer (shown right in the photograph below), parish priest, welcomed Father Matthews back to Ardrossan and paid tribute to the work he had done in the parish during his nine years as a curate.

Police Judge Dorrian, in congratulating Father Matthews on his new appointment, said that his departure was at the same time regretted by the parishioners of Ardrossan where he had given valuable service and had been a source of comfort and strength, particularly among the sick and the housebound.

After commenting on the spiritual aspects of Father Matthew's work locally, Police Judge Dorrian spoke of his early training as a curate at Saint Joseph's, Kilmarnock and said that he had shown great interest in the welfare of young people. Police Judge Dorrian went on to welcome the new curate, the Reverend Father John Murphy, a native of Ayr, who had come from Saint Andrew's, Dumfries.

In making the presentation to Father Matthews, Mrs Mary McLaughlan (shown left in the photo left), vice-president of the Parochial Committee said that the gift was an expression of the parishioners' appreciation of Father Matthews' willing service in Ardrossan and a token of their esteem. On behalf of her fellow parishioners, she wished him every success in the future. In reply, Father Matthews thanked the various speakers for their kind sentiments and the parishioners for their generous gift. He paid tribute to the cooperation and guidance he had received from Father Fischer and counted it an honour to have worked with him.

Another speaker was the Reverend Father Hurley of Saint Augustine's, Glasgow who recalled his early association and subsequent friendship with Father Matthews at a seminary in County Wexford and on behalf of his priesthood friends, offered him good wishes for the future.

Following the presentation ceremony, the company were entertained to a concert at the artistes were Mr James McGrattan, compere; Mr John Cosgrove and Mrs Kitty Cook, vocalists; Mr Aiden McKellar, accordionist and Mr Gerry McCulloch, accompanist. Afterwards, a short film-show was given by Doctor John Dolan, the films featuring the activities of Saint Peter's Youth Clubs.

The obituary below is from the Scottish Catholic Directory, 1997.

Canon Charles Matthews died after a long and protracted illness on Friday 15 March 1996. The parishioners of Saint Bride’s West Kilbride mourned the loss of a generous, warm-hearted and charitable priest whom they had come to know and love for the past six years. His loss was reflected in the large number of people who attended the funeral services on both days.

Charlie Matthews was born on 19 November 1927 at Cloonean, Granard, County Longford.  One of a large family, it was not easy for parents like his, in those days to educate and present their boy for the priesthood. It was all the more difficult because it was during and after the war years, when the necessities of livelihood were hard to come by. But as the desire in so many Irish families was always great for one of their sons to become a priest, the sacrifice of paying for Charlie's education was readily undertaken by his parents. He received his secondary education at Saint Mel’s College, Longford and after obtaining his Leaving Certificate there, entered the ecclesiastical Saint Peter’s College, Wexford. These years in College were notable for their shortages of food and heating and many students often went to bed hungry and cold during the winter months. In his six year's stay in the Ecclesiastical College, Charlie never experienced any heating in the College. Yet students of those days never wavered in their determination and efforts to dedicate their lives to God, because of such inconveniences. After a course of two years philosophy and four years theology, Charlie Matthews was ordained priest by Bishop Staunton of Ferns for Galloway Diocese.

It is difficult to adequately describe the feelings of a young priest taking up his duties in a parish for the first time. It is doubly difficult when the young priest comes from another land and finds himself thrown headlong into a large town parish so unfamiliar to the country parish into which he was born and reared. But Charlie had the rare gift of making himself at home in any situation and before long, after surviving the initial feelings of fright, found himself at one with the people he had come to serve. His stay at Saint Joseph’s, Kilmarnock was short (1952-53) but most rewarding for he often spoke of his first parish and the kind parishioners who made his early priestly work so happy for him.

Father Matthews was transferred to Saint Peter in Chains, Ardrossan and his nine years stay (1953-62) there with Canon Fischer was for him an unforgettable experience. There he also met the Canon’s nieces - Rita and Eileen Fischer who later on helped him a lot during his time of illness and convalescence.  Charlie's silent, gentle and unobtrusive manner and quaint humour endeared him to the parishioners of Saint Peter’s. He visited the homes of the parish continuously and attended the sick and elderly with unflagging zeal. Many, many years later, when saying supply Masses for Father Lynch, he could talk to many of Saint Peter’s parishioners of old, and tell them the name of the street in which they lived and even the number on their doors. He had a special gift of communicating with people and left a deep impression of his brotherly love for all people.

Father Matthews took up his priestly duties at Saint Thomas’, Muirkirk in 1962 and stayed there for eight years. These were frustrating times with the long period of unrest in the coal industry. The coal mines were in decline or coming to an end, and the means of making a living was taken away from so many people and their families. As time went by, many were leaving the parish to seek a home and work elsewhere. In such times of adversity, Father Matthews was always on hand to give words of advice and encouragement. His special relationship with the school children of every parish he attended helped to make his name live on in their hearts and homes long after his departure from the parish.

In 1970, Father Matthews was transferred to Saint Joseph’s, Catrine, taking with him the long experiences he had in dealing with parochial problems. He spent ten happy years there and it was in Saint Joseph's that he met Mary O’Brien who became his trusted housekeeper, and who was to stay and support him for the next twenty-five years.

Every priest during some period of his priestly life meets with obstacles or disappointments which can lead to frustrations or even days of depression.  Such times are very trying and the helping hand of a brother priest is the best remedy at such times of loneliness and depression. Father Matthews found such help in the person of Father Sam McGinness during his stay at Our Lady’s, Millport and Saint Mary’s, Irvine. Before long, with Father Sam's help he was able to sweep aside such personal difficulties and even relate them afterwards to others with a certain amount of charm and humour.

Saint Bride's, West Kilbride in 1990 gave him again the opportunity to be a true shepherd to his flock. Now appointed a Canon of the Cathedral Chapter he set about administering the parish with great zeal. The observance of the new Liturgy of the Eucharist with its emphasis on community participation was promoted. The gathering of the Faithful for Sunday worship at which people came to meet with their God and with one another was a source of great joy to the Canon and they were welcomed accordingly. The singing of the parts of the Sunday Mass began to be appreciated and the altar boys and altar girls began to appear regularly in their new robes. Christmas and Easter festivals, together with the special occasions like the First Communions and the Inter-Church gatherings were always times of rejoicing to be looked forward to. The Canon’s concern for his school children and the visitation of the sick and the elderly was always uppermost in his thoughts and conversations. He had also the maintenance of the Church and Chapel-house to the fore and set about collecting for double glazed windows and these he later installed when he had enough collected to pay for them. These new windows greatly enhanced both buildings. The painting of the Church and house which followed, together with the monastic atmosphere of the large well-kept grounds, giving a continuous air of peace and tranquillity, left the parishioners with a sense of joy and pride in themselves and their Parish. The Canon felt at home with his people.

The Celtic team which has been nurtured and sustained at Seamill Hydro before their many encounters with world-class opposition teams, found in Canon Matthews one of their most ardent supporters, during their visits within his parish.It was a common occurrence to see their Manager, Tommy Burns making frequent visits to Saint Bride’s. It was indeed not surprising to see Tommy and the captain of the team, Paul McStay representing the Club, at his funeral Mass. The Canon loved all the fun and arguments that were part of the football game. When Jack Charlton’s Irish team beat the Italians in their important European match, it was reported that the Canon went off everywhere to seek his Italian friends and shake their hands and offer them a sprig of shamrock as a memento.

Canon Matthews found his happiness in the simple things of life. Always a keen gardener, he spent the long summer hours up until midnight in his vegetable plot, a plot that many professional gardeners might envy. Even in his declining months, when hopes of recovery from his fatal illness were fading, he took solace and comfort in the garden he loved and around the shrine of Our Lady nearby. During the last weeks of his illness, he remained cheery and left his future completely in the hand of God. Always assisted by his faithful housekeeper, Mary and nurses Margaret Campbell and Jamesina Hendry, bore his sufferings to the end with remarkable fortitude.

Charlie Matthews will be remembered by those who knew him best as a simple and humble man. The great Saint Paul confessed to the Corinthians that he came to preach to them not with any show of oratory or philosophy but to teach a Christianity based on the love of the crucified Christ and to teach the things that no eye has seen or ear has heard beyond the mind of man, all that God has prepared for those who love him.   I’m sure the Canon would like to feel that he did his best to follow in the steps of Saint Paul.

Learn of me, for I am meek and humble of heart says the Lord in His message to us all. With a deep Faith in God and in the Church which his Son founded, with his warming hospitality and welcoming approach to all who called on him, whether priest or lay person, with his kindness and humility at all times, this by any Christian standard, is the hall-mark of a very nice person. Indeed with such faith and practice of virtue eternal happiness must be assured.

Canon Charles Matthews was laid to rest, after concelebrated Mass, led by Bishop Taylor, with a large congregation from the many parishes he served at West Kilbride Cemetery on Tuesday 19 March 1996 - the feast of Saint Joseph, patron of a happy death.