St Mary’s School for boys, girls and infants
was built in 1850 behind St Mary’s Church. The building was one large
room with a gallery at one end for the infants. The pupils were the
children of mainly Irish cotton weavers and manual labourers employed on
roads, canals and coal pits.
Women and children found employment in the subsidiary trades of the
cotton industry such as bleaching, dyeing and calico printing.
Father Peter Forbes, parish priest of St Mary’s Church, Abercromby
Street, opened the school. He employed a master and pupil teachers for
the boys department while the girls and infants were in the care of the
Sisters of Mercy who had been invited to Glasgow from Limerick by Bishop
Murdoch in 1849.
Needy children were supplied with food, clothing and after school care
in sodalities and clubs because at that time there was no state
In 1858 the Marist Brothers came to
Glasgow at the invitation of Bishop Murdoch. In 1863 they took charge of
St Mary’s Boys’ School.
In 1865 there were 300 boys taught by two Marist Brothers and five pupil
teachers. Brother John, Brother Austin and Brother James were head
teachers from 1865 to 1869.
1870 there were 400 boys and a staff of eight. Pupil teachers were
instructed by a master or mistress who conducted the apprentices through
an approved course which lasted four or five years. The instructions
were given either before or after school hours and the pupils also
attended night school.
The school roll continued to rise. In 1907
Standard Three had 69 pupils and Standard Five had 79. The result was
overcrowding and a new school was needed. Makeshift accommodation for
the whole school was found in a hall in Henrietta Street while the old
school was demolished.
new school opened in 1913. It was four storeys high with 43
classrooms each of which had accommodation for 50 pupils. There were
four broad staircases, cloakrooms and ground and roof playing space for
boys and girls.