The Roman Catholic Church of St. Fillans in Newport

The following notes were written by a member of the congregation for an exhibition in 1990 (hence the cut-off in the list of priests).

“The first resident priest in Fifeshire was the Rev. Aeneas McDawson who made Dunfermline the headquarters of the new mission area. He also opened ‘stations’ at Kirkcaldy, Newburgh, Culross and Cupar.

It was not until 1886 that a Mission was founded in Newport. At first the clergy from St. Andrew’s Church (now the Cathedral of the Diocese) looked after the needs of the mission.

In 1889 Newport was raised to the position of a distinct charge under the care of Fr. James Harris. A residence for the priest had been purchased in 1888, and until a church should be built, Mass was said in a rented portion of what had previously been the Royal Hotel. The opening ceremony took place on the 6th November 1889, when Mass was sung by Mgr. Clapperton, Vicar General of the Diocese, and the sermon was preached by Mgr. Joseph Holder, parish priest of St. Joseph’s, Dundee. Cupar along with Tayport then became stations attached to the Newport Mission.

The new church was opened on 25th January 1893 by the then Bishop of Dunkeld, Bishop James Smith. The 1925 Dundee & District Catholic Yearbook describes the Church in the following way: ‘for it stands a considerable distance from the street line, and is a neat but unpretentious little structure of corrugated iron. Inside it is lined throughout with white pine, and the timber roof breaks with good effect the harshness of the outline. Light is given by six windows on either side, and in addition there is a small but artistic stained glass window above the sanctuary. The Sanctuary is divided from the body of the church by a pretty bent wood railing. The altar, in accordance with the Church itself is small but tastefully designed. The seats are substantially made, and can accommodate 250 worshippers.’

The sermon at the opening was preached by Fr. Phelan (later Canon) of St. Mary’s, Dundee. The Church was erected mainly for the sake of the Mars Boys, of whom double as many as before [could] now hear Mass every Sunday, while ample accommodation is left for the local congregation.

Since its foundation the following priests have been Parish Priests at Newport:

  • Rev. James Harris, 1889-1891
  • Rev. William Sutton, 1891-1897
  • Rev. John Kilcullen, 1897-1898
  • Rev. Alexander McMillan, 1898-1900
  • Rev. Patrick Brady, 1900-1908
  • Rev. Anthony Sweeney, 1908-1909
  • Rev. John Roche, 1909-1920
  • Rev. John Noonan, 1920-1930
  • Rev. James Quinn, 1930-1937
  • Rev. Patrick Donnacher, 1937-1940
  • Rev. John Malloy, 1940-1952
  • Rev. John Ross, 1952-1957
  • Rev. Edmund Purcell, 1957-1962
  • Rev. John Joseph Connolly, 1962-1966
  • Rev. Andrew Rooney, 1966-1976
  • Rev. Kenneth McBride, 1976-1981
  • Rev. Aldo Angelosanto, 1981-1988
  • Rev. Hugh Campbell, 1988- ”

The reference to the Mars Boys reminds us that the ‘Mars’ had a higher than expected Roman Catholic populaltion since it took in boys of all denominations, whereas its sister training ship on the Clyde, ‘Cumberland’, only accepted Protestant boys. So Roman Catholic boys from the west of Scotland were sent to the ‘Mars’.

The Church still thrives in the town today.

2d. Train Fare Forces Return to City

Drumclog sits above the road in Wormit, looking over to Dundee and west up the river – an ideal spot for a house in 1895 (and it still is). Its first owner was Rev. Robert Howie Wyllie, the popular and hard-working minister of the Hawkhill U. P. Church in Dundee. From the time he was called to Dundee in 1889 he had stayed in the pleasant surroundings of Westpark Road on the Perth Road, but he joined an ever-growing movement of the middle and professional classes to Wormit. He initially rented a house in Birkhill Avenue but within the year had moved into Drumclog.

But being a minister means having commitments to your congregation, and it was the congregation who put an end to his rural residence. They objected to having to pay 2d. for the train fare to come to see their minister, so Rev. Wyllie had to return to Dundee and took up residence in Blackness Road. He may well have had thoughts of returning to Drumclog as he didn’t sell the house when he returned to the city. Unfortunately, ill health took its toll and he ended his days at his home in Blackness Road. Drumclog was bought by its sitting tenant, James Ogilvy Adams, who renamed it Abbotsford.