on any image to get a larger picture
Fr James G. Harold (Left)
and Fr Daniel
Murphy (Right) at the funeral of 18 year old Daniel
Coyle who was one of 8 men killed in the Gartshore Pit Disaster
in July 1923.
James Harold was born on 16th June 1897 in Killygordon, County
Donegal, Ireland. He was educated at St Columb’s Derry
from 1911 to 1916 and then at St Keiran’s Kilkenny from
1916 to 1922. He was ordained a Priest on 15th June 1922 at
St Mary’s Cathedral Kilkenny by Bishop Matthew Bodie of
Christchurch, New Zealand for the Diocese of St Andrew’s
and Edinburgh in Scotland where he was to spend all of his life
as a Priest.
His first position was as assistant
Priest at St Patrick’s Edinburgh from 1922 to 1923 from
where he was transferred here to St Patrick’s Kilsyth
and worked as assistant Priest to Canon
Patrick Macnamara for five years from 1923 to 1928.
The centenary brochure says about him “Father Harold,
a friendly and forthright personality was very interested in
the young people of the Parish, particularly those attending
secondary schools or at University. He will long be remembered
for the enthusiasm and energy with which he tackled any project
he undertook and especially as Chaplin to the boys guild.”
Centenary of St Patrick’s Kilsyth 1865 –
During his stay in Kilsyth Fr Harold
and Fr Murphy worked together during a short overlap as assistant
priests to Canon Macnamara and can be seen in the photograph
above leading the funeral procession from St Patrick's front
door into the Low Craigends in late July 1923. Eight men had
been killed and three injured in an explosion in the Gartshore
no. 3 pit owned by William Baird and Company. One of the men
was 18 year old Daniel Coyle from St Patrick's and his funeral
procession can be seen in the photo above. No doubt because
of the trauma that he experienced during this tragic event in
Kilsyth, Fr Harold was to make an emotional return to Kilsyth
many years later in the aftermath of yet another mining disaster
at Dumbreck pit.
"Impressive Scenes At Funeral
Impressive scenes were witnessed at the funeral of
Daniel Coyle (18 years of age), which took place yesterday.
A service was held in St Patrick's R.C. Church. The church was
crowded, and hundreds waited outside. Provost Freebairrn and
several Town Councillors attended. The service was conducted
by Father Harold, Kilsyth, and Rev. Professor D. Murphy, Fermoy
College, Ireland. Former school companions carried the coffin
from the church to the cemetery. The members of the Boys Guild,
of which the deceased lad was a member, walked immediately behind
the relatives. All places of business along the route were closed.
Scotsman 31 July 1923.
Fr Harold left St Patrick’s Kilsyth in May 1928 to become
the Parish Priest at St. Ninian’s Bowhill Cardenden in
Fife however he nearly never survived to take up his first post
as PP as he was involved in a serious car accident when the
car in which he was travelling burst into flames on his journey
from Kilsyth to Bowhill.
“Fr James Harold nearly lost his life in an accident
last month when a car that was conveying him from Kilsyth to
his new appointment at Bowhill caught fire. The car burst into
flames near Crossgates and ‘there was some difficulty
in opening the doors’ and one of the men smashed a window
and jumped through it. Sand was procured but the car burned
fiercely and was soon completely destroyed. A fine cat that
the House Keeper had been taking with her, went missing but
whether it was burned or went missing is not known.”
Glasgow Observer 9th June 1928 p11.
It was during Fr Harold’s posting as PP in Bow Hill that
the new church of St Ninian was built in 1932. From Bowhill
in 1934 Fr Harold was transferred to St Marie’s Kirkcaldy
in Fife where he was to remain PP until 1938.
At this time there was another great mining disaster in Kilsyth
in which nine men in total were killed in a fire at the Dumbreck
Pit on the 30th January 1938 - seven of them Catholics from
St Patrick’s and the neighbouring Parish of Croy. Fr Harold
came back to Kilsyth from Kirkcaldy and descended into the pit
that evening with the rescue workers to administer the last
rights to the men who had by then been found dead. Fr Harold
stayed on in the parish and attended at the Funeral Mass for
seven of the men at St Patrick’s church and the communal
grave in Kilsyth Cemetery.
Pit Disaster - Funeral of Victims at Kilsyth - The nine victims
of the Dumbreck Colliery disaster were buried in Kilsyth Cemetery
yesterday. Almost all the public works and places of business
were closed for the afternoon. The coffins of the seven Roman
Catholic victims were carried from St Patrick 's Church to the
graveside by miners and relatives, and were interred in one
grave. Several thousand people lined the funeral route. The
funeral of the two Protestant victims, James Kelly, of Twechar,
and Peter Walker, of Kilsyth, took place from their homes. A
service which was held in St Patrick's Church was presided over
by the Rev. Father Harold, who descended the pit on Sunday evening,
and administered the last rites. The funeral procession of the
Roman Catholic victims was preceded by Croy Band. The mourners
included relatives, Magistrates, and other members of the Town
Council of Kilsyth miners' Union representatives, and mining
officials.” Scotsman 3 February 1938
Other sources show that Canon Macnamara
in fact presided at Mass in St Patrick's Church on the day of
the Dumbreck funeral..
then went to Peebles in 1938 and throughout the war years until
1953, a period of 15 years he was the Parish Priest of St Joesph’s.
From 1953 to 1958 he served as Parish Priest in Restalrig, Edinburgh
at the Church of Ss Ninian and Triduana. The final posting of
his mission in Scotland was to Our Lady of Lorretto and St Michael
in Musselburgh starting in 1954 where he served until his retireal
in 1972. Fr Harold was made a Canon of the Chapter of St Mary’s
Cathedral, Edinburgh in 1954 by Archbishop (later Cardinal)
Gordon Joseph Gray.
Canon Harold retired to Dublin at the age of 75 to the Raheny
Sacred Heart Residence for retired Priests where he died on
10th of May 1973 whilst preparing to offer Mass. At his own
request he was buried in the convent cemetery of the Little
Sisters of the Poor, Kilmainham, Dublin.
Wladyslaw Raczkiewicz was the President of the Polish Government
in exile in London and the internationally recognised Polish
Head of Sate during World War 2 publicly commended Fr Harold
for his work in St Joseph’s Peebles in support of the
large number Polish exiles which were based in Scotland during
the war. He said...
“’Among those who have earned the warm thanks
of the Polish people for many acts of kindness and friendship
is genial Fr. J.G.Harold parish Priest of Peebles.’ Of
Fr. Harold the President stated that he had followed for a long
time with deep appreciation his consistent and continuous acts
of friendliness towards Poland and his activities in defence
of the Polish cause. He spoke not only for himself but for all
Poles and assured Fr Harold that his name would be kept in grateful
memory by Poles everywhere.” Glasgow Observer
8th February 1946.
On the occasion of his Silver Jubilee as a Priest the following
article also appeared in the Glasgow Observer.
“One of the most sincere and at the same time unusual
tributes to Rev James G. Harold of St Joesph’s Peebles
at his Silver Jubilee presentation last week was given by Rev
Barry Preston, Peebles Minister, who said ‘It used to
be said of certain clergymen that they were invisible all week
and incomprehensible on Sundays. Well Fr. Harold is visible
all week!’ Rev Preston said that Fr Harold was staunch
and loyal to the doctrine of his Church and because of this
they all thought the more of him. They found him helpful in
all things pertaining to the community. He was indefatigable
in his work for the town and that he was held in the esteem
and respect of the entire community. [Neighbouring Priest and
future Cardinal] Rev Gordon Gray of Ss Mary and David, Hawick
said that Fr Harold was a trusted friend and a Priest of tireless
energy.” Glasgow Observer 27th June 1947
St Kieran’s College Kilkenny, Fr Harold’s alma mater,
ordained many priest for the various Diocese in Scotland and
Fr Harold always retained an interest in the welfare of the
younger Irish Priests who came to Scotland building upon the
foundations here, laid by earlier generations of Priests. Drawing
upon his experience of leaving his own country and giving service
in Scotland he was always available to others who followed him
as the Scottish Union President of St Kieran’s College.
“It must be recorded that the Canon was a founder
member of the St Kieran’s College Scottish Union and it’s
President for over 17 years until his retirement. His interest
was not confined to a mere annual meeting. His practical interest
and concern for St Kieran’s Priests showed itself in many
kind ways. A simple thing, perhaps, but a very consoling one
was his thoughtfulness for those Priests who lost a parent or
someone near and dear. He was always ready with a sympathetic
word and gesture’. St Kieran’s College
Record 1974 p29
Canon Harold throughout his long life was quite outspoken when
it came to injustice especially when it was shown to Ireland
or the Irish people. At a time when Irish immigration to Scotland
was being attached by some factions within the Church of Scotland
in 1927 he said whilst serving as assistant Priest at St Patrick’s
“If these attacks on the Irish people in Scotland
continued, means would have to be taken to deal with them. We
recognise the rights of other people and we will maintain our
own...” Glasgow Observer 3rd Dec 1927 p2.
On the more recent Troubles in Northern Ireland Canon Harold,
himself an Ulsterman, called for a new attitude in Ulster.
“Canon James Harold has called for a new attitude
towards Roman Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland.
Canon Harold made his pleas at the Christian Unity meeting in
the Brunton Hall Musselburgh. Speaking about the current situation
in Northern Ireland he said that it ‘had to be seen that
justice was done’ and ended by calling for reconciliation
between Roman Catholics and Protestants.” Musselburgh
News 28th Jan 1972.
Bishop James Monaghan, Bishop Auxiliary of Saint Andrews and
Edinburgh said at Canon Harold’s funeral Mass, “Like
so many Irish Priests of his time and of the years that followed
he came to work in Scotland in the Archdiocese of St Andrew’s
and Edinburgh. We in Scotland appreciate the valiant and apostolic
work carried out in our midst by so many priests, then and now,
who like Canon Harold, came to work in our country. The Church
in our country would never have been built up to the state that
it now enjoys but for the unselfish, dedicated hard work of
Priests like Canon Harold. It is not often we get to the opportunity
to express this gratitude and I am happy to have this chance
to do so today on Irish soil.” The Catholic
Directory for Scotland 1974 pp 341 – 343.