A Glasgow academic explores how the work of religious orders paved the way for the success of the 1918 Education Act in Scotland.
By the 1830s the city of Glasgow could not cope with either the educational or the social needs of the people. Glasgow had grown out of all recognition: the population in 1835 was nearly twelve times what it had been in 1775. It suffered from all the evils associated with the industrial revolution – overcrowding, bad housing, insanitary slums and, very often, severe unemployment, poverty and lack of education.
Irish immigration, in addition to the Clearances, increased the number of Catholics in Glasgow during the 1840s and 1850s. As the Catholic population grew, the Catholic authorities were concerned to provide an educational system for their own children.
The Rev. Peter Forbes of St. Mary’s Church, Abercromby St, had first applied to the Sisters of Mercy in Ireland, but they were unable, at that time, to free sisters for the Glasgow mission. In 1846, Father Forbes was travelling through France seeking financial aid for the Scottish Mission and appealing also for Religious who were willing to care for the destitute Catholic children and young adults of his own parish in Glasgow.
By the end of 1847, two Franciscan Sisters, Adelaide and Veronica, were ready to embark on the apostolate which had drawn them to the Scottish Mission, the education of young Catholics. The following year, on 17th February 1848, Sister Adelaide died of cholera and Sister Veronica was left alone in Glasgow to carry on the work.
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