History @ St Stephen's

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In 1935 Fr Leo Malone Sunday Masses Catholics in Droylsden
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In the Thirties Miss Malone The School "A Long Chapter"
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Fr Power Fr Austin Bulfin Mr Brendan Campbell Fr William Fallon
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Fr Nelson Mrs Mary Kent Housekeepers Mr Raymond Morris

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


In 1935, it was decided that a new viable Parish could be created from a former rural area of St. Anne's Parish, Fairfield, which is now the geographical area of St. Stephen's Parish.

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Fr. Leo Malone, who was a member of staff at St. Bede's College, Manchester, was appointed Parish Priest of the new Parish. He took up residence in 1935 on the new Estate on Chappell Road, which was named after the Building Contractor. The Diocesan Administration of the day managed to secure a site for a Church, Presbytery and School. Within a few months of his appointment, Fr. Malone had secured permission from the Diocese to build a Parish Hall.

Outside the entrance to the present School Hall is the Foundation Stone which was blessed by Bishop Henshaw in October 1935.

The new Parochial Hall was put to good use in staging Musicals, Concerts and Parochial Dances. Even in those early days, Parishioners had good reason to remember that their Parish Priest was the Music Teacher at St.Bede’s. His talents as an organizer and administrator, too, soon became known.

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Sunday Masses which were first said at the Co-op Building on Manchester Road could soon be said in a mobile corrugated-iron structure which was erected, as a temporary measure, using local talent, on the “Parish” site. This basic premises served its purpose but was inadequate so, after a short period, a more substantial Building was acquired from St. Dunstan’s, Moston and was taken to this site and erected by the men of the Parish. It was located on the ground which is now occupied by the present Nursery .

Pictures can be found in the Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council Picture Archives

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Catholics in Droylsden are proud of their parish and its history. The founding members made great sacrifices to provide the Catholic School some years before the 1944 Education Act. They were helped in subsequent years to extend the school building by ever increasing Capital Grants from the Department of Education and from the contributions of many new families who came to live in Droylsden from the Ancoat’s and Bradford areas of Manchester.

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In the thirties it was believed that a thriving parish could be built around a good School and so the first phase of the Parish School was constructed. To save expense, it was decided to build on either side of the Parish Hall, so that it could be incorporated as part of the School Premises.

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Miss Malone was the first Head-teacher. She was destined to stay for many years. Under her leadership, St. Stephen’s then an “All Age” School, quickly gained a great reputation. Countless past-pupils of St. Stephen’s Primary School, who did not have the advantage of a Secondary Education still had a grounding in “the three R’s” and finished their formal Education feeling confident that the teachers had done their best. The School also became famous for the high percentage of its Pupils who were successful in the “Eleven Plus” Examination and its Pupils achieved rather well in the Grammar School sector.

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The School increased in proportion to the number of Pupils who attended and by the end of the forties the School had grown significantly. About that time a young energetic Teacher joined the Staff and was to become a household name. Mr Michael O’Donoghue, who served in the Navy during and following World War 2, was destined to be Head-teacher of St. Stephen’s on Miss Malone’s Retirement in 1963. About the mid-fifties another young Teacher, Miss Margaret (Peggy) Connaughton, who came from Training College to St. Stephen’s, in her turn, became Head-teacher of the School on Mr O’Donoghue’s Retirement in1981. Both had come up through the ranks in the promotion league from classroom teacher to Deputy Head-teacher. Under the stewardship of both, St. Stephen’s was a friendly, though disciplined, school where teaching was by example with high standards demanded of teachers and pupils alike. Mr O’Donoghue lived and after his retirement continued to live in the Parish. On his death in January 1996 many tributes were paid to the work which he achieved and the large number who came to his Funeral Mass was testimony to his esteem and the affection of so many of his former colleagues and pupils. The Retirement of Miss Connaughton, who continued to live at Acresfield Road, Audenshaw, in St. Stephen’s Parish, in 1987 signalled the closing of the largest chapter in the history of the school. Although in Retirement Miss Connaughton involved herself in Parish work. She took on several tasks which she usually completed with skill and efficiency. She was blessed with a great memory for names and faces.  Former Pupils and Colleagues loved to meet her and she always showed a great interest in their progress. She loved life and was an outgoing person. She made many friends in the Greater Manchester area.  Miss Connaughton suffered from a heart condition which deteriorated in 2001. She died on 24th April 2002, a few weeks after major surgery.  Schoolchildren lined up on both sides of Chappell Road as the Cortege moved towards St Stephen’s Church for her Funeral Mass.  The crowded Church and the beauty of the Liturgy was a fitting tribute to the esteem and affection in which Miss Connaughton was held in the hearts and minds of parishioners, former pupils, colleagues and friends. She was laid to rest at home in Ireland in Athleague “in the Co. Roscommon”. 

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A long chapter in the history of the Parish was also closed with the appointment of Fr. Malone to the Parish of St. Thomas of Canterbury, Higher Broughton, Salford. He had worked hard to get the Parish going and had been hard on himself and on his people. He left a Parish that was thriving. Many people still remember Assistant Priests of the early days. Such personalities like Fr. Dermot Murphy, Fr. Hennessey and Fr. Handley keep coming up in conversation among more senior parishioners. Fr. Malone departed on the 11th. April 1951 to take up his new appointment. He left St. Stephen’s well established and in favourable financial circumstances. He died at St. Thomas’s only four years later.
Fr Power replaced him and brought with him a new style of leadership. He had previously, as a younger man, served as Chaplain to the British Forces and had spent some time in the Middle East. His many years’ experience in the “Forces” had a lasting influence on his life style that did not go unnoticed by the people of St. Stephen’s. The self-discipline of former days was manifested in his ordinary parochial daily life. He was lively in his movements and was disciplined even in the manner in which he walked. Yet, he was enthusiastic and caring and many parishioners who came to him for help found him supportive and wise.
As the worshipping community grew in numbers, Fr. Power and his parishioners came to realize that the second parochial Church that had served so well since the late thirties had now come to the end of its useful life. The time had come to build a new Church. The foundation stone was laid in January 1958 and Bishop Beck, who had come then, was invited back on the following year(18th.July)to open officially and formally bless the new Church. Parishioners worked hard since the foundation of the Parish to raise the money. It will ever remain to their credit that on the day of the Official Opening everything was paid for even to the details of furnishings and candles.  On 12th. May the following year Bishop Beck returned to consecrate the Church.

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Fr Power must also take much of the credit for the number of extensions to the school building, as numbers grew, and in securing for parishioners its beautiful thirty place nursery.
Assistant Priests like Fr Joseph Wilson, Fr. Francis Carey, Fr. Eddie Morrissey, and Fr. Seamus Quigley who were dedicated and experienced priests must be included to complete the story of the leadership of Fr. Power. As Fr. Power’s health deteriorated he had to rely on his assistants for both help and advice to enable him to remain in leadership at St. Stephen’s. There is not enough space in this short history to do justice to the role of Fr. Power’s efficient and dedicated Housekeepers but special mention ought to be made of Mrs Mary Fitzpatrick who served way beyond the call of normal duties. The manner in which she cared for Fr. Power and the Assistant Priests too must have a place in any history of the Parish. She died in June 1999 and St. Stephen’s Church was full as older and younger Parishioners came to pay their respects at her Funeral Mass. Parishioners were pleased when Fr. Power was made an Honorary Canon of the Salford Diocese in 1981. Much had been achieved during his long stewardship at St. Stephen’s of thirty-one years. With Fr. Power’s Death in 1982 another great chapter in the story of the parish came to an end.

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Fr Austin Bulfin, Administrator of St John’s Cathedral succeeded Fr. Power. The pattern of parochial life since the 1950’s had become settled and prosperous in all senses. Fr. Bulfin set about harnessing all available resources, material and spiritual. He was gifted with a lively wit and a great sense of humour. Many opportunities would present themselves at St. Stephen’s and Fr. Bulfin was determined to make the most of them. His modern approach to the Liturgy was welcomed by many. He increased the number of Eucharistic Ministers so that Holy Communion could be distributed under both kinds and Holy Communion could be offered more frequently to the sick. He installed an effective Church Amplifying system including a special “Loop” system for the Deaf and followed by introducing an efficient Heating system. He built on the best practice which he already found in the Parish and within one year of taking up his appointment, it could be said that all systems were on “go” both new and old. Fr Bulfin persevered in the maintenance of Parish property and by making alterations to the interior of the Presbytery he created a special room for Parish meetings and introduced the Tuesday Senior Citizens Club. Fr. John Corcoran replaced Fr. Quigley as assistant Priest and was followed by Fr. Duncan McVicar, Fr. William O’Connor and Fr. Rodney Nelson. Fr. Bulfin can be credited for improving the external appearance of the Buildings and towards the end of his six years here, the interior decoration of the Church. People were sad to hear the news in January 1989 that he was leaving St. Stephen’s to take on, on a full time basis, the responsibility of the maintenance of Diocesan Property.

He took up residence in Chain Road Presbytery, Blackley in February 1989 where he still resides.

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Mr Brendan Campbell was appointed Head-teacher for the new school-year beginning in September 1987. He was already Head-teacher of St. Augustine’s Primary School Stamford, Lincolnshire since April 1982. Although only a young man (in his mid thirties), when he was first appointed to St. Augustine’s, he enjoyed the distinction of being one of the very few Head-teachers in England who was also a Computer Programmer. He brought to St. Stephen’s considerable skills from his training and from his professional experience. He provided the opportunity to year 6 of spending a full week in Crich in Derbyshire where the pupils, organized by teachers, could combine adventure and recreation with a prayerful retreat every year. In inviting pupils of year 7 at St. Damian’s to join them, he felt that it would strengthen the bond between those two great schools. This project introduced by Mr Campbell has become a permanent fixture in the Summer Term for both schools.

The School Governors supported his application for early retirement in 1994.

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Fr William Fallon, our present Parish Priest took up his appointment on 10th. March 1989. He came from St. Boniface’s, Lower Broughton, Salford where he had served for more than seven years. He celebrated his 40 years as a Priest in May 2002. The parish gave Fr. Fallon a gift of a holiday to a place of his choice. The destination Fr Fallon chose was New Zealand and enjoyed his time in Australia and New Zealand looking up former College friends early in 2003. On the way he was the guest of former Droylsden Boy, Fr. Eddie O’Neill who is now a Salesian Priest working with his Community and also serving the Archdiocese of Cape Town in S. Africa.

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Fr. Nelson was appointed to St. Stephen’s in November 1988 and was assistant Priest to Fr. Bulfin and Fr. Fallon. He was appointed Parish Priest of St.Francis, Gorton to replace the Franciscans Friars. He took up his appointment in November 1989 to have the distinction of being the last Curate at St. Stephen’s. Ill health left him with no alternative, than to retire from active priesthood in the summer of 1998. People were saddened by his sudden death in September 1999.

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Mrs Mary Kent who was appointed to replace Mr Campbell took up her post in January 1995. A person with wide experience, she was quietly spoken and was gifted with great patience and considerable skills. She can be credited in successfully leading the School through its first Ofsted Inspection in September 1995. Her calm, easy, yet confident style enabled her, with her Staff, to improve the appearance of the school and to ensure that progress was made in many areas. She introduced a “Tidy Classroom” competition to encourage the children.
She commanded the respect of Parishioners, Teachers, Governors and Pupils alike. It was with great sadness that Governors and Parishioners learned that she had accepted the Head-ship of the Sacred Heart Primary School, Blackburn, in the Summer of 1997.

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Mrs Veronica Kedian became Housekeeper at St. Stephen’s Presbytery in the Autumn of 1982. She served at the Parochial House until the summer of 1997. She possessed a contagious laugh and was gifted with a great clarity of expression. Her lively wit never failed her and she was always great company. She was a brilliant cook and was at her best when the Presbytery was crowded. During her time at St. Stephen’s she made many friends. The news of her death in October 1997 was received with great sadness. The Present House keeper of St. Stephen’s Presbytery is Mrs Maria Swinton, former Head Cook from our Primary School.

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Mr Raymond Morris our current Head-teacher, took up his appointment on 1st September 1997. He had previously been Head-teacher at St. John Bosco’s, Blackley for a duration of seven years. He has now established himself at St. Stephen’s. He has worked hard to encourage staff and pupils to raise standards, expectations, and the general appearances of the school. In the Summer of 1999 he guided the school through its second successful OFSTED (office For Standards in Education) Inspection.  He has been successful in guiding the School further, academically and practically to achieve its place and respect locally and nationally among the more successful Schools. Recently the latest Ofsted Report (May 2005) pays tribute to all the good work involved on the road to improvement and success.

 

And the rest is.....   To Be Continued....

 

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