Fr. Thomas Joseph O'Shaughnessy (PP 1932-1961)

The fourth Parish Priest at St. Luke's was Fr. Thomas Joseph O'Shaughnessy and he was to remain at St. Luke's for twenty nine years. He was born in Padiham, Lancashire and before his ordination he was a teacher. In 1917 he was ordained in Leeds by the Bishop of Leeds and his first appointment was as curate at St. Edmund's Miles Platting. He was curate 1929-1930 St Anne’s Fairfield and then at St Anne’s Blackburn.

Sometimes he appeared to be too forthright, outspoken and impatient but he was really a man of determination, tenacity of purpose and energetic zeal. He was a keen business man and had a great love for children. His inner spiritual virtues included his great devotion to the Sacred Heart and to Our Lady, as Mother of God.

Fr Thomas O'Shaughnessy had 2 brothers who also were priests, Joseph and Vincent.

When he came to St. Luke's the number of parishioners was increasing rapidly, one reason being the development of new estates within the parish. By 1932 the 350 parishioners of Fr. O'Donnell's time had increased to 450. Two years later it was 600 and by 1937 750. In 1955 the number had reached 1,150. For this reason the new parish of Ss. Peter and Paul in Park Road was created. For a time the number of parishioners at St. Luke's remained static.

Fr O'Shaugnessy inherited a debt for the building of the church of over £5000. Together with support of the parishioners, he worked actively to pay off the loan. House to house collections were undertaken by the men of the parish and in 1934 collection boxes, for debt reduction, were given to each home. Garden parties, charity sermons and mission appeals all helped. It was also due to generous personal donations from Fr. O'Shaughnessy's many friends, and legacies from members of the parish.

In 1934 a new Processional Cross and six brass candlesticks for the High Altar were donated by various parish families; in 1935 a solid brass Crucifix was donated and in the same year came the gift of the oil painting "The Descent from the Cross" (a copy of the work of the original artist, said to be Rubens) This was placed above the High Altar. During the next two year the church acquired a new brass Paschal Candlestick, a new Missal and Missal Stand, a brass Gong, a new Sedilia and a new statue of the Sacred Heart (carved by Stuflesser of the Tyrol).

It was now time for the grounds of the church to be improved. Volunteers helped Fr. O'Shaughnessy plant shrubs and trees. In 1935 a large Crucifix and a Lourdes Grotto were donated and erected, and in 1937 a Shrine to the Sacred Heart was erected. All three shrines had floodlighting. The shrines were often later linked spiritually with torchlight processions, outdoor services and processions around the parish especially with the crowning of Our Lady's statue in May. In May 1959 this was accompanied by two bands and over 1,000 people attended.

Along with the material improvements came the continuing spiritual welfare of the parish. In April 1936 a Sodality branch of the Children of Mary was formed. In 1940 the first Sacrament of Confirmation at St. Luke's was administered by Bishop Marshall. A short time before the Second World War, through the successful efforts for church funds undertaken by the men of the parish, a Men's Society was formed. In 1942 a Youth Club was started. Meetings were held twice a week in the School Hall. A branch of the Catholic Parents' Association was formed and later, during Fr. O'Shaughnessy time at St. Luke's, a branch of the Union of Catholic Mothers was started.

The problem of the increasing Catholic population was to have a great effect of almost every part of the parish during Fr. O'Shaughnessy's time at St. Luke's. The first major problem was the necessity for a school. By 1936 his plans for a Junior and Infants' School to be built on the corner of Swinton Park Road and Park Road were ready, and passed by the board of Education on February 14th 1937. The actual building began on September 7th and on September 18th the foundation stone was laid and blessed by Bishop Henshaw. The school was intended to provide classrooms for 200 children with the possibility of being extended later to accommodate 400 children. Four Foundation Managers were appointed, Fr. O'Shaughnessy, Mr. W. Merrick, Mr. A.F. Carroll and Mr. J. Dolphin.

At last on 29th of August 1938 the first Catholic school on the Height opened. The headmistress was Sister Veronica Mary of the Most Holy Cross and Passion Order. There were four other teachers, Miss E. Harney, Miss M. Mossey, Miss M. Merrick and Miss C. Garvin. The official Opening and Blessing by Bishop Henshaw was on 17th September when the Bishop blessed the building and installed a Crucifix on a wall in the Assembly Hall as a reminder of the dual purpose of a Catholic school. Another important and outstanding landmark in the history of the parish had been achieved. It was to be Bishop Henshaw's last pontifical act as he died within the week.

The effect of the outbreak of war (on 3rd September 1939) upon the safety of the school children had already been anticipated and on 1st September 65 children from St. Luke's were voluntarily evacuated to Blackpool. Before the war ended a major change in the administration of the school came in January 1945 when due to ill health Sister Veronica Mary resigned as Headmistress. Mr. B. Woolf, formerly of All Souls' School was appointed Headmaster. By 1945 the original number of 110 children had doubled necessitating the erection of prefabricated classrooms in 1947. Having to provide for all the children of the parish up to the age of fourteen, the rise to 260 children in 1948 meant the existence of seven classes, two of which had to be accommodated in the unsuitable conditions of the Hall. This problem was relieved to some extent by the erection in 1952 of two more permanent classrooms along the Swinton Park Road side of the school. It was now becoming increasingly obvious that the only real solution to the accommodation problem would be the building of a separate school for children above primary school age. Fortunately this came about with the opening of the new St. Lawrence's Secondary Modern School in Weaste Lane, Pendleton in 1959. This took all children of eleven and over from the three parishes of St. James', All Souls' and St. Luke's.

In 1938 with the opening of the school, St. Luke's now had a Church, Presbytery and School. It also had a formidable debt. This debt had steadily mounted ever since Fr. Singleton founded St. Luke's. Land, church and presbytery had all made great demands, but in spite of his difficulties, Fr. Singleton did manage to repay £1,050 before 1926. Nevertheless, Fr. O'Shaughnessy on his arrival in 1932 found himself faced with a debt. of £5,742 and within six years the new school had added another £8,530. In September 1939 much needed new benches had been bought for the church (at a cost of £288) Interest payments alone to January 1946 amounted to £2,871, and the new organ which was bought in December 1946 added a further £400 to all this expenditure. In 1947, the year of Fr. O'Shaughnessy's Silver Jubilee, he intended with the help of the parishioners to clear the debt by October.

With a strong belief in the growth of small but constant repayments, Fr. O'Shaughnessy guided the parish finances along these lines. Before the cost of the school he had managed to repay £3,300 and then from 1938 onwards, by monthly repayments of £50 (increasing in 1943 to £100) the debt was gradually reduced. It stood at just over £10,000 by the end of 1938 and £6,000 in December 1943. By the time of the Jubilee, in spite of tremendous efforts in the parish, £600 still had to be paid, but in January 31st 1948 the last £100 was paid.

In spite of all this, the church was still the temporary structure of 1924. Now without debt Fr. O'Shaughnessy concentrated on the maintenance of the church and a reserve fund for a possible new Church in the future. By 1946 it was more than beginning to feel the strain. Air raids during the war had caused damage, particularly to the stained glass windows behind the Altar. The old asbestos roof had deteriorated and a new roof was vital, also the front gates had practically perished. In April 1946 a complete overhaul was undertaken by Messrs. Gerrard & Co. of Swinton which included a new roof, stained glass windows, the side doors restored and strengthened and the church decorated. In celebration, a special Re-opening Ceremony was held on Low Sunday.

29th June 1949: Fr O'Shaughnessy with 1st Holy Communicants including Sylvia Thompson, Magdalen Parkinson, Anne Burney and Stella Doyle.


In 1952 one of St. Luke's parishioners, Councillor Arthur F. Carroll, J.P. was elected Mayor of Salford. On May 25th accompanied by his wife, his family and many members of the Council, he paid his first official visit to St. Luke's as being his own parish church. The Chief Constable, Mr. A.J. Patterson, and representatives of the Knights of St. Columba and the Catenians also attended. The sermon was given by Fr. O'Shaughnessy as the Mayor's Chaplain.  Fr O'Shaughnessy was also for sometime a Diocesan Inspector of Schools. 

Due to the increasing work of the parish Fr. O'Shaughnessy was beginning to need help. Chaplains from Hope Hospital and supply priests from other parishes came and said a third Mass on Sundays at 10am. In 1955 Fr. O'Shaughnessy was suddenly taken ill so a permanent assistant priest was urgently needed. On November 22nd Fr. John Bergin, J.C.L. was appointed as Curate. Due to the increasing congregation, St. Luke's was now able to have a fourth Mass on Sunday at 8am.

(Back row centre: starting 4th from left are Michael O'Connor, Kevin Lyons and Peter Gooden (later Fr Gooden), Fr Bergin, Fr T O'Shaughnessy, Fr McNulty and Michael Bolton and 2nd from the end is Peter Marsden. Front row: far right are the McGrath brothers)

In 1957 Fr. O'Shaughnessy celebrated another Silver Jubilee - twenty five years as parish priest at St. Luke's. Advancing years and from that earlier illness of 1955 Fr. O'Shaughnessy's health deteriorated. He died suudenly at St. Luke's on Monday 6th March 1961 at the age of seventy six having been parish priest for 28 years.

Parish History Group

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