Prior to the mid 19th century, the education of RC children was carried out in small schools set up by the clergy. One was in Ferguson St and there was also a day school and a night school for older children run by Mr Quigley of Dungannon. Penny Collectors were appointed to collect the weekly penny, which was then sent to the Bishop via the school master.
As the numbers of Roman Catholic families living in the area greatly increased during the Irish migration (as a result of the Great Famine), there was an obvious need for a church and more organised educational provision.
St Joseph’s (also known as the Black Quarry Church) was built c1850 in the middle of a field. At that time it was located in a rural situation, with a few cottages nearby on what later became Lyon Street and McAdam Lane. Parishioners still living in the early 20th century could remember, as children, bringing linen to bleach on the grass. The area was also popular with day trippers who could buy milk from one of the cottages.
The first priest was Father Gallagher, a former mill-worker at Blantyre where he had been friends with a young David Livingstone. It was the basic instruction in Latin that the priest gave to his young friend that enabled the future missionary to enter the Anderson College of Medicine in Glasgow.
The priest rented a large hall in St George’s Road, on the site of the later Board school, where he provided free education for 130 poor children. There were also two day and night schools for those who could afford to pay the weekly penny.
By agreeing to government inspection, grants were secured and by 1859 (when the Jesuits took over the running of the parish) new schools had been built – one in Braid St for boys, with the girl’s school in McAdam’s Lane (now Manresa Place). In 1870 the Braid St school was enlarged and girls moved there, with McAdams Lane being reserved for infants.
In 1904 an acre of ground was purchased on the east side of McAdams’s Lane and a new school building was erected for infants. That is the red brick building still extant that is being used by Cowcadden’s Day Nursery (it can be seen on the right hand side of the photo at the top of the page). The priest at the time, Father Campbell, applied to the Council to change the name of the street due to its bad reputation. Manresa is in Spain, and has connections with the Jesuit movement, hence Manresa Place. The Victorian poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins, was a Jesuit priest and served in St Joseph’s for a few months during 1881.
Today, although most of the buildings have demolished, St Joseph’s still has a thriving primary school built on the site of the former Lyon Street,