The Very Rev. Hubert Canon Van Stiphout, M.R.
LATE PARISH PRIEST OF ST. MARGARET’S, AIRDRIE.
C’ursum consummavi. In truth, no other words could describe so briefly yet thoroughly the life and death of the Very Rev.Hubert Canon Van Stiphout. “I have finished the course.” Through a long period of time he had travelled his course with a sure, steady, and unhesitating step; and when he realised that the journey was almost finished he looked around him to see if there was anything he had omitted, anything that remained unfinished, and he struggled on until no detail, even the smallest, remained incomplete; then, and only then, did he sink back upon his deathbed uttering his last audible words: “That will do. I am tired.” Yes, in truth he was tired, for a long, long coure was most perfectly finished. The deathbed scene at St. Margaret’s, Airdrie, on the August afternoon would mind one of the scene, as described by St. Cuthbert, at the death of St. Bede. On the day of the Venerable Bede’s death he was still busy dictating a translation of the “Gospel of St. John.” In the evening the amanuensis said to him: “There is still one sentence, dear master, which is not written down.” And when this had been supplied and the scribe had told him it was finished, “Thou hast spoken truth,” Bede answered, “It is finished,” and, praising God, he peacefully breathed his last breath.
It is but fitting that some memorial, be it ever so modest, of a great, good priest should remain to his people, that they may frequently recall to their memory one who was an example of sanctity of life and unflinching and unchanging devotion to duty.
Fidem servavi—I have kept the faith. The faith of Father Van (let us call him by the name we all know best) was a solid granite structure. This was made abundantly evident to those who were about him at the latter end. Devoid of all sentiment or emotionalism, he possessed an intense realisation of the things of God. He exercised the same meticulous care about detail, the same plain, simple, straightforward dealing with his God in things spiritual that he exercised over the material affairs of his parish. So the things of faith were such an intense reality to him that every detail connected therewith was of most practical importance. Obligations which had long ceased to bind because of his condition and years he would under no consideration omit.
Without a trace of sentiment or poetry, his soul and his God were his practical “Business”. In the days of his extreme exhaustion and suffering the most casual observer could recognise the habit of mind of a lifetime, and could probe the secret of that great power and influence he undoubtedly exercised over those committed to his charge. Possessed of the style of oratory of the Curé of Ars, he kept the faith: he fed his flock with the solid food of dogmatic truth, so that their faith might be a reasonable faith: he exercised the greatest diligence in training the young to a thorough knowledge of their catechism. His own life, his very appearance and manner were continually speaking the faith in eloquent terms to his people. “It was a sermon on the presence of God in the Blessed Sacrament,” said one humble Catholic, “to see old Father Van going to the altar to say Mass.” The sound knowledge of Catholic principles possessed by the people of the parish over which he ruled so long, the practical faith of those whom he guarded and trained, give evidence of his labour and his example. The infants he had welcomed at the Baptismal Font now, as fathers and mothers of many children, followed his mortal remains to the cemetery on the hillside. They stood there— they and their children—with bowed head and eyes brimming over with tears, to see their beloved pastor entombed, in the spot he had chosen for his resting-place until the visitation day of the Angel of the Resurrection. “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”
Not merely in the Catholic homes of Airdrie is there grief over the death of Father Van; in many a Catholic heart and many a Catholic home beyond great oceans is there sorrow. During his thirty-three years in Airdrie the good parish priest had seen many, too many, of his children go forth to distant lands. In Canada, the United States, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand there are Catholics from Airdrie who owe a debt of gratitude to Father Van. Many of them have struck their roots deep in the new soil, and have prospered, and begotten and reared children, and taught these children the faith and virtues learned from their Parish Priest in the old country. To-day they are stalwart sons and daughters of the Church helping to sustain it in distant lands. Not until the day when the Recording Angel shall speak that which he knows, and the great Just Judge allots to every man the wages of his toil, shall we be able to measure the results of the long labours of this unostentatious but great good priest. Hubert Van Stiphout was born at Veghel, North Brabant, a distinctly Catholic district of Holland, on 1st December, i 849. His parents were of the sturdy Dutch farmer stock, as pious as they were sturdy, and the children were carefully trained in faith and piety from their earliest years. Their daughter, Wilhelmina, five years younger than Hubert, entered the religious Order of the Canons Regulars of St. Augustine, in 1876, at St. Oldenrode, taking for her name in religion Sister Mary Hubert, and died in the same conventon 21st March, 1926, six months before her brother was called to his reward.
Following on the ordinary elementary education, Hubert Van Stiphout entered the Gymnasium, or secondary school, at Uden at the age of 14, but on expressing the desire to become a priest, he was transferred the following year, 1864, to the Seminary of St. Hertogenbosch, at St. MichielGestel. The Dutch Catholics, virile in their faith because of long years of bitter persecution, had the foreign missionary spirit highly developed, even as they possess that spirit to-day, and the young Hubert was of a sturdy stock and of strenuous faith. Scotland was a far-off foreign land, the work was hard, the harvest great, the people needy, the labourers in that part of the Lord’s vineyard exceedingly few, priests were sadly needed there. His decision was made: he would spend his life in a strange land, amongst a. strange people, learn to speak in a strange tongue, bid good-bye to the land of his fathers, and make him a grave in the land of his adoption. With this object in view, the summer of 1870 saw him at the English College at Bruges. Here, and at the Grande Seminaire of the old Belgian town, he completed his studies in philosophy and theology. An old photograph, with difficulty reproduced, shows a young clerical student at Bruges, Hubert Vati Stiphout, in company with a fellow-student who also became well known to Glasgow Catholics as Father Evers. On the 21st December, 1872, he received the Clerical Tonsure, and Minor Orders followed on 7th June, 1873. It is interesting to learn that on these two ordination days at Bruges there stood before the same altar and ordaining Bishop, together with Hubert Van Stiphout, a born-and-bred Airdrie youth, Charles Reid Brown, who received the Subdiaconate and Diaconate, and whose first appointment as a priest was to St. Margaret’s, Airdrie. The Right Rev. Mgr. Faict, Bishop of Bruges, ordained Hubert a sub-deacon on 20th December, 1873, and a deacon on 3oth May, 1874. But it was at Mechlin, at the hands of Right Rev. Mgr. Antonio, Coadjutor Bishop to Cardinal Deschamps, that he was raised to the ranks of the priesthood on i9th September, 1874.
At last Hubert Van Stiphout’s boyhood hopes were accomplished—he was a priest, equipped and ready for his life’s work. Brimming over with zeal and anxiety, he was straining to begin his course. He sought no respite or holiday to recruit after his trying years of study. On the twelfth day after his ordination he was at his work. The young Hollander landed for the first time in Scotland, his new home, on 3oth September, 1874. Archbishop Eyre gave him a most cordial welcome, and on October 1st he took up his position as assistant priest with Canon O’Keefe at St. Patrick’s, Coatbridge. There, on 1st October, 1874, Father Van Stiphout began his course: at St. Margaret’s, Airdrie, on 9th August, 1926, when he was assured that every detail, even the most minute, had been duly attended to, he said “That will do; I am tired.” Cursum consummavit—he had finished his course.
It is a strange coincidence, perhaps we should say rather a strange disposition of Providence, that during his 52 years of active priestly life, in a diocese so large as that of Glasgow, all Father Van Stiphout’s labours should have been confined to so small an area of territory. Coatbridge, Chapeihall, Airdrie, was his entire locale; in that small circle were all his interests centred. After five years spent at St. Patrick’s, Coatbridge, he left it on i3th September, 1879, in order to take charge of theparish of Chapelhall. During fourteen years, unaided, he attended to the spiritual needs of the Catholics of this scattered parish. He has left there a monument to his name in the beautiful church erected during his administration, as well as a suitable house for the clergy. It came as a tribute to his excellence and worth when, on the death of the stalwart Canon Mackintosh, Father Van Stiphout was chosen as successor at St. Margaret’s, Airdrie. He took up duty at St. Margaret’s on November ioth, 1893, and in January, 1895, was appointed Missionary Rector. For the rest of his history, go read it in the hearts of Airdrie Catholics. It is written deep.
It is a matter for wonder that one who was naturally of so modest and retiring disposition, of a different nationality ad upbringing, who avoided anything conducive to notoriety or acclamatlo, who positively shunned publicity, could work his way so deeply, not merely into the friendliness or friendship, but into the most genuine affection of his people, and of all the priests who came in contact with him. His people could not fail to observe his deep personal piety—genuine, solid, and unostentatious; how his whole interest lay in their spiritual and temporal welfare; how thorough and exact he was in all his priestly duties; how ready he was—too ready some thought—to find excuse for those who failed; how he cared for, and guarded, and taught the children; how genial and attractive was that smile of his. Yet, with all his kindliness and geniality, he was no weakling. His people also knew that when matters of moment arose he was like a piece of steel. They knew that Father Van’s “Yes” was “Yes,” and his “No” was “No”—that his decision was unalterable. He was a man of strong will-power.
His friends amongst the clergy were many. He did not need to go abroad to seek them, they flocked around him. Even in his advanced years he could be young with the youngest of them, for his heart never grew old. It has been said “An old age without friends is like a garden without flowers.” Father Van’s garden was full of choice flowers. Often was his counsel sought by his fellow-priests in their doubts and difficulties. It was readily given—short, crisp, but solid, based on a wisdom that had ripened through long years of experience. His death has created for many of them a great gap they will find it difficult to fill. On 20th December, 1917, old Father Van was raised to the Chapter of the Glasgow Archdiocese, and one can easily understand how general was the rejoicing. Superiors were welcome to bestow as many “Very Reverends” and “Canons,” and any other titles they might choose, he remained for his people and his familiar friends dear old Father Van. The chalice presented to him by his fellow-priests on the occasion of his elevation to the Chapter, a chalice of gold, and richly jewelled, was the one that rested on his coffin in front of St. Margaret’s altar on August 12th, 1926. Again priests and people flocked around to offer their felicitations when he reached, on September i9th, 1924, the golden jubilee of his priesthood. Those who were present tell how the old man’s eyes sparkled with pleasure when there was set before him a richly-illuminated scroll expressing the special blessing granted to him on the occasion by His Holiness the Pope. On the afternoon of his death the Canon commissioned that this scroll should be safely packed and forwarded to his brother.
Fifty years of a fruitful priestly life. It is a long span, and very few priests achieve it. The half century that Father Van spent as a priest was for the Catholic Church in Scotland a period of growth and development. In October, 1874, Coatbridge did not possess the splendid church of which to-day it is rightly proud. There was no Archbishop of Glasgow: Mgr. Eyre was then Archbishop of Anazarba, and ruled all the Western district. It was not until 1878 that the Dioceses of Glasgow, Galloway, and Argyll and the Isles came into being. In the year 1874 in all the Western district there were i 28 priests and i i i churches, chapels, and stations; in 1924 there were in that same area 403 priests, 233 churches, chapels, and stations, and the estimated Catholic population was 477,000 souls. Father Van Stiphout saw new parishes, new churches, new schools, new centres of Catholic activity spring into existence. He was witness of the steady growth of Catholic power and influence, and the steadily improving status of the Catholic body. He saw the door of educational opportunity thrown open to Catholic youth, and the Universities extending a real welcome. All this had been arrived at during the eventful years of his priestly life, but not without a hard struggle and a continuous heavy strain on both priests and people. Of struggle and strain Father Van had his full share. At St. Margaret’s he had to build, to provide school accommodation for the ever-increasing number of Catholic children. He built well, and cleared the burdens. Perchance others have left grander and more noble monuments in stone to tell of their labours; few have left grander or more noble monuments than he, in the material in which he built. It was the spiritual fabric on which he preferred to concentrate, and he built well. The words of the Psalmist were ever his inspiration, “Unless the Lord build the house they labour in vain that build it.” That the Lord might build the house, and his own labour be not in vain, was Canon Van Stiphout’s purpose in giving Sunday after Sunday, year in and year out, at all the Masses, simple instruction on the penny catechism. The book still rests where he placed it after his last instruction, and the book-mark points to his last instruction—the obligation of Sunday Mass. Had anyone told the young Father Van Stiphout in those first days of his priesthood in Coatbridge that he would live to see the day when in a Lanarkshire mining village there would gather about a shrine of our Lady of Lourdes erected in the open, and beside the public highway as many as 75,000 Catholics to do honour publicly to the Holy Mother of God; that a non-Catholic press would report the happenings at that shrine with the greatest respect; that railway companies and many others would cater for the needs of the Catholic multitude; that thousands of non-Catholics would go there to look on with wonder and reverence—he would have received it all with a smile of incredulity. Yet he lived to see all this an accomplished fact, as well as many other things which, if not just so vivid, are no less wonderful. His 52 years of priesthood was in truth a period that witnessed growth and healthy development in the Catholic Church in Scotland.
And now, Canon Van has gone from amongst his people. For some time past the weight of years had compelled him to desist from those works that make demand on physical strength. He celebrated Holy Mass on Ash \Wednesday; it was a great effort, but he was preparing for his Lenten fast, which he always rigidly observed, so he must needs say his Mass. From that morning both Mass and Lenten fast were beyond him. But if his bodily strength failed him, his mental powers remained unimpaired to the very end. He continued the administrative work of the parish with the greatest thoroughness and all his old exactitude, even up to an hour before he died. On Monday morning, the 9th of August, he received the last Sacraments of the Church at the hands of his old friend, Dean Muller, of Langloan. That same afternoon he asked for assistance, and worked at his parish accounts until the last items were properly set down; he arranged for a message to be sent to his sole surviving brother, “And tell him,” he said, “he must expect no more letters from me.” On asking what was the time, he was told it was twenty minutes past four. “Thank you; that will do—I am tired,” he replied. At a quarter past five he had gone to meet his God and to receive the crown of justice at the hands of Him in whose service he had spent all his days. May he rest in peace.
On Thursday, August 12th, Solemn Requiem Mass was celebrated. All day on Wednesday the people of St. Margaret’s had crowded round the coffin, set before the high altar, to get a glimpse of their revered old Parish Priest, and to pray for him. At Thursday’s Requiem not an inch of space remained unoccupied in the church. The Canons of the Chapter and a great number of the clergy occupied the front portion of the church, as well as representatives of the public bodies of Airdrie town and parish. As His Grace Archbishop Mackintosh was in Rome, it fell to the 1ight Rev. Mgr. Provost Ritchie, V.G., to represent His Grace, and to pronounce the final absolutions. The Rev. Father Geerty, St. Patrick’s, Coatbridge, a close friend of the late Canon, was celebrant of the Mass, with Father Montgomery, a native of Airdrie, as deacon, Father Kelly, assistant at St. Margaret’s, as sub-deacon, and Father McIlwee, of St. Patrick’s, Coatbridge, as master of ceremonies. The inspiring Gregorian Chant for the Solemn Requiem was rendered by a choir of priests, under the charge of Father Thomas McCann.
The Rev. Dr. Kelly, Greenock, formerly of Longriggend, at the conclusion of the Mass delivered the panegyric, his text being—” I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. As to the rest, there is laid up for me a crown of justice, which the Lord, the just Judge, will render to me in that days’ (2 Tim., iv., 7 and 8).
We are assembled here to-day, he said, in order to pay our last tribute of respect to the mortal remains of the Very Rev. Hubert Canon Van Stiphout, M.R. His body is about to be consigned to its last resting-place in the consecrated burial ground at Rochsoles, in the midst of the people he loved. His soul, we trust, has gone to its everlasting reward; but mindful of the revealed doctrine that “nothing defiled can enter Heaven,” and in consonance with Catholic faith and practice, we join together in the offering of the Adorable Sacrifice of the Altar and in fervent prayer that his soul, if not yet fully cleansed from the remains of sin, may soon be so purified in the cleansing fires of Purgatory as to be ready to be admitted to the Beatific Vision of God. The lesson that has been taught us so often is now repeated once again: “Remember man that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return.” Emphasis is given to the lesson in the present instance from the fact that the friend, whose loss we mourn, is an anointed priest of God. His dead body is clad with the sacerdotal vestments and the symbols of his priestly office are placed upon his coffin, but he will never more stand at the altar to offer the Sacrifice of the New Testament to God. Death has invaded the sanctuary and claimed the priest of God. His death was not unlooked for. For the past few years his health had been gradually declining. Occasionally he seemed to recover from the sickness that prostrated him, and he would proceed to the performance of his priestly functions with all his old energy; but it was easy to see that his weakened frame could not much longer stand the strain that his willing spirit imposed upon it, especially when he had to be assisted from the altars to which he had struggled to say Mass for his people. For some months past he was not able to appear among his people, but even then he kept a grip of the parochial management, for his mental faculties were never impaired and his mind could not remain idle. Half-an-hour before he died he attended to and finished all important correspondence and parochial business which had yet to be done. And so he laboured for his beloved people even on his death-bed, in spite of the great suffering which he had sometimes to endure. And thus, my dear brethren, you have the consolation of knowing that he was always thinking of you and praying for you till the end came. He was well prepared to die, having been fortified many times during his long illness with the consoling rites of the Church. He passed peacefully away to his reward on Monday last, and thus his prayer of a year ago has been answered—that he might be in Heaven for the Feast of the Assumption. He was born in the year 1849, at Hertogenbosch, North Brabant, Holland, a member of an old and staunch Dutch Catholic family. He was educated for the priesthood in the City of Bruges and ordained there when he had finished his studies.
Immediately after his ordination he volunteered with a number of other young priests for the Scottish Mission, at that time urgently in need of priests, and on his arrival in Glasgow he was sent by Archbishop Eyre to St. Patrick’s, Coatbridge, as assistant to Canon O’Keefe. At that time he was 25 years of age. Five years later he was appointed to the charge of St. Aloysius’, Chapelhall. It was during his incumbency that the beautiful Catholic church that stands there was erected—a monument to his zeal for the beauty of God’s House. He remained in charge of the Chapelhall Mission for a period of about i. years, after which he was appointed M.R. of St. Margaret’s, Airdrie, after the death of Canon Macintosh. In the year i 917 he was made a Canon of the Cathedral Chapter, to the great joy of his people and his numerous clerical friends, but he still retained his popular name, Father Van. In 1924 he attained the golden jubilee of his priesthood, and he has been for some years the oldest of the priests of the diocese. These are some of the outstanding dates and happenings of his life. There was nothing very remarkable about that life, but the same may be said of the lives of many of God’s hidden saints. The same has often been said of one of the latest saints to be canonised, St. Teresa, or the Little Flower of Jesus. He was not in the ordinary sense of the word a public man. Indeed, he was rather shy and retiring in his disposition, but this characteristic did not prevent him from taking his place at meetings when occasion called for his presence, and no one who has been-present with him at such meetings could help being struck by the strength of his convictions and the energy with which he gave utterance to them. He liked to have the opinions of his friends on public affairs of interest, and he would enter into discussion with them with eagerness and zest, hut always with evenness of temper. During the critical period preceding the transfer of our schools from our own Catholic management to the management of the public authorities, he used to discuss the pros and cons of the proposed change with such fullness and energy as showed his thorough grasp of this important subject, as well as his anxious watchfulness and preoccupation for the future welfare of our Catholic schools and the safeguarding of the faith of our Catholic children. On matters of principle he was absolutely inflexible. Once he had made up his mind that a certain course of action was right, he could not be diverted from that course by any consideration whatever. Yet this firmness of character was associated with a gentleness of manner which was one of his most amiable characteristics. He was never daunted in the face of difficulties. “Enough for the day is the evil thereof!” seemed to be an axiom of his life, and so he was not discouraged by the thought of what difficulties the unrevealed future might have in store, but was content for the time being to surmount the difficulty that presented itself in tangible shape.
His outlook was always bright and his hearty laugh and kindly smile often did much to restore equanimity to those who went to him with drooping spirits. It might indeed be said that his outlook on life was always fresh and youthful. He was, even in his last years, always concurrent with the latest inventions of science, and he could enjoy a popular entertainment with a zest which many a much younger person might have envied, and which showed how unspoiled and childlike was his faculty for innocent enjoyment. It is little wonder that young priests loved his company and felt so much at home with him. He had to make no effort to make them feel at their ease. His geniality was so spontaneous, his welcome so cordial, his advice when sought, as it often was, so kindly given and withal with such evident prudence and earnestness that they felt that they had in him a counsellor and friend. He spared himself no trouble in helping to smooth out the difficulties that his fellow-priests would ask his advice upon, whether about parochial administration or the management of schools. There was no presbytery in the diocese where the clergy were more welcome and where they felt more at home than that of Airdrie, and Canon Van Stiphout was the magnet of attraction. It was not a matter of surprise to so many of the clergy who thus came to know the Canon intimately, that he was beloved by his people. For those amiable and sound qualities of mind and heart that he showed in his relations with his brother priests could not but manifest themselves in his intimate relations with the members of his flock.
He prepared his sermons well, so as to serve to his people the message of the Gospel in palatable form. His sermons for the most part took the form of instructions which it was easy to follow, so carefully and logically were they drawn up. You, my dear brethren, know how conscientious he was in breaking to you the Bread of Life. He was most exemplary in the decorum with which he ministered at the altar and offered up the Holy Sacrifice, yet his piety was too deep and genuine to be obtrusive. The genuineness of personal holiness is discovered more readily in private devotions and in duties which must of their nature bear the impression of the character of the person that performs them than in liturgical services, and in the case of your dead pastor it could be observed in his devotional attitude when he was making visits to the Blessed Sacrament, and in the recollection with which he said his prayers, as well as in the earnestness of speech in preaching and in private exhortation, in his instructions in the schools, in his assiduity in the confessional, in his attitude to the sick and dying. I have been much edified at different times in calling in to your church for a few moments in passing, late of a cold winter’s evening, to see in the dim light the venerable figure of Canon Van Stiphout kneeling before the tabernacle absorbed in prayer, or making the Way of the Cross, regardless of his ebbing strength and undaunted by the raw coldness of the atmosphere. This was no parade of devotion: This was genuine piety and the Recording Angel took account of it. His spirit of penance showed itself moreover in the strictness with which he always observed the Lenten fast, even when he had long passed the age at which the law of fasting is binding, if one were to fix on some one sphere of work in which his zeal was specially noticeable, I think it would be correct to say that that work was his regular Visitation in the homes of his peoples where he was always welcome with his cheery smile and his words of encouragement and consolation. True it is that for the past few years he had not been able to get out and in among his beloved people as he would have liked, but not many years have passed since there were only two priests in St. Margaret’s Parish, both of them advanced in years and in the decline of their physical powers—Father Van and Father Doody—and it is really marvellous how much they were able to accomplish in the way of systematic visitation, attending sick calls, and taking up the Easter and Christmas collections.
One marvels all the more in the case of Father Van Stiphout when one reflects on how he could always find time to be hospitable to his many friends among the clergy who were attracted to him by his amiable personality. Need more be said? I have tried to trace in brief outline the priestly career and the salient features of the life and character of your dead pastor as they are impressed upon my mind. You also were familiar with his charm of manner. You know the strength of his noble characters you know how devoted he was to each of you, how he laboured for your welfare, how he loved you all. He had a long life as a priest and it was all spent in the service of the Divine Master. He has fought a great. fight, often fighting bravely when his strength was failing. He has kept -the faith instinct with the love of God and rich in good works. He has laboured during his ministry to keep you strong in- your holy faith and pure and upright ii your normal lives. There is laid up for him a crown the Just Judge will render to him. But even good people, even exemplary priests can scarcely be without their imperfections in the of God, who is too pure to look upon iniquity, even that of imperfect love., There are heights of perfection to which their sublime vocation calls the clergy. In their human weakness they may not always have the courage to ascend to these lofty heights. Their very amiabilities may cause them to stumble and to desist for a time from the steep ascent. Jesus and His Holy Mother are the only sinless ones amongst all mankind. All the rest of us are conceived in sin. We are all prone to evil. We are all sinners and all need the mercy of God. Let us ask our Divine Lord, who knows the clay of which we are formed, and who has compassion on our infirmities, to have mercy on the soul of His priest Hubert Van Stiphout. We have loved him in life. In death we will not forget him. We will remember him in our prayers and in the Holy Sacrifice, earnestly beseeching the Almighty Father to hasten the time of his release, if haply he is detained in the purifying flames of Purgatory, and to grant him a place of refreshment, light and peace, through Christ our Lord. Amen. May he rest in peace. Amen.
Shortly after the close of the Mass, the funeral cortege was formed in Hallcraig Street. A hearse stood outside the church gate, and there was a line of carriages and motors drawn up almost to the bottom of the street. The coffin was borne to the hearse by members of St. Vincent De Paul Society as pallbearers, with Bailie George Mulvey, J.P., their President, at the head, and Mr. Van de Reydt, Dundee, a life-long friend of the late Canon. The Procession was headed by the Crucifix and Acolytes, the school children (under Mr. McGovern, headmaster, and other teachers), and the Boys’ Guild. The hearse followed, escorted by the leading office- bearers of St. Vincent De Paul Society, the Men’s Sacred Heart Confraternity, the Women’s Sacred Heart Confraternity, the Men’s League of the Cross, invited guests, and the clergy.
Among other prominent gentlemen in the cortege were
Honorary Sheriff Knox, J.P., Provost Armour, J.P., Dean of Guild Cowie, ex-Bailie Agnew, J.P., Coatbridge; Mr. Andrew Aiston, Inspector of Poor; Dr. Mulvey, Chapel Street; Parish Councillors John Higgins, Edward Quinn, John Houston, James Cairney, William Erskine, Hugh Montgomery, James Mahon, D. M’Connachie, R. G. Sutherland; Mr. Walter Knox, Secretary, Airdrie Savings Bank; Mr. John Breen, Irish National Foresters, in which the late Canon took a great interest; etc.
The procession was of an imposing character, being nearly a mile in length, as it proceeded along Forsyth Street into Graham Street, across Bank Street, up South Bridge Street, Chapel Street, Aitken Street, and via Rawyards to St. Joseph’s Cemetery, Rochsoles. Very large crowds of the general townsfolk lined the streets on both sides during the progress of the cortege, paying silent and respectful tribute to the dead Canon. Many of the shops and houses along the route closed their doors and drew their blinds as the cortege passed, while the passing bell was tolled during the progress of the procession to the graveyard.
On reaching St. Joseph’s Cemetery, the coffin bearing the remains of Canon Van Stiphout was borne to the graveside by Brothers of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, and the Rev. Dean Muller, St. Augustine’s, Langloan, and Mr. Van de Reydt, Dundee, both old and intimate friends of the Canon. The pallbearers from the brothers of St. Vincent De Paul Society were as follows :—Messrs George Mulvey, J.P., President; John Paul, Vice-President; John Fitzpatrick, Secretary; James Sheehy, Treasurer; James Carr, Peter V. Mulvey, Michael Downie, and Chas. Downie, Jun.
The burial service was conducted by the Rev. Father Geerty in presence of a large assemblage of clergy and an immense crowd of the laity. The singing of the “Benedictus” and the “De Profundis” by the choir of priests was most impressive, and the strains of the beautiful Gregorian Chant produced, it was very evident, a sad echo in the hearts of many of those present.
As the grave closed in, the children led the vast crowd of people in singing hymns of petition for the souls of the departed, and then quietly, slowly, and sadly each went his way, leaving the old Canon at rest, in the spot that he had chosen. May he rest in peace.
Only a few inches of clay separates the mortal remains of the two venerable priests who for 27 years lived together beneath the same roof and worked together, wholehearted and unsparingly, for those committed to their charge. Though they have departed from our midst, the presence of the Canon and Father Doody seems to pervade both church, and house, and school, and parish; it is these names that come most readily to the lips of the people. It may happen, perchance, that children of St. Margaret’s, gone far afield and growing old, will pause to read these written words. Let these written words, then, be as the tones of St. Margaret’s bell calling them to pray—to pray for the two good priests who rest side by side in the graveyard at Rochsoles. To St. Margaret’s children, in distant foreign lands, there must come at times visions of the old home, of Hallcraig Street and the old school, of the dear old church wherein they often prayed, of the altar and the altar rail where they made their first Communion. For them no bell will ever sound so sweet as the bell of their own St. Margaret’s; no church will possess such hallowed memories or be so dear as the old church at home. It may happen, perchance, that kneeling in some magnificent church and before some beautiful altar, but far from home, there will arise a vision of the altar in old St. Margaret’s, with old Father Van saying his Mass. May they remember then to breathe a prayer for their devoted priests who are dead. And if at times the eyes cloud with tears at the remembrance of bygone days, may they remember to say: “God be with the old home and all its hallowed memories.”
Father Matthew Doherty
It is extremely sad that we have to add to this memorial one other name. When Father Doody had gone to his reward and the old Canon was worn out physically, there came to St. Margaret’s a young Irish priest, newly ordained—with all a newly-ordained priest’s zeal and enthusiasms. Father Doherty was ordained at Maynooth in the June of 1923, and came to Airdrie to assist Canon Van Stiphout.
He got down to his work at once, but in a very short time, owing to circumstances, he found himself called upon, young and inexperienced as he was, to fill a very difficult position—one that required great tact at all times, and frequently demanded rapid and clear judgment and decision. His natural kindliness of disposition, his youth, and his priestly spirit drew the people towards him, disarmed opposition, simplified his difficult task, and made his work fruitful. But the more brilliantly a candle burns the more quickly it burns itself out.
Father Doherty’s steadiness and judgement were far beyond his years. He was burning out too quickly. To the regret of everyone, from the aged Canon to the young school-child, he was recalled in January, 1926, to his native Diocese of Kerry. His heart was sore leaving the Catholics of Airdrie, and it was with great delight he received from them an invitation to return for a short visit in June. When he arrived, however, everyone was appalled at the change wrought in him in so short a time. It was but too evident that the young priest was doomed. Only a few days after the Canon had gone forth, Father Doherty, the young man who had come so full of hope and promise, followed his aged parish priest.
It came as a great shock to the people of St. Margaret’s when the news arrived that their young priest had died on 1st September in St. Patrick’s Hospital, Cork.
In distant Kerry there is another grave, the resting-place of another Airdrie priest. Without doubt it will be visited by Airdrie Catholics who do not forget things and who will kneel there and pray, as memory brings up again the kindly, pleasant face of the young priest. Solemn Requiem Mass was celebrated for Father Doherty at St. Margaret’s, on 11th September. Father McLaughlin, a classmate, and ordained with him, was celebrant, with Fathers Cummins and Sweeney, college friends, as deacon and sub-deacon.
Father Doherty had died a saintly death, full of resignation to the will of God. What though the course was short, he had run it well. One of his last dying messages was to the priests and people of St. Margaret’s, Airdrie, asking them to pray for him. We are confident that his dying request will not be left unanswered. May the Divine Master give him eternal rest and a place near to His throne.