Ayr Cathedral & Paisley Abbey and Cathedral
Ø August 1 Ayr and Paisley (Thursday) More pictures can be found here.
Organizing this trip for Britain and Ireland, my plan had been to leave Glasgow to take the train first to Paisley and then to Ayr, before going a bit further south to catch the ferry from Cairnryan to Belfast. When my plans changed to return to Florida from Glasgow, I still had the two Catholic cathedrals in southwest Scotland on my list. My last full day was then about going and taking photos of them; Mandra would have a day to plan for herself, away from all of my churches.
After breakfast buffet, I took off for Glasgow Central to catch the 9:34 south to Ayr. The previous day I’d written a page and a half in notes. While on the 50-minute train ride, I filled as much with my musings! The cathedral there is on John Street across from the River Ayr before it empties into the Firth of Clyde. Set about midway between rail stations, I rode to the actual #Ayr stop. Crossing the river upstream on Station Road, passing the College, I had to maneuver the 270° of a rotary to get down to the Cathedral Church of St Margaret. Exposition following 10am Mass was just ending, so I was able to enter and get my pictures. Good timing on my part, as the church was to be locked up when all the parishioners left.
As the cathedral for the diocese of Gallaway, #StMargaret’s had been raised to this position in 2007, replacing the Good Shepherd Cathedral, also in Ayr, which has now been razed. This church has a capacity of 350, hence is small. An open nave, wooden pews fill the space from the entrance off John Street and under the rear gallery to the cross before the sanctuary. Side chapels fill the transepts. The back wall below the crucifix and two paired lancet stained-glass windows over the nine wooden chairs lining the wall, including a plain cathedra. With bare white walls, except the modern Stations and three windows, the focus is to the altar. The side chapels are the Blessed Sacrament and the Virgin Mary.
Three modern and brightly colored stained-glass windows caught my eye. The blue one, a cascade, was a gift from America, in memory of the 1988 #Lockerbie bombing. I had had a conversation with a woman as I entered, and as I was preparing to exit, she came up to me with her email address. We had talked about St Luke’s In Glasgow, and about the 7 Greek Orthodox cathedrals that I’d visited in London. She was hoping to see some pictures, so I sent her to my first English blog and my Facebook pictures of St Luke from the day before.
Looking at Google Maps, I could continue John Street around to the Newton-on-Ayr station or cross the River Ayr on a pedestrian bridge (Old Bridge Street) and return through downtown Ayr. I opted for the latter, as I knew there would be a train north from Ayr, but couldn’t be sure from the other. The bridge afforded great views of the river and surrounding buildings, as it was another perfect day. Turning southeast on High Street, I spent 30p at the public facility. I popped into a clothing shop to check out kilts (on sale) but none were my waist size (thank goodness.)
Catching the 12:06 to #Paisley Gilmore, again 50 minutes, I passed Prestwick with its two seaside golf courses. From the station, the cathedral is pretty much due east, near the tracks. But there are no direct streets, so Google Maps confused the heck out of Wrong Way Ken, and I wound up coming upon #PaisleyAbbey first. Not on my radar, it should have been. A stunning twelfth century church with a massive central tower at the crossing, this was the base of six of the High Stewards, all buried here. Acutely involved in both Scottish and English history, it, like many old churches, spent 300-plus years without a roof over the choir and the nave used as a Church of Scotland parish church following the Reformation.
Entering the church, the main aisle walls immediately grabbed my attention, drawing my view to the wooden ceiling. In a tie to my adolescent days, on a wall was a bronze plaque
honoring John Witherspoon, a Scotsman from Paisley who signed the Declaration of Independence as a New Jersey representative; he is buried in the cemetery down the street where we lived in Princeton. Walking down the nave aisle, the high ceiling at the crossing under the tower has a window open to the sky. (The Pantheon?
On into the choir, which is longer but narrower than the nave. Wooden stalls line either side, with the organ on the south side. The ceiling has fan vaulting with numerous carved bosses. The east window of nine lights is Victorian, over a carved wooden canopy protecting the stone communion table. Carvings of angels bearing shields are fitted at the bottom of the columns. There are some interesting stained-glass windows in the nave.
Taking off again in the wrong direction, I crossed the White Cart Water and got as far as St Matthew’s Church (Church of the Nazarene), only to return to the abbey. Northeast, after crossing the A726, I finally found the Cathedral Church of Saint Mirin. With two rows of windows, the building is tall and square, with an orange-ish brown sandstone façade. The main entrance of three doors face south to the roadway. I walked around it, searching for an open door, finding a side door on the east side near the rectory. The nave is unbroken, a wide space with a white arched ceiling. Gray stone arches yield a narrow aisle on either side. Two side chapels have altars to the Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Conception.
The sanctuary is framed with a deep red arch and the semi-octagonal apse is gray-white Italian marble. The main altar is carved stone, set forward per Vatican II. The cathedra, a marble chair, is placed with its back directly in front of the tabernacle, under a baldachin. This looked so awkward, when I left I went and asked about it at the diocesan office, where I was then sent to the rectory. Father Jonathan confirmed it was indeed difficult, particularly when the bishop was present. He also questioned me on my previous European trip to Spain – he wanted my take on the cathedrals there. I noted that I found this conversation to be a great ending for my journey.
When the train got me back to Glasgow Central, I inquired about the bus service to the airport, was told that the pickup point was just outside. Of course, it was on the far side from the hotel, and I was never able to actually find it. I set off on a new mission. Wednesday had been Mandra’s birthday, and I wanted to see if I could find a bottle of English sparkling wine. I stopped in every local package store and liquor shop as I walked. Finally, I got smart and entered M&S. Marks and Spencer, as it used to be called, is a major department store. In most locations, if large enough, there is a grocery and liquor section. And I found an affordable bottle to bring back. At Rab Ha’s I asked them to chill it for us.
Mandra was in the room, organizing her packing, so I figured to give her space. I left the pub and went to BrewDog across the street, as I wanted to drink something other than the two ales I’d been drinking. With a 5am Saint (IPA), I continued my journaling. At that point, I had nearly 4 pages filled. I texted Nancy, my driver, to let her know all was on track for my Saturday pickup. I did some online research to figure out how the VAT refund process was done, coming to the conclusion that it needs to be initiated at each store. I figured I could just wait and see what happened at the airport, as we’d have plenty of time.
We decided to celebrate her birthday and find a different restaurant. Walking up the street, Mediterraneo was on the corner, and we could get a table. I started with a tempranillo rosado from Campo Azafran in La Mancha. We split a bruschetta caprese. The fresh mozzarella had good flavors, but could have used a touch more garlic. My main was Scialatielle with baby broccoli and Tuscan sausage. The pasta was spicy, really good and great with some additional parmesan cheese.
Returning to the hotel, the pub was very busy, so we returned to the room to finish packing. I had been slightly overweight with my luggage on arrival, and with a copy of my book and a bottle of Scotch, I was heading for fees. I did get a small roll-on bag, and I was going to leave a pile of dirty laundry behind. Plus Mandra had similar potential problems, so we were moving stuff around, putting books in the little roller with my brass knocker. The backpack would hold the electronics, a change of clothes, toiletry bag.
About 9:40 we went back to the bar. It had emptied out, so I asked the help, with whom we’d established good terms, to join us in drinking the bottle of bubbly to celebrate Mandra’s birthday. Once we’d finished it off and closed out the bar, we headed up for the night.