History

Work on the Carfin version of the Lourdes Grotto began in the early 1920s. The shrine was built, by hand, by local parishioners on a site opposite the St. Francis Xavier's parish Church. Many of the builders were coal miners from Carfin and neighbouring villages out of work during the 1921 Coal Miners' Strike. It is said that Fr. Taylor was aware of the need to keep these workers occupied to minimise the effects of unemployment on their morale. Fr. Taylor inspired hard work and dedication from his workers.

Starting with a bare field in 1920, a frantic period of endeavour driven by the faith and zeal of the volunteers resulted in the shrine being largely complete within two years. It officially opened in 1922. The grotto's central scene depicted Our Lady's appearance to Saint Bernadette in a bricked, terraced garden which included an altar for outdoor Mass, when the West of Scotland weather allowed. Canon Taylor's book of the shrine's first thirty years records over 300 volunteers working on the grotto in its first two decades. He also records a single pilgrimage of over fifty thousand pilgrims in 1924.

The shrine opened in late 1922 and it quickly became a pilgrimage site for Catholics from across Scotland and the rest of the world. Services were held for the Polish and Lithuanian communities that had settled in Scotland. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims of different faiths have visited Carfin.

The shrine expanded beyond a single field to many acres between 1922 and the 1960s. The grotto later added a Glass Chapel situated on a raised "Headland" above the main pilgrim walkway. The grotto grounds house many life-size depictions of Christ, Our Blessed Lady and many saints. It also contains a life-size representation of Jesus' life with Mary and Joseph in their Loretto house and carpentry shop, which is depicted in a cave; a Reliquary; as well as a sunken garden. Many holy statues and artifacts were added to the central Lourdes Grotto scene. Other depictions include the Way of the Cross, a large number of statues of Saints, and a statue honouring Our Lady, Star of the Sea, complete with miniature lakes.

On Sunday afternoons at 3pm, between May and October, Rosary processions are held. These are traditionally attended by thousands of visitors. The rosary is led by the parish priest, a tradition started by Fr. Taylor and carried on by his successor, Fr. George Mullen (later Canon George Mullen). The priest would stand on the parapet of the Glass Chapel, from which a clear view could be obtained, both of the Grotto itself and of the movement of the procession along the shrine's gravel paths. Each Sunday procession culminated in Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament in the upper Glass Chapel. Many local people remember the discomfort of kneeling in the gravel as children, at the moment of adoration in the Benediction service.

By the time of Canon Taylor's death in 1963, the Carfin Lourdes Grotto enjoyed a high national profile and attracted tens of thousands of pilgrims annually. Among the many seasonal pilgrimages to the shrine, each May, First Communicants from surrounding diocesan parishes visited for procession, with lines of white-dressed girls and school-blazered boys. As the region is rich in Irish immigrants, local Hibernian groups attended the shrine annually on procession. Lithuanian and Polish groups also attended the shrine on annual pilgrimage.

Father Taylor blesses the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes on Sunday 1 October 1922