Vet­eran priest sur­vived tragedy

Lennox Herald - - OBITUARY - Bill Heaney

The Rev JamesVin­cent Reilly Par­ish priest and Glen Cinema disas­ter sur­vivor Born May 5, 1919, in Pais­ley Died June 28, 2016, in Cardross Fa­ther James Reilly, who was the old­est re­main­ing sur­vivor of the Glen Cinema disas­ter in which 69 chil­dren per­ished, has died. He was 97. Fa­ther Reilly died at his home in Cardross af­ter a short ill­ness and on the eve of the 71st an­niver­sary of his or­di­na­tion to the priest­hood for the Arch­dio­cese of Glas­gow.

He had served as a priest in three Dun­bar­ton­shire parishes, start­ing with St Stephen’s in Dal­muir, Cly­de­bank, im­me­di­ately fol­low­ing his or­di­na­tion by Arch­bishop Don­ald Camp­bell at St An­drew’s Cathe­dral in Glas­gow on June 29, 1945.

Other parishes in­cluded St Anne’s, St Lau­rence Mar­tyr, St Mary Im­mac­u­late, Our Lady and St Mark’s, Alexandria, St Barn­abas and St Lucy’s, Cum­ber­nauld, from which he re­tired in 1984.

Fa­ther Reilly was Glas­gow’s old­est priest.

He was a man of sharp in­tel­lect and kept up to date with modern com­mu­ni­ca­tions tech­nol­ogy to the end.

He cel­e­brated his 70th an­niver­sary of or­di­na­tion to the priest­hood last year when there was a Mass for ju­bi­lar­i­ans in the cathe­dral. He could not at­tend be­cause of phys­i­cal frailty but told Arch­bishop Philip Tartaglia that he would fol­low the Mass on the live we­b­cam.

The Arch­bishop saluted him at the Mass and he said he waved back when the Arch­bishop ad­dressed him di­rectly.

Fa­ther Reilly, who was brought up in Pais­ley, was just 10 years old when the Glen Cinema tragedy hap­pened in 1929.

He had gone with around 1000 other ex­cited chil­dren to see a Western called ‘Des­per­ado Dude’, which was show­ing at a mati­nee on Hog­manay, 1929.

Within a short time of the film start­ing smoke from a reel of film be­gan fil­ter­ing from the pro­jec­tion room into the packed cinema and panic en­sued.

The chil­dren who died lost their lives when the au­di­ence rushed to the ex­its in a des­per­ate ef­fort to es­cape and they were tram­pled un­der­foot.

Hun­dreds more suf­fered smoke in­hala­tion in­juries or were in­jured, many of them se­ri­ously, as they pushed to get through the locked doors.

Some of the young­sters suf­fo­cated while oth­ers were tram­pled to death against the locked doors as they fled a fire that never was.

Years later Fa­ther Reilly told his lo­cal news­pa­per, the Pais­ley Daily Ex­press, that he had been pro­nounced dead and taken to the mor­tu­ary.

He said: “My mother was in­formed I had died and that my body was in the mor­tu­ary. How­ever, when I woke up there was a nurse pump­ing away at my chest.

“I was in the base­ment of the mor­tu­ary and there were other chil­dren ly­ing around me. “They had been looked at by the doc­tors and were prob­a­bly all dead but this nurse must have passed close to me and, by luck, she saw some flicker of life in me.

“The next thing I re­mem­ber was wak­ing up in a bed in a hospi­tal cor­ri­dor.

“I must have blacked out again be­cause I don’t know how I got there.”

He told friends he was the luck­i­est man alive.

The then news­pa­per de­liv­ery boy was left with both men­tal and phys­i­cal scars af­ter the tragedy, which is re­mem­bered to this day in Pais­ley as Black Hog­manay.

He said: “Af­ter what had hap­pened to me I was afraid to go to the foot­ball and the cinema be­cause, ev­ery­where I went, I was look­ing for ex­its. I’ve never for­got­ten that dread­ful day and I never will.”

The Glen Cinema in­ci­dent is con­sid­ered one of Scot­land’s worst hu­man dis­as­ters.

Fa­ther Reilly, whose fam­ily were Ir­ish im­mi­grants to Scot­land, was a quiet, highly ed­u­cated man and a car­ing pas­tor who touched the lives of many peo­ple who came into con­tact with him.

His fu­neral Mass, which took place at St Michael’s Church, Dum­bar­ton, on Fri­day, was con­cel­e­brated by Arch­bishop Tartaglia

and his fel­low priests of

Disas­ter 69 chil­dren died try­ing to es­cape from a fire

Death scene The Glen Cinema in Pais­ley

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.