The Denaby Roman Catholics – Achievements of 30 Years – Victory for Religious Education

September 1926

Mexborough and Swinton Times September 17, 1926

The Denaby Roman Catholics
Achievements of 30 Years
Victory for Religious Education

The new elementary day school which the Roman Catholics have erected at Denaby Main, which will shortly be opened by the Bishop of Leeds, puts the coping stone on some splendid constructive work done by the Roman Catholics in that district.

32 years ago, when the late Father Kavanagh came to Denaby, after a spell in the Australian Bush, he had to create an organisation out of the void. He lived in a cottage in the midst of his little colony of Roman Catholics, and after four years he had built a church for them, at a cost of £5,000. He had round him at that time only a score or two of parishioners. To build that church each Catholic contributed a shilling a week, and the scheme was also generously assisted by the Colliery Company and the two principal landowners.

The little community grew, and was beginning to thrive when the strike of 1903 give it a terrible setback, and a good many faithful Catholics had perforce to depart in search of work elsewhere. Nevertheless father Kavanagh set himself patiently to rebuild the parish, and eventually regained the lost ground. The war brought further difficulties and grief, and soon after the war Father Kavanagh, broken by age and toil, retired, and was succeeded by Father Leteux, a man of extraordinary vigour and zeal.

Father Kavanagh live to see the golden jubilee of his own priesthood, on which occasion he received an eliminated address from the parishioners, who previously, on his retirement, had made him a handsome present. The proudest moment of the old priest’s life was a celebration of the Silver Jubilee of the church which he had founded. This took place on June 22, 1923 when Dr Cowgill, Bishop of Leeds, celebrated Pontifical High Mass and the sermon was preached by Cardinal Borne.

A Pioneer

Father Kavanagh’s successor, the Rev Charles Leteux, had gained fame throughout the West Riding for his spirited and energetic efforts for Catholic education, which brought him into conflict with the undenominational policy of the West Riding County Council. He came to Denaby from Hemsworth, and while at Hemsworth he engaged in a number of contests with the West Riding County Council in defence of the right of the Roman Catholics to separate denominational education. The school at Denaby Main is the fourth which has been built, mainly through the instrumentality of Father (now Canon) Leteux, and he has conducted the Roman Catholic case at eight or nine Board of Education enquiries, and conducted it, as is readily, if ruefully admitted at Wakefield, with singular eloquence and ability.

A Champion

Religious education is Canon Leteux’s principal subject, and his activity in promoting this branch of Catholic work proceeds from a burning conviction of the right and the duty of Catholics to have their children educated in their own faith. His first battle with the West Riding County Council took place in 1909. In an interview with a representative of this paper, he said, “I seem to have been fighting the County Council ever since then. The position is simply this: we believe in authoritative teaching, based on divine authority; the County Council’s teaching is based on mutual human opinion. The law provides for this conflict of view as to education, but in spite of that the County Council blindly oppose us whenever we seek to provide a school of our own, whether their own schools are full or not.

They ought to remember, among other things, that we are the only religious body now building schools. The others are not only ceased to build, but are beginning to give up those they have already built. We never give up and we never give in. We are not an ephemeral body, here today and gone tomorrow. We may be suppressed by force, as in Russia and in Mexico, and as in England nearly 400 years ago, but we rise again and go on and on even though we are able to force grudging recognition of our elementary schools, the authorities still refuse our right to make our own provision for higher education. They say we must use their secondary schools or non-at all. Their opposed us at Thrybergh about 40 years ago, but they had to give in, and we have our school there today. They opposed us at Edlington, but we shall get there sooner or later. Even when they are forcing to recognise our schools, they retain considerable control over them. They decide the qualification, status and salaries of our teachers; we have only the right to stipulate that they shall be Roman Catholic.

The County Council have their religion, and we have to pay rates and taxes in support of it. Therefore, we have the right to our own religion. Outside the West Riding, the authorities are much more tolerant of our rights. We have to pay every penny of the cost of the schools we build, after helping to pay through the rates, for all other schools. The County Council have tried to Prussianise us, but we are not going to have it.”


The Roman Catholic Church at Denaby is the desire of a considerable community of Roma Catholics, extending to Conisborough and to Mexborough, and since 1922, a second priest, Father Hudson has been appointed to help with the rapidly growing work. The last considerable work undertaken by the Roman Catholics at Denaby was a renovation and redecoration of their beautiful little church of St Albans, and in addition in 1922 of a commodious recreation club.

The new school provides accommodation for 440 children in two departments, junior and senior and a convent is being added to the school for the accommodation of the nuns, who will take charge of the junior department. The headmaster of the school is Mr J Bradley, at present of the staff of St Anne’s school Bradford