The parish debt now stood at £25,000, some £500,000 in today’s money.
The anxieties which the prospect of this debt had caused in 1938 had led to the cancellation of the contract for the presbytery; yet, once building had started, money was subscribed so generously that the presbytery was given the go-ahead and the priests moved into our present “Clergy House” on 19th June 1939. It was built for £2000.
In September war broke out. The debt once again became a source of worry, with the absence of so many wage-earners in the Services.
Then came what Fr. Fitzgerald called “manna from Heaven” — the Eyre bequest. The sum came to £9,500; the debt was no down to £16,000. With the bequest came the obligation to change the dedication of the church from Our Lady of Compassion to St. Mary Magdalen. This did not take place without protest. In August 1943 Fr. Fitzgerald was transferred to Commercial Road; “Our Lady was cross with me”, he would say, “and gave me a kick in the pants!” Firebombs landed on the roof of the church, but they did nothing on the concrete.