For many Glaswegians it was an all too familiar sight – a building steeped in history and tradition engulfed by flames while fire fighters fought to quell the blaze and local residents looked on in despair.

St Simon’s in Partick is the third oldest Catholic church in Glasgow. Originally named St Peter's, it has been a permanent fixture in Partick Bridge Street since 1858 and has served as a sanctuary for local parishioners ever since. Known locally as the Polish Church, the parish has been home to Glasgow’s Polish community since the Second World War when soldiers of the Polish Armed Forces, based at a drill hall in Yorkhill, needed a church following their escape from the Nazis. Such is the connection to the local Polish community that until the recent fire devastated the building, it held a Saturday Vigil and Sunday Mass where the service was said in Polish.

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It is that history and continued tradition that provides a backdrop and rationale as to why the church must be saved. Far too often, the easiest course of action is to demolish and rebuild, but with the right expertise and a will to do so, preservation is possible.

There are numerous examples across the city where buildings ravaged by fire have been saved. In the 90s, Sherbrooke St Gilbert’s was deemed beyond repair, but after a significant reduction in height it was saved and underwent restoration thanks to architect James Cuthbertson.

In 2001, a fire gutted the Bower Building of the University of Glasgow taking the roof, entire interior and large parts of the exterior with it, yet it was saved and remains in use to this day. More recently, after falling victim to arson, the Nithsdale Mission Hall in Strathbungo was made wind and watertight due to a grant from Glasgow City Heritage Trust and now stands magnificently in Glasgow’s Southside. These restorations are possible and the same should be done for St Simon’s.

It is indisputable that the damage to St Simon’s is extensive – the pictures and footage speak for themselves. Yet, from looking at the building it may still be salvageable and the option for restoration must be front and centre of plans moving forward. As a matter of priority, heritage accredited engineers should be commissioned in order to ensure maximum preservation is possible. I have no doubt that the Archdiocese will explore these options and I stand ready to help in whatever way I can.

There can be no doubt as to the importance of the parish to the local community. After the fire, parishioners gathered together in prayer on the street nearby; a symbol that despite the devastation, their faith is unwavering and their commitment to St Simon’s remains steadfast.

The Herald: St Simon's Church in 2018.St Simon's Church in 2018.

In Glasgow, we are rightly proud of our city’s heritage and architecture. To me, and to many fellow Glaswegians, our beautiful buildings and the history contained within are what contribute to our city being the best in the world. The challenge for our generation is how do we ensure that they are still there for future generations to enjoy and cherish as we do? Work on this has begun with organisations like Glasgow City Heritage Trust recently hosting a Conservation Conference to improve the skills of architects, surveyors and engineers in the city, but it is far from finished.

Thousands have chosen to make Glasgow their home, including the large Polish community in Partick. It is for them, and all parishioners of St Simon’s that we must fight to ensure restoration, not demolition of the building.