History of St. Machan's, Lennoxtown

St. Machan's, Campsie

An account of the life of St Machan is given in Latin in the Aberdeen Breviary, an ancient church prayer book. It was translated by Father John Honorius Magini, Parish Priest of St Machan's from 1866 until 1881 and an excellent classical scholar. Father Magini's translation was used by local historian John Cameron in a lecture to the Campsie Mechanics Institution, on 4th December 1885

"Machan was well born of parents of Scottish descent. In his youth he was trusted to Irish preceptors to be educated by them in bonus artibus, literally in the `good arts'. Under their teaching he soon reached an advanced stage of virtue and learning. By continued practice of corporal austerity and study he cultivated his intellect, while by moderation he preserved his physical health. He confined his pursuits of knowledge mainly to those sciences best adapted to the gaining of souls to God, which was continued in all the subsequent acts of his life. Having become well learned in the Christian faith, he left Ireland, desirous by teaching and preaching to instruct those in Scotland amongst whom he had been born, who were living in Pagan darkness. He persevered in subduing his flesh by assiduous work and prayer night and day. Afterwards he went to Rome on a pilgrimage, and there, on account of his own merits, was invested with episcopal dignity much against his will, although his great merits entitled him to honour and pre-eminence. His modesty was as great as his meekness, which caused him to think of himself last, and as the servant of all. His compassion towards the wretched was as great as his modesty. Thus divine grace and supernatural power were granted to him on account of his virtue, by which he wrought several miracles. One is reported which deserves mention. He kept some cattle for the cultivation of land, using the produce chiefly for the benefit of the poor. He had a yoke of oxen which some robbers had stolen. Machan was informed of this by a servant, and he betook himself to prayer. The robbers could not be pursued on account of the distance, but the virtue of his prayer overtook them and the oxen suddenly disappeared, being, as the robbers thought, turned into stones."

Unfortunately, no information is given in the Breviary concerning the specific period of years when St Machan lived and flourished, or even the century. However, Forbes' Kalendar of Scottish Saints suggests that Machan was a disciple of St Cadoc, a Welsh prince born in AD514. The entry for St Machan in the Kalendar is quite brief:

"St. Machan was early sent to be trained in Ireland. He addicted himself to nothing but what could benefit souls, and returning to his native land, he desired to teach his own countrymen, who were living in gentile ignorance, and forthwith he was raised to the priesthood that he might offer to God `worthy victims for his parents sins'. After traversing various provinces, preaching and exhorting, he went on pilgrimage to Rome, where against his will he was raised to the episcopal office. He was gifted with the power of miracles, one of which was that certain oxen of his that were stolen by robbers, were in their presence turned into stone. He was a disciple of St. Cadoc. He was buried at Campsie in Lennox."

Forbes' dating would place St Machan in the late sixth century—a very interesting period when Christianity was being introduced into different parts of Scotland by St Columba and St Mungo. St. Machan could, perhaps, have brought the Christian message to Campsie at this time. However, it should be mentioned that another authority, the sixteenth century historian Adam King, located Machan in the ninth century AD. The Breviary, Forbes' Kalendar and Adam King all concur in giving Machan's Feast Day as 28th September, probably the day of his death. St Machan is associated with several other localities in Scotland, besides Campsie. These include Dalserf (Lanarkshire), Ecclesmachan (West Lothian) and Clyne (Sutherland). The later years of his life, however, seem to have been spent at his primitive cell or monastery at the foot of Campsie Glen, and there he was buried. In Norman times, when the country was divided into parishes and each provided with a parish church, the site of the grave of St Machan was considered a suitable location for the Parish Church of Campsie. It was erected about the year 1175 and dedicated to the Saint. St Machan's Well, nearby, was widely known and often visited, until quite modern times.
From the middle years of the sixteenth century, the Reformation heralded a total eclipse of Roman Catholicism in Campsie. According to John Cameron's Parish of Campsie (1892), it seems to have been completely eradicated until the early years of the nineteenth century. At this period, Irish immigrants into Scotland found work as farm servants and labourers. In the Campsie area the bleach fields, chemical works and weaving and mining industries were all developing and expanding at the time. Many Irishmen found employment in these occupations. According to Cameron the first Irishman to settle in Campsie was a man named Felix McKewn who married a Haughhead woman and whose family grew up as protestants. Later on, about 1815, another Irishman, named Loughrey, found employment in Torrance and took up residence there. He worked with a man named Hume in mineral extraction, and in time further labourers were brought over from Ireland to work alongside him. As an Irishman, Loughrey was the centre of some attention and curiosity when he first arrived. At weekends groups of people from Lennoxtown would walk to Torrance to "stare at the stranger and hear him speak in his native brogue".
As the number of Irish immigrants steadily increased, the need for a Catholic church to meet their spiritual needs soon became apparent. In January 1831 the Rev. Dr McPherson was sent to Campsie by Dr Alexander Paterson, Vicar Apostolic of the Eastern District, to ascertain the number of Catholics in the locality. He consulted with families resident there as to the possibility of establishing a Mission. He determined that there were already about 1,000 Catholics in the area and reported this fact back to the Bishop. On 23rd January 1831, in a private house at Torrance, Dr McPherson celebrated Mass for the first time in Campsie since the Reformation - i.e. for the first time in 271 years. He also baptised three children.
Following Dr McPherson's visits and reports Bishop Paterson established a Mission "for the benefit of Irish Catholics employed in the public works of that Parish and neighbouring districts". This included Lennoxtown, Torrance, Kilsyth and . The Rev. Paul MacLachlan, newly ordained in Edinburgh, was sent by Dr Paterson to Campsie on 10th September 1831. According to John Cameron's Parish of Campsie, Rev. MacLachlan found religious prejudice so strong on his arrival that he was refused a night's lodgings at the public inn.There were many setbacks for the new Mission at Lennoxtown. The sudden demise of Bishop Paterson and the increased responsibilities
of Rev. MacLachlan, for Catholics scattered over other areas of Stirling, meant that the Mission was soon in a "very precarious state".
By 1839 Lennoxtown of Campsie was listed in its own right and not as part of Stirling in the Catholic Directory. Rev. Paul MacLachlan's successor, the Rev. Charles Green, made a heartfelt plea to his Administrators in his 1841 Mission Return: "I must clearly and distinctly state that if a Chapel be wanted anywhere it is in this Mission". The congregation were at that point worshipping in a "kind of weaver's shop" with a yearly rent of £10. Sadly, Rev.Green did not live to see the completion of a Church building. He was forced to retire, through ill health, and died on Christmas Day 1845, in Edinburgh. After many negotiations Bishop Andrew Carruthers eventually secured a plot of land for the Church, with a 99 year lease. This lease was signed on 29th August 1844. The feu was granted by John Lennox Kincaid Lennox of Woodhead and Kincaid. The extent of the ground was 2 roods, 15 poles, 13 yards imperial measure. The boundaries of the plot were (on the east) by a piece of ground held in lease by John Macpherson, (on the north) by the farm of Slatefield, (on the west) by ground held in lease by the heirs of the late Dr Robertson, (on the south) partly by ground belonging to John Lennox Kincaid Lennox, partly by the roadway of Croft Street, and partly by the northernmost house of Croft Street.


St. Machan's Church, Lennoxtown (Formerly St. Paul's), opened in May 1846, St. Machan's was one of the earliest post-Reformation Catholic churches in central Scotland.

Just fifteen years after the establishment of the local Mission, the Church of St Paul's, Lennoxtown of Campsie, was solemnly dedicated and opened by the Right Rev. Dr Carruthers, Bishop of Edinburgh and Eastern Scotland. The date was Sunday 24th May 1846, Feast of Blessed Virgin Mary, Help of Christians. The opening of this Church, in the year 1846, made it among the earliest post-Reformation Catholic churches to be built in central Scotland. Within a defined area between Edinburgh in the east and Paisley in the west, Stirling in the north and Airdrie in the south, the following Missions were established at the beginning of the nineteenth century: St Mirin's, Paisley, 1808; St Mary's, Edinburgh, 1813; St Andrew's, Glasgow, 1816; St Mary's, Stirling, 1838; St Francis Xavier, Falkirk, 1839; St Mary's, Abercromby Street, Glasgow, 1841; and St Paul's, Lennoxtown, 1846. In the corridor between the two cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh, the Catholic church at Lennoxtown was preceded only by the one at Falkirk.
Dr Carruthers believed strongly that "neat but plain churches erected in every locality where there are Catholics will promote the interests of religion more than splendid and costly establishments, confined merely to large towns". The Catholics of Campsie at that time had little money to spare and for this reason a substantial part of the funding for the building was provided by the Society of the Propagation of the Faith. The new Church, including Chancel and walls, was 100ft long by 40ft wide, conveniently accommodating 600 persons. The presbytery provided ample accommodation for two clergymen. At the official opening His Lordship was accompanied by the Rev. John Gillon, Parish Priest; the Rev. John Macpherson and the Rev. Stephen Keenan of Dundee, and the Rev. Paul MacLachlan of Falkirk, who had spent his early days as a priest ministering to the Lennoxtown people. The assembled congregation were welcomed by Dr Carruthers, who described the Ritual Service about to be performed, for the benefit of all present. When the Ritual Service was conducted the Bishop then celebrated High Mass. Mr Montignani of Edinburgh and Miss Margaret Lutenor were two of the distinguished musicians who contributed to the important day. The service closed with Pontifical benediction. The Rev. John Gillon later entertained the Bishop, other clergy and guests, at dinner.
When Mr Gillon was appointed to Campsie, one of his first thoughts was to establish a school, which he looked upon as essential to the interests of religion in a place where the Catholic population was so numerous. He applied to the Christian Brothers in Cork for a teacher educated and trained by themselves. The school was established during the year before the Church opened, with an average attendance of fifty children. Besides the Day School there was a Sunday School attended by about 150 young people. Although the Church was originally dedicated to St Paul, the Rev. John Honorius Magini, who during his time at Lennoxtown became intimately acquainted with the ecclesiastical history of the Parish, received permission from Archbishop John Strain, in 1881, to rename the Church after the local saint, St Machan.
Over its long history - St Machan's is the oldest Catholic church in the Strathkelvin District - the church has undergone numerous changes. These began in 1871 and have continued over the years. When the church was opened in 1846 it was described as a neat and plain building in accordance with the policy advocated by Bishop Carruthers. Peter Anson, the architectural historian, has described it as an experiment in what was then known as "Norman style", the principal feature of which was rounded arches and windows, as distinct from the more usual pointed ones (in Gothic style). In 1871 a church bell was installed at St Machan's. It was then a time to celebrate the conclusion of Vatican Council I and the declaration of Papal Infallibility which it formulated. The parishioners of Campsie gathered to hear Bishop Strain preach on the subject.
The changes began during the time of Father John Honorius Magini (1866-1889) at Lennoxtown. As mentioned earlier, one of his first acts was to obtain the Archbishop's permission to re-name the church "St Machan's". He then began his programme of alterations. The original Sanctuary had comprised a High Altar with the tabernacle as the central feature. He closed up the windows over the altar and placed a statue of St Machan in their place. Afterwards he put up statues of Our Lord and Our Lady of Lourdes, the latter in gratitude for his recovery from a severe illness after drinking some of the water from Lourdes. It was he who constructed the present ornamental wood ceiling (probably lower than the original one) and painted the interior from his own drawn-out designs.


Plaque commerorating
Rev. John Gillon,
St. Machan's Church

Memorial to
Rev. John Honorius Magini,
in St. Machan's.

A gallery which had been incorporated in the original layout was removed. Other changes instigated by Father Magini included the building of a porch, erecting the Calvary at the back of the church, also the Stations of the Cross, and the opening up of new window provision in the Sanctuary. This may have comprised the two stained glass windows on the right-hand side, hidden from view. One of these depicts St Joseph and the other St Francis Xavier. There are two other stained glass windows in the Sanctuary - one on the left-hand side depicting St Andrew, Patron of Scotland, and one on the right-hand side depicting St Patrick of Ireland. According to Father Magini's notes:
"the cost of this renovation and improvements amounted to nearly £1000 towards which the congregation contributed about £70".
He died on 1st February 1889, and in compliance with his own request was buried in the Lady Chapel.
Father Magini was succeeded by Monsignor Francis McKerrell (1889-1898), who according to his obituary made "certain expensive additions to the church". In order to strengthen the walls buttresses were erected all round the building, those in the corners being double and terminating in handsome and prominent turrets. An outside porch was also added, and an inside porch was converted into an organ & choir gallery. Re-opening services took place in October 1894. Admission to the morning service, to hear Bishop John Maguire of Glasgow preach the inaugural sermon, was by ticket only. According to the Kirkintilloch Herald of 17th October 1894 "The attendances were large and the collections liberal. Several gentlemen in the neighbourhood also sent liberal donations towards the expenses of the alterations". Canon Turner (pictured on the right) arrived as parish priest in 1903. During the period 1916-1924, when Father David Robertson was Parish Priest, cleaning, renovation and painting work was carried out by Messrs J.Clark & Sons of Dublin, at an estimated cost of £583 10s, raised by the congregation.
Although Canon Michael Whelahan came to St Machan's in 1936, he had to wait until after the War before continuing the alterations. The Centenary of the founding of the Mission was marked in 1946, when Canon Whelahan celebrated Solemn High Mass with Father Patrick Doyle of St Joseph's, Milngavie, Father John R.Tennant of St Ninian's, Kirkintilloch, and Father Michael Downey of St Patrick's, Kilsyth. The childrens' choir under Father Peter Donati, Senior Curate at St Machan's, took up the refrain of "0 Sanctissima" in response to the singing of Father Sydney McEwan, of St Andrew's Cathedral, Glasgow. A Solemn Benediction service was conducted in the evening. Throughout 1946 the parishioners of St Machan's had been contributing towards funds for the erection of a new altar. By the time of the Centenary over £1,300 had been raised. Further alterations followed, in preparation for the Consecration of the Church, which was scheduled for the feast of St Machan, in September 1949. The statue of St Machan was removed from above the High Altar and placed at the back of the Church. The ornate Sanctuary was altered to a much simpler form. The pulpit was renewed and altar rails containing plaques of the Four Evangelists were installed (these were later incorporated in a new lectern, designed by Monsignor James Brennan, in 1984). The Consecration was intended to be a most significant occasion in the life of
the parish, so further preparations were made, including redecoration, and the attaching of special candlesticks to the wall of the Church, at the points where anointing took place. The men, women and children of the parish gifted the monstrance, the chalice and the ciborium, at a cost of £27, £17 and £13 respectively. Although the War had finished, shortages were still evident, so a request was made for clothing coupons to renew vestments. The Centenary Fund Committee gathered monies from each household to pay for the renovations (a pre-requisite for Consecration, at the time, being that the Church was free of debt). Unfortunately, Canon Whelahan died on 11th September 1949, at Lourdes, only two weeks before the Consecration Ceremony was due to take place. The Consecration was accordingly postponed, and in fact was not carried out until 1986, thirty-seven years later.


Interior of St. Machan's Church. as laid out in Father Magini's time.
The figure of St. Macham is a central feature, with stained glass windows on either side, depicting St. Andrew and St. Patrick.

Father William (later Canon) Maccabe (1949-1979) replaced Canon Whelahan. A native of West Calder, he was educated at Blairs College and the Scots College, Rome, where he was ordained in 1922. After serving in many different parishes in the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh he came to St Machan's in 1949. The following year he was appointed a Canon of the Metropolitan Chapter of St Mary's Cathedral, Edinburgh, by Archbishop Andrew Joseph McDonald. During his three decades in Lennoxtown further changes were made. In February 1959 the Church was tastefully decorated. Following the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s he arranged for the altar to be moved forward, allowing the priest to face the people. In 1971, with the introduction of the New Liturgy, it was decided to make this altar (then only temporary) more permanent. The back was taken down, a plinth put in its place and the tabernacle placed there. The floor was raised, a new lighting system installed and the altar furniture replaced; work was completed in October 1971. One task which Canon Maccabe loved deeply was to visit people in their homes. He also paid regular visits to the younger members of the congregation, at St Machan's Primary School, and to the patients at Lennox Castle Hospital. A devout priest who loved to celebrate Holy Mass and say his breviary and prayers, he was considered by some to be old-fashioned and out-of-date. But as Archbishop Keith O'Brien pointed out at his Requiem Mass "the Canon was only old fashioned and out of date if it is old fashioned and out of date to pray, to visit one's people, to try to be a good priest". It was love of the exercise of his parish ministry that kept him working; it was love of the people of his parish and his desire to serve them. Thanks to the unfailing help of Father Daniel Boyd and later Father William Forrester, he was able to continue his work at Campsie into old age. He died in February 1979, at Leith.


Baptismal font at St. Machan's Church, Lennoxtown, 1995.
This font was formerly located at the old St. Machan's Church, Campsie Glen, later at Campsie High Church.

Canon Maccabe's successor as Parish Priest was Father John McAllister, who was born in Leith and educated at Blairs College and St Sulpice, Paris. He was ordained at Edinburgh in 1955. Following appointments in Falkirk and Edinburgh and a period in the missions of Nigeria, he came to Lennoxtown in 1979. During 1984 a most ambitious and comprehensive programme of renovations was carried out, under Father McAllister's guidance. The work was so extensive that the building was out of use for several months. Masses and other services—funerals, First Communions, Confirmations and weddings—were conducted in the church hall at this time. The work was completed by late 1984, in time for the official re-opening and blessing ceremony, conducted by His Eminence Cardinal Gordon Joseph Gray, on 2nd December 1984. Much of the work centred around the Sanctuary. The terrazzo paving was removed and the floor raised. The canopy over the altar and the alabaster in the Sanctuary were removed. The plinth and tabernacle were transferred to the Lady Altar and incorporated into new woodwork panels. The only decoration left was a large crucifix, with the two stained glass windows on either side. The wood panels were placed all round the church, including the Sanctuary. The Lady Altar was moved further down the right-hand side, along from the memorial to Father Magini. The seating was arranged in four sections (with the back seating raised) divided by a central aisle and transverse passage, forming a cross shape. The organ is located between the front and back seating. A glass panelled entrance porch provides protection from the main doors. Within it is a marble plaque dedicated to Rev. John Gillon (1845-1866), the first resident Parish Priest. The baptismal font, which has a stone base and wooden cover, is now in the centre of the church. It came from the original St Machan's Church at the Clachan of Campsie, and is of mediaeval date. The font was located at Campsie High Church, while that church was in use for worship, but following negotiations between Father McAllister and the Church of Scotland it was gifted to St Machan's at the time of the 1984 refurbishment. St Machan's was solemnly dedicated by Archbishop Keith Patrick O'Brien, on 27th September 1986.
Father McAllister moved to St Ninian's, Edinburgh, in 1987 and was succeeded by Father Thomas Power, who had been educated at St Modan's High School, Stirling, and the Dental College in Glasgow. After National Service in the Army he attended Osterley and St Edmund's College in Westminster, being ordained in 1956. He gained considerable experience in Edinburgh parishes over the years, working with students, youth clubs, hospitals and religious orders. He also worked as Chaplain to the Young Offenders Section of Saughton Prison and had involvement with the Catholic Marriage Advisory Centre, as well as fulfilling the role of Private Secretary to Archbishop Gray. A gentle giant (he was six foot four inches tall), he loved Lennoxtown—the parish, the church, the parishioners, the school, its teachers and its children. The whole community was deeply saddened by his passing in April 1994. The present Parish Priest, Father William Conway, is a native of Carfin. He was educated at Our Lady's High School, Motherwell, St Illtyd's College, Cardiff, St Mary's, Aberystwyth, and Drygrange, being ordained in 1968. Following appointments in various parts of the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh and a period as Professor at Drygrange, he came to Lennoxtown in 1994. At the time of writing St Machan's looks forward to commemoration of the 150th Anniversary of the opening of the Church, with a principal celebration on the Feast of St Machan, 28th September 1996.

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Brief History of Lennoxtown
(Newton of Campsie)
The focus of the Lennoxtown area, in former times, was the busy Lennox Mill, where tenants of the Woodhead estate brought their corn to be ground. There were several corn mills in Campsie Parish, but this was arguably the most important. Lennox Mill was located near the site of the recently demolished Kali Nail Works.

A significant event in the history of the locality was the opening, during the late 1780s, of the calico printing works at Lennoxmill, on a site adjacent to the old corn mill. Calico is a type of cotton cloth, and the printing of cotton cloth was soon established as a major industry in the area, also at Milton of Campsie. It was to provide accommodation for the block makers and other cotton printing workers that the village of Lennoxtown was established, during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Streets of houses were planned and built according to a formal plan. Lennoxtown was at first known as 'Newtown of Campsie', to distinguish it from the 'Kirktown' or 'Clachan' of Campsie, at the foot of Campsie Glen.

During the nineteenth century Lennoxtown grew to be the largest centre of population in Campsie Parish. Another important industry was soon established, namely a chemical works, by Charles Macintosh (of waterproof clothing fame) and his associates. At first the principal product was alum, a chemical employed in the textile industry. Alum schist, the basic ingredient in the process, was mined in the area. The works came to be known as the 'Secret Works', presumably because of the need to keep the industrial processes secret.

During the 1790s many of the Lennoxmill workers supported Thomas Muir of Huntershill in his campaigns to establish democracy in Scotland, and a Reform Society was set up in Campsie in 1792. However, the parish minister, the Rev. James Lapslie, saw to it that there was also some opposition to Muir's ideas in the area. An important milestone in the drive towards democratization was the establishment of a local co-operative society, the Lennoxtown Friendly Victualling Society, one of the earliest of its kind in Scotland, in 1812.

The growing importance of Lennoxtown was underlined by the removal of the Parish Church from the Clachan to the 'New Town' during the 1820s. Plans for the new church were prepared by David Hamilton, a well-known Glasgow architect. A Roman Catholic Church was erected in 1846 (originally St Paul's, later renamed St Machan's), one of the earliest post-Reformation Catholic churches in Scotland, apart from those in cities and large towns.

The decline of the industries that flourished during the nineteenth century, and also the later nail-making industry (and indeed the famous Victualling Society) has left Lennoxtown in a kind of post-industrial limbo, from which it has been difficult to escape. However, progress continues to be made, and many people have found the foothills of the Campsies at Lennoxtown an attractive location to set up home.

The focus of the Lennoxtown area, in former times, was the busy Lennox Mill, where tenants of the Woodhead estate brought their corn to be ground. There were several corn mills in Campsie Parish, but this was arguably the most important. Lennox Mill was located near the site of the recently demolished Kali Nail Works.

A significant event in the history of the locality was the opening, during the late 1780s, of the calico printing works at Lennoxmill, on a site adjacent to the old corn mill. Calico is a type of cotton cloth, and the printing of cotton cloth was soon established as a major industry in the area, also at Milton of Campsie. It was to provide accommodation for the block makers and other cotton printing workers that the village of Lennoxtown was established, during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Streets of houses were planned and built according to a formal plan. Lennoxtown was at first known as 'Newtown of Campsie', to distinguish it from the 'Kirktown' or 'Clachan' of Campsie, at the foot of Campsie Glen.

During the nineteenth century Lennoxtown grew to be the largest centre of population in Campsie Parish. Another important industry was soon established, namely a chemical works, by Charles Macintosh (of waterproof clothing fame) and his associates. At first the principal product was alum, a chemical employed in the textile industry. Alum schist, the basic ingredient in the process, was mined in the area. The works came to be known as the 'Secret Works', presumably because of the need to keep the industrial processes secret.

During the 1790s many of the Lennoxmill workers supported Thomas Muir of Huntershill in his campaigns to establish democracy in Scotland, and a Reform Society was set up in Campsie in 1792. However, the parish minister, the Rev. James Lapslie, saw to it that there was also some opposition to Muir's ideas in the area. An important milestone in the drive towards democratization was the establishment of a local co-operative society, the Lennoxtown Friendly Victualling Society, one of the earliest of its kind in Scotland, in 1812.

The growing importance of Lennoxtown was underlined by the removal of the Parish Church from the Clachan to the 'New Town' during the 1820s. Plans for the new church were prepared by David Hamilton, a well-known Glasgow architect. A Roman Catholic Church was erected in 1846 (originally St Paul's, later renamed St Machan's), one of the earliest post-Reformation Catholic churches in Scotland, apart from those in cities and large towns.

The decline of the industries that flourished during the nineteenth century, and also the later nail-making industry (and indeed the famous Victualling Society) has left Lennoxtown in a kind of post-industrial limbo, from which it has been difficult to escape. However, progress continues to be made, and many people have found the foothills of the Campsies at Lennoxtown an attractive location to set up home.

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