St Mary's left with no heat and light before Holy Week services

IT'S one of the most important times of the year for Christians around the world.

But Monsignor Michael Regan almost had to tell the congregation at St Mary's Catholic Cathedral that Easter was cancelled this year.

A power cut plunged the cathedral at the top of Broughton Street into darkness just minutes before a special mass was about to begin, forcing the faithful to rely on candlelight and Cardinal Keith O'Brien to raise his voice to compensate for the lack of a PA system.

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To make matters worse, the building was left without heat or light for two days, forcing the cafe to close and lose thousands of pounds of stock in its fridges.

Cathedral administrator Mgr Regan was close to calling off the cathedral's Holy Thursday service last night but finally decided to go ahead, conducting the service by candlelight and using a piano to substitute for the organ.

He was left hoping the power would be restored in time for today's Good Friday services at 3pm and 5pm, when a total of 1,200 people are expected to attend.

Mgr Regan said: "We were reaching the stage where we might have had to cancel Easter.

"We have already lost thousands of pounds of stock in our cafe because all the fridges have defrosted."

He said there was a partial power cut just before the mass at 7pm on Tuesday. Then the rest of the power was lost by 3am on Wednesday.

Nearby properties including the Conan Doyle pub and Osbourne Hotel are also understood to have been affected.

Major tram works are under way just yards from the cathedral door, but tram firm TIE insisted the power cut was nothing to do with it.

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In addition, Mgr Regan could not get through to ScottishPower for two days to find out what the problem was.

Eventually he was able to speak to someone who said the fault had been located and assured him every effort was being made to get the electricity back on as quickly as possible.

Cardinal O'Brien said it would have been a "terrible disappointment" not to be able to hold all the Easter services in the cathedral.

He said: "We were very lucky on Tuesday night in that with the help of candles, my loud voice and the organist playing a piano, we managed all right.

"But for the cathedral at Easter time, let alone the neighbouring properties, you would think something would have been done by this time.

"I conduct all our main Easter services at the cathedral. The rest of the year I travel round the archdiocese, from the north of Fife to the south of the Borders, but it would have been a big disappointment in my 25th year as a bishop if I was not able to conduct Easter services at the cathedral."

He said if last night's mass had been called off, worshippers would have been redirected to one of the other Catholic churches nearby, but "it would have been a bit of a guddle".

Mgr Regan said TIE had offered to lend the cathedral a generator. "It was a very kind gesture, but we decided to manage with what we had last night and hopefully we won't need it today," he said.