Prison officer's powerful testimony on St Thérèse visit to Barlinnie

William McGurk might have thought he'd seen it all having worked four decades at HMP Barlinnie, one of the UK's most notorious jails.

But the experienced prison officer was taken aback by the visit of the holy relics of one of the Catholic Church's most famous saints - Thérèse of Lisieux.

"I thought that was very spiritually uplifting," he told Sancta Familia Media. "A lot of the prisoners were saying that as well."

He added "I've been here 44 years and I'm retiring next year. I was here when Nelson Mandela came in to see Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi, I've been here when Princess Anne came in and I've been here when First Ministers and MPs have come into the prison.

"But this surpasses anything like that."

Journalist and historian Tim Stanley was also at Barlinnie to witness the historic visit. He said: "It's a tremendous honour to be here today, both to be with the relics of St Thérèse but also to be with the prisoners, to be invited into their home really - that's what it feels like.

"It was a great honour to be amongst them and wonderful to see them taking part in the Mass, taking part in the Eucharist and one senses being healed by that."

Sarah Angus, head of offender outcomes at the prison, said: "Regardless of whether people were religious or not, it's such an event for Barlinnie, it literally must be once in a lifetime.

"There's something special about the story of St Thérèse which I've been learning so much about - her affinity with prisoners - and I think the thought of hope and change is something we very  much want to promote with the guys who are serving time with us."