1978 Parish History Ch. 5



Featured image above: 1880s photo of the 1875 church and (1878?) presbytery. Priest and parishioner chatting. Bell tower at left.


On January 18, 1878, Bishop Lanigan and his twenty-three priests commenced a retreat in Goulburn. At the end of the retreat the bishop announced that he had appointed June 9 for the consecration of the diocese to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

This fact must have been in the minds of Corowa’s Catholics when their new church was blessed and opened in 1921, because high above the entrance to the church and overlooking the town they placed a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. There was no ready niche for it on their first church, which had been built three years before the announcement of the bishop.


A week prior to the retreat of the clergy, the bishop was present in St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney at the Investiture with the Pallium of the Archbishop of Sydney, Most Reverend Roger Bede Vaughan, O.S.B., who succeeded to the Archbishopric of Sydney on March 16, 1877, the second Englishman to fill that important position. He was to be followed by two Irishmen, His Eminence Most reverend Patrick Francis Moran and Most Reverend Michael Kelly before an Australian was appointed, His Eminence Sir Norman Thomas Cardinal Gilroy, K.B.E. in 1940.


A week after the retreat, on January 31, 1878, the bishop wrote in his diary, “Corowa a new District”. The district extended to a point eight miles on the Deniliquin side of Jerilderie; it included Urana, Jerilderie, Berrigan, Oaklands, and Goombargana. The district extended to a point fifteen miles on the Wagga side of Urana, and thence down to Quat Quatta on the Murray River and taking in Mulwala and Tocumwal on the river.

This was really the western section of the parish of Albury and seven parishes now occupy the original Missionary District of Corowa: Corowa, Urana, Berrigan, Tocumwal, Jerilderie, Finley and Mulwala.

It is interesting to note that today the Motor Mission Sisters cover the territory that comprised the original Missionary District of Corowa.


Within a fortnight word was received of the death of Pope Pius IX, whose occupancy of the chair of Peter was the longest in the annals of the papacy – 1846 to 1878, a period of thirty-two years. On the same day Bishop Lanigan appointed Father Michael Slattery to take charge of the Corowa District.


On February 20, Cardinal Joachim Pecci was elected pope, to be known as Leo XIII. He was an old man of sixty-eight, but he lived for another twenty-five years to bring, in a series of masterly encyclicals, new life and vigour into the Church.

Father Michael Slattery, V.G. (Vicar General of the diocese), was educated at Maynooth and ordained by Bishop Lanigan on November 1, 1869. He was an assistant priest in 1870 along with Fathers Patrick heard and John Gallagher. In 1873 Fr Slattery was transferred to Goulburn where he remained until 1876.

In that year he was appointed first Parish priest of Crookwell and from that position he was transferred to Corowa in 1878. He later had the distinction of opening two further parishes, Temora in 1881 and Narrandera in 1884.


Father Slattery, at his first Mass in Corowa on Sunday, February 10, 1878, informed his congregation that the Bishop would send another priest to assist him in the missionary duties of his parish. At the same time he placed an advertisement in Corowa Free Press advising that he intended to hold a meeting of his parishioners:

“Reverend M. Slattery will hold a meeting in the Catholic Church, Corowa immediately after Mass on Sunday. Object: the best means to provide a residence for two resident clergymen. The attendance of all Catholics in the district is expected.”


Meanwhile Fr Slattery was informed that his new assistant was Father Richard Kiely, at that time an assistant priest at Albury. He was born in Kinsale, County Cork, and was a brother of the Chancellor of the Diocese of Sacramento, USA. He had been stationed in Tumut previously.

Fr Kiely’s great work in Albury was not permitted to go unrecognised; on the Wednesday night he was presented with a handsome testimonial by the parishioners for his many sterling qualities, his untiring energy and his acts of charity during his residence in that town; there was a large gathering at the social evening.


The meeting in response to Fr Slattery’s advertisement was held after Mass on February 17. Mr R. Brown was in the chair and the following were present: Fr Slattery, Fr Kiely, Messrs M Kennedy, J Donnely, G Sedgwick, Denis Hallahan, James Nagle Eugene McSwiney, Thomas Coffey, P Sandral, J Cronin and J Nolan.

A motion that a suitable residence should be erected for the accommodation of the two priests was moved by P Sandral and J Nolan and carried. A subscription list was immediately opened and most liberally supported. The priests meanwhile were living at the Globe Hotel.

Plans for the presbytery were prepared and, sufficient money having been received for the work, Fr Slattery called for sealed tenders to be delivered to the Globe Hotel by Friday July 19. Messrs Jephson of Corowa were the successful tenderers.


Advice was received from Bishop Lanigan that he would be in Corowa before the end of the year to bless the foundation stone and this encouraged the parishioners to prepare for the occasion. There would be a drive for funds, a bazaar and a concert, while Rev Nicholas Crane, brother of the Bishop of Sandhurst and who belonged to the Congregation of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, with the provincial house in Inchicore, Dublin, promised to preach on the occasion. It should be remembered that, in those far-off days before radio and television, guest speakers were an essential part of important events.


Dr Lanigan commenced his annual visitation of the diocese at the end of September, a tour that would bring him to Corowa on Sunday, November 3. A list of the towns to be visited will give some indication of the strenuous nature of the work of a bishop in 1878.

He left Goulburn for Yass and was in Narrandera on October; there was Confirmation at Urana on Sunday, October 6, as well as the blessing of the foundation stone of a new church. At Jerilderie on the following Sunday, the 13th, he blessed a foundation stone concreted the cemetery and confirmed the children.

The bishop was at Hay on Sunday, October 20 at Deniliquin on October 27, and at Tocumwal on Wednesday, October 30, where there was Confirmation at 9.00am. There was Confirmation again at 9.00am at Mulwala on Friday, November 1, while on November 3 at Corowa, there was Mass at 11.00am, followed by Confirmation and the blessing of the foundation stone of the presbytery.

In Albury, Bishop Lanigan blessed a new convent chapel on Sunday, November 10, and was at Adelong on November 17, at Tumut on November 24 (where a new church was blessed and opened), at Cootamundra on December 1, at Wagga on 8th December.


The bishop arrived in Corowa on Friday 1 November during that visitation to the region. He was met a few miles out of the town – he was coming from Mulwala – by parishioners who accompanied him to the church where an address of congratulation was presented to him. This was signed by Prosper Sandral, Pierce Percy Nihill, Thomas Coffey, George Sedgwick, John Cullen, Denis Hallahan, Eugene McSwiney, Francis Gallagher and John Danahy.

The address expressed loyalty to the Pope and gratitude to the bishop. The statement continued: “on the arrival of the resident priests we took instant steps to build a house for them which will shortly be completed and paid for.”

His Lordship, assisted by Rev Dr McAlroy, VG, blessed the foundation stone while the sermon was preached by Rev N. Crane O.M.I., resident in Sandhurst diocese. The collection amounted to one hundred and twenty-eight pounds. Forty adults and children were confirmed that afternoon.


Next morning, His Lordship (who also stayed at the Globe Hotel during his stay in Corowa), Dr McAlroy, Rev. M Slattery and very Rev N Crane left for Albury. Father Crane was back again twelve months later when he preached on the “Ten Commandments” and administered the rite of re-baptism to the congregation. There was a collection for the poor of London.


In 1881, Fr Slattery was transferred to Temora. Before his departure he was farewelled at two separate functions – in Mr Nihill’s office in May and at the Globe Hotel in July.

In Mr Nihill’s office he was presented with a testimonial as a mark of esteem and good will in which he was held by members of all denominations. The illuminated address was accompanied by a purse of sovereigns. Among those present were Mr Chenall, Mr Stead and Mr H Levine who spoke, Mr Sandral, Mr McSwiney and Dr Carroll.

Many gentlemen, again of all denominations, attended the Globe Hotel function when address measuring 36 inches by 30 inches was presented to Fr Slattery, along with a purse of one hundred sovereigns, including twenty-seven from Jerilderie.

Mr P Sandral was in the chair and the address was signed by L Levine, MLA, P.P. Nihill, T Newton, Dr Carroll, R Hare, P.M. and H Levine, P Sandral, J.P. and H.G. Oeding, T.M. Stead and E McSwiney.

Fr Slattery said that he had enjoyed his three years at Corowa, but there was much travelling, long and fatiguing. Mr Hudson spoke and Fr Egan of Wangaratta was also present.


A great number of the early Catholic families within Corowa itself left the town during this period and even later, and of the hundred or so families that lived in or close to the town during the first years of the parish only a handful of their descendants remain. Among those of whom we have records are the following.


Bridget Nolan came to Australia in 1858 after the death of her husband, Timothy, in Ireland. After spending a short time with two of her daughters at Mount Barker, South Australia, she came to “Lilydale” with her four daughters, Honor, Bridget, Mary and Ellen and a son, John, in 1859.

On the death of Bridget Nolan, the property was carried on by John who had one son and four daughters.


James Nagle came to Corowa in 1868 and settled at “Erinvale”. He married Honor Nolan and had a family of eight sons and two daughters. His sons all settled on properties in the Corowa district. (see Ringwood later) in this account). His son, Patrick, lived at “Erinvale” until his death; another son, Bede, married Emily Lewis, a grand-daughter of Robert Brown, and grandmother of Honor McDonald, “Ulva”, Lewis, Brian and Eileen Nagle of “Narbethong”, Mulwala. Several of the present generation of Nagles still reside in Corowa.


John Dunn was born in Kilkenny, Ireland, in 1852. He came to Australia in 1875 and settled on the goldfields of Beechworth. There he met Jessie Maclean and they were married in Chiltern the same year. Shortly afterwards they moved to Corowa where John set up a blacksmith’s shop on the corner of Albury Road and Bullecourt Road, then called “Netherby”.

There was a family of five boys – John, Thomas, James, William and Walter, and three daughters, Mary, Jessie and Kate. Of their family John ‘Rusty’ and Jim lived all their lives in Corowa. All the children received their education in Corowa; first at the Public School, and when the sisters came to St Mary’s in 1887, Thomas, John and James were among the first students enrolled.

Descendants still residing in Corowa are Edith Dormer (John’s daughter), her son John and daughter, Joan (Mrs B Clohessy) and family, Brian Dunn and Mary (Mrs B Lethbridge), Jim’s children and her family.[? meaning of last phrase unclear – ed.]


John and Arabella Crisfield were married in Chiltern in 1882 and in the same year came to Corowa. A blacksmith by trade, he set up in business and also practised as a veterinary surgeon. There were five sons in the family – Walter, William, Jack, James and Leo.

James followed in the footsteps of his father and became a veterinary surgeon, his territory being a large part of the Riverina and north-east Victoria. He married Eileen Regan and had one daughter Mary (Mrs H Fitzgibbon) who, with her family still resides in corowa. Other descendants are John, Brian , Desmond and Ray, great-grandsons of the original John.


Prosper Pascal Sandral was born and educated in France and came to Wahgunyah and also conducted the Steampacket Hotel in Corowa. He was prominent in the business, civic and social life of the small township and gave great assistance to many of the citizens who, not being literate, found communication difficult and needed help in performing some of their legal and civic obligations. He occupied a very prominent place in the first years of the new parish.

Prosper Sandral snr - AT Roddy p.14 - Copy

Disposing of his interest in the town, he selected the property “Bell View”, now “St Bernard’s”, He had by this time two sons and three daughters who attended the Redlands school. Moving from this property the family selected “Fontainebleu” at Savernake in 1881. One son went to Mulwala where for a time he was Clerk of Petty Sessions and then settled on a property next to “Fontainebleu”.

Prosper Pascal Sandral retired to St Kilda in 1906 where he lived until his death. His son, Ernest, who had married Mary Nagle from “Erinvale”, remained at “Fontainebleu” which, on his death was carried on by his sons Ernest, Jack and Ray. The first son, Prosper, settled at Ringwood and now lives in retirement in Corowa. Also living in the town is a grand-daughter of the first Prosper Sandral, Mrs M Fitzgerald.


Michael Kennedy was born in Dublin and came to Australia in the 1850s; he was an engineer by profession and worked for a time at Bendigo. In 1861, John Foord of Wahgunyah formed a company to build the first bridge over the Murray between Wahgunyah and Corowa. Michael Kennedy and a fellow engineer were brought from Bendigo to work on the construction of the bridge. On its completion in 1863, Kennedy who had grown to like the township, decided with his wife to stay.

He purchased the Carriers Arms Hotel in Albury Road. Among the travelling public to make use of his services were the priests from Albury, who would change their horses there before continuing their journey to Jerilderie. He remained in Corowa until his death in 1910.

There were two sons and three daughters in the family. Son, Michael, remained in Corowa and his daughter, Mrs J O’Donoghue, snr., and her son, John and his family, reside in the parish. Two of the daughters also remained, Kate (Mrs Tom Gallagher) and Margaret (Mrs Chisnall). Mrs Catherine A King and her children of whom Ken King and Mrs Lyndan (Doris) Robinson still reside in the parish, as well as Mrs Maisie Filliponi, whose father was Alf Chisnall.


William Squires was born in Chiltern and married Mary Eleanor Hay at Corowa in 1883. He shifted to Corowa at the same time, and with his father, built the Court House and the Post Office. In later years he acquired Clayton Undertaking business.

There were eight children in the family and eventually two of the sons, Harold and John who had been in partnership with their father, took over the business. On the death of John, Harold continued the business until he disposed of it in 1972. Of Harold’s three daughters, Mary still resides with her parents in Corowa.

(Chapter 5 completed)