1978 Parish History Ch. 10


When Father Lovat, parish priest of Yass from 1840 to 1849, came through Corowa on his journey back to Yass from Wangaratta in 1845 – the first occasion when the district was visited by a priest – there was no township with a group of people to greet him.

There was no mention of a village at Corowa until the year 1857, the year when for the first time portions of land were offered for sale. In that same year the Lands Department received applications from parties resident in Goulburn, Tumut, Yass, Albury, Wagga Wagga and Wangaratta for the establishment of a town at Corowa.

The native name was Corowa and the portions of land already sold in the vicinity had been described by the department as in the “Parish of Corowa”; for these reasons the Department adopted the name.

According to lists of Aboriginal Place Names the word means “Rocky River”, or “River of Rocks”. There is an outcrop of rocks just to the right of the end of Isabel Street where it would run into the river.

Corowa and Coreen have the same first syllable, meaning rock or rocky, Wa and Wah – having something to do with water.

If there was no village to greet Father Lovat, there were clusters of huts on the “runs” that had already been taken up – Brocklesby, Collendina, Quat Quatta, Mahonga – along with others and three of these were early in Catholic hands.

In a similar manner, as settlement took place north of and away from the river, Corowa’s resident priests in due course would offer Mass in private homes until such time as a central building was available, a building that was a meeting point for the community.

When the community grew, a church became necessary and, if this church were sufficiently distant from Corowa, a separate parish was formed. There are now (1978 – when this history was written) seven parishes in what was the original missionary district of Corowa.

Three churches built reasonably close to Corowa are the centres of communities that are still part of the parish of Corowa, although one of them, Balldale, was a separate parish for a number of years.


When the early settlers first came to their blocks, in many instances they had to clear a track to the site of their first hut. Much of the country was covered by Murray pine, which was an easily worked and durable building material, and was used extensively for framing houses and for farm buildings. Much of the land had to be cleared before being put under the plough and large numbers of Chinese, refugees from the goldfields, worked in the contractors’ gangs.

One of the earliest tasks to be undertaken was to sink a well. As there was an abundance of underground water and plenty of skilled diggers with gold-field experience, this was no great problem.

The first homes were modest and rough, but were meant to be temporary shelters only until the settler had the time to organize his property and start producing from it. Some of the early selectors found their blocks to be too small to be viable and there were eventually absorbed by those who had larger areas and more capital.


The  progress made by these selectors was remarkable. In the space of twenty years, they cleared the land, erected comfortable homes, fenced their properties, built woolsheds and stable, stocked their properties and grew large areas of wheat and oats.


They were also raising families, sons to work the land and daughters to help in the house. The growth of families brought new social values and experiences into the family unit.

Though not altogether isolated, they had to be self-sufficient in many things and this was mirrored in their social life.

The Irish love of music became the background for social gatherings as many of the sons and daughters became accomplished musicians. On the larger properties governesses were employed and they were able to impart the social values of the outside world.


The horse was an integral part of every aspect of the family’s life, but was especially important as a means of communication.

Even the girls would have their own mounts and would think nothing of riding in their finery to dances. Sports meetings were organized, and a popular venue was a paddock near the old Redlands Hotel. Athletics, novelty events, pony races were all included in the day’s events; a dance was held at night in the old Redlands hall with Jim Regan, piano, and Tom Sedgwick, violin, providing the music.


At harvest time, when many men were employed, a cricket match would be held in front of the homestead, with neighbours riding in to spend the afternoon and make up the numbers. At some of these gatherings, friends from Boorhaman would ride their horses across the Murray and return home after enjoying the day’s sport and high tea.


The home and family in the small country settlements revolved around the Mother. The men for the most part had lived independent and in many cases, lonely lives until they had reached an economic position that enabled them to marry and provide for a family.

The mother, in addition to caring for all the domestic responsibilities of the home, had also to manage the milking and poultry, which were often an important and profitable addition to the farm income. It was the mother that set the standards of the Faith and gathered all around her in the evening for the Rosary and saw to it that no opportunity was lost for attending Mass.


The visit of the Indian hawker was always an event for the family, not solely for the wares he carried. He would camp for the night near the stables and the boys gathered at his camp-fire to hear his stories and taste his curry which was usually much too hot for their palate.


The first settler at Balldale was Charles Henry Knight. He came from Melbourne to the goldfields at Beechworth by bullock cart, then worked for a short time on Gulliver’s “Lilliput” station before settling at Balldale in 1848. He married Ann Gulliver from “Lilliput” and their descendants remained in the district for over one hundred years. At a later stage the Browns, Kaines and Grenells came.


As in other country centres, these families were dependent on visiting priests, first from Albury, then from Corowa, to enable them to participate in the celebration of Mass and to receive the Sacraments. The families would gather at Doyle’s or Knight’s for these occasional visits.

Land around Balldale was held in large holdings and there was little opportunity for closer settlement until in 1902 “Quat Quatta”, then owned by Morrissey was broken up for private sale.

There was then a large influx of settlers, mainly from Victoria. Among them were many Catholic families including the Reidys, the Salmon Brothers (Jim, Mick, Dan, Pat and Tom), the Breens, Tom and Jim Naughtin, Drums, Seymours and Waites. In later years, Kelly Azzi conducted a store in the village.


On Sunday, January 24, 1910, Fr P Hickey called a meeting in the Balldale hall to determine what steps should be taken to proceed with the erection of a church; Father presided.

At this meeting and at subsequent meetings during the next ten years, thirty-two men were involved in the establishment of the parish, a remarkable number in a small country centre. These men were: James, Joseph and P Breen, Dan, Denis and J Carroll, T Coughlan, J Coyle, M Cronin, DJ Doyle, C & T Drum, Denis Kane, E & J Knight, K Loughman, M Murphy, MJ and T Naughtin, John Nolan, M O’Halloran, John, Owen and Maurice Quinton, JP Ryan, James, Michael and Pat Salmon, P Seymour.

Ladies were invited to some of the meetings and following attended – Mesdames James Salmon, J Knight, D Carroll, J Naughtin, PJ Doyle and P Breen.

The meeting on January 24 decided that steps would be taken to proceed with the erection of a church and 400 pounds were promised that night.


A fortnight later a decision was made to accept the offer of land by Mr James Salmon, although the committee was almost equally divided between that offer and another made by Mr Lupton.

The land was surveyed, a solicitor, Mr Nicholson, employed and Mr Monks, an architect of Wagga, appointed. The cost was not to exceed 700 pounds.

Two tenders were received for the work: J Mills, Corowa, 740 pounds, to be completed in 15 weeks; and W Murdock, Howlong 775 pounds, to be completed in 7 months.

The foundation stone was blessed by Very Rev P Phelan, GG (later Bishop of Sale) of Melbourne and the church was dedicated to St Patrick on Sunday, November 13, 1910. The Dean preached in the public hall. On the same trip he blessed the new Infants’ School in Corowa and delivered a sermon to an immense congregation in St Mary’s Hall.


The Balldale church was blessed and opened on Sunday, June 11, 1911, by the Rt Rev Dr Gallagher, Bishop of Goulburn, while Fr Hickey celebrated the first Mass. The Bishop preached and administered Confirmation. The cost of the church and furniture was 1,000 pounds.

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There was an immense assemblage of adherents of the church and the occasion will long be remembered as on of historic moment and significance.

His Lordship was assisted in the ceremony by Rev Fr Hickey, parish priest of Corowa. After the celebration of Mass Fr Hickey read the contribution list, showing donors and respective amounts given towards the erection of the building. The total amount in hand was 581 pounds. He could safely say that during the 26 years in which he had been a parish priest in many parishes, he had never met any Catholics who gave so liberally as the Catholics of the Balldale district.

He wished to thank Dr Gallagher for honouring them with his presence. He also wished to thank Mr Monks, the architect, for building and expressed his appreciation of the conscientious work of Mr Mills, the contractor.

He hoped that God’s choicest blessings might fall on the hearts and souls of them all.

On behalf of the Catholics of Balldale Mr PP Breen addressed a few words of welcome to the Bishop. He said that it gave him great pleasure to extend a right hearty welcome to his Lordship on the occasion of his first visit amongst them

His Lordship most graciously acknowledged the words of welcome and said it was a source of great pleasure to hear such kindly sentiments expressed. He had hardly expected to see such a noble building at they had erected which, he said, was a credit to the architect and builder , and also the generosity of the people who contributed the funds.

His Lordship then addressed the candidates for Confirmation on the great importance of that Sacrament.


On Sunday, February 11, 1912, Fr Ryan celebrated Mass in St Patrick’s Church and read a letter from the Rt Rev Dr Gallagher Bishop of Goulburn, appointing him to the newly formed parish of Balldale. It comprised Howlong, Brocklesby, Walbundrie, extending to Bungowannah in the east, Bulgandra in the north, and possibly, Coreen in the west.

After Mass he met several of his new parishioners and asked the members of the church committee to meet him on the following Sunday. He told the committee that he had a proposal regarding the offer of a house suitable for a presbytery. The result was that the parish purchased a mansion and 25 acres of land for 1,050 pounds. The committee also purchased a windmill, pump and overhead tanks for the presbytery.

Balldale continued to be a parish until the year 1938 in which year a parish was established at Howlong and Balldale once more was attached to the Corowa parish.


Here is a list of the priests who had charge of the parish of Balldale:

Fr Tom Ryan, from Jerilderie, November 1912. Dr Daley, Fr John Bonnar, Fr Patrick Joseph O’Reilly, Fr Arthur Percy, Very Rev Dean John Hanrahan, Fr Bryan Hayden, Mgr John Harold Larkins.


Prior to the 1860s settlement throughout what is now [in 1978] the Ringwood parish was sparse. Land Acts until this time had enabled large areas of land to be aggregated on a leasehold basis. In 1861 the Robertson Land Act was passed by the New South Wales Parliament and this Act provided opportunities for free selection.


Selection in the Ringwood and Redlands districts now commenced north-west of Corowa. “Pine Grove” was selected by Thomas Regan in 1868, and his friend and fellow goldminer, James Nagle, settled closer to Corowa at “Erinvale”. Michael, brother of Thomas Regan, arrived soon afterwards to settle at “Ashfield”. They were quickly followed by the Sedgwick, Box, Knight and Monahan families, and a little later still by Thomas Gorman, Daniel Nixon, the Mulquineys, McKenzies, Goodwins and Michael Ryan.


Settlement of the Buraja district began in the 1860s. Owen Conroy from Tyrone, Ireland, selected “Erigle”, and at the same time George Tenney came from Mansfield to Redlands, but shortly afterwards moved to Buraja.

George Leapord in 1870, selected 50 acres of land on Urana Road and five years later bought the Buraja Hotel. In 1886, he sold this property and selected “One Tree” which was 1400 acres.

Before the turn of the century there was a large population in and around Buraja village, the Conricks, Sheridans, Kingstons and Loveridges; S. Loveridge built the brick hotel.


These were all Catholic families occupying a small part of a very large parish, they had the advantage of living close together near the heart of the parish and priests.

The priests visited some of the families from time to time to stay overnight before moving on. A regular meeting place for Mass was soon arranged and for many years the families would gather at “Pine Grove”, the home of Tom and Ellen Regan, for the Sunday Mass, and at the Tenney homestead at Buraja.

The education of the children was not neglected and after Mass a daughter of the house, in this instance Mary (Cis), would teach them their Catechism and prayers.


The next phase in the development of the district dates from 1898, when the owner of Ringwood Station, Mr Rawden Wilson, began to sell portions of the property.

James, Andrew and Timothy Nagle, sons of James Nagle who had earlier settled on “Erinvale”, purchased blocks near Rennie. William, John and Patrick Ryan acquired land along the Berrigan Road. The property passed to one of his sons, who later sold to Michael O’Donoghue, who in turn sold to Maurice Doyle.


Others to come to the district were William Keenan, Maurice Doyle and in 1911, Mrs McDonald to “Ulva”. In the 1920s, Pros Sandral came from Savernake and Mrs J Nixon to “Burnewang”.

Mr and Mrs Ned Burns settled at “Burnewang” before JA & Mrs Nixon. The Burns were staunch workers for the Church. Mass was sometimes said at “Burnewang” and Mrs Burns taught the children their religion. They sold “Burnewang” and purchased “Dongmarongama”, on the river near Corowa. Fetes and house parties were held here during the 1930s to raise funds.


At the northern extremity of Ringwood the O’Brien Family had settled many years earlier on “Victoria Park” and “Woodlawn”, the Robinsons on “Box Bush” . Indeed, records show that Fr Curley said Mass at “Victoria Park” as early as 1889.


It now became apparent that with the gradual and large increase in the Catholic population of the area, a more centrally located venue for the celebration of Mass was imperative. In 1908, the residents of the district erected the Ringwood Hall at a point on the Berrigan Road, 16 miles from Corowa.

It was far from being an imposing building, framed with round pine and clad with galvanized iron. The first Mass was celebrated in this building in 1914 and it served the Catholic families of the district for the next 41 years.

The appointments [furnishings]  were in keeping with the crudeness of the structure. Two pine planks lining the walls provided the seating. As the building ran east and west, the men and boys sat along the north wall which was understandably very hot at 10.00am in the summer and just the opposite in winter.  The women and girls sat along the southern wall which was protected by a skillion.

The altar was fashioned from pine, but when covered with the altar cloths by Misses Kath and Mona Taylor, who performed this service for many years, was a fitting symbol of the faith of the people who attended Mass before it.


With the passing of time the hall became unsafe and this prompted the thoughts of the congregation to consider the advisability of building a church. Encouragement was given to these thoughts by the more prosperous years of the later 1940s and 1950s.

A committee was formed with Mr William Keenan chairman and Mr Maurice O’Brien, “Woodlawn”, secretary. Mr Keenan’s property, “Broadmeadows”, adjoins the church site and for more than thirty years he had advocated building.


The project was delayed for years by the shortage of priests, the depression and two world wars. Finally a decision was made in 1947 that the first collections would be set aside for the building of a church.


The church would be built as a memorial to the residents of the district who died in the two world wars and Mr Alan McBride was given the contract to erect an attractive veneer building situated among Murray Pines on the Corowa-Rennie Road at a cost of 5,000 pounds on a block of land donated by Miss Olive Knight.

St Joseph’s Church was to be a spiritual centre for twelve families who, in a little over seven years, had already contributed 3,000 pounds towards the cost. Following the death of Mr Maurice O’Brien in 1853, Mr Richard Gorman of “Plentyana” filled the position of secretary.

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St Joseph’s Ringwood church 1955


The church was blessed and opened by His Lordship Bishop Henschke DD, on Sunday, April 3rd 1955, in the presence of more than 300 parishioners from Corowa, Yarrawonga, Ringwood, Balldale and Rennie. At the commencement of the proceedings 1,396 pounds was still owing, donations and collections that day amounted to 960 pounds, leaving a debt of 346 pounds.

The Holy Name men formed a guard of honour for the Bishop as he made his way to the dais where Mr Keenan presided after the church had been blessed. There were also on the platform Father Lane, Parish Priest, Monsignor Lawless (Rutherglen) , Fr Desmond (Berrigan), Fr K Byrne (Tocumwal), Ald. Sammons (Mayor of Corowa), Ald. Loveridge, Councillor J Purtle (President Coreen Shire Council), Councillor JF Izon, Messrs R Gorman, J O’Brien, P Sandral, J Dunn and A McBride.

Mr Keenan said it was a great occasion for the parishioners of Ringwood. They had worked since 1947 and they were happy that day. They thought the blessing might have been too small an occasion to bring the Bishop to Ringwood, but he had accepted willingly.

That day was a day of great spiritual progress in the community and it was associated with Palm Sunday. The church would be a place where we would learn the meaning of Christianity and it was not available to everybody.


Father Lane said that up to the present Mass had been offered in the old Ringwood Hall. For a long time he had imagined such a day and it had become a reality. They now had a building that was withdrawn from all earthly and profane uses and was a tribute to twelve families for their generosity and sacrifice of many years. The building cost 3,917 pounds, extras 150 pounds, seats 119 pounds, flooring 114 pounds, the altar 532 pounds.


Certain parishioners had made gifts – The O’Brien family, the altar and its appointments; the Robinson family, the Stations of the Cross; Mr JJ Knight, the chalice; the Keenan family, the Regan family and Miss O Knight, statues of the Sacred Heart, Our Lady and St Joseph.

Councillor Purtle welcomed the Bishop on behalf of the Coreen Shire Council.

The bishop said it was a pleasure to be associated with the blessing of this beautiful little church on “this historic occasion”. He was glad that in Australia we could build a Catholic Church and with the encouragement of the civic authorities. The church stood for the spiritual good of the people. If ever there was a time when Christian people should unite against the common enemy it was now. The church at Ringwood would be a spiritual power house where all will hear Mass and learn the true things of life.

Father Desmond (Berrigan) congratulated Father Lane and the Ringwood people on the building of the church and Messrs John O’Brien and pros Sandral moved a vote of thanks to the Bishop.

Father Lane said the first Mass in the new Church at 5.00pm with the Bishop presiding, after which tea was served among the pines by the Ladies of the Ringwood district.


Large holdings covered the Coreen-Daysdale district until 1909. Prior to that date, however, in 1907, an area of Crown land, which had been designated as a stock route, was split up into homestead blocks. Among those who purchased these blocks were Dunlevys, Lynches, Culhanes, McGavans, Talbots, Hanrahans, Masseys and Sheridans.

In 1909, the State Government purchased Coreen and Back Paddock Station from the Hon. H Wilson. The area was broken up into 64 blocks and balloted for at Corowa on November 20, 1909.


The ballot resulted in an influx of more Catholic families, including Tomlinsons, John Kingston, Ephraim Talbot, Dennis O’Halloran, Martin Nagle, Carrols, Levi, Arthur West and Richard Brown whose father had earlier settled at Balldale. Jack McNamara, of the stock and station family, purchased “Emu Park”.

In the initial stages of this settlement many attended Mass at Daysdale, but the priests also celebrated Mass at Masseys and Dunlevys which became centres for groups of families.


The Coreen Hall was built in 1913 and shortly afterwards became the meeting place for Sunday Mass.

During the second decade of the century the large far-reaching parish of Corowa, which then included Howlong, Oaklands (known as Clear Hills), Daysdale, Hopefield, Ringwood and smaller areas, was for many years in the charge of Father Hickey.

It was during this period that an Irishman, Mr John Kilcummins who had won a property at Coreen in the land ballot, came from Ringwood to live in the district.


He assisted Fr Hickey in making arrangements for the celebration of Mass at the home of Mr & Mrs Joe Talbot and family. Catholics assembled there for some years from distant parts of the district to attend Mass.

Later, after the formation of the Balldale parish, Fr Ryan came to Coreen and celebrated Mass at the home of Mr & Mrs Culhane. After the inclusion of Brocklesby in the Balldale parish, this arrangement ceased.


In the 1950s the congregation decided to set about raising funds to build a church. A committee was formed with Maurice O’Halloran as President and Tom Tomlinson Secretary. During the next few years they collected some 1,200 pounds.


The new church was so designed that a minimum of maintenance would be needed. It had traditional features of church architecture with a simple, pleasing contemporary style. The builder was C Plunkett of Corowa.

Scarcely any timber was used. It had face bricks, a framework of economic steel, the floor of concrete slabs covered with vinylflex tiles; the ceiling of wunderlich metal was insulated with foil sisalation.

There is a beautiful altar with individually designed fittings; two statues and stations of the cross are in carved wood. The altar, tabernacle and furnishings were donated by local families. The cost of the church was 8,500 pounds.

Bp Henschke w Fr Plunkett at Coreen


Coreen’s church under the patronage of St Pius X, was opened on Sunday, September 1, 1963, by His Lordship Bishop Henschke DD, before a congregation of 250 people from all parts of the district, in threatening weather with a slight drizzle early.

There were also present Father Lane (Parish Priest), Monsignor Larkins (Albury), Fr F Owens (Rutherglen), Fr K Donovan (Holbrook), Fr K Wright (Culcairn), Fr P Roach (Urana), Fr Goss (CSsR) Fr R Bartlett (Corowa), Fr H Josko (Finley) Fr JD Kiernan (Adelaide), Fr JW Handley (Albury) Fr PW Lynch (Albury) Fr JD Lane (Mulwala), Fr J Byrne (Tocumwal) and Fr W Plunkett (Albury).

Nuns came from Rutherglen, Albury and Corowa, one of them being Sister Perpetua, born a few miles from the church and at Mass regularly in the Coreen Hall.

Councillor WM Johnson (President of the Shire council) and Councillors Sanger, RJ Brown and SE Curran attended. Lovely gladioli for the church and hall were brought by air from Brisbane.


Father MF Lane, who celebrated the first Mass, thanked the Bishop for his interest in the Coreen church and his attendance that day; the Bishop was getting ready to attend the Second Vatican Council.

Fr Lane also thanked the people and the priests for their interest. Some obstacle always seemed to turn up to prevent an earlier building of the church, the chief obstacle being lack of finance.

The twelve families in the Coreen district made up for their lack of numbers by their quality. There was trouble with the transfer and title of the land, but this was surmounted with the help of Mr Lethbridge; and there was also wet weather during building.

Fr Lane thanked the architect, the builder and his workmen, as well as the pioneers and the trustees of the hall for making their building available for so many years – exactly 60!

The fence around the property was constructed by parishioners under Mr Jim Nagle.

Councillor WM Johnson congratulated the people of Coreen on their new church: it is a building they could be proud of and Council is only too pleased to help people in rural areas.

Mr Jim Sandral (Catholic citizens of Coreen), Cr SE Curran (Parish of St Mary’s), Mr A Knight (Balldale), and Mr K Regan (Ringwood) spoke.


His Lordship said he would not keep them long; he had not heard one word of adverse criticism. He said Monsignor Lane was the first in the Diocese to suggest the “Wells Scheme” (for fundraising), and it has been a success.

Then the Provident Fund was started and in two years over 370,000 pounds was handled. This fund has enabled us to do quite a lot of building, but more money could be used. For the past five Sundays he had officiated at the opening of new buildings.

The bishop continued to say that he would shortly be leaving again for a trip to Rome. When he was last in Rome he had an audience with the Pope. The Pope asked him where he came from and he replied “Wagga Wagga”. To his question as to what that meant, he said, “Land of Crows”. The bishop had five students in Rome and recently one of them met the Pope and when he said he came from Wagga Wagga, the Pope replied “Oh yes, that is the land of crows”.

Monsignor Lane gave a special welcome to Fathers Roach and Wright and read an apology from Fr Quinn. Fr Wright congratulated the people of Coreen on their new church. He had often prayed at Mass in the hall that the Coreen people would soon be able to build a new church, now he was happy.

Coreen Church - front repaint & cropped

Coreen church in 2013 – external view


Coreen Church Golden Jubilee Cake October 2013

[For more photos of present day (2013+) Coreen church – visit the “Coreen Jubilee” at the Coreen Catholic Community page on this website.]

A person who played an important part in the Coreen district was Mrs Whitty, who was the daughter of one of the first settlers, Mr Lynch.

As a young woman she trained to be a school teacher. On her marriage she was away from the district for some time, but returned to teach at district schools. She spent the rest of her life at Coreen teaching at Coad’s Tank, Coreen, Coreen Vale and Emu Park, until her retirement to the property she had purchased. On her death she left the property to the Diocese of Wagga.

(Ch 10 completed).