No. 350 - St Michael and All Angels' at Moorina - 'Appendages of Civilisation'

The township at Moorina in North East Tasmania was once a centre for significant tin mining activity. Moorina was established in the 1870’s at the point where first bridge was built across the Ringarooma River by the Krushka brothers. At the time is was called Krushka’s Bridge.

The Wesleyan’s, Catholic's and Anglicans had a presence in the early days of the settlement but only one church was ever built in the town, and this was almost 30 years after it was established. The absence of a church was a frequent source of complaint. In July 1883, the local correspondent for The Tasmanian grumbled:

“The Rev. Father Mary held services here last Sunday to a fair congregation. The Rev. Mr. Clampett, Church of England, will hold a service next Sunday. It is a pity this gentleman can’t hold services more regularly on Sundays, as it is unreasonable to expect the inhabitants to walk one and two miles ankle deep in slop and slush, and in the dark”. [to Derby]

The following year the correspondent reported that some progress was being made:

“The Rev. Mr. Killworth, Wesleyan minister, who has been appointed to this district, held his first service here last Sunday, when there was a very good attendance on each occasion…. We are also to have a Church of England minister located here on the return of Bishop Sandford from Sydney”.

The writer continued:

“While on religious matters, what a fine field the North-East Coast tin mines would be for a philanthropic missionary or two, to Christianise the heathen Chinese. They are just as likely to make fair Christians as passable tin miners, and it is quite possible that Moorina and Thomas Plains (Weldborough) will become a second Canton in the course of a few years, as they have already got a large hold”.
During the era of tin mining there was a sizeable Chinese ‘camp’ at Moorina and also at Weldborough and Garibaldi where ‘joss houses’ were established for worship. In 1886, the Moorina correspondent for the Hobart Mercury wrote:

“A large Chinese camp has lately been built at the Garibaldi about eight miles from here, which will probably become the the head-quarters of the Chinese in this district. The only thing required to make it so now is a Joss House, which will probably be obtained, either by building a new one, or the removal of the one at Weldboro’, unless our respected missionary Wong Poo*, succeeds in converting the majority to Christianity, when probably instead of a Joss House, they will have a church".

The Wesleyan, Anglican and Catholic ‘ministers’ showed little interest in converting Chinese miners at Moorina and Garibaldi, or for that matter, even building a permanent church in the town. In 1884 the Examiner’s correspondent for Moorina drew attention to the settlements shortcomings:

“Although Moorina can boast of being one of the oldest mining townships in the north, and at the present time doing the largest business in banking, postal, telegraph… etc, still with all these appendages to civilization, we cannot boast of a decent main street…”

The other ‘appendage of civilisation’ lacking was a church. A public hall had been built in the early 1880’s and Church of England services were held there from May 1884 on alternate Sundays. Moorina did however have a cemetery. In May 1884, a report in the Launceston Examiner noted that the “Ladies of Moorina are about to get up a bazaar…for the purpose of fencing, clearing, and generally doing up our little cemetery”.

By the turn of the century, Moorina was still without a church. In 1903 the correspondent for the Hobart Mercury wrote:

“Like Lottah, Moorina does not possess a church, the hall opposite Mr. Nobes’s store serving for all public conveniences. The hall is a corrugated iron building capable of accomodating about 500 people. It is quite new, having been erected just about 18 months ago”.

In 1910, Moorina finally got its church. In September 1910 an Anglican church was completed and opened for the first service. The event was reported by the Daily Telegraph:

“In the afternoon the new church at Moorina was opened, and continued with evening service, in which large congregations attended. The rector (the Rev. Wells Ashcroft) took [the] first part of the services…. The Archdeacon [Beresford] being the preacher. He named the church St. Michael and All Angels’. …The church is situated in a very nice position of the town, and is admitted by all to be a pretty little church, and reflects the greatest credit on the architect and contractor…., and also on the congregation for their successful efforts in being able to raise such a structure”.

The church thrived as a centre of social and religious activity at Moorina. In 1914, a letter to the Examiner penned by “Justice” reveals a little of both this progress and parish politics:

“The members of the Church of England at Moorina are justly proud of their pretty church and grounds, standing on a central part of the village. The usual bazaars, socials, balls, etc., to build the church and fence in the grounds have been generously responded to by church people, the public, and members of other churches. A nice neat fence has just been erected and painted, and iron gates ordered to ensure the privacy of our church grounds. It is the wish of many who have helped so well in the past that ornamental trees should be planted, etc., and we would earnestly ask our good rector and our churchwardens not to let or give our church grounds to any one member of the congregation for grazing purposes”.

There is another reference to the church in 1919, on the occasion of ‘peace celebrations’, following the conclusion of the Paris peace treaties. The report also gives a delightful snapshot of religious and civil life at Moorina:

“Peace celebrations were commenced under wet conditions on Saturday. Medals were distributed by Councillors Pitchford and Lefevre, after which the children and adults had a day in the hall. A bounteous repast was provided, and the children were regaled with sweets donated by the Tasmanian Soup and Candle Company. At night dances and games were indulged in. On Sunday afternoon the Rev. G. Moore held an in memoriam service at the Anglican Church to fallen soldiers. The interior of the church was draped with purple and flags, and on the altar were hung a laurel wreath to the memory of each of our local lads who had made the supreme sacrifice; also one to the memory of the late Captain Will Connell, to whose memory a beautiful blackwood font has been presented to the church by his relatives, and which was dedicated on that day. At the conclusion of a very impressive service Mrs. Nobes and Mrs. Bethel were called upon to receive certificates in recognition of their sons’ (Lance-Corporal G. Nobes and Private Wilfred Bethel) noble sacrifice. Appropriate hymns were sung. Miss M. Nobes acted as organist.

Monday was beautifully fine, and at 1 o'clock a procession, which included many fancy costumes, marched through the town to the recreation ground, on which, however, it was too wet to remain. This was very disappointing to the children, as swings and a hurdy-gurdy had been erected specially for the occasion. After the singing of the National Anthem, the procession left the ground. Races and games were held near the church, where the ground was drier. The arrangements were such that each child got a prize, and a great deal of pleasure was derived from joy rides on the sledge in charge of Mr. J. Clark. About 5 o'clock an adjournment was made to the hall, where another bounteous spread awaited the children. Afterwards a progressive, euchre tournament took place, during the progress of which a bonfire was lit. The children then indulged in games and dancing. Apples were provided, also sweets donated by Mr. Cunningham. At 10.30 supper was provided, to which full justice was done. Dancing was indulged in till the small hours of the morning, everyone voting it the best event ever held in Moorina”.


After the war, reports about the church become less frequent as mining activity diminished. Its 25th jubilee was celebrated in 1935. There is also a report on damage to the building by a storm in 1939. The date of St Michael’s closure is not known but it was probably in the 1980’s. With a population of only 11 in 2016, barring a golf club, Moorina has now lost all of the ‘appendages of civilisation’.

*The Reverend Bartholomew Wong Poo, was a Chinese Missionary from Victoria who arrived in Tasmania in 1885.  The Mission to the Chinese in Tasmania was a Wesleyan initiative but claimed to be ‘nondenominational’. The last annual report of the ‘Mission to the Chinese’ was delivered by Reverend Wong Poo in 1891. The Chinese Mission will be covered in more detail in a blog entry on St Peter’s at Weldborough. 

St Michaels and All Angels' - Source QVMAG 2000:P:1171 - photograph Frank Bolt

Moorina in 1900: source: Photo - P00216 Courtesy of Chinese Museum (Museum of Chinese Australian History) 

Sources:

Tasmanian, Saturday 21 July 1883
Tasmanian, Saturday 26 April 1884
Launceston Examiner, Thursday 8 May 1884, page 3
Mercury, Saturday 3 April 1886, page 4
The Mercury, Friday 5 June 1903, page 2
North Eastern Advertiser, Friday 22 April 1910, page 2
North Eastern Advertiser, Friday 2 September 1910, page 2
Daily Telegraph, Thursday 15 September 1910, page 2
Examiner, Friday 31 July 1914, page 3
Examiner, Saturday 26 July 1919, page 8
North-Eastern Advertiser, Friday 13 Sept 1935, page 3
North-Eastern Advertiser, Friday 10 March 1939, page 3

Henslowe, Dorothea I and Hurburgh, Isa Our heritage of Anglican churches in Tasmania. Mercury-Walch, Moonah, Tas, 1978.




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