No. 419 - Parattah Uniting [Presbyterian] Church - "The Coin Fairly Rolled In"

The township of Parattah was established when the ‘Main Line’ railway was built between Launceston and Hobart. First named ‘Oatlands Railway Station’, Parattah is situated 7 Km southeast of Oatlands. It was named Parattah in 1879 by the Oatlands Council and is an aboriginal word meaning "ice and cold". There were three religious denominations established at Parattah: Anglican, Presbyterian and Catholic.

The Parattah Presbyterian church opened in 1887. This blog entry focuses on the enormous effort made by the local community, and especially the women, to raise funds to build Parattah’s first church. Places of worship, especially in rural centres, were not built with cash from the ‘Church’ but were entirely dependent on the donation of land, subscriptions and gifts and of course fundraising through the ubiquitous church bazaar.

In June 1886 the Tasmanian reported on the early stirrings to build a church:

“A movement is on foot in Parattah and the immediately adjoining townships to erect a Presbyterian church just at the back of the Parattah Main Line Railway-station. The architect is Mr F. Fox, who has just completed the plans. These provide for a building 30ft by 16ft, with a height of 10ft, and it will be of weatherboard, with iron roof. The Rev. J . Campbell, of Oatlands, who has been in the habit of periodically conducting service in a private house in the township, is, we understand, doing his utmost to further the movement, and a number of subscriptions have been collected. It is noteworthy that this will be the first place of divine worship erected in Parattah”.


Three months later preparation for a fundraising drive was well under way. The Hobart Mercury reported:


“While the ladies are busily engaged in forming the nucleus of a bazaar to be held in aid of the church, each member of the committee has armed himself with a subscription list for the benefit of the public at large, who are cordially invited to subscribe freely. The rising township once boasted of a flourishing and well-conducted Sunday-school, which unfortunately fell through, not on account of scarcity of material, as the bracing climate seems peculiarly adapted to the growth of “olive branches,” but as no room was available. This will be started again as soon as the church is erected, and will prove a great benefit to the young people, who regretted the breaking up of the school as much as the teachers. The number who attend the present service, held monthly in a private room, fully warrant the erection of a church but the amount needed is a large sum to raise in a small place, so that it is hoped the committee will meet with encouragement and support from people in other districts, who cannot do better than follow the example of Parattah residents, all of whom have subscribed liberally and willingly according to their means. The church is to be built on a piece of ground generously presented by Mr. John Russell, of Hobart, and will be an ornament to the township. It looks very well on paper….. As the tender does not include seats or other church furniture, it will be necessary for all friends and those working for the church, to put their shoulders to the wheel and try if possible to have the building opened free from debt”.

By December the church was completed sufficiently for the building to be used to as a venue for a Christmas bazaar. The Mercury’s report on the event is incredibly detailed and this provides us with an authentic view of the lives of the people of Parattah and the intricacies of the church bazaar:

“Although the committee of this church had thoroughly canvassed the district for subscriptions, it remained for the ladies to show what they could do in raising money to pay for the building, and to this end they have held a weekly working bee during the past six months, and their labours reached a climax last Friday and Saturday, 10th and 11th inst. On Thursday the deft fingers of about half-a-dozen young ladies manipulated ferns and flowers in such a way as to render the interior of the church very attractive. At 3 p.m. on Friday the Rev. L. Campbell formally opened the bazaar with a few appropriate words, in presence of a fair number of visitors, and from start to finish the coin fairly rolled in. This was the first bazaar ever held at Parattah, and the number and variety of articles offered for sale showed what energy and co-operation can effect. The woollen articles were very pretty, and loud encomiums were passed by the fair sex on the moderate price and good quality of garments, composed of linen, muslin, etc, but to the writer, and others of the male sex they were practically a "dead language," except when the stall-holders were extra pressing and forced the victims to "part." It would be useless to try and particularise the various temptations, and it will be sufficient to state that the stall-holders and promoters included Misses Tapp (3), Mitchell (3), Johnston (2), with Miss Madden in charge of refreshments, assisted by Mrs Jas. Weeding, jun. I may mention that the eatables were apparently very good, as after indulging in "the cup that cheers but not inebriates,” the young people rushed headlong into raffles of all descriptions, from religious works to jam tarts. The ladies received great assistance from Mr. R. Turnbull who procured a very pretty native cherry-tree, which Miss M. Mitchell covered with toys and nick-nacks, and converted into a real "Christmas tree" for the children, which was so much appreciated that nothing but the tree was left at the close of the first day”.

“On the Saturday business was slack in the afternoon, but in the evening the fun waxed fast and furious, so that by 9’30 there was not a single article left to be disposed of, and the visitors seemed quite disappointed when the honourable secretary announced that there was nothing left for them to spend their money on”.

“The success of the bazaar exceeded the expectations of the promoters, and as no complaints were made, it is to their credit to say that they have performed the difficult task of pleasing everyone. When the day of reckoning came, the hon. secretary of the Church Committee (Mr. J. Colvin) had the pleasure of receiving the handsome sum of £40 exactly from the ladies, and if all subscriptions in arrears are paid and a few others secured, they will be able to open the church (furnished) free from debt, and hope their labours will be crowned with the attendance of a large congregation. The building is a great credit to the contractor (Mr. J. Upchurch), and an ornament to the township. As the successful tenderer for the seats (Mr. T. Eagle) must have them ready within a month it is expected that the, opening ceremony will take place about the middle of January….”

In contrast to the detail of the Mercury correspondents report on the Christmas bazaar, the only surviving report of the church’s opening in January 1887 is surprisingly thin:

“Our new Presbyterian Church was opened under most favourable auspices on Sunday, 30th ult., at 3 o’clock. This edifice, which is of modern type of architecture, is an ornament to the township, and it must be highly satisfactory to those who laboured so hard for its erection, that it was opened free from debt. I record this fact with much pleasure”.

Ninety years after it opened the Parattah Presbyterian church became part of the Uniting Church. It appears that the church closed in the 1990’s but was only recently sold in 2018.

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

Photograph: Duncan Grant 2019

The church in better days (1976) Lloyd George Webb - Source: Libraries Tasmania LPIC 33-1-34

The interior of the church - Courtesy of VIEW Real Estate (2018)

The interior of the church - Courtesy of VIEW Real Estate (2018)

The interior of the church - Courtesy of VIEW Real Estate (2018)

Sources:


Tasmanian News Monday 7 June 1886 page 2
The Mercury Saturday 14 August, 1886 page 3
Mercury, Monday 20 December 1886, page 4 
Launceston Examiner Thursday 10 Feb 1887, page 3 

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