No. 610 - Magnet - St Patrick's Catholic Church

The former township of Magnet was located at the edge of Tasmania’s Tarkine region. It developed around the Magnet Silver Mine in the shadow of the Magnet mountain ranges. The settlement was mostly populated by workers from the mine. By the start of the Great War, Magnet’s population peaked at about 500 with 200 men employed in the mines. The township was connected to nearby Waratah by a narrow gauge railway. The area is now a popular fossicking destination and remnants of the settlement can still be seen in the bush.

One of the best descriptions of Magnet dates back to 1928 although by this time the town was well past its prime:

“Notwithstanding that the township of Magnet has been in existence for a period of over 34 years, it has not assumed any great dimensions in the way of population. It is generally viewed as a very remote village, or, in mining parlance, described as a dead end. The main buildings consist of a very cosy and comfortable public hall that does credit to the generous support accorded it by the local people. The hotel, which is not of city pretensions, is well conducted,….the churches consist of a Roman Catholic and Methodist, the last named being used at intervals for Anglican services”.

In addition to the hotel, hall and churches, Magnet also had several stores and businesses, a post office and a State school. Magnet’s Catholic church opened in 1913, some 20 years after the town was established. The first report about the church appears in the Launceston Examiner in August 1913:

“Good progress is being made with the erection of the new Roman Catholic Church at Magnet, the framework of which is now completed. The building, when finished, will be a very compact one, and will suit the requirements of the place and the adherents of that church for some time to come”.

In November 1913 the Zeehan and Dundas Herald described the church’s official opening:

“The weather conditions on Sunday last proved very boisterous, which prevented a large number of Waratah people from attending the opening ceremonies of the new Roman Catholic Church. A special train conveyed the Archbishop and Father Hayes to the township, and at 11 a.m. the church, which was prettily decorated, was filled to the doors. Mass was celebrated by the Rev. Father Hayes, and the choir rendered special music. Mrs N. Gaunt presided at the organ. The Archbishop delivered an eloquent discourse. The collection amounted to £40….”.

The church remained active for another two decades and the last mention of it is in 1932 with reference to a fundraising ball. With the cessation of mining activities in the mid 1930’s, Magnet’s population collapsed and by 1936 it was reduced to 14 men, 7 women and 16 children; 12 of whom were attending the State school. By the following year the township was in its final death throes:

“Since the cessation of mining at Magnet a few years ago, the town has been practically deserted, the population dwindling to a mere half-a-dozen residents. Consequently, the dwellings, being mostly of the unstable build characteristic of small mining towns, rapidly assumed a dilapidated appearance. The roads, footpaths and bridges too, without the necessity for continuous maintenance, quickly deteriorated”.

Mining activity was briefly resuscitated in 1937 and 1940 but these ventures ended in failure and what was left of the township was either removed or swallowed up by the bush. St Patrick’s Catholic church was probably removed around 1933 or 1934.  I have yet to establish the place where the church was relocated.

Additional information and sources about the church are most welcome as all articles are updated. I can be contacted through this page or my Facebook page "Churches of Tasmania" which is linked here: Churches of Tasmania.


St Patrick's at Magnet (1914) source: Weekly Courier

The Magnet Silver Mine - Source: Libraries Tasmania - LPIC147-7-153

The narrow gauge railway at Magnet (c.1900). Source: Libraries Tasmania - PH30-1-1861

The location of Magnet in Tasmania's Tarkine region. placenames.gov.tas.au


Sources:

Examiner, Monday 16 January 1911, page 2
Examiner, Friday 29 August 1913, page 3 
Zeehan and Dundas Herald, Thursday 20 November 1913, page 4
Examiner, Tuesday 25 November 1913, page 7
Zeehan and Dundas Herald, Thursday 29 November 1913, page 4
The Weekly Courier, Thursday 4 1914, page 21
Examiner, Wednesday 11 July 1928, page 5
Advocate, Tuesday 18 October 1932, page 8
Advocate, Wednesday 25 November 1936, page 10
Advocate, Wednesday 20 October 1937, page 10 

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