No. 1057 - Montagu - Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church (1910-1973)

Montagu is a small rural settlement approximately 16 kilometres west of Smithton in the far North West of the State. It was established by the Van Diemen's Land Company to house men working on its "Woolnorth" property. The settlement takes its name from the Montagu River, named after John Montagu, Colonial Secretary of Van Diemen's Land from 1834 to 1842.

Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Catholic church served the community for over 60 years before its closure in the early 1970s. However the local Catholic community had been active at Montagu from 1870s. The foundation stone for the church was ceremonially laid on Wednesday 24 February 1910; the event being recorded by the North West Advocate and the Emu Bay Times:

“For many years the Catholic people of Montagu have stood sorely in need of a church. Services have been held there for the past 40 years at the residence of Mrs. Saward, sen. The local rector, Father. O'Donnell, has, however, decided that the old order must change. About a month ago he announced his intention of proceeding with the erection of a church if land and means were forthcoming. Mrs. Saward generously donated half an acre of land, and several promises of financial assistance were received. Father O'Donnell gave orders at once to proceed, and on Thursday morning last His Grace Archbishop Delany laid the first stone”.

“The Archbishop, with Father O'Donnell, arrived by special coach on Wednesday afternoon. Services were held in the evening, and on Thursday morning 28 candidates were confirmed. At 11 o'clock a procession was formed, headed by cross bearers. The men and women followed by the children in their white veils marched in front of His Grace, who was vested in cope and mitre, to the site of the proposed building. There was a large attendance. The stone bore the following inscription: This stone was laid by His Grace Archbishop Delany on February.24, 1910”.

“After the ceremony Dr. Delany addressed those present, congratulating them in their enterprise. He had been greatly edified by what he had seen in a place so remote, and where they could not have frequent visits from their pastor. He urged them to continue their present practice of coming together on Sundays to sing the praises of God. He felt a very special pleasure in beginning that day the erection of a suitable place of worship. A collection was then taken up, and a sum of £65 realised. The building will be in weatherboard to the design of Mr. S. Priest,- jun., of Devonport”.

The church was officially opened and blessed on Friday 9 December 1910. The building was of a modest size measuring “42ft. long by 20ft. wide”. The total cost of the church amounted to £150 and it was erected by “Messrs H. Ennis and Walters….without charge”. At the time of the church’s opening it had neither a sanctuary or sacristy and these were probably completed at a later date.

Our Lady of the Sacred Heart closed in 1973. I have not yet determined what became of the building. The Montagu Catholic cemetery is the resting place for over 70 souls and it is a reminder of a once thriving community. I have found a single image of the church and I am hopeful that the publication of this article might result in a better quality photograph coming to light.

Our Lady of the Sacred Heart - Montagu (undated) Source: Southerwood, W. T.  Planting a faith in Tasmania


Montagu Catholic Cemetery on Old Port Road. Photo credit: Sue McC - Findagrave.com


Sources:

Circular Head Chronicle, Wednesday 2 March 1910, page 3
North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Wednesday 2 March 1910, page 4
Daily Telegraph, Tuesday 20 December 1910, page 6
Examiner, Tuesday 20 December 1910, page 6
Circular Head Chronicle, Wednesday 28 December 1910, page 3

Southerwood, W. T.  Planting a faith in Tasmania : the country parishes / [by] W. T. Southerwood  [W. T. Southerwood] [Hobart]  1977.

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