No. 1360 - Ringarooma - St Martin of Tours Catholic Church (1882-1890)

This ‘blog entry’ is one of a series of articles about places of worship that are barely represented in the historical record. Often no images of these buildings have survived. My hope is that these brief articles may result in further information and photographs coming to light enabling a more complete history of Tasmanian churches.

Ringarooma is a small rural town in northeast Tasmania. It was once known as Krushka, after Christopher Krushka, a German migrant and local landowner who, with his brother Charles, had prospered from tin mining in the nearby Derby district. Ringarooma’s first Catholic church, St Martin’s of Tours, was in use for only 8 years before it was destroyed in a fire in October 1890.

St Martin’s was opened on Sunday 17 December 1882. A report in the Launceston Examiner provides some information about the church and its origins:

“The Roman Catholic Church at Ringarooma, dedicated to St Martin, was used…for the first time, mass having been periodically celebrated in a private house adjoining. Though the day was wet the congregation was numerous, being far larger than had been anticipated, and Father Mary, the widely respected priest, expressed the hope of a still larger attendance being present when the discharge of the duties of his extensive district permits him again to celebrate mass and address that portion of the flock residing here. The site of St Martin’s is about one mile from the Post Office, and was presented as a gift, by Mr P. Doherty. The building is small but neat and comfortable looking and will be still better suited for its sacred purpose when provided with an altar, seats, etc., towards procuring which, as they have already done in the matter of the building…”.

The small wooden building, which was also used as a school on week days, was dedicated by Bishop Daniel Murphy on Sunday 17 February 1884. The Hobart Mercury provides the only surviving record of the event:

“St. Martin's Church, Ringarooma, was consecrated yesterday by the Bishop of Hobart, in the presence of a large congregation, including the leading residents of all denominations. The Bishop also administered confirmation to a number of children. The Rev. Father Murphy preached an eloquent and appropriate sermon, and afterwards the Bishop addressed the congregation, and thanked them for the generous and liberal spirit in which they had responded to the calls of their zealous indefatigable, and excellent pastor.

The Bishop dwelt at length on the truly kind and generous donations of non Catholics. He said that such goodwill and charitable feelings as existed between the several denominations gladdened his heart, and that this noble characteristic of the Upper Ringarooma people showed that they were all imbued with the very highest of Christian virtues, and endowed with truly Christian charity. The collection amounted to £35.

After the ceremony the Rev. Father Mary invited all to accompany him to Eginton's Hotel, where a sumptuous and magnificent spread was laid out by Hostess Eginton. Over one hundred sat down to table, with Father Mary in the chair, and Father Murphy in the vice chair. After ample justice had been done to the several dishes and luxurious viands provided, the Chairman stated that as the day was Sunday he would pass over the usual toasts, but in a few well chosen words he proposed the health of His Lordship the Bishop…..”.

On 9 October 1890, only eight years after the church’s opening, St Martins of Tours was destroyed in a fire. A report in the Tasmanian speculated on the cause of the disaster:

“How the fire originated is not known, but it is supposed that there must have been some embers left after school hours, which fell out on the floor, and as there was a high wind blowing, the building being of wood, was soon consumed. Unfortunately it was not insured….”.

Following the fire, Catholic services were held in the Ringarooma Police Court building until a new church could be built. Fourteen years after the fire a new church, dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, was built on a new site and was opened in July 1904.

A public notice from the Daily Telegraph, February 1884. No photograph of the church is available.


Sources:

Launceston Examiner, Thursday 28 December 1882, page 2
Daily Telegraph, Wednesday 6 February 1884, page 1
Mercury, Monday 18 February 1884, page 3 
Mercury, Wednesday 20 February 1884, page 3
The Tasmanian, Saturday 25 October 1890, page 25
The Colonist, Saturday 8 November 1890, page 20
Examiner, Saturday 16 July 1904, page 7

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