No. 1393 - Longley - St Columba's Catholic Church (1899-1967)

Longley is a rural settlement approximately 20 kilometres south of Hobart. The area was originally named Leslie, a name that has been preserved in Leslie Hill which lies on the eastern side of Longley.

The focus of this article is on the second Catholic church built at Longley, replacing an earlier church which opened in 1884 and which was destroyed in the bushfires which swept through Southern Tasmania in 1897. The history of the earlier church will be the subject of a seperate article.

The foundation stone for the new church was laid by Archbishop Delany on Sunday 27 November 1898. The Mercury provides details of the occasion which is reproduced as follows:

“During the terrible bushfires of last summer many homesteads and buildings of various kinds fell before the devouring element. Among these was the pretty little church which stood on the elevated site near the Halfway-house, Huon-road. Not only the church itself, but the sacred vestments and vessels, and all the furnishings were entirely destroyed. Father Holehan, the pastor of the district, lost not only his church but the house in which he lived, with all it contained-he and his sister barely escaping with their lives”.

“Since that day of terror the Catholics of the locality have been obliged to practically dispense with the public worship of God, there being no building wherein the celebration of mass could take place. Lately, however, Father Holehan has let a contract to Mr. John Tew for the erection of a new church on the site of the old one, and His Grace the Archbishop yesterday drove from Hobart to Leslie to bless and lay the foundation-stone of the new building. The priests of Hobart being all engaged with their Sunday work, His Grace was accompanied by three of the altar boys from the cathedral”.

“Father Holehan received the Archbishop on arrival. The ceremony of laying the foundation-stone took place at 3 o’clock, when a considerable number of the resident Catholics and others were present. The Archbishop addressed those present on the life and virtues of Saint Columba, under whose patronage the new church was to be dedicated to the worship of Almighty God. He hoped the new church would surpass in beauty the one destroyed by fire some months ago, and congratulated pastor and people on the start made in the good work. Fortunately, the old church had been insured in the [Commercial Union Company], but the amount of insurance would not meet the cost of the new building. On the day of opening the new building an appeal will be made to residents and friends to assist in liquidating the increased expenditure….”.

The church was completed in the following year and was reopened and rededicated to St Columba by Archbishop Delany on Sunday 2 July.

Sixty years after the first church was destroyed, history repeated itself with St. Columba being one of over 20 churches lost in the bushfires that swept across Southern Tasmania. The church was never rebuilt. There was a small cemetery adjoining the church in which four persons were buried:  Patrick Cooney, died January 30, 1897, aged 74 years; Alexander Batchelor,
died October 13, 1908, aged 74 years; Margaret Batchelor, died June 20, 1928, aged 81 years; and John Armstrong, died August 18, 1884, aged 24 years. One headstone still remains on the church’s site adjoining the North West Bay Rivulet. 

St Columba's Catholic Church - Source: Archdiocese of Hobart

The site of the church. A single headstone in the cemetery remains. image: Google street-view


Mercury, Monday 28 November 1898, page 2
Mercury, Tuesday 29 November 1898, page 2
Mercury, Monday 24 March 1930, page 3
Daily Telegraph, Tuesday 4 July 1899, page 3

Southerwood, W. T. Planting a faith : Hobart's Catholic story in word and picture / [by] W. T. Southerwood [Hobart] 1970



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