No. 1404 - Lower Turners Marsh [Karoola] - Church of the Sacred Heart (1868-1898) "A Good Bad Ride"

Lower Turners Marsh was the name given to an area on the Pipers River west of Lilydale and north of Launceston. In 1900 the name Karoola, an aboriginal name for the Pipers River, was adopted.

In the 1860s Lower Turners Marsh was in the process of becoming settled and access to the area, although close to Launceston, was very difficult. In 1868 a small Catholic church was built to accomodate Irish settlers who had moved into the area. The church, which was dedicated to the ‘Sacred Heart of Jesus’, served the Catholic community for 30 years before it was replaced by a new church, which at the time, was considered to be one of the finest rural churches in the Colony. The origins of the first church is not recorded in any detail. A single report in the Cornwall Chronicle describes the official opening on Wednesday 2 December 1868:

“The Catholic Church lately erected in the district of Piper's River, about fifteen miles distant from Launceston, was solemnly opened on Wednesday last. The distance and the rough, unformed state of the road deterred many from being of the number of visitors who would otherwise gladly avail themselves of the occasion to enjoy the pleasure of an “outing," to express their appreciation of the struggles made by the people of this rural district to erect a religious edifice where the most sacred rites of their religion will be performed, and to give their assistance towards the completion of a work so sublime in its object and so sanctifying in its results. The congregation consisted chiefly of those from the surrounding district. The clergymen who assisted were the Revs. J. Hogan, M. O’Callaghan, J. J. Noone, and K. F. Walsh”.

“The sacred edifice was blessed by the Rev. M. O'Callaghan; after which the Holy Sacrifice was celebrated. Seldom have the people been favoured by a discourse so simple— adapted to the understandings of an unlearned people— so persuasive for its clear, forcible and didactic style as that delivered upon the occasion by Father O'Callaghan. The development of the virtue of divine faith, its nature, necessity, and conditions gave ample scope to the preacher; and the subject lost nothing but grew in importance, and deserved deeper attention from the striking and eloquent manner in which it was evolved and elucidated”.

“The collection followed the conclusion of the sacred ceremonies. The amount more than astounded the most sanguine as being so generous— £15 6s, inclusive of £1 from Very Rev. Dean Butler, £2 from Rev. J. Hogan, and £1 from Rev. J. Noone. The housekeepers determined to exhibit their hospitality to the several visitors, had a magnificent luncheon awaiting prepared in the most tasteful style and in an abundance which would satisfy more than three times the number present. A people as generous in disposition as they are sincere and fervent in their religious convictions and piety, will merit so beautiful an edifice in the midst of them. The designs were given by Mr John Galvin, and carried out most satisfactorily by Mr M. Boland”.

The extremely poor roads in the district meant that Lower Turners Marsh suffered isolation for many years and also presented a challenge to the priests who visited a devout and grateful community. In 1882 a report in the Launceston Examiner reveals the hazards of priests travelling to the settlement:

“The Rev. Father Callinan, of Launceston, visited Turners Marsh last Tuesday, and celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of Mass on Wednesday morning in the Church of the Sacred Heart in the presence of a large congregation, some of whom had to walk a long distance thorough deep muddy roads and wet marshes. As the rev. Father was not well; the sermon was, in consequence, short, but very good and instructive. Midway between the Junctions Hotel and Turners Marsh the rev. gentleman had a narrow escape from getting his horse crippled, and perhaps himself also. When riding over one of those rotten wooden culverts the timbers gave way way, fell in, and in went the horses forelegs after, but I am glad to say, by the good providence of God, he and his horse escaped unhurt. The road from Smiley's to the Settlement, and over Rowley’s Hill never before was bad as it is now…”.

An earlier report from 1874, concerning a ceremony for the sacrament on confirmation, provides us with a vivid picture of the Turners Marsh Catholic community and of the priests who they revered. Most of this report is reproduced as follows:

“On Monday morning, about 9 o'clock, His Lordship Bishop Murphy left the Presbytery, Launceston, accompanied by the Very Rev. Dean O’Connell and Father Feehan, and began his journey towards Turner’s Marsh to administer the sacrament of confirmation there….Glorious sunshine and a good road were the lot of the travellers as far as Rocher’s Creek, but this once crosses, a road muddy and bad enough to baffle description lay before them. As they walked their horses, now at one side, now at another, now in the middle - trying to pick out clean spots where all was dirty - and as they toiled up the well-known Finger Post Hill, everything tended to make them feel that they were in for “a good bad ride”. On a little farther, however, a circumstance occurred which, if it did not enable the steeds to travel more briskly, made the time pass more cheerily”.

“It was the coming of a crowd of horsemen from the Piper to welcome their good Bishop, and be his escort as he bought to them and their children spiritual provisions of life eternal. Having welcomed him in a few but warm words as he approached, they opened a passage for him in their midst, and when he had passed through turned their horses’ heads again towards home”.

“The sight of so many horsemen on this occasion was a novel and most pleasing one and reflects credit on the good settlers of Turner’s Marsh. Some more horsemen met the cavalcade and joined it near that place which rejoices in the teetotal title of Cold Water Creek, and here I overheard one - an advocate of Adam’s ale, no doubt - humming to himself something like a parody on a well know temperance melody, to the tune “Isle of Beauty”…. Nothing else of note occurred until the party reached the Piper, where groups of joyful, healthy children met them, and kept pace with the horses for the rest of the way. On further, other groups consisting chiefly of the “vanathees,” [Gaelic - women of the house] who had to get their husbands’ dinner ready as well as to rig out the children, and consequently could not have gone to a longer distance to welcome their Bishop. All were in holiday attire, and you could see delight plainly visible on the countenance of each”.

“A few minutes more and the little church was gained, and here another party awaited the bishop. The space before the door was cunningly laid out with young gum trees and choice shrubs, which looked as if growing there, whilst the walls inside were decorated with ferns and evergreens. Over the tabernacle was a large and beautiful picture of the “Sacred Heart” - to which this temple is dedicated - and this, with the vases and flowers, made the altar really striking”.

“The Bishop entered for a few minutes, and was much pleased with all the arrangements. As a ride of such distance, and over such a road engenders a good appetite and nature requires that one should satisfy it, the travellers went to the schoolmaster’s residence, close at hand, where they found a sumptuous luncheon provided for them by Mr Kelly. Having done justice to this, they returned to the church and found the candidates for confirmation all ready, the females having on the customary white veils. His Lordship examined the juvenile candidates in the Christian doctrine, and expressed his satisfaction at the answering”.

“In the presence of a crowded congregation, the impressive and solemn rites in the administration of confirmation was gone through: the number of candidates amounted to twenty-four. There would have been as many more, but that some had gone to be confirmed in town on Sunday last, and a good number received this Sacrament there some three years ago. His lordship concluded by delivery an earnest and practical discourse on the obligations confirmation, and he explained to them the absolute necessity of faith, and of accompanying that faith by good works. He addressed also a few words to the parents, telling them of their strict obligation to instruct their children in their religion at home, and to keep them regularly to the Sunday-school as well as day school, otherwise, he said the children would lose the precious gift of faith, and become a curse instead of a blessing to their parents and to society”.

“May his words be remembered by all who heard them, for I regret to say that some of the residents at the Marsh are very remiss in sending their children to school. Confirmation over, His Lordship kindly distributed the prizes awarded the Sunday-school children on the day of their feast, and I need not say that they considered his doing so a high honour. Mr Kelly now stepped forward, and read a warm and nicely penned address from the Catholics of Turner’s Marsh, bidding their Bishop a hearty welcome - or rather a “Cead Mile fáilte” [Gaelic for "a hundred thousand welcomes] - thanking him for coming to administer the grand sacrament of Confirmation, despite roads worse than bad, and hoping that ere long they might enjoy the pleasure of seeing him there again. The address alluded also in grateful and deserved terms to Father Walsh, of Deloraine, to whose zealous labours when their pastor they owe the erection of their church, as well as the prosperous star of religion in their midst”.

“In reply, the Bishop cordially thanked them for their many demonstrations of respect and affection, and expressed his gratification at seeing so large a congregation and so fine a church in this distant spot. He then gave them all his blessing, and the proceedings in the church came to a close. Outside all remained to bid him good bye, and their parting salute consisted of hearty cheers, which made the air ring again and again. Now, other horsemen were ready, who had come from the other side of the river, and, together with some from the Marsh, were prepared to accompany the Bishop….”.

The priests who ventured to Turners Marsh from Launceston were deeply appreciated by the Catholic community. This reverence is evident in a speech made by Mr Kelly, the schoolmaster at Turners Marsh, upon Father John Feehan’s departure in 1874, to take up a position at Richmond. The speech was also published as a paid advertisement in the Cornwall Chronicle. It is reproduced here:

From the Congregation of the Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart, Turner’s Marsh, to the Rev. John J. Feehan, Launceston:

REV. AND DEAR SIR We, the Catholics of Turner's Marsh, can not suffer you to sever your connection with us as our esteemed pastor for the past three years, without expressing our deep regret end heartfelt sorrow at your departure to another mission. We cannot but reflect upon the great fatigues and hardships you have so cheerfully suffered for our sakes, month after month coming to offer up the Holy Sacrifice in our little church here, and in attending to the spiritual wants of this isolated portion of your mission.

We must remember also the paternal care and solicitude you have ever had for the sound Catholic instruction of our little ones; and we shall feel for ever grateful to the Almighty God for having placed us under your guidance and sacred teaching.

Reverend and Dear Father, we sincerely pray that Almighty God may vouchsafe to shower down upon you His choicest blessings, and that He may enable you to continue your labors with, increased vigor in His vineyard for many, many years.

Accept now, we beseech you, the accompanying purse of over nine pounds (£9), as a small tribute of the regard and esteem in which you are held by your lamenting flock here, who earnestly desire your prayers for them at the Altar of the Most High.

In conclusion, we heartily pray Almighty God to bless your labors in your new mission, to grant you a long life with renewed health and strength to attend to your sacred duties in this world, and heaven in the next.

We beg to subscribe ourselves.
Your devoted and attached friends, Signed on behalf of

James Kelly
Michael McGree
John Lyons
James McGree
Martin Connolley
Hugh McKenna
Thomas Burke
Martin Ryan
&c.; &c; &c;

Plans to build a new church at Lower Turners Marsh date back to the early 1890s but this was not to be accomplished until 1898. The old church was used as a schoolroom until it was dismantled in 1902. Its timbers were used to construct a new convent close to the church. When this convent was in turn also pulled down in the 1950s to make way for a new building, the timbers were once again recycled being sold to construct holiday home on the coast at Weymouth.

Notice of the opening of the church - Cornwall Chronicle 1868

A portion of the address to Father Feehan from the Catholics of Turners Marsh which was published in the Cornwall Chronicle and The Tasmanian (October 1874)

The new church which was built in 1898 (from my personal collection of photographs)


Cornwall Chronicle, Saturday 28 December 1868, page 5
Cornwall Chronicle, Saturday 5 December 1868, page 4
Cornwall Chronicle, Friday 29 May 1874, page 3
Launceston Examiner, Tuesday 29 September 1874, page 2
The Cornwall Chronicle, Wednesday 30 September 1874, page 3
Tasmanian, Saturday 3 October 1874, page 14
Launceston Examiner, Tuesday 10 October 1882, page 3


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