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HISTORY OF THE PARISH
We have no record of the early days of the Gisborne Parish until about 1855 when Father Madden was appointed parish priest of the Blackwood Parish. This consisted of Gisborne, Bacchus Marsh and Ballan. To visit his parishioners he had to travel on horseback or in a horse-drawn jinker or buggy. There were very few people living in this area and he could only say Mass at irregular times.
As time passes and more people took up residence in these parts, the parishes were made smaller and Gisborne and Bacchus Marsh were controlled by the one priest who lived in Bacchus Marsh. He traveled to Gisborne to say Mass here, still by horseback, sometimes staying at Bullengarook overnight and coming on to Gisborne.
A very fine Catholic man, Michael Brady, who lived just next to the present Mitre 10 shop in Gisborne, was anxious to help the priest. Brady's house was built a distance back from the front fence, so he decided to build a place consisting of two rooms for the use of the priest on his visits to Gisborne. One room was to be used for saying Mass and the other as a bedroom, so that the priest could stay overnight and meet his parishioners.
As the population in the area increased fairly rapidly the room became too small to hold the congregation. There was already a small wooden school in Gisborne and it was here Mass was held. The building was just inside the school ground, near Fisher Street and as time went on it was enlarged and Mass was said there for many years. The land was given by the Government.
As time passed and more and more people settled in the area, the need for a proper church became most important and in 1875 the Church, which is in Gisborne today, was built and when completed was blessed and opened on February 2nd, 1875 by Archbishop Gould. The church cost £3125, very different from the cost of building a church today. A plaque on the outside wall of the church facing Fisher Street gives all the details of the blessing.Since the parish was formed there have been 22 different priests in the parish, staying for different lengths of time. The longest, Father Patrick Gibbons, stayed for thirty years.
In 1888 the teacher at the school was Mary Slattery who filled this position when she completed her teacher training and taught for 57 years. She was a very good teacher, at times had up to 50 children in the one big room where Mass had been said. She taught classes 1 - 8 with very good results and managed to give every child a fine education, as well as an excellent grounding in religion. On her retirement in 1945 Father Nolan who was our parish priest at the time found it impossible to obtain nuns to take over the school, so St. Brigid's had to be closed and all children from there had to attend the Gisborne Primary School. This lasted till 1950 when Father Nolan was successful in persuading nuns from W.A. belonging to the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition to come over to Gisborne. Next problem was where would they live. Father Nolan then decided to give up his presbytery (built several years before the church was built) a Convent for the nuns. This is the building next to the school and used as St. Brigid's office. Father then boarded with Mrs. Murray, whose home was on the spot where the present school now stands. The nuns taught in the old wooden building until about 1953, when because of the increase of enrolments and overcrowding, a new school had to be built.
Father Nolan then set about building a new presbytery, which was completed in 1951, between the Convent and the church. The nuns remained in Gisborne for 15 years when they were recalled to W.A. and again the Catholic school was closed for two years, 1966 and 1967.
After the death of Father Elliot who replaced Fr Nolan in 19955, Father Griffin came to Gisborne. He was eventually able to bring the nuns of the order of St Joseph, founded by Mother Mary McKillop, to teach in Gisborne, and they remained here from 1968 till 1990. Sister Barbara was here for 12 years and Sister Maureen for 10 years. Replacing them were another Sister Maureen and Sister Patricia. Sister Maureen taught at the school but Sr Patricia worked with the lay people in the Parish. At the end of 1990 the nuns were recalled and the school was left in the hands of lay teachers.
In 1977 because of the worsening condition of the convent, built nearly 100 years before, Fr Griffin purchased a house in Brantome Street for a new Convent which remained as such till the end of 1990 when the nuns left the district. Fr Griffin was followed by Fr Loughlin, then Fr Tobin who was parish priest for 13 1/2 years. During his time in Gisborne many major changes have taken place. In his early years here, the church was carpeted, adding much comfort to parishioners in winter, as did the padding of the kneelers. Later the church was painted.
With the increased number of enrolments, 2 new rooms had to be added to the building in 1986 and in 1989 two portable rooms were placed in the school grounds.In 1979 the hall was built and is used for school purposes, as well as being hired out for entertainment. In 1983 when the Ash Wednesday fire devastated so much of our district our Catholic church at Macedon was completely destroyed. Some years later a modern Catholic church was built to cater for the needs of the Macedon people.
Father Tobin's last work was the addition of two new rooms to be added to the small presbytery enabling him to have accommodation for visiting priests who, from time to time, came up at weekends to help with Mass in the country areas of Riddell and Macedon. Weekend Masses were 7.30pm Saturday in Gisborne, also 8am and 10.30 am Sunday, 9.15 am at Macedon and 10.30 at Riddell. We are very thankful to the priests. Father King, (Jesuit) came up every weekend from the Jesuit College in Parkville, required to be driven up and back to Melbourne, hence the roster for drivers. Also Father Coolie, Father Jongerbloed and the late Father Curley assisted in this way. During his time near the last couple of years of his stay in Gisborne, Fr Tobin celebrated his silver Jubilee as a priest, with a celebrated mass in the church and an evening in the hall.
Not too many people know that 100 years ago we had a church built in Bullengarook at the further end of the 'Rook' road out towards Bacchus Marsh. It was called Saint Kolumbkil. The population decreased, young people leaving the district and there were fewer Masses said out there till finally only once in five weeks. The final one was said by Father James Carroll who was the first priest ordained from our parish. Later people attended Mass in Gisborne where Father Griffin was Parish Priest. The church fell into disrepair, seats were given to St Patrick's Macedon.
In those days Gisborne had a Younger Set, boys and girls who had left school. They brought all the timber from the church into Gisborne, intending to put it to good use, but nothing eventuated from this plan.
Over the years we see that Mary Slattery's religious education has resulted in some vocations in the parish. A boy living in Bullengarook became the first one in this area to enter the priesthood. This was Father James Carroll who joined the Salesian Fathers. Salesians are stationed in many places throughout Australia. They are at the College in Sunbury where many boys from this area had been educated. Nowadays they later confined enrolments only to Sunbury students, Gisborne boys then began to attend Sacred Heart.
A few miles from Gisborne out towards Melton was a small place called Couangalt, later becoming Gisborne South. A Catholic family there, Mrs Dunne, had the mail run bringing the mail to be posted in Gisborne and collecting and distributing the mail for Couangalt. Two of Mrs. Dunne's daughters joined the Order of the Sisters of Charity.
In 1942, a Gisborne painter, Frank W. Clareborough's daughter Alice (now Sr. Teresa), who is today living in retirement, entered the Order of the Sister of Mercy. Frank had painted the Sanctuary a beautiful shade of blue, dotted here and there with small gold crosses. In recent years, Stephen De Lai became a Brother in the Salesian Order and is now teaching in Tasmania.
In 1992 Greg Bennett who lived at Bullengarook, educated in Gisborne, spent a few years working in the Commercial Bank in Gisborne. He then studied for the priesthood and was ordained in 1992 for the Melbourne diocese.
© Supplied by Nori Gardiner