Thames History

A Brief History
of the
Church at Thames

The First Priest at Thames


Fr Nivard Jourdan O.S.F.

He was baptised Jean-Louis Jourdan in Puy di Fenestrelle, high in the Italian Alps, in 1836. When he became a Franciscan, Father Jourdan took the name of St Bernard's younger brother, Nivard.

He came to Auckland in 1870. Until 1867 he worked in the Bay of Islands. He arrived in Shortland (now Thames) on 18 October 1867 with seven pounds seven shillings in his pocket. By now he was fluent in both English and Maori.

He stayed with Mr Joseph Mulligan who was building the Victoria Hotel, near the wharf, and it was there that the first Masses were said.

The Italian saint, John Bosco, had said that the church of Thames would be completed without difficulty! Within a few months the church building was finished. One third of it was paid by people who did not belong to the Roman Catholic Church.

Fr Jourdan left for the Chinese Mission in 1873. He died there in 1882.


Various views of St Francis Church, Shortland - with convent, school and presbytery.

St Bridget's

The inside of St Bridget's Church in Grahamstown, opened in 1871.

Thames Hospital

On 13 March 1868 a committee was set up to establish a hospital in Thames. They met in the Roman Catholic Chapel in Willoughby Street. Father Nivard was the secretary.

In 1869, a building of four rooms was built on the corner of Mary and Baillie Streets. Father Nivard was its first President.

The Bell!

"Even the bell," wrote Father Nivard, "is the gift of Protestants."

Father Nivard was admiring the bell as it lay on the ground. Bob Farrell, Master of the Loyal Orange Lodge, descended on the group. "It won't ring", said Bob. "It's wrongly hung".

He fixed it, and the priest handed him a sovereign.

"I'm an Orangeman to the backbone," said Bob, "so I'll give you this sovereign for your church." And the two became firm friends.

In the early years, the bell was also used as the Thames fire alarm.


Priests of Thames
1868-73 Nivard Jourdan OSF
1869- J. Murphy
1869-73 Francis del Monte OSF
1869-731873-74 James Norris
1874-78 Stephen Chastagnon
1878-98 Patrick O'Reilly
1899-01 William Mahoney
1902-14 Patrick O'Reilly
1894 John Golden
1898 Joseph Darby
1904-08 John Broomfield
1908-12 Gilbert Tigar OP
1909-10 John Carran
1912-36 Ferdinand Dignan
1920-21 John Brennan
1921-22 John Doherty
1928-30 William O'Meara
1930 James Tully
1931 John Sheehan
1932-36 Michael McCormack
1936-72 Edward Lyons
1936-40 John Sheehan
1939 Francis Quinn
1940-44 Walter Clarke
1945-49 John Mackey
1950-54 Brendan Connolly
1955-57 George Marinkovich
1958-62 Peter Derrick
1960 Francis McHale
1962-65 Patrick Kenny
1966-67 Ray Green
1967-71 Michael Armstrong
1971-73 J. McCrory
1973 Jude McCarthy
1974-77 Canice Gormley
1977-87 Jude McCarthy
1987-88 Bruce Bolland
1987-91 Theo van Lieshout
1992-93 Chris Hamblin
1994-96 Jack Agnew
1997-98 Jim Ross SM

del Monte

Fr Francis del Monte


Fr James Norris


Fr Stephen Chastagnon


Mgr Patrick O'Reilly
1878-98, 1902-14


Fr William Mahoney
The first N.Z. born priest


Fr John Golden


Fr Herbert Gilbert Tigar O.P.


Fr John Carran


Fr Ferdinand Dignan


Fr Edward Lyons


Fr Theo van Lieshout

: Take me back to Thames :