The Old Days

Saint Columcille's at Kuaotunu

Kuaotunu Church Kuaotunu built a church, St Columcille's, in 1893. Kuaotunu was then a goldmining town of about 2,000 inhabitants. The church cost 100 pounds to build, and was opened free of debt.

The Coromandel County News of Tuesday January 17 1893, records:

The material for the Roman Catholic Church at Kuaotunu arrived there on Friday last, and is being cartered from the beach to the site, near the public school.

In 1954 the building was dismantled and re-erected at Tairua.

Comfirmations at Kuaotunu in 1919
(Adapted from St Mary's College Annual 1941)
The rambling school house and the little church stood together on the hill-top and looked downwards towards the town. Farmhouses lay spread beneath. Away in the distance, sombre and rugged, Black Jack, with its summit veiled in mist, swept down into the crystal sea.

The roosters were crowing in the neighbouring farmyards as we trudged laboriously up the hill to school. Possibly we had slidy boards tucked under our arms, because the hill being delightfully smooth and grassy, we invariably walked up and slid down.

Just what happened next is somewhat blurred in my memory. But I know that in a few short moments we were speeding over the mile of winding road that led to the sea. Someone had brought the overwhelming news that a seaplane had arrived and the schoolmaster, a kindly Scotsman, gave us permission to go and see it.

A seaplane!

We reached the sea. There was the shiny, silver creature resting on the waves. One of the two occupants was being carried ashore on the shoulders of the local hotel-keeper. How we thrilled with pride, we who were Catholics, when we recognised the smiling face beneath the aviator's helmet as that of Bishop Cleary.

He promised to return the following Sunday for Confirmation and in a little while he was gone.

The following days were spent in preparation for the sacrament of confirmation. Every afternoon after school, sliding through the wire fence, we went to the little church for instructions. Every evening, on reaching home, I peered into the drawer to look with delight upon a white, filmy frock and veil, which lay there.
St Columcille's St Columcille's
Sunday came at last - bringing disappointment. The bishop did not come. The white dress and veil were folded away again. The priest told us that the bishop was coming one day during the week.

The next few days passed uneventfully at school. Then one afternoon a knock came on the classroom door. Father O'Byrne stood there. The Bishop had arrived.

We hurried to the church. I looked down with consternation at my old print frock and thought regretfully of the frills and lace folded away at home. In a very little while the ceremony was over and the bishop had gone again.

There were murmurings and mutterings among our Protestant classmates about Catholic Pets getting out of school early. Some even called A rope! A rope! To hang the Pope!

Oh well. Their bishop never came to them in a plane...

The First Saint Patrick's

The first St Patrick's Church in Whitianga was opened by Bishop Lenihan on 16 December 1898. It was replaced in 1979.

The parish priest at the time of building was Father Michael Egan of Coromandel.

First St Patrick's

: Take me back to Whitianga :