The History of St Mary’s: The Beginning

  • In 1875 the original tin and pine Pioneer church was opened and blessed. This church was located in the bottom corner of our playground, on the corner of Pioneer and Selwyn Streets. Resident priests from Tumut served here.
  • Prior to 1862, Catholics of Reedy Flat (now known as Batlow) travelled to the home of Mr Henry Butz for Holy Mass. At other times Reedy Flat Catholics travelled down the creek to Roches.
  • On 16th April 1923 Bishop Gallagher proclaimed Fr Jas McDade as the rector of the new district parochial of Adelong Batlow.
  • Three Sisters of St Joseph’s Sr Alacoque, Sr Raphael and Sr Rita were welcomed by Fr McDade on their arrival in the parish in early October 1923. They were to live in the convent that had not been finished being built. There were 3 beds, three chairs and a table upon which was a box which served as a tabernacle. The chairs had to be carried from room to room. A few kitchen utensils and a small table completed the furnishings of the convent.
  • The three Sisters began school in the old wooden church with eight students in late October 1923. There was no equipment. The children sat on roughly hewn kneelers and used seats for desks. There were no blackboards, presses or text books.
  • The eight students were Lilly O’Grady, Kathleen O’Grady, Esme Higgins, William Butz, Kevin Glynn, Edward Connors, Vincent Townsend and Arthur Arentz. This was the beginning of Catholic education in Batlow.
  • Batlow’s first train arrived on December 17th 1923.
  • In 1925 Rev Fr Devine was appointed to take Fr McDade’s place. His first work was to finish the convent and this was completed within 3 months.
  • The weatherboard convent was built by RC Masters at a cost of $2020. The convent was blessed and opened by Bishop Barry on 25th April 1925.
  • Fr Devine also decided that the parish needed a new church-school. He founded the St Joseph’s Society of Voluntary workers who gave over 2020 hours of labour of which Fr Devine (an ex builder) gave 253 hours of his own time. The workers toiled hard making the concrete bricks by hand and then laying the foundation using these bricks and assembling the mass of materials needed by the builder Mr Larcombe. They worked from dawn until late at night using car lights to work by. The building was completed by Larcombe for $500.
  • Other great workers were: Dixon Currie-340 hrs, OJ Butz-227 hrs, Fred Arentz-156 ½ hrs, FJ Casey-127 ¼ hrs, JV Casey-100 hrs. There were many others of lesser hours.
  • On the 5th March 1928, Batlow’s new church-school was blessed and opened by Bishop Barry. Fr Devine received high praise for his novel scheme in building the church-school. He attended a banquet following the opening and $670 was given or promised. In addition Batlow had $500 given by Fr McDade from Adelong Presbytery Fund. Fr McDade appealed to Adelong for assistance and $1000 overdraft was secured from the Adelong Bank with guarantors Arragon, Roche, Murray, Kelly, McNamara, Hourigan, Scanlon, Casey and Curry. Batlow of Adelong benefactors said, "real sports are they!"
  • This new church-school replaced the old pioneer knotted pine and tin church. This is the same church that now stands today - our Church, St Mary’s. This would now become the second building that students at St Mary’s were educated in. 
  • As most people would remember, one thing that was always taught well by the Sisters of St Joseph’s was music and singing, with concerts performed every year.
  • 1928: The new church-school (our present church St Mary’s), the presbertery was built from wood from the orginal church after it was pulled down.
  • No new furniture was provided for the new school. Maps and charts were all hand made. Many of the students had their own desks made from a fruit case with four legs attached or a large kerosene tin. These were a nuisance to move each Friday to convert the school room to the church for Sunday.
  • For many years Mass was celebrated on three Sundays of the month while on the fourth Sunday was Benediction at night and Mass on Monday morning.
  • There was no telephone or electricity. Wood was carted in and cut into lengths using OJ Butz’s cross saws. Water had to be heated in the copper.
  • 1933: The kerosene and fruit boxes were replaced with long desks and seats.
  • 1933: Water was connected to the convent from a race.
  • 1934: Electricity was installed in the convent
  • 1944: A further classroom was added by J Clarke (the annex)
  • 1949: First refrigerator was purchased
  • 1951: On July 25 Fr John Butz was ordained a priest by Rev G Young in St Mary’s Church
  • 1952: Hot water was installed
  • Many of you would remember the altar with the priest had his back to you. The altar was very ornate.
  • As numbers were increasing and space was restricted in the church, it was decided that a new school needed to be built in a separate building. 
  • 1957: The new school building (the original brick part of the present day school) was blessed and opened on the last Sunday in January by Monsignor McKenna
  • 1968: The first Parents and Friends Association (P&F) was formed
  • 1973: First lay teacher, Miss Judy Cusaack, was appointed. In the following years a lay teacher was appointed to teach with the Sisters including Miss Michelle Thompson, Miss Rosemary Myers and Mrs Jean Skein.
  • 1984: Sisters of St Joseph’s are farewelled after 62 years of service to the Batlow Community. The train also stopped running in Batlow.
  • 1985: Mr Paul Croker-first lay Principal appointed along with Miss Nicole Noland and Mrs Janice Vanzella.
  • 1988: The 80 year old pine trees are cut down in the playground after they were declared a safety hazard.
  • 1988: This classroom was purchased from the Forestry Commission and restored to its present condition for around $11,000. 400 hours of voluntary labour were added to the cost which saved the expense of building a new classroom.
  • This was made possible with a $10,000 loan from CCDF (interest subsidy was obtained from the NSW Government and the capital repayment made by the dedicated parish and P&F Association.
  • Opening & Blessing of new classroom by Monsignor George Weissel.
  • The building served as a classroom, Principals and Administration area for many years. (Present day Art Room and Teacher Resource Room)
  • By the 1990’s St Mary’s had grown considerably with approximately 65 students enrolled.
  • 1995: Opening and Blessing of the new renovations of classrooms, toilets, skylights and upgrade of staffroom. This was made up of a grant of $13,388 from the Commonwealth Government Capital Grants and local contribution of $5500.
  • 2002: New playground equipment was purchased replacing the treated wood play structure. This was made possible by the fundraising efforts of the P&F committee.
  • 2007: Opening and Blessing of “Investing in our Schools Project’. Money from the Government was used to upgrade furniture for the library and classrooms, build shade sails over the play area and a new school sign.
  • The school received news of the ‘Building the Education Revolution’ BER from the Federal Government. This was a significant amount of money that was received which enabled two new classrooms, a Principal’s Office, new staffroom and administration area to be built onto the original school building. Building commenced late 2009 and was completed by Term 3 2010.
  • 2010: The P&F Association and School Board combined to form the St Mary’s Community Council.
  • April 2011: Opening and Blessing of the extension to school buildings by Monsignor John Wood on 4th April 2011.
  • The largest group of Year 6 students to ever go through the school-18 students in total in just Year 6. This affected the schools total enrolments and resulted in the school returning to a two teacher school for the first time in many years.
  • Enrolments started at 33 at the beginning of the year and were 35 by the end of the year.
  • 2013: Twenty four solar panels are placed on the school roof, plus a water tank, LED efficient lighting and ceiling fans all made possible from a grant for $50.000 National Solar Schools Project.
  • 2018: Our numbers hit 60 and we had a small celebration!

The future for St Mary’s

Teaching and Learning will continue to be our focus with technology as we continue to embrace technology and upgrade our school buildings (E.g. Weather Shed and Playground). Most of all, we are looking forward to celebrating our 100th birthday with you all!