Parish History – Part 1

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In the late 1860’s, ‘the spiritual wants of the of the small flock in Southport were attended to by visiting priests’ with long intervals between visits. Fr. Denis Fouhy came from Brisbane to celebrate Mass at Binstead’s of Upper Coomera; O’Hanion’s old Hotel in Southport; and Dolan’s in Tallebudgera. Fr. Schurr, Fr. Healy, and Dean Doyle were other early visitors.

However, the history of the Church in the Southport area rightfully commences with the first priest to visit the area on a regular basis, Fr. Benedetto Scortechini, one of a group of Italian priests invited to work here by Bishop James Quinn of the Diocese of Brisbane. With few roads, and only horseback as his means of transport, it is remarkable that this young man found the time to establish churches at Yatala in 1875, Tallebudgera in 1878, and Southport and Nerang in 1882.

The New Parish of Southport

Our parish was officially designated in 1892, and the first resident priest was the Rev. Dr. Michael Patterson. With the co-operation of Archbishop Dunne, land and buildings were purchased. The Church was built by Mr. L. H. Thams, a leading local building contractor in 1903, and was recently demolished to give way to a department store. One of the early weddings celebrated in the ‘new’ Church, was that of Joseph Gooding and Sarah Dolan.

Dr. Patterson died suddenly in 1903 and was succeeded by Fr. McCarthy as the second Parish Priest of Southport. In 1905, because of the growth of the area, he had to enlarge the old Church, and remained in charge of the Parish until Fr. F. Burton took over in 1908. During those years the normal eight hour journey by sea from Brisbane to Southport could be replaced by a rail journey to Beenleigh followed by a twenty-five mile coach journey.