Tuesday, August 6, 2019

The Church that would not Die, St Michael the Archangel, Wollombi

Book cover image photographed by Ken Martin.
Launched in Sydney last Tuesday and in Wollombi, NSW on Saturday, The Church that would not Die, St Michael the Archangel, Wollombi is a book about a tiny church with a turbulent past. Flooded many times with the water going over the top of the church in 1893, the church was moved stone by stone by the people of the village and re-built on higher ground. It was damaged in the Newcastle earthquake and then put up for auction on the same day as St Patrick's, Nulkaba. The village went into full defence mode – and the outcome was that the church became the property of a group with Trustees and a committee to oversee day-to-day matters, the Friends of St Michaels.

The church was still a church but it required huge efforts with fundraising for upkeep and restoration ... at one point a dynamited wall led to the discovery of stencilling on the interior walls, which then required restoration. I'm still investigating the provenance of the intriguing stained glass window of St Michael – the likely makers have been narrowed down to a few. I'm on the case. The idea for the beautiful modern leadlight windows by glass artist Margaret Ella was the brainchild of St Michael's treasurer, Mrs Mary Fortey.

Like the church itself, the book is the sum of the involvement of many people. Based on ten years of research by Wollombi and Friends of St Michaels' identity, Gael Winnick, it tells stories of those involved with the addition of early chapters regarding the arrival in Sydney of the first Catholics and Bishop Polding who laid St Michael's first foundation stone in 1840. The 'mapping' of emerging Wollombi and the incredible engineering feat of the convict-built Great North Road are also included.

RRP $39.95 (+p&p), published by the ACU, Sydney, the book will be available to buy in Wollombi from Myrtle House Cafe and Books and Noyce Brothers Cellar Door, also from the ACU Arts & Culture website or contact me. for sales enquiries (proceeds to St Michael's).

Book launch, Grays Inn Garden at Noyce Bothers Wine, Wollombi.

Grays Inna nd Noyce Brothers' cellar door, Panino Caffe, Wollombi Village, NSW.

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