A brief history of Catholic education in Dalby
On the 8 August 1877, Mother Mary Rose, who had pioneered the establishment of the first Mercy Convent in Toowoomba in 1873, arrived with a small religious community of the three Sisters, at the request of Bishop Quinn, who had received numerous delegations from the Catholic community of Dalby for a convent to be opened for the education of their children. The old Plough Inn was to become their residence and the first Catholic school in town. This school at the Inn was to be known as St Columba’s and was situated on the corner of Myall and Bunya Streets.
The extensive and rewarding work done by the Sisters over many years furthered the cause of Catholic Education, to the extent that a new Convent residence was built and opened on 8 June 1913 in Cunningham Street. No history of St Columba’s would be complete without mention of the dearly loved and respected Fr TJ Nolan (later Monsignor) who was present on this auspicious occasion as was the Mother General of the Order, who made a presentation of the Altar for the Sister’s Chapel.
With growth in the number of students attending the school attention of Fr TJ Nolan, Parish Priest at the time, turned towards erection of a suitable centre of learning for these students. A new construction was built, on the corner of Bunya and Jimbour Streets, with much of the original timber of the Plough Inn in 1916 for a princely sum of £1,100. The new building catered for pupils from Preparatory grades to Scholarship standard, until 1953 when the new Primary Wing was built on the same site. The school continued to grow and construction of new building continued on this site for many more years.
By 1942, it was found necessary to introduce secondary education to St Columba’s and on 2 February that year Secondary courses began for the first time in the history of the school, with two pupils.
The idea of building a Secondary school for boys had long been discussed by local parishioners and through the generous support and dedication of parishioners, a new school was built and then opened in 1963 catering for boys Grade 6 to Sub Junior (Year 9). The Christian Brothers managed the school under the guidance of first Superior Brother Ted Walker. It comprised of eight classrooms, a science room, a sports store, office, duplicating room, tuckshop, toilet block and residence for the Brothers. Junior classes (year 10) continued at the College the following year. In 1966 Mother General of St Columba’s made the decision that since her school had run out of classroom space the Grade 5 boys would be sent to join St Mary’s College.
Over the following years the Christian Brothers College, St Mary’s, continued to grow, as did the Sisters of Mercy school, St Columba’s, both building and expanding to cater for the number of students. Catholic Education took another step in its journey when in 1980, St Mary’s College became a co-educational secondary college and St Columba’s a co-educational primary school. In 1996 Preschool began at St Columba’s. In 1998 changes were a foot at St Mary’s College with the introduction of Senior Secondary education (Year 11), and the first Senior students graduated from the College in 1999.
In 1998 after a fire damaged a major building a St Columba’s discussion began about whether the building should be rebuilt at the Bunya Street site or whether the whole school should be relocated to the site of St Mary’s College. A decision was made and in 1999 construction began of St Columba’s classrooms at the Nicholson Street site on the St Mary’s College oval. Over the next two years construction continued and classes began to relocate until the Preschool classes moved to Nicholson Street at Easter in 2001. The move was complete and now both Catholic Schools in Dalby were located on one site but remained as separate schools, St Columba’s School Preschool (Prep in 2003) to Year 7, and St Mary’s College Year 8 to Year 12.
In September 2006 after years of thoughts, ideas and preliminary conversations and consultation, Bishop Bill Morris gave permission for the unification of St Columba’s School and St Mary’s College. Planning and preparation for the unification of the two schools began in earnest in 2007, and 2008 the two schools were unified and became Our Lady of the Southern Cross College.
Since unification building and growth have continued at the College, to the state of the art, modern facilities we have today. Times have surely changed from the humble beginnings of the Plough Inn school run by a religious order to today’s College producing citizens of the 21st century, taught by highly trained specialize staff. Much has changed over the years but Catholic Education is still an integral part of the Dalby Community.
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