St Joseph’s Catholic Church on Kiriri (Hammond Island) has a long history dating back to the early 1920s. At the time of its construction, the Sacred Heart missionaries were keen to expand their area of operations, especially in the context of the growth of population driven by such rapidly developing local industries as pearling.
Formal permissions were sought and granted in the late 1920s and the Sacred Heart missionaries began establishing themselves on the island. One of the first priorities was to construct a church and this was quickly undertaken by the first priest, Father McDermott, with the help of the local people. Opened in 1929, this first St. Joseph’s Church, as with other early mission buildings, relied heavily upon locally obtained materials. The floor was originally beaten earth, but wooden flooring was later added. The walls were of plaited coconut leaves and the roof was of corrugated iron sheeting.
This first church served the community for many years, however the coming of the Second World War and the evacuation of Kiriri and other communities meant that the building was to deteriorate over time. By the end of the war, the building was in poor condition and it was said that even its bell had disappeared, presumed stolen. There were hopes that it could be repaired but this was not to be, mainly due to the building’s partial destruction by a severe cyclone in 1948.
A larger, replacement church was commenced in 1952 and completed in late 1953. This new church was a much larger and grander building than was its predecessor. Of steel framed construction, around 60,000 blocks of local bluestone granite were used with the new St. Joseph’s Church being formally consecrated in May 1954.
Brian Randall, Queensland Places Coordinator, State Library of Queensland.