EARLY DAYS: Mother Mary Rose, who was in charge of the first convent in Dalby.
EARLY DAYS: Mother Mary Rose, who was in charge of the first convent in Dalby. Contributed by Ray Humphrys

Early Days: Behind Dalby's first convent

JOSIAH Milstead wanted to build something outstanding in the small village of Dalby. He succeeded; having the first two storied structure in the town.

He had acquired the original hotel, the rough shanty of Samuel Stewart, on the lower end of Myall St. Now it was time to push ahead. His new hotel was built diagonally across Myall St on the other corner.

The year was 1863 and for a few years it was the upmarket hotel in town.

Little did Milstead dream that one day his hotel would become a convent for Catholic children.

In 1873, Mother Mary Rose had pioneered the establishment of the first Mercy Convent in Toowoomba. Later in 1887, Bishop Quinn requested she take a small contingent of sisters to Dalby.

The Catholic community of the area had been requesting that a convent be opened for the education of children.

The local priest, Father Denis Byrne, was not very enthusiastic about their arrival.

However, inspired by the courage and determination of Mother Mary Rose and her little band and the assistance given to them by his parishioners, his attitude gradually changed.

The large Plough Inn building was acquired for the convent. In it latter years as a hotel it was run by Milstead's wife.

The one problem with the location of the new convent was that the small church was on the other side of the creek.

As Mary Rose refused to paddle, swim or even leap across the waterway, a large log was utilised to span the obstacle and later a small bridge was erected.

Many of the former students had happy memories of the old place.

Few could match those of the former Kit Middleton. As her parents owned a hotel she was sent to board there at the tender age of three and a half years. Kit had vivid memories of the gracious community room which had French windows leading to a balcony.

There were difficult times for the little band who taught at the Convent.

The Education Act of 1881 meant the burden of school fees fell on the parents, and the impractical move by Bishop Quinn that salaries were to be pooled added further stress for the Sisters. Being close to the creek, floods were a dangerous hazard.

Droughts too had their downside as when the water tanks at the Convent were low it was necessary to have a weekly trip the public Bore Baths.

By 1913 it was time to move across the creek to a new two story building, Saint Columba's known today as Iona.

There were many happy memories of the old place known affectionately as the "Old Plough Inn” or "The Inn Across the Myall”.

It had gone from a house of revelry to a house of prayer.


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