School history restored at Merriwa

The bell tower at St Joseph’s Primary School, Merriwa, has been a central part of its main courtyard for well over 100 years and holds a special place in the school’s history.  

But having fallen into disrepair, a senior member of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle inspected the bell tower and suggested removing it.

St Joseph’s principal Ashley Borg recognised the bell tower’s historical significance, and after extensive consultation with members of the Merriwa community, believed it was imperative it be restored.

Fortunately, the Diocese changed its mind and recently offered a major maintenance grant that afforded St Joseph’s the opportunity to restore it to its former glory.

“The bell tower is a significant structure in the history of St Anne’s parish, as well as for St Joseph’s, Merriwa,” Mr Borg said.

“Upon speaking with members of the Merriwa community, in particular, the stalwarts of the town and school community, I strongly believed it was necessary for the bell tower to remain an integral focal point of our great school.”

The school received assistance from David Kirkman Carpentry and Joinery, who lovingly restored the bell tower.

“The care, precision and love that David and his team put into this project was nothing short of amazing,” Mr Borg said. “In speaking with David towards the end of the project, I could tell that he was quite emotionally invested in the job.

“He knew what it meant to our school community and he put that extra bit of love into the project and it definitely shows.”

As part of the new bell tower’s unveiling, St Joseph’s staff held a draw to determine who would be first to ring the new bell, with Year 2 student Isabel selected to do the honours.

And as it was rung for the first time after restoration, two current staff, former students Mrs Sally Hagley and Ms Sally Gilbey, were both proudly looking on.

“Members of our school community both past and present know how important the bell tower is for the school’s identity and history,” Mr Borg said.

“In my first year at the school, at Grandparent’s Day in 2019, I had many conversations with students’ grandparents.

“Their recollections of the school were not only just about the wonderful memories they had of being at St Joseph’s, but of ringing the bell and hearing it proudly sound throughout the school day.

“The Diocese’s assistance through its maintenance grant is something for which the school community is truly grateful.”

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Alexander Foster

Alexander Foster is a Marketing and Communications Coordinator for the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle