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Church’s rebirth

THE “Star” of the North – one of the most popularly visited tourist attractions in the Kimberley – the historic, much-loved Beagle Bay Church which bell tower suddenly collapsed in a heap of rubble only weeks ago – will rise again thanks to an emotional surge of WA public support.

People of all denominations across the State’s remote North West are combining to raise the urgent $150,000 needed for the restoration before the start of the Big Wet and to secure a gaping hole torn in the fabric of the church.

The historic three bells, torn from their tower, were rescued, buried beneath the tons of bricks on the ground.

Public efforts have reached a target of $15,000 to allow rebuilding work to commence and reach the eight metre mark before Christmas.

The pretty white Bavarian style edifice of the Sacred Heart Church, first dedicated on August 15, 1918, is part of the now world-famed Beagle Bay Mission with its long and chequered history, most famously as a home to hundreds of Aboriginal children who lived there in the 1930s.

It was Beagle Bay which saw the first establishment of the Catholic Church in the far north of WA, by a French order of Trappist monks in 1890, more than a century ago.

At the first of a series of fund raising events some of the over 80-year-old original Aboriginal hand-made clay and mud bricks from the church tower were auctioned in Broome earlier this month.

The Bishop of Broome, Christopher Saunders, says the bricks are unable to be used again in the rebuilding program as they contain saltpetre, potassium nitrate, which it is thought, combined with the elements, may in part have been responsible for the eventual crumbling of the tower.

The mission has been battered by cyclones over the years sited as it is 120 red dirt kilometres from Broome on the western side of Dampier Peninsula, a few kilometres inland from Beagle Bay, a popular base for pearling luggers.

Further fundraising events for the bell tower were held on Melbourne Cup Day in Broome.

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