AMPHITHEATRE - A POTTED HISTORY


As the name suggests, this little town is situated in an open flat space surrounded by hills. It is in the Pyrenees region of central Victoria. It was named for the Amphitheatre Station, a stock run first settled in 1840 by Alexander Irvine, on behalf of the Imlay brothers of Twofold Bay. This station first formed part of the Glenlogie, or Junction (i.e. junction of the Avoca River and the Glenlogie Creek) run. As many of the pastoral workers in the area were of Irish origin, the need was felt for clergymen to attend the spiritual needs of the workers. Some of the early priests of Port Phillip, men such as Fr. Patrick Bonaventure Geoghegan, Fr. Daniel McEvey and Fr. Richard Walsh journeyed into 'the interior', visiting some of the more remote properties whenever possible. These visits were few and far between and so children often remained unbaptised, marriages were not formalised, and people died without benefit of clergy. The clergymen themselves felt that in their absence, the squatters should be responsible for the religious instruction of the workers; a responsibility which some squatters took more seriously than others.

In 1853 gold was found on the Glenlogie run, and alluvial workings were set up along the banks of the Avoca River. There was a 'rush' here in 1858-1859, and a settlement began to develop at the junction of the Avoca River and Glenlogie Creek. An increasing population had need for regular worship, and so Church services of all denominations were held in tents, or in any building that could be adapted for the purpose. There was some confusion as to whether the town was to be Glenlogie or Amphitheatre, but eventually the latter name was adopted.

By the 1860's it was clear that the settlement was to become permanent as tents and bark huts gave way to more solid dwellings. It was felt by various denominations that more substantial church buildings should reflect this permanence. Among these were the Catholics, and their wooden church was built in 1867 and officially opened by Rev. Father Fennelly in July of that year. The story is that the wooden church was destroyed by white ants - at any rate it was replaced in 1906 by the present brick building. The foundation stone was laid on 4 June 1906 and the building was completed at a cost of 600 pounds. It is this building, St. Patrick's Church, which celebrates its Centenary on Sunday, 17 September 2006*. Any member wishing to know more about the area is recommended to read "A Valley of the Finest Description" by Margaret Oulton, which gives a detailed history of the Pyrenees area, and Margaret Kiddle's "Men of Yesterday" for information about the early priests.

* Note: On 17 September 2006 at these Centenary celebrations Julie Hopper met Tony O'Shea, President of the Avoca and District Historical Society, whose great-great-grandfather, Charles Stanley Wentworth had a plant nursery named "Shenley" next to the railway station of the same name on the Outher Circle Railway. Also at the celebrations a sycamore tree was planted outside St. Patrick's Church, the seed of which had come from a tree planted at Elmhurst in 1871 by Julie's great-grandfather, Joseph Hillary. Joseph and Lucy Hillary had settled at Elmhurst in the 1860's and though their house no longer remains their sycamore tree is still going strong with a plaque on it commemorating its origins.

Contributed by Julie Marion Hopper ( PPPG Member No. 1300 )


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