The Pallottines come to Tardun
(Fr Gerhard with help from Sr Brigida Nailon CSB and Br Wim van Veen SAC)
The reason – Beagle Bay in trouble
In the beginning of 1926, the Pallottines were working only in the Kimberley. Fr William Droste was in charge of the Beagle Bay Mission with 2 other priests, 5 Brothers and 11 Sisters caring for 230 Aborigines of full and part descent. Government subsidies were provided for new arrivals but most income came from the mission herd of cattle, which a two-year draught and infestations with ticks and cattle fly had reduced in numbers. Fr Droste went to Adelaide to appeal for funds.
The purchase – Fr William Droste
But Fr Droste was not well and twice that year he was in hospital with the Sisters of St John of God in Subiaco. Archbishop Clune came to visit him. He told him about land, which was being opened up for sale near Geraldton and offered to negotiate a deal for the Pallottines. On very reasonable terms the Beagle Bay Mission could take up the 10,000 acres, which had recently been surveyed and taken up by the Archbishop. Fr Droste could now see another option for supporting the Mission by having a mixed farm for wheat and wool.
First Fr Droste sent Brother Henry Krallmann to inspect the land. A glowing report was the result. Then he asked his Provincial Superior in Germany for permission to buy the land. On 15 November 1926 Fr Laqua promised to send a priest and two brothers to assist Beagle Bay in the new enterprise and on 6 August 1927 he said to go ahead and buy the land. Perhaps one day there would be a College built there for Indigenous priests.
The start of work – Brother Henry Krallmann
Br Henry Krallmann started the work on the property in 1928
On 15 July 1928, Brother Henry Krallmann arrived at Tardun to start the farm. On his own, he began to establish the boundaries of the property and to look for water. It was a difficult task. Brother Henry knew that Brother Frank Herholz was an experienced water diviner and he asked Fr Droste to sent him. After five weeks he arrived with Jim Wilson, an Aboriginal helper. They found water at what became known as the Old Camp. Brothers and Aboriginal workers first lived in tents. Then the Christian Brothers invited them to stay with them. Eventually they built a camp out of sheet iron where they had found water.
In October 1928 the first farm machinery arrived – a Hartparr tractor and a scrub roller – so that contractors could begin clearing the land.
bought in 1928.
At the beginning of November they bought a truck and that year 2000 acres were cleared. In 1929 the brothers began to sow wheat and bought a mob of 200 sheep, but the prices for wheat and wool fell drastically and the expected income did not materialize. Because of poor rainfall the harvest was poor.
Consolidation of the
At the end of February 1929, more Aboriginal workers arrived from Beagle Bay to help this outpost of the Mission – Gregory and Paula Howard, Dick Smith, Tommy Murphy and Willie Roe.
Shortly before Easter Fr Droste came for a visit and appointed Mrs MacDermott, Brother Henry’s assistant, as housekeeper. He continued to Germany for holidays and died there in December, aged 55.
Fr Otto Raible
In August 1929, Fr Otto Raible visited. He had been appointed Apostolic Administrator of the Kimberley Missions in 1928. He brought along a new arrival from Germany, Brother Paul Ratayski. Fr Raible began to take on an active role in the affairs of the farm. At this time he bought a new farm close to the railway siding, later known as Frank Fumic’s place. It had a large homestead and offered better accommodation for the Brothers, though too far away from their work. Occasionally, weekend Mass was held there for the local community. Consideration was also given to establishing a Catholic School on this property.
In November 1929, Brother Matthias Kasparek joined the community to keep the books. He had been at the foundation of Beagle Bay in 1901. Now he was ill and weak and returned to Beagle Bay where he died the following year.
All through the first two years, no resident priest assisted the growing community. Fr Albert Scherzinger had been sent in 1929 but was still administering the parish in Carnarvon. Early in 1930 Fr Raible was asked by the Provincial to free him from his charge so that he could go to the Farm. The Archbishop agreed but imposed restrictions on Fr Albert’s work. He was not to do pastoral work in the district and was allowed to say Mass only in the house.
Fr Albert took office as Rector of St Joseph’s Farm on 8 March 1930. A little chapel was blessed and Brother Joseph Wendling, who had arrived a few weeks before, made the altar. In this way Fr Albert started seven years of dedicated work.
The arrival of this profoundly pastoral man completed the pioneer community. The new Bishop of Geraldton, James Patrick O’Collins, soon lifted the restrictions on his pastoral work and even gave him the Tardun Parish to look after, which included Gutha, Buntine, Morawa, and Perenjori. Fr Albert cared for the whole district.
On his travels Fr Albert became acutely aware of the plight of the Aboriginal people who lived in abject poverty without any pastoral care but his hands were tied. Fr Raible could not approve of any new outreach at this time, as the Kimberley Missions were the Pallottine mandate. The St Joseph’s Farm was to be a subsidiary of Beagle Bay Mission and not a new Mission in its own right. He considered the whole enterprise at Tardun to be only a temporary venture. When the time was ripe, it would be sold.
At that time Fr Raible could not foresee the development Tardun would later take.