Old bell rings in new era for Prendiville Catholic College

Head girl Bridgette Richards and head boy Robbie Colbourne get to grips with the new school bell.   Photo by: Martin Kennealey        www.communitypix.com.au   d442865
Head girl Bridgette Richards and head boy Robbie Colbourne get to grips with the new school bell. Photo by: Martin Kennealey        www.communitypix.com.au d442865

A PIECE of American history has found a home at Prendiville Catholic College in Ocean Reef.

The school opened its new ministry and pastoral services building last month. In it is a bell, originally forged in Missouri, which has been installed in the school’s chapel.

According to the school’s research, in 1878 the bell was moulded and poured in the frontier town of Jollification in a makeshift foundry run by the local blacksmith, then housed in the town church.

It became an important part of the town’s routine and was rung at midday every day – a ritual in most frontier towns – and used to warn of fire and other threats.

In the late 1880s, mask-wearing vigilantes called the Bald Knobbers burned most of the town including the church.

It is believed the bell lay where it fell for at least 15 years before it could be moved to an old brick warehouse in St Louis.

It was then owned by a series of owners as the building changed hands from World War I through to the end of World War II, when the City of St Louis took possession of the warehouse.

Before demolishing the building as part of the post-war development of the city, the bell was sold to a recently built Lutheran church where it was housed from the 1950s to early 2000s.

The church eventually disbanded and was bought to be converted to a residence by a man named Phil.

Phil had no need for the bell so he advertised the “one well-used bell” in the local paper.

St Louis resident Robert Brosamer bought the bell to restore it to pristine condition before selling.

Prendiville bursar Terry Raphael said the school had been looking for a second-hand church bell but could not find one in Australia.

“One option was to have a new bell manufactured in a foundry in Adelaide; however the price was excessive and we had no guarantee what the sound would be like,” he said.

“An international search was then mounted to find a used bell and a company in the US had exactly what we wanted.

“Once the bell cleared customs, it was transported to the college and a crane was brought in to lift and erect the 400-pound (181kg) bell in the recently constructed bell tower in the college chapel.”

He said the bell would be used to call students and staff to mass and to celebrate significant events.

“Somewhat similar to its original use in the small town it originated from, the bell is manually operated by a connecting rope in the chapel foyer,” Mr Raphael said.

“It is proposed to appoint ‘bell ringers’ from each year group.”