Final souvenir from MacKillop's Penola school stable

A simple slab of wood is all that remains of the original school stable in the South East South Australian town of Penola where Blessed Mary MacKillop launched her dream of an education system for the poor.

The slab, which is made of either local redgum or stringybark, is now the centrepiece of the Mary MacKillop Centre at Penola, says Claire Larkin who chairs the Centre.

"I always think of how interesting it was that she started in such a humble building and how the people must have been so keen to have their children educated that they sent them along to a stable for their education," she told the ABC.

The school was eventually moved to a more facilitating facility, a hall commissioned to be built by MacKillop's partner, Fr Julian Tenison Woods.

"It's got a beautiful texture (and) the warmth of wood," Larkin says. "It's all that's left of the old stable unfortunately, but it'll be here for another 100 years. It's a 150 years old now."

MacKillop first arrived in Penola at the age of 19 to be the governess of the children of her aunt and uncle, the Camerons, an important family in the founding of the town.

It was here, seeing the conditions of the poor and with the support of Woods, that her story began.

"They decided to start an education system that would cater for those early children of the 1800s. Education was a great need, then as it is now," Larkin says.

"The wealthier people had governesses for their children. But the children of the working class people did not have access to education.

"English and arithmetic, they were top of the list. I think there's a bit of controversy these days about those subjects, but they were top of the list in those days," she said.

MacKillop's Josephite schools were established throughout south-eastern Australia by the time she died in 1909.

"Her legacy to us was her great love of God and her love of people," says Larkin. "She often said 'Never see a need without doing something about it.'"

Curator's choice: Mary MacKillop's stable school (ABC South East South East South Australia, 6/9/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Mary MacKillop Penola Centre
Sisters of St Joseph | Blessed Mary MacKillop
Mary MacKillop Place

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7 Sep 2006