Queensland Places - St. Mark's Church, Badu

The history of St. Mark’s Church on Badu is closely linked with and is part of the history, development and expansion of the Anglican Church throughout the Torres Strait.  As was the case in many other Torres Strait communities, the building of St. Mark’s was a community effort with the skills, materials and the funds needed all coming from the Badu community.  An earlier church building had existed on the island, described as being built of bark with walls of plaited palm, but this had become too small for the community and was in need of replacement.  The building of a new church to take the place of this older building was said to have been encouraged by the Reverend J.W. Schomberg, a leading church figure at the time, with the strong support of the Badu community.

St Mark’s was designed to accommodate around 700 people, with construction commencing in late 1933 and being completed some two years later, at a cost of some two thousand pounds, raised within the island community.  The new church was formally dedicated by the Reverend Stephen Davies, Bishop of Carpentaria, on 12 January 1936.  Its internal features were also designed or created by local community members and included an altar crucifix made of tortoise shell as well as a large cross made from local bloodwood.  There were also other church ornaments made from pearl shell and dugong ivory.  Amongst the many interesting stories from St. Mark’s long history are early newspaper reports of an elderly church member who walked up and down the aisle during services, carrying a stick fitted with a decorative silver cap, which he used to poke anyone dozing off or otherwise not paying attention.  These reports also tell of him performing this role with enthusiasm.

St Mark's Church of England, Badu Island, ca 1935, State Library of Queensland Neg. No. 42764

This photograph, dating from 1935, shows the newly completed St. Mark’s, before the establishment of its surrounds and gardens.  In the years since this image was taken, the church has become an integral part of the Badu community, playing host to innumerable community events and services and it remains an important and prominent part of Badu’s history.

Brian Randall - Queensland Places Coordinator, State Library of Queensland.

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