MSB Mercy Heritage Rooms (Museum)

The MSB Mercy Heritage Rooms (Museum) have been established across two large rooms within the convent building: one displaying artefacts from convent life and the other displaying artefacts and scenes from college life more broadly. These rooms are:

  1. The former convent chapel where the Sisters gathered for convent prayers and mass every day - this room has been restored sympathetically to its original style and houses the collection from convent life; mostly from the convent parlour and the former convent chapel.
  2. The former Sisters' Community Room where, after hours, the Sisters would gather like a family does for evening or weekend recreation - this room houses the collection from student and college life more generally. This includes a wide variety of artefacts and curiosities from photos to typewriters to commodes!

Explore these rooms a little further in the sections below. Information and images in this section will grow as loans and donations to our collection continue to come in.

Heritage Room #1 - Convent Life (formerly, the covent chapel)

Piano brought from Cooktown Convent to MSB.
Oratory (Chapel) stalls from the former convent chapel.
Silver teapot presented to Mother Mary Evangelist Morrissey.
'The Stuffed Birds'
Historical furniture, artefacts and other curiosities from convent life have been arranged for display in the former convent chapel. One half of this room displays items from the former convent chapel while the other half displays items from common areas of convent life such as the Parlour and the Community Room.
Of note are such items as:
  • Piano - this piano came with the Sisters from Cooktown and so it pre-dates the Herberton convent itself. Note the fine engravings in the timber keyboard cover. There were once two brass candle-holders on the vertical facing, the whereabouts of which are presently unknown.
  • Commemorative Roll of Sisters - to commemorate their 120th anniversary of ministry in Far North Queensland, the Sisters of Mercy commissioned a set of engraved timber pieces in the form of an open book upon which are engraved the names of every Sister of Mercy who served in Far North Queensland up to that point. The roll begins, in italics, with the pioneer five Sisters who arrived in Cooktown in 1889 to establish the Congregation in this region. Thereafter, the names are in alpahbetical order of surname.
  • Oratory Stalls - a set of two stalls which were part of the original convent oratory (chapel). Stalls were specially designed seating for those in religious orders when they gathered in their chapel for daily prayers. They are arranged to face opposite each other, rather than towards the front, because of the particular manner in which the daily community prayers were traditionally chanted - with each side taking turns to chant a verse [of the Psalm] at a time.
  • Chalices and Ciborium - the metal chalices and ciborium on display in this room are of particular historical interest. From the engravings on their bases it appears that: one was donated to the convent by Bishop James Murray in 1910 (the year the Sisters arrived in Herberton); another was donated by a priest by the name of Fr. Dempsey; another was donated by the first convent in Cooktown; and another was donated by Bishop Thomas Cahill. Each of these engravings discretely asks the priest using them at Mass to pray for them - a traditional engraving when donating a chalice/ciborium.
  • Silver Teapot (Mother Evangelist Morrissey) - a silver teapot presented to Mother Mary Evangelist Morrissey in 1921 by St Monica's Branch H.A.C.B.S Cairns.
  • Wall painting of this property prior to 1918 - one of the wall paintings in this room is of the property (wouldn't have been known as MSB back then, rather more likely as 'The Roman Catholic Complex') prior to March 1918. This dating considers that construction began on the current convent building in 1919 and a cyclone rendered the original, timber convent uninhabitable in March 1918.
  • The 'Stuffed Birds' - a glass-fronted cabinet containing a variety of taxidermied birds and a lizard. The origins of this cabinet are largely shrouded in mystery; even the present Sisters cannot tell us what its purpose was or whose it was. When the question was put to the Past Students' Facebook group recently, it seems that many past students don't recall having seen it. Those few who had, recall that for some period of time it was kept in the Parlour where speech exams were conducted and so those students recall seeing it. Others who did piano exams likewise recall it. One story (oral, not written) has it that it originally belonged to a Pharmacist (or his wife) in Cooktown, who had connections with the Sisters of Mercy there. When MSB was built and some of the Cooktown boarders and Sisters relocated to Heberton the Pharmacist donated it to MSB with the intention it could be used in Science classes. Some of the present Sisters recall not a few older Sisters disliking it and so perhaps it was left to be a curious display in the Parlour. Prior to the Heritage Rooms project, it had been hidden away in a lesser-known room. Now, it comes back for all to see. Who knows how old this display is...
A view inside the former Convent Oratory (Chapel), currently being arranged to display furniture, historical artefacts and other curiosity from convent life over the decades.
Commemorative Roll: Sisters of Mercy Cooktown, Herberton, Cairns (1888 - 2011).
Sacred Chalices and Ciborium gifted to MSB over the years.
The Roman Catholic property, ca. 1918, by George Brooke.
Click on the image for a larger version.

Heritage Room (#2) - Student & General College Life
(formerly, the covent community room)

Rock Eisteddfod trophies, 1994 & 1996
Suitcase belonging to one or more novice Sisters of Mercy who arrived in 1928..
Historical furniture, artefacts and other curiosities from general college and student life have been arranged for display in the former convent "Community Room". Items in this collection have been grouped into "decade displays" so that as you walk through the collection you journey through the decades; starting in the 1920s and finishing in the 2010s. Each decade contains different items including: photos, trophies, items of uniform, textbooks, yearbooks. Unique items will appear in specific decades, including: commodes, typewriter, student ports, report-card comments (from the 1950s-1960s), and even a near-100-year-old suitcase used by some of the earliest Sisters to arrive in Herberton from Ireland.

Each decade will have its own screen scrolling the collection of historic photos from that decade available to us. Should you have photos from your time at MSB, please consider scanning them and forwarding them to us either by USB to the college reception, or mailing to us at PO Box 14 Herberton QLD 4887, or via email to We are keen to include as many generally-relevant photos as we can.

Particular items of interest (peculiar or otherwise) in this collection include:
  • Rock Eisteddfod trophies, 1994 & 1996 (MSB collection): 1994 and 1996 remain highlights of many MSB past-student conversations mainly because of the State Rock Eisteddfod wins that our musical and performing students achieved those years. ...
  • MSB Blazer (donated by Lucille Savina, nee Keegan): this college blazer was first worn by Denyae Allsop (nee Keegan) from 1963-1966 after which it was "handed-down" to her younger sister, Lucille Savina (nee Keegan) who kindly donated it to the MSB Heritage Collections. 
  • Novice's Suitcase (belonging to an early group of Mercy Novices who arrived from Ireland in 1928): this suitcase was found in the "dungeon" - that space beneath the convent building where earlier boarders would remember having to stow their suitcases after arriving to MSB for boarding each term. Nothing was known about this suitcase until we discovered remnants of the old passenger luggage tags for both a ship travelling from London to Brisbane and then Queensland Rail travelling from Brisbane to Herberton. The ship tag immediately indicated to us that this was not a student's luggage and that it would have belonged to one of the groups of Nuns who came from Ireland. We could identify the name of the ship as the "TS Hobson's Bay" which ceased sailing under that name in 1935. So we dug-up some old records that the Sisters had of Sisters who had come out from Ireland to Herberton and then cross-referenced with the ship's passenger inventories (accessible online) and found that a group of Novices was recruited in County Waterford, Ireland, and escorted by Mother Gertrude Power by ship and then rail all the way to Herberton to serve at Mount St. Bernard College. The names of these Sisters is listed below - this very suitcase belonged to one or a few of these young ladies, who left home and kin with no promise of ever returning, all for the mission of Mercy Education at MSB.
  • Typewriter (on loan from Traylea Sexton, past student 1993-1994): the story as we have it is that this typewriter was part of a number which were brought to MSB from the original convent in Cooktown for use by students in certain subjects.
MSB Blazer first worn by Denyse Allsop (nee Keegan) then by her younger sister, Lucille Savina (nee Keegan).
Typewriter brought to MSB from the original convent in Cooktown. It is believed this was used by students in secretarial classes.