Timeline: Mount St. Bernard College Herberton


1909 - the dream begins...

Fr. Patrick Bernard Doyle OSA - Parish Priest of Herberton and visionary for the building of MSB - begins his 16 year appointment as Parish Priest of Herberton in 1909 (exact date not yet known). In the following year he opens the first Catholic school in the Southern Tablelands: St. Patrick's Primary School, Herberton. Fr Bernard soon sees the need for both a high school and boarding facilities. The dream begins...


04 Jul 1910

The Sisters of Mercy arrive

On 4th July 1910, the first convent of the Sisters of Mercy in Herberton opened with Sr. Mary Agnes Hoey, Sr. Margaret Mary Cahill, Sr. Mary Philomena Davin, and Sr. Mary Catherine Kelly comprising the first Sisters. Their first ministry would be in administering the newly opened St. Patrick's Parish School, Herberton. The work of these sisters would lay the foundation for the establishing of Mount St. Bernard College...

Early 1900s

This painting by George Brooke (date unknown) shows the grounds of Mount St Bernard prior to 1920 when construction of today's convent building began. The first house from the left is where the first Sisters of Mercy lived from 1910. The large house nearest the church to the right is the presbytery (priest's residence) where Fr. Bernard Doyle lived. The prominent building between them is the first classroom on this site. Also note that the church bell tower was behind St. Patrick's whereas now it is found at the front.

29 Jun 1910

St. Patrick's School Opens

St. Patrick's Parish School opened on 29th June, 1910. Sr. Mary de Sales Hoey appears to have been in charge of boarders and by custom at that time would have meant she also was mostly in charge over the school.

Mar 1918

Cyclone destroys wooden Sisters' Cottage

In March 1918 a cyclone crossed the coast at Innisfail and swept up the North Johnstone River Gorge to Herberton. Among other buildings around the area, the original timber Convent of Mercy was damaged beyond repair. The now urgent need for a new (and more robust) convent building likely added impetus to Fr. Bernard's vision for a boarding facility and high school and by 1919 works began on what we now have as the MSB Convent building. To this day, the location of that original timber convent is marked by the statue of Mary in the middle of the lawn in front of the convent.

Mar 1918

11 Jan 1920

Foundation Stone for MSB Convent Laid

After foundational works began in 1919 the foundation stone for the Convent building is formally laid by Bishop John Heavey on 11th January 1920. Building continues well into 1921, with the first intakes of boarders being housed and taught in other buildings onsite until the convent building was completed.

Mar 1921

First Boarders Intake

Ursula Armanasco started at MSB in March 1921

The first intake of boarders for MSB was in March, 1921. The list of these first MSB students can be viewed by clicking here. As the Convent and boarding facility had not been completed by this stage, boarders were housed in the St. Patrick's School building after day-school operations had finished for the day.

Mar 1921

April 1921

Second Intake of Boarders

ca. 1921 - Sports Afternoon

A second intake of boarders arrived in April, 1921. To view the list of students in this second intake, click here.

May 1921

Third Intake of Boarders

Florence Nash - began at MSB in May, 1921

The third intake of boarders was in May 1921. To view the list of these students, click here.

May 1921

25 Sep 1921

MSB Official Opening

The Convent High School, Mount St. Bernard, Herebrton, is blessed and officially opened by the Most Reverend John Heavey DD OSA on 25th September 1921, the day after the feast of Our Lady of Mercy.


First High School Classroom

Historical sources suggest that Mercy Hall (aka, The Concert Hall) functioned as the first dedicated high school classroom at MSB until 1939 when a new "large three story building was erected" (Golden Jubilee Book, 1971). From 1939 up until the present it has functioned as a concert and recreation hall. It was not built in 1921 when classes at MSB begun but was built very shortly after. It seems that for a short period until it was built, high school classes were temporarily held in various spaces while the convent was being completed. The date it was named "Mercy Hall" has not yet been confirmed; but from historical sources and conversations with past students it seems the name Mercy Hall is relatively recent; being known as The Concert Hall for most of its history. The name Mercy Hall is in honour of the service of the Sisters of Mercy and seems to have been attributed at/after an occasion such as the 150th anniversary of the Sisters of Mercy in the diocese, or Sisters' gifting of the college to the diocese in 2006.



1922: Full House & Further Expansion

Katie Dodd (1921-1923), taken in 1925

With the convent building now complete, 1922 saw a strong enrolment of boarders from the age of five upwards. All year levels were now operating and MSB now fully registered as a high school. The first MSB Junior Public Examination student, Miss Katie Dodd, received her Junior Certificate in 1922. A wide variety of courses, academic, commercial, music, arts, painting, sewing, dancing and deportment, and speech was offered. Furthermore in 1922, the Sisters purchased another building to accommodate boy boarders for St. Patrick's Primary School. Matron Mary Murphy (previously Matron of Herberton hospital) was empoyed to run the boys' dormitory.

16 Nov 1924

Death of Fr. Bernard

"On November 16th, 1924, death robbed Mt. St Bernard of a beloved Pastor, friend and benefactor, Rev. P. J. Doyle, O.S.A." (Golden Jubilee Book, 1971). So well-loved was Fr. Bernard that the funeral procession to Herberton cemetery was arranged to pass through the town and that "all business houses in the town, including hotels, closed their doors as the sad procession passed by." (Endicott, 1988, p 165). Not only Catholics, but non-Catholics alike held this pastor and benefactor of MSB in high esteem.

16 Nov 1924


Mother Evangelist Morrissey leaves for Cairns

In 1925, Mother Mary Gertrude Power was elected Reverend Mother (head of the convent) enabling Mother Evangelist Morrissey - so instrumental in the establishing of MSB - to return to St. Monica's convent (and college) in Cairns. One of the current sporting houses - Power - is named in honour of Mother Mary Gertrude Power.


Lourdes Grotto erected

Lourdes Grotto, ca. 1970s

A tradition in many Mercy convents, a grotto commemorating Our Lady of Lourdes was erected in 1928 at the front of the convent building. The Lourdes grotto recalls a significant spiritual event in a place called Lourdes in France whereby the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to a peasant girl by the name of Bernadette. Mercy spirituality is influenced deeply by the example of Mary and so the grotto represents something of the heart of Mercy spirituality.



Boys' Boarding Ceases

Matron Murphy, Head of Boys' Boarding, 1922 - late 1930s

Around or just before the start of World War II, St. Joseph's Boys' Dormitory (run by Matron Murphy) ceases operation. St. Augustine's Marist Brothers' College in Cairns now offers boys' boarding and education. The St. Joseph's building was relocated to Ravenshoe in 1949.


1940s - The War Years

Like other schools around the region, the years of World War II saw sudden changes thrust upon college life at MSB: digging air-raid trenches, making one's own identification tags and hearing air-raid sirens - fear would have been pervasive at times. The influx of US military personnel who were stationed hereabouts, however, seemed to have made for quite the curiosity for MSB students as soldiers marched by, went about their work and attended Mass and other religious events at St. Patrick's church on the corner.

Click here to read some memories at MSB during the War Years by Sr. Mary of Mercy.



Home Science Building

Home Science room, ca. 1960s
In 1947 a Home Science building equipped with cooking, sewing and laundry facilities was built. The ground floor of this building was later to be enclosed to accommodate the Junior and Sub-Junior classes.

10 April 1950

Death of Mother Morrissey

Tombstone of Mother Morrissey, at the foot of the Convent Building

Co-builder of MSB, Mother M. Evangelist Morrissey, died on 10th April 1950. The Sisters' cemetery as we see it further up the hill had not yet been constructed and so Mother Morrissey (M. Evangelist) was laid to rest at the foot of the convent.

10 April 1950


Sisters' Cemetery Built

Sisters' Cemetery with "Calvary" in the background

In 1951 the Sister’s Cemetery was erected and the first Sister buried here was Sr. M. Brigid Mooney who died in 1951. Many have seen the grave of the first Sister to die at MSB, Mother Morrissey, located at the front of the convent building and it is likely that this prompted the Sisters to build a dedicated cemetery to provide for the future. Towards the back of the cemetery is the beautiful “Calvary” (statuary scene of Jesus on the Cross with three people at the foot of the Cross - Mary the mother of Jesus, John his disciple, and Mary Magdalene. It has been a well-known landmark of MSB, and over the years has attracted many photographs.


"Top Field" built

View from "Top Field" back towards the convent, ca. 1970s

In 1952 the Kitchen Block and the Domestic Staff Quarters were extended and later the Tennis and Deck Tennis courts were laid. Much bull dozing and levelling converted the scrub lands to the north of the college into what is now the “Top Field” playing ground. The "Top Field" was roughly where the basketball courts are today. The tennis courts are still there to this day. "Top Field" (of old) is not to be mistaken with the "Top Oval" in current usage which is the subtantial sports oval further up the hill on the college property.



First Senior Public Examinations and further expansion

In the 50’s the first students sat for the Senior Public Examinations, and as the number of Seniors continued to grow, further class rooms were needed, so in 1956 the present grades 9 and 10 classrooms (????) were completed, and Juniors and Sub-Juniors were moved there to allow the first floor of the lower building to be converted into a dormitory.

09 May 1963

College Chapel Built

MSB College Chapel interior as it appears today

On the 22nd of September, 1962, the first sod turned in digging trenches for the new Chapel and Infirmary building. This construction necessitated the purchase of further land. On the 9th May, 1963, in an impressive ceremony, His Lordship Bishop Cahill consecrated the Chapel, which accommodates Sisters and students.

09 May 1963


Further Expansion

Science Lab in the 1960s

Construction of "Bernard's Dorm" in 1964

In August 1964, Mt. St. Bernard saw more additions to the existing buildings. A two storey building comprising Science Laboratory and sixteen Music Rooms on the ground floor and a Dormitory and Dressing Room on the first floor, together with an adjoining Recreation area was erected by Johnston Bros., Atherton. To accommodate the ever-increasing numbers “Coolock” and “St. Brigid's" dormitories and dressings rooms have since been added.


Primary Grades Cease

Owing to the decreasing number of day pupils, Grades One to Five inclusive were discontinued in 1970, and Grades Six to Seven were terminated in 1972. Because of the ever-increasing numbers of applications it had been decided that only Secondary students be accepted as boarders - this became effective in 1972.



Opening of New High School Classrooms

Offical Opening for the New Building, September 1971

Display for Opening of New Building, Septermber 1971, on the "Lower Field"

To meet adequately the demands of the now constantly developing educational system, MSB once again found it necessary to undertake a building project in 1971. This latest addition to Mt. St Bernard was the two storey brick building which occupies the previous site of St. Patrick's Day School (this brick building is nowadays called F-Block). St Patrick’s was moved to the rear of the then High School. The new building comprised a Library, a Science Laboratory and four classrooms, with a recreation area in the basement floor. This building was blessed and opened later in the year by His Lordship Bishop Torpie, to mark the Golden Jubilee of Mt. St. Bernard College.


Rock Eisteddfod Winners

Rock Eisteddfod Winners' Plaques (1994 and 1996)

In 1994, MSB attended the State Rock Eisteddfod competition for the first time. We won first place with the theme of "Anthony and Cleopatra". This event created much recognition for the college and a lot of excitement both for students and staff.



Rock Eisteddfod Winners, Again

Rock Eisteddfod Winners' Plaque (1996)
1996 Rock Eisteddfod Team
The win in 1994 convinced the students that we should "do it again" and we entered the Rock Eisteddfod again in 1996. Again, we won first place and this time the theme was "Joan of Arc". All the students involved put on the performance of their lives. To view a photo of the 1996 Rock Eisteddfod team, click here.


Didge Kids

Continuing the MSB tradition for Music and Performing Arts, the Didge Kids group began in 2014 and showcased Aborignal and Torres Strait Islander music and dance. Led by Mr. Mark Lane, indigenous and non-indigenous students alike were welcome to participate. Some highlights over this time include:

2017: East Coast Tour of Catholic Schools and Dreamworld; Winton Outback Festival; 4th National Catholic Colloquium (Cairns); Reconciliation Day (Cairns); QLD Catholic Schools & Colleges Gold Award Winner (for 2 performances).

2018: Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony - Didgeridoo Orchestra.


MSB Students Perform for Opening Ceremony of Commonwealth Games

Mathew Ederer and Keane Ryan, Gold Coast 2018
On 4th April 2018, MSB students Mathew Ederer and Keane Ryan played didgeridoo as part of the Opening Ceremony for the Commonwealth Games held at the Gold Coast that year.