Beagle Bay- Dampier Penninsula

Beagle Bay was the name given to it by J. C. Whickham in 1838 which he surveyed the area while aboard the Beagle. However the Nyul Nyul people had always called it Ngarlun Burr which means place surrounded by springs. We had been told that we MUST stop in at the Beagle Bay Aboriginal community to see their famous Sacred Heart church. I am obsessed with shells and this place has been decorated with almost only shells. Millions of them. It was amazingly beautiful! The church is a fusion of traditional Nyul Nyul, Mimanborr and Bardi symbols and European mosaic technique resulting in a unique expression of art and faith.

Like the Sun Pictures in Broom this church and the beach at Lombadina was also in the film Bran Nue Dae. This community has had many missionaries in it’s time. First a Scottish priest and then French Trappist Monks and then German Pallottine missionaries. There were also the Sisters of St John of God from Ireland here. The Sisters were teachers and nurses and they cared for the Stolen Generation children brought to Beagle Bay under  government orders. The community is now run by an Aboriginal corporation.

It was the German priests and brothers together with the local Nyul Nyul people who are the traditional owners of this land that built this church.

Beagle bay 2
The church was completed in 1918. It was modeled after a photograph of a German country parish church brought out by one of the brothers.
beagle bay church outside
The bell tower collapsed in 2001 after 90 years of cyclone winds and was rebuilt in 2002.
giant clam font
Giant clams are built into the walls to hold “holy water”. The bailer shell perhaps used as a collection plate.
beagle bay church1
The alter with side alters which were restored 2010.
alter close up
Shell detail on the main alter. Mother of pearl, cowries, volutes and olive shells were gathered on the areas beaches and used for the gorgeous mosaics. The church was fairly dark but the pearly shells had such a beautiful shine anyway.
alter detail BB
The church took 2 years to build and 1 year to decorate. You can see why. 60,000 clay bricks were made by hand and 30,000 for the bell tower. Thousands of carts of clay, sand, wood and shell were collected. They had no cement so they made it by burning shell and this was used as mortar and plaster.
bleeding heart
The bleeding heart.

bleeding heart 2

beagle station
One of the stations of the cross.

beagle bay detailflowers BBfish bb

beagle bay church floor
The floor in front of the alter there are some of the symbols of the Nyul Nyul people and their neighbors turtles, snakes, emus, dingos, fish, spears and shields.

detail marys alter

detail BB
“Bush tucker” in the shape of snakes, birds, turtles and water lilies

detail BB 2

beagle bay 1
Mary’s alter inscribed with opercula(the dark green lettering) a rare stone found in shellfish.

deatail BBangle bb

beagle bay boat
A pearling lugger in rough seas on Joseph’s Alter
beagle bay hoon sign
Serious but funny sign seen on the side of the road in the community. We wondered if it stopped the hoons! The poor elders have a tough time keeping the young people in line.

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