St Raphael's Catholic Church
Young Street, Parkside

B 1917 J.E. Dodd; res 1968 J.E. Dodd and Sons Gunstar Organ Works;
res 2001 George Stephens.  2m, 22spst, 7c,
Gt: Sw: Ped:

From the 2009 OHTA COnference Book, David Shield writes:

The opening of the organ at St Raphael’s in 1917 may be seen as putting the finishing touch to the building of the church.  The Catholic cause in Parkside has been closely associated with both schooling and the Passionist Fathers.  A mission school was begun in Parkside in 1889, which doubled as a church on Sundays but the growth of the suburb in the late 19th century demanded further development.  In 1896, the Passionist Fathers were encouraged to come to Adelaide and were placed in charge of Parkside.  The present church was partly constructed in 1905, and completed in 1917 with towers, entrance hall and pipe organ.


Prior to 1889, the cathedral in Adelaide was the nearest place of worship for the families at Parkside.  Children were sent to school with the Sisters of Mercy in Angas Street.  A mission school was begun in Parkside in 1889, which was to double as a church on Sundays.  The Sisters travelled from Adelaide each day until December 1896 when a branch house was established in Parkside.


The opening of the school saw an interesting connection made between Catholic and Lutheran Faiths in relation to State aid for education.  In his dedicatory address, Archbishop Reynolds “alluded to the injustice done to the consciences of not only Catholic but also to many non-Catholics; the Lutherans for example who like themselves were taxed to support a system they could not use in conscience.  The dedication of [the new school] building for the religious as well as the secular instruction of their children was another protest against that injustice so long inflicted upon them.”1


St Raphael’s was built under the auspices of the Passionist Fathers.  Archbishop O’Reilly had conceived the idea of bringing the Passionist Order to South Australia and in January 1896 they took possession of the property know as ‘The Glen’ in Glen Osmond Rd, now St Paul’s Retreat.  They were given the charge of developing the Parkside and Mitcham district.  One of the first tasks they undertook was to build a new church.2  After 16 years of worshipping in the school the foundation stone of St Raphael’s was laid in 1905.


The Romanesque design of the church was said to introduce a new phase of ecclesiastical architecture as far as South Australia was concerned.  Designed by Albert S. Conrad, the incomplete structure accommodated 400 persons, with sanctuary, two sacristies, two confessionals, nave 51 x 45ft (16m x 14m), choir gallery, and spacious tiled entrance porches on each side.  A temporary enclosure of wood and galvanised iron was erected to allow future extension of the nave, with narthex and dual towers, the lower portions of which were for use as confessionals, the upper space for ante-room and music room respectively.3


Once the debt on this portion of construction had been paid, preparations were made for completion of the design. In 1917, the building extensions were opened and the parishioners had reason to be proud of their building.  In his address, Prior Power pointed out that “there are other fine churches belonging to the Anglicans, Methodists and Baptists in the vicinity but the Catholics of Parkside can pride themselves on the fact that they have a church inferior to none in the district.”4


The extensions to the church, without the organ, and their dedication by Archbishop Spence, were extensively covered in the Catholic media.  The nave had been completed “according to the original scheme and now comfortably seated 600 worshippers”.  However, the front was remodelled “in order to provide larger accommodation for the choir (St Raphael’s is celebrated for its music) and the new pipe organ”.  The choir was to have 60 voices, the organ 22 stops.5


The organ itself was designed specifically for the space it now occupies and cost £755.6  It was definitely not the preferred space of J.E. Dodd, the organbuilder.  Dodd had conceived of the organ being placed centrally in the choir gallery but did acknowledge the limited space available for the choir members.  W.H. Bagot, the architect responsible for the completion of the building, expected to divide the instrument, placing it in the natural chambers to be created by the main towers.7  Dodd argued strongly against this proposition on the basis of cost.  The church would have to pay more for an adequate, or be satisfied with an inadequate instrument.  Dodd preferred to concentrate on “an adequate instrument placed in one of the towers”.  Bagot had pointed out the extra cost of bricks and mortar to create the height Dodd wanted in the chamber.  A compromise was reached with Dodd to use one of the tower chambers, the roof of which was to be arched to his plan, and he would meet Bagot’s requirement of a maximum inside clear floor space of 10ft 6in x 10ft6in (3.2m2) but Mr Bagot’s maximum MUST be my minimum.8  Dodd was not happy.


Dodd went on to emphasise several points.  Father Bertram had to recognise “the instrument will be very shut in”.  The builders would have to adopt wind pressures on a scale much above those of the usual church.  The placing and exceptional wind pressure made a tubular pneumatic action essential “a type of action we do not usually recommend or fit with an instrument of the size you propose”.  This will incur an extra cost of £70.  None of these problems were insurmountable, but Dodd (through his son Eustace) was clearly expressing their dissatisfaction at the situation they had to accept.  However, Dodd endeavoured to reassure Bertram that “the most careful consideration has been given to the matter in every detail, and we can thus confidently assure you that an instrument placed in the tower gallery, provided it is planned, scaled, and voiced to suit the particular requirements of such placing, with the apertures as given me by Mr Bagot, would be a very satisfactory and highly artistic instrument, giving roo m and range for the greatest scope in tone colours and control.”  He recommended the north east tower be used.9  And so it came to be.


In July 1916, Dodd received the order for the organ at St Raphael’s.  In a letter to A.E. Floyd dated 17 July, he indicated that, “on Saturday last I booked an order for St. Raphael's Church, Parkside, S.A. [although] the enlarged Church will not be ready until May or June 1917”.10


Whereas the church was opened in June 1917, Dodd was only finishing the instrument in September.11  The opening was arranged for November.

Dodd frequently organised the artist for the opening of one of his instruments.  It would seem that on this occasion he had invited Horace Weber to do the honours but the rector had had other ideas.  In a letter to Weber on 31 October 1917, Dodd explained that “The Rector has arranged with Mr Wylde to take the Sunday Nov 18th performances as Mr Wylde is a friend of the conductor.”  Dodd went on to say that the rector “would be pleased if you could undertake the work by opening on Thursday night Nov 22nd.”  Although Weber was to have a free hand in choice of programme as regards soloist the rector “wished to have everything printed this week so will be pleased to hear from you at your earliest convenience”.  Dodd added that he organ was not loud and indicated it was at Continental pitch.12


And so it was the organ was blessed by the Archbishop on the Sunday evening.  In the words of the Catholic media report, in part: 


Mr Harold Wylde FLCO., presided at the organ, and the programme submitted on the occasion was so arranged as to display the capabilities and range of the instrument to best advantage.  The recital proved most successful in every way and Mr Harold Wylde, who has lately been appointed organist at the conservatorium showed himself to be a master of the instrument.  The programme submitted consisted of the following organ solos:- “Fanfare” (Bubech) [Lubeck?], “Intermezzo” (Lemare), Sponzalizio” (Liszt), Allegretto commoto” (Hollins), Interlude” (Guilmant), “The Angelus” (Farjeon), “Imperial March” (Elgar), and “Toccata” (Widor).  St Raphael’s choir were in splendid voice during the evening and were most successful in their two numbers “Emerig’s Magnificat” and “Praise the Lord” (Maunder).  Miss Ethel Ridings gave an excellent interpretation of the soprano solo “Come unto Me and I will give thee Rest”, from the “Messiah.”  Her second number was the solo “Inflamatus” from the “Stabat Mater” (Rossini), in which she was assisted by the choir.  Mr Frank Pascoe, who is the possessor of a baritone voice of nice quality, was heard to advantage in his number “Lead kindly Light”.  Mr T Watson had charge of the choir.1


There does not seem to have been a report on Weber’s recital of the Thursday following.


Further research is required to know how the organ fared over the years.  It is believed a storm in February 1946 led to water damage but needs verification.  In 1968 the pedal and stop action were electrified by J.E. Dodd & Sons Gunstar Organ Works.


During 1994 an approach was made to OHTA for a report on the condition of the organ.  As a result, this highly significant organ was completely overhauled in 2001-2002 by George Stephens.  The Passionists laboured for 27 years in Parkside before relinquishing the charge of St Raphael’s parish and returning to the strict Monastic life as founded by St Paul of the Cross in the 1920s.  They again have the charge of St Raphael’s.15

J.E. Dodd 1917

Pedal and stop action electrified J.E. Dodd & Sons Gunstar Organ Works 1968

Restored George Stephens 2001-2002

2 manuals, 22 speaking stops, electric and tubular-pneumatic action




Diapason No 1



Diapason No 2












Harmonic Flute









Swell to Great Sub


Swell to Great


Swell to Great Super






Lieblich Bourdon



Open Diapason



Hohl Flute






Viole Celeste






Flauto Traverso














Swell Sub Octave


Swell Super Octave






Major Bass



Sub Bass



Echo Bourdon






Great to Pedal



Swell to Pedal



Compass 58/30

Detached stopkey console

3 thumb pistons to Great

3 thumb pistons to Swell

Balanced swell pedal

1  A Century of Service 1889-1989 (St Raphael’s School Parkside [1989]); Register, 21 January 1889, p. 7.2


2  St Raphael’s Monthly (c.1923):  provided to D. Shield by Olive Abbot 8 June 1994


3  Southern Cross and Herald, 8 December 1905


4  Ibid., 3 June 1917, p.449


5  Ibid., 13 June 1917, p.450.1


6  Syd Gunn 26 September 1969; Lyall von Einem 27 January 1970


7  Walter Hervey Bagot (1880-1963) architect for St Peter’s Cathedral 1907-1945 and the Roman Catholic archdiocese 1905-1926


8  DLB 1913-16:  Dodd to Revd Father Bertram 15 April 1916


9  Ibid.


10  DLB 1913-16:  J.E. Dodd to A.E. Floyd 17 July 1916


11  Ibid., J.E. Dodd to J.R.B. Campbell of Haberfield 7 September 1917


12  Ibid., J.E. Dodd to Dr Webert [sic - Mr Weber] 31 October 1917.  The handwritten letter is poorly preserved.  The transcription is incomplete and contains spelling mistakes and a date error for Weber’s concert.  These have been corrected from other sources.  Unfortunately the actual pitch is indecipherable.  A Mr Thompson had charge of the orchestra: Southern Cross, 23 November 1917, p.937.1


13  Southern Cross & Herald, 23 November 1917, p.937.1


14  OHTA News, vol.24 no.4 (July 2000), p.6; ibid., vol.25 no.2 (April 2001), p.10


15  St Raphael’s Monthly op.cit.




Photos: Trevor Bunning (March 2009)