Building a new life
The Not Just Ned exhibition developed by the National Museum of Australia features objects which help to tell a story of the Irish building new lives in Australia in fields including politics, religion, education and the arts.
In 1888 Irish-born journalist James Francis Hogan felt that his countrymen and women had created a 'New Ireland in Australia'. But the truth was much more complex.
Eighty percent of the Irish emigrants in Australia were Catholic and they faced prejudice for their religious views, support of Irish nationalism and a separate school system.
Stories featured here include that of Eureka leader Peter Lalor, the Kelly gang, the Fenian political prisoners rescued from Fremantle, outspoken archbishop Daniel Mannix, prime minister Ben Chifley and poet Vincent Buckley.
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Proclamation of the Irish Republic, 1916
Proclamation of the Irish Republic 1916. National Museum of Ireland.
Declarations of independence are dramatic events in any nation's history. On Easter Monday 1916, Commandant-General Pádraic Pearse of the Army of the Irish Republic, on behalf of the Provisional Government of the Irish Republic, stepped outside the General Post Office in the heart of Dublin and read a proclamation calling the republic into existence: 'Ireland, through us, summons her children to her flag and strikes for her freedom'.
This act marked the start of the famous Easter Rising. For just over a week, rebel forces held out in various locations throughout the city, but the end was inevitable. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was at war, and 16 of the rebel leaders were executed after they surrendered. Most Irish, and Irish communities throughout the world, condemned the rebellion. The executions, however, sparked sympathy for the rebels and criticism of Britain.
The rebellion and its fate would come to have a profound effect on politics back in Australia. In the second half of 1916, the nation became involved in an often bitter campaign to introduce compulsory conscription for overseas military service. Until then, recruitment had been voluntary, but the large losses of men in France convinced Prime Minister William Morris Hughes that conscription was essential. However, in two referendums, held in October 1916 and December 1917, the Australian people narrowly rejected conscription.
Opposing Hughes over conscription was the Irish Archbishop Daniel Mannix. After the Easter Rising Mannix increasingly took up the cause of an Irish republic, and in Australia he became one of the most prominent anti-conscription leaders. Hughes accused Mannix and others who opposed him of being virtual traitors to Australia and to the Empire in its hour of need. Mannix fought back by declaring that Catholics were loyal to Australia, but that did not mean they automatically accepted British rule in Ireland.
The level of division and bitterness in the Australian community was one rarely experienced before or since. St Patrick's Day processions in Melbourne, led by Mannix, took on the appearance of Irish national demonstrations with floats depicting the 'martyrs of 1916'. In March 1918 it became an offence to advocate the independence of Ireland and a number of Irish Australians were imprisoned.
The uproar died away after a treaty was signed between Irish and British leaders in December 1921; it gave Ireland independence within the British Empire, but withheld republican status. For his part, Mannix remained the Australian champion of complete Irish republican independence for the rest of his long life.
Archbishop Daniel Mannix
Archbishop Daniel Mannix. Melbourne Diocesan Historical Commission of the Catholic, Archdiocese of Melbourne.
Religion: Rebel bishop
Catholic archbishop of Melbourne Daniel Mannix (1864–1963) was born in County Cork and came to Australia in 1913. During the First World War he became famous for his opposition to conscription for overseas military service. It was a bitterly divisive issue and he and his supporters — and Irish-Australians in general — were accused of disloyalty to the nation and the Empire. Mannix's opposition to conscription hardened after the execution of 16 rebel leaders during the 1916 Easter Rising against British rule in Ireland.
Mannix is probably the only Australian bishop ever to be arrested at sea. Fearful that he might make inflammatory anti-British speeches in Ireland, British detectives removed Mannix from the liner bringing him across the Atlantic in August 1920. Forced to land in England, Mannix was forbidden to visit cities with large Irish populations. Mannix was given the freedom of the city of Dublin in 1925.
In 1939 Archbishop Daniel Mannix oversaw the completion of the spires of St Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne. That same year he gave a plaster of Paris model of St Patrick's, made by monumental mason James McGowan, to the Public Library and Museum of Victoria.
Model of St Patrick's Cathedral, Melbourne, 1880
Model of St Patrick's Cathedral, Melbourne, 1880 by James McGowan. State Library of Victoria.
Religion: A model cathedral
Hailed at its official dedication and opening in October 1897 as the 'greatest ecclesiastical edifice in Australia', St Patrick's Cathedral, Melbourne, had already been on show to Victorians for years. The Melbourne International Exhibition of 1880 featured a plaster of Paris model of St Patrick's made by monumental mason James McGowan. After the exhibition closed in March 1881, McGowan presented it to the Catholic Church. The model showed donors to Archbishop Thomas Carr's cathedral fund what their money was helping to build.
In 1939 Archbishop Daniel Mannix oversaw the completion of the cathedral spires. That same year he gave McGowan's model to the Public Library and Museum of Victoria. Why give it away? Perhaps because the model reflected architect William Wardell's original ideas for the spires, and Mannix had ensured they were built to a height greater than originally planned. He wanted them to tower above the eastern end of the city, supposedly above the Parliament of Victoria. McGowan's model had become the vision of another time and so was relegated to a museum. Today, however, it has come back to St Patrick's, where it is displayed as a tribute to that generation of Irish Catholic immigrants, and their Australian children, who gave their shillings and pence to build it.
Replica of the Cross of Cong, 1893
Replica of the Cross of Cong, 1893 by Edmund Johnson. St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney.
Religion: The Cross of Cong
One of the great moments of any ceremony in a Catholic cathedral comes when a cardinal, fully clothed in his red robes, processes to the altar with his attendant priests, amid swirls of incense. Australia's first cardinal was Irishman Patrick Francis Moran, appointed in 1885. Moran was determined to show Australian Catholics of Irish descent their cultural inheritance, the rich iconography of the early Christian church in Ireland. One of the objects he brought out from Ireland was a full-sized replica of the Cross of Cong, which was carried before him as he strode to the altar.
The original Cross of Cong, a twelfth-century Irish Christian processional cross, beautifully worked with Celtic designs in gold and silver, was made to house a relic of the cross of Christ. It was hidden away in the mid-seventeenth century, rediscovered in the nineteenth century and ended up in the National Museum of Ireland, where it is regarded as one of the museum's greatest treasures. A replica was made by Dublin jeweller Edmund Johnson for the Chicago World's Fair of 1893, and copies were made by Tiffany's of New York. Moran brought one of these fine replicas to Sydney, where it testified to the antiquity and splendour of Australia's Irish-dominated Catholic Church.
Replica of the Cross of Cong, 1893 (detail)
Replica of the Cross of Cong, 1893 by Edmund Johnson (detail). St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney.
Monstrance made from jewellery. Donated by Brisbane Catholics for the Cathedral of the Holy Name, 1928. St Stephen's Cathedral, Brisbane.
In the Catholic church a monstrance is a most religious and highly significant vessel. It is used to display to the faithful a piece of consecrated bread, known as the Blessed Sacrament, which Catholics believe has become the real body of Christ during the mass. On special feast days, such as Corpus Christi (Body of Christ), a large and highly decorated monstrance might be used to carry the Blessed Sacrament in procession around the parish.
This monstrance was made from jewellery donated by Brisbane Catholics. Betty Dolan of the Parish of St Augustine's, Coolangatta, Queensland, remembers Corpus Christi in the 1940s and 1950s being attended by the Brisbane diocese's Irish-born archbishop, James Duhig: 'Parishioners, sodality members, and visitors would assemble in procession from the church on McLean Street, led by cross bearer Keith Farrell and the clergy, [and] Archbishop Duhig ... carrying the monstrance under a canopy'.