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Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Birth of Christopher Augustine Reynolds, Archbishop of Adelaide

Christopher Augustine Reynolds, the first Catholic Archbishop of Adelaide, South Australia, is born in Dublin on August 11, 1834.

Reynolds is the son of Patrick Reynolds and his wife Elizabeth, née Bourke. Educated by the Carmelites at Clondalkin, Dublin, he later comes under the influence of the Benedictines when he volunteers for the Northern Territory mission of Bishop Rosendo Salvado Rotea, and is sent to Subiaco near Rome to train for the priesthood. He leaves after three years and goes to the Swan River Colony with Bishop Joseph Serra to continue his training at New Norcia, arriving at Fremantle in May 1855. Probably because of poor health, he leaves the Benedictines and in January 1857 goes to South Australia. He completes his training under the Jesuits at Sevenhill and is ordained in April 1860 by Bishop Patrick Geoghegan. He is parish priest at Wallaroo (where he builds the church at Kadina), Morphett Vale and Gawler. When Bishop Laurence Sheil dies in March 1872, he is appointed administrator of the diocese of Adelaide. On November 2, 1873 in Adelaide he is consecrated bishop by Archbishop John Bede Polding.

Reynolds has a large diocese and in 1872-80 travels over 52,000 miles in South Australia. The opening up of new agricultural districts, an increase in Irish migrants and diocesan debts had produced a grave shortage of clergy. But his most urgent problem is conflicts between and within the clergy and laity over education, especially the role to be played by the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart. He supports the Sisters, reopens schools closed by Archbishop Sheil and, though opposed by the Bishop of the Diocese of Bathurst Matthew Quinn, helps the Superior, Mother Mary MacKillop, secure Rome’s approval for autonomy for her Sisterhood.

Reynolds is not a good administrator and his strenuous efforts to extend Catholic education after the Education Act of 1875 incurs alarming debts. In 1880-81 he visits Rome. On his return, increasingly concerned with finances, disturbed at the prospect of losing St. Joseph nuns and, to some extent misled by jealousy and intrigue, he dramatically reverses his policy towards the Sisterhood and on November 14, 1883 relieves Mother Mary of her duties as Mother Superior. Though the Plenary Council of the Bishops of Australasia, held in Sydney in 1885, support him, in 1888 Pope Leo XIII decrees a central government for the Sisterhood, to be located in Sydney. The council requests that Adelaide be raised to an archiepiscopal and metropolitan see and on September 11, 1887 Reynolds is invested archbishop by Cardinal Francis Moran.

Reynolds’s health is never robust and after a two-year illness he dies on June 12, 1893 in Adelaide, where he is buried. Although he is austere and hard-working, he leaves his successor church debts of over £56,000. A particularly fine preacher, he is widely respected for his missionary zeal and for an ecumenical spirit unusual for his time.

(From: Australian Dictionary of Biography, http://www.adb.anu.edu.au, Ian J. Bickerton)


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Death of John O’Reily, Archbishop of Adelaide

John O’Reily, the first Bishop of Port Augusta and the second Archbishop of Adelaide, dies in Adelaide, Australia on July 6, 1915.

O’Reily is born John O’Reilly on November 19, 1846, in Kilkenny, County Kilkenny, the son of Michael, a military officer, and Anne, née Gallagher. He completes his primary education at the parochial school of St. John’s Parish, and spends six and a half years at St. Kieran’s College. Due to poor health, he decides against pursuing a military career, and in 1864 he enters All Hallows College in Dublin to study for the priesthood. He learns the Irish language and studies mental philosophy, mathematics and ecclesiastical studies, achieving first prize in each of his classes.

After being ordained on June 21, 1869, O’Reily leaves Ireland for Western Australia in October, arriving in January 1870. Having served briefly in Newcastle (present day Toodyay) and Northam, he becomes a parish priest in Fremantle, establishing the West Australian Catholic Record in 1874 and serving as its publisher, editor and printer from 1883.

When the Diocese of Port Augusta is established in 1887, Pope Leo XIII names O’Reily as its first bishop. Concerned about the financial position of the diocese, which had inherited significant debt from the Diocese of Adelaide, he accepts the posting reluctantly. As bishop, he greatly improves the financial position of the new diocese, reducing its debt by half and earning a reputation as a competent administrator.

In 1894, O’Reily is appointed to replace the deceased Christopher Reynolds as Archbishop of Adelaide. The archdiocese he inherits is burdened with substantial debt, again left over from the old Diocese of Adelaide. Through the sale of church assets and a fundraising campaign, he is able to eliminate most of the Archdiocese’s liabilities while still investing in church infrastructure. He also actively participates in public discussions relating to education policy at a time when the role of the state in supporting religious education is topical. He publicly advocates government assistance for religious schools, stating that it is unfair Catholics pay taxes to support state schools, but receive no funding for their own.

In the later years of his life, poor health forces O’Reily to spend less time attending to his episcopal duties, and from 1905, he keeps to himself in his house in Glen Osmond, leading to the local press referring to him as the “Recluse of Glen Osmond.” Increasingly, his episcopal duties are fulfilled by Bishop of Port Augusta John Norton, who has to visit the more remote parts of O’Reily’s see on his behalf.

As he becomes more frail, O’Reily asks certain priests to accompany him when he travels, among whom is the Dominican prior Robert Spence. When O’Reily requests a coadjutor in 1913, he chooses Spence as his first preference for the role. Despite the reluctance of some clergy to the appointment of a religious as Archbishop, Spence is consecrated as coadjutor, with right of succession, in August 1914.

O’Reily dies at his house in Adelaide on July 6, 1915 and is buried under a large Celtic cross at the West Terrace Cemetery in Adelaide. He is highly regarded by many in South Australian society, with Adelaide’s daily newspapers praising his character, administrative ability and positive relations with non-Catholics.


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Birth of Richard Sankey, Officer in the Madras Engineer Group

Lieutenant-General Sir Richard Hieram Sankey KCB, officer in the Madras Engineer Group in the East India Company‘s army in British India, is born on March 22, 1829 at Rockwell Castle, County Tipperary.

Sankey is the fourth son of Eleanor and Matthew Sankey. His mother is herself from a family of military men, her father being Colonel Henry O’Hara, J.P of O’Hara Broom, County Antrim. His father is a barrister at Bawnmore, County Cork and Modeshil, County Tipperary. He does his schooling at Rev. Flynn’s School on Harcourt Street in Dublin and enters the East India Company’s Addiscombe Military Seminary at Addiscombe, Surrey in 1845. At Addiscombe he is awarded for his excellence at painting.

Sankey is commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Madras Engineer Group in November 1846, and is then trained in military engineering with the Royal Engineers at Chatham, Kent from January 1, 1847, holding temporary rank as an ensign in the British Army. He then arrives in India in November 1848. After two years of service at Mercatur, he officiates in 1850 as Superintending Engineer at Nagpur. During this time he makes a small collection of fossils of Glossopteris from the Nagpur district and writes a paper on the geology of the region in 1854. The collection is moved from the Museum of Practical Geology to the British Museum in 1880.

In 1856, Sankey is promoted as the Superintendent of the East Coast Canal at Madras. In May 1857, he is promoted Under-Secretary of the Public Works Department under Col. William Erskine Baker in Calcutta. During the Indian Rebellion of 1857, he is commissioned as the Captain of the Calcutta Cavalry Volunteers, but is soon despatched to Allahabad where he leads the construction of several embankments and bridges across the Yamuna and Ganges. He is involved in the construction of shelters to advancing troops along the Grand Trunk Road to aid the quelling of the Indian Rebellion of 1857. He arrives in course of this work at Cawnpore (now Kanpur) a day before the Second Battle of Cawnpore. He also is involved in crucial civil works that aid the quelling of the rebellion by bridging the Ghaghara and Gomti rivers at Gorakhpur and Phulpur that enable the Gurkha regiment to cross these rivers.

Sankey receives several commendations from his commanders here and later in the taking of the fort at Jumalpur, Khandua nalla and Qaisar Bagh, vital actions in the breaking of the Siege of Lucknow. For his actions at Jumalpur he is recommended for the Victoria Cross, although he does not receive this honour. He receives a medal for the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and is promoted to second captain on August 27, 1858, and given brevet promotion to major the following day for his services in the quelling of the rebellion. He is sent to the Nilgiris due to ill-health during this time.

Sankey spends a year in Burma as the executive engineer and Superintendent of the jail at Moulmein. On June 29, 1861, he is promoted to substantive captain and is posted as the Garrison Engineer at Fort William, Calcutta and later as the assistant to Chief Engineer, Mysore until 1864, when he is made the Chief Engineer. During this period he creates a system within the irrigation department to deal with old Indian water catchment systems, surveying the catchment area and determining the area drained and the flows involved. Due to the reorganisation of the armed forces following the assumption of Crown rule in India he is transferred to the Royal Engineers on April 29, 1862.

In 1870, at the request of the Victorian Colonial Government in Australia, in view of his experience with hydrological studies in Mysore, Sankey is invited to be Chairman of the Board of Enquiry on Victorian Water Supply. During this visit, he also gives evidence to the Victorian Select Committee on Railways, as well as reports on the Yarra River Floods, and the Coliban Water Supply, and later contributes to the report on the North West Canal. While in Australia, he is also invited to the colony of South Australia to report on the water supply of Adelaide.

Sankey is appointed as an under-secretary to the Government of India in 1877, which earns him the Afghanistan Medal. In 1878, he is promoted as the Secretary in the public works department at Madras, and is promoted substantive colonel on December 30. He is appointed Companion of the Order of the Bath on July 25, 1879, and also commands the Royal Engineers on the advance from Kandahar to Kabul during the Second Anglo-Afghan War. For about five years he is in Madras where he becomes a member of the legislative council in Madras and is elected as a Fellow of the University of Madras. He also helps in the creation and improvements of the Marina, the gardens and the Government House grounds. He is promoted major general on June 4, 1883, and retires from the army on January 11, 1884 with the honorary rank of lieutenant general. He also receives the distinguished service award in India.

After retirement, Sankey returns to Ireland, where he becomes the Chairman of the Board of Works. He is promoted Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath on May 25, 1892 for his work in Ireland. He also undertakes projects in Mexico. Later he settles in London where he dies at St. George’s Hospital on November 11, 1908 and is interred at Hove, East Sussex.

Sankey is memorialised in Phoenix Park, Dublin. A circle of trees bears the name Sankey’s Wood. A plaque dated 1894 lies half-hidden in the undergrowth there.


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Birth of Barney McKenna, Founding Member of The Dubliners

File source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Barney_001.jpgBernard Noël “Banjo Barney” McKenna, Irish musician and a founding member of The Dubliners, is born on December 16, 1939 in Donnycarney, Dublin. He plays the tenor banjo, violin, mandolin, and melodeon. He is most renowned as a banjo player.

McKenna plays the banjo from an early age, initially because he cannot afford to buy the instrument of his choice, a mandolin. He is a member of The Dubliners from 1962 and is the only living member of the original formation at the time of his death. Prior to joining the Dubliners, he spends a few months in The Chieftains. In addition to his work on traditional Irish music, he also plays jazz on occasion.

McKenna uses GDAE tuning on a 19-fret tenor banjo, an octave below fiddle/mandolin and, according to musician Mick Moloney, is single-handedly responsible for making the GDAE-tuned tenor banjo the standard banjo in Irish music.

McKenna remains a great favourite with live audiences, and some of the loudest and most affectionate applause follows the tunes and songs on which he is the featured performer. He is well known for his unaccompanied renditions of songs such as “South Australia” and “I Wish I Had Someone to Love Me.” His banjo solos on tunes such as “The Maid Behind the Bar,” “The High Reel” and “The Mason’s Apron,” where he is usually accompanied by Eamonn Campbell on guitar, are often performed to cries of “C’mon Barney!” from audience or band members. Another featured spot in Dubliners performances is the mandolin duet that he plays with John Sheahan, again with Eamonn Campbell providing guitar accompaniment. As he often points out to the audience, “It’s an Irish duet, so there’s three of us going to play it.”

McKenna’s tendency to relate funny, and often only marginally believable, stories is legendary amongst Dubliners fans and friends. These anecdotes become known as Barneyisms, and his friend and former Dubliners bandmate Jim McCann collects them for the book An Obstacle Confusion: The Wonderful World of Barney McKenna.

McKenna dies unexpectedly on the morning of April 5, 2012 after collapsing in the kitchen of his home in Howth, County Dublin. He is buried at St. Loman’s Cemetery in Trim, County Meath, on April 9, 2012. Initially it is unclear whether The Dubliners will continue their 50th Anniversary Tour in the wake of McKenna’s death. However they soon confirm that they would “do their best to honour all the concert dates for the rest of the year [2012].”


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The Burke and Wills Expedition

burke-and-wills-statueThe Burke and Wills expedition, led by Robert O’Hara Burke, an Irish soldier and police officer, leaves Melbourne on August 20, 1860, ultimately becoming the first expedition to cross Australia from south to north, finding a route across the continent from the settled areas of Victoria to the Gulf of Carpentaria.

Burke is born in St. Clerens, County Galway on May 6, 1821. He migrates to Australia in 1853 arriving in Hobart, Tasmania on February 12, 1853 and promptly sailing for Melbourne.

After the South Australian explorer John McDouall Stuart reaches the centre of Australia, the Parliament of South Australia offers a reward of £2,000 for the promotion of an expedition to cross the continent from south to north, generally following Stuart’s route.

In June 1860, Burke is appointed to lead the Victorian Exploring Expedition with William John Wills, his third-in-command, as surveyor and astronomical observer.

The expedition leaves Melbourne on Monday, August 20, 1860 with a total of 19 men, 27 camels and 23 horses. They reach Menindee on September 23, 1860 where several people resign, including the second-in-command, George James Landells, and the medical officer, Dr. Hermann Beckler.

Cooper Creek, 400 miles further on, is reached on November 11, 1860 by the advance group, the remainder being intended to catch up. After a break, Burke decides to make a dash to the Gulf of Carpentaria, leaving on December 16, 1860. William Brahe is left in charge of the remaining party. The small team of Burke, William Wills, John King and Charley Gray reach the mangroves on the estuary of the Flinders River, near where the town of Normanton now stands, on February 9, 1861. Flooding rains and swamps prevent them from seeing the open ocean.

Already weakened by starvation and exposure, progress on the return journey is slow and hampered by the tropical monsoon downpours of the wet season. Gray dies four days before they reach the rendezvous at Cooper Creek. The other three rest for a day when they bury him. They eventually reach the rendezvous point on April 21, 1861, nine hours after the rest of the party had given up waiting and left, leaving a note and some food, as they had not been relieved by the party supposed to be returning from Menindee.

They attempt to reach Mount Hopeless, the furthest outpost of pastoral settlement in South Australia, which is closer than Menindee, but fail and return to Cooper Creek. While waiting for rescue Wills dies of exhaustion and starvation. Soon after, Burke also dies, at a place now called Burke’s Waterhole on Cooper Creek in South Australia. The exact date of Burke’s death is uncertain, but has generally been accepted to be June 28, 1861.

King survives with the help of Aborigines until he is rescued in September by Alfred William Howitt. Howitt buries Burke and Wills before returning to Melbourne. In 1862 Howitt returns to Cooper Creek and disinters the bodies of Burke and Wills, taking them first to Adelaide and then by steamer to Melbourne where they are laid in state for two weeks. On January 23, 1863 Burke and Wills receive a state funeral and are buried in Melbourne General Cemetery.

(Pictured: Burke and Wills Statue on the corner of Collins and Swanston Street, Melbourne)