|Archbishop Polding photographed in 1869.|
Image : The State Library of Victoria.
Perhaps the most striking is this extract from Archbishop Polding's address to the large crowd assembled to witness the Foundation of the Cathedral :
And now we have begun a new history, and I agree with you in desiring to inscribe on its very first page the most generous sympathy and help, offered to us and accepted, when we first gathered together after our disaster, from many who are not sharers in our Catholic responsibilities. May God reward them as He best knows how. You say that thoughts of that kindness enabled you to endure much that you have since been called upon to endure. No doubt, and righteously so. What should give us confidence in our fellow men if kindness, spontaneous kindness in the very hour of need does not give it? You were right in trusting that the minds and hearts of our noblest fellow citizens, then shown to you in word and deed, would never accept or if for a moment they accepted, would speedily reject and repel the shamefully foul and cunning calumnies that at one unhappy moment were cast into the air, like a deadly miasma, by ignorant hate, and unscrupulous political scheming. Nothing has made me more thankful than the steady, manly, forbearance of so many of my dear simple children in the faith, under the most painful provocation. Their generous souls understood the motive that you have given expression to, and they accepted the counsel of the Archbishop and their bishops and their other clergy frankly and dutifully. I am proud of them. For you who are men with greater opportunities of intelligence and cultivation - why, I commend you, and sympathise with you in your annoyance and self-command; but you have been only what I had a right to expect you would be. The event has justified, you see, our counsel and your behaviour. Men are already beginning to wonder what the fuss of anger and suspicious hate has all been about; and very obviously the outcrop of poisonous plants, that threatened to mar our thirty years' harvest of brotherly harmony and good-will, has begun to wither away.What were these forthright remarks about?
|HRH Prince Alfred|
Duke of Edinburgh and
4th child of Queen Victoria.
Image : State Archives of NSW.
On 12th March, 1868, during a visit to a public picnic at Clontarf beach in Sydney, the Prince was shot at point-blank range by a deranged fanatic, one Henry James O'Farrell. Only for the very sturdy pair of leather braces that he was wearing which happened - by sheer good fortune - to have deflected the bullet, the Prince would surely have been killed. The assassin O'Farrell barely escaped with his life as an angry crowd turned on him in attempt to carry out summary justice.
It is not hard to imagine, even a century-and-a-half later, the public outrage that broke forth at that time. What a disgrace that a member of the Royal Family had been murderously attacked! Consider the horror had the child of the Monarch been killed on Australian soil? To the dismay of Catholics, the assassin Henry O'Farrell, an opponent of British Rule in Ireland, was revealed to be a Catholic, and at one time, a student for the priesthood.
|A contemporary engraving of the scene at Clontarf beach 12th March 1868|
depicting the attempted assassination of the Duke of Edinburgh.
Image : State Library of NSW
|Henry James O'Farrell|
Image : State Library of NSW
Parkes launched this campaign during a visit to his electorate in Kiama on the NSW south coast and thus was born what became known as "The Kiama Ghost". Unhappily for Parkes, the Catholic priest attending O'Farrell before his execution received two handwritten statements from the convicted man, declaring that he had acted alone and was not part of any type of revolutionary conspiracy.
Premier of NSW on five occasions.
"Unscrupulous political scheming".
It was only a matter of months, however, before Henry Parkes, unable to produce any evidence of his claims, was revealed as having played the "conspiracy" card, in order to discredit Irish Catholics of the colony, some of whom were his political opponents. In September 1868, when the more hysterical debate had died away, and with public opinion against him, Henry Parkes resigned his seat in the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales and remained under a cloud for three years. Ever afterwards his political opponents would taunt him with reference to "The Kiama Ghost".
But much damage had been done to the harmony that existed in Australia between Catholics and non-Catholics which - arguably - was never fully healed. Nor had the Catholics of New South Wales experienced the last of the bigotry of Henry Parkes. That is a story for another time.
FURTHER READING :
A broader description of this story :
More details on the life of O'Farrell :
On the career of Henry Parkes :
Concerning the Fenians :