HERITAGE TREASURES

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HERITAGE TREASURES

By Brian Andrews, Archdiocese of Hobart Heritage Officer.

During Bishop Willson’s 1853–55 visit to Europe he recorded in his diary on 5 September 1854, ‘Left Nottingham for Birmingham & dined with the Bishop [William Bernard Ullathorne]. Visited Mr. Hardman’s Show rooms and Mesdames Powell & Brown Vestment establishment.’ Both these firms were making ecclesiastical items to the designs of Willson’s great friend Pugin (1812–52). Two days later he noted, ‘Went to Birmingham with Mgr. Weedall [the Rector of Oscott College] in his carriage. Gave orders at Mr. Hardman’s and Miss Browns.’ This silk chasuble almost certainly formed part of the latter order. Its use in Tasmania can be traced back to the Campbell Town mission, whose first regular pastor, Tasmanian-born Fr John Fitzgerald, took up the position in 1855 as his initial priestly appointment. Willson had attended Fitzgerald’s ordination in Rome on 10 June 1854, then Fitz—as he was affectionately known to his bishop—accompanied him on his travels back to England and subsequent return voyage to Hobart Town. The chasuble, part of a Marian vestment set, substantially more costly and elaborate than other surviving vestments from the September 1854 order, was most likely purchased by Willson as an ordination present for Fitzgerald, who was dubbed one of ‘the Bishop’s pets’.

Fr John Fitzgerald (1830–65) was the son of a pioneer Hobart Catholic family and the first Tasmanian-born priest to work on the island. He trained for the priesthood at Willson’s alma mater, Oscott College in Birmingham, and the Urban College, Rome, then worked as pastor of Campbell Town for seven years from 1855. Loneliness led to excessive drinking and he was given permission to leave the diocese in 1863.

Priests stationed at Campbell Town over the ensuing decades served settlements in the Fingal valley, including Avoca, Fingal and eventually Mangana and Mathinna, as well as Ross to the south and Swansea on the East Coast. In the early years of the twentieth century, the priest responsible for this huge area was Fr John Graham. He built Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, Mangana, commenced in 1910, and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, Ross, in 1920. In 1997, Pugin and Puginesque vestments were discovered and identified at Campbell Town, Mangana and Ross. Those in the latter two churches, including the Marian chasuble, were evidently transferred from the stock at Campbell Town, most likely by Fr Graham.