Fr John Joseph Therry, as one of the two Catholic priests first authorized to serve people of his denomination in the new British colony of New Holland, acquired most legendary status among convicts and emancipists for his whole-hearted devotion to them. They in turn were generous with him, so that, after some years, he had great wealth, though he still lived a committed life of service. A reading of his papers held in the Mitchell Library, Sydney, reveals his long association with the Sisters of Charity.
Therry’s career was followed in Ireland with special interest by Mother Mary Aikenhead, foundress of the Irish Sisters of Charity, because she had been at his ordination as a priest. His generosity in volunteering for the difficult ministry of working with convicts and ex-convicts in an untamed land must have impressed her. She was to show her empathy with the unfortunate exiles by allowing five of her Sisters to follow his path to Australia in 1838.
Therry spent six weeks in May and June in 1856 living with the Sisters of Charity at Tarmons, where he became their confessor and friend. In return they made caps for him. There are many exchanges of requests for help and visits in the letters. Therry even wrote to Lady Denison asking for the loan of a plain carriage for a couple of days so that the Sisters could reach more sick.
Sr Moira O’Sullivan, Congregational Historian
Grave of Rev. Therry in the crypt of St Mary’s Cathedral
Courtesy Kevin McGuinness, History Services NSW
We are delighted to bring you this sketch of Sir Maurice O’Connell’s Living Room at ‘Tarmons’ following permission from the Mitchell Library. This picture came to our attention last year via an article in a State Library publication, SL Magazine (Spring 2011), and was particularly interesting for the Archives as our exhibition room is on the site of the room depicted. In some ways our exhibition room (see previous post) remains very true to the look of the original room as interpreted by the artist in this picture. The Sisters recreated the 1840s living room in a new building on the ‘Tarmons’ site in the mid-60s when the villa was demolished. This sketch comes from a 19th century scrapbook previously owned by Mary-Jane McArthur, widow of Captain Walter Synott and wife of pastoralist and artist Charles Macarthur, donated to the library in 1983. As you can see the picture is unfinished, and we can only speculate as to who sketched the picture and who these people in the picture are. Certainly, a lot of reading and needlework was being done.
This beautiful room was photographed in 1909 when it was the Reception Room for St Vincent’s College. It is the front room of the historic ‘Tarmons’ villa at Woolloomooloo which was designed by John Verge. It was previously Sir Maurice O’Connell’s drawing room, and the first ward of St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney. It is now the site of the Exhibition Room of the Sisters of Charity Archives.
An interior view of the O’Connell’s drawing room at ‘Tarmons’ has recently come to light in a scrap album at the Mitchell Library belonging to Mary Jane Macarthur, c1837-48 (PXA 1278 Vol 1). ‘Tarmons’ was demolished in the 1960s and replaced with a new building, but this watercolour view (unsigned, undated and unfinished), reveals that the front drawing room in the new building, now our Exhibition Room, keenly replicates the ambience of 1830s and 1840s style of ‘Tarmons’. We are hoping to bring you the watercolour view in a future post following permission from the State Library of NSW.
Sisters of Charity Archives Exhibition Room. The original French doors from 'Tarmons' are opened.
This photo featured below is ‘Tarmons’ in 1962, a few years before it was demolished. You can see the two-storey verandahed villa at picture 27 under our Pioneer Sites tab above.
We are often asked about the relationship between Caroline Chisholm and the Sisters of Charity at the Archives, and a recent request prompted us to write a response for the blog.
Caroline Chisholm arrived in Sydney in 1838, the same year as the first five Sisters of Charity. She was deeply troubled by the neglect shown to newly arrived immigrants, especially the single women. Her entreaties to the Government resulted in the opening of The Female Immigrant’s Home in Bent St, Sydney, in 1841, where she assisted these women with accommodation and employment. The Sisters of Charity recorded in their annals that they were frequent visitors to the Immigrant’s Home to “console, advise, and administer medicine”. When one of the early Sisters was to return to Ireland in 1846, the Sisters had nominated Caroline Chisholm to accompany her.
William Chisholm, one of Caroline’s children, married Susan McSwiney around 1852. Within two years both William and their baby daughter had died. Susan Chisholm became a Sister of Charity in 1862, and was known as Sr Mary Joseph Chisholm. She was in charge of several of the early Convents, and became the first Rectress of St Joseph’s Consumptive Hospital at Parramatta, a hospital for those suffering with tuberculosis, from 1886 – 1892. It was the second hospital to be established by the Sisters in Australia. She was in charge of the day to day operation of the hospital, as well as discharging nursing duties.
She is remembered for her work amongst the poor, and being “strong of constitution and agile of limb, no distance being too great for her to walk when there was need of her charitable aid”. Sr Mary Joseph Chisholm died in 1901.
Memorial Garden, Cascades Factory. 1824 freestone wall can be seen in the background..
A long-time friend of the Archives, Ms Julie Murray, recently returned from Tasmania with these moving photographs of what remains of Cascades Female Factory complex.
When our Sisters arrived in Hobart in 1847, they went to the Cascades Factory almost every day to visit the Catholic women. They were not allowed to communicate with the protestant women.
To give you some idea of the misery awaiting the Sisters, a new section of the Cascades Complex, Yard 3, had opened in 1845 with 112 separate cells for solitary confinement. The Sisters had come with the experience of visiting the Female Factory at Parramatta in New South Wales, but I feel that nothing could have prepared them for the starkness of Yard 3, and the unveiling of the unsympathetic nursery in Yard 4 five years later.
"More Sinned Against Than Sinning"
Archiving can be serendipitous work. Here is an extract from a letter found in our Archives just after our last blog posting where we delighted in our discovery of another site visited by our early Sisters:
The young ladies Boarding School established since our coming is going on very well. Mrs Davis will shortly have twenty boarders, amongst others my cousins, the Therry’s. They come to the Convent twice a week for Religious Instruction, preparation for their Communion, Confirmation etc. The good example the School gives attending daily Mass, singing in the Choirs etc is of much use to religious.
The letter from M.de Sales O’Brien (one of the first five Sisters to come to Australia from Ireland) was written from the Convent of St Mary’s, Parramatta in 1840, to a Sister of Charity in Dublin. We now know that the Sisters of Charity not only visited the boarding school, but also received students at St Mary’s Convent for religious instruction from 1840.
The Norfolk House Establishment for Young Ladies, run by a Mrs Davis, commenced at Parramatta in the early 1840s. Described as ‘an excellent boarding school for young ladies’ by Parramatta’s Rev. Michael Brennan, it transpires that the Sisters of Charity were regular visitors to the establishment from 1841 providing religious instruction to the girls.
Thanks to June’s index (see A Welcome Indexer below), I came across an article in the Australian Chronicle which stated that two young women, Margaret O’Brien and Mary Gibbons, entered the Sisters of Charity Congregation at Parramatta in 1840 with a special service where the hymns were sung by the pupils of the convent and Mrs Davis’s excellent seminary – of whom the Parramatta choir was principally composed. This would have been a happy meeting of voices as singing was very much part of the Sisters’ background. During this period they were also teaching singing at the Female Factory.
Later articles reveal that the Superioress of the Convent of the Sisters of Charity as well as Archbishop Polding were present at the ‘usual yearly examinations’ of the young ladies at Mrs Davis’s establishment in 1843.
Does Norfolk House still exist? I could only find one other mention of ‘Norfolk House’ in the early newspapers beyond 1845, when the name appears again in 1850 as being an educational establishment run by a Mr and Mrs Underwood.
Using research notes provided to me by the Parramatta Historical Society and information from the Australian Heritage Database listing (http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/heritage/photodb/imagesearch.pl?proc=detail;barcode_no=rt10007) , it seems that the Norfolk House that exists today in Parramatta was not the Norfolk House where Mrs Davis conducted her boarding school. The house still surviving was built by John Tunks in the early 1840s and kept in his family until the death of his wife in 1888. It was later purchased by the Methodist Church.