This is a story about connections--of a network that extended from the green fields of Ireland to disparate parts of colonial Australia; to Broken Hill, Ballarat, Goulburn, the Weddin Mountains, the Darling Downs and to Sydney Town. These were connections of geography, of religion, of family, and the glue of this intricate network was a shared sense of mission. These connections between St Patrick's, a lay college and seminary in Carlow County Ireland and eastern colonial Australia were widespread, significant and to this researcher sometimes quite surprising. St Patrick's continues to be commonly known as Carlow College. It is located in Carlow the main urban centre of a prosperous agricultural region some 85 kms south of Dublin; the town in fact owes its importance to the college which opened in 1793. Carlow County lies within the Catholic diocese of Kildare and Leighlin. The 1833 Carlow Cathedral was the first Cathedral built in Ireland after the ending of the Penal Law era.
Ireland under the Penal Laws
Carlow wasn't always the main town of the county. When Daniel Delany, a priest who had been educated and ordained in France stepped back onto Irish soil in about 1777, he was appointed as curate in Tullow, a major market town, where the Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, Dr James Keeffe, resided. Daniel Delany was returning to a country where the Catholic Church was technically an illegal organisation, its activities and its personnel outlawed by the English Parliament in legislation known collectively as the Penal Laws. From 1698, secular priests already in Ireland could stay and say Mass and perform their other duties provided they registered with the authorities; they could not appear outside their churches in their vestments. Catholic clergymen were forbidden to enter the country. Seminaries were banned in Ireland, as were Catholic academies for young men. As intended, the Catholic religion would find it increasingly difficult to replenish its workforce.
Under the Penal Laws, education for Catholic Irish was forbidden both at home and abroad. No Catholic could teach anyone anywhere in Ireland. Any Catholics who went abroad for an education could be treated as an outlaw with their property confiscated and even risked transportation to English colonies in the New World. Catholics were forbidden to practice law or stand for parliament. The Irish Catholic middle and professional class diminished as its most promising young men fled to the Continent for their education and their future; few returned. Laws forbidding Protestants to sell or lease land to Catholics and the mandatory distribution of an estate among all the sons of a Catholic family meant that by 1776 it is estimated only 5% of land in Ireland was owned by Catholics. (1) The Penal Laws had long standing economic repercussions in Ireland. Throughout much of the 19th century, the vast majority of Irish were Catholic, engaged in rural activities and poor and about 35% were illiterate. (2)
By Daniel Delany's lifetime these Acts were not strictly enforced and there were signs Westminster...