Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The marriage of Ellen ALLEYN to Michael Joseph CONLON, and the burning of a cathedral

I have not posted the marriage certificate of Ellen ALLEYN to Michael Joseph CONLON previously, and was prompted to do so by an anniversary announcement I found in the Sydney Morning Herald. Michael and Ellen married at St Mary's Cathedral on the 29th June 1865:

NSW Marriage Certificate
Registration number 1865/000563
Date and place of marriage: 29th June 1865, St. Mary's Cathedral Sydney
According to the rites of the Roman Catholic Church
Stamped: The consent of Mary O'Loughlin, mother of the bride, was given to this marriage
Name and surname: Michael Conlon
Conjugal status: Bachelor
Birthplace: Colony
Usual occupation: Tobacconist
Age: 23
Usual place of residence: Parramatta Street, Sydney
Fathers name and mother's name and surname: Patrick Conlon and Catherine Lowry
Father's occupation: Farmer
Name and surname: Ellen Allen
Conjugal status: Spinster
Birthplace: Co. Tipperary
Usual occupation: Milliner
Age: 18
Usual place of residence: Phillip Street, Sydney
Fathers name and mother's name and surname: Samuel Allen and Mary ---
Father's occupation: Butcher
This marriage was solemnized between us:
Michael Conlon
Ellen Allen - her mark
John J. Wall
Mary Allen

All is in order with this marriage certificate, with a few notable points. Michael states he was a 'tobacconist', clearly a temporary occupation as he had already trained as a potter and would go on to establish his pottery works in Glebe. His home on Parramatta street (now Broadway) in Sydney was that of his parents. Ellen's name is entered ALLEN rather than ALLEYN/ALLEYNE, perhaps because it was entered by another based on how the name was pronounced. Ellen's father was deceased, but under 21, so her mother gave permission for her to Mary. She had re-married, and her new married surname was O'LOUGHLIN (she married Michael in 1855, curiously using her maiden rather than married name).

In 1899, the couple had a marriage anniversary notice placed in the Sydney Morning Herald:
Sydney Morning Herald
Thursday 29 June 1899
CONLON-ALLEYN - June 29, 1865, St. Peter and St. Paul's Day, at St. Mary's R.C. Cathedral, Sydney (which was burnt down that night), Michael Joseph, the fourth eldest son of the late Patrick Conlon, of George-street West, and formerly of Kinvara, county Galway, Ireland and late of the 50th Regiment, Sydney, to Ellen Teresa, fourth daughter of the late Samuel Hyde Alleyn, formerly of Golden, Tipperary, Ireland, and late of Phillip-street, Sydney.

This notice is about as rich in information as a genealogist could hope for (with the exception of the patriarchial skew on parentage). But it includes an intriguing point - the couple married in the first St Mary's Cathedral on the day it burnt down. It was replaced by another cathedral of the same name on the same site, which still stands. A cathedral being razed in the middle of the city generates a lot of press, and the following article was selected to convey the general occurence. Thankfully, there was an evening mass that day, so it was not the marriage itself earlier that day which contributed to the cause of the conflagration.

Sydney Morning Herald
Friday 21 July 1865

Bv far the largest and most disastrous conflagration which has ever occurred in Sydney happened on the 20th June, and resulted in the total destruction of St Mary's Cathedral. This noble edifice, which was one of the finest examples of church architecture to be found in the colony, is now a blackened ruin.

The intelligence of this deplorable catastrophe will cause a thrill of sorrow in the hearts of the Roman Catholic population throughout the country, and must excite feelings of the deepest regret in the minds of the community in general. The cost of the building is thought, could not be less than £50,000, but from its hallowed associations and sacred memories, it was of priceless value to thousands of worshippers of the Roman Catholic communion.

The cathedral was not insured. There were several most valuable pictures by the old masters, which were hung about the altar, and in other parts, none of which have been saved. One painting alone - representing the death of St Benedict was valued at £1000. Two chalices in the sacristy were got out, as also were all the more valuable vestments; these latter being estimated at £2000. The Archbishop's papers, and the other important records and deeds which were in the clerk's office were also saved from destruction. The Archbishop s residence and those of the other dignitaries of the cathedral were hastily stripped of their furniture, which was removed into the garden, where it was placed under the protection of the police. It was melancholy to see the wreck of so much valuable property which was unavoidably damaged in removal under the circumstances. There were piles of furniture, books, pianos, pictures, and other costly articles, strewn about in the most confused manner. A great many persons were concerned in the removal of the furniture, and there is too much reason to fear that some dishonest fellows were not deterred by the presence of so fearful a catastrophy, from sacreligious speculation. Two young men were taken into custody by the police. The plate and other valuables were placed in the belfry, where they were properly guarded.

On Thursday 29thi Jne was the celebration of the religious festival of St Peter and St Paul, and there was benediction in the cathedral in the evening. The service began at seven o clock, the congregation separated at about a quarter past eight o clock, and the building was locked up soon afterwards. Most of the priests were engaged in a service which was held about the same time at St Benedict's church, Parramatta street. The lights of the cathedral, excepting only the lamp of the sanctuary which is always left burning and is suspended in front of the altar, were all put out. Various suppositions have been started to account for the conflagration, at present the fire is the subject of investigation. It was at first thought that there was an explosion of gas but it has been subsequently ascertained that that could not have been the case. There is now, as it is understood, some reason to suppose that the fire was the work of some incendiary.

So far as could be learned, it seems that the cathedral was suddenly filled with fire, and the flames burst forth almost simultaneously in different parts of the edifice. The greatest body of fire in the first instance was at the east end of the cathedral, and from this it was thought by many that the combustion began there, but the circumstance of the fire being fiercest in that direction may have been owing to the prevalence of a strong westerly wind. The fire was first seen soon after nine o'clock, and by half past nine the whole of the roof of the building was covered with flame. Most of the roof was composed of shingles, which were quickly burnt through, but the rafters and other timbers burnt for a while longer, and, as the outlines of the stately structure were vividly outlined and skirted with flame, the sight was one of unsurpassed but terrible grandeur. Myriads of sparks ascended high into the air and fell in showers in the direction of Woolloomooloo Bay, whither, for a considerable distance, they were driven bv the wind. From the top of the cathedral clouds of yellow flame and smoke issued, which shed a lurid lustre on all around, and at times so bright was the fire that minute objects in the remotest parts of Hyde Park could be seen almost as distinctly as by day light and the reflection in the sky must have been visible for miles around. Captain Heselton, of the steamer You Yangs, which arrived from Melbourne, on the night of the 29th, saw the reflection of the fire when off Port Hacking, and states his opinion that it would be visible for a distance of twenty miles at sea.

The cold, frosty wind blowing on the rafters caused them to glitter with resplendent brilliancy, and the flames, like innumerable serpents of fire, hissed and crackled along every part of the building, and, as they swept trom one interior fitting to another, assumed most singular shapes. The interior of the cathedral was a vast furnace of fire, which glowed with intense heat, and the wind and flame roaring through the sacred pile, and tile timbers crashing from above, made a noise which somewhat resembled the waves beating along the sea shore as heard from afar.

Of course, it was utterly impossible to arrest the progress of the flames, which, fanned by the breeze, continued to rage with unchecked fierceness until the woodwork of the edifice had all been consumed. The rafters and timbers of the roof were all destroyed by 10 o'clock, but so great was the mass of fuel in the inside that the building was illuminated all through the night by the fire, which for a long time was unapproachable. The engines of the Insurance Company's Brigade and of the two Volunteer Fire Companies, were early taken to the spot but owing to the difficulty of obtaining a copious supply of water they did not get to work for some time afterwards. All efforts to quench the fire in the cathedral would have been perfectly futile, and nothing in that direction was attempted. The clerk's office, the sacristy, and the range of apartments for the clergy leading to the Vicar General's Office, were soon ignited by the sparks, and to this block of buildings the firemen first turned their attention. Portions of the roofs were stripped of the shingles and streams of water were showered on them. The sacristy and the clerk's office were completely destroyed as also was a part of the buildings occupied by the clergy. Had not the woodwork in the upper parts of the cathedral been consumed so rapidly, the Archbishop's residence, St Mary's Seminary, and a number of other buildings must all haye been burnt down, seeing that the ashes fell around so thick. Some citizens and a detachment of sailors from the French sloop of-war now in harbour ably seconded the efforts of the firemen, and there were many persons who laboured with desperate and, it must be said, with injudicious energy. The roofs most exposed were saturated with water and slightly protected with wet blankets.

St Mary's Cathedral had only lately been enlarged to a considerable extent, and within its walls were collected works of art on sacred subjects, by some of the greatest masters. The magnificent organ, erected in the south gallery, cost originally upwards of 2000 pounds, which of course was destroyed in the general wreck. The rapidity with which the fire traversed the interior of the building is attributable to the mass of polished woodwork within it. The pillars by which the roof was supported were of ironbark, cased in polished cedar, and the ceiling which was an imitation of the vaulted groined ceiling of the middle ages, was also of polished cedar. The ceiling, therefore, in many places touched the roof, and, as a consequence, no sooner did the fire reach the former, than it burst through the dry shingled portion of the latter. The roof of that portion of the cathedral lately built was slated, and dense volumes of smoke issued from under it, and for a tlme enveloped the structure.

The relics of St Felician have been saved. The memonal window, on the south side of the man entrance, erected by Mr D. Egan, MLA, in remembrance of his departed wife who was wrecked in the ship Dunbar on the night of 20th August, 1857, is also preserved from the flames.

An interesting incident of the conflagration relates to the fortunate escape from death of an old man naed Anthony Brady. Brady, who is 108 years old, and is stone blind, and usually sleeps under the sacristy was fortunately got out, and but for timely aid would have perished in the flames.

It may well be imagined that so magnificent and awful a spectacle as that afforded by the cathedral At ,i C a"ractc'1 °Ji immense comcourse of persons mulina few minutes after the hre hroke out every "wrougiifnre was thronged with spectators, and there was also a densely packed crow d assembled on Hy de iark, opposite the cathedral So dreadful a sight

cernen to impress the beholders with awe lhere was not only an absence of inything like levity, «« toe countenances of most of the on lookers w ere «ïï?* S Bndne83 and solemnity Manv persons seemed dismayed, and not a few showed their grief _n J°?stcI,eBHon bi bCT ail'ng in te-irs the nun of

veneration ^ t0 tKc'" a chenshed obJcct of tnvlt.!.8ialm0!!t suPel0u°ns to monbon tim the inbpec tor and ofhccis of the Cm Polue were on the ground 11ki l!"80 ib°'!% nf C0,lstal»llí»¡T. v»ho performed their duty with cil.cienry ind nnostent ibon

The fire smouldered for some days The large

engine of the Insurance Brigade plaj-ed on the ruins all night.

The foundation stone of St. Mary's Cathedral was laid on the 29th of October, 1829, hy the late Father Thorry, and we ore informed thot 29th June waa the anniversary of its consecration by his Grace Arch hishop (then Dr.) Polding.

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