Friday, June 3, 2011

The intersection at St Benedict's

St Benedict's, Broadway, Sydney (NSW) is a Catholic Church that was established about1835. Sitting between Glebe and Redfern, it was close to a number of my family lines in the 1800's (most of which were Catholic). The only connection I was aware of to the church and school was that Michael Joseph Conlon (1841 - 1913) was schooled at St Benedict's before entering the pottery trade in Glebe.

However, the church still operates (the school is closed) and their site has an extensive timeline of the development of the church and school (

Reading through this timeline, my gr gr gr grandfather (on my maternal side) Michael Conlon (1841-1913) is mentioned not as a student, but as a young man and one of several trainee bell-ringers. At this time, Michael lived with his parents on Parramatta street (George Street west, now Broadway) and so St Benedict's was probably his parish:

"Bell-ringing was introduced in St. Benedict’s about the year 1858 by John Henry Playford, an Englishman. He arranged to teach seven youths of the parish the art of bell ringing. The names of the seven aspirants were Thomas Hyndes, M. McNamara, John Cotter and Michael Condon (formerly the well-known potter of Glebe).” “Our Coadjutor-Archbishop: St. Benedict’s Story”, The Freeman’s Journal, 12 October 1922.

I find it remarkable that the bells Michael learnt to peal are still played in that same belfry, having hung there since 1849.

The other prominent Catholic family I am descended from is that of gr gr gr grandfather (on my paternal side) John Moloney (1841-1912 same as Michael Conlon above!), an Irish teacher and prominent Catholic in the Redfern area. While only living a mile or two apart, and while both were prominent Catholics, I've never found a connection (parish church, club, etc.) between them. They must have been aware of each other through newspapers though.

As such, I was delighted to find that in the same history of St Benedict's that John Moloney was a teacher at the St Benedict's School:


St Benedict’s school becomes a training school for Catholic teachers from this time. “Among the teachers at the old school were Brothers Carroll and Larter in the ‘sixties. The next teacher was Jeremiah O’Brien, who had previously been teaching a denominational school in Macquarie street. He taught the boys while Mrs. Rice looked after the girls. “Jerry”, as he was called by the boys, was succeeded by Darby Roche. He was followed by J. Moloney. Then came John Dwyer, who had been educated for the priesthood… Dwyer turned out some smart scholars, among them being the late Tom M. Slattery and J. Murtough.” “Our Coadjutor-Archbishop: St. Benedict’s Story”, The Freeman’s Journal, 12 October 1922.

What really surprised me though was the following entry:

Fr Corish establishes the first brass band at St Benedict’s. Bass Hodge, Dick Seymour and a man named Sykes are the instructors of this band.

My gr gr gr grandfather (maternal side) Sebastian 'Bass' Hodge (1833-1889) was in the 11th Regiment of Foot (North Devonshire) in 1852 and a bachelor. He became a prominent hotelier and musician in Sydney, apparently being one of the first to play the saxophone in the Australian colonies. But most importantly, he was Protestant! His passion for music may have outweighed his religious conviction.

I like this convergence (at least in one building over time if not in reality) of three different men from very different lines of my family. They did not converge for 100 years in my tree.

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