Monday, April 27, 2009

Historic Berrima

Mary and I visited Berrima on the weekend to celebrate the 60th Birthday of our good friend Rob. We dined at the Magpie Cafe. The food was great and the atmosphere relaxed, and a good day was had by all.

Took some interesting photos as shown above:
  1. Lambie's Well - first water supply for the town situated just below the western wall of the Gaol on the banks of the Wingecarribee River.
  2. Bulls Head Fountain on the northern wall of the Gaol. Built to provide water for the horses of those attending the Courthouse opposite.
  3. Our group.

Berrima is a great place to visit. Situated in the NSW Southern Highlands, the town is a living example of Australia's rich colonial heritage. Established in 1831, it was planned in the manner of a typical English village. Today many of the grand old sandstone buildings - Berrima Gaol, Courthouse, Berrima House, Surveyor General Inn, Holy Trinity Church and St Francis Xavier Church - are preserved, providing a unique atmosphere to the town.

History Services NSW has extensive historical information in our databases relating to the Berrima district including:
  • 643 records of convicts who were at Berrima at some time;

  • 180 records of Government contracts awarded for work in and around Berrima- repairs to the Gaol (1860) and additions thereto (1862); repairs to the Telegraph Station (1865); erection of a boundary wall around the Goal (1865); supply of furniture for the Courthouse (1871, 1877); erection of Police Station (1877); erection of Chimney Stack at the Courthouse (1892); installation of electric light at Berrima Gaol (1894);repairs to the Courthouse (1897);
  • records of all the licensees of the Surveyor General Inn up to 1900

For more information go to our website at:

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Convict Priests

The first Catholic priests to arrive in the colony of New South Wales were convicts. These were James Harold in 1800, quickly followed by James Dixon and Peter O'Neil.

They were Irishman, transported to New South Wales for their complicity in the Irish Rebellion of 1798. As they were not officially appointed clergyman, they were not welcomed by the Colonial Administration as it was thought that they would incite rebellion in the large number of Irish convicts.

The first Catholic Masses in the colony were therfore celebrated in secret, as depicted in the stained glass window in St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney (first window on the western side of the nave). This is an early the celebration of the Eucharist by Father James Dixon in the kitchen of a cottage in 1803 with a lookout at the door.

Father Dixon celebrated the first official Mass in the colony
on 15 May 1803 following a procalmation by Governor Philip Gidley King permitting Catholic worship.

There is an exhibition in the crypt of St Mary's
Cathedral, with a set of silk vestments known as the "Convict Vestments" probably used by Father Dixon.

While researching the early days of the Catholic Church in Australia, I was particularly interested in the official correspondance between the main players, including the
NSW Colonial Administraion, the British Government and the priests themselves. This is found in various despatches of Series One of the Historical Records of Australia [published by the Library Committee of the Commonwealth Parliament ].

Using these primary sources, I have complied a "History of the Roman Catholic Church in the Colony of New South Wales 1800 -1836".

You can find this on the website of History Services NSW at: