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Haugh, Denis Robert (1872–1933)

by Ursula Bygott

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

Denis Robert Haugh (1872-1933), Catholic philanthropist and tea merchant, was born on 20 July 1872 in County Clare, Ireland, son of James Haugh, grazier, and his wife Mary, née Collins. When he was a baby the family migrated to Toowoomba, Queensland, where he was educated. He early became interested in the work of the Society of St Vincent de Paul in Australia and in the mid-1890s moved to Sydney.

Residing in the parish of St Francis, Haymarket, Haugh soon came under the influence of the society's founders in Sydney, Charles O'Neill and Louis Heydon. His literary interests led to his involvement in Irish affairs; he was secretary and, reputedly, later editor and part-owner of the Sydney Irish World, edited in 1894-95 by Henry Foran. In 1903 Haugh was caretaker at St Francis Girls' School; by 1908 he had set up as a tea merchant, but devoted more time to the Society of St Vincent de Paul. Well-known in the area for his devotion to the poor, especially Chinese, and to children, he was president of the society's Haymarket conference in 1907-19, when he moved to Carlton, and of its Metropolitan Central Council of Sydney in 1915-30.

In constant attendance at the Children's Court and children's shelter, Haugh in the 1920s represented the Catholic Church in all dealings with the Child Welfare Department. He appealed to families to adopt orphaned children and, while still a bachelor, adopted a 4-year-old boy, who was cared for by his half-sister Mary. At St Mary's Cathedral on 24 October 1918 he married Kathleen Griffin (d.1957), a 26-year-old music teacher.

For many years secretary of St Margaret's Hospital, Haugh had deep sympathy for girl-mothers and their babies, and helped Gertrude Abbott to place the young women. From 1916 he began working for the establishment of St Anthony's Home for neglected and abandoned infants and children; it was started in a house at St Peters, later at Petersham (1922). St Anthony's Foundling Home at Croydon, opened in 1925, was a work of the Society of St Vincent de Paul. As president, Haugh used his literary and oratorical powers to gain widespread support for the home.

Mischievous and wild in his youth, Haugh in later years was quiet, reserved and deeply compassionate: few knew the extent of his charitable labours. He received the papal Cross 'pro Ecclesia et Pontifice' in December 1920. He was a champion tea-taster and draughts player, and acted as presiding officer in the municipal and parliamentary elections in the Haymarket area. He died of cancer in the Sacred Heart Hospice, Darlinghurst, on 23 January 1933 and was buried in Woronora cemetery. He was survived by his wife, two sons and two daughters. In February the D. R. Haugh memorial fund was set up to raise money for his wife and children, who were also assisted by the Society of St Vincent de Paul.

Select Bibliography

  • St Anthony's Home, Croydon, Silver Jubilee, 1922-47 (Syd, 1947)
  • Freeman's Journal (Sydney), 16 Dec 1920, 26 Jan, 2, 9 Feb, 9 Mar 1933
  • Catholic Press, 15 Dec 1932
  • Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 24 Jan 1933
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 24 Jan 1933
  • St Anthony's Foundling Home, Croydon, NSW, Fifteenth Annual Report, 1938, and Society of St Vincent de Paul, Superior Council Report, 1933 (State Library of New South Wales)
  • private information.

Citation details

Ursula Bygott, 'Haugh, Denis Robert (1872–1933)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/haugh-denis-robert-6599/text11363, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 16 November 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

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