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Lockington, William Joseph (1871–1948)

by G. J. O'Kelly

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

William Joseph Lockington (1871-1948), Jesuit priest, was born on 23 February 1871 at Ross, New Zealand, eldest of eight children of Elisha Lockington, carpenter and later sawmiller from Derbyshire, England, and his wife Mary, née Canfield. Elisha had migrated to the Beechworth, Victoria, goldfields in the 1850s, moving to Ross in 1862; Mary, a milliner, had arrived in New Zealand from England in 1868.

After primary education at the Convent of Mercy, Hokitika, William at 14 became a pupil-teacher at Ross and at 18 head-teacher of the public school at Capleston; his wide reading and retentive memory, talent for music and passion for physical exercise made him a highly esteemed schoolmaster. He was also a well-known racing cyclist. On 2 June 1896 he entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus at Greenwich, Sydney, where Aloysius Sturzo, the former superior of the Australian Jesuit communities and then master of novices, disseminated a feeling for internationalism and concern for the poor. Lockington subsequently studied at Tullamore, King's County, Ireland, in Jersey, Channel Islands, and at Stonyhurst College, Lancashire, England. He taught at The Crescent College, Limerick, Ireland, in 1902-07 and undertook his tertianship at Milltown Park, Dublin, and Poughkeepsie, New York. Ordained in July 1910, he returned to Ireland to assist at Milltown Park in the training of novices and tertians in 1911-13. A course of his lectures, published in 1913 as Bodily Health and Spiritual Vigour and reprinted and translated several times, illustrates his continued emphasis on physical fitness. His admiration for Ireland resulted in his book, The Soul of Ireland (1919).

Recalled to Australia in 1913, Lockington worked as parish priest at Richmond, Melbourne, until his appointment in 1916 as rector of St Patrick's College, East Melbourne. In 1917-23 he was superior of the eleven Australian Jesuit communities; in addition to overseeing four secondary colleges, one seminary and six parishes, he helped to establish Newman College at the University of Melbourne and a seminary at Werribee, Corpus Christi College, for the training of priests from three States.

During this period in Victoria, Lockington gained a reputation as controversialist in the tradition of William Kelly. This partly sprang from his association with Archbishop Mannix whom he drilled in oratory, requiring him to practise declaiming from one end of the cathedral grounds to the other. Lockington was described by a colleague as 'the best platform orator in Australia'. His topics covered religion, temperance, education and the plight of working people; many of his addresses were published. He worked hard to further the growth of the Australian Catholic Federation and was regarded by the Protestant press as a principal in the 1917 anti-conscriptionist 'Jesuit scare'. In 1916 he founded the Catholic Women's Social Guild (later, Catholic Women's League). With Mannix presiding, he was a key speaker in the federation's mid-1917 lecture series which drew a Melbourne audience of thousands; his accusations of sweated labour in confectioners' establishments occasioned debate in the Legislative Assembly. In 1921 the town of Lockington was named after 'the noted author, preacher and lecturer'. His most famous panegyric was yet to come—that for Marshal Foch at St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney, in April 1929.

Lockington was headmaster of St Ignatius' College, Riverview, Sydney, in 1923-32. Despite the Depression, he resumed a massive building programme, halted since 1901, to complete the main features of the college. He promoted religious music, drama and physical vigour; open-air dormitories bear his stamp. After 1932 he undertook parish duties at Toowong, Brisbane, until 1936 and at Richmond and Hawthorn, Melbourne, until 1947. He was a committee-member of the Catholic Broadcasting Co. and, particularly on Archbishop Duhig's urgings, gave numerous retreats and lectures.

On his way to one such retreat, Lockington died in Brisbane on 10 October 1948. One of the best-known Catholic priests in Australia, and to Mannix 'the friend of half a lifetime', he was buried in Nudgee cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • U. M. L. Bygott, With Pen and Tongue (Melb, 1980)
  • Jesuit Life, no 7, Dec 1981
  • Lockington papers (Society of Jesus Provincial Archives, Hawthorn, Melbourne).

Citation details

G. J. O'Kelly, 'Lockington, William Joseph (1871–1948)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/lockington-william-joseph-7216/text12489, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 28 July 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

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