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Patrick Joseph Clune (1864–1935)

by D. F. Bourke

This article was published:

Patrick Joseph Clune (1864-1935), archbishop, was born on 6 January 1864 near Ruan, County Clare, Ireland, son of James Clune and his wife Margaret, née Lynch. Educated locally and at St Flannan's College, Ennis, in 1879 he entered the Catholic Missionary College of All Hallows, Dublin, to study for the priesthood and was ordained in 1886 at the early age of 22. His first appointment was to St Patrick's College, Goulburn, New South Wales, where he taught English literature and developed a love for it which always influenced his style of public speaking. He was later the administrator of the Goulburn cathedral until his return to England to train as a Redemptorist missioner in 1893.

In 1895-98 Clune gave very successful parochial missions throughout England and Ireland and in 1898 went to Perth with the first band of Redemptorists obtained by Bishop Matthew Gibney. Here his eloquence and manliness had a remarkable influence on the men in the rough settlements. In 1905 Clune became superior of the Redemptorist monastery, Wellington, New Zealand, where he remained until 1909, when he went back to the Perth house as superior. Gibney used Clune freely for his appeals at the openings of churches, schools and convents. Next year he reached the heights of sacred oratory in two famous sermons: the panegyric on the death of King Edward VII and the dedication of the cathedral organ.

Because of serious financial troubles, on 21 March 1910 Gibney was requested by Rome to resign; he had mentioned Clune as a successor, and he was the first choice of the diocesan clergy, and of three bishops of the other provinces. Clune was consecrated by Cardinal Patrick Moran on 17 March 1911. The church had a huge debt of £204,039, and to reduce it he appointed a committee of experienced lay financial administrators. With their help within four years he had paid off over £97,000—of which £82,000 came from the judicious sale of real estate that Gibney had acquired. In 1913 Perth was elevated to an archbishopric with Clune as its first incumbent. He continued to express himself on Home Rule for Ireland.

In World War I Clune was senior chaplain to the Catholic members of the Australian Imperial Force. In 1916 he visited troops in England and also those in the Ypres salient where he made a profound impression. At the end of his appointment in the A.I.F. in March 1917, he returned to Western Australia where he appealed for the Belgian patriotic funds, assisted the families of Yugoslav internees and expressed himself publicly but tolerantly in favour of conscription.

On a visit to Ireland in 1920 he was deeply shocked by the outrages perpetrated by the 'Black and Tans' in the name of the British government. In London he was invited by influential people to negotiate between the British government and the Irish Sinn Fein leaders; he conferred with Lloyd George and members of his cabinet and travelled between London and Dublin for several weeks, conveying the cabinet's terms to the Irish leaders and their replies to Lloyd George. The prime minister was reported as approving cordially of Clune's support for a temporary truce; but the 'Tory Wing of the Cabinet and especially Mr. Bonar Law and Mr. Winston Churchill' were opposed 'unless the Sinn Feiners delivered up all their arms': the negotiations failed on this question. In Paris in January 1921, on his way to Rome, Clune stated publicly that he believed Lloyd George 'sincerely yearned for peace', but unhappily several members of his government and other politicians did not share this view; he described the Sinn Feiners as 'the cream of their race'.

Clune's work for peace aroused public awareness in Europe and the United States of America as to the true state of Irish affairs, and in a speech at his official welcome back to Perth, he spoke fully and frankly of what he had seen in Ireland. Many in Australia had known only the partial reports of the newspapers, and also seemed to believe that 'loyalty' consisted in exhibiting conditioned reactions based on the English class system. The governor of Western Australia, Sir Francis Newdegate, under the restrictions of his office, made no public statement. However, he had failed to have the Colonial Office intervene to delay Clune's return, and he promptly denounced Clune's speech to Downing Street as likely to revive bitterness all over Australia. The governor, blind to the significance of Clune's role, even as an Australian, but aware of his reputation for moderation, feared his 'full influence with the Roman Catholic Community'.

Clune now developed his expanding archdiocese: between 1921 and 1931 fifty-six new buildings were erected, including the foundling home at Subiaco, a home for the aged at Glendalough and a school for mentally handicapped boys at Castledare. Helped by Dr J. T. McMahon he supported the establishment of the 'Bushies' Scheme' in 1923, for the religious education of children in isolated areas, and the Newman Society of Western Australia, founded in 1925, for Catholic university students and undergraduates. Clune will be well remembered for the building of the beautiful present sanctuary and transept of St Mary's Cathedral for which he made the appeal for funds. The completed portion, opened on 4 May 1930, owed much to his taste and care.

In 1933 he chose as his coadjutor Redmond Prendiville who took over much of the administration as Archbishop Clune suffered from increasing infirmities. His last public speech indicated his dual interests: the Church he said, 'was striving to teach two things—truth and beauty'. He died on 24 May 1935 and was buried simply in the Redemptorist plot at Karrakatta cemetery. Glowing tributes were paid to his memory by prominent citizens of all religious beliefs who felt that his tolerance had contributed materially to Perth's lack of 'rancorous religious controversy'. A public-spirited citizen, Clune had been a peerless orator and a man of peace with a genius for making friends. (Sir) Walter Murdoch found him 'never an austere recluse', full of 'unaffected geniality' and with a conversation which was 'particularly witty and stimulating'; and Rabbi Feldman said that 'he held the respect of … the Jewish community [and] maintained peace in his time'.

Select Bibliography

  • J. T. McMahon, One Hundred Years (Perth, 1946), and College, Campus, Cloister (Perth, 1969)
  • D. F. Bourke, The History of the Catholic Church in Western Australia (Perth, 1979)
  • Record (Perth), 25 May 1935
  • West Australian, 25, 27 May, 1 June 1935
  • F. Clarke, A Biography of Archbishop Patrick Joseph Clune (1963, State Library of Western Australia)
  • CO 537/1148-1151.

Citation details

D. F. Bourke, 'Clune, Patrick Joseph (1864–1935)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 18 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (Melbourne University Press), 1981

View the front pages for Volume 8

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


6 January, 1864
Ruan, Clare, Ireland


24 May, 1935 (aged 71)

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