Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Patrick Delany (1853–1926)

by Mary Nicholls

This article was published:

Patrick Delany (1853-1926), archbishop, was born on 1 February 1853 at Tonacor, parish of Killian, County Galway, Ireland, son of John Delany and his wife Margaret, née Mannion. Despite his father's death in 1860 and the general poverty of the district, Patrick's scholastic promise at the Franciscan Brother's school in nearby Mountbellew ensured his further education at the Jesuits' St Ignatius College, Galway. He then entered their novitiate at Milltown Park near Dublin, but in September 1874 was accepted at All Hallows College. Ordained on 9 November 1879, he was released from a commitment to St Paul's, Minnesota, United States of America, and undertook further study at the Institut Catholique, Paris, gaining the degree of Bachelor of Sacred Theology; he returned to All Hallows as lecturer in history and canon law.

In 1885 he was sent to Australia to raise money for the college and stayed as private secretary to Bishop James Moore of Ballarat. He accompanied Moore to Rome in 1887 and received the degree of D.D. from Pope Leo XIII. Diocesan consulter and examiner in synod in 1890 he was a regular contributor to Austral Light, espousing 'liberal, even radical views'. Despite his expressed reluctance he was appointed coadjutor bishop of Hobart and was consecrated titular bishop of Laranda on 10 December 1893. Over the next fourteen years he assisted Archbishop Daniel Murphy, contributed to the Australasian Catholic Record, attended interstate church conferences and synods and in 1904 formed the ecclesiastical fund for the education of priests. With special approval from Rome for retention of the title of archbishop, Delany succeeded Murphy on 29 December 1907. Next March he sailed for Ireland where he arranged for the Christian Brothers to take over the partly built St Virgil's College in Hobart. At All Hallows he ensured a continuing supply of priests for Tasmania. He also made provision for priests to undertake additional studies at European universities and advertised Tasmania extensively as a home for immigrants with moderate capital. He returned to Hobart in February 1909.

Delany's special work in the archdiocese was in education. He personally examined in the schools and insisted on regular attendance as the basis for improved standards. An admirer of W. L. Neale, he arranged for government inspection of Catholic primary schools and the training of teachers at mainland colleges; he regularly lectured to teachers, especially on psychology. The many schools opened during his episcopate included St Virgil's College and St Patrick's College, Launceston. He encouraged the formation of clubs and societies for the laity and on his frequent parish visitations urged the benefits of Catholic newspapers and libraries. After a visit to New Zealand in 1909 he praised its type of socialism and advocated closer settlement and increased workers' rights in Tasmania. In World War I he favoured conscription and forbade priests to engage in newspaper controversy during the 1916-17 campaigns. A scholar, writer and proficient linguist, possessed of personal charm, he was a modest and retiring man in private life. With failing health from 1918, Delany died on 7 May 1926 at Hobart and was buried in St Mary's Cathedral. In 1928 a statue to his memory was erected by the priests of the archdiocese at Mount St Canice Convent, Sandy Bay.

Select Bibliography

  • Catholic Magazine, Jan, Sept-Nov 1916, Aug 1918
  • Morning Star (Launceston), 29 July, 4 Nov, 9, 16 Dec 1893
  • Catholic Standard (Hobart), Aug-Dec 1893, Jan, Mar 1894, 13 May 1926, 22 Mar 1928
  • Monitor (Launceston), 8 Sept, 6 Oct 1894, 21 Aug, 27 Nov 1896, 29 Jan, 12, 19 Feb 1909, 4 Nov 1910, 29 May 1914, 5 Feb 1915
  • Mercury (Hobart), 8 May 1926
  • Weekly Courier (Launceston), 13 May 1926
  • Delany papers, diocesan archives (University of Tasmania)
  • Melbourne Diocesan Historical Commission Archives (Fitzroy, Melbourne).

Citation details

Mary Nicholls, 'Delany, Patrick (1853–1926)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 24 June 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]


1 February, 1853
Tonacor, Galway, Ireland


7 May, 1926 (aged 73)
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

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