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Jeremiah Joseph Doyle (1849–1909)

by Gregory Haines

This article was published:

Jeremiah Joseph Doyle (1849-1909), Catholic bishop, was born on 5 December 1849 at Kilmurry, County Cork, Ireland, son of Daniel Doyle, farmer, and his wife Ellen, née Murphy. He was educated in classics at Mount Melleray College, Waterford, and the Catholic Missionary College of All Hallows, Dublin. Ordained on 24 June 1874 for the diocese of Armidale, New South Wales, he then set out for Australia; after being shipwrecked in the Bay of Biscay he arrived in Sydney in the Lincolnshire in November 1874.

At Armidale Doyle's zeal for education and loyalty in the troubled days of Bishop O'Mahony's administration impressed his superiors; for a time he was in charge of the Armidale church. In 1878 he was transferred to Casino with general responsibility for the north coast. Appointed dean in 1886, Doyle was consecrated first bishop of Grafton by Cardinal Moran in St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney, on 28 August 1887. He spent six months in Grafton before returning to Lismore, which had better communications, more Catholics and, he believed, a better future.

His involvement in the civil and religious life of the undeveloped district won him great respect. At Lismore in 1880 in a typhoid epidemic Doyle had regularly visited the homes of the sick of all denominations. He was sometime president of the Lismore School of Arts, the Lismore Agricultural and Industrial Society and the hospital board. His organizing capacity was his 'strongest characteristic', and his wit often rendered discussions 'less acrimonious'. He gave evidence three times to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, strenuously advocating the northern extension of the railway and a breakwater at Byron Bay. He also promoted the development of a water and gas supply for Lismore and claimed to be responsible for the installation of the telephone.

Doyle showed a continuing interest in education: the number of schools in his 11,000-sq. mile (28,490 km²) diocese had increased from nine to twenty-three by 1909. The Sisters of Mercy had come to Grafton to teach in 1883 and by 1907 had seven establishments. In 1886 Doyle brought the Presentation Sisters to Lismore; later they were joined by the Sisters of the Sacred Heart and the Josephite Sisters. But their male counterparts, scarce throughout the country, were not represented. In 1890 Doyle was appointed to a committee established by the Australian hierarchy to set up standards of proficiency for Catholic schools.

In 1891 and 1900 Doyle went to Rome; on his second visit he succeeded in getting the name and seat of his diocese changed to Lismore. In 1892 the foundation stone of St Carthage's Cathedral, Lismore, had been laid, but building did not continue till 1904; the partially built stone cathedral was burnt down and restarted in 1905: it was dedicated in 1907. Doyle inherited from Bishop Torreggiani a legal wrangle over property with a bucolic Grafton priest Dean O'Sullivan, who was successfully sued by the Australian Joint Stock Bank for debts incurred before the diocese was created. These debts made it impossible for Doyle to maintain students at St Patrick's College, Manly, without help from Moran. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Lismore Church Lands Act of 1908 helped to clarify this situation.

Doyle died of cerebral haemorrhage in his house at Lismore on 4 June 1909 and was buried in St Carthage's Cathedral.

Select Bibliography

  • R. Fogarty, Catholic Education in Australia 1806-1950 (Melb, 1959)
  • K. T. Livingston, The Emergence of an Australian Catholic Priesthood 1835-1915 (Syd, 1977)
  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, New South Wales), 1890, 6, 63, 1892-93, 6, 79, 1901, 6, 35, 46
  • Northern Star (Lismore), 7 June 1909
  • Town and Country Journal, 9 June 1909
  • Catholic Press, 10 June 1909
  • Diocesan Archives (St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney).

Citation details

Gregory Haines, 'Doyle, Jeremiah Joseph (1849–1909)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 18 July 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]


5 December, 1849
Kilmurry, Cork, Ireland


4 June, 1909 (aged 59)
Lismore, New South Wales, Australia

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