Australian Dictionary of Biography

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John Dunne (1845–1919)

by K. M. Manning

This article was published:

John Dunne (1845-1919), Roman Catholic bishop, was born on 8 June 1845 at Tooreigh, Mitchelstown, County Cork, Ireland, son of Michael Dunne, farmer, and his wife Mary, née Hennessy. He was educated by the Christian Brothers at Mitchelstown, and Mount Melleray College, and studied for the priesthood at the Catholic Missionary College of All Hallows, Drumcondra (Dublin), where he was ordained priest on 24 June 1870.

Dunne reached Sydney in 1871, probably in the Glendower, on 2 February, and was sent to the Bathurst diocese. He served in the wild Fish River district, at Mudgee and at Wentworth on the Darling. In 1875 he became parish priest at Dubbo and lived in a tent until he had built a brick church and the Convent of Mercy, which had day and boarding schools by 1885. That year he was called to Bathurst by Bishop Byrne and administered the cathedral parish. Under his supervision the Patrician Brothers' monastery was built and the cathedral enlarged. At his own request he returned to Dubbo in 1896 and raised over £4000 to liquidate the debt on the church. He was recalled to Bathurst as vicar-general in August 1900.

Following Byrne's death, Dunne was elected bishop of Bathurst on 12 January 1901 and was consecrated by Cardinal Moran on 8 September. As a pioneering priest and as bishop, Dunne was laborious, much enduring and resourceful. He travelled throughout his diocese, and was ready to stand in for the youngest curate. He had an easy, sympathetic and unaffected relationship with his clergy and a sound knowledge of people. Widely known as the 'Builder Bishop', he ensured that every parish had a church, school, presbytery and convent. In Bathurst he raised the money to build St Joseph's Mount and Orphanage, St Philomena's School and the stately Bishop's House. Keenly interested in St Stanislaus' College, he gave generously to finance its 1907 additions. Throughout his life Dunne promoted Catholic education. As a prudent and skilful administrator and a near-genius at raising money, he made the 'voluntary system' work in his diocese. Before he visited Europe in 1906, he was presented with a purse containing £1000, most of which he characteristically saved during his year's absence, and presented the remainder to St Stanislaus College.

Dunne had a masculine, forthright figure, with clear-cut features and a gentle countenance. Greatly beloved by his parishioners, he died of cancer at Bishop's House on 22 August 1919 and was buried in the Catholic section of Bathurst cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • National Advocate, 23, 25, 27 Aug 1919, 13 Nov 1922, St Vincent's Hospital souvenir supplement
  • Echoes from St Stanislaus, June 1921, p 8
  • Freeman's Journal (Sydney), 28 Aug 1919.

Additional Resources

Citation details

K. M. Manning, 'Dunne, John (1845–1919)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 23 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]


8 June, 1845
Tooreigh, Mitchelstown, Cork, Ireland


22 August, 1919 (aged 74)
Bathurst, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

cancer (not specified)

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