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James Alipius Goold (1812–1886)

by J. R. J. Grigsby

This article was published:

James Alipius Goold (1812-1886), by Samuel Calvert, 1886

James Alipius Goold (1812-1886), by Samuel Calvert, 1886

La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, IAN26/06/86/108

James Alipius Goold (1812-1886), Roman Catholic archbishop, was born on 4 November 1812 into a prosperous commercial family in Cork, Ireland. He entered the Augustinian order, made his novitiate at Grantstown, Wexford, and studied divinity at Rome and Perugia. He was ordained in 1835. After meetings in Rome with Dr William Ullathorne Goold returned to Ireland and obtained permission from his superiors to volunteer for missionary service in New South Wales. With a testimonial from the Father Provincial of the Augustinians in Ireland attesting his piety, talent and strict observance of rule he arrived in Sydney on 24 February 1838.

Goold began work as assistant to Archdeacon John McEncroe and a few months later was appointed to Campbelltown. In his five years there he built schools and several churches, including St John's, and won repute as an outstanding missionary pastor by his piety and diligence. He became a protégé of Archbishop John Bede Polding, and was appointed by Pope Pius IX as bishop of the new see of Melbourne on 9 July 1847. Polding's inability to secure an assistant bishop delayed Goold's consecration in St Mary's Cathedral until 6 August 1848.

Goold travelled overland to Melbourne, making the six-hundred-mile (966 km) journey in a coach and four in nineteen days. He was installed in St Francis pro-Cathedral on 8 October. Religious factional strife was then acute and the new bishop became a focus for Catholic loyalties in the Port Phillip District. In November and December he disputed the title 'Bishop of Melbourne' with the Anglican Dr Charles Perry; the Colonial Secretary's Office found their claims equal within the law and contention continued. In 1850 Goold was a central figure in the defence of Irish immigrant orphans who were attacked by officialdom because of their inability to be assimilated into an urban community. Throughout the decade he led Catholic opposition to Anglican claims of precedence at government functions; this dispute culminated when Goold and his clergy boycotted the Queen's birthday levee in 1859. By then his efforts to make the Catholic Church a recognized influence within the colony had been largely successful, but probably more obvious was his direction of the physical growth of the Church.

Goold saw that the most immediate need of the Catholic Church in the Port Phillip District was sufficient clergy not only for the rapidly growing population in Melbourne but also for the scattered rural communities which extended as far west as Portland and north to the ranges. The second need was ecclesiastical and school buildings, including a cathedral. To raise funds for supplementing government grants he launched the Catholic Association in January 1849. In that year with extensive lay and clerical support it raised money for the first mission to Ireland to recruit priests for the diocese. In 1851 Goold visited Ireland for the same purpose, and the first new missions were established and manned by newly-arrived Irish and English priests. A small seminary was attached to St Francis's Church to train clergy until St Patrick's College was opened. The twofold problem of providing sufficient clergy and buildings was accentuated by the gold rushes and permanent pastors could not be appointed to the goldfields until 1853. As well as visiting all the country missions, Goold went to the Ballarat goldfields in November and December 1854 and September 1855. According to some contemporaries, his presence was said to have pacified many diggers and to have contributed to the orderly behaviour of Catholic miners, particularly after the Eureka affair.

In the formative years of his episcopate Goold assumed firm personal direction of the affairs of his diocese. In 1853 he had helped to found the weekly Catholic Tribune which soon closed after he withdrew his patronage. He also developed a positive policy for the social and religious improvement of his flock. Throughout the 1850s and particularly after the Legislative Council's select committee recommended government grants to religious denominations in 1852 he was determined to secure the continuity of this aid. He persisted despite pressure from some Catholics who were willing to accept the abolition of government grants and replace them with voluntary donations for support of the clergy and religious education. Before the first communities of nuns arrived in 1857 he had tried hard on overseas visits to obtain such staff for his proposed orphanage, hospital and schools. The introduction of teaching orders for boys after 1865 developed from the same policy.

In Melbourne as at Campbelltown Goold showed great interest in education. One of the first tasks he gave the Catholic Association was to raise funds for building schools in rural areas. He observed that even with grants from the Denominational Schools Board both schools and teachers were lamentably deficient. Central control of Catholic education was established in the 1850s by the bishop and his vicar-general, John Fitzpatrick, and was consolidated in 1861 under the Catholic Education Committee. It met regularly under Goold's chairmanship and included representatives of clergy and prominent laity. After the Victorian Board of Education was formed in 1862 he often clashed with government authorities over the role of local Catholic clergymen on school committees. Whenever the board challenged his authority over the membership of such a committee, especially after 1863, Goold withdrew that school from receiving state aid, and a system of voluntary donation took its place. In 1866 Goold refused to appear before the royal commission into education because no episcopally-nominated Catholic had been appointed to it, although the government had invited two Catholic laymen to join it.

Before the 1872 election Goold issued a pastoral admonition, calling on Catholic laity and clergy to withhold their votes from those candidates 'in favour of a scheme of godless compulsory education'. In 1873-84 the Catholic Education Committee acted as a focal point for political action over this grievance. In those years proposals for compromise were often mooted but Goold would entertain no solution that reduced his authority as exercised through the central committee or his nominees on local school committees. Yet he was concerned about the possible harmful effects of Catholic political rallies even when organized by his committeemen. He also failed to give firm directions to his clerical and lay advisers for strengthening the support of Catholic schools, an increasingly burdensome responsibility for the local clergy and their committees, while he gradually concentrated his attentions on administration of his diocese and the building of its cathedral.

St Patrick's Church on Eastern Hill had been planned early in Goold's episcopate and, after recasting of the plans, the building was almost complete in 1858 when the decision was taken to demolish part of it and rebuild on William Wardell's Gothic design. The decision was strongly opposed by the laity and particularly the clergy many of whom were already finding difficulty in raising funds for local projects, and the new building was started without a public ceremony. In his correspondence and pastorals for two decades Goold appealed for generous donations for the cathedral, and in 1874 from Rome he directed Fitzpatrick to divide the metropolitan area into sections for systematic collection. Although the cathedral project remained for years a focus for opposition, it was praised by the Catholic press and subscriptions were generally filled.

In 1858 Goold had sought support from the Society for the Propagation of the Faith in Rome for a special missionary to the Chinese in Victoria and for the pastoral care of the Aboriginals, but little was done. He visited Rome and Ireland again in 1867, and attended the council session of 1869. In 1873 on his last visit to Rome it was announced that he would become archbishop when Melbourne was made a metropolitan see on 31 March 1874. He had attended the first provincial council of the Catholic Church in Australia at Sydney in 1844 and the second in Melbourne in 1869, advocating in both as in Rome the creation of new Australian sees. He also wanted Irish bishops despite the policy of Polding who favoured Benedictines and other English clergy for Australian appointments.

Archbishop Goold enjoyed good health until the 1880s. At Brighton on 21 August 1882 he was fired at by an old acquaintance, Peter, brother of Henry James O'Farrell who had wounded the Duke of Edinburgh at Sydney in 1868. Goold's health deteriorated steadily after that day, but he continued to display the qualities of devoted pastor by making widespread visitations and confirmations. Throughout his episcopate he had been an unyielding but sincere prelate whose first concern was his church and its interests. He had no broad views or scholastic achievement and ruled his archdiocese with the conservatism and single-mindedness of an Irish bishop in an Irish see. He died after a heart attack at Brighton on 11 June 1886. He was buried within St Patrick's Cathedral, the building of which was perhaps his greatest triumph.

Select Bibliography

  • J. F. Hogan, A Biographical Sketch of the Late Most Rev. James Alipius Goold (Melb, 1886)
  • P. F. Moran, History of the Catholic Church in Australasia (Syd, 1895)
  • Advocate (Melbourne), 1868-86
  • Australasian, 29 June 1872
  • Illustrated Australian News, 1882, 1886
  • Argus (Melbourne), 12, 13, 16 June 1886
  • Freeman's Journal (Sydney), 19 June, 3 July 1886
  • Catholic Education Committee minutes, 1861-84 (Roman Catholic Archives, Melbourne).

Citation details

J. R. J. Grigsby, 'Goold, James Alipius (1812–1886)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 21 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (Melbourne University Press), 1972

View the front pages for Volume 4

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

James Alipius Goold (1812-1886), by Samuel Calvert, 1886

James Alipius Goold (1812-1886), by Samuel Calvert, 1886

La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, IAN26/06/86/108

Life Summary [details]


4 November, 1812
Cork, Ireland


11 June, 1886 (aged 73)
Brighton, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Cultural Heritage

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