Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Annie Lynch (1870–1938)

by J. C. H. Dewdney

This article was published:

Annie Lynch (1870-1938), religious and hospital administrator, was born at Virginia, Cavan, Ireland, daughter of a grazier, and his wife Annie, née O'Reilly. Educated by the Sisters of Mercy at nearby Ballyjamesduff, she joined the Little Company of Mary, a congregation devoted to the care of the sick and the dying, on 1 April 1887. She spent seven years at the congregation's mother house in Rome as a postulant and novice under the immediate care of Mother Foundress Mary Potter. Her novitiate completed, she took the religious name Mary Xavier. Accompanied by three other 'Blue Sisters' (the title deriving from their blue veils), she was sent in 1894 to establish a hospital in Malta.

Recalled from Malta, Mother Xavier was dispatched to Sydney where the congregation ran Lewisham Hospital and Mount St Margaret psychiatric hospital; strains were developing among the Sisters and between them and the archdiocesan authorities. She arrived on 21 August 1899 on a six-month term as visitor-general. Years later she wrote: 'At Sydney things were at first very precarious, but within three months everything was right again and Cardinal Moran was a staunch friend of the Little Company of Mary'. By 31 December she had been appointed superintendent.

Among the twenty-eight successful candidates at the Australian Trained Nurses' Association's examination for registration in 1906 were Mother Xavier and thirteen other religious from Lewisham. During her years as superior at Lewisham the small hospital for women and children became one of Sydney's leading general hospitals (male patients were admitted in 1912) and nurses' training schools. At least one surgeon S. H. Harris, impressed by the skilled and dedicated nursing of the Sisters, did much of his operating there. A stern but just disciplinarian at Lewisham, Mother Xavier was selflessly solicitous for the welfare of those in her charge.

In November 1899 she had acquired a hospital at North Adelaide, staffed by five Sisters from Lewisham, and in 1904 she sent four Sisters to establish a hospital in South Africa. Early in 1914 she took four Sisters to establish a house at Christchurch, New Zealand, returning next year for the laying of a foundation stone for a congregation hospital. In between she attended the congregation's first general chapter in Rome and visited hospitals in England, Ireland and the United States of America. In 1922 the Little Company of Mary was constituted into four provinces—Italy, England, Ireland and Australasia—and Mother Xavier was first provincial of Australasia for two three-year terms. She retired as superior at Lewisham to devote more time to provincial affairs, visiting New Zealand and Rome in 1924, and oversaw the establishment of hospitals at Wagga Wagga in 1926 and Wellington, New Zealand, in 1927.

Slightly above medium height, with graceful carriage and a hearty laugh, Mother Xavier loved music and dance and had a notable mezzo-soprano voice. Visitors to the hospital were impressed with her brilliance and charm. In 1929 she retired to the congregation's rest-home at Wollongong where she died on 7 June 1938; she was buried in Rookwood cemetery. Her memory rests on her achievements as one of Australia's most noted hospital and nursing administrators and in extending the work of the Little Company of Mary in the Southern Hemisphere.

Select Bibliography

  • D. Wordley, No-One Dies Alone (Syd, 1976)
  • Australian Catholic Historical Society Journal, 4 (1973), pt 2
  • Catholic Press, 16 June 1938
  • Archives of the Little Company of Mary, Lewisham Hospital, Sydney.

Citation details

J. C. H. Dewdney, 'Lynch, Annie (1870–1938)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 13 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (Melbourne University Press), 1986

View the front pages for Volume 10

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Mother Xavier
  • Xavier, Mother

Virginia, Cavan, Ireland


7 June, 1938 (aged ~ 68)
Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.