Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

Michael McAlroy (1823–1880)

by C. J. Duffy

This article was published:

View Previous Version

Michael McAlroy (1823-1880), Roman Catholic priest, was born at Westmeath, Ireland, son of John McAlroy, farmer, and his wife née Ulyer. He was educated at Navan and at Maynooth where he became friends with Patrick Bermingham and Patrick Dunne and was ordained in 1849. He became chaplain to Bishop Haly of Kildare and Leighlin, attached to the Carlow Cathedral, where he had leisure enough to study architecture. At the invitation of Dunne, seconded by Bishop Goold of Melbourne, he went to Melbourne with Bermingham in February 1855. Next year the three friends were posted to Geelong, but Goold soon became alarmed at their independence, criticism of himself and 'assertion of their personal and canonical rights'. He split up the three friends and McAlroy was given a 'roving commission' in the Ballarat area. Later unable to find enough parishioners in Gippsland, he returned but received no other offer.

McAlroy wrote to Archbishop Polding in Sydney, who was pleased to send him to Yass in 1857. In his four years there he enlarged the church and built others in Jugiong, Tumut, Gundagai, Wagga Wagga, Gunning and Binalong, all of solid construction and free of debt. A skilled horseman he averaged about 11,000 miles (17,703 km) each year riding around his large parish. He won loyal support from the large number of Catholics in the district, some of whom he had helped to settle there. In 1861 he accompanied Charles Cowper to Lambing Flat after the riots. He was sent to Goulburn to build a convent for the Sisters of Mercy. He also built the bishop's residence there and churches at Taralga, Breadalbane and Grabben Gullen. In 1867 contrary to expectations he was passed over when Bishop Lanigan became bishop of Goulburn. McAlroy was made his vicar-general and in 1868 he was transferred to Albury, where he built the 'large and beautiful' Convent of Mercy and church, and also churches at Corowa, Howlong and Newtown. He helped to found St Patrick's College, Goulburn, in 1874 and brought the Sisters of Mercy to Yass in 1875. He died on 14 July 1880 from heart disease at Albury where he was buried.

Select Bibliography

  • F. Mackle, The Footprints of Our Catholic Pioneers (Melb, 1924)
  • T. L. Suttor, Hierarchy and Democracy in Australia, 1788-1870 (Melb, 1965)
  • J. O'Brien, ‘The apostle of the south’, Australasian Catholic Record, 22 (1945) no 4
  • Dunne and Bermingham papers (Roman Catholic Archives, Sydney).

Citation details

C. J. Duffy, 'McAlroy, Michael (1823–1880)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 20 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (Melbourne University Press), 1974

View the front pages for Volume 5

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


Westmeath, Ireland


14 July, 1880 (aged ~ 57)
Albury, 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.