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James Moore (1834–1904)

by James Griffin

This article was published:

James Moore (1834-1904), Roman Catholic bishop, was born on 29 June 1834 at Listowel, County Kerry, Ireland, where his uncle was a priest and guided him towards the Church. After three years at a 'classical' school in Tralee he entered All Hallows Missionary College in 1852 but showed little aptitude for studies. Ordained a priest for Melbourne he volunteered as chaplain in the Annie Wilson. Beginning as curate of St Francis's, he was soon promoted to parish priest because of his zeal. Ill health in 1862 led Bishop Goold to give him a roving commission to collect money for the cathedral; within six months he showed great talent for collecting funds for bluestone and mortar.

Appointed to Ballarat in 1866, Moore found too few churches for the growing population and listed his priorities as churches, schools and societies. He soon paid the debt on St Patrick's and built the bluestone Church of St Alipius, Ballarat East. Made dean in 1869, he went in 1873 to Rome with Goold to make arrangements for a Ballarat diocese. Michael O'Connor was preferred as bishop but Moore was awarded an honorary doctorate of divinity and became vicar-general, business manager and 'Guardian Angel' of the diocese. He was made a monsignor in 1882 and administered the diocese after O'Connor died. At his silver jubilee in 1883 the laity honoured him with a golden chalice and the wish that he succeed to the throne. He was consecrated by Goold on 27 April 1884.

Moore was gracelessly conscious of the dignity and power of his office, more than any bishop in Australia, according to his friend Dean Goidanich. In 1875 he had bought a twelve-acre (5 ha) site near Lake Wendouree for the bishop's palace. Quick-tempered, vigilant and ruthless he was feared by his priests. Punctilious in canonical visitations he relished confirmations as an occasion for homilies. With no pretence of oratory he told 'practical truths' though 'a verbatim report of his words would not always have looked well in print'.

Moore was a resolute and fearless builder. He had briefly studied church ornament and furniture, and for St Patrick's Cathedral he brought sumptuous equipment and decorations from all parts of Europe. Pleased to be a citizen 'of no mean city', he adorned it with buildings which stimulated employment and trade, including a Nazareth House for orphans and the aged, staffing it with the Poor Sisters. He raised some £300,000 from a flock of less than 35,000 and spent half of it in Ballarat. St Patrick's was the first Catholic Cathedral in Australia cleared of debt; its consecration on 19 November 1891 was the peak of Moore's episcopate and was attended by Cardinal Moran and the Archbishop of Wellington among others. He squeezed taxes from his priests to recruit 'young levites', doubling their numbers from 27 to 54, and he brought out Redemptorists and Brigidines.

Moore readily believed that secularists wanted to Protestantize state schools and in 1884 threatened to withdraw Catholics from those schools if the Bible was taught. In 1875-84 the diocese had spent £67,291 on education alone and by 1904 had 11 boarding schools, 13 high schools for both girls and boys, and 60 primary schools in 35 parishes. Moore was a sedulous Roman rather than Gallican-Irish. Liberal in public spirit he made gifts to bodies outside his Church and sat on the committees of the hospital, benevolent asylum and art gallery, finally winning praise from the Anglican bishop for 'refraining from making public attacks upon Christian bodies outside the R.C. Church'. A diabetic, Moore died on 26 June 1904 after long illness. At his funeral the Anglican bishop was represented as well as Presbyterians and Jews.

Select Bibliography

  • T. W. H. Leavitt and W. D. Lilburn (eds), The Jubilee History of Victoria and Melbourne (Melb, 1888)
  • P. F. Moran, History of the Catholic Church in Australasia (Syd, 1895)
  • R. Fogarty, Catholic Education in Australia 1806-1950 (Melb, 1959)
  • G. Serle, The Rush to be Rich (Melb, 1971)
  • E. O'S. Goidanich, ‘James Moore, Bishop of Ballarat’, Austral Light (Melbourne), Aug-Oct 1904
  • Advocate (Melbourne), 26 Apr 1884, 2 July 1904
  • Ballarat Star, 28 Apr 1884, 27 June 1904
  • Australasian Sketcher, 2 June 1884
  • Ballarat Courier, 27 June 1904
  • Bishop Goold letters, 3 Apr 1856 (Roman Catholic Archives, Melbourne)
  • Bishop Geoghegan letters, 14 Oct 1858 (Roman Catholic Archives, Adelaide).

Citation details

James Griffin, 'Moore, James (1834–1904)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 18 April 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

James Moore (1834-1904), by unknown engraver

James Moore (1834-1904), by unknown engraver

La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, A/S02/06/84/84

Life Summary [details]


29 June, 1834
Listowel, Kerry, Ireland


26 June, 1904 (aged 69)
Ballarat, Victoria, Australia

Cause of Death


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