Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Felix Schurr (1827–1900)

by Louise T. Daley

This article was published:

Felix Schurr (1827-1900), missionary, was born at Dambach, Alsace-Lorraine, France, son of Joseph Schurr, vigneron, and his wife Magdalena, née Ehlinger. Educated at a Paris Catholic seminary, he volunteered for missionary work on the west coast of Africa. Soon stricken with fever, he returned to Paris where he was ordained as a priest and sent to the West Indies to work among the slaves. Again forced back to Paris by ill health, he was offered a position in Ireland by Archbishop Cullen of Dublin, and remained there seventeen years. Affectionately known as 'Abbé' he was already a scientist, musician and linguist, but continued his studies and became professor of languages at Maynooth and Trinity colleges, Ireland, while working among the inmates of an institution for the blind.

In 1870 he accepted a call from Bishop O'Mahony to work in the new see of Armidale, New South Wales, which included the valleys of the Clarence, Richmond and Tweed rivers. Arriving on the Richmond in 1872 the Abbé was in charge of the first Catholic church in Casino; in 1874 he saw the first church built at Coraki and in 1877 opened the first at Lismore. In 1880-82 he was at Rocky Mouth (Maclean) on the Clarence and assisted in building new churches at Palmer Island and Iluka.

Later, whenever a priest was needed he returned to the Clarence. He was remarkable for his long journeys by heavily laden pack-horse, by rowing-boat and later by buggy and pair. Often he carried a small organ for he believed there should be music in every home. He loved tea and children, was famous for his charity to everyone and was beloved by people of all creeds and ages. Schurr died at Casino on 17 July 1900 aged 73 and was buried there in the Catholic cemetery. His estate was valued for probate at £1456. His widowed sister Magdalene Schurr Schmidt, who in 1870 had come to Wardell, Richmond River, died in 1890.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Green, The Lost Echo: A Story of the Richmond (Syd, 1910)
  • L. T. Daley, Men and a River (Melb, 1966)
  • R. B. Walker, Old New England (Syd, 1966)
  • Catholic Weekly (Sydney), 6 Aug 1942
  • Australian Messenger of the Sacred Heart, 4 Jan 1943
  • Richmond River Express, Apr 1873, 18 July 1900
  • Northern Star (Lismore), 5 Aug 1876, 7 July 1877, 13 Nov 1915
  • Richmond River Historical Society files.

Citation details

Louise T. Daley, 'Schurr, Felix (1827–1900)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 13 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (Melbourne University Press), 1976

View the front pages for Volume 6

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


Dambach, Alsace-Moselle, France


17 July, 1900 (aged ~ 73)
Casino, New South Wales, Australia

Cultural Heritage

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