16 June, 2011

The Count and Father Hackett, S.J.

Archbishop Daniel Mannix of Melbourne

From: The riddle of Father Hackett: a priest in politics in Ireland and Australia, by Brenda Niall.

p. 153 ff."...William Hackett was given his parallel mission: to found a library that would help to educate Melbourne Catholics to know their faith and to take their place in the world... One of the first and most important patrons of the Library was a Kilkenny man, Count Thomas O'Loughlin. Hackett met the Count in 1923, when he and Murphy, then both at Xavier, were invited to O'Loughlin's home, Tara Hall, in Studley Park Road near Raheen. In this neo-Elizabethan mansion, complete with turrets and gargoyles, spacious reception rooms and a splendid staircase, O'Loughlin lived in state, with a manservant and a cook, several maids, and a governess for his daughters. All this came from a legacy. The archetypical of the rich uncle who struck lucky at the goldfields was the literal truth for the O'Loughlins. Martin Loughlin (1833-1894), born into a farming family in Kilkenny, made such a large fortune on the Victorian goldfields and in subsequent speculations in land, hotels and racehorses, that even the 1890s depression left him relatively untroubled. He died leaving an estate of £250,000.

His nephew Thomas, the ultimate beneficiary, came to Australia, where he passed on large portions of his wealth to the Catholic Church. One spectacular gift was the Church of St. John the Evangelist, which he endowed in his native Kilkenny in 1908. On his wedding day in 1911, Thomas was given the papal title in recognition of his benefactions. The farmer's son became Count O'Loughlin and his bride was addressed as Countess. Like everyone else in Kilkenny, Hackett and Murphy grew with the stories of Martin Loughlin's luck and the nephew's inheritance; they knew the Church that was built on Australian gold.

In the first five years of the Central Catholic Library, O'Loughlin was its main patron. Hackett became a family friend and visitor to Tara Hall, which was so close to Raheen that he could call on the Count before seeing the Archbishop. For O'Loughliin, as for few others, Mannix made a small adjustment to his policy of never accepting private hospitality. Except on a condolence visit in 1925, when the Countess died, he would not enter the front door of Tara, but at least once he crossed Studley Park Road and stood for a talk in his neighbour's garden. He brought the Archbishop of Brisbane, Dr. Duhig, and Cardinal Cerretti, the Apostolic Delegate of the time, his guests at Raheen. Two purple birettas and one scarlet cap made a brilliant spectacle for the little O'Loughlin girls. 'Look, look! Three popes in the garden!' one of them called to her governess.

When his wife died, Thomas O'Loughlin gave up Tara for a smaller house in Hawthorne. His own death in 1929 left five daughters to the care of an aunt from Ireland. Hackett did not forget the friendship, though five girls, the eldest only 17, strained his social resources. Card games were the best he could do: bridge or solo. He did not care for cards, nor did the O'Loughlin girls, but politeness on both sides kept them at the table..."

p 172 "Most important, in the early years of the library, was that other Kilkenny man, Count O'Loughlin, who wrote in 1927 that he would have great pleasure in paying the next year's rent of the Collins Street building. 'I shall also put my hand to raising the £10,000 you hope to reach within the next twelve months,' O'Loughlin added. His death in 1929, just as the Depression hit hard, was a serious setback."

No comments:

Post a Comment