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Philip Conolly

Hobart in 1830 (AOT, PH30/1/339A)

Philip Conolly (1786–1839), pioneer Catholic priest in Van Diemen's Land, arrived in Hobart in 1821. The first permanently appointed chaplain, he served bond and free alike. Perhaps his hardest role was to prepare convicted felons for death on the gallows. His eighteen-year ministry featured an extensive pastoral round over unmade tracks. Abysmal ignorance, religious apathy, dubious morality and resistance to conversion greeted him. He established Hobart's pioneer Catholic school in 1822, and opened the first Catholic church in Australia.

A gregarious man, Conolly was involved in many community organisations, and was a friend of the Anglican chaplain Knopwood. But he was attacked by a clique of malcontents, and in 1836 his priestly faculties were withdrawn. Further troubles and deep hurts meant his health failed, and he died aged 53. The whole town went to his funeral.

Further reading: W Southerwood, Lonely shepherd in Van Diemen's isle, George Town, 1988.

Terry Southerwood