Patrick Smyth

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Reverend Smyth, c1853. State Library of South Australia (B 33705)
Catholic Church, Clergymen, c1860. Rev. Fitzgibbon, Rev. Fr. Patrick Smyth, Rev. P. J. Hughes, unknown, Dr. Henry Backhaus. State Library of South Australia (B 33693)
Katholisch Kapelle aus den Gravel Pit Lunis 3u Ballarat Januav 1854 by William Strutt. State Library of Victoria Collection (H12532)
St Alipius' Chapel Recreated at Sovereign Hill, 2016.
Ballarat Heritage Services Picture Collection


Reverend Smyth, c1853. State Library of South Australia (B 33705) Patrick Smyth was born in 1824 at Ballina, County Mayo, Ireland. He trained at the Royal College of Maynooth, Ireland. After his ordination in 1852 he came to Australia arriving in Melbourne on 11 November 1852. He worked at the Parish of Geelong, and then did a brief amount of work at Beechworth. While in Beechworth he was involved with miners from the Ovens Goldfield who were part of his parish. He then came to Ballarat.[1]

Father Patrick Smyth was a 30 year old Irish Catholic Priest when he was transferred from Beechworth to St Alipius, Ballarat East in June 1854, [2] after previously serving on the Beechworth goldfields. He stayed in Ballarat East until 1856 when her was transferred to St Mary's, Castlemaine. [3]

In 1864 Father Patrick Smyth was ill and moved to Sydney to be in the care of friends. He died of consumption on 14 October 1865, aged 41.[4]

Goldfields Involvement, 1854

Father Patrick Smyth, the Catholic priest at St. Alipius, attended many of the meetings leading up to 3 December 1854.

Fr Patrick Smyth, J.B. Humffray, Bishop James Goold and Fr Mathew Downing called for peaceful resistance to the harsh attitudes of the authorities. [5]

Bishop James Goold, Courtesy Ballarat Heritage Services.

In a letter to Bishop Goold on 27 November 1854 he appeared on the edge of dispair: I really don't know how to act ... What am I to do? ... My impression is that everything tends to an insurrection.[6]

Patrick Smyth, William Henry Archer and Raffaello Carboni wrote letters between themselves. One written by Patrick Smyth to W. H. Archer is reproduced here.

Letter from priest Patrick Smyth to William Henry Archer

Ballarat Nov 27 1854

My Dear Mr Archer

You have all our thanks for your kindness in looking after our books. After your letter I will be expecting them; tho entre? Was I fear they have taken the wrong road. I should not be at all surprised if they were in Wangaratta or Van Deimens Land by this ??Monster Meeting.

You must have gone down surprisingly quick. There must be I think some ocular delusion in Billy’s proportions. If I was Father Niall? I should have Billy at anything. Then, My Dear our little Father –

I send you a scrap from our Times. It has been written by that person who laid his hand on Father B’s shoulder. You can form some idea of what will likely ensue. I am aware of other steps they mistake? Taking. And if they do take it the Government and themselves will inevitably come into collision, unless the gold licence be abolished. The article in the scrap I enclose you has done its work. The people now ready for such an expression of feeling: the effect intending was easily produced. In fact, things have come to a crisis and I am in a perplex. You spoke of my influence with them. – They pay me all mindful respect, but my influence has been fairly crippled by the Government officers here. If I talk of peace and of wrongs being addressed constitutionly [sic], the people or what is the same, the leaders of the people rejoin by telling ? that I have been aggrieved myself and that instead of having any reason to speak of deferences to the law I should rather denounce the government. This is unrationbly the substance of their reply. And what marks the movement here as the most singular of its kind, is that the people are seemingly as quiet as if nothing were to occur.

I was out this morning over all the business part of the Diggings and every thing is as they were yesterday and the day before. Yet they must know, or should know, that if they take the intended stop and the government persist in exacting the licence fee, that before one month law and order will go the way of all flesh? Would to God that the present Gold Commission system was abolished. I assure you I could make an equal return of Revenue without incurring one twentieth part at least, of the present expense incurred, in collecting the god revenues. –

I fear my fortunes have been cast on troubled waters, I don’t know what to do. Still why should I trouble myself. Are there not red coats and blue coats and gold heads enough here to do the ?ful? I should say that no outbreak is intended. The people intend to throw the ones of the aggressive part of the business on the Government. But no, one can say what may eventuate until this Monster Meeting takes place. A deputation has gone down to demand the release of Fletcher &c. That word “demand” omens badly.

Before the gospel yesterday I mentioned that I had a letter for Raffaelo. It seems he was not present. I did this because I saw the word in midst on the cover. I shall do all I can to day to find him out. I hope you won’t be tired with this long rambling letter.

I sign myself

Yours sincerely

Patrick Smyth[7]

Smyth visited the Eureka Stockade on the night of Saturday 02 December 1854 to pass on details of the strength of the Military and Police forces. He pleaded with them to return to their homes and to attend Mass the following morning. [8]

Early on the morning of 03 December 1854 Father Smyth woke to the sounds of gunfire and made his way to the Eureka Stockade on horseback.He was greeted by a scene of death and destruction. He began to give the Last Rite to those who lay dying around him.[9]

Shortly after the battle Father Smyth gave Peter Lalor some clothes and helped him to a friends tent. The friend later returned Lalor to Fr Smyth's tent where his left arm was amputated. The arm and blood soaked clothes were thrown down a disused mine shaft.[10] Rev. Patrick Smyth lent his horse to Peter Lalor for his escape from the police.[11]

In a letter written on 13 December 1854 to William Henry Archer, he passionately admonishes how he was not allowed to tend the sick and dying after the battle as they lay on the ground. "What do you think of this that I was not allowed to see the wounded among the soldiers tho' I applied myself to that first; again on my way to the stockade, an armed man with a pistol in his extended hand rode round me; and while on the stockade, looking after the dead and dying I was told politely indeed, to take myself away, tho' all was as quiet then as now. Would not this make a granite rock imbedded in polar ice turn to fire and much more one of my temperament and disposition who stakes his life for peace and would stake it doubly for the weal of the dying. But this feeling of anger - for I was angry - has passed away. But better times I hope are dawning. We are full of confidence in the good intentions of His Excellency. May we have the good and just things that our people look for." Father Patrick Smyth showed courage and commitment to his calling. Many of his parishioners included men from both sides.[12]

Post 1854 Experiences

Father Smyth stayed in Ballarat until 1856, when he was posted to Castlemaine and founded an orphanage.[13] Illness made work difficult for him and he moved to the house of Mr Mooney in Sydney in 1864. He loved there until his death of tuberculosis on 14 October 1865, and is buried at Lewsihan Churchyard, Sydney.[14]


(From the Ballarat Times.)
To Signor Raffaello. Dear Sir, — I have read your 'Eureka Stockade' with the deepest interest, but not with entire satisfaction. I have not time for an elaborate review of it, but I feel it to be my duty to notice a few passages in which you have mentioned my humble and all-but-forgotten name. At some future day, should health and leisure permit, I hope to give an account of what I know of the Eureka affair, and then your book will be subjected to a thorough examination. At page 58 you open chap. 45 with the following paragraphs : — "Between four and five o'clock of same afternoon we became aware of the silly blunder which proved fatal to our cause. Some three or four hundred diggers arrived from Creswick Creek — a gold-field famous for its pennyweight fortunes — grubbed up through hard work, and squandered in dissipation among the swarm of sly grog sellers in the district. "We learned from this Creswick legion that two demagogues had been stumping at Creswick, and called the miners there to arms, to help their brothers on Ballarat, who were worried by scores by the peridious hands of the Camp. They were assured that, on Ballarat, there was plenty of arms, ammunition, forage, and provisions, and that preparations, on a grand scale, were making to redress, once for all, the whole string of grievances. They had only to march to Ballarat, and would find there plenty of work, honor, and glory. 'I wonder how honest Mr Black could sanction with his presence, such suicidal rant, such absurd bosh of that pair of demagogues, who hurried down these four hundred diggers from Creswick, helpless, grog-worn ; that is, more or less dirty and ragged, and proved the greater nuisance. One of them, Michael Tuohy, behaved valiantly, and so I shall say no more.' Signor Raffaello ! by whom have you been led to pen these paragraphs? You Say, 'We learned from this Creswick legion, &c , &c. "Did this Creswick legion" say noting about a special messenger riding, post-haste, from Ballarat to Creswick's, with a note for myself, or Thomas Kennedy, or any man 0n the creek? And did not "this Creswick legion" inform you that this note was handed to me after the dispersion of the meeting, solely for which we had gone to the Creek, and just as we were about to return to Ballarat - that they ('"this Creswick legion' and Many others) reassembled to hear the contents of tHe note — and that, then it was, that they felt called on to go to the assistance of the men of Ballarat? It "this Creswick legion" made no mention Of the abovE facts, but gave you, instead, the substance-of the paragraphs transcribed, they grossly misinformed you. The truth is, Reynolds, Kennedy Moran, myself and a friend left. Ballarat for Creswicks, on Thursday morning, November 30th , when all was perfectly quiet and no license hunt was expected, for the purpose of promoting the objects of the Ballarat Reform League. In the afternoon, most of the diggers of Creswick's gathered around us, when we informed them of the principles and objects of the League, and gave them an account of the mission of Kennedy and myself to the Governor, for the release of M'Intyre, Fletcher, and Westerby. The business of the meeting was soon over, and the diggers quietly dispersed without the least expectation of being immediately called on to arm themselves and proceed to Ballarat. They had not reached their tents when a young man, a stranger to me, arrived on horseback from Ballarat, with a note for me or Kennedy, or any man on the Creek. The note was in the handwriting of, and was signed by S. Irwin (now J.P at Ballarat), I Patrick Sheehan and another, whose name was so badly written that I could not make it out. Immediately after reading the note I tore it up, lest it should fall into the hands of Government. The substance of the note, I well remember, was as follows : That the authorities had been out license hunting, and had fired on the diggers ; that if they came out, on the morrow, the diggers had made up their minds to give them pepper,' and that they (the writers) considered that the cause for which the men of Ballarat had taken up arms, was the cause of the men of Creswick, and they hoped that all who could come would come and bring with them all the arms they could collect. The note also promised that the men of Ballarat would find room in their tents for those who might, come, and would accommodate them as well as they could. But for this note the 'demagogues' and myself would have left the men of Creswick's in hipphappy ignorance of the rising which had taken place at Ballarat, and, in all probability, not one of them would have been in the Stockade on the ever-memorable Sunday morning following. !The blame, then, if any, of bringing to the Stockade the "four hundred helpless, grog-worn, that is, more or less dirty and ragged diggers of Creswick's is chargeable neither on themselves (p or wretches, as you describe them, but really high-souled men, who, appealed to as they were, in the fiery words of Messrs. Irwin, Sheehan and another, scorned to leave the men of Ballarat to fight unassisted the battle of the diggers generally) nor on the 'pair of demagogues' and "honest Mr Black," but on Messrs Irwin, Sheehan and another, or on some committee for whom the above gentlemen acted. At page ninety-nine the following passage occurs : "What has become of George Black, was, and is still, a mystery to me. I lost sight of him since his leaving for Creswick Creek, on December 1st. 1854."You lost sight of me from one to two o'clock p.m., on Saturday, after I had vainly endeavored with the Rev. Patrick Smyth to prevail on Lalor, Vern, and M'Gill to disperse the men, as I was very confident that if they came into collision with the forces which were, and would soon be at the Ballarat Camp they would be overwhelmed, and a great, and useless sacrifice of life would be the consequence. When writing the above you forgot that on Friday night, 1st December, I accompanied the Rev. Patrick Smyth and yourself to the Camp, as a deputation, to obtain, if possible, the release of the men who had been arrested the day before taking part in the disturbances caused by the license hunt. Then, as disturbance caused by the license hunt. Then, as to the mystery of my whereabouts: ever since the acquittal of the State prisoners I have been diligently engaged in business, or some other way, at this place, but ever ready to do what I could in the cause of liberty and humanity. As yet, I have not succeeded in business according to my wishes, but I hope ere long to be able to meet the men of Ballarat, and satisfy them that I am indeed the honest man you have represented me to be, through evil report and through good report, through weal and through woe, in prosperity and in adversity. I have retained the principle which I was my pride to advocate amongst them, and which I shall ever hold, and never fear to avow as occasion may arise. Others may seek the favor of the powers that be; "as for me, I have no sympathy with any government that is not the free choice of the people. You do not think, signor, that I have deserted the cause of liberty, and that I nm quietly ingratiating, myself with the government. No, no, such is far from being the case. From what I can learn, I am yet a trouble to our rulers. Not many days ago, I was informed, on good authority, that I was closely watched, and that the warrant for my arrest for the Eureka affair had not yet been withdrawn. Well, I hope to to live trouble, more than over, men whose principles and actions are despotic, whether high or low in office, or in society. Now, to clear up another of your mysteries. In your account of the interview which Father Smyth, yourself, and I had with the Camp officers on the night of Friday, December 1st, you say that when we wore returning from the Camp, "Father Smyth continually kept on a sotto voce conversation with Mr Black only," and that this was and still is a mystery to you ! I assure you, signor, Father Smyth said not a word to me, to the best of my recollection, which he was not perfectly willing for you to hear. I am not aware that there were any secrets between the rev. gentleman and myself. Until I read the passage just quoted, I was under the impression that you heard all that passed in conversation on the occasion in question. But I must conclude. Someday I hope to return to the subject, and do full justice to it according to my humble abilities.
I remain, Signor.
Your's truly, G. BLACK.[15]

See also


William Henry Archer

Further Reading

Corfield, J., Wickham, D., & Gervasoni, C. The Eureka Encyclopaedia, Ballarat Heritage Services, 2004.


  1. Gervasoni, Clare and Ford, Tina, Eureka Stockade centre Hall of Debate Kit, 1998.
  2. Supplement to the Ballarat Courier, 27 March 1998, p. 3.
  3. Supplement to the Ballarat Courier, 27 March 1998, p.9.
  4. Supplement to the Ballarat Courier, 27 March 1998, p.9.
  5. Wickham, Dorothy, Goldfields tension leads t battle IN Ballarat Courier, 28 November 2009.
  6. Dorothy Wickham, St Alipius: Ballarat's First Church, 1994; Supplement to the Ballarat Courier, 27 March 1998, p.9.
  7. Research by Dorothy Wickham, National Library of Australia, 1994, MS 264/18
  8. Supplement to the Ballarat Courier, 27 March 1998, p.9.
  9. Supplement to the Ballarat Courier, 27 March 1998, p.9.
  10. Supplement to the Ballarat Courier, 27 March 1998, p.9.
  11. The Advocate 07 May 1947.
  12. Supplement to the Ballarat Courier, 27 March 1998, p.9.
  13. Supplement to the Ballarat Courier, 27 March 1998, p.9.
  14. Gervasoni, Clare and Ford, Tina, Eureka Stockade centre Hall of Debate Kit, 1998.
  15. The Age, 31 December 1855

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