Story of religion and deep division

THE lodgment of the remainder of Richard Kenna’s estate with the Office of State Revenue has shone a spotlight on one of the most controversial chapters in Bathurst history and one which gained the city national notoriety.

It has also highlighted the sectarian divisions involved in the provision of public and religious education in the late 1800s.

A parental decision over the choice of their son’s school – which would be a matter of course today – inflamed passions to the extent that Mr Kenna was refused burial in the Catholic portion of the Bathurst cemetery by Bishop Matthew Quinn; public meetings were held to give voice to the protagonists’ views; and the entire affair received national coverage in the media of the day.

Richard Kenna, an Irish Catholic, decided to send his son to Sydney Grammar School – a decision vehemently opposed by Bishop Quinn, who brought the full force of his position to bear in an effort to have Mr Kenna change his mind.

Both men maintained their position – with the end result that Mr Kenna was refused burial in the Catholic cemetery.

A public meeting held to support Bishop Quinn’s actions saw a succession of speakers support the Bishop’s action in passionate terms.

The meeting passed a motion that “no Catholic shall feel satisfied with any system of education from which religion is excluded”. 

The course of history then took an ironic twist.

Years later Mr Kenna ended up buried in the Catholic portion of the Bathurst Cemetery as many of the remains from the old cemetery in Lambert Street were transferred there for reinterment.

Perhaps a fitting end to a stormy chapter in the city’s history.

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