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Eddy, John Jude (1933–2011)

by John N. Molony and Douglas Hassall

Fr John Jude Eddy, Jesuit priest and historian, died in Canberra on November 7, aged 78. Father Eddy was in 62nd year as a member of the Society of Jesus and in the 49th year of his priesthood. Born on March 6, 1933 at Cottesloe in Western Australia, he was educated at St Louis' School in Perth, Xavier College in Melbourne, Loyola College at Watsonia, Campion Hall at Kew, the University of Melbourne (where he lectured in History in the 1960s) and Campion Hall at Oxford University.

At 15, he obtained the highest pass in the West Australian State Leaving Examination. Being too young to enter university, he attended Xavier College in Melbourne where his academic performance topped that state. He entered the Society of Jesus and after completing his early religious studies, he enrolled at the University of Melbourne, where he received a number of accolades.

At Oxford, he came into contact with many leading public intellectuals of the day, including Martin D'Arcy SJ and Philip Caraman SJ. His keen intellect combined with unstinting application led to the successful completion of his Oxford Doctor of Philosophy thesis which was published by Clarendon Press in 1969 as Britain and the Australian Colonies 1818-1831: The Technique of Government. This became his best-known published work, being a thorough study of British Colonial Office administration and policy.

He also had papers published in history and politics journals as well as articles and reviews in other periodicals.

After completing his Jesuit tertianship at St Beuno's in Wales, in 1968, he came to Canberra where he was associated with the Dominican House, Blackfriars, and was appointed a research fellow in history in the Institute of Advanced Studies at the Australian National University; later senior fellow until 1988. In that year he was elected a fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

From 1992 to 1994 he again lectured in history at ANU, where he taught courses on Australian and British history.

Fr Frank Brennan SJ noted in his homily at the requiem mass in St Christopher's Cathedral, Canberra, on November 11 this year that John Eddy was "very proud of the course he designed at the ANU entitled 'The Peopling of Australia since 1788'".

A former Australian history and immigration policy student said of him, "He was always most helpful and considerate to students and his knowledge of the subject was exhaustive. I considered him a very special person; I think we all did."

Fr. Eddy was a supervisor and examiner of many doctoral theses.

In 1972 he was a founder of the Jesuit community at Xavier House in Yarralumla and in 1989 he became its fourth superior, until succeeded in 2008 by Fr Brennan. Although he undertook the directorship of the Australian Institute of Jesuit Studies in 1989, Fr Eddy remained a mentor to many postgraduates and to undergraduate students, a priest to the people of Canberra and the confidant and consoler of individuals from all walks of life who sought his counsel in their difficulties of many kinds.

He was instrumental in the foundation of the Georgetown University Center of Australian and New Zealand Studies in Washington D.C. where he was a consultant, professor and director from 1995 to 1998. Soon after his death the center noted that, without his tireless advocacy to obtain funding from the Australian government, "it would not exist".

He served on the councils of St Ignatius' College Riverview and St Aloysius' College in Sydney. He was a chaplain of the Military and Hospitaller Order of St Lazarus of Jerusalem and he supported the St Thomas More Society Catholic Lawyers Guild and the work of the Newman Society. In 2009 he assisted as secretary at the Apostolic Nunciature in Canberra. John Eddy was a gregarious and extensively travelled person, with an exceptionally wide range of friends and contacts throughout the world.

His learning, perspicacity, discernment and great tact enabled him to achieve positive outcomes for significant projects and causes. He had a strong commitment to social justice and a particular concern about the treatment of people seeking asylum in Australia. He maintained a practical and pastoral outreach to immigrants, and to marginalised persons and groups, including prisoners and needy people.

Equally, much like the semi-fabled Jesuits of the 17th and 18th centuries who moved with ease among the mighty in Europe, Fr. Eddy was, both in Canberra and as Professor at the Georgetown University Center, a greatly valued adviser and consultant, whose counsel was frequently sought by prime ministers and other national leaders, by ministers of state and other parliamentarians. Forthright and courageous, he voiced inconvenient truths, especially when Governments, of whatever hue, did not want them heard. In such contexts, he sought to persuade his hearers to seek the good, the true and the beautiful. His Oxford studies on the British Colonial Office noted that its policy had constantly emphasised the conciliation of native peoples and that "relations with aborigines be always governed by 'amity and kindness'".

Those qualities were always present in his relations with the first people of Australia, the Aborigines.

In private life, although by no means a bon vivant, he enjoyed good fare and conversation and he was always pleasing company, as well as an ever welcoming host at Xavier House. Consistent with a venerable Jesuit tradition, he delighted in the arts, especially music, and particularly the opera and song.

He enjoyed cinema and theatre, as well as military bands such as that of the Royal Military College at Duntroon. He was the son of commonwealth public servant and A.I.F. returned soldier Lieutenant William Eddy, who also served as a captain in the Australian Army during World War II, and of Mary Crosse, both deceased.

John Eddy was the much loved uncle of the children and grandchildren of his sister Margot and the late John Traill of the Sydney Bar.

After the latter's premature death in 1983, Fr Eddy ably fulfilled the roles of family head and counsellor and as 'in-house' baptiser.

In his deeply moving eulogy after the requiem, Professor Pierre Ryckmans spoke of him as "priest and friend".

He is survived by his sister Margot Traill of Sydney, one nephew, and five nieces and their families.

Original publication

  • Canberra Times, 15 December 2011, p 12

Additional Resources

Citation details

John N. Molony and Douglas Hassall, 'Eddy, John Jude (1933–2011)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/eddy-john-jude-14205/text25217, accessed 25 November 2017.

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