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James Ambrose Cotham (1810–1883)

Some of our readers will doubtless remember Father Cotham, the first Catholic priest stationed in Launceston, and who was not only beloved by his own congregation, but gained the esteem of those of other denominations. By the London Tablet we notice that—"On the evening of 1st May, Father James Ambrose Cotham, O.S.B., passed to his rest." The rev. gentleman was born at Liverpool in 1810, studied at Stonyhurst and Douai, and received the Benedictine habit in 1820. Father Cotham arrived at Hobart in the ship Oriental, with Bishop, afterwards Archbishop Polding. The latter proceeded to Sydney, and Father Cotham was appointed to the charge of the Catholics in the island, and succeeded Father Connolly. The island was afterwards divided in two districts, Father Therry, who resided in Hobart, taking one part, and Father Cotham taking the other. The latter took up his residence permanently in Launceston in 1837, and celebrated mass in a weatherboard house in Cameron-street, still in existence, and built for that purpose by the late Mr. Antonio Martini. In 1840 the Government granted the present site where the brick church known as St. Joseph's was opened in 1842, and which did duty until the stone building, Church of the Apostles, was finished in 1866. Father Cotham remained at Launceston until 1845, when he was relieved by the late Dean Butler, and afterwards proceeded home. The Tablet says—"He was appointed to Cheltenham, and by his energy and self-sacrifice succeeded in erecting the beautiful Catholic Church that adorns that town. About a year ago he retired to St. Michael's Priory, invalided by a tumour, which proved to be cancerous. The pain and the enforced quiet, so irksome to his active nature, he bore with edifying patience. He expired in the midst of his religious brethren, assisted by his brother, Father W. Cotham, S.J." The same journal truth fully remarks:—"For sixteen years he laboured amongst the colonists and convicts, visiting all parts of the colony on horseback, with altar stone, chalice, vestments, and all the requisites for sacrifice and sacraments in his saddle bags." Although he had reached the age allotted by the Psalmist, the news of the death of the good old priest will be received with regret by all who knew him.

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Citation details

'Cotham, James Ambrose (1810–1883)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 22 July 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]


Liverpool, Merseyside, England


1 May, 1883 (aged ~ 73)

Cause of Death

cancer (not specified)

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.