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Patrick Freehill (1817–1899)

Mr. Patrick Freehill, the father of Mr. F. B. Freehill (Consul for Spain), died on Saturday, at the age of 82. He had been ill only for a few days. He passed peacefully away after having received all the rites of Holy Church.

The death of this venerable Irishman awakened memories of all that is noble in the history of Irish and Catholic life in Sydney. Since he came to the colony in 1842, there was no good cause with which he was not intimately connected. Those were the days of generous donations, and Mr. Freehill's generosity was rarely surpassed. He was one of those who attended the memorable meeting at St. Mary's in 1857, in response to a pastoral letter of Archbishop Polding. The object was to establish St. John's College (within the University). Among the speakers were Sir Roger Therry, the Right Rev. Monsignor Lynch, the Hon. John Hubert Plunkett, Archdeacon McEncroe, Mr. Justice Faucett (then M.L.A.), the Right Rev. Dr. Murphy (then Bishop of Adelaide), Mr. W. B. Dalley, and the Very Rev. Dean O'Connell, who resides at Tasmania, and is the only one of the speakers now living. At this meeting £12,000 was subscribed. Mr. Freehill gave £100. An appeal was then made to the country, and within twelve months the sum of £20,813 was subscribed in hard cash.

Mr. Freehill was one of the original guarantors to the bank on the burning of St. Mary's Cathedral. He was one of the first subscribers of £100 to the building fund in 1865, and was an active member of the building committee for a number of years. He also took an active part in the building of St. Patrick's Church (Church-hill), and was one of the members of the committee. He had always been a friend of the Marists, and was one of the first to welcome the Marist Brothers to Australia, and for his kindness to them Brother Ludovic was never weary of expressing his gratitude.

Mr. Freehill was a leading spirit in the celebration of St. Patrick's Day, and was one of the organisers of the Irish Regatta, which was held annually. St. Patrick's Day was recognised as a public holiday for years, and until the shooting of the Duke of Edinburgh by the maniac O'Farrell. All classes and crowds in the early days used to join in the celebration of the Irish national festival. Mr. Freehill also took a prominent part in organising the famous St. Patrick’s Day banquets hold in Clarke's Assembly Rooms, now the home of the Royal Society. In fact he was in the thick of every Irish movement in the colony.

When John Mitchell escaped from Tasmania disguised as a priest Mr. Freehill was one of the few who was in the secret, and knew of Mitchell's presence in Sydney. When Charles Gavan Duffy came to Australia Mr. Freehill was one of the committee of welcome, he took part in the memorable banquet at which Duffy declared himself 'a rebel to the backbone and spinal marrow.' It will be remembered that efforts were made at the time to induce Duffy to settle in Sydney, but he preferred Melbourne. It is singular, by the way, that all through life Duffy and Sir Henry Parkes were intimate friends.

In the old immigration days the Government required that emigrants should be nominated in the colony by some responsible citizen, and no one took a greater responsibility in this matter than Mr. Freehill. He was the means of bringing to New South Wales hundreds of Irish families. Upon their arrival he was their fatherly friend, finding them situations and relieving their distress. He always advised them to abandon the cities and settle in the country, and numbers of families owe their good position to-day through following his advice, particularly people on the northern rivers.

The priests from Ireland always found a home at Mr. Freehill's. It was not only in the welfare of the Irish people, the Irish National cause, and in the Church that he took a deep interest. The good Irishman and Catholic is naturally the best citizen, and everything that tended to promote the welfare of the country had Mr. Freehill's support. He was for years one of the committee of the George-Street Benevolent Asylum, and advanced by his personal influence and by his purse all philanthropic movements. He was a keen politician, and was on terms of intimate friendship with all the leading men of the day. He knew Dalley as a boy, and they were close friends in after years. He supported Sir John Robertson when Sir John was making a struggle to secure land reform, and he was also a warm supporter of Sir James Martin until Martin sanctioned the Treason Felony Act. Freehill was one of the Celtic Association committee, of which Mr. John Robertson was president.

Geoffrey Eager, who was Treasurer in the Martin Government, was an intimate personal friend of Freehill. In fact the deceased gentlemen was associated for over half a century with all that was best in our political, social and religious life. He was of a most lovable character, with a fine temperament, and a never-failing sense of humour. Unbending in his principles, he was unlike many of the men who

'All around us to-day
Doth bluster and cringe and make life
Horrid and arid and vile.'

His was —

'A soul tempered with fire,
Fervent, heroic and good,
A helper and friend of mankind.'

He enjoyed good health, the society of his wife, relatives and friends until Christmas Day, when he first complained. He resided with his son-in-law, Mr. E. J. Hollingdale, Lucas-road, Burwood. Dr. Maguire, his medical advisor, was called in, but the patient gradually sank, and expired on Saturday. He was a native of Ballyconnell, Cavan. Three children survive him— Mr. F. B. Freehill, a son who resides in Queensland, and Mrs. Hollingdale, wife of the well-known jeweller, of King-Street.

The funeral took place on Tuesday from Mr. Hollingdale's residence. The remains were encased in a polished cedar coffin, and were buried amidst all the impressive ceremonies of our Holy Church, of which he was a devout member. The ceremonies were conducted by the Rev. Father Peter Byrne, P.P., of Burwood, who was assisted by the Rev. Fathers McDermott and Meagher, and at the grave at Rookwood by a large concourse of priests, including the Very Rev. Dean Slattery (one of the oldest friends of the deceased), the Very Rev. Father P. S. Slattery (Woollahra), the Very Rev. Father Boyle (Superior of the Vincentians), Rev. Fathers Timoney (Mosman and Neutral Bays), J. Carroll (Adm, St. Benedict's), Whyte (Archdiocesan Inspector of Schools), Moynagh (P.P., Balmain West), H. McDermott (Manly College), McCarthy, S.M., Gartlan, S.J., J. O'Reilly (Leichhardt), T. O'Reilly (P. P., Parramatta), J. Bunbury, Hayden (Manly), Rohan (Annandale), Donnelly (Surry Hills), Mahony (Granville).

The funeral was largely attended, and among those present we noticed Messrs. F. B. Freehill, E. J. Hollingdale, John Baxter, Arthur Cosgrove, Thomas Cosgrove, Bernard Gaffney (nephews), D. O’Connor, P. Hogan, F. Coffee, W. Spruson, M.P., John Ahearn, J. P. (Mayor of Burwood), Joseph Carlos, J. Hourigan, J.P., J. F. Hennessy, J.P., J. Matthias, J. Walshe, T. Dalton, M.L.C., J. Toohey, M.L.C., J. Kidd, M.P., Walter Edmunds, P. J. Hourigan, J. G. O'Ryan, Tighe Ryan, E. O'Farrell, J.P., James Toohey, A. H. Maitland, J. Donovan, M. Meagher, B. C. Cody, Joseph Moloney, C. W. Knight, W. Walsh, M. Ryan, J. Fitzpatrick and Drs. Odillo Maher, C. W. McCarthy, Acock, R.N., and others. Mr. T. Crisford, undertaker, of Burwood, carried out the funeral arrangements. The relatives received letters and telegrams of sympathy from all quarters. May he rest in peace.

Original publication

Citation details

'Freehill, Patrick (1817–1899)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 17 June 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]


Ballyconnell, Cavan, Ireland


30 December, 1899 (aged ~ 82)
Burwood, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death


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.

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