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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

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John Hughes (1825–1885)

When death removes a prominent member of our faith, who in private character and in public life has honourably borne the name of Catholic, and when this removal means the loss of a devoted son whose life has been remarkable alike for earnest piety and munificent charity, it is the custom to say that a pillar of the Church has fallen. And we do not think it will be considered an extravagance to use the familiar phrase in respect to the announcement of the death of the worthy gentleman, so widely known as a loyal and generous supporter of the Church, and whose respected name heads our obituary column this week. Although for a period of thirty years or more a representative Catholic layman, and though for so many years, in a sense, a public man by reason of the position he held as one of the city magistrates, as well as on account of his connection with the managerial boards of several charitable institutions, not much can be written in detail of his life, good and useful as it was. John Hughes, educated sufficiently to commence the world's battle in the springtime of life with energies freshest and determination strongest, left the old isle like many another of his countrymen to seek his fortunes in the radiant land of the South. He prospered, and after gaining and holding a leading position in the commercial community, he retired some twelve years since from active city life with the intention of spending his last years in the enjoyment of the affluence in which he had been placed by his industry, and enterprise, and business capacity. After retiring from the commercial world, Mr. Hughes continued to be associated with the charities and other philanthropic and religious undertakings in which he had all along taken a practical interest, and in saying this we finish what may be regarded as a miniature sketch of his general life amongst us. But having thus hurriedly touched off the main features of a life of sixty years which closed peacefully last Monday, there is much to be said of what may be called the inner life, or those characteristics of that life more intimately concerning ourselves as Catholics. It is not always from lives full of adventure and incident that we draw the best examples, and a good steady, even life, such as Mr. Hughes's, marked by such essential qualities as honesty, sagacity, probity, and liberality, may be held up advantageously as a pattern to the youth of this country by way of an illustration of the position that may be won and respect that may be secured by the exercise of the sound virtues which should form part of the true Christian character. Mr. Hughes succeeded in the world faster, and better, perhaps than most men, but it should be remembered to his credit that he cheerfully availed himself of his increased opportunities for doing good, and that he employed his leisure beneficently after the actual cares of life were over, spending no inconsiderable portion of his abundant means in useful and charitable undertakings. When pressed with the attentions and responsibilities of business, and later when in independent circumstances, Mr. Hughes took his part in all movements that commended themselves to his tastes or were in harmony with his principles, and it is no insignificant thing to say of him that he never showed himself unmindful of his duties and obligations either as a Catholic or as a citizen. Above all things the lamented gentleman was a good Catholic; a Catholic of the true and sterling type. We have no occasion to penetrate into the sacredness of the domestic privacy of the deceased to discover the daily observance of the duties and the virtues of the Christian character, for every one knew what John Hughes was, and every one knew he lived a goodly, useful, and contented life, walking straight and soberly in the eyes of God and the world. When was there a Catholic meeting of any importance in the metropolis within the past thirty years or so from which the pleasantly familiar face of John Hughes was missing? and when has there been published during that period any large subscription list in which the well-known name does not figure before a generous donation? The Sisters of the Sacred Heart, now one of our most useful religious communities, were founded on their magnificent estate at Rose Bay mainly by the generosity of Mr. Hughes, under whose care the Sisters came from England. Various churches have been enriched by his munificence; the magnificent marble altar of the Jesuit College-Chapel St. Ignatius', Riverview, for instance, is his gift; but it is by his great liberality in connection with the building of St. Mary's Cathedral, that his good deeds will be best remembered. From the day of the laying of the foundation stone of the new Cathedral, twenty years ago, to the present time, there has been no more earnest worker and no more generous giver than he, and it must be with many a mingled feeling of grateful recollection and tender remembrance that the Catholic community now consider the substantial services rendered in this single direction alone by the gentleman who has just passed from us. Mr. Hughes had a conspicuous part in the Cathedral building, and it is surely not too much to hope that one who was so zealous in labouring and so princely in giving, will, in the years to come, be remembered with others who have been associated with this work — with the priests and laymen, prelates and confessors, who having borne the burden and fought the good fight have passed from us to their heavenly reward, and the holiness of whose memories endears the sacred building to us by the twofold consecration of religion and gratitude. Mr. Hughes enjoyed the confidence of Archbishop Polding and Archbishop Vaughan, and was also a personal friend of his Grace the Most Rev. Dr. Moran. From the Supreme Pontiff, he received the distinction of the Order of St. Gregory, as a reward for his eminent services to the Church, and the knighthood was never conferred on one who wore it more worthily or more modestly. A man of nice tastes, genial and hospitable, Mr. Hughes made his home, 'Kincoppal' one of the brightest of the palatial residences of picturesque Elizabeth Bay. Some few years ago his eldest daughter took the veil in the Sisterhood of the Sacred Heart, and his second daughter was wedded to Mr. John L. Mullins only a little while back. Mr. John F. Hughes, solicitor, his eldest son, married Miss Gilhooley last year, and Mr. Thomas Hughes, the fourth member of the family, is now serving articles with Messrs. Slattery and Heydon. Two youthful members of the family are now being educated at the Sacred Heart Ladies' College, Rose Bay. Mrs. Hughes has been for years and years, and still happily continues, a most kind benefactress of the Church. The deceased gentleman's health had been anything but good for some time, but he was well and hearty up to Saturday, when the illness which ended fatally came upon him. In his last hours Mr. Hughes was attended by the Very Rev. J. J. Carroll and the Very Rev. D. Clancy, S.J., and having piously prepared for a good death, he died tranquilly on the morning of the twenty-ninth of June, in his sixtieth year.

The funeral was on Tuesday, and the interment took place in the beautiful cemetery at Waverley, overlooking the ocean. In accordance with the custom, followed in cases of distinguished member of our faith whose lives have been a credit to the Church, the remains were brought to St. Mary's Cathedral. At ten o'clock on Tuesday morning, Mass was offered for the repose of the soul of the departed at the High Altar, by the Diocesan Administrator, Very Rev. J. J. Carroll, the two sons of the deceased, Mr. John F. Hughes and Mr. Thomas Hughes, serving the Mass. There was a large congregation, and the clergy present were the Venerable Archpriest Sheehy, the Venerable Archdeacon D'Arcy, Very Rev. Dr. Sheridan, Very Rev. Dr. O'Haran, Very Rev. J. Dalton, S.J., Rector St. Ignatius' College, Riverview; Very Rev. D. Clancy, S.J., Rector St. Aloysius' College, Auburn, Surry Hills; Very Rev. Dean McCarthy, Very Rev. Dean Leonard, Very Rev. Dean O'Connell, Very Rev. Dean Kenny, Very Rev. Dean O'Brien, Very Rev. Dean Mahony, Very Rev. Dean Flanagan, Rev. T. Gartlan, S.J., Rev. Michael Kelly, S.J., Rev. Father Morrogh, S.J., Rev. Father O'Connell, S.J., Rev. Father Dooley, S.J., Very Rev. Father Strele, S.J., Aborigines' Mission, Northern Territory; Very Rev. P. Le Rennetel, S.M., Rev. Thomas O'Reilly, Diocesan Secretary; Rev. Father Coue, S.M., and Rev. Father Moynagh. Among the assemblage of mourners, in addition to the family and relatives, were the following: — The Hon. John Nagle Ryan, M.L.C.; Mr. R. Butcher, M.L.A.; Mr. D. O'Connor, M.L.A.; Mr. L. F. Heydon, M.L.A.; Mr. T. M. Slattery, M.L.A.; Mr. J. P. Garvan, M.L.A.; Alderman McMahon, J.P.; Mr. John Hourigan, J.P.; Mr. E. G. Ellis, Alderman Poole, Mr. E. J. Rubie, Mr. W. W. Tarleton, Alderman T. J. Murray, Mr. W. H. McCarthy, Mr. E. F. Flanagan, Mr. William McDonald, Mr. R. Prendergast, Mr. F. McDonald, Mr. M. Shalvey, Mr. P. R. Larkin, Mr. F. McCarthy, Mr. W. Edmunds, LL.B.; Mr. D'Apice, Mr. C. Heydon, Mr. F. S. Macdermott, Mr. P. Hogan, J.P.; Mr. P. O'Doud, Mr. Thomas Keary, Mr. John Mason, Mr. R. Ramsden, Mr. W. F. Brennan, Mr. P. T. Riley, Mr. A. Riley, Mr. John Maloney, Mr. B. Mulroney, Mr. Baptist, Mr. James Carroll, Dr. M'Donagh, Dr. T. B. Clune, and Dr. W. Odillo Maher. After the Absolution had been pronounced by the officiating priest, the coffin, which had rested on plain tressels at the foot of the sanctuary steps, was taken through the church to the hearse. The funeral owed much of its deeply affecting solemnity to the entire absence of the mummeries of the undertaker. The hearse was plainness itself; scarves and cloaks, feathers and velvet trappings were altogether absent. There were no pall-bearers, and indeed there was no pall. But on the other hand, there was on and around the coffin one of the most beautiful floral displays that refined and loving taste could possibly design. John Hughes, amidst a scene of hushed quietude, and in the presence of a great gathering of sorrowing friends, priests, and laity, was buried in the flowers which he loved so well; several wreaths from his own garden among them. The principal mourners were the widow of the lamented gentleman, who followed the remains to the grave, Mr. John F. Hughes and Mrs. Hughes, Mr. Thomas Hughes, Mr. Mullins and Mrs. Mullins, Mr. William Hughes, J.P., brother of the deceased, and Mrs. Hughes; Mrs. Rudd, Mrs. Barlow, Mrs. Etheridge, sisters of the deceased; Mr. W. F. Hughes, Mr. T. W. Hughes, Mr. John Barlow, Mr. Thomas Barlow, Mr. C. Etheridge, Dr. and. Mrs. Gilhooley, Mrs. and Miss Donohoe, Mr. Thomas Mullins. Mr. Michael Hughes, the eldest brother of the deceased, was prevented by illness from attending the obsequies.

Original publication

Citation details

'Hughes, John (1825–1885)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 20 May 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]


24 June, 1825
Drumshambo, Leitrim, Ireland


29 June, 1885 (aged 60)
Elizabeth Bay, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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