Tag Archives: Perth Western Australia

The Roman Catholic Cathedral in Perth, Western Australia

DSCF6392I discovered this beautiful building on a recent trip to Perth, Western Australia, when on a mission to find out about an  Irish bishop who had fallen foul of the powers that be in Rome in the mid 19th Century. Somehow I seem to have missed St Mary’s Cathedral in Perth,officially the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, on earlier visits. This is the cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Perth, which is ever so slightly off the beaten track in that relatively small city. It certainly ranks among the most fascinating buildings I have visited as it has a fascinating story.

The history of this magnificent building spans three centuries. Officially opened in 1865, it has been a work in progress almost ever since, as it was only finally completed and officially reopened in December 2009. I engage with architecture at a very superficial level – if I like it, I will look at it – but I do know that this is a special place,unique because of the distinctive way architecture from various eras has been beautifully fused together to make a remarkable whole. Not unsurprisingly, at least to this layperson, this building has won an architectural award for the brilliance of its design. These are a few of my snaps which I hope might give a feel for this beautiful structure.

The original cathedral was begun in 1863. Bishop Serra went to Rome and secured donations in the form of money and marble for the altar, which arrived in Western Australia in 1862. The foundation stone was laid in 1863 by Bishop Salvado. Masons from the Benedictine monastery in Subiaco walked each day to the construction site, but progress was determined by the flow of funds, or lack of them from a small catholic congregation of about  5,000.  Eventually the cathedral was blessed and officially opened in January 1865.

The foundation stone of the original structure

The foundation stone of the original structure

 

The original building  was relatively simple with a square bell tower.

The Cathedral in 1865 on the left, with Mercedes College on the right

The Cathedral in 1865 on the left, with Mercedes College (Catholic Girls School) on the right

Between then and 1910 alterations were carried out, including the addition of a spire to the bell tower and the addition of two porches. As the catholic population continued to grow Archbishop Clune, the first Archbishop of Perth, (an Irishman – more in next post), set about fundraising for the enlargement of the cathedral. The foundation stone for the new addition was laid in 1926.

Archbishop Clune lays Foundation Stone in 1926

Archbishop Clune lays Foundation Stone in 1926

Stained glass windows were manufactured in Birmingham, England and beautiful mosaic floors based on the Book of Kells were modelled by an Australian company. However,it became impossible to raise funds to complete the envisaged building and work was halted due to the Great Depression. The Gothic style sanctuary and transepts were grafted on to the existing 1865 nave. The incomplete cathedral was blessed in May 193o with thousands in attendance.

Huge crowds attended the opening in 1930

Huge crowds attended the opening in 1930

The original plain building  and its nave to the front with the bell tower and two porches, has been attached to a new more elaborate extension – much more reminiscent of a cathedral. The outbreak of World war 2 after the great depression meant that plans to complete the cathedral were put on hold indefinitely due to lack of funds.

The structure was a protected heritage building and the need for repairs became clear in the 1990s. The bell tower was crumbling and there was extensive rising damp. Fundraising began and following a bequest of 2 million dollars plans to complete the cathedral could finally be brought to fruition.  Still short of funds, the state stepped in with a contribution of 2 million dollars, and a further 3 million from the federal government. Finally the cathedral was closed in 2006 and building began.

The story of the construction is great reading in itself as the bell tower had to be moved a considerable distance and of course there was always the danger that the entire structure could collapse with the ground excavations going on.  In effect the 1865 nave was taken out and a huge hole dug in the ground for parish facilities below with the new cathedral part above. During construction remains of earlier bishops were uncovered so it was decided to incorporate a crypt  beneath the new altar. Costs soared to over 32 million dollars by the time the building was completed in 2009. (Those interested in the technical construction details may read more here)

The result is remarkable with the modern part sitting in the middle of the earlier structures. Perched on a hill, it is indeed an imposing and beautiful building.

 

A most spectacular building on the outside, but inside it is a wonderful  space.

01-DSCF6400

The modern central aisle leading to the circular altar, with the 1930 stained glass window beyond

It looks like a traditional church from the entrance, but with wonderful light that spills in from the high windows that open to help deal with the heat of the Perth summer. The modern Stations of the Cross are remarkable in that they are two strips of three-dimensional images, and each face has been modelled on a real person.

The mosaics are behind the main altar in the 1930s section. Clearly based on the Book of Kells, the floor was split from one side to another during an earthquake on 14 October 1968.

The stained glass windows and  side altars from the 1930s building also survive.

The is an amazing trinity of buildings, each having its own characteristics, yet all blend beautifully to form this wonderful space. A fabulous feat of architecture and well worth a visit!

 

 

Further reading

Technical details of the construction

A wide angle professional photo of the interior

 

Advertisements

5 Comments

Filed under Emigration from Ireland, Ireland and the World, Irish Convicts, Irish diaspora in Australia

A terrible beauty

‘ A terrible beauty is born’ is a line from a poem by one of Ireland’s greatest poets, W.B.Yeats. who died on this day, January 28,  in 1939. This line came to mind  as I witnessed several bush fires in Western Australia. Bush fires can be catastrophic events, resulting in loss of life or serious injury, devastating loss of property, (46 homes were destroyed in a fire near Perth in 2014)  flora and fauna and general disruption by way of evacuations, road closures, power cuts and smoke. Emergency phone Apps beep, the sound of fire engines and police sirens fill the air,  helicopters chakk-chakk-chak-chak overhead, planes circle. Here bush fires are fought from the air as well as the ground. In the air, water bombing aircraft and ‘helitacs’ douse the flames, while career and volunteer firefighters and rescue personnel swing into action on the ground, often putting their own lives at risk. Bush fires can move very quickly – often at several kilometers an hour, and are fanned by strong breezes. The tinder dry vegetation is the fuel that makes them catch hold very quickly.

On the other hand, palls of smoke produce wondrous skyscapes, and I am a big fan of the sky!  In the past few weeks there have been 4 major fires

The smoke can cause breathing difficulties for those of us with chest conditions, and even if it can’t be seen, the smokey smell  can be in the air and even inside the house for days on end.

 

Looking a bit like the Crab Nebula, the sun is blotted out

A smoke-filled sunset

photo 3

Fires can burn for anything from a few hours to a few weeks. Afterwards there is a huge logistical clean up operation, that may include replacing hundreds of burned poles, washing power lines as can be seen here, searching for injured wildlife, etc.

The ‘bush’ is stripped of all low growing vegetation, with only some eucalyptus  and grass trees still standing. These particular species can withstand fires and will regrow, but the swathes of beautiful flowering trees and shrubs are gone. Gone too is the wildlife –  snakes, birds, kangaroos, wallabies, – their rich habitat lying naked and destroyed.

Although denuded and apparently dead, Australia’s bush will rejuvenate itself very quickly after fire, and it will be interesting to see how long this particular devastated area takes to regrow and return to its natural state. However long it takes, a terrible beauty will be born, with wondrous plants,flowers and wildlife.

How fortunate we are here in Ireland not to have to deal with these emergencies, although on a day like today with snow and sleet warnings, some heat would be very welcome!

 

 

 

12 Comments

Filed under Travels in Australia

Postcards of Serpentine National Park, Western Australia

You don’t have to travel far in Western Australia to find an Irish connection!  The Darling  Scarp lies to the east of Perth. It was originally named  the General Darling Range in 1827  in honour of General Ralph Darling who was Governor of New South Wales.  Ralph Darling  (1772 – 1858) was born in Ireland, the eldest son of  Sergeant Christopher Darling and has had several geographic features named after him. (For detailed biography  of this remarkable and controversial man see here.)

Serpentine National Park is a recreational area set  in the foothills of the Darling Scarp, that centres around a river of the same name. The upper reaches of the river flow into Serpentine Reservoir on the Darling Plateau, which is retained  by a 55 metre high dam, with a crest of 424 metres. This is one of the sources of drinking water for the metropolitan area of Perth

Water from the Serpentine Reservoir is released into the Serpentine Pipehead catchment some 5 kilometers downstream.The Pipehead Dam is 15 metres high and  142 metres across. From here, the water is piped away to the water mains.

The river  then  flows off  the Scarp at Serpentine Falls as it makes its way to the sea. Being mid-summer the Falls were not as dramatic as in winter when fuelled by rains. At their base is a deep, natural pool that has been hewn out of the rock by the force of the river

The area is heavily forested , most commonly by Eucalyptus marginata that has the Aboriginal name of Jarrah,  a dark wood that  resembles Mahogany. There are wonderful amenities in the very scenic park ranging from picnic sites complete with gas barbecues, cycle trails, bushwalks, campsites. and there is a very nice café at the top of the dam, with the original name of the Cafe on the Dam!

The area is beloved of birdwatchers and just from my table, I snapped these!

Just 40 kilometers from the hustle and bustle  of the city, Serpentine National Park is well worth a visit!

 

References

http://www.water.wa.gov.au/

Biography of Ralph Darling at Australian \dictionary of \biography

Governor Ralph darling’s Iron Collar  by Marcus Clarke

 

 

 

7 Comments

Filed under Ireland and the World, Irish Australian, Irish diaspora in Australia, Travels in Australia

At the going down of the sun

Here in Ireland we are fortunate to have some pretty spectacular and dramatic skies as the sun sets. Living in the country as I do, I enjoy big skies and all the drama they bring. Every cloud does have a silver lining, adding to the spectacle if a few (and not too many!) around at sunset. On a recent trip to the Australian countryside, visiting my family who have become part of the Irish diaspora, I saw this beautiful sunset, just as a bank of cloud was moving in from the north-west. This particular sun was setting over the Indian Ocean, about 12 kilometres away, which probably added to the colours. So for my first post of 2015, I am delighted to share these images, and with them come good wishes to all my readers for a happy and contented 2015. Thank you for your support which is very much appreciated!

14 Comments

Filed under Ireland, Irish diaspora in Australia

To Australia,with love – February 2012

It was foggy. It was wet. It was cold. It was a February afternoon in Cork Ireland, the starting point for my great excursion across the world. Soon, at a height of 31,000 feet above Wales, we broke free of the grey cloud and rain and cruised over a tapestry of snow-covered fields lit by the evening sun. From east of the Bristol Channel all the way over to London Heathrow, England, the countryside was iced in snow, making a beautiful ground pattern far below. This was  the first leg of what was to be a long journey.

Snow covered approach to London Heathrow on an Aer Lingus Flight from Cork, Ireland on a misty cold winter evening.

Departure on the second leg  was delayed  for about 10 minutes as the pilot asked us not to be alarmed to see the wings of the plane being sprayed for de-icing purposes! A further delay ensued as the plane ahead of us became ‘stuck’ and we were  re- routed to another runway. Finally, almost an hour behind schedule, the great Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 with capacity for 850 passengers, lifted effortlessly and smoothly into  the night  sky. Below, London’s countless millions of lights sparkled and stretched for miles as we climbed higher and higher. 7,067 miles to go to our destination, Singapore!

Out over Biggin Hill, best  known for its role in the Battle of Britain in the second World War, we head  south towards  Dover to cross the English Channel into Europe and onwards across  Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, and the Czech Republic. South of  Bielsko-Biała in Poland we turn southwards into Slovakia, across Hungary and into Romania. We then head over the Black  Sea – once a blue blob on my geography school atlas, now a vast expanse of water  – indeed a ‘sea’,  miles below. Here, some 1,500 miles into our flight, we met the salmon- pink light of dawn of the following day, as the sun relentlessly made its way to Cork, Ireland where I had come from, some eleven hours earlier.

On the far shore of the Black Sea we fly over Georgia, with its capital Tbilisi, and on south of  the Caucasus Mountains to Armenia. We are now 6 miles high  in the sky over the crossroads between Eastern Europe and Western Asia as we leave Azerbaijan and cross the south-western part of the Caspian  Sea. Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan – almost unknown to many when they were part of the USSR – now all too familiar as  they appear on our news bulletins from time to time. Iran, also so often on our TV screens, is below, and soon we are above Afghanistan, another of the world’s  troubled places. We fly on over neighbouring  Pakistan, and on into  India. I wonder if I might even catch a glimpse of the mighty Himalayas in the distant north!

Leaving India by the east coast, we reach the Bay of Bengal – the first major stretch of water we cross (a great relief to those of us who wondered about the usefulness of life vests in the event of falling out of the sky over dry land!) The next land we see is the Andaman Islands, of which I was vaguely aware prior to 2004, but since the devastating tsunami on December 26th the name is all too familiar.  Phucket in Thailand – familiar for the same reason- is now to our north as we head along the coast of Thailand  to Malaysia. With 600 odd miles to go I am conscious of clouds outside the windows –  clouds 6 miles high??!  Now in the tropics, we have a good ‘shaking’ as we meet  severe turbulence to remind us that nature rules!  Keeping west of Kuala Lumpur we head for Singapore on the southernmost tip of the peninsula. Dropping down, it is surprising to see so many cargo ships  – dozens and dozens  in rows – lying at anchor in the bay and it is easy to understand that Singapore is one of the top  three busiest seaports in the world! The passenger in the seat next to me wonders if Singapore, being ‘such a small place, will have steps of the proper height’  to allow us to disembark from our plane –  I smile knowing that a surprise awaits her! So, 13 hours after leaving London, we touch down safely at Singapore Changi, in exotic south-east Asia. The airport has a fabulous butterfly garden, flowing water features with exotic orchids everywhere and terrific  facilities for transit passengers.

Refreshed and soon on the way again, we climb into the sky out over the South China Sea  on the final 2,386 miles of the journey to Perth, Western Australia.  We cross the equator into the southern hemisphere as we  head towards Jakarta and across the Indian Ocean.  Some four hours  into the flight,to the  east high above  the west coast of Australia a misty reddish hue appears on the horizon, gradually spreading into turquoise , yellows, oranges and reddish golds. I have met my first  Australian dawn!

At about 4 30 am the sun begins to show on the horizon

Reflections from my aircraft seat as the sun rises over Western Australia

As we get closer to Perth WA, clouds sit above the golden new day.

In another hour, 33 hours after my journey began, I will step out into the Australian heat to meet my family – three generations of them – who have left Ireland for a new life in Australia. For generations, Australia has been a destination for the Irish diaspora-  many forcibly transported to penal colonies there, many emigrating by choice and many, as now , in the midst of an Irish economic depression emigrating through economic necessity in the hope of carving out a better future. Like many another parent, grandparent, brother or sister in Ireland today I have had to say goodbye to 3 of the 4 members of my direct family as they made that great migration across continents, across seas to far- away Australia. I am very fortunate that I have been able to make that long journey of 10,000 miles to visit them, and for  the next while their nearness will be thoroughly enjoyed and the vast distance that separates us will be forgotten!

Yet – in the still of the night, it is still hard to forget that  Australia is just too far away for those of us who have been left behind.

14 Comments

Filed under Emigration from Ireland, Irish Australian, Irish Diaspora, Older Generation, Social Change