James Quinn (bishop)

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James Quinn, also known as James O'Quinn[1] (17 March 1819 – 18 August 1881[2]), was the first Roman Catholic Bishop of Brisbane.[3][4]

Early life[edit]

Bishop James Quinn, c. 1860

Quinn was born at Rathbane (or Athy),[5] County Kildare, Ireland, son of Matthew Quinn, a farmer, and his wife Mary née Doyle.[2] Quinn had a classical and general education in Ireland before undertaking theological studies at the Jesuits' College at Rome.

Religious life[edit]

Quinn was ordained a priest in Rome on the Feast of the Assumption, 15 August 1843. His first assignment was to run an academy in Dublin.[3] His good work impressed his superiors, particularly Cardinal Paul Cullen. In June 1859 when the Diocese of Brisbane was created, Quinn was appointed the first bishop. He was consecrated in Dublin on 29 June 1859, but did not arrive in Queensland until 1861.[3]

On arrival in Brisbane, the new diocese had four churches, four schools and a debt of £1250. Quinn was very active in trying to grow the Roman Catholic presence, leading to the joke that the colony should not be called Queensland but Quinn's Land. Despite such remarks, he was respected by both Catholics and Protestants alike. When a prominent Orangeman Rev Porteus gave a speech in Ipswich that angered the Irish Catholics, a riot was feared at a picnic to be held by the Orangemen the following day. Quinn travelled to Ipswich and used his influence with Catholics to calm them and then he attended the picnic to spread goodwill among the Protestants.[5]

In 1875, the Irish celebrated the centenary of the birth of Irish nationalist Daniel O'Connell. As part of these celebrations, Quinn announced he was adding an "O" to his surname and would be henceforth known as O'Quinn.[5]

He tried to obtain government support for Catholic schools and clashed with Mother Mary MacKillop.[1]

His brother, Matthew Quinn, became the Roman Catholic Bishop of Bathurst in New South Wales. Four sons of their sister Sarah (who married John Horan) also became priests: Matthew, Andrew, James and Joseph Horan.[6]

Later life[edit]

O'Quinn suffered ill health late in life. On 16 August 1881, he was pronounced gravely ill and last rites were administered.[7] He died in his home Dara in Fortitude Valley on 18 August 1881 aged 62,[5] having done a good deal to moderate the acerbity of Irish factional feeling during his episcopate.[3]

At 4pm on the day of his death, a procession formed at Dara to convey his body to the Cathedral of St Stephen. Although the intention had been for the coffin to be carried by a hearse, several gentlemen volunteered to carry it on their shoulders. The procession was led by the clergy, followed by the coffin and its pallbearers, the Sisters of Mercy, the children from Catholic schools, and then the public. O'Quinn's body was robed and lay in state in front of the high altar, where hundreds of people came to the church to pay their respects. The litany for the dead was conducted throughout the night.[8]

On 8am the following day, there was a requiem mass followed at 9am by a pontifical high mass conducted by his brother Matthew Quinn and assisted by his four Horan nephews. After the mass, people continued to file past the coffin for many hours. Many people travelled from Ipswich and Toowoomba to pay their respects. A group of Warwick citizens chartered a train to enable them to attend. At approximately 5pm, a funeral procession was formed and left the cathedral, proceeding along Elizabeth Street, Creek Street, Adelaide Street and George Street before returning to the cathedral. Those of other faiths honoured O'Quinn with Rabbi Phillips being part of the funeral procession while the great bell of St Johns Anglican Cathedral tolled throughout the procession to demonstrate the respect of the Anglican community. When the procession returned to St Stephens, O'Quinn's coffin was lowered into the vault prepared by architect Andrea Stombuco and covered with a marble slab.[8]

O'Quinn bequeathed everything he had to the Diocese of Brisbane.[8]


Statue of Bishop Quinn, 2012

There are a number of memorials to O'Quinn:


  1. ^ a b Boland, T.P. "Aquinas Memorial Lecture 1979" (PDF). Australian Catholic University.[permanent dead link]
  2. ^ a b Gibbney, H. J. "Quinn, James (1819–1881)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Melbourne University Press. ISSN 1833-7538. Retrieved 15 July 2013 – via National Centre of Biography, Australian National University.
  3. ^ a b c d Mennell, Philip (1892). "Quinn, Right Rev. James" . The Dictionary of Australasian Biography. London: Hutchinson & Co – via Wikisource.
  4. ^ "Bishop James Quinn". Your Brisbane: Past and Present. Retrieved 15 July 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  5. ^ a b c d "Death of the Right Rev. Dr. O'Quinn". The Brisbane Courier. XXXVI (7, 364). Queensland, Australia. 18 August 1881. p. 2. Retrieved 20 January 2017 – via National Library of Australia. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  6. ^ "Death of Dean Horan: Well-known Queensland Pioneer". Catholic Press. 16 October 1924. Archived from the original on 20 January 2017. Retrieved 20 January 2017.
  7. ^ "The Brisbane Courier". The Brisbane Courier. XXXVI (7, 363). Queensland, Australia. 17 August 1881. p. 2. Retrieved 20 January 2017 – via National Library of Australia. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  8. ^ a b c "The Late Right Rev. Bishop O'Quinn". The Brisbane Courier. XXXVI (7, 365). Queensland, Australia. 19 August 1881. p. 3. Retrieved 20 January 2017 – via National Library of Australia. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  9. ^ a b "Parliamentary Papers". The Queenslander. XXII (357). Queensland, Australia. 29 July 1882. p. 149. Retrieved 20 January 2017 – via National Library of Australia. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  10. ^ "Bishop James O'Quinn". Monument Australia. Retrieved 20 January 2017.
  11. ^ "TO-DAY, FEBRUARY 11". The Brisbane Courier. XLVIII (10, 632). Queensland, Australia. 11 February 1892. p. 4. Retrieved 20 January 2017 – via National Library of Australia. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
new creation
1st Catholic Bishop of Brisbane
1859 – 1881
Succeeded by
Robert Dunne