Thomas Croke

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The Most Reverend

Thomas Croke

Thomas William Croke 2.jpg
ArchdioceseCashel and Emly
Installed5 July 1875
Term ended22 July 1902
PredecessorPatrick Leahy
SuccessorThomas Fennelly
Other post(s)Bishop of Auckland (1870–74)
OrdinationMay 1847
Personal details
Born(1824-05-28)28 May 1824
Died22 July 1902(1902-07-22) (aged 78)
Thurles, County Tipperary, Ireland
BuriedCathedral of the Assumption, Thurles
ResidenceArchbishop's Palace, Thurles
ParentsWilliam Croke and Isabella Plummer
EducationDoctor of Divinity
Alma materIrish College in Paris
Pontifical Irish College

Thomas William Croke D.D. (28 May 1824 – 22 July 1902) was the second Catholic Bishop of Auckland, New Zealand (1870–74) and later Archbishop of Cashel and Emly in Ireland. He was important in the Irish nationalist movement especially as a Champion of the Irish National Land League in the 1880s. The main Gaelic Athletic Association stadium in Dublin is named Croke Park, in his honour.

Early life[edit]

Thomas Croke was born in Castlecor (parish of Kilbrin), County Cork, in 1824. He was the third of eight children of William Croke, an estate agent, and his wife, Isabella Plummer, daughter of an aristocratic Protestant family who disowned her following her Catholic marriage in 1817.

After William Croke died in 1834 his brother, the Reverend Thomas Croke, supervised the education and upbringing of the children. Two of Thomas's brothers entered the priesthood, while two sisters became nuns. He was educated in Charleville, County Cork and at the Irish College in Paris and the Irish College in Rome, winning academic distinctions including a doctorate of divinity with honours.[1]

He was ordained in May 1847. Returning to Ireland for a short time he was appointed a Professor in Carlow College. Croke's brother, James, was also a priest and served in the Pacific Northwest helping to found several churches including St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Oregon Territory.[2] The Irish radical William O'Brien said that Thomas Croke fought on the barricades in Paris during the 1848 French Revolution. Croke returned to Ireland and spent the next 23 years working there.

In 1857 Croke became wealthy due to inheriting the fortunes of his uncle James Croke who had gained his riches in the Colony of Victoria in Australia.[3]

In 1858 he became the first president of St Colman's College, Fermoy, County Cork and then served as both parish priest of Doneraile and Vicar General of Cloyne diocese from 1866 to 1870. Thomas Croke attended the First Vatican Council as the theologian to the Bishop of Cloyne 1870.[3]

Bishop of Auckland[edit]

Croke in the 1870s

In 1870, Croke was appointed Bishop of Auckland in New Zealand, helped by the strong recommendation of his former professor, Paul Cullen, by then-Cardinal Archbishop of Dublin, who was largely responsible for filling the Australasian Catholic church with fellow Irishmen. Croke arrived in Auckland on 17 December 1870 in the City of Melbourne. During his three years as bishop, he restored firm leadership to a diocese left in disarray by his predecessor, Bishop J. B. F. Pompallier. Croke devoted some of his considerable personal wealth to rebuilding diocesan finances and also took advantage of Auckland's economic growth following the development of the Thames goldfields to further his aims, ensuring that all surplus income from parishes at Thames and Coromandel was passed on to him, and he instituted a more rigorous system for the Sunday collection at St Patrick's Cathedral. He appointed Walter McDonald administrator of the Cathedral.[4]

Croke imported Irish clergy to serve the growing Catholic community, and with Patrick Moran, the first Catholic Bishop of Dunedin, he tried (unsuccessfully) to secure an Irish monopoly on future episcopal appointments in New Zealand.

Croke made several journeys to Australia from New Zealand, visiting Sydney, Melbourne and Bathurst (where his sister Mother Mary Ignatius Croke had set up the Sisters of Mercy in 1866[5]) in 1872[6] and Melbourne in 1875 on his way back to Ireland.[7][8]

His energies were devoted to saving the souls of the Irish immigrant rather than converting the Māori. Croke supported separate Catholic schools and their right to state aid and voiced his opposition to secular education as Auckland's Catholic schools were threatened by the provincial council's Education Act 1872, which helped to create a free, secular and compulsory education system. However, generally, Croke's image was uncontroversial. There was also little sign of the strongly Irish nationalist line he would adopt during his subsequent career in Ireland. On 28 January 1874, after barely three years in office, Croke departed for Europe, on what was ostensibly a 12-month holiday and he did not return to New Zealand.[9]

Archbishop of Cashel[edit]

Croke became a member of the Irish hierarchy when he was translated to be Archbishop of Cashel, one of the four Catholic Irish archbishoprics (Cashel & Emly, Dublin, Armagh and Tuam) in 1875.[10]

Archbishop Croke was a strong supporter of Irish nationalism, aligning himself with the Irish National Land League during the Land War, and with the chairman of the Irish Parliamentary Party, Charles Stewart Parnell.[11] In an 1887 interview he explained that he had opposed the League's "No rent manifesto" in 1881, preferring to stop payment of all taxes: "I opposed the No Rent Manifesto six years ago because, apart from other reasons, I thought it was inopportune and not likely to be generally acted on. Had a manifesto against paying taxes been issued at the time I should certainly have supported it on principle. I am precisely the same frame of mind just now."[12]

He also associated himself with the Temperance Movement of Fr. Mathew and Gaelic League from its foundation in 1893. Within Catholicism he was a supporter of Gallicanism, as opposed to the Ultramontanism favoured by the Archbishop of Dublin, Cardinal Cullen.[citation needed]

His support of nationalism caused successive British governments and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland's governments in Dublin to be deeply suspicious of him, as were some less politically aligned Irish bishops.[citation needed]

Following the scandal that erupted over Parnell's relationship with Kitty O'Shea, the separated wife of fellow MP Captain Willie O'Shea, Archbishop Croke withdrew from active participation in nationalist politics.[13] He died at the Archbishop's Palace in Thurles on 22 July 1902, aged 78. In honour of Croke, his successors as Archbishop of Cashel and Emly traditionally were asked to throw in the ball at the minor Gaelic football and All-Ireland hurling finals. This practice ceased after 1964.[14]

Croke Park, the headquarters of the GAA, named after Archbishop Croke.


  1. ^ Mark Tierney (1976) Croke of Cashel: the life of Archbishop Thomas William Croke, 1823–1902, Gill and MacMillan, Dublin.
  2. ^ Wilfrid S.J. Schoenberg (1987 ) A History of the Catholic Church in the Pacific Northwest 1743 – 1983, The Pastoral Press Washington D.C. pp. 140–142 ISBN 0-912405-25-2
  3. ^ a b M. Tierney (1970). "A Short-Title Calendar of the Papers of Archbishop Thomas William Croke in Archbishop's House, Thurles: Part 1, 1841–1885". Collectanea Hibernica. 13 (13): 100–138. JSTOR 30004435.
  4. ^ E.R.Simmons (1978) A Brief History of the Catholic Church in New Zealand, Catholic Publications Centre, Auckland. p. 72.
  5. ^ "The Late Archbishop Croke". Freeman's Journal. Vol. LIII, no. 3317. New South Wales, Australia. 2 August 1902. p. 17. Retrieved 12 January 2022 – via National Library of Australia.
  6. ^ "DIOCESE OF AUCKLAND". Advocate. Vol. IV, no. 172. Victoria, Australia. 27 April 1872. p. 6. Retrieved 12 January 2022 – via National Library of Australia.
  7. ^ "The most Rev. Dr. Croke". Advocate. Vol. XXXIII, no. 1749. Victoria, Australia. 2 August 1902. p. 12. Retrieved 12 January 2022 – via National Library of Australia.
  8. ^ "Did Aussie Rules Get There First?". Irish Daily Mail. 25 October 2016.
  9. ^ *Sweetman, Rory. "Croke, Thomas William 1822/1823? – 1902". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 5 April 2011.
  10. ^ "Archbishop Thomas William Croke [Catholic-Hierarchy]".
  11. ^ Mark Tierney (1974). "A Short-Title Calendar of the Papers of Archbishop Thomas William Croke in Archbishop's House, Thurles: Part 3, 1891–1902". Collectanea Hibernica. 17 (17): 110–144. JSTOR 30004418.
  12. ^ Freeman's Journal, 17 February 1887.
  13. ^ Brendan O Cathaoir (22 July 2002). "An Irishman's Diary". Irish Times.
  14. ^ Seán Moran (4 December 2015). "GAA nostalgia continues to prove attractive to fans". Irish Times.

Further reading[edit]

  • Thomas Meehan, Thomas William Croke, The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 4. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908: [1].
  • E.R. Simmons, In Cruce Salus, A History of the Diocese of Auckland 1848 – 1980, Catholic Publication Centre, Auckland 1982.

External links[edit]

 Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Thomas William Croke". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by 2nd Bishop of Auckland
Succeeded by
Preceded by Archbishop of Cashel
Succeeded by