Denis W. Martin SJ

READERSVOICE.COM aims to collect a few interesting reading tips. The saga of the Holy Name Cathedral, the broken dream of Archbishop James Duhig, is an iconic Brisbane story. An apartment complex now stands where the cathedral was to be. A Hill in the Valley: Dara and the Holy Name Cathedral by Denis W. Martin SJ tells the tale.

In 1928, the papal legate Cardinal Ceretti laid the foundation stone of the Holy Name Cathedral in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane. An estimated 35,000 people attended, including Archbishop Duhig and his entourage. The cathedral was Duhig’s dream. But the only parts of the cathedral that were ever completed were the front steps, some retaining walls with balustrades, the foundations and a crypt which became a chapel in 1935. The site of the would-be cathedral lay desolate for decades, covered in tufts of grass and bits of broken glass. The church sold the land to developers in 1985. Now there’s a high rise apartment building there, named Cathedral Place.
A Hill in the Valley: Dara and the Holy Name Cathedral is a well-written history by Fr Denis Martin, with just the facts, based on meticulous research.
The story involves many interesting figures from Brisbane’s early days: Bishop Quinn, the first bishop of Brisbane, who arrived in 1861; Archbishop Dunne, the first archbishop of Brisbane, for whom the Dara mansion was built in 1890; his successor James Duhig, who tore town Dara to make room for the Holy Name Cathedral; Patrick Mayne; T. C. Beirne the Valley department store proprietor; the Mayne family; and Jack Hennessy, the architect for the Holy Name. It’s interesting seeing them interact and not always amicably. And the author shows restraint and avoids getting sidetracked into other chapters of their lives. The story has a good pace as a result.
A Hill in the Valley tells how Duhig dreamed of a cathedral that would seat a congregation of 4000. It would be one of the biggest cathedrals in the world. But his dream fell through, due to financial problems, including the Great Depression. Archbishop Duhig achieved a lot for the people of Brisbane, building churches, schools and hospitals. But maybe he overreached with the cathedral.

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