The Archer Letters – Letter Sixteen

This month we read a letter written from Fr Julian Tenison Woods while he is giving a mission at Forbes in May 1878.

There has been a delay in Fr Julian receiving Sir William Archer’s letters due mainly to confusion over the address at which Fr Julian’s mail is held, while he is absent from Sydney giving missions in remote parish areas. It is interesting to note Fr Julian’s membership of two clubs in Sydney, the Union Club and the Australia Club. He was obviously held in high esteem here, in contrast to the wariness he felt among his fellow priests!

Despite his travels, Fr Julian is obviously keen to write papers from his notes and observations in Tasmania, and elsewhere, and also to read these papers at the Linnean and Royal Societies. He stresses the importance of research work being done in the local area as conditions in Australia are unbelievably different from any that scientists in England have yet come across.

Fr Julian also refers to Sir William’s career in the Civil Service being abruptly terminated on 8th January, 1878, when he was one of the large number of public servants summarily dismissed by the Berry Government.

Sr Anne Player explains the political situation in Footnote 1 of a letter that Fr Julian wrote to Sir William from Lambton, Newcastle on 29.1.78:

Sir Graham Berry (1822-1904) migrated to Victoria in 1852 and engaged in trade and journalism before turning to politics in 1860.  A radical, his career as politician was varied but in 1877 he won an overwhelming victory at the general elections and became Chief Secretary and Treasurer. Because his party was largely lower-middle-class, Berry needed to have the renewal of payment of members passed by both Houses. There were indications that the Legislative Council would oppose this, so the payment of members was tacked on to the Appropriation Bill. Passed by the Assembly, but blocked by the Council, Berry retaliated by publicly announcing through a Government “Gazette  Extraordinary” of Wednesday,   8th  January, 1878 (“Black Wednesday”) the dismissal of all persons then holding the office of  Judges of County Courts,  Courts of Mines and Insolvency; all chairmen of Courts of General Sessions; all Police Magistrates, Coroners  and Wardens of Goldfields; the Engineer-in-Chief of Railways; a large number of executive heads of important departments and about a hundred subordinate but mostly well-paid officials. Officially this was justified as necessary to conserve funds, but several leading radicals, including Berry, spoke of it publicly as revenge on the members of Legislative Council through their friends in government. (A.D.B., Vol.  3, pp. 151-156).

See also C.M.H. Clark ‘’A History  of Australia”  Vol.  IV, Melb. Uni.  Press, 1980. pp. 264-270)

“Archer was a victim of these dismissals and from that time on had no regular employment. His attempts to establish himself first in the political, then in the legal world met with failure, as did his candidature in 1881 for the librarianship of the Public Library”. (University of Melbourne Archives, General introductory note to William Archer Papers.)

Fr Julian is confident that all will work together for good eventually and promises to remember his friend daily in prayer.


This month we present a sixteenth letter, written on 25th May, 1878:

Download Archer Letter 16