This month’s contribution is a tribute to the friendship between Father Julian Tenison Woods and Adam Lindsay Gordon, Australian poet, jockey, police officer and politician. Gordon died, at the age of 36, on 24 June 1870 in Melbourne.
Father Julian Tenison Woods met Adam Lindsay Gordon in 1857 on one of his first trips out from Penola riding from station to station across his huge, scattered parish. At that time Gordon was a horse-breaker on a station near Guichen Bay. The two shared a love of poetry and the classics and often rode together reciting to each other. They seemed to find in each other a kindred spirit based on literary enjoyment and entertainment. Woods lent Gordon books from his collection.
On 2 February 1874, Father Julian Tenison Woods gave a lecture in Melbourne entitled How Australia was discovered and explored. A large number of people attended with Mr William Archer in the chair for the evening.
On 21 May 1887, the Sydney Morning Herald [i] published an article by Fr Julian Tenison Woods on his trip to the Victoria River.
This river (named for Queen Victoria) runs from the northern edge of the Tanami Desert to the coast near the Western Australian-Northern Territory border.
Father Julian obviously enjoyed his trip in 1886 and gives his readers historical and geological background about the river and careful descriptions of all he saw along the way. He describes the river as strangely impressing him, having a beauty of its own and that is high praise considering all the rivers he had travelled in his lifetime.
In the year 1866 Father Julian Woods, aided by Mary MacKillop, founded the Sisters of Saint Joseph in Penola, South Australia, for the Catholic Education of children from poor families.  But why did this busy priest working in one of the largest mission areas in the colony take this step?
This month we present a letter written by Father Julian Tenison Woods to the South Australian Weekly Chronicle on 7 November 1863.
Mechanics’ Institutes were a popular establishment in Britain in the 19th century, offering free lectures to ‘mechanics’ as tradesmen, or working men as they were known at that time.
In Australia, the first Mechanics Institute appeared in Hobart in 1827, followed by Sydney in 1833, Adelaide in 1838 and Melbourne in 1839. Before long, most towns had a Mechanics’ Institute comprising a hall, library and reading rooms, facilities for games and programs of educational and entertaining activities. They were really the forerunner of public libraries and adult education in Australia and their names remain on many public buildings today.
Let’s begin our experience of Father Julian, Man of Words, with a letter he wrote from Penola to The Argus on 4 February 1865.
The subject of the letter is ‘The Comet’ which was visible in the Southern Hemisphere during January and February 1865. Obviously Father Julian had seen this phenomenon and called on research to situate it within an astronomical context. Living in a remote area of South Australia, from where might this research have been gleaned? Talking/corresponding with fellow scientists? Previous study? Scientific journals? No matter, the facts gathered together make for interesting reading.
The last letter in this series was dictated by Fr Julian Tenison Woods on 13 March 1889.
It reads as if maybe he knew it would probably be his last effort to his dear friend, William Archer.
The tone of the letter is one of resignation to his state of health with little hope of relief, but he remains cheerful and happy and expresses his determination to continue as such to the end. His work of dictating notes for publication has ceased – even letter writing is trying, although he is still eager to receive letters!
This short letter, written on 22 March 1888 from Fr Julian Tenison Woods in Sydney to William Archer in Melbourne is not in his handwriting.
Anne Bulger has penned his words, although Fr Julian did attach his signature and love and blessings to Mrs Archer and Gracie.
The letter is accompanied by the first instalment of a paper on the Volcano of Taal written from his Asian travel notes.