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Irish Australian

March 11, 2017

Banjo Patterson (Andrew Barton Patterson), the best known Australian poet, was of Presbyterian Scottish Ancestry.  He wasn’t christened until he was much older but in this famous poem of his – Bush Christening – the cultural setting becomes Irish Catholic. Late christenings (Infant Baptism) were common in Australia because of the lack of clergy and the need to traverse vast distances on horseback.  Two ministers, a Catholic Priest and an Anglican Clergyman, rode thousands of kilometres together throughout Western Victoria to keep each other company whilst they ministered to their respective flocks.  They both built churches in Warrnambool Victoria within weeks of each other in the same proximity and stayed the best of friends for the rest of their lives. Patterson, Lawson and other writers of the 19th and early 20th Century did much to include the Irish Catholics (25% of the population) into the mainstream of society because the sectarianism of the time was a of great concern to the government.  The Irish Catholics tended to be poor and kept to themselves.  They were over represented in the prison system but the Government of the colony of Victoria tried to fill the ranks of its police force with Irish Catholics to stave off claims that the force was anti Catholic.  If Australia was to become one nation instead of the separate colonies of Great Britain that it was, then it needed all the population to be united and that meant winning the hearts and minds of the Irish despite the deep seated ancient hatreds that carried over from the British Isles.

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