1870: St Patrick’s Catholic Church, Kilmore, Victoria.

In 1869-70 a large four light stained glass window “considered one of the best specimens that ever left the manufactory of Ferguson and Urie” was erected in the liturgical east wall of St Patrick’s Catholic Church at Kilmore in Victoria. The window was crafted in Curzon Street North Melbourne by the Ferguson & Urie Stained Glass Company and depicts the Nativity, Baptism, Crucifixion and Resurrection.

Construction of St Patrick’s began in 1856 and the foundation stone was laid on the 23rd August 1857 by Bishop James Alipius Goold. The church was built to the designs of brothers Joseph Aloysius Hansom  & Charles Francis Hansom and was completed in 1860. It was dedicated on the 8th July 1860[1] and remaining works were completed by architect William Wardell in 1871.

Photos taken 14th December 2013.

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“..Father Branigan is a native of Drogheda, Ireland, studied in the famous college of Salamanca, and was ordained in Melbourne, June 1858. This rev. gentleman is still the senior priest of Kilmore, and has evinced a warm zeal for the noble people entrusted to his guardianship. During the last twelve months he has added to St. Patrick’s Church a splendid chancel, which contains three altars; over the central, or High Altar, a stained glass window of large dimensions, representing many episodes in the life of our Redeemer, is placed. This window is considered one of the best specimens that ever left the manufactory of Ferguson and Urie, of Melbourne…”

The window depicts four scenes in the life of Christ being: the Nativity, Baptism, Crucifixion and Resurrection. A reference to a chapter and verse from the bible is recorded beneath each of the four scenes:

NATIVITY – “St Luke 2-7”
(And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn)

BAPTISM – “St Mark 1-10”
(And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him)

CRUCIFIXION – “St John 19-26”
(When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!)

RESURRECTION – “St Matthew 28-6”
(He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay)

In June 1894 a prolific tabloid writer known as “The Vagabond” gave his own vision of the window:

“…The stained glass window representing scenes in the life of Christ reflects the sun’s rays, which shine on the bowed heads of the daughters of Kilmore…”[2]

Fr. Michael Branigan (1834 – 1870)

The concept for a stained glass window to beautify the east end of the church is reported to have come from the Reverend Michael Branigan, parish priest of Kilmore from 1861 to 1870.

Michael Branigan was born at Oldbridge, on the Boyne, near the town of Drogheda, Ireland, in 1834[3]. At the age of 24 he arrived in Melbourne aboard the “White Star”[4] on the 4th September 1857[5].

He was ordained at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne on the 20th June in 1858[6] by the Bishop of Melbourne, James Alipius Goold and was appointed parish priest at Kilmore after the death of the Reverend Timothy O’Rourke who died on the 18th January 1861[7].

J. A. Maher 1869-1940, The Tale of a Century – Kilmore 1837-1937, Page 86.

“…In 1856 the movement to build the large and commodious Gothic church (St. Patrick’s of the present day) was inaugurated by Father O’Rourke. The foundation stone was laid on 23rd August, 1857. Beneath the stone was placed a bottle containing on parchment a Latin inscription of which the following is a translation: “The first stone of this church, dedicated to God under the patronage of St. Patrick, in Kilmore, in the province of Victoria, was laid by James Alipius Goold, Bishop of the Diocese, on the 23rd day of August, 1857 in the pontificate of Pope Pius IX, and in the reign of Her Most Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria, and during the administration of this Government by His Excellency Sir Henry Barkly, K.C.B.” The church was dedicated on 8th July, 1860. After Father O’Rourke’s death on the 18th January, 1861, Father Branigan was appointed to the charge of Kilmore. Father Branigan arrived in Australia in 1857. For a time he acted in the capacity of assistant priest at Keilor, later coming to Kilmore as curate under father O’Rourke. Afterwards he was temporarily in charge of the infant parish at McIvor (subsequently Heathcote). Then came the more important appointment as parish priest at Kilmore. This young priest, who did not enjoy robust health, devoted himself unsparingly to the welfare of his flock over what was still a very extensive parish. Various schools were opened and St. Patrick’s Church was practically completed whilst father Branigan was in charge. As a matter of fact the solemn opening ceremony at the church took place in March 1871, just nine months after the death of father Branigan (9th June, 1870).”[8]

A short time after the erection of the Ferguson & Urie window (c.1869-70), the Reverend Branigan became seriously ill and on the 9th of June 1870 the local Kilmore tabloid reported that he was improving:

“We are glad to be able to inform our readers that the Rev M Branigan, who has been dangerously ill for the past eight or nine days, has experienced a change for the better, and hopes are entertained that he will soon be convalescent.”[9]

Unfortunately this was a rather premature report by the Kilmore Free Press as Fr. Branigan died at the Presbytery at 4.30 p.m. on the same day! His last words were reported as having been “Oh, poor Ireland![10] He was only 36 years old.

On the 10th of July 1870 a meeting was held in St Patrick’s school room to discuss the erection of an altar in the church which was to be a joint memorial to Fr. O’Rourke and Fr. Branigan[11]. In March 1873 it was reported that the altar was “…on its way to these shores from the home country…” which I presume was Ireland. The entire cost for the erection of the altar would be in the vicinity of £700[12].

The altar was consecrated on the 31st August 1873 by Bishop James Alipius Goold and in anticipation of a large crowd for the occasion; admission to the church was gained by ticket only[13].

Significant tabloid transcriptions:

The Argus, Melbourne, Vic, Friday 10th June 1870, page 5.


The Rev. Michael Branigan, Roman Catholic clergyman, who, as pastor here for the last nine years, was much respected, died this morning at half-past 4. His remains will be interred in a vault at St. Patrick’s Church, Kilmore, to-morrow.”

Bendigo Advertiser, Vic, Saturday 11th June 1870, page 2.

“DEATH OF THE REV MICHAEL BRANIGAN, OF KILMORE.- From the Kilmore Free Press we learn of the death of the Rev Michael Branigan, of St. Patrick’s, Kilmore, which melancholy event took place at the presbytery this (Thursday) morning, at half-past four o’clock, after having been confined to his bed for a period of eight days. As a gentleman, Father Branigan commanded the respect of those with whom he came in contact, whilst as a clergyman his zeal in the performance of his sacred duties, at all times of a most arduous nature, in consequence of the large circuit under his control, was of a marked character, he being more frequently found at all hours of the day and night seeking out the abodes of those stricken down with sickness or disease, for the purpose of administering the consolations of religion, than attending to the wants of a constitution fast becoming a wreck to fatigue and exposure he was but ill-adapted to endure. His was an existence of self-sacrifice, and his own life was to him as nothing when compared with the eternal salvation of the many souls over which he was appointed guardian. What he gave to the poor, and those who appealed to him for aid, was given with the utmost free will, and his deeds in this respect, though numerous, were never made known by himself, and would die with him had the recipients of his bounty not frequently openly expressed their gratitude. The late Rev Michael Branigan was born in the historic hamlet of Oldbridge, on the Boyne, near the town of Drogheda, in the year 1834, which left him only thirty-six years at the time of his demise. The immediate cause of his death was inflammation of the bowels, brought on by exposure to cold in the discharge of his up-country duties. He died calm and resigned, having been fortified with the sacraments of that church of which in life he was such an ornament. He was to be buried yesterday (Friday) in a vault prepared for him in the church. He was, we understand, left by his will what he possessed to the cause of charity.”

The Bacchus marsh Express, Vic, Saturday 18th June 1870, page 4.

“DEATH OF THE REV. MICHAEL BRANIGAN.- The Kilmore Free Press announces the decease of this clergyman of the Roman Catholic Church, on Thursday morning, from inflammation of the bowels, brought on by exposure to cold in the discharge of his country duties. On the 20th June, 1858, the Rev. M. Branigan was ordained priest in St. Patrick’s Cathedral by the Right Rev, the Bishop of Melbourne. He was then appointed as second priest in Keilor. Here he remained for some time, when he was transferred to Kilmore as junior priest, to act with the late lamented Father O’Rourke. A change of pastors then took place at McIvor, when Father Branigan was nominated to the vacancy. Since he assumed the pastorate of Kilmore many schools have been opened, and the improvements just made at the church speak of his zeal. On Friday, after the Requiem mass, the mortal remains of father Branigan will be interred in a vault already prepared in the church. He has, we understand, left by his will what he possessed to the cause of charity.”

Kilmore Free Press, Vic, Thursday 23rd June 1870, page 3.

“We are informed that the last words spoken by the late Rev M Branigan, of St. Patrick’s Kilmore, were “Oh, poor Ireland!” During life he took a deep interest in all questions connected with the land of his birth, and it is pleasing, as showing a pure spirit of patriotism and love, that his mind during the last solemn moments of his existence, reverted to a country, the welfare of which he had always so much at heart.”

Kilmore Free Press, Vic, Thursday 14th July 1870, page 2.

“A meeting of subscribers to the memorial for the late Rev. M. Branigan was held on the 10th instant in St Patrick’s Schoolroom – the Rev. Robert Meade occupying the chair. A discussion ensued as to the advisability of coupling the name of the late rev. T. O’Rourke with that of the Rev. M. Branigan upon the memorial altar which it is proposed to erect, but nothing definite was arrived at. We are certain that those of the subscribers who had the pleasure of knowing the late Rev. T. O’Rourke would be pleased that the name should be coupled with the memorial, whilst it is evident that many persons subscribed to the undertaking, knowing nothing of Father O’Rourke solely with a view of showing their high appreciation of Father Branigan. Perhaps, if a general meeting of subscribers was called, and expression of opinion could be elicited which would meet with the views of all parties.”

Kilmore Free Press, Vic, Thursday 6th March 1873, page 2.

“We are in a position to state that the memorial altar, subscribed for some time ago, to perpetuate the memories of the late Rev. Fathers O’Rourke and Branigan, is now on its way to these shores from the home country, where it has been constructed. The contract price for what really must be a grand monument was £550, and freight and cost of erection in the church of St. Patrick’s, Kilmore, which it is intended to ornament, will, it is contemplated bring the amount up to £700. The work, however, is one of which people here may be proud, and there could be no more fitting monument to commemorate the zeal and devotion of the reverend gentlemen who did so much for religion in this quarter.”

Points of interest:

In 1868 a very similar window by Ferguson & Urie was erected at St John’s Church in Toorak. See: 26-06-1868: St. John’s Church, Toorak, Melbourne, Victoria.

Fr. Branigan’s successor to the Kilmore Parish was the Rev Michael Farrelly (c.1822-1906). A three light memorial window was erected in his memory on the right side of the east wall in the “St Joseph’s Chapel” in St Patrick’s in 1908. This window was made by Melbourne stained glass craftsman William Montgomery(1850-1927). See: 1908: St Patrick’s Catholic Church, Kilmore, Victoria.


My thanks to the Rev. Grant O’Neill of St Patrick’s Kilmore, 14th Dec 2013.


[5] Public Record Office Victoria, Fiche 131, Page 013 (surname spelt ‘Brannigan’)

[8] James Alipius Maher 1869-1940, “The Tale of a Century – Kilmore 1837-1937”, Page 86.


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