Page:The Irish in Australia.djvu/38

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THE IRISH IN AUSTRALIA.

righteous demand for the restitution of a native parliament, or to cheer the declining days of the men who have suffered for their love of country. Here is the head-quarters of the leading Irish organisation, the St. Patrick's Society, numbering 1,000 members, and having an accumulated fund of £15,000. Here were celebrated with the utmost enthusiasm the centenaries of Daniel O'Connell, Thomas Moore, and Henry Grattan. Here, on each recurring national anniversary. Irishmen of all shades of opinion and diversities of creed, unite to do honour to the common toast, "Our Native Land." And here, many a time and oft, has a political orator addressed the surging and excited crowd of free and independent electors, for St. Patrick's Hall is the polling-place for the West Melbourne constituency, which returns two members to parliament.

In the hollow between the two hills stands the popular Church of St. Francis of Assisium, occupying the position on which the early Irish Catholics first assembled in a little body to worship their Creator. A large cross, erected in the grounds attached to the present church, indicates the precise spot where the first Mass was offered up on Victorian soil by the late Father Patrick Bonaventure Geoghegan, the earliest Irish missionary to the infant settlement, and afterwards the energetic Bishop of Adelaide, South Australia. Its historical character as the cradle of Irish Catholicism in Victoria has made St. Francis' the most popular church of the city, and nowhere in the colonies, or even in Ireland itself, could a more genuinely Irish congregation be found. It can accommodate about 2,000 persons; but as a rule, the seating accommodation is wholly inadequate to the numbers in attendance. Not only are the passages filled, but many are to be seen kneeling outside the doors, unable to obtain