Page:The Irish in Australia.djvu/242

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

with his knowledge and by his advice. After Father O'Neil's departure from the penal settlement in Sydney, his brothers in misfortune—Fathers Dixon and Harold—remained there as prisoners until April 19th, 1803, on which date the Governor of the colony, Captain P. G. King, of the Royal Navy, was pleased to issue a proclamation granting "unto the Reverend James Dixon a conditional emancipation to enable him to exercise his clerical functions as a Roman Catholic priest, which he has qualified himself for by the regular and exemplary conduct he has manifested since his residence in the colony." Father Dixon of course availed himself of this permission to resume his sacred functions in a place where they were so sadly needed the more especially as he had received faculties from his ecclesiastical superiors at home to officiate at the antipodes as soon as he was allowed to do so. At about the same time. Father Harold's clerical status was recognised by the government, and he was placed in charge of the Catholic prisoners at Norfolk Island, a delightful spot a thousand miles away in the Pacific, which had been profaned and degraded by being perverted into a prison for the worst and most irreclaimable of convicts. Fathers Dixon and Harold were thus the first duly-appointed Roman Catholic clergymen in the Australian colonies. The former labourer devotedly for several years amongst the Catholic population of Sydney and its vicinity, but, as an historian of the era has truly remarked, "the hatred, bigotry, and jealousy with which he was surrounded, soon found a pretext to depriving him of the power of doing good." This pretext was found in certain malicious and groundless reports that reached the ears of the authorities, to the effect that Father Dixon's congregations at Mass on Sundays were in reality meeting