Research Notes – Higgins and Muldoon School – from 1822.

  These research notes were assembled in the period to 2007 and could be supplemented from material made accessible on the internet or later published.



“Currency children of Irish and/or Catholic families lacked, however, access to education. There had been at least two Catholic Schools between 1803 and 1806, but neither had more than a brief existence. One had been set up by James and John Kenny, emancipated Irish convicts (‘Boddington’ 1793), who advertised in the Sydney Gazette on 6 October 1805:

“John and James Kenny respectfully acquaint their friends and the public in general, that they will open SCHOOL at Sydney on Monday 30th Instant, at No 8 on the Rocks, at the back of the residence of Mr Henry Kable. Parents and Guardians who may please to place their children under their tuition may rely on the strictest attention to their speedy improvement in reading, Writing, Vulgar and Decimal Arithmetic, Mensuration, and Book-Keeping according to the Italian mode.”


The school had some assistance from Governor King’s administration but closed in 1806 after the arrival of Governor Bligh.”

[Sydney Gazette 6 Oct 1805.]





A petition of July 7, supporting Dr L H Halloran , who had set up a school in Sydney referred to their “….sons in the care of Dr Halloran.” Petitioners included James Meehan, Catholic emancipist Assistant Surveyor General. This supports Halloran’s later advice to fr Therry that some catholic families had sent children to his school.

[Laurence Hynes Halloran. “Proposals for the Foundation and Support of a Public free grammar School in Sydney.”]





“Since the arrival of the two catholic clergymen, a small school for the instruction of children of Roman Catholics has been established at Parramatta’ (This predates Higgins’ first Sydney term.)

[Bigge, Commissioner.]





Sydney 3 April, 1822

Permit me to recommend to the favourable consideration of His Excellency Sir Thomas Brisbane, Andrew Higgins, Schoolmaster of Kent Street, who teaches sixty children, half of which number are instructed gratis as he is a sober, attentive and moral young man, to solicit for him the usual weekly allowance or provisions from His Majesty’s stores.

I am sir Your Humble Servant,

John Joseph Therry

To F Goulburn, Colonial Sec. Therry, Fr J J to Colonial Secretary.

[ SRNSW Reel 6055 4/1760 p. 8 ]


[NOTE: Andrew Higgins (Daphne 1819) and Robert Muldoon (Almorah 1820) are on the list of convicts mustered in the employ of Father J J Therry in 1823/4/5 and 1823 respectively.

[Reel 6062 4/1782 p.118b]





Colonial Secretary’s Office

20 April 1822

In reply to your letter of 3rd Inst and for the encouragement of education among children of the lower orders, I am directed by His Excellency Sir Thomas Brisbane to acquaint you that he will allow you out of Colonial Funds, a penny per week for every child regular in attendance on Andrew Higgins Schoolmaster in Kent Street, such attendance from daily class rolls open to public inspection during the hours of instruction in his schoolroom.

F Goulburn, etc etc. Goulburn, F. Colonial Secretary to Fr Therry.

[Reel 6009 4/3505 p. 189.]





First recorded term. CLAIM:   22 Apr 1822 to 4 Aug 1822. “The School of Higgins and Muldoon, Kent St” 102 children.


APPROVAL: …pay…to the teachers of the Roman Catholic School, Sydney…as a gratuity for teaching….children. [Signed Brisbane 13 August `1822.] Receipt signed by Robt Muldoon. Undated.

[SRNSW 2/852.]






ANDREW HIGGINS begs Leave to return Thanks to his

Friends and the Public, for the encouragement he has experienced ; a continuance of which he hopes to merit by unremitting attention.-Course of Education comprises Reading, Writing, and English Grammar ;Geography and Mathematics; Modern Book-keeping,by single and double entry ; particularly for shewing a system for opening and closing the accounts of a firmor company in books appropriated separate from other transactions.

[Higgins, in the Sydney Gazette   Fri 6 Sep 1822.]






Second recorded term. CLAIM: 4 Aug 1822 to 4 Nov 1822.The School of Andrew Higgins and Robt   Muldoon

APPROVAL:…pay…to Higgins and Muldoon, teachers at the Roman catholic School…for teaching…(116)….children..[Signed Brisbane 5 Nov 1822.] Receipted by Robt Muldoon. No date. [SRNSW 2/853]





Third recorded term. CLAIM: 5 Nov 1822 to 4 Feb 1823 The School of Higgins and Muldoon, King St, Sydney

APPROVAL: …pay to Andrew Higgins and George Morley for educating ….(114)…. Catholic children at Sydney and Parramatta…..[Signed Brisbane 18 Feb 1823.]   Receipt for ..funds…in trust for Andrew Higgins and George Morley, signed by Fr Therry on 21 Feb 1823.

[SRNSW 2/854 Pp 51-53




Fourth recorded term. CLAIM: 4 Feb 1823 to 4 May 1823 The Roman Catholic School, Sydney. Roll signed by Andrew Higgins.

APPROVAL:….pay…Rev Mr Therry…enabling him to pay the teachers of the Catholic Schools at Parramatta and Sydney. ..(108 children) [Signed Brisbane 27 May 1823.] Receipt by Fr Therry on 28 May 1823for (funds) …for the teachers at the Catholic Schools at Parramatta and Sydney. SRNSW 2/854




Fifth recorded term. CLAIM: 4 May 1823 to 4 Aug 1823 The Roman Catholic School, Sydney. Roll signed by Andrew Higgins.

APPROVAL:…pay…The Rev John Joseph Therry…for attendance of …(102)…children at The Sydney Roman Catholic School. [Signed Brisbane 10 Aug 1823]. Countersigned also (as receipt?) by Fr Therry

NOTE: The student list supporting this claim is on display in St Mary’s Cathedral School as “the school’s first class”(sic)

SRNSW and St Mary’s SAG 6 in Mitchell Library.




Sixth term. 4 Aug 1823 to 2 Nov 1823   List not found [FCM] Archives SRNSW





Seventh recorded term. CLAIM: 2 Nov 1823 to 2 Feb 1824 The Roman Catholic School, Sydney. APPROVAL:…pay…The Rev Mr Therry…for attendance of …(98)….children at The Sydney Roman Catholic School. [Signed Brisbane 17 Feb 1824].

Countersigned also (as receipt?) by Fr Therry. SRNSW 2/855





Eighth recorded term. CLAIM: 2 Feb 1824 to 2 May 1824 The Roman Catholic School, Sydney

APPROVAL:…pay…The Rev John Joseph Therry…for attendance of ….(96)…children at The Sydney Roman Catholic School. [Signed Brisbane 17 May 1824]. Countersigned also (as receipt?) by Fr Therry. SRNSW 2/856





Ninth recorded term CLAIM: 3 May 1824 to 2 August 1824The Sydney Roman Catholic School.

APPROVAL:…pay…Revd John Joseph Therry….(112)…children at the Sydney Roman Catholic School. [Signed Brisbane 10 Aug 1824]. Countersigned also (as receipt?) by Fr Therry. SRNSW 2/857





Tenth recorded term CLAIM: 2 Aug 1824 to 1 Nov 1824The Sydney Roman Catholic School.

APPROVAL:…pay…Revd J J Therry….(110)….children at the Sydney Roman Catholic School. [Signed Brisbane Nov 1824]. SRNSW 2/858





“A Higgins. Allowance for instruction of children attending the Catholic School, Parramatta 1.7.1827 to 30.9 1827.”

[NOTE: Of interest because it shows Andrew Higgins as a teacher (principal?) at Parramatta in at least the June/September term 1827. Or was this an error in transcription at the time, when Higgins may have been still at the ‘Sydney’ school.]

[NSW Archives 2/818. Auditor General returns recorded by Lamb, Brother Barry. “History of the ‘Roman Catholic School’ at Parramatta..”]





No reference to contemporary Catholic Schools, but notation that the Committee of St Mary’s in 1834, chaired by Rev Ullathorne, but including Fr Therry, included Andrew Higgins.

[Judge William Westbrooke Burton. “Religion and Education in NSW.”]




Cardinal Moran referred on page 103/4 to Fr Therry’s contribution ‘Australian’ 14 June 1825 in which he “….further stated that he proposed to establish a Roman Catholic Education Society….Communications in aid of this undertaking were to be addressed to Mr William Davis, Charlotte Place; Mr Thomas Byrne, Master of the Chapel School, Hyde Park; or to the priest’s lodgings, Campbell St, Brickfields.

[Moran, Cardinal P F “History of the Catholic Church in Australasia”]

[NOTE: This shows no more than Thomas Byrne was at the St Mary’s School in June 1825. I found nothing in Cardinal Moran’s book about earlier education arrangements 1821 to 1825.]

[NOTE: An addressed envelope elsewhere in Fr Therry’s papers suggest he was boarding at the Marshall residence (my g g g grandparents – see 1810 Marshall) in Campbell St.]





After Morley, Parramatta, …”…the second school was in Sydney itself, where it appears, Therry was offered the choice of more than one teacher. [In Therry papers, 1822. Canisius College, Pymble, NSW.] The one chosen, Thomas Byrne, was installed in 1822.

[McGuane ‘Early Schools in NSW. AHS 1906-07 Pt II. Pp 78-9.]



“(In 1822) the first Roman Catholic School was established by Father Therry” .

[“TRUTH” 7.2.1909 ‘Old Sydney’ Column.]





“It may be incidentally mentioned that the first Catholic School was opened in 1822 by Thomas Byrne, in a portion of the new Court House, Castlereagh St.”

[McGuane, J P. Old St Mary’s. Royal Aust Hist Society Vol 111 Part IV 1916.]





The Orphan Schools were still barred against the Catholic chaplains and only one way of instructing Catholic children lay open. He must establish schools of his own. [P. 65]

The (St Mary’s) schoolhouse was put up in 1824. [Pp. 67 and 143.]

“In 1822 the first school was opened in Sydney by Thomas Byrne in the new Court House in Castlereagh Street. Byrne, according to Mr John Weingarth was also the first teacher in the new Hyde Park Chapel School, as it was called. A handwritten advertisement among Father Therry’s papers shows that another school was at least contemplated. ‘At the instance of Revd. Mr Therry, Andrew Higgins respectfully takes leave to acquaint the public that he will open school at No. —,——-Street, on Monday the —- of January, 1822.’ He promises to teach all the Sciences, Grammar, and Bookkeeping and hopes that his talents will be found satisfactory. That is all that is known of him and his school.”

[Archbishop Dr Eris O’Brien. “Life and Letters of Archpriest John Joseph Therry, founder of the Catholic Church in Australia.]





“…in 1822 after the arrival of Sir Thomas Brisbane, a Roman Catholic School was opened in Sydney under Thomas Byrne.” In the footnote, “…Dr Ullathorne in his reply to Burton, however, says the first Catholic school was established in 1822.”

[Smith, Stephen Henry. “History of education in NSW 1788-1925.]





“He (Fr Therry) failed in his efforts to introduce Catholic instruction into the Orphan Schools. Whereupon he courageously set about building his own Catholic Schools.”

[James G Murtagh. “Australia, the Catholic Chapter.”]





“In response to a request from Rev Fr Therry for financial aid to encourage poor catholic children to obtain education, the Governor agreed to par one penny per week per child that attended his school – the first direct subsidy for a denominational school. This was soon changed to a payment of £50 per annum to Thomas Byrne, who kept his school at St Mary’s Chapel.” (Goodin gave the correct ColSec correspondence source (above) for the first decision but no source for the Byrne matter.) ‘

[Public Education in NSW before 1848’ by V W E Goodin RAHS Vol XXXVI Part IV Page 191.]





—- No reference to schools or education of children.

[Eddy, Rev Fr John. “John Joseph Therry, Pioneer Priest.” In Journal of the Australian Catholic History Society. Vol 1 Part 3 1954”]





“…it became imperative to open Catholic schools, and at the New Court, at Castlereagh St, in 1822, Fr Therry’s first school was opened by Thomas Byrne. (No source, but she noted “that Eris O’Brien and Fr McGovern have dealt at length with the events leading to the Church Act. in papers read before the Society”.)

[Scholastica, Mother, “Origins of Catholic Education in Australia.” in Journal of the Australian Catholic History Society. Vol 1 Part 1 1954”]





The second school (after Morley in Parramatta) was in Sydney itself, where, it appears, Therry was offered the choice of more than one teacher * The one chosen, Thomas Byrne, was installed in 1822. ** Two years later he and his charges were removed to a more suitable home in Hyde Park. By 1826 this school appeared on the official returns of the colony as being in receipt of a Government grant .

[Fogarty, Brother Ronald “Catholic Education in Australia 1806-1950 Chapter One”.]

[Fogarty’s sources are * Therry papers, 1822., and ** McGuane ‘early Schools in NSW. AHS 1906-07Pt II. Pp 78-9.]





No reference to schools or education of children.

[Ayers, Rev John. “Father Therry: 100 years”]





Bridget Dwyer and Esther were ‘governesses’ of the first Catholic School in Hyde Park, Sydney.

[Fr N McNally. “Men of ‘98” in Journal of the Australian Catholic Historical society. Vol 3, 1969, Part 1.]





Relevant publication.

[Waldersee, James. “Catholic Society in NSW 1788-1860”]





“From 1824 to 1882 schools at St Mary’s Cathedral were at the elementary and secondary level….”

[Crow, Vincent. “History of St Mary’s Cathedral Schools.”]





“Governor Brisbane was inclined to be tolerant of the religious diversity which had developed in the colony. In response to a request from the Catholic Chaplin, Fr Therry, he gave financial aid to the teacher of a Catholic School in Kent Street, Sydney from April 1822.”

[Barcan, Alan. “Two centuries of Education in NSW”][His source: Goodin and Fogarty.]





“…he (Therry) opened a small catholic school in Parramatta and one in Sydney in 1822, but finance was the big problem, and neither school lasted very long.” [

[McSweeney, John “John Joseph Therry. A Meddling Priest.”]

(NOTE: So much for McSweeney’s view!)





“Catholic education on the same site as St Mary’s Cathedral has been continuous since the 1820s.”

[St Mary’s Cathedral School website.]





“St Mary’s Cathedral College was established in 1824 as an elementary school by Rev. John Therry, but was not until 1828 that a high school was established. It is one of the oldest Catholic Schools in Australia.” [WIKIPEDIA. No author nor source.]