New Norcia Golden Age:

Salvado's Correspondence - Years 1891-1900

DRAFT VERSION, WITHOUT NOTES OF - BORRADOR SIN NOTAS DE: Teresa de Castro, "New Norcia's Golden Decade: Rosendo Salvado's Correspondence in the last years of the 19th Century (1891-1900)", New Norcia's Studies Journal (Perth, Western Australia), 14 (2006), pp. 64-107. (La década dorada de Nueva Nursia según la correspondencia de los últimos años del siglo XIX (1891-1900)
Teresa de Castro © 2009-2013. This paper is protected by Copyright Laws.



2.1. Letters Received at New Norcia from Western Australia
   2.1.1. Letters from Lay Western Australians Colonial Officers Business Affairs
  Personal Matters  New Norcia Ex-Brothers New Norcia’s Workers
   2.1.2. Letters from Ecclesiastical People Bishop’s Palace in Perth Parish Priests in WA Nuns in WA Other Catholic Clergy and Religious

2.2. Letters Sent from New Norcia Members to Australia and Overseas
   2.2.1. Abbot Rosendo Salvado
   2.2.2. Abbot Coadjutor Domínguez
   2.2.3. Other Mission Brothers
   2.2.4. New Norcia Brothers in Other Stations


4.1. Letters from Spain
   4.1.1. Convent of San Plácido (Madrid)
   4.1.2. Abbey of Montserrat (Catalonia)
   4.1.3. New Norcia Brothers’ Relatives Santos Salvado Relatives from other New Norcia Brothers
   4.1.4. New Norcia’s Friends in Spain
   4.1.5. Letters about Finances

   4.1.6. Miscellanea
4.2. Letters from Italy
   4.2.1. Letters from the Regnolis
   4.2.2. Letters from Clergy
4.2.3. Miscellanea
4.3. Letters from the UK

4.4. Letters from France
4.5. Letters from Other Countries




The 1890s are the golden years of New Norcia both as monastic institution and as agricultural settlement. In previous years New Norcia had struggled to survive economically while attending to its Apostolic work, had fought to resolve jurisdictional and canonical problems affecting the life of New Norcia as institution, and had worked to provide enough missionaries to carry on the missionary work. Most of those problems disappeared or were mitigated in the 1890s, and New Norcia flourished economically while its prestige rose within Australia and overseas – from Europe to the Americas, from Asia to the Middle East. New Norcia started a new life and a new era after the death of Abbot Coadjutor Fulgencio Domínguez (4 April 1900) who was meant to continue Salvado’s work, and the death of Rosendo Salvado (29 December 1900), with the abandonment of the missionary project in favour of an educational one. In the following pages I give some details about the information and subjects that populate the pages of those documents kept in the chronological series known as “Salvado’s Correspondence.”



New Norcia correspondence for the period 1891-1900 contains letters sent to New Norcia community (mostly to
Rosendo Salvado, Abbot Coadjutor Fulgencio Domínguez, and Br Ramiro Landaluce) from Australia and overseas. It also includes original documents enclosed with letters addressed to the Mission and to ex-Prior Santos Salvado in Spain, and some copies of letters written at New Norcia. We can find documents written before this period (from 1867 to 1890) and after it (1901, 1902, and 1956). They were misplaced here for different reasons: the date was mistakenly read, or was only available on the missing envelope or in the correspondence with which certain documents were originally enclosed, while other letters were grouped together in thematic folders, as is the case with files 45a and 55a.









































A notable difference with the pre-1891’s correspondence is the increase of letters written in English (see table below) to the detriment of those in Spanish, French and Italian; there is also a slight increase of documents in other languages. We have to bear in mind that most of the letters written in Spanish by Rosendo Salvado from the date of his arrival in Naples (25 December 1899) to the date of his death in Rome (29 December 1900) as the ones addressed to him by Spanish, French and Italian friends and institutions are kept in folders separated from the chronological ones I am examining here, while others got lost after Salvado’s death. The correspondence that Salvado sent to Domínguez and to Fr [Ildefonso] Bertran from Rome are kept in a separate folders.














No. Letters 




























2. Letters from Western Australia


2.1. Letters Received at New Norcia from the Colony

2.1.1. Letters from Lay Western Australians

New Norcia Archive keeps a notable amount of correspondence addressed to the Mission from Western Australian Government officers and clerks, business firms and agents, professionals, skilled and unskilled workers, farmers and graziers… in short – from men and women with different social status and backgrounds living within the colony and writing about professional and personal matters. Letters from the Colonial Officers.

The correspondence generated by colonial and municipal institutions and officers is considerable and increased in this period. All the Colonial Government offices are represented in New Norcia correspondence. Some letters by members of the Legislative Assembly provide first-hand information about the discussion of some Bills in Parliament. Thomas Francis Quinlan made some comments on the Land and Mining Bills in 1898, while Henry Bruce Lefroy commented extra-officially on a Loan Bill in 1894, and the Education Bill and the Fencing Bill in 1895; Lefroy, as Salvado, was especially interested in the Fencing bill because it would affect farmers and leaseholders, so he forwarded a copy to Salvado and asked him for his opinion 

The Resident Magistrates (Newcastle and York) and their clerks wrote about matters related to the processing and payment of rewards for destruction of wild dogs and eagles, and the application or granting of economical support to Aboriginal invalids living at New Norcia. A good number of letters arrived from the Victoria Plains Roads Board (Lefroy, Davidson, W. F. Lanigan) – short missives informing of the date of the meetings of the Board. The correspondence generated by some inspectors and sub-inspectors of sheep (Craig, Gregory, Gibbons) are all related to an outbreak of scab that affected New Norcia flocks in Wyening and Blackboy Hill in 1894.

The Department of Lands and Surveys’ correspondence dealt mostly with matters related to the alteration of properties’ boundaries, transfers of lands, and payment of leases. The letters arriving from the Government Railways are scarce, since the line serving New Norcia belonged to the privately-owned Midland Railway Company; the correspondence sent by different railway station masters from the Company dealt with the reception, forwarding and sending of goods by train from New Norcia to Perth or vice versa, while the letters by William Frederick Sayers –attorney of the Company– dealt with the lease, transfer and payment of land blocks belonging to the Midland. The scarce letters generated by Perth Council officers dealt mostly with the erection of New Norcia’s houses in Perth and the payment of local taxes on them. Letters About Business Affairs.Most of the correspondence arriving at New Norcia between 1891 and 1900 was sent by Western Australian firms, merchant houses, professionals and individuals writing about business affairs mainly from Perth area, the Goldfields (Eastern Goldfields, Murchison and Kimberley) and Victoria Plains.

A first group of letters was devoted to strictly-business matters, generally written by a firm or merchant representative about affairs directly related to the specialty of the firm. They dealt mostly with New Norcia’s houses in Perth, the horse business, blocks of land, and Norcia produce. The most numerous set of letters in this section came from James H. Hubbard, about the fencing of a New Norcia’s property near Guildford. James Morrison’s business, first, and then the ones who took it over –Connor & Doherty and Connor, Doherty & Durack– wrote about the sale of New Norcia horses at the Guildford Show. John Doscas, from the WA Free Stores, sent a good number of letters about the purchase of New Norcia produce, and also the Browns, dealing with the purchase of wine for Moora Hotel and fat sheep for the family butchering and storekeeping business. Some agricultural warehouses wrote about the supply of certain machines or recommending some products, while other manufacturers wrote about their products.

Lawyers, architects, doctors, veterinary surgeons, photographers, clock makers, tank makers, fencers, bricklayers and carpenters wrote a second group of letters when New Norcia required their services. Daniel Connor was the main contributor in this section.

A third group of letters was written by farmers, pastoralists and stockowners, and dealt mostly with the offer or request of land blocks (lease and sale), the purchase of New Norcia horses and the use of New Norcia’s stallions, the sale of wheat to New Norcia, the request for New Norcia produce (wine, olive oil, fruit, bricks, timber), arrangements regarding the grinding of cereals in New Norcia mill, requests to use New Norcia paddocks to keep some animals, and requests to cut sandalwood around Marah station. The main contributors were Matthew T. Padbury, John Brookes Webley, William Rock, Stephen Sheridan, the Clinches, and the Clunes. From a linguistic point of view, Stephen Sheridan’s correspondence is the most interesting, while the two letters written by Widow Mary Atkins in 1898 and 1899 asking Salvado to give permission to her sons to cut sandalwood around Marah because of her family’s poverty deserve a special mention too.

The correspondence generated by some people writing about New Norcia’s houses in Perth forms the final group. Its interest resides in the fact that it gives an insight –a little exaggerated, no doubt– of the domestic problems and difficulties that some middle class people and small businesses (as Bryan’s) faced in Perth to make ends meet. We have several requests to rent a house, complaints of the tenants about the state of the premises, a request for a proper lease contract, a complaint about the collector of the rents, most of the letters in this section were related to the payment of the rent: requests for delays in the payment, or for a decrease of the rent, and complaints about the raising of it. Letters about Personal Matters. A considerable number of the letters that arrived at New Norcia –no matter who wrote them– were completely or partially devoted to personal matters. Depending on the cases, they offered relaxed or anguished shots of particular moments of the writers’ lives and provided some details about their personal situation, their family, their worries and struggles. Doubtless, this is the most noteworthy set of letters.

Part of this correspondence is formed by requests for hospitality at New Norcia and introductory letters written in favour of people going to the Mission. The forwarding, exchange and request of photos, newspaper cuttings, books and information about the Mission was a frequent subject; especially interesting are the notes by Francis Alnione and Clement Madrona, two Filipinos working in the Gascoyne, about sending them Catholic books in Spanish. Most of the correspondence from New Norcia’s neighbouring settlers dealt with the finding of New Norcia’s horses and sheep strayed in other farmers’ paddocks and asking what to do with them. The forwarding or the request for some seeds (Singapore Acacia, Tobacco, and Lucerne), cuttings (vines), and plants (coffee) is the main purpose of other letters.

Several people wrote to ask for Salvado’s recommendation or support to get a better job position, while other requested Salvado’s vote in different elections (Quinlan, Lefroy, Molloy, Brown, Sinclair). We also find requests for news about persons supposedly known to Rosendo Salvado, cries of help of persons who had family members of whom they could not take care, and people who wanted to join New Norcia on the grounds of being old and poor Catholics. Some individuals, after being in a professional relationship with Salvado or Domínguez, developed sincere feelings towards them and wrote mentioning personal matters. This is the case of Mary Ann Troy –former New Norcia’s Post Mistress– who wrote three letters with news about herself and her family from Jarrahdale.

A little group of letters were devoted to Aborigines – the forwarding of Aboriginal children to New Norcia, comments on some deceased (Mary Topsy, Toby, and Edward Farrell) and requests for Aboriginal workers. Several documents deserve a special mention. The first one is the eight-page letter that Alfred J. Clinch sent to Salvado from Jibberding in 1892 about his servant Aborigine Fanny –whom he was sending to the Mission to prevent her from being killed by her violent husband or by the “bush Aborigines”– in which Clinch gave details about the young woman’s life since her childhood, her personal situation, and her qualities. The second one is George Woodley’s letter dated 1892, in which he requested Salvado to accept his half-caste son in New Norcia to get an education, and to let him stay to learn a trade if he wanted. Aborigine Charles Mortimer’s only letter from this period, as on previous occasions, described his physical and spiritual isolation, “I am a very long distance from the Homestead and I heare [hear] very little news and see very few men. It his [is] not a wild place, but a little loasnsom [sic] to any person that his [is] not used to it. I keep to my religion duties has [as] well has [as] I can, that’s to say my prayers every night and morning, but has [as] to make a confession and to receive the Holy Commiunion [Communion] I have had no chance of seeing my Revd Fathers. But I think of Almighty –God– the Creator, the Soveron [Sovereign] Lord of He[a]ven and e[a]rth and of all things (…) It is so far in the upper country that it his [is] not much use of our preists [priests] to come up has they [as there] are very few Catholics in this district, but if God will spair [spare] my health and strength, I will see if I can go [to] see a preists [priest]. My Lord, they aught [there ought] to be a Catholic preist [priest] travel[ling] once every year in the Upper Gascoyne District. Peapot [People] will be very glad to see our Reverend fathers to come up”. A miscellany of subjects appears throughout New Norcia correspondence in this period. Letters from New Norcia Ex-Brothers. New Norcia Archive keeps some letters from ex-members of the community who, after leaving the habit, settled in Western Australia. We have two letters of old ex-members: Juan (John) Perejuan from Allenooka and Francisco (Francis) Ventura, and from some of the Spanish brothers who arrived in 1869 and 1885. Ex-brother José (Joseph) Roselló (joined New Norcia in 1885 and left in 1891) sent three letters to Br Xirgu and two to Salvado in 1892, 1893 and 1897, in which he mentioned his different jobs and aspirations, the reaction of his family after learning that the had abandoned the monastery and had decided to stay in WA; Roselló also described the movements of ex-Br José Torruella (1885-1887) and ex-brother Roberto Zalduegui (1869-1887). The only letter by Zalduegui is a dry note sent to Salvado in 1892 requesting him to give him a dispensation from the vow of chastity to get married. Finally, ex-brother Juan Sans (John Sands) (1885-?) wrote a wordy letter in 1892 requesting Salvado to readmit him in the Mission. The dictionaries of Western Australians only mention the first two as Western Australian settlers; Roselló is only mentioned as New Norcia Brother, while Zalduegui, Sans, and Torruella are ignored altogether. New Norcia's Workers and People Wanting to Work for New Norcia. A small number of letters from shepherds, cowmen, shearers and sawyers doing seasonal work for New Norcia have survived. Most of them were short missives requesting different goods, mentioning the loss of livestock, the impossibility of resuming work, asking to be moved from a place to another, and commenting on monetary matters. The Archive only keeps one letter from George Ikin, dated 1888 and misplaced with this period’s correspondence.

I also include under this heading a set of letters from people offering their services to work at New Norcia, mostly shearers and shepherds. The most interesting group or job seekers were those who arrived from the Eastern Colonies or overseas during the Gold Rush and were not interested in mining but in agriculture, like W. P. Huddlestone, Louis Parisot, and James Davies in 1898. Other foreigners also wrote, like Manuel Castro Salgado in 1897, who was unhappy with his job in the kitchen of the Duke of York Restaurant in Perth and wanted to work at the Mission, or J. A. Macken, who wrote from Mt Eliza Depot in 1899 offering himself to do any work, especially gardening or teaching children, and gave details of his work life in Ireland, New South Wales and Western Australia.

2.1.2. Letters from Ecclesiastical People

The majority of the letters received from clergy at New Norcia in these years arrived from the Bishop’s Palace in Perth. Although the correspondence from Diocesan priests, nuns and other clergymen is small in number, it offers a rich portrait of the life of the Catholics in Western Australia, and of their thoughts and feelings about spiritual, ecclesiastical, political, and personal matters. Letters from the Bishop’s Palace in Perth

I include here not only the letters sent by Bishop Mathew Gibney or people on his behalf, and Vicar General Fr Anselm Bourke (honorary Monsignor from 1898), but also by clergymen working for Perth Diocese: Fr Luigi Maria Martelli, and people in charge of The Western Australian Record, the Catholic newspaper (Desmond, Duff, and Fr W. B. Kelly). We can expect the usual comments on diocesan matters: visitations and journeys, opening of new churches, behaviour of some Diocesan priests, fasting periods, ecclesiastical finances, and colonial politics affecting Catholics. Most of these letters provided information about lay and ecclesiastical people arriving in WA wanting to visit or stay at New Norcia, and the procuring and forwarding of Aboriginal children to the Mission.

A) Bishop Gibney’s correspondence deals with a small number of subjects. The first one was the renting and improvement of the premises of “The Record” which belonged to New Norcia. The second one was the need to solve the shortage of priests and religious brothers and sisters to attend to the spiritual needs of an increasing Catholic population, which led him to procure the settlement in Western Australia of the Christian Brothers, the Oblates of Mary and the Redemptorists in 1894, the Sisters of St John of God in 1895, the nuns of Loreto in 1897, and the visit in 1899 of a group of nuns of the Good Shepherd to consider their settlement in the Colony. The third and most important subject was Colonial Politics and how they affected Western Australian Catholics. Gibney was convinced that the Catholics had to create a united body to oppose Protestants in Politics and get better treatment from the Colonial Government in polices regarding the support of Catholic Schools (1895 was the year of the Assisted Schools debate in Parliament) and the protection of Aboriginal children. This explains why Gibney promoted the creation of the Catholic Association of WA of which he informed Salvado on 24 August 1894, and on 29 August and 14 September J. M Barry forwarded –on Gibney’s behalf– the rules of the Association to Salvado and the books to use in the meetings, and asked him to create a branch in the Victoria Plains as soon as possible. Gibney considered very positive the steps taken by Salvado to include New Norcia fathers in the electoral roll in 1895 because “it will have the effect of proving to our opponents that Catholics are true at the cause the Church advocates, and it will make Catholics more determined to support just Catholic claims.” The lack of Catholic representatives in the organs of Government and institutions was especially important regarding the Aborigines Protection Board, whose members were all Protestants and, therefore, favoured Protestant institutions and Missions to the detriment of Catholic Missions (New Norcia and Beagle Bay were carrying out most of the missionary work in the Colony), both concerning the distribution of grants for the keeping of the Aborigines, and the custody of Aboriginal orphans. The confrontation between the Bishop and the Board occupies much of his letters, especially after the Board granted a higher sum of money to the Protestant Missions than to the Catholic ones in 1893; he appealed to the Board, and when the Board did not give satisfaction, Gibney presented the case to the Secretary of the Colonies in England in January 1894. Gibney’s correspondence includes some miscellaneous documents: a sermon pronounced on Easter Sunday 1900 denouncing the irregularities observed in the marriage of mixed couples held in Fremantle and Kalgoorlie, news about oil produced at Subiaco, a test on gold coloured quartz, a proposal of business relating the debt of the Diocese to Salvado, some mentions about Beagle Bay and many other things.

 B) Monsignor Bourke’s letters in these years were mostly devoted to his work as New Norcia’s agent in Perth, a work that he confessed he did just for the pleasure of helping a good cause. Bourke gave Salvado details about the meetings with the Aboriginal Protection Board regarding the case of two Catholic Aboriginal children (Agnes and Henry Warren) whose custody was given to the Protestant Mission in the Vasse in 1892 despite their parents having surrendered them to the Mission. Bourke kept checking and informing Salvado of the erection of New Norcia’s houses in Perth and gave constant particulars about them. Bourke mentioned at length the different operations performed on Br Odón Oltra, and gave details about the repair and purchase of some goods. Bourke made interesting comments on the state of some Aborigines living in the outskirts of Perth, and informed Salvado about the gathering of Aboriginal children for New Norcia by Fr James Duff. Bourke also commented about the best candidates for the Catholics in the elections held in 1894, and about the ecclesiastical problems generated by ex-brother Roberto Zalduegui’s wish to get married despite having made his vow of chastity. Bourke did not usually show his personal feelings or thoughts about his work, but he did not hold his tongue when Gibney was the subject. For example, on 4 February 1898 Bourke mentioned that Gibney expected him to keep everything in order while Gibney was extremely tolerant of any disorder that had not to do with him directly, and that the financial and spiritual state of the Diocese showed the result of such a policy. Bourke was unhappy in the Bishop’s Palace, so he resigned as Vicar General on 31 August 1894 and expressed his wish to retire to New Norcia; however, a month later he changed his mind and resumed his vicarship on the grounds that “There are so many Catholics coming into the colony that the mass of work that has to be faced is not battle-appealing, and along with this there is going on at the present moment a silent war against the Assisted Schools to meet, which the Bishop will want every help he can have, and it would hardy be quite right for me to leave him just at a critical time. Your Lordship however sees that we have out troubles here just as you have at New Norcia. No place is exempt from them.”. Letters from Parish Priests in Western Australia.

New Norcia Archive keeps correspondence sent by several parish priests working in Western Australia: Fr Facundo Mateu from Albany, Fr Adolphus Lecaille from Vasse and Greenough, Fr Hampson from Southern Cross, Fr Patrick Gibney from York, Fr M. J. Callery from Greenough, Fr Edward Brereton from Geraldton, Fr W. Prendergast from Cossack, and Fr Frederick Chmelíček from Kojonup. Pastoral work is not the preferred subject except for Fr Hampson’s letters related to the consecration of a chalice. Recurrent is, instead, the work of these priests as social connectors by sending introductory letters for people going to visit the Mission or writing to Salvado on behalf of other settlers to ask for some favours. The main contributors were Frs Lecaille, Mateu and Chmelíček. All of them had one thing in common – they complained or gave hints of their unhappiness with Bishop Gibney’s management of the Diocese.

A) Father Lecaille’s correspondence in these years reflects the peace of spirit of an ageing person who recalled episodes of the past (his arrival in WA, memorable dates, and regrets), reflected on the passage of time, showed his admiration towards Salvado and a deep attachment to New Norcia. Lecaille, who always considered himself an apostolic missionary, continued with his apostolate in these years by spending part of his personal money on buying copies of Catholic books to distribute among Protestants with the scope of converting them to Catholicism. A good number of letters was devoted to Lecaille’s work trying to find a tenant for New Norcia property at Urianna.

B) Father Mateu’s correspondence dealt mainly with the forwarding of parcels containing New Norcia silkworm cocoons from Albany to Marseilles, and the forwarding of some seeds to New Norcia. The most interesting letter is the one dated 29 February 1896, where he commented that he was at variance with the Bishop because Mateu had not agreed with Gibney’s scheme –proposed ignoring parochial rights– to invest the money of the Compensation Grant in their schools. The Government had already paid Mateu half of the grant (£786.15.9), and Gibney asked him for a cheque for the amount, but Mateu replied negatively and Gibney desisted. However, the Oblate Fathers at Fremantle had not been so lucky and were forced to hand the money over to Gibney, a fact that made them appeal to Rome and present a formal complain to Gibney for having invited them to settle in Western Australia and then interfering in the management of their “business”.

C) Father Frederick Chmelíček was accused in 1894 of making a female servant pregnant, a  charge that made Gibney suspend him from the parish, not because he thought that the priest was guilty, but because of his unwillingness to cooperate with the Bishop in the investigation and his refusal to sack the woman. In the three letters that Chmelíček wrote to Salvado –each one more aggressive– he rejected the accusation and stated that he wanted to prove his innocence, but at the same time, he threatened to ventilate the case through the Press. Chmelíček also wanted Gibney to reimburse him £412 for sums unpaid to the Parish, and called Gibney patron of slander, a merciless and partial tyrant, a hyper-Irish bishop, and accused him of leaving him in Kojonup to attend a vast and poor district for eight years without support, while Gibney was speculating in tin-mining, making advances to congregations for schools and chapels, to board in hotels etc. Chmelíček wrote two letters to Salvado in 1897, and in his second one, dated 20 October, he requested Salvado to ask the Bishop to refund him for the time he had been servicing the district, and added that Gibney’s brother –Fr Patrick Gibney– and favourites received their shares while Chmelíček was left in the greatest misery. This correspondence has to be completed with the information contained in the replies sent to him by Salvado and the one that Gibney sent to Salvado on the matter. The most accurate work about Chmelíček is an article by M. Newbold published in The Western Australian Catholic Record, but it is somewhat eulogistic and, although it uses New Norcia correspondence, forgets to mention the insults that Chmelíček devoted to Gibney and the irate letter sent to Salvado. Letters from Nuns in Western Australia.

Members of the convents of Mercy in Guildford (St Mary’s) and Perth (St Brigid’s), Saint Joseph in Albany, and the convent of the Presentation in Geraldton addressed a small group of letters to New Norcia. Sister Mary Francis and Sister Mary Paul, both from the first mentioned convent, were the main contributors. This correspondence offers information regarding illnesses, deaths or trips made by some members of the community, and the sending of Aboriginal children to New Norcia. Among Sister Mary Evangelista’s letters, I would like to highlight one dated 21 July 1896 in which she commented on the results obtained from the trial given to Salvado’s recipe to improve their wine, and another dated 5 September 1898 mentioning her Golden Jubilee, which made of her the oldest nun in Australia, and the blessing sent to her by the Pope through Bishop Matthew Gibney. Sister Mary Paul’s letters are devoted to two mail subjects: her attempt to rear silkworms –an attempt quickly abandoned by lack of patience– and her more successful attempt to introduce and spread the Archconfraternity for the Release of the Abandoned Souls in Purgatory in Western Australia. Letters from Other Catholic Clergy and Religious.

This section contains a small miscellany of letters by people from other Orders working in Western Australia who wrote to request Salvado’s hospitality at New Norcia (Fr John, Fr Hennessy), to forward prospects (O’Brien) or seeds (T. Ryan), to ask for a lost horse (Phelan), to request the returning of a canonical private document (Fr O’Hanlon), and about the renting and use of New Norcia’s properties at Subiaco (J. L. Ryan). The most interesting letters are the two written by Fr P. J. McCormack, an Irish priest who had shown an erratic behaviour since his arrival in Australia in 1896, and ex-father M. John O’Driscoll, an Irish priest who had worked in NSW and Tasmania before moving into Western Australia in 1896, and was forced to work in the mines and take the clerical attire off.

2.2. Letters sent from New Norcia Members to Australia and Overseas

2.2.1. Letters from Abbot Rosendo Salvado

Most of Salvado’s correspondence was addressed to Abbot Coadjutor Domínguez, and it contained a detailed account of Salvado’s frantic work in Perth dealing with Government officials, lawyers, businessmen and banks. His correspondence is also a chronicle of the activities of the ecclesiastical authorities, the city, and of people met there, heard of there, or going to New Norcia from there. Salvado commented on anything that could be of interest for New Norcia, and gave precise instructions to Domínguez (or to some New Norcia brothers through him) about matters of importance. Salvado’s correspondence deals mostly with the searching for and sending of goods, materials and machinery to the Mission, and the building, renting and repairing of New Norcia’s houses in Perth. Salvado also commented on several business projects proposed to him regarding the use of some New Norcia’s properties in Subiaco and Guildford, on the paperwork done in favour of Aboriginal widows and invalids to get Government pensions, and the paperwork to get funds from the Chief Protector of Aborigines Office for the Aboriginal children kept at New Norcia.

Some affairs appeared and were resolved in specific years. In 1896 Salvado’s main worry was the process in Court with Thomas Bryan regarding the lease of the premises of his printing business, belonging to New Norcia. Salvado was trying to sell the property and Bryan stated that Salvado had verbally promised him to extend his lease for another five years at the end of the lease period (31 January 1897), in spite of the fact that Bryan had signed an agreement that did not mention it. These letters are noteworthy because Salvado not only mentioned the details about the case, but also those about the functioning of the judicial system, and the policies and approaches that some lawyers had regarding the case. Year 1897 was marked by the several operations performed on Br Odón Oltra and the stay of Br Agustín Cabané at the Perth Hospital.

Year 1898 was especially busy for Salvado and New Norcia’s lawyers. The most important case was the work done to prepare New Norcia’s application to be recognised as a charitable incorporated association, the only way to secure that the Government would not reclaim the properties of the Mission –under Salvado’s name– or would ask for onerous payments after his death. Besides, George McPherson of Carnamah was apparently retaining child Albert Cuper –son of Benedict Cuper and nephew of David Biggs, both New Norcia Aborigines– after the death of his mother, so New Norcia’s lawyers acted on behalf of the Aborigines and prepared the claim before the Court. Some original certificates and purpose-made documents were needed, so Salvado gave precise instructions on how to prepare, sign and send them back to Perth, but also on the problems that appeared after the misspelling of Cuper and Biggs’ surnames in the documentation. Another case arose against George Moffat when, after signing an agreement to cut sandalwood in Marah lands, he cheated on New Norcia by using third parties to avoid paying the full fees for the cutting and marketing of the whole wood cut. If this was not enough, E. McGillicuddy, New Norcia’s Real Estate agent, used the rents received from New Norcia houses’ rent for private matters, and Salvado had to put the case in his lawyer’s hands. Also in this year, the Government informed Salvado that the Police Station at New Norcia would be closed on 31 March 1899, after thirty eight years functioning.

The main event of year 1899 was the visit of Salvado with some representatives of the Victoria Plains to the Premier to beg him to keep New Norcia Police Station open, and a claim made by William Davidson, a water tank maker, for the full payment for the work done according to contract. Salvado left for Europe at the end of this year.

We have a considerable number of copies of letters sent by Salvado to Western Australian Government officers, settlers and businessmen, and people from other colonies. Most of them were short acknowledgements of sums or letters about the sale/lease of New Norcia’s properties, produce, horses and livestock. There are also some replies to people applying for jobs and offering themselves as postulants. The most numerous sets are those sent to merchant John Doscas on the sale of oranges and other New Norcia produce, and to James M. Hubbard in Guildford regarding the fencing of New Norcia’s property in that locality. A miscellany is formed by copies of job agreements, documents of transfer or sale of blocks of land, sketches, notes, and even the annual settlement of wages of New Norcia Aboriginal shearers, a voting paper for members of District Board of Education dated 24 November 1892, and a list of rents belonging to the Midland Railway Lands leased by New Norcia in 1894.

A small group of Salvado’s letters addressed to Fr Ildefonso Bertran in Marah station, and two that Salvado sent while in Sydney attending the Second Australian Plenary Synod in 1895 complete this section.

2.2.2. Letters from Abbot Coadjutor Domínguez

Fulgencio Domínguez’s correspondence gives the impression that he was Salvado’s agent and not his Abbot Coadjutor, because his work was mostly of a connector and transmitter of news and orders between Salvado and other members of the Mission, while his decisions were reduced to a minimum unless Salvado was overseas or interstate. Domínguez’s meticulous acknowledgement of the letters and news received and of anything of importance related to the Mission’s activities, people, and industries had a clear scope – to help Salvado to take decisions. Except for the details given about the illnesses of some brothers and the behaviour of some New Norcia Aborigines and workers, there is not much insight into the life of the community.

Nevertheless, a case provides information about both matters – a moment in which Domínguez took a decision by himself and described what the brothers were doing and talking about at New Norcia. The Court in Chambers regarding Thomas Bryan’s case had distressed Salvado, and he wrote to Domínguez on 21 September 1896 asking him to tell the community that the case was so entangled that it would be impossible to guess the result, and to start a non-public rogation for their success. After consulting with Fr Bernardo Martínez, Domínguez decided not to do so, and wrote Salvado on 23 September explaining that this would have created a commotion among the community because there were some individuals in the community whose hearts did not belong to the Mission, so they would deform Salvado’s words; on the other hand, if they made rogations, even in secrecy, the Doctor, the Clunes –and with them the rest of the Colony– would know the news within twenty four hours. On the 2nd October Domínguez added, “This week has run here the news (started at the stables) that Y. L. has to pay £50 for each day that a Court in Chambers is held, and that at the end Y. L. will have to pay all the costs because Thomas Bryan is a poor man and has nothing with which to pay. Every week new items of news appear about the case, and all of these come always from the Doctor, who certainly is in correspondence with somebody there [Perth]. The truth is that the huddles in the stables and the kitchen talk a lot about this case (…) but nobody really knows what the truth is.” The sentence was pronounced against Bryan, so Domínguez wrote Salvado on 16 October saying that he had not said a word to anybody except to Fr Martínez because he wanted to see if the Doctor would spread the good news at the stable as quick as he had spread the ones against Salvado and in Bryan’s support.

Domínguez’s letters contained complementary information to that provided by Salvado. For example, Domínguez gave the details about Benedict Cuper’s son, who was not with the Macphersons, but living with the “non-civilised” Aborigines of the area. Benedict, Charles Cope, accompanied by Donald Macpherson on a horse, had to walk more than eight miles to pick the child up; Benedict had told Domínguez that the Carnamah Aborigines had insinuated to him that when the Aborigine claiming to be the father of the child left prison he would take revenge on him. Extra details about the removal of the Police Station, the sale of horses to the Police Department, and the sale of oranges and pigs to some Perth merchants are also provided. Relevant are the items of news regarding Dr Howard, an unlicensed doctor working at New Norcia as doctor and teacher, and the good results obtained by two New Norcia Aborigines in a Ploughing Match held on 27 August 1896. Domínguez also wrote a very small number of business letters to Western Australian settlers.

2.2.3. Letters Written by Other Mission Brothers

Brothers Veremundo Cerverò, Florentino Gasulla and Froilán Miró wrote to Salvado, via Domínguez, requesting the purchase of some goods, while Br Ramiro Landaluce’s letters addressed to settlers and merchants dealt mostly with the horse business. I include here a form with questions for the voter in the Moore District signed by Br Lorenzo Pallejá possibly in October 1898, and a letter sent by Br Romualdo Sala to his nephew-in-law Juan Alou. The letters that Father Ildefonso Bertran sent to Salvado from New Norcia are very similar to Domínguez’s; they were written in 1899 while Domínguez was in Perth to visit Salvado before his departure for Europe.

2.2.4. Letters from New Norcia Brothers Working in Other Stations

Brother Agatón Elguezabal and Father Bertran from Marah, and Br Anastasio Ochoa and Br Beda Rodríguez from Wyening generated some correspondence describing the state of the flocks, the water reserves, and the movement of some workers in their stations. Noteworthy are the comments by Br Rodriguez about the personal confrontation between George Simcox, New Norcia’s shepherd at Wyening, and settler John Philips at the end of April 1895, after Simcox killed some of Philip’s pigs that were giving trouble to the station’s troughs and well. Three out of four letters by Fr Bertran had to do with George Moffat’s breach of contract.




The so called Eastern Colonies provided a reduced number of letters in these years, mostly arriving from clergy, although there are letters written by Salvado’s acquaintances, business people, and Government officials. New South Wales was the main contributor, followed by Victoria, South Australia and Queensland. Despite their number, the information is noteworthy.

 The most interesting letters written by ecclesiastical authorities are those by the Bishop of Port Augusta, John O’Reily; among other matters, he mentioned the financial state of the Diocese and gave some details about the progressive physical sinking of the Archbishop of Adelaide, Christopher Augustine Reynolds. Fr Frederick Byrne commented on the state of Adelaide Diocese, of which he had become the Diocesan Administrator after the death of Archbishop Reynolds. Fr Denis O’Haran from Sydney forwarded several documents, the most important being the one written by a Spanish judge about the case against impostor Salvador Casella.

More than twenty-three per cent of the letters deal –directly or indirectly– with individuals who wanted to join New Norcia: Arthur Shaw from Queensland, Hugh Alfred Coleman and John Tremayne from Victoria, Thomas Kinahan, Martin Walsh and Fr M. J. Callery (as mentioned by Bishop Byrne and Archdeacon Higgins) from New South Wales. These letters detail the background of the postulants regarding origin, education, skills, age, personal characteristics, and the reasons why they wanted to join the Mission.

The correspondence arriving from Australian colonial Governments’ departments is also worth mentioning. We have a report on a Western Australian plant, the Isotropis Juncea Turcz, on its supposedly poisonous qualities for sheep and cattle. Even more interesting are the two letters that D. C. McLachlan –Under Secretary of the Department of Mines and Agriculture of NSW– wrote to Salvado; in the first one, dated 13 May 1899, he requested Salvado to furnish them with samples of macaroni and wheats from which they were made because: “This Department is desirous of testing the suitability of macaroni wheats in this colony, and (…) Mr John W. James of “Tanasari”, Blakehurst, N.S.W., has brought under our notice the success you have attained in the cultivation of these wheats and the manufacture of macaroni.” Salvado sent a box through the WA Bureau of Agriculture and McLachlan wrote again thanking Salvado on 4 August 1899.

Three letters of recommendation were written to Salvado in favour of people willing to immigrate and work in Western Australia – D. Todd (Trawalla Station, Victoria, 1892) and A. E. Officer (Karnak, Victoria, 1894) wrote in favour of James Davies, while Sister Mary Elizabeth, a Poor Clare from Sydney, wrote in 1895 describing the difficult situation of 18-year-old Mr Thomas and asked Salvado if Western Australia was a colony where he would get on. On the other hand, Prioress Mary Walburge wrote in 1894 an introductory letter for Henry Richards, a “native” historian (possibly Indian) interested in Aborigines. Finally, R. V. Bland, one of the first people to settle in Western Australia (York District), who had left for Victoria in the 1850s, wrote to Salvado in 1891 mentioning his regret at leaving Western Australia and the interest he had always had about the welfare of the Aborigines. Finally, this correspondence also contains a miscellany of letters and subjects.



In the period under examination, Spain was still the country from where most of the overseas letters arrived, followed by Italy, France and the United Kingdom, although New Norcia Archive keeps letters from many other countries.

4.1. Letters from Spain

4.1.1. Letters from the Convent of San Plácido (Madrid)

This section is formed by the correspondence generated by some members of this Benedictine community (two Abbesses and four sisters), and one of its confessors. The different voices of these people draw a multifaceted picture of the internal life of the convent, of the material and spiritual problems that the community faced daily, but also of the personal worries and thoughts of some of its members. All of them have one thing in common – they asked Rosendo Salvado for advice about how to carry out their duties.

Abbess Asunción De San Vicente was in the Abbacy before and after Abbess Oller (from January 1893 until March 1897), but her letters are scarce and not especially interesting. On the contrary, Abbess María Montserrat De Santa Ida Oller wrote long letters to Salvado asking for advice, support and mentorship to resolve some problems of the convent. Four main subjects worried the Abbess. Her first worry was her lack of temperament and the difficulty she had in dealing with the factions within the community, especially with some whimsical and aggressive nuns. Oller’s second worry was the effects that the establishment of a suburban parish in the convent’s church had on the communal life, forcing them to re-schedule the choir prayers –around which the life of any enclosed convent revolves– and bringing many parishioners inside the church with the consequent noise and lack of peace. The Abbess’s third main worry was the pitiful and ruinous state of the building in which the nuns were living, the inconvenience of its location in the city centre, and the need to sell it and build a new one in a quieter area where they should move to; Oller commented widely on the steps taken to do so and the problems she faced. A fourth worry was related to the relaxation of the Discipline among the community, partially explained by the intrusion of the parish in the convent, by the layout and deficiencies of the conventual space which did not allow the nuns to keep isolated and silent, and by the Abbess’s belief that the extremely long fasting periods should be relaxed because they weakened the nuns and frightened any possible postulant.

Sister María Isidra De San Mauro and Sister María Gertrudis De San Luis Gonzaga’s letters were very intimate, a mix of confession and request for advice about how to comply with their religious duties, improve their behaviour within the community, and learn the manner to reach Perfection and Sanctity. The reader sneaks a close look at the nuns’ personal suffering and anxieties, their most intimate faults, sins and temptations, but also at the community’s life, with their tensions, internal conflicts, alliances, enmities, and their social differences. Sister Filomena Francisca De La Virgen De Montserrat used to write to Santos Salvado once a year, usually to congratulate him on Christmas or his Patron Day.

Filomena, Gertrudis and especially Isidra had a main source of complaint in these years – the spiritual isolation of San Plácido’s community –which explains why the last two asked Salvado for his spiritual direction–, the lack of a permanent confessor and that most of the confessors assigned to the convent were not regulars but secular priests, a fact that upset them because they were convinced that they did not understand what monastic life was and did not give them proper advice. These letters are full of vivid and colourful stories about the life in community.

The few but long letters by the confessor of the community, Fr Isidoro García, contain an outsider’s diagnosis of San Plácido’s internal problems, especially about the relaxation of the monastic Discipline. His comments were especially harsh with old Abbess Asunción during her second term in the Abbacy, whom he accused of ruling the convent on the wrong principles (age and not wisdom) and of setting the wrong example, which inevitably led to the overturn of the natural order of things between superiors and nuns, novices and professed sisters.

San Plácido’s correspondence shows the specific long-term effects that the exclaustration, first, and the liberal policies against religious associations, then, had on the disintegration of the Benedictine network of monasteries in Spain, and the difficulties that this situation had on the surviving female communities – without the support of their Benedictine congregations and other monastic brothers and nuns, they depended on the ecclesiastical authorities, who did not always understand their problems or support their projects. Salvado, despite being so far away, became their point of reference for practical guidance.

4.1.2. Correspondence from the Abbey of Montserrat (Catalonia)

José Deás
is the main contributor in this section. Beyond the usual and detailed news he gave about the community (its members, buildings, and the children’s choir), Deás commented on matters directly related to Salvado – the arrival and forwarding of some donations made for New Norcia, and the help in procuring some goods (fabric mostly) for the Mission. The arrival of the zip train at the monastery in 1894 and the consequences it had in the tourist development of the monastic complex are also mentioned. However, Deás’ most appealing letters are those related to the settlement of the Benedictines in the Philippines, which detail the internal pressures against the project, but also the process of preparation and final expedition. The rest of the documents are compositions in prose and verse in different languages written by several Montserrat brothers and presented during a literary and musical function held in honour of Salvado at Montserrat on 21 October 1900.

4.1.3. Letters by New Norcia Brothers’ Relatives Letters from Santos Salvado.
Santos Salvado only wrote 87 letters in this period, a much small number than in previous years, due to his death on 17 April 1894. Santos’ correspondence is a meticulous portrait of a retired priest in his 80s whose life revolved around New Norcia news and whose work as New Norcia’s agent was still fruitful for the Mission. Santos’ direct-style open-hearted letters are a pleasure to read and extremely detailed about everything. During these years four main subjects populated Santos’ correspondence. The main worry of Salvado was his health. Year 1891 was especially bad, but these years were those of Santos’s physical deterioration – besides blindness and severe gastric problems, he suffered from many ailments related to age and the weather, whose symptoms, medication and diet he described. Santos was an apprehensive and nervous person, so when he was sick his letters reflected his prostration, stress and low spirits; the isolation from his family and the decrease of his social life made him write to Salvado as a therapy to forget his miseries. A second matter occupied his correspondence – the lease and then sale of the family house in Tuy, and the sale of Santos’ rural properties. In the third place, Santos updated periodically the information about the state of his accounts regarding savings, money owed to him, properties shared by the Salvados, and New Norcia’s account, especially after the redaction of his new will in 1892. Finally, Santos made periodic comments regarding the exchange rates between Spain, England and France due to his wish to send New Norcia’s money to Salvado before passing away; the rates were so high that Santos died without doing so. Regarding New Norcia matters, Santos finally gave thumbs up to the sericulture project in the Mission and was happy to know that Salvado was trying to promote the wine industry, which, due to his brother’s opposition, he had unsuccessfully tried to advance while at New Norcia. Letters from Relatives from other New Norcia Brothers.

The bulk of this section is formed by the correspondence sent by Salvado’s nephews and nieces (the Roteas, Comesañas, Salgados, Troncosos and Viliatos); Ignacio Comesaña and Pegerto Martínez Milán –a distant relative– were the mos devoted writers. A small amount of letters from relatives of Br Romualdo Sala, Br Anselmo Palou, Br Gerardo Gómez and Br Florentino Gasulla is also available.

4.1.4. Letters by New Norcia’s Friends in Spain

The number of letters arriving from friends and acquaintances of Rosendo Salvado and Santos Salvado in Spain are scarcer than in previous periods. Among the clergy, Fr Espinosa Junquito and Fr Isidoro De Lope were the most prolific writers, although we have letters from members of the convent of San Daniel in Gerona, Las Huelgas in Burgos, and Santo Domingo de Silos near Burgos. Old lay Galician and Catalan friends were still writing in these years, joined by people who had helped Salvado with the search for postulants in the past or who, despite not having a direct friendship, loved New Norcia history and Salvado’s work. Most of these letters were written just to say hello, to congratulate Salvado on Christmas, New Year or on the 1st of March, and to ask for news or give theirs. I also include here some letters addressed to Santos Salvado (García Rivera, Rodríguez Benavides) on personal and business matters. I would like to put into the spotlight De Lope, De Oar, and Abbess Albert’s letters, all of them particularly attractive.

Father Isidoro De Lope’s correspondence focused on three main aspects of his life. Firstly, the precariousness of his situation, because despite his age he did not get a permanent position until 1899, when he became Las Huelgas’ chaplain; his comments are of interest because he mentioned the policies of Burgos diocesan authorities to grant or support some positions. Secondly, De Lope commented on his work recruiting postulants, mainly for the newly born Hispano-American Republics and for new Orders recently settled in Spain. Thirdly, De Lope mentioned his intellectual work as a translator of religious books, which he then sent to New Norcia. Regarding New Norcia, De Lope passed Salvado some important news gathered after Fr Rueda –a Montserrat member– made a visit to his place in 1892:



The two letters written by José Antonio De Oar help to understand the process of gathering postulants for New Norcia in the Basque Country. On 1 January 1872, in a letter misplaced with these years’, De Oar told Salvado that, after being informed that the postulants waiting to join New Norcia had not been accepted, he had not told them so, but that the date of departure was unknown, so they lost hope and changed their minds, the result being that thirty young Biscayans left for the Philippines, Peru, and other countries to join the Franciscans. De Oar wrote again on 3 April 1891 asking for news about the postulants he had recruited in 1868 and 1869, and requested Salvado to tell the brothers to write to their families so that they would not keep asking De Oar, because many of the brothers had not sent any news in years. Then, De Oar requested Salvado to send him a donation: “For the sending of those youngsters in year 1868 and 1869 both in the many trips I did and for clothing them and giving them what they needed for the journey: To [Br Basilio] Asla 600 Reales, to José [Br Adeodato] Zavala only in money 900 Reales, to Orve [Br Suizberto Orbe] 600; plus I gave them lodging for many days and I spent about 2,000 Reales, (…) in making 25 mattresses for the 25 who went (…) I confess I received 50 Duros in 1881 for [the payment of] the steamer [fare] for Cardiff; at that time I was a skilled mason and I had money, and never thought that I would reach this age and that I would be an invalid as I am, so I spent without hesitation, only on  that Mission, more than 8,000 Reales”.

Abbess Albert wrote in 1895 from San Daniel requesting Salvado’s opinion about a series of miraculous events involving Br Leandro Tomás that she did not want to believe without checking first with Salvado. Br Leandro had written to his niece Carmen –a sister of the convent– telling her that he knew that Prioress Francisca Geremen had died because her soul had visited him after her death. Br Leandro had told his brother –Br Esteban Tomás– what happened and requested him not to say anything until they would receive the letter with the news; however, Br Leandro wrote down the date of the apparition to check later if she had died on the same day that she had visited him. Br Leandro told his niece that the Prioress was not going to heaven because her soul was in a dark place, so he had tried to soften her suffering by praying day and night for her. Fifteen days later, Br Leandro had had a dream in which he was walking across a forest and the Prioress had called him, he had turned his head and had seen her very happy, and then she disappeared; Br Leandro understood that she was going to heaven and stopped praying for her. Salvado answered by stating that these were only dreams and that they should continue the prayers for the soul of the deceased. However, Salvado did not confirm or deny if the date of the apparition and the date of the death of the Prioress were the same…

 4.1.5. Letters about Finances

Two main sets of letters form this section. The first set is formed by the letters sent from José Pino to Santos Salvado about the sale of some of his rural properties and perpetual revenues, and the management of the house that the Salvados had in Tuy. The second set is mostly devoted to the management of Santos’ last will. Nicolás Salgado and Bernardo Alonso Martínez were Santos’ executors and their letters to Rosendo Salvado gave an account of the money received and the expenses generated by Santos’ death, burial, legal paperwork, payment of taxes, repairs to the house in Tuy, certificates, etc. After the death of Nicolás Salgado on 18 May 1895, Bernardo Alonso became the depositary of New Norcia’s money and New Norcia’s agent in Spain. Alonso’s periodical letters detailed the state of New Norcia’s account with the mention of deposits and withdrawals, and commented on different orders from Spanish manufacturers made through him. I include here some letters acknowledging the receipt of some objects that Santos had bequeathed them with (Bastos, González Sobrino, D. Pérez).

4.1.6. Miscellanea

The most noteworthy letters in this miscellany are those related to the trial held in Ávila in 1894 against Salvador Casella, an Italian impostor who had been travelling in Europe collecting donations supposedly for the Mission; additional information can be gathered about this case from some letters from Bérengier in Marseilles and O’Haran in Sydney and the one written by the Secretary of the Queen Regent of Spain (Duke of Tetuán) on 27 November 1896 acknowledging a letter from Salvado proposing the appointment of Timothy Francis Quinlan as Honorary Consul or Vice-Consul of Spain in Perth.

4.2. Letters from Italy

Most of the Italian correspondence arriving in these years came from lay people and not from clergy as happened in the previous period. The writers were Salvado’s old friends – The Regnolis, and the Benedictines from San Paolo and La Cava.

4.2.1. Letters from the Regnoli’s

The Regnolis’ correspondence is a reflection of the veneration they felt towards Salvado, but also of the spiritual and mundane problems that troubled them in the last years of the 19th century. The main family events in this period were Malvina’s heath problems –especially severe in 1893 and 1894–, the death of Oreste Regnoli in 1896, and the progressive weakening and death of Pietro (Pierino) Regnoli on 31 March 1899.

Malvina’s long, chatty, and sometime cheeky letters were an update of the state of her family and common friends (especially the nuns of Santa Caterina and Santa Cecilia). Malvina’s letters portray her blind faith in the success of New Norcia and Salvado in any enterprise against any trouble, and her obsession with Death.

Emilia Regnoli’s concision –her letters were just an addition to what Malvina or Pietro had written– was compensated by a deep affection for Salvado, whom she considered her second father, her guardian angel, and the person who knew her best. Emilia’s letters in these years show a progressive detachment from the material world and the deepening of her religious feelings. A letter, misplaced with this period’s correspondence, was written in the 1860s, while Emilia was still a child, on the 2nd anniversary of her First Communion.

Pietro Regnoli’s short letters deal mostly with his family and the latest news from Italy and Spain (the War of Cuba especially). Child Carolina Lupacchioli –Malvina’s granddaughter– wrote a note in 1895 requesting Salvado’s blessing and mentioning her wish to meet him personally.

4.2.2. Letters from Clergy

Abbot Zelli (1892) and his successor Abbot Oslaënder (1896) wrote from the monastery of San Paolo in Rome informing of the forwarding of a donation for New Norcia made by the Missionary Society of St Ludwig in Bavaria. Br Gianfrancesco Bracco’s letter dated 1892 is much more personal, with memories of the stay of Salvado at San Paolo, the mementos Bracco kept, and details about the community.

Abbot Morcaldi from La Trinità di Cava dei Tirreni commented in 1893 on the celebrations  held at the Abbey for the centenary of the consecration of their Basilica by Blessed Urbano II, and about the inauguration of the new College of S. Anselmo in Rome. Prior De Stefano, in the same year, mentioned the flourishing of La Cava under Morcaldi’s direction and gave details about each member of the community known to Salvado. Br Gaetano Foressio delighted at remembering the time shared with Salvado and talked at length about his book on the coins from the Salerno Mints that he sent to New Norcia; Foressio, a monk of La Cava, had been forced to leave the Abbey because of a decision of the Italian Revolutionary Government, and since then he had been in charge of the convent of S. Domenico Di Dragonea (Vietri) and keeping a free evening school for the district peasants, but he was trying to reincorporate into La Cava in 1894.

Prioress María Luigia Santucci wrote on 25 January 1895 from the monastery of Santa Caterina in Rome via the Regnolis greeting Salvado and requesting his practical advice about how to direct the community in a period marked by their extreme poverty and the lack of vocations; she also requested Salvado’s prayers for her guiding the nuns well and setting an example.

Other ecclesiastical people, not directly known to Salvado, also wrote in these years. Fr Bede Camm, from the monastery of St Thomas the Martyr at Erdington (England), wrote an interesting letter from the College of San Anselmo in 1895 about Venerable martyr John Roberts, whose biography he was writing. Camm’s request was related to a relic of the saint that had been sent from England to the monastery of San Martín in Santiago de Compostela –the saint’s monastic house– after his martyrdom; Camm thought that Salvado, being the last professed monk of San Martín, would have the relic and requested him to donate it to St Thomas. Abbess María Teresa Laureti, from the convent of S. Agata in Spoleto (Italy), wrote in 1896 to ask for charity and described the extreme poverty of the community.

4.2.3. Miscellanea

I include here a long letter from Giusepppe Cupidi dated 1895 requesting Salvado to recommend him to Salvado’s acquaintances in the Vatican to get some position at the Holy See, and an extract of the Civiltà Cattolica’s book catalogue for sale in 1898.

4.3. Letters from the UK

Although we have an important number of letters from the United Kingdom, the majority of them were business related. The biggest set contains Manning & Co.’s accounts of New Norcia wool sold in London between years 1867 and 1890.

 James Z. Meaglen wrote in 1893 to request Salvado’s support of his newly established publishing house, which would print ecclesiastical works to help the diffusion of Catholicism, by writing some lines in its favour. E. Shorthouse, a collector of Australian books, wrote in 1897 requesting Salvado to send him a copy of his Memoirs, and recalled nostalgically some anecdotes and people met on the Northam during their trip to England in August 1864.

 Only two letters arrived from clergy. The Benedictine Fr Marius Férotin, wrote in 1897 about the foundation of St Michael of Farnborough (Solesmes Congregation), described the site, and offered hospitality to Salvado in his next visit to Europe. Fr José Domingo De Jesús Crucificado, Provincial of the convent of Discalced Carmelites in London, wrote in 1894 an introductory letter for Charles A. O’Leary, a man who wanted to settle in Western Australia and wished to have Salvado’s advice.

4.4. Letters from France

A) The majority of French correspondence is formed by letters sent from the Abbey of Sainte Marie Magdeleine in Marseilles (current monastery of Ganagobie), especially from Fr Théophile Bérengier. Bérengier continued with his work as New Norcia’s agent in France, so his letters were mainly devoted to the management of New Norcia’s account. In these years Bérengier was enthusiastic about New Norcia’s new industry, sericulture, and hoped that it would became another source of revenue for the Mission, so he happily acted as a courier between Rosendo Salvado and Merchant Giry exchanging information on the matter. Bérengier always mentioned how the community of La Magdeleine was doing, and although the monastery was slowly re-flourishing, Bérengier never lost his fear that the Government would force them to flee the monastery once more. Bérengier commented on important visits paid to the monastery and wrote about the Solesmes Congregation.

These years were the ones of the progressive mental deterioration of Bérengier, a fact that explains the decrease in number of his correspondence. A letter by Abbot Gauthey dated 24 March 1897 mentioned that Bérengier had lost his memory and easily confounded dates and other things, so the Abbot was forced to keep a watch on his letters. The two letters that Fr Ch. Rigault wrote on 1 August and 29 September 1897 also mentioned that Bérengier had aged in a short time and seemed another person altogether, and he gave examples of some of his mistakes.

The four letters that arrived from the Abbey of Cluny are all related to the case of Fr Placide Démoulin, a Benedictine from the Cluny Congregation who wanted to join New Norcia, belonging to the Cassinese Congregation) in 1897. Prior Major Mayeul Lamey –Superior of the Cluny Congregation– sent Démoulin his testimonial letter and a letter with instructions on how to proceed before receiving full authorisation to leave for New Norcia. Démoulin’s letter to Salvado from the Monastery of Pont-Colbert (Versailles) only mentioned that he wanted to join New Norcia to fulfil his apostolic vocation; however, letters from other people gave hints of what was his real situation and why he wanted to leave Cluny. Gauthey, in the above mentioned letter, commented on Démoulin’s case and the trouble created within the Cluny Congregation by the modifications that Prior Lamey had introduced in the Liturgy and in the habit. Further details can be found in the letters sent from Hildebrand De Hemptinne (Abbot Primate of the Benedictine Order and Abbot of Maredsous, Belgium), with off-the-record comments about the restoration of Cluny.

B) Two lay people wrote from France in this period. The first one was Hippolyte Giry, a Marseilles Catholic merchant who helped Salvado, out of goodwill, with two of the industries that New Norcia was trying to develop – sericulture and wine making. The second lay person writing from France was actually an English Catholic lady holidaying in that country, Fanny Langdale, who in 1896 requested Salvado’s advice regarding whether to send her brother to Australia to work in agriculture, and if it would be possible for him to work at New Norcia.

4.5. Letters from Other Countries

Beyond the countries already mentioned, New Norcia received correspondence from the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Belgium, Ireland, Portugal, The Vatican, and Palestine, and from the ports of Aden and Suez.

The majority of the letters that arrived from the USA were related to the request for help launched by the Benedictines of Mt Angel (Marion, Co. Oregon) after a fire destroyed most of their monastic complex on 3 May 1892.

Fr William J. Keul, a priest of the Diocese of St Paul in Minnesota (USA), wrote from Canada on 1 January 1893 expressing his wish to join New Norcia; the testimonial letter written by the Diocesan bishop John Ireland, dated 4 August 1892, mentioned the reasons why Keul was in Canada.

Noteworthy is the letter that William L. Downing from Charleston (South Carolina) addressed to Salvado in June 1891 asking for information about his aunt, Mrs Nora Lee Dwyer, who had immigrated into the USA and then to Australia and had not sent any news since 1863, after moving to Victoria.

Four of the five letters from Sri Lanka are related to a proposal of export of New Norcia horses to that country, and the remaining one informed about the sending of tea seeds to New Norcia. The five letters from New Zealand dealt with a mix of subjects, while I have already mentioned the letters that arrived from Belgium (from Abbot De Hemptinne).

Only two letters arrived from Ireland in these years: One from Sister Malone, Superior of the Mater Infirmorum Hospital in Belfast, dated 16 May 1891, asking Salvado to collect money for this institution, and another from ex-Reverend John Pidcock dated 12 July 1892 telling Fr Bernardo Martínez about his noviciate as a Jesuit and his studies of Theology.

I include here three letters that Salvado wrote on board the Prinz Regent Luitpold on his journey to Europe in 1899 in which he gave details about his trip from Albany to Naples, and single letters on different subjects sent from Portugal (De Carvallos), from the Institute Ratisbonne in Jerusalem, and a letter from Pius IX addressed to the Marist Fathers in France.




New Norcia correspondence for the 1890s provides the researcher with an astonishing volume of documentation related to the Benedictine community, but also with an alluring insight into life in the Gold Rush period in Western Australia. In the first place, it offers precious biographical data from or about some individuals arriving, settling and/or leaving the colony whose lives have left no traces (or have left biased ones) in other historical archives. Many of them are absent from our written historical memory as if they had never existed, felt or worked, as if they had never contributed to the construction of Western Australia. Salvado and Domínguez seemed to be the kind of people easy to talk to and some people opened their hearts and told them their stories in a natural and simple style, showing their joy, resignation, distress or grief; Salvado also attracted the ire of some other people who, eager to show their annoyance, left their self to be captured in an almost-photographic portrait. On the other hand, New Norcia attracted proposals of work, settlement, retirement, and postulancy both as monastic settlement and agricultural station. Women and men, Irish, Filipinos, Malays, Chinese, Chileans, Irish, English, French, Italians, Czechs, Spaniards, Aborigines, ex-brothers and ex-fathers, literate and illiterate, low and middle class, mad and sound, drunkards and many others left written testimonial of their existence in New Norcia Archive.

The letters generated by workers and semi-illiterate people, although small in number and providing fragmented and isolated information, are a gem for genealogists and lexicographers and for those interested in Rural History.

New Norcia’s documentation offers invaluable resources for those interested in Religious History, but not in the obvious way. There are, clearly, mountains of data regarding the life and work of New Norcia community, but also a considerable amount of information about the work of ecclesiastical institutions (Diocesan authorities, parish priests, Catholic Orders working in Western Australia) and about the way in which Catholics related to their Church and Religion. If we focus on the institutional part, I would like to highlight Gibney’s comments on the involvement of the Catholic Church in colonial Politics, interesting because they voice his passions and beliefs in a private way. More precious are the voices of disagreement and critique that some parish priests showed towards Gibney in their letters to Salvado. The off-the-record insight given by Frs Mateu, Chmelíček, Lecaille and Bourke’s letters about Gibney’s rule cannot be ignored when re-writing some episodes of the history of the Catholic Church in Western Australia since they draw a different image of Gibney’s approach to his diocesan problems. These voices might be the exception or might not be, but they are a testimonial of people who were agents of the Church and not their rulers.

If we focus on the way in which Catholics related to the Church and their Religion, letters like Mortimer’s serve to endorse the importance that keeping one’s spirituality alive had for Catholics living alone and/or in isolated parts of the State. On the other hand, the many letters from people asking Salvado for help or confiding to him their personal problems –beyond their value for Social History– show that Church was also an integral part of the life or many working- class people who saw Salvado and the Church as providers of charity and as possibly able to psychologically relieve their anguishes and daily worries.

The steady flow of postulancy proposals and “wandering priests” towards New Norcia –especially relevant in the 1890s– has to be explained. The questions of who they were and why they were willing to come are as important for the history of New Norcia as for the history of spirituality and Catholicism in Colonial Australia. They are important for New Norcia History because they serve to draw the world map where New Norcia was known and to re-compose the image of New Norcia prevailing in those areas: Was that knowledge a reflection of New Norcia reality? Did the postulants have specific preconceptions about what New Norcia Mission was? How had they learnt about New Norcia? These documents are also important for the history of spirituality in Australia because they show the relation existing between economic growth, migration and a monastic revival at the end of the 19th century: Why were so many people interested in joining New Norcia just in these years? What was the spiritual and religious background of those people? From which areas were they coming? From which social backgrounds? What was the personal situation of the applicants? Did they have anything in common? Were they accepted? All of these questions, and many more, can be answered just by taking a tiny step – leaving behind your preconceptions about New Norcia’s documentation.

   Revisado - Updated: 05/08/2009