Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Hazrat Inayat Khan: The Mysticism of Sound and Music (1)

On Tuesday the 16th of October, Susan Southall gave a presentation to the Spiritual Reading Group on the life and work of the Sufi writer and musician Hazrat Inayat Khan (1882-1927). Here is her paper, while in a separate post you will find the quotes from his book ‘The Mysticism of Sound and Music’ (Shambhala, 1996) used by the Group for discussion.

Hazrat Inayat Khan was born in 1882 in Baroda, then a princely state in what is now Gujarat, India. He came from a family that was intensely musical. His father descended from an ancient family of feudal landowners who were Sufi saints, poets, and musicians. His mother was the daughter of Sholay Khan Maulabakhsh, one of India’s greatest musicians at that time, who travelled throughout India and was given princely rank by the Maharajah of Mysore. 

Their home in Baroda was the centre of an extended family that contributed so significantly to musical culture in Baroda that it brought together not only Muslim, but Brahmin and Parsi families as well: this intellectual development was important to Inayat Khan in his exposure to different religious traditions.

            Inayat Khan was what is known today as a gifted child. His musical skill was so advanced that before the age of twenty he became a full professor at the Gayanshala academy of music founded by his grandfather in 1886 (now the Baroda University Faculty of Music). He had written his first book on music at the age of fourteen, and at age nine, he sang a famous Sanskrit hymn at a court ceremony, winning a reward from the Maharajah for his performance.

            The title Hazrat is an Arabic honorific used in India for high officials, royalty, and clergy. Literally ‘Presence’ it corresponds to ‘Your Honour’, ‘Your Excellency’, ‘Your Majesty’ or ‘Your Holiness’. The 25 Prophets of the Koran, such Muhamad, Jesus, Moses and so on, may be described by their names as Hazrat Moses, for example. Hazrat Inayat Khan has a princely background and is also a religious teacher. Imams may be addressed as Hazrat. He may be understood as not so much elite as superior: he comes from a high level of society and he has added to this by his personal accomplishments and qualities.

            His personality as a child was lively and intelligent, but he was also marked by deep reflection and questioning about God, nature, truth and morality. The tragedy of family deaths marked his youth: he lost his grandfather — the famous musician Maulabakhsh — his younger brother, and his beloved mother all before he was twenty. Thereupon Inayat Khan began to travel. 

            The life of famous musicians, even today, is often marked by travel. Inayat Khan began by going to Madras and Mysore, places where his grandfather had won fame, and had success there, returning home as a poet, publishing then a book of his poems in various Indian languages. He soon took his grandfather’s style of music to the centre of Moghul traditional culture, Hyderabad, where he moved in musical circles and wrote his final book on music, explaining his grandfather’s musical style for Urdu readers.

He was introduced at the court of His Exalted Highness Nizam Mahbub Ali Khan. When the ruler of Hyderabad asked about his music, Inayat Khan replied that his music is his religion, because sound is mysterious, and knowledge of sound through music reveals the secrets of the universe. His thought is music, his feeling is music, his emotion creates beauty which leads to ‘the harmony which unites souls in God.’

In Hyderabad, he met his teacher of Arabic and Persian literature, Maulana Hashimi, who saw in him a mystic developing into a Sufi Pir, a religious master. In the Sufi tradition, a spiritual guide or Murshid is required to bring a disciple to initiation into the mystical order as a follower of the Sufi path to God. For Inayat Khan, the Murshid he met in Hyderabad, Syed Muhammad Hashim Madani, although an Arab by background, came of the specifically Indian order of Chishtiyya Sufis. As with Rumi and his beloved guide and mentor Shams of Tabriz, the relationship of teacher and disciple was devoted and close. The ideal in Sufi teaching is for rapturous study of God through the Murshid, and the songs and poems Inayat Khan wrote in honour of his master testify to ‘the joy and exaltation’ he felt through this relationship until his mentor died in 1908.[i]
According to Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan, “Just before Hazrat Sayyid Abu Hashim Madani died … he directed Pir-O-Murshid Inayat Khan, his successor, to go to the West and attune the hearts of the people to the music of the soul. At that time my father was a renowned Indian musician; he gave up a career in music for the sake of the work he had been given to found the Sufi Order in the West.”[ii]

Inayat Khan then left Hyderabad and travelled throughout India, Ceylon and Rangoon, concentrating on perfecting his music and developing the process of the spiritual life, described as annihilation of the ego and resurrection to finding ‘the essence of being’. In 1910, he left the feudal life of India for the United States, accompanied by his brothers and cousins who were his disciples already.

His life as a Sufi in the West was then unusual. In 1912 he travelled widely in Europe and Russia, giving concerts of Indian music and lecturing; he also married an American, Ora Ray Baker (Amina Begum) and the couple eventually had four children. They settled in France, but lived in London throughout World War I, from 1914-1920.  It was in London that the Sufi Order was arranged, having a headquarters there where initiates could be trained and lectures, courses, and concerts were given. By this time there were national branches in various countries: in 1920 the headquarters moved to Geneva, while the family moved back to France and lived near Paris.[iii]

Of his four children, his two sons became heads of the Sufi Order in their turn, while one of his daughters, Noor-un-Nisa Inayat Khan, was a heroine of the French Resistance in WWII. As a British agent, she was a wireless operator in France when she was captured, interrogated by the Gestapo, tortured and executed in Dachau, without giving information to the Germans. She was posthumously awarded the George Cross. [iv] The role of a woman in Mughal nobility was ‘to live her religious faith, and to live and represent, and so perpetuate, her ancestral standards and values’[v] so therefore ‘one could never take a great lady’s name in any personal sense’, as ‘discussing women, and especially high-born ladies, with others, was disrespectful and so, offensive … Divulging one’s actual name, rather than one’s alias, degree or title for public purposes was shocking, breaching accepted conventions. . Even the deliberate shortening of names out of reverence, although grammatically faulty — such as Inayat Khan for Inayat Allah Khan — contained something of that dissimulation of the “real” name’ (even for men). So, the book published about Noorunnisa under the title of her code-name Madeline caused problems for the family. His other daughter Khair-un-Nisa is not written about so and has fulfilled the tradition of Mughal women remaining obscure.

Inayat Khan worked intensively as teacher, lecturer, performer and administrator of the Sufi Order, until his death in 1927 on a return visit to India, where he had visited the most famous Sufi shrine, the tomb of Khwaja Mu’inuddin Chishti, with its serene atmosphere and sacred music. He caught a fatal chill in this place, and died at Delhi 0n 5th February, 1927.[vi]

 The beginning of the 20th century brought movements in art, religion, music and philosophy that we are still dealing with today. Inayat Khan shares a birth year with Stravinsky and Joyce. Major events circle around the year 1910, when Inayat Khan was sent to the West. Daighilev’s Ballet Russes performed Stravinsky’s Firebird in the Paris 1910 season, bringing new colour and excitement to the stage. Schonberg produced his Theory of Harmony in that year, and Pierrot Lunaire, with its expressionist Sprechstimme in 1912, and began to explore atonal music. The boy Krishnamurti came to the attention of the Theosophical Society in 1909.

Picasso painted Les Demoiselles d’Avignon in 1907 and 1909-1912 made the break with traditional perspective that would lead to cubism. Matisse in 1907-1913 was exploring his Wild Beast (Fauve) colourism, including orientalism during his time in Algeria 1906. In literature, Joyce began writing Ulysses in 1914.  Gertrude Stein was producing experimental writings and stream of consciousness, including automatic writing with William James, who has already described the mystical experience in 1902 in Varieties of Religious Experience.

While James is a pragmatist, who believes that truth is best measured by practical results (a viewpoint particularly appropriate today), Freud went about founding the International Psychoanalytical Movement in 1910. His book on religion, Totem and Taboo, was published in 1913.Wittgenstein was in Cambridge with Bertrand Russell during this period: his notes written during WWI will become the Tractatus, striving for a new understanding of language.

There are many other examples of this extremely fruitful period. New sounds, new sights, new thoughts and understandings are coming into the West, and some of these arise in other cultures: Russia, North Africa, and India. 

For Inayat Khan, musicianship early ‘ranked only and uniquely with sainthood and nobility’: it is his ‘specific firm ground from which to move the world.’[vii] There you have his background as a whole: feudal owners of lands, properties, honours, and titles; Sufi mystics; courtly and gentlemanly musicians. The Mughal heritage identified as ‘the highest, most humane mode and standard of life’ or ‘humanity’ for India became through Inayat Khan universalism. Where his grandfather attained princely rank, Inayat Khan reached even higher, becoming a ‘God-realised mystic.’[viii]

[i] Material in this article from htpps://inayatiorder.org/hazrat-inayat-khan/ (accessed 24 August2018).
[ii] Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan, Awakening: a Sufi Experience, edited by Pythia Pray. (New York: Tarcher/Putnam, 1999). p.166.
[iii] Material from htps://inayatiorder.org/hazrat-inayat-khan

[v]Shaikh Al-Mahaik Mahmood Khan, ‘ Mawlabakhshi Raijkufu A’lakhandan: The Mawlabakhsh Dynastic Lineage, 1833-1972 ‘in A Pearl in Wine: Essays on the Life, Music and Sufism of Hazrat Inayat Khan, ed. Pirzade Zia Inayat Khan (New Lebanon, Omega, 2001), p. 28, pp 35-36.
[vi] Material from https://inayatiorder.org/hazrat-inayat-khan/
[vii] Ibid, pp. 5-6.
[viii] Ibid, pp. 50-51.

Hazrat Inayat Khan: The Mysticism of Sound and Music (2)

 On Tuesday the 16th of October, Susan Southall gave a presentation to the Spiritual Reading Group on the life and work of the Sufi writer and musician Hazrat Inayat Khan (1882-1927). Her paper can be found at a separate post. The quotes from Inayat Khan’s book ‘The Mysticism of Sound and Music’ (Shambhala, 1996) are set out here, as used by the Group for discussion.
 Music, the word we use in our everyday language, is nothing less than the picture of the Beloved. It is because music is the picture of our Beloved that we love music. But the question is: What is our Beloved? Or Where is our Beloved? Our Beloved is that which is our source and our goal. What we see of our Beloved before our physical eyes is the beauty which is before us. That part of our Beloved which is not manifest to our eyes is that inner form of beauty of which our Beloved speaks to us. If only we listen to the voice of all the beauty that attracts us in any form, we would find that in every aspect it tells us that behind all manifestation is the perfect Spirit, the Spirit of wisdom. P.2

According to the thinkers of the East there are four different intoxications: the intoxication of beauty, youth and strength; then the intoxication of wealth; the third intoxication is of power, of command, the power of ruling; and the fourth is the power of learning, of knowledge. But all these four intoxications fade away just like stars before the sun in the presence of the intoxication of music. The reason is that it touches the deepest part of man’s being. Music reaches farther than any other impression from the external world can reach. The beauty of music is that it is the source of creation and the means of absorbing it. In other words, by music the world was created, and it is again through music that the world is withdrawn into the source that has created it. P. 5

The musician and the music lover become refined and are led onto the higher world of sound. Sufis lose themselves in sound and call it ecstasy, or muti. Psychic and occult powers come after experiencing this condition of ecstasy, and knowledge of the visible and invisible existence is disclosed. This bliss of happiness and peace is available only to the Yogis and Sufis interested in the divine art of music. Almost all the great saints in the Orient have become great saints through the power of music. P. 10

The mystic keeps one thought in the mind for ten minutes, for twenty minutes. He practices this. He practices it with music. First he impresses one Raga upon his mind until it is fixed in his mind like a picture. Then he practices the sound only, without melody, one sound or — to break the monotony — two sounds, or three sounds. After that he hums. He keeps all feeling away. There is no anger, no bitterness, no prejudice, no attachment, nothing that keeps him bound to the ego. Then there is no outward sound; he keeps the sound in his mind. Then he begins to hear the sound of the breath, the fine sounds that the ears cannot hear. P.23

A question may be asked regarding the mysticism of colour and sound: Can we get our individual colour or note? The answer is that in the first place it is not a matter of our own colour being good for us. It is whether a number or colour is in harmony with us or not that makes it good or not. In the second place, at every moment of our life our evolution changes. A person who was a thief yesterday is not a thief today. So a given colour or number belonging to us at one moment does not belong to us at another moment; it changes every moment. P 37

…upon the rhythm the mood, health and condition of man’s mind depend — not only upon the rhythm which he gets from music, but also upon the rhythm of his own breath… The Sufis of ancient times, the great mystics, used to develop this art in order to bring about poise in life after their everyday activity. They called this art sam’a, and sam’a has been the most sacred thing for the Sufis; it has been a meditation for them. They meditated by the help of music, by having a certain music played which had a certain effect upon the development of the individual. The great poets, such as Rumi of Persia, used to have music for their meditation, and by the help of music they used to repose and to control the activity of their body and mind. P. 52

Beauty is born of harmony. What is harmony? Harmony is right proportion, in other words, right rhythm. And what is life? Life is the outcome of harmony. What man calls happiness or comfort, or profit and gain — all he longs for and wishes to attain — is harmony. In smaller or greater proportion he is longing for harmony; even in attaining the most mundane things he always wishes for harmony. … It is not following a certain religion that makes one spiritual, or having a certain belief, or by being a fanatic in regard to one idea, or by becoming too good to live in this world. … Ultimate good is harmony itself… It is not following a religion, it is living a religion, making one’s life a religion, which is necessary. Pp 110-111

The Sufi, like a student of music, trains both is voice and ear in the harmony of life. The training of the voice consists in being conscientious about each word spoken, about its tone, rhythm, meaning and the appropriateness for the occasion. … The Sufi avoids all unrhythmic actions; he keeps the rhythm of his speech under the control of patience, not speaking a word before the right time, not giving an answer until the question is finished. He considers a contradictory word a discord unless spoken in a debate, and even at such times he tries to resolve it into a consonant chord. A contradictory tendency in man finally develops into a passion, until he contradicts even his own idea if it be propounded by another. In order to keep harmony the Sufi even modulates his speech from one key to another; in other words, he falls in with another’s idea by looking at the subject from the speaker’s point of view instead of his own.  P. 136-7

If man only knew that the greatness of perfection of the great ones, who have come from time to time to this world, was in their pupilship, and not in teaching! The greater the teacher, the better pupil he was… They say in the East that the first thing that is learned is to understand how to become a pupil. They do not learn first what God is, or what life is. The first thing to learn is how to become a pupil… All that we have learned in this world is partial knowledge. And when this is uprooted by another point of view, then we have knowledge in its completed form. That is called mysticism. Why is it called mysticism? Because it cannot be put into words. Words will show one side of it, but the other side is beyond words. 

            The whole manifestation is duality, the duality which makes us intelligent, and behind the duality is unity. If we do not rise beyond duality and go towards unity, we do not attain the perfection which is called spirituality. Pp 112-3

Love produces harmony and harmony creates beauty. Therefore the chief motto in life is “Love, harmony and beauty.” Love in all things and beings the beloved God, in harmony with all in the right understanding, and beautify your life by observing the beauty within and without. By love, harmony and beauty you must turn the whole of life into a single vision of divine glory. P.116

Once I was very amused and surprised at an answer that a very godly and good natured maid gave me. Working in the house, she could not answer the door as quickly as it should have been answered, and the lady visitor who was waiting at the the door became very impatient and spoke crossly to the maid. When I asked her what had happened, she was not cross at all. I asked, “Well, what was the matter with her, why was she cross, what was the reason?”, and this maid, with innocence in her face, replied: “The reason? There was no God.” A beautiful answer. Where God is lacking, there is no love. Wherever there is love, there is God. Wherever there is God, there is love.

If we interpret it rightly, what causes pain and suffering? It is lack of life. What is life? It is love. And what is love? It is God. What every individual wants, what the world wants, is God. All we have to attain by music, by harmony, by tone, by the science of right tuning, by a life of goodness — all we have to gain to bless our lives is God. This is the central theme of all good. P 107-8

Life is a symphony, and the action of every person in this life is the playing of his particular part in the music. P. 116

God is not in time. Therefore he is in the silence. Sound is part of the world of time. P 117

Monday, 15 October 2018

Building a grand Carmelite hall in Middle Park at war’s end DR VAL NOONE

 Carmelite Hall, Sunday 7 October 2018

Centenary of laying of foundation stone
for Carmelite Hall, 24 November 1918


On your behalf, I pay our respects to the Boon Wurrung people, the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, especially to their elders past and present. As the Middle Park history says, where the lake and the park are now were swamps and sand dunes rich in good food, fish, birds, freshwater shellfish and so on. We lament the dispossession of the Boon Wurrung and support their just claims to land and civil rights.

In the next 30 minutes I will offer you five snapshots:
1. At a building site on Sunday 24 November 1918
2. Middle Park: a new and mixed suburb
3. Prior Kindelan and parishioners at war’s end
4. On being Australian Irish Catholics
5. After the war: thriving parish in an economic depression

Because I have found so much about 1918, I will not cover the years up to 1940 in any detail but here is a bit of fun, a personal story from the later era. In this church on 27 August 1944 I had my first role in public life. At the wedding of Marie Amerina of 18 Neville Street, Middle Park and Jack Rusich of 384 Dorcas Street, South Melbourne, both Australian-born, I was the page boy. Jack was my mother’s first cousin and my godfather. My mother, a dressmaker, made a satin suit for me to wear. I will pass around a photograph of the wedding group. At that time, our family lived in rooms in our aunt’s house in Anderson Street, Albert Park: we were in SS Peter and Paul’s parish where I started school but like a good number of others our parents also took part in the life of what I was taught to call “the Carmelite”. 

I am honoured to be invited to address you today, 74 years later, and without a satin suit. And congratulations to the committee for organising this event.

1. At a building site on Sunday 24 November 1918

On Sunday afternoon, 24 November 1918, just a fortnight after Britain and Germany signed the Armistice to end the Great War, 5000 people gathered around the partly completed walls of the hall and out on to Richardson Street for the laying of its foundation stone by Archbishop Daniel Mannix. Where we are now was the beautiful small 1891 church with new bits added to accommodate the growing numbers attending Mass. This building would not be completed for a decade. The day was sunny, bunting with an emphasis on emerald green, was prominent. Members of the Hibernian Australian Catholic Benefit Society and the Irish National Foresters formed a guard of honour for the archbishop and clergy. These groups were self-help mutual medical benefits associations – important in the days before Medibank – which, from time to time, and to varying degrees, supported Irish political causes. The Catholic Young Men’s Society, which ran sporting activities and provided public speaking training in the parish, also joined the guard of honour. The band from St Vincent de Paul’s orphanage in Cecil Street played selections. 

The speeches stressed the grandeur of the plans. Carmelite historian Paul Chandler said: “With its elaborate stage and club rooms, it was one of the finest parish halls in Australia.” The cost was £7000 and it would hold 1000 people. Philip Harvey will talk later about the architect Augustus Fritsch and the builder Frederick Farr.

Here are a few remarks about the people present. Firstly, the 5000. Why so many? Eight months earlier Herbert Brookes and other leading citizens organised a meeting of 1000 people at the Melbourne Town Hall calling for the deportation of Archbishop Mannix and the banning of Irish societies. Prime Minister Billy Hughes responded positively to their delegation. The issues were military conscription and sympathy for Ireland’s independence. Anglican and Protestant leaders also called for Mannix’s removal. Sir Frank Madden, speaker of the parliament, a convert from Catholicism to Anglicanism, had earlier suggested that Mannix deserved to be shot.

Hey presto, in the following months, tens of thousands of Catholics and many Protestant sympathisers rallied to support a church leader who they regarded as a spokesman for their interests. Press reports of the day described Mannix as tall, witty and intelligent, genial yet aloof and flint-like under pressure. When Archbishop Mannix spoke at such events he was not lecturing the people, it was as if he was standing in front of the people addressing the press and the world on their behalf, thereby strengthening his hearers. Indeed, the evidence is that on conscription and labour issues the flock were influencing their shepherd.

Most of the 5000 were Australian born. Many of them were city people but a good number of them were the sons and daughters of the Irish Australian selectors, migrants who had hoped to be farmers but failed; and they found their children drifted back to the city. On the law of averages, ninety-five per cent had left school before year 10, probably less than 1 in 40 had completed secondary schooling. But, they were people who read Steele Rudd’s On Our Selection, and C J Dennis on Ginger Mick and Doreen, and Marion Miller Knowles poems and stories.

They were proud of Australia, proud of Federation, the basic wage, the vote for women, pensions, the social gains that had made Australia a leader in the world for working people. A good number supported the White Australia Policy. But they were reeling from the last four years. Most of them had sons, or brothers, or husbands, or friends, at the war, many had lost loved ones. They saw the crippled returned soldiers begging at Flinders Street station. Twelve months before, they had experienced one of the harshest years in European Australian history: prices had sky-rocketed during the war but wages remained frozen. They had just lived through bitter divisions over the referendums on conscription. In one way, they were, as historian Joan Beaumont has suggested, “a broken nation”.
But on this day, as the Advocate said, they were going forward. They had dreams and plans. The Archbishop praised the “very good purposes” of the hall, and spoke of the “prospect of abiding peace coming to the world after four years of terrible strife”. At the cathedral the previous Sunday he had dwelt on the horrors of the war, and the 45,000 Australians who had given their lives. “It was cruel to talk to those bereaved of the glory of war,” he said. “Any attempt to humiliate or crush a rival will not lead to a lasting peace, but to inevitable war.” At Middle Park Mannix “enlarged upon this theme, and gave examples, showing the changeableness of public opinion. His speech was heartily applauded throughout.” 

Atypically the Catholic and other newspapers did not give a detailed account of Mannix’s speech on the day. Was Mannix being less forthright at a time when Irish independence representatives were seeking to gain a place at the peace treaty negotiations? Was his review of the war years subject to censorship, official or self-imposed, under the War Precautions Act?

On this occasion, as in every speech that I have studied, Mannix expressed respect for the soldiers of the AIF and sympathy for their families. His opposition to conscription and his description of the war as a trade war in no way mitigated his solidarity with the sufferings, heroism and hardships of his listeners.

2. Middle Park: a new and mixed suburb
Second, a note on Middle Park at that time. As many of you know, a military reserve and a rifle range occupied the sand dunes and swamps of Middle Park for some decades before substantial housing development began in the 1880s, that is, later than South Melbourne or St Kilda. In that boom decade some impressive middle class homes were built. However, by about 1918, census figures suggest that the population was largely blue collar, tradesmen, labourers and factory workers, with a noticeable percentage of public servants. 

The crash and depression of the 1890s hit Middle Park badly, as it did most of Victoria. Many of the grand houses were rented out to multiple tenants, many became rooming houses. In the early 1900s, only 38 per cent of the population were owner-occupiers.

And Middle Park was something of a Catholic stronghold. By 1921 Middle Park had 28 per cent population of Catholics, when the average for Victoria was 21 per cent. That seems to have lasted till the 1950s.

When war with Germany, and soon after with the Ottoman Empire, began fours year before the day we are commemorating, Middle Park and its Catholic population had its share of volunteers – although Catholics were drastically under-represented among the officer class. The Makin family who were prominent in parish life sent three sons, and lost one. Les Maher of 91 Harold Street fought in Gallipoli and Flanders and died two months before the day we are commemorating. The girls at Kilbride Brigidine school in Beaconsfield Parade raised money to send to nuns in Belgium for the relief of civilian casualties.

Middle Park was in the federal seat of Fawkner, as was part of South Melbourne. The state member of parliament at the time of the laying of the foundation stone was Joseph Hannan of the Labor Party, who had held the federal seat for some years. Hannan was born in England of Scottish parents and had married Theresa Phelan at SS Peter and Paul’s, South Melbourne, in 1903. He supported the war but opposed conscription.

I looked at some voting figures for the Fawkner electorate in the first conscription referendum of 28 October 1916. Voting for Middle Park was at the Middle Park Theatre. For Albert Park it was in the Wesley Preparatory School in Kerferd Road, or the Baptist School, also in Kerferd Road. Overall the electorate voted Yes by 51 per cent. Middle Park voted 56 per cent yes, Albert Park 52 per cent No and South Melbourne 61 per cent No. This probably reflects the higher percentage of working-class votes in South Melbourne and Albert Park. In the second referendum, if Fawkner followed the state pattern, the electorate and perhaps Middle Park would have returned a No vote.
3. Prior Joseph Kindelan and parishioners at war’s end

Part three. A snapshot of Prior Joseph Kindelan and some parishioners. In those days parishioners often identified themselves in public documents as Roman Catholics, not Catholics. They heard Mass in Latin, said by a priest facing away from them. Some read from prayer books or recited the Rosary during Mass. A good percentage of men at the Carmelite were members of the Holy Name Sodality, which meant taking Communion one Sunday a month and sitting together under banners at Mass. Likewise women joined the Sacred Heart Sodality.

By all reports, Father Kindelan, who in 1909 was the founding parish priest of the newly separate Middle Park parish, was a dynamic leader, inclined to aim higher rather than lower in parish building projects. He was, like the majority of priests in Victoria, born in Ireland. Indeed, in an account of parish history, Frank Shortis suggests that, for a number of reasons, the Carmelites were slower to recruit Australians than some other orders. The following year Kindelan stepped back to an assistant role but when the church was opened in 1927, a year after his death, it was declared a memorial to him.

The appeal for funds was moved by Mr John Clarebrough, a parishioner and a decorator who had a contract with the builder of the hall. All indications are that Father Kindelan’s plans for the hall had strong backing from parishioners. You can read further details in the accounts reproduced in the handout.

However, there is more to Mr Clarebrough’s speech than meets the eye. Thanks to Trove and the Australian War Memorial, we learn that John Clarebrough and his family lived at 195 Beaconsfield Parade. The house, now gone, was called Taurauga after the place in New Zealand where they had previously settled. Mr and Mrs Clarebrough had three sons in the Australian Imperial Force. The oldest, Charles, had been educated at St Patrick’s Jesuit College in East Melbourne, enlisted, fought at Gallipoli, became a lieutenant, and had been killed in action two years earlier, at 36, and was buried in Pozieres. The next son John Augustus also fought in France and went on to become a Brigadier in the Second World War. A younger son Frank had been in training camp at Broadmeadows when Charles was killed and the State Commandant discharged him on family grounds.

No wonder then that John Clarebrough said at the hall that day: “You should contribute generously for the reason that the building would serve a useful purpose, and as an act of thanksgiving to Almighty God for the termination of the war! (Applause.)” He added that “a further inducement to give” came from the “memory of the brave men who had fallen at the front.”

Some of you may know members of this Clarebrough family. Two grandsons of John who spoke, sons of Brigadier Charles, were known to my generation. John Clarebrough in 1968 was the first director of open heart surgery at St Vincent’s Hospital, and Leo, an eminent physicist and Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science. I knew Leo from the movement against the Vietnam War and conscription. St Dominic’s parish in East Camberwell hold lectures on social justice issue in his memory.

A later speaker on the day also showed up in Trove, namely Jeremiah O’Brien who seconded the vote of thanks to the Archbishop. As far as I can tell, Jeremiah, licensee of Bleak House until 1913, brother-in-law of J R Buxton, the legendary real estate agent, and thus grand-uncle of historian Kathleen Fitzpatrick, was living in retirement at 85 St Vincent Place, in one of the grandest houses in that grand street. Jeremiah’s parents, bounty migrants from Ireland in the 1840s, had made their pile from the Nar Nar Goon hotel.

The accounts of the foundation-day ceremony mention no women by name and only one group, the Women’s Branch of the Sacred Heart Sodality. However, the women’s group had the distinction of making the largest donation to the appeal: they gave 50 guineas.

Also, for the record, we should recognise the work of Frank Wrigley who had secretarial duties for the event, as he had done for parish events for a decade.

4. On being Australian Irish Catholics
Fourth, a note on being an Irish Australian Catholic in those days. By the time of the stone-laying in November 1918 dramatic events of the past four years such as attempts to deport Mannix, the Easter Rising and the conscription referenda, had heightened the awareness of Irish Australian Catholics of their identity. 

A couple of remarks in the accounts of the Hall ceremony reflect the changes and tensions of the day. In seconding John Clarebrough’s appeal speech, Mr C Bradley added that “The use of certain public halls had been refused to his Grace by bigoted peopIe, but that slight could not be put upon his Grace at Middle Park when the parish hall was completed.” Bradley’s hearers knew well that twelve months earlier, on the eve of the second conscription referendum, St Kilda Council had refused the use of the Town Hall to Christian Brothers College East St Kilda for their speech night because Archbishop Mannix was to speak. A number of local boys from Middle Park attended CBC. No surprise, the speech night went ahead at the college with a large crowd, and banners for both the No vote and for Irish independence.

Divisions among Catholics were also referred to in the speeches. Mr McCarthy, in proposing the vote of thanks to the Archbishop, included a comment that “they could afford to treat with silent contempt the attacks on their Archbishop and clergy, and the efforts to divide priests and people. Certain people had failed to stand up in defence of the Archbishop”. Most of those present knew who McCarthy was referring to. During the conscription debates a small group of Catholics publicly attacked Mannix, including Vincent Nolan, lawyer, Frank Gavan Duffy, a judge, Auguste de Bavay, a bacteriologist, Benjamin Hoare, a  journalist, and Edward Stanfield Wardell, retired deputy master of the Royal Mint and son of the architect. Against them, McCarthy declared that Mannix “would be associated for all time with the successful fight to keep Australia a free land”.

Not mentioned in the press accounts but relevant was the background knowledge of all present on the day that eight Irish Australian republicans arrested earlier that year, including two Victorians, Maurice Dalton and Frank McKeown, were interned without trial in Darlinghurst Gaol, and had not been released at the Armistice. Campaigns for their release were, however, successful before Christmas. By 1918, many Irish Australians shifted from supporting Home Rule for Ireland to supporting autonomy and independence.

Two years ago Eoin Hahessy made an excellent low-budget documentary film about this change, entitled Michael They’ve Shot Them, shown on SBS under the tile of The Rise of Irish Australia.
One of the priests in attendance, Father William Ganly, parish priest of West St Kilda, played an important role not in the politics of Irish Australia but in cultural matters. A native Irish-speaker from the Aran Islands, from whence very few people migrated to Victoria, he was a Gaelic scholar of international reputation, who gave public lectures on the literature, art and music of ancient Ireland, and was, for a time, inspector of schools for the archdiocese.

5. After the war: thriving parish in an economic depression

Part Five. Those 5000 on 24 November 1918 were hopeful of re-building community life despite the drastic loss of life that had just ended with the Armistice, and despite the bitter divisions over conscription and living conditions of the previous three years. Unlike the economic boom which my generation experienced after World War II, sadly, ahead of the post-World-War-I generation was an economic depression, and another world war. 

More than that, two months later the Spanish Flu epidemic devastated Melbourne and much of the world. The next year would also bring the bitter Seamen’s Strike. In that, Mannix would again show support for his predominantly working-class flock. In regard to church matters, justice for Catholic education would continue to be a major focus down into the 1960s. In Irish matters, the war of independence, the massive 1920 St Patrick’s Day march in Melbourne, the Irish civil war and so on loomed ahead.
However, the press reports and photographs of the hall and the parish during the 1920 and 1930s are full of plays, balls, communion breakfasts, fund raisers, queen carnivals, boxing tournaments, sporting teams and other activities. On present evidence, the parish of Our Lady of Mt Carmel combined its middle-class and working-class members into one of the strongest parishes in Melbourne. The priests and parishioners who built this hall put down a basis for a rich community life which stood them in good stead during the crises of the following couple of decades.

Conclusion: respect for elders
By asserting that our ancestors are worth remembering and honouring, this afternoon’s discussions are a contribution towards paying respect to our elders and their traditions. The parishioners could not have foreseen the crimes and cover-ups that have rocked the Catholic church in recent decades. It is important that we try to understand our elders in their time and place. Warts and all, there are good grounds for being proud of the history of the Carmelite parish and in particular of the grand hall.
I trust that I have alerted you to five aspects of the laying of the foundation stone of this building 100 years ago on 24 November 1918: 1) a sketch of the people who were present; 2) an overview of Middle Park as a new and mixed suburb; 3) Prior Joseph Kindelan and parishioners at war’s end; 4) aspects of being Australian, Catholic and of Irish origin; 5) a mention of what was ahead of them after the war.

I am reminded of the famous American folk singer, Woody Guthrie, who said: “I hate a song that makes you think that you’re not any good, a song that makes you think you’re bound to lose, no good to nobody, no good for nothin’ … I am out to sing the songs that will make you take pride in yourself.” 

Sin é mo scéal. Ω