Tony and Pamela Quinlan have gifted a precious piece of history, at one time belonging to one of this archdiocese’ most illustrious sons, to the Archdiocese of Perth.
The uniform and regalia of Knight of the Order of St Sylvester belonged to Mr Quinlan’s grandfather, the parliamentarian, property developer and philanthropist, Timothy Quinlan.
The one-time Speaker of the Western Australian parliament had a long and successful career representing the people of West Perth, and then Toodyay, and was well known for donating his money and time to many charitable causes.
Bishop Matthew Gibney presented Timothy Quinlan with the papal honour at a special ceremony on Sunday, April 23, 1899 at St Mary’s Cathedral, before a large congregation which included Bishop Rosendo Salvado OSB.
Quinlan was the first Western Australian to be appointed to the ceremonial order, founded in 1841 in remembrance of the “Golden Militia” which helped to hold back Islamic incursions into Western Europe during the Middle Ages.
The items were left to Quinlan’s surviving son, Dr Dan Quinlan, and were passed on to his son, Tony, upon his death in 1960.
Mr and Mrs Quinlan approached Cathedral Dean Monsignor Michael Keating when they had decided to donate the piece to the archdiocese for display.
“We thought, it’s better to be on show than stuck in a cupboard,” Mrs Quinlan told The Record.
Before parting with the uniform, Tony and Pamela’s son, Dr Daniel Quinlan tried it on, giving the family a visceral sense of what their forebear might have looked like on the day of its presentation.
The piece may eventually be part of a much larger display of archdioesean history and memorabilia but, for now, archdiocesan conservation specialists will assess a suitable place in St Mary’s Cathedral to display the item in conjunction with Mgr Keating.
“It will be nice for the grandchildren if it is on display, to be able to come and see it,” Mrs Quinlan said.
Perth Archbishop Patrick Joseph Clune CSsR was effusive in praising Timothy Quinlan during the homily he gave at his funeral Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral, July 10, 1927:
“I venture to say that never before has the cold thrill and touch of death so deeply stirred the hearts of the Catholic community of Perth.”
Born in Tipperary, Ireland, in 1861, Timothy Francis Quinlan arrived in the fledgling colony of Western Australia with his parents in 1863, aged two years old.
He was orphaned around two years later, his mother having died giving birth to his twin siblings, while his father, around the same time, died attempting to escape local Indigenous hostility at the Camden Harbour Settlement, in the Kimberley. He was supported in his early life by Record founder J T O’Reilly who funded his schooling.
An early and ongoing career in property development eventually took a back seat to Quinlan’s political aspirations.
He was elected to represent West Perth in the State’s first parliament in 1890, later becoming a minister, and, eventually, Speaker from 1905 till 1911. He married Teresa Connor in 1883, daughter of a then-famous publican and property owner, Daniel Connor. The couple went on to have nine children.
In his funeral homily, Archbishop Clune noted Timothy Quinlan’s “constant” and “edifying” devotion to the Sacred Heart. Quinlan donated a statue of the Sacred Heart to St Mary’s Cathedral which attracted much devotion and has, in recent years, been restored for future use.