Paul Collins, Catholic writer


A Very Contrary Irishman

The Life and Travels of Jeremiah O'Flynn
A Very Contrary Irishman by Paul Collins


Publisher: Morning Star Publishing
Pages: ii, 211
Price (Softcover): $34.95
Publication Date: 2014
ISBN: 9781925208467
Available from Morning Star Publishing and from .



Jeremiah O’Flynn was a wandering priest par excellence. Born in 1786 in Tralee, Ireland his life spanned England (where he trained as a monk and was ordained a priest), the Caribbean islands of Martinique, Saint Croix (now the US Virgin Islands), Haiti and Dominica, as well as Rome, Hobart and Sydney NSW under Governor Macquarie, Boston, New Haven, Philadelphia and upstate Pennsylvania. On the way to Sydney he visited Madeira, Rio de Janeiro and Cape Town. O’Flynn completed a circumnavigation of the world when he was deported by Macquarie from Sydney in 1818 rounding Cape Horn on his way back to London. And he did all of this travel in the decade between 1813 and 1825.

He is credited as being one of the founders of the Catholic Church in Australia where historians have treated him as an almost mythical figure who generously travelled to the ends of the earth to minister to the equally-romanticised poor and regularly flogged (“for refusing to attend the Protestant services”) Irish convicts, who were really all “innocent political prisoners”. He is seen as the heroic, almost mythical, pioneer priest of the Catholic Diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania. While essentially well-intentioned, O’Flynn was a very contrary and difficult man who resented all authority figures in both church and state. He seems rather modern in that he valued freedom, and was resentful of any form of personal, political or ecclesiastical authoritarianism.

His life intersected with the key political, social and ecclesiastical issues of the day like the French Revolution, slavery, the establishment of the British Empire, convict transportation, Catholic emancipation and the massive missionary expansion of Catholicism in the nineteenth century. The book situates him in these historical contexts and explains how the bigger political issues of the time impacted on his life.

The book is drawn from primary sources in the UK, the US and Australia, and is the first time O’Flynn’s story has been fully told. It was published in 2014 by Melbourne’s Morning Star Publishing.