A slice of Tipperary

Tobin Brothers Funerals, Chapel in 101 Nettlefold st Belconnen ACT, 9 February 2018

While it is impossible to determine precisely the name of the artist, the English stained glass artists William Edward Chance and Michael O’Connor were associated with this studio.


A SLICE of Tipperary, is on the offering from Tobin Brothers in Belconnen as they seek to re-configure their historic ‘Boorowa chapel’.

Many of the chapel furnishings are being made available for collection towards the end of the year. They are free to a good home, preferably to that of a parish or religious community.

Some of the more prominent items seeking a new home include century-old stain-glass windows, a wooden reredos and altar; a presider’s chair, a lectern and 16 pews.

The chapel, which was initially built at St Joseph’s convent at Boorowa is mentioned in Fr Brian Maher’s recent book called A Slice of Tipperary.

Craig Morrison, a director at Tobin Brothers, says it with some disappointment that they are doing away with the old, but acknowledges that it is a sign of the times in the industry.

“More and more people are opting away from traditional funerals these days,” he said.

“Due to public demand we are re-configuring our main chapel and viewing area to reflect what they want.

“This is a rare opportunity for any parish or religious community to come and see if there is anything that they could use for their own chapel.

Mr Morrison, said the company was glad to be able to give back to the Catholic community.

Helen Delahunty, financial administrator from the Archdiocese, agrees that the situation presents a unique opportunity for parishes.

“It would be good to see the furnishings find a home in the Archdiocese especially considering the history behind them,” she said.

“We are not seeking any money for these items and so those who are interested in them can contact Tobin Brothers directly.

“If there is a dispute over any of the chapel contents then we will give it out purely on a needs basis.”

Anyone wanting to view the chapel furnishings can do so by contacting Craig Morrison at Tobin Brothers Belconnen on 0409 856 799.

Chapel history
The original chapel was built in Boorowa, as a private place of worship for the Sister-Superior of St Joseph’s Convent, Catherine Donovan, after she became too infirm to take active part in the life of the convent.

The Donovan family of Sydney donated the funds, and Thomas Donovan completed the chapel in 1897. It was built in the popular 19th century Gothic Revival style.

The architects, Messrs Sheerin and Hennessy of Sydney, also completed St Mary’s Cathedral after the death of the famous Australian architect, William Wardell in 1899.

In 1981, after many years of disuse, Paul Smith, representing ACT and District Funeral Directors, purchased St Joseph’s Chapel from the Sisters of Mercy, with the intention of rebuilding it, stone by stone, at a new premises in Belconnen.

This proved too difficult however, and after much consideration, an exact replica was built.

The original fittings and furnishings, including the magnificent stained glass windows and the altar, bestow a strong sense of history, tradition and beauty.

The altar
Thomas Donovan erected the chapel altar in memory of his parents, Jeremiah and Mary Ann Donovan. The English altar, of hand-carved oak, features paintings of the patron saints of the six Donovan daughters in the altarpiece.
These are Saints Ann, Catherine, Agnes, Philomena, Cecilia and Joan. While the origins of the altar are unknown, it has several stylistic similarities to the altars of other church buildings associated with the Donovan family, including St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney.

The stained glass windows
These beautiful windows are inspirational. Their artistic merit and technical brilliance are unsurpassed among the fine examples of 19th century neo-gothic stained glass in Australia.

The iconography of the windows show the patron saints of the seven Donovan brothers. These are Saints John, James, Thomas A’Beckett, Christopher, Alfred, Harry and Gregory.

It is very likely that the chapel windows were imported from the English studio of John Hardman and Co, which also made the windows for St Mary’s Cathedral.

The chapel windows have strong stylistic similarities, such as the pronounced architectural tabernacling and majestic use of the colours blue, red, purple and gold, which also link them with John Hardman and Co.

Each window, with its many pieces of stained glass, called ‘lights’ has been superbly crafted.