Clarke brothers bring a blast from the past

ONE-hundred-and-fifty years after their bushranger ancestors roamed the Molonglo, Shoalhaven and Araluen regions, it was another set of Clarke brothers, Luke and Tom, who put Braidwood back in the spotlight.

Less than 12 months after celebrating the sesquicentenary of the gothic stone St Bede’s Church being completed in 1866, the Braidwood community staged a weekend commemorating the escapades of the notorious Clarke brothers, John and Thomas.

The weekend, which attracted thousands of people, included a re-enactment of the capture and trial, featuring the current day Clarke brothers Luke and Tom, of Reidsdale, near Braidwood.

Of particular interest to Braidwood Catholics, is the fact that Thomas Clarke married Charlotte Hart in St Bede’s Church in 1863.

St Bede’s Braidwood has another connection with bushrangers of the same era, most likely the Clarkes.

Long-time parishioner James O’Brien has the original Mass kit which belonged to his distant relative Fr Edward O’Brien, the first resident priest of Braidwood.

The kit consists of a wooden box and all the vessels were intact, so much so that the specially engraved chalice was used at Mass last year.

In the wooden box is a pyx with unconsecrated wafers from the earliest days of Catholicism in Braidwood.

Local legend has it that the Mass kit box had a bullet pierce it from an encounter with bushrangers during the gold rush. The evidence for is that the bullet hole was patched over by aluminium plate.

For those who want to learn more about the parish and its history, copies of the parish book are available. Contact Br Brian Berg on (02) 4842 2444.