Political Assassination Attempt Remembered in Church Decoration

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Security and terrorism concerns surrounding visiting dignitaries are unfortunately nothing new, even in a politically stable country like Australia. Whilst visiting Australia in 1868, twenty-three year old Prince Alfred, second son of Queen Victoria, was shot and wounded at Clontarf by Irishman Henry James O’Farrell, a supporter of the Fenian Society, protesting at the treatment of Irish people by the English. O’Farrell was hanged 40 days later.

Fleur de Lis
Fleur de Lis

Shortly after the assassination attempt, a sermon was preached at the One Tree Hill Wesleyan Church in Carlingford by Mr John Mills. In the sermon Mills gave passionate thanks to God for the preservation of the life of the Queen’s son. A transcript of the sermon found its way into the hands of Prince Edward, Prince of Wales and brother of Prince Alfred. He appreciated the sentiments of the sermon so much that he arranged for the sum of £25 to be sent to the church.

A meeting of the church trustees decided to spend the money on replacing the plain church gables with more ornate ones carved in the shape of the Prince of Wales ‘heraldic device’ of three feathers. The church on Marsden Road is now known as the Uniting Church of Carlingford and the heraldic stonework can still be seen as you drive past.

Trevor Patrick is a local historian of the north-west of Sydney, Australia. His latest book, In Search of the Pennant Hills, recounts some of these stories (and others) in more detail.