Julian Tenison Woods

Julian Edmund Tenison Woods

Scientist, Priest, Educator, Author, traveller and, with Mary MacKillop, Founder of the Sisters of St Joseph.

Julian Edmund Tenison Woods, born on 15 November 1832 at Southwark, England, started his working life with the London Times. Because of his poor health he moved to the south of France, where he taught at Mont Bel college and developed his interest in geology and natural science.

While in France he met Bishop Willson of Tasmania who talked him into coming to Australia to teach at the Catholic schools. He arrived in Hobart in January 1855 after a three and a half month voyage on the Berenecia. A few days after his arrival he started his new job as Prison Chaplain, even though he was not a priest yet. Before the end of the year Woods had moved to Adelaide where he became sub-editor of the Adelaide Times and editor of the Catholic paper The Chaplet. While working for the paper he also studied at the Sevenhill College and was ordained priest at St Patrick's Church in Adelaide on 4 January 1857. One of Woods' first priestly duties was to baptise his nephew.

At the age of just twenty-four, he was appointed to the south eastern district of South Australia with Penola as its centre. During his wide travels he added many specimens to his already substantial mineral collection but also became increasingly concerned about the lack of Catholic education in his district. These concerns eventually resulted in the establishment of a school at Penola. On 3 August 1865 Father Woods bought allotment 44 in Naracoorte. He also assisted Mary Mackillop with the founding of the Order of the Sisters of St Joseph in 1866.

During his time in the South East, Woods got to know Adam Lindsay Gordon and became one of his best friends. When he left Penola he was sadly missed by Catholics and Protestants alike.

It was during 1866 that Father Woods was recalled to Adelaide by Bishop Sheil to take up the posts of Director General of Catholic Education, Chairman of the Board, Inspector of Schools, Chaplain and private secretary to the Bishop. During this time he planned and established many schools in Adelaide and country towns which catered mainly for poor Catholic children. He was also instrumental in the building of churches at Penola, Robe and Mount Gambier. By this time his successes had been noticed in the other colonies and in 1870 Bishop Quin of Bathurst invited him to do missionary work in the eastern colonies. Before leaving he found time to open the new St Vincent de Paul Church at Port Wakefield and preach a sermon on the evening of its opening.

For more than ten years Woods travelled and preached, started schools and was kept intensely busy with the work of the Sisters of St Joseph and that of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart.

Although extremely busy and on the road for days on end, often sleeping under the stars or the tarpaulin of his dray and his saddle as pillow, he still found time to observe nature and carry out his scientific, particularly geological, investigations and writings. His first article on the Mount Gambier Volcano was published in the Adelaide Register on 1 October 1857. A month later he delivered his paper 'Observations on Metamorphic Rocks in South Australia' in Melbourne which was printed in 1858. His last article about 'A volcano in Japan' was printed in the Melbourne Argus of 21 January 1889. When he died on 7 October 1889, he had written several books, more than two hundred scientific papers and delivered numerous lectures, including one in Robe about his ten years experiences in the bush.

It were not only volcanoes he wrote about. After a visit to the Victoria River District in the Northern Territory he wrote about his experiences in the Sydney Morning Herald. His subjects were many and varied. Many were concerned with the geology of South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania. He wrote about fossils, glaciation, shells, corals and fungi. He reported on the goldfields of South Australia and Queensland as well as on coal and the geography of Borneo, Java, Malaysia and Japan. He even wrote a 'History of the Discovery and Exploration of Australia', which was published in 1865.

During 1883 he visited Singapore, Malacca, Japan, China, Java and Siam. As he had looked for and reported on the minerals in some of the Dutch colonies, the King of Holland awarded him a gold medal for his scientific efforts. England, which also had several colonies, besides Australia, asked him to investigate the occurrance of coal in some of its territories. On his return to Australia he thoroughly explored the mineral districts of the Northern Territory. In 1885 Woods stated that the Peninsula of Arnhem Land would one day become one of the greatest mining centres in Australia. He died relatively young, just a few weeks short of fifty-seven and was buried at Waverly Cemetery, Sydney.

During his life he was bestowed many honours. Among them were a Fellow of the Geological Society of London, an Honorary Member of the Royal Society of New South Wales, Tasmania and South Australia. He was also an Honorary Member Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, Royal Geographical Society of Queensland and New South Wales and the New Zealand Institute.


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