Woman Fennescey, Mary


Written by Shurlee Swain, Australian Catholic University

Mary Fennescey was born in Maitland, South Australia, in 1878, the eldest of the six children of farmer, Daniel Hanrahan and his wife Mary. She began purchasing commercial properties in 1902 and used some of the proceeds to benefit Catholic churches and charities. After her marriage to farmer John Fennescey in 1904 she encouraged him to join in her philanthropic activities.

Having no children of their own, the Fennesceys sold most of their Yorke Peninsula properties in the 1920s and retired to Glenelg. Over the next two decades they made the substantial donations which funded the parish church in Glenelg, the completion of the cathedral in Adelaide, a maternity wing at the Catholic Calvary Hospital and other Catholic causes (Southern Cross, 2 May 2012). In addition to their donations, Mary was an active fund-raiser in her local community.

To the historically impoverished church in South Australia, the Fennescey's contributions were invaluable, and on their deaths they were commended by the Archbishop for doing 'in their life-time what many charitable people of substance defer until their death. They gave with princely generosity to the cause of religion, and no charitable work appealed to them in vain' (ADB). Mary Fennescey died in 1946, two years before her husband.

Published Resources

Journal Articles

  • Rice, Robert, 'Andrew Killian, Fourth Archbishop of Adelaide and the Seventh Occupant of the See: Aspects of His Theology and Practice', The Australasian Catholic Record, vol. 86, January 2009. Details

Newspaper Articles

Online Resources

See also