Friday, 29 September 2023
History records that the first Riverview boys  to attend St John’s  College within the University of Sydney in 1884 were Patrick Flynn and Robert Lenehan, followed by Tom Kelly and Henry Lister in 1885. Since that time, hundreds of Riverview old boys have become alumni of St John’s College, a connection that has been of enormous benefit to both Colleges.

What's not widely known is that St John’s College was supposed to be the first Jesuit foundation in Eastern Australia. In 1858, Archpriest John Joseph Therry and Archdeacon John McEncroe convinced the Fellows of St John’s that the Jesuits were the most suitable religious order to provide academic and spiritual leadership for the university college, but when McEncroe reached Rome in early 1859 the General of the Jesuits told him that no men were available to establish a new Australian mission. Undeterred by this initial setback, Therry left his entire estate to the Jesuits in 1864 and McEncroe later left an endowment for a Jesuit lectureship at St John’s in 1868. McEncroe’s lectureship gave the Jesuits a foothold at St John’s from 1879, while Therry’s estate allowed them to establish the college at Riverview in 1880.

At the end of 1883, the Jesuits made an attempt to reclaim St John’s through the controversial election of Fr Charles Morrogh (Riverview) as vice-rector and Fr Daniel Clancy (St Aloysius) as rector, but this arrangement lasted little more than a month before a new Benedictine leadership team was appointed. The Jesuits were given an opportunity to take on St John’s again in 1915, but they declined the offer because Newman College in Melbourne was being established at that time.
I was fortunate to be allowed to use the Jesuit archives last week where I read sections of Fr Joseph Dalton’s diaries relating to St John’s. Thanks to School Archivist Cathy Hobbs for her assistance and warm welcome. The Riverview Archives are a rich source of history for St Ignatius’, St John’s and the whole Catholic church in Sydney. A project to write the history of St John’s College is now underway. Any Riverview old boy with stories to tell about his time at St John’s can contact me at

Dr Peter Cunich
College Historian
St John’s College
University of Sydney