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Birmingham held two of the intellectual giants of the nineteenth century—Ullathorne and Newman—and their influence spread far and wide.
Ullathorne was a Yorkehireman ana of a family that had never lost the Faith. His strong personality was endowed with a clear intellect and an inflexibility of purpose; he had a deep insight into the spiritual order and the literary gifts to express it; his administrative talents were great, and he was a reader of men. In his early days as a Benedictine he did good pioneer work in the missionary field of Australia, and it was owing to his report and his powers of debate before a Committee of the House of Commons that the penal settlement of Norfolk Island was abolished and the penal laws amended.
Bishop Ullathorne devoted much attention to the education of youth and the training of his clergy. A seminary was opened at Olton in 1873 and served its purpose till Oscott became the diocesan seminary in 1889.
Under his rule a remarkable feature was the number of convents that were opened in the diocese. Among the religious foundations was that of the English Dominican Congregation of St. Catherine of Siena, the foundress being the Bishop's one time housekeeper. Mother Margaret Hallahan, a truly remarkable woman. She built five convents, of which the head house was at Stone, four churches, besides schools homes and orphanages.
Without a name, without a penny. without help except from God end Hls Blessed Mother, she worked wonders. There is a statue of Our Lady venerated at Stone. It belonged to Mother Margaret, and was the first to be carried in procession at Coventry, and before It there took place the first May devotions in England.
The Rev. Edward Ilsley was consecrated Assistant Bishop in 1879, while still rector of Olton Seminary, and nine years later he succeeded Bishop Ullathorne on the latter's resignation.
Here followed another great spiritual reign in the Birmingham diocese.
One of the greatest diocesan works of charity was due to Bishop Ilsley in tne creation of the famous homes which he opened for poor children, and derelict mites who may have been lost to the Faith. Under the fegis of the late Mgr. Hudson a colony of homes which took his name has arisen at Coieshill. including a hospital for tubercular crippled children, which has proved so highly efficient that the Government contributes towards its maintenance. To-day, under the administratorship of Bishop Griffin, Fr. Hudson's Homes. known throughout the length and breadth of the land, and, indeed, in many parts outside it, move ever onward in their beneficent work.
Another great charitable institution also owes its existence to Bishop Ilsley, who sponsored Besford Court Homes and Schools for mentally deficient boys. The Court, a Worcestershire Tudor home set in a surround of purest England, houses the seniors, while the juniors have their habitation at Sambourne. in Warwickshire. Under the direction of Fr. P. McSwiney, much unostentatious work of extreme value to the nation is being done.
An advance in the Hierarchical organisation of England came about when, by the Apostolic Brief of October 28, 1911, Birmingham became an archdiocese. with Shrewsbury, Clifton and Plymouth as Suffragan Sees.
Liverpool was likewise raised to the same dignity, and Cardiff five years later.
After ruling the diocese for 34 years, Archbishop Tisley resigned in 1922.
It is remarkable that the rule of the first two Bishops of Birmingham covered a period of over 70 years. Archbishop McIntyre succeeded. Both as student and professor his career had been brilliant. He had been Rector of the English College, Rome, but apart from high intellectual attainment he was a very pious man. But, unfortunately, poor health rendered him unequal to the strain of administrative and pastoral work, and the public life his position entailed, with the result that much of the work of the diocese was undertaken by his assistant, Bishop Glancey, and on the latter's death, by Bishop John Barrett, whose appointment was announced to Plymouth on the same day in 1929 that the Very Rev. Thous Leighton Williams succeeded Archbishop McIntyre, who had resigned.
The appointment of Dr. Williams, a happy surprise to the Archdiocese, was regarded as typical of the wise selections made by Rome. In a rule of ten year a His Grace has guided the diocese through a period of striking progress.
His career at Cambridge had been distinguished, and he became head of St. Edmund's House. He had also been head of St. Charles' House, Oxford. During the war he was in khaki as a. chaplain, and the indelible impressions of those days often find expression in His Grace's outstanding sympathy for his comrades of " The Line." It was through his initiative that the great international pilgrimage of peace was held at Lourdes in September of 1931, when ex-Servicemen from nineteen different countries made up the largest gathering ever to assemble before the
G G Head of Cotton College
For seven years before his episcopal elevation. Dr. Williams had been headmaster of Cotton College, where he studied as a boy, and between 1922 and 1929. the old school whose life opened in 1783, was completely regenerated, and modernised in its educational and external equipments.
In the large sphere of his episcopate His Grace's Influence has been widely felt, particularly in all work that denotes Catholic Action. As one of the foremost educationists in the country he has exercised conspicuous wisdom, and in diocesan activities his encouragement has led to the creation of many new parishes and the building of many churches and schools. History will recall the period as one of great extension in the wonderful story of the Church in the Midlands.
In June of last year, the Rev. Dr. Bernard Griffin, who after a long and brilliant academic career in Rome, and an equally successful administrative period as secretary at Archbishopei House, was appointed Bishop-Auxiliary and retained the important post of Administrator of Fr. Hudson's Homes, which had been entrusted to him nine months previously.