Hi! I’m Dominy Williams, the Director of Library & Archives for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Hamilton – and the voice behind this blog! Over the next three months the blog will take a different format, providing an opportunity for Bishop Farrell Library & Archives staff to share our favourite items. We’ll also reveal a bit about ourselves. Hopefully you’ll get a sense of who we are and why we love what we do!
I have been the Librarian/Archivist for the Diocese of Hamilton for the past twelve years. Time flies when you’re having fun! In this role I am responsible for the overall management of both departments including collections management, conducting research, assessing departmental needs, initiating special projects, and supervising staff, interns, and volunteers. It definitely keeps me busy! Prior to my role here I worked for archives, museums, and art galleries in collections and education capacities. I’ve also worked as a supply and EFL teacher, including a year and a half working in Taipei, Taiwan. I have a Master’s of Museum Studies degree from the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Information Studies and an Honour’s Bachelor of Arts in Art History from the University of Guelph. My academic interests focused on education in the cultural sector, the role of artist-run centres in community building, and the power of art to enact social and political change. I am also a wife and a mother to two beautiful children aged seven and five. We often spend our days hiking the beautiful Dundas Valley, chasing our gigantic puppy, or snuggling up with a few good books. I am passionate about raising my children to be kind, compassionate, and resilient; helping people meet their research goals; and sharing the value of historical knowledge.
Given my art history background, two of my favourite items in the Bishop Farrell Library & Archives collection are portraits of our early clergy. One is a portrait of Bishop John Farrell, the first bishop of the Diocese of Hamilton, painted by Marie-Joseph Georges Delfosse. What strikes me most about this painting is the sense of dynamism. Bishop Farrell was 6’ 4” in height and was often described as being of “noble form”. In this painting his robust stature has been captured. I get the sense that Bishop Farrell is about to leap up and head off on horseback to minister to the estimated 28,000 Catholics who were in the region at the time. When the Diocese of Hamilton was established in 1856, Bishop Farrell had only eight priests and three Sisters of St. Joseph to help him in ministry. The Diocese also encompassed a large geographic area, spanning as far north as Bytown (Ottawa, Ontario) and St. Boniface (Winnipeg, Manitoba) and including Wentworth, Haldimand, Brant, Halton, Waterloo, Wellington, Grey, Bruce, Manitoulin Island, the mission of Sault St. Marie, and the missions of Lake Superior. The strength depicted in his portrait was most definitely needed to meet the spiritual welfare of those within the Diocese of Hamilton!
The artist, Georges Delfosse was a Canadian painter, portraitist, and illustrator. His works can be found in several major institutions such as the National Gallery of Canada, Art Gallery of Ontario, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, and Library and Archives Canada. He was born on December 6, 1869 in Saint-Henri Mascouche, Quebec. He was a member of the Art Association of Montreal and the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. He was educated and trained in Montreal, Quebec and Paris, France. Delfosse produced over two hundred religious paintings including works for the church of Maisonneue in France, the Cathedral of Montreal, the Cathedral of Joliette, the church of Saint-Félix-de-Valois, and the Saint-Jacques Cathedral in Montreal. Georges Delfosse died in Montreal on December 22, 1939.
The other portrait in our collection that stands out to me is that of Rev. Edward Gordon, the first Vicar General for the Diocese of Hamilton and the Rector of St. Mary’s Church, our Pro-Cathedral. Rev. Gordon was stationed in Hamilton, at St. Mary’s Church, on December 13, 1846; his arrival predating that of the establishment of the Diocese of Hamilton. At the time the area was under the care of the Archdiocese of Toronto. In 1851, Bishop De Charbonnel appointed him Vicar General for Toronto. In 1856, when the Diocese of Hamilton was established, Bishop Farrell maintain him in this role for Hamilton and also appointed him Rector. Similarly to Bishop Farrell, Rev. Gordon was known to have been a man of energy and zeal. He spent much of his time out ministering to the vast Diocese. While he is shown in this portrait in the finery of his vestments, primary documents from the Archives reveal this was an unusual occurrence. In fact, correspondence shows that he was reprimanded more than once for heading out without the accoutrements associated with the priesthood. Given that he was often saying Mass in private homes, log huts, and barns, it is not surprising that he opted to forgo his vestments. Unfortunately, the artist for this portrait has not yet been identified. This detail remains on a long list of interesting research to be discovered! Both portraits are on display at the Bishop Farrell Library & Archives.