Friday 14 August 2015

Record of the Week: 1861 Passport of Bishop Timothy O'Mahony

This week we are featuring the 1861 British passport of Bishop Timothy O'Mahony.

Timothy O'Mahony was born in Cork County, Ireland in 1825. He was ordained in 1849 and was a parish priest in the Diocese of Cork before being appointed first Bishop of Armidale, Australia in 1869.

Because of local Church politics, Bishop O'Mahony resigned his See in August of 1877 and returned to Europe. In 1879 he met Archbishop Lynch while the Archbishop was in Rome, which led to his appointment as the first Auxiliary Bishop of Toronto.

Upon his arrival in Toronto, Bishop O'Mahony took charge of St. Paul'sParish, where he began fundraising for a new church to accommodate the growing congregation. The new building was completed in 1889 and remains in use today. Bishop O'Mahony also performed episcopal duties and assisted Archbishop Lynch. In 1887 he even acted as the Administrator of the Diocese of Hamilton during the prolonged absence of Bishop James Carberry.

Bishop O'Mahony died in 1892, and was interred in a brick vault at the south-east corner of St. Paul's Church.

O'Mahony's 1861 passport is still in great shape even though the paper is thin and it was kept folded. It is stamped by officials of the Netherlands, Saxony, Dresden, Bavaria, and Austria. 

Travelling papers have been around in various forms for hundreds of years, and were issued in the monarch's name by the Secretary of State after 1794. They requested safe passage for the bearer, but were not necessarily required for travelers. The modern idea of a passport came into use during the First World War as a security measure.

1861 British Passport - a stamp from the Bavarian Embassy in London is visible in the top left corner. 

          "We Lord John Russell, a Member of Her Britannic Majesty's Most Honorable Privy Council, a Member of Parliament and Her Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, &c. &c. &c.
          Request and require in the Name of Her Majesty, all those whom it may concern, to allow Mr. Timothy Mahony (British Subject) travelling on the Continent
to pass freely without let or hindrance and to afford him every assistance and protection of which he may stand in need.
          Given at the Foreign Office, London, the 1 day of August 1861.
L AM13.03 - Obverse

Stamps from diplomatic institutions of  Austria, the Netherlands, Dresden and Saxony. We haven't been able to decipher the top stamp.

L AM13.03 - Reverse
For a brief history of British passports, see this 2006 Guardian article.

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