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The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Gibney, Right Rev. Matthew

Gibney, Right Rev. Matthew, D.D., Roman Catholic Bishop of Perth, W.A., was formerly Vicar-General of that diocese, and was consecrated bishop by Cardinal Moran on Jan. 23rd, 1887. Dr. Gibney's name is best known in connection with a gallant feat which he performed on the occasion of the destruction of the Kelly gang of bushrangers at Glenrowan, in Victoria, where Bishop Gibney happened to be on a collecting tour, which he had undertaken on behalf of a Western Australian orphanage. The outlaws, who, to quote from Mr. Hogan's well-known work, "The Irish in Australia," "had long defied capture, and had carried on a career of murder and robbery, descended from their haunts in the mountain ranges and took possession of the village, making all the inhabitants prisoners. They cut the telegraph wires and tore up the railway; nevertheless, the authorities in Melbourne were apprised of this daring outrage, and despatched a large force to the locality. The bushrangers, taken by surprise, threw themselves into the village hotel, which they defended against the besiegers for the greater part of the day. Father Gibney, who happened to be in the neighbourhood at the time, hastened to the scene of strife, so that the services of a priest might not be wanting, if required. At an early stage of the conflict he endeavoured to advance through the open, and exert his influence with the besieged bushrangers to induce them to surrender, and thereby avert further bloodshed. He was confident that even such desperadoes would not fire on a priest; but the officers in command thought differently, and declined to allow him to place his life in jeopardy. When, however, late in the afternoon, the hotel was seen to be in flames, the brave priest refused to be kept back any longer, and rushed to the burning building, in the hope of being able to administer the last sacraments of the Church to any of the surviving bushrangers within. He was watched with eager and breathless attention as he crossed the open space in front of the outlaws' citadel, the general fear being that he would be shot down before he reached the house. A cheer went up from the excited spectators, as they saw him rush through the flames into the interior of the hotel, and a number of them were emboldened to follow in his footsteps. When Father Gibney got within the blazing building, he saw the bodies of the bushrangers lying on the floor, having apparently preferred to shoot themselves or each other rather than fall into the hands of the authorities. He had just time to touch their bodies, and ascertain that they were lifeless, before the advancing flames compelled him to beat a hasty retreat in order to save his own life. The courage and intrepidity displayed by Father Gibney on this occasion won universal admiration, and the news of his elevation to the mitre was received with cordial approval by the press and the public of all the colonies."