Tribute to Father Leo Hayes, [c1967 to ?]


Tribute to Father Leo Hayes, [c1967 to ?]


Robinson, Frederick Walter, 1888-1971


Frederick Walter Robinson Collection, UQFL5, Box 25, item 1




Creative Commons Attribution no derivatives


1 sound tape reel (04 min., 49 sec.) : analog, 7 1/​2 ips, 2 track.



Additional notes

The Venerable Archdeacon Leo Hayes, that was his official designation. But no one ever dreamed of calling him Archdeacon, of course. To young and old, he was Father Hayes. And for some of them the association went back a long way. He had baptized them, later he had married them. Later still, he had baptized their children. He was over fifty years a priest and he came to his calling after a difficult youth.

He taught himself shorthand before he was fourteen and he applied for a job in Toowoomba. When he appeared in person, his employers were rather taken aback. “I looked pretty young”, he told me once, “And I was small, so they asked me why my father hadn’t come about the job himself. So I told them: I’m the man for the job”. Well, he got that job and from then on he lived, you might say, for knowledge.

He went to lectures, he took lessons, he attended W.E.A [Workers’ Educational Association] and School of Arts adult education courses. He had a pretty good mental digestion. Perhaps the best teacher he had, in those far off days before World War One, was himself. Then, when he was twenty-one, he undertook, what for years had been his aspiration, he began to study for the priesthood. His earlier studies hadn’t been especially theological, but they’d taught him how to study. One result was the award he received at the college, the Cardinal Cerretti medal for dogmatic theology.

His first appointment was as curate in Ipswich. He was already interested in geology and it was there that this interest widened and deepened. In 1937, 1938, and 1940, as geologist, he accompanied three expeditions to the Carnarvon Rranges. These expeditions were sponsored by the Royal Geographical Society, which was so impressed by Father Hayes’ work that it awarded him the Doctor Thomas Foundation gold medal.

One unexpected contact he had in his long life was with General MacArthur. When the General was in Brisbane in World War Two, his intelligence staff lacked maps of the Pacific area. MacArthur made a public appeal and Father Hayes gave to allied headquarters his collection of rare maps of the Pacific. This led to some personal communication between Father Hayes and the great war leader.

He had a lively spread of interests and these made him a figure in each parish he cared for. The local history of the area, for example, was something he made his own. And this has helped in the arousing of an awareness, that only now is being recognized as valuable. For his flock, he was a builder. Churches and schools were his legacy. He had won his own learning at a personal cost of time and effort. And he recognized this effort in others, especially in the young. So he gave school prizes for good work and these were for those outside his church as well as for his own people.

Apart from his work as priest, probably he was best known as a bookman. He began to collect books when he was in his teens and he continued to the end of his life. The outcome is the Hayes Library, about half of which consists of Australiana. Now the study of Australian literature in any widespread or serious way is only about thirty years old. Father Hayes began gathering such material over sixty years ago, at a time when very few had the interest or the foresight to do so. Some books he got from friends. Mostly he bought from catalogues. A certain amount came from booksellers who he knew well. One of his most interesting volumes, for instance, was put aside for him by James Tyrrell of Sydney, a close friend of his.

He was a many sided man. Priest, educator, collector, scholar, and friend of scholars. In recognition of his work, The University of Queensland conferred on him the degree of Master of Arts Honoris Causa. He never set himself up or never tried to win hearts, but he won them just the same. I am honoured to pay my small tribute to him. I am not a Catholic and I didn’t know him from my boyhood as some of his friends did, but I knew him long enough to learn and to respect and love him, like so very many others.


Robinson, Frederick Walter, 1888-1971, “Tribute to Father Leo Hayes, [c1967 to ?] ,” accessed January 23, 2020,

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