Hatch and despatch: an egg-ceptional gift returns to Sydney

Director of Communications for the Sandhurst Diocese, Jordan Grantham hands the precious inkwell over to Chancellor of the Sydney Archdiocese, Chris Meney. PHOTO: Peter Rosengren

It’s that egg-stra-special time of year and while many people will receive chocolate eggs this Easter, few can claim having been given an inkwell made from an emu’s egg.

However, Chancellor of the Sydney Archdiocese, Chris Meney, recently received just such an egg-ceptional gift on behalf of the Archdiocese.

The ornate silver inkwell made from an emu’s egg was returned to the Archdiocese after being on loan to the Sandhurst Diocese for eggs-actly 18 years.

The curious object had been given as a gift to former Sydney Archbishop Cardinal Moran in 1901 by the students of St Mary’s College in Bendigo. The Cardinal had made the visit to Bendigo to open the new Sacred Heart Cathedral.

While the egg-cellent gift journeyed back to Sydney with the Cardinal, it was loaned to the Sandhurst Diocese one hundred years later in 2001 for their centenary celebrations. By all accounts a cracking time was had by one and all during the celebrations, and although it is unclear why, the inkwell remained egg-sconced in Bendigo.

The ornate inkwell was given to Cardinal Moran in 1901. PHOTO: Peter Rosengren

Now however, at the instigation of Sandhurst’s Bishop Les Tomlinson, it has finally been returned home to the Sydney Archdiocese, just in time for Easter.

Director of Communications at Sandhurst, Jordan Grantham, flew to Sydney with the fragile cargo and ceremoniously handed it over to Mr Meney.

“It was an honour to transport such an unusual and irreplaceable piece of history,” Mr Grantham told The Catholic Weekly.

“The inkwell made from silver and emu eggshells is extremely fragile and the emu egg inkwells hang from chains that swing considerably.”

Bishop Reville of the Sandhurst Diocese, left, with Cardinal Moran in Bendigo 1901. In front of them is the inkwell made from emu’s eggs, a gift from the pupils at St Mary’s College in Bendigo to Cardinal Moran.

“This historic item and the events surrounding it are signs of the warm collegial relationship that exists between Australian dioceses and the high regard of the people of the Catholic Diocese of Sandhurst for the Cardinal-Archbishops of Sydney.”

Archives Manager of the Sydney Archdiocese, Lienntje Cornelissen, an egg-spert in all things historical, said she was delighted to receive such a rare object.

“The inkwell is an intricate design and it is amazing that such a delicate object has remained undamaged through the years,” she said.

“Being able to display these heritage items is wonderful as they form part of the patrimony of the Church and tell a unique story.”

The eggstra-ordinary inkwell was designed by a Melbourne artist and manufactured by Mr N Prescott, according to The Bendigo Independent report on 1 October 1901.

One of the half egg shells bears Cardinal Moran’s coat of arms with motto, “Omnia Omnibus”, “All things to all men”, while the other half egg shell bears the inscription, “Souvenir from the pupils of St Mary’s College, Convent of Mercy, Bendigo, 1901.”

The inkwell is currently on display in the Polding Centre on Liverpool Street.