Publication Details

This article was originally published as McHugh, S, Not in front of the altar - Mixed marriages and sectarian tensions between Catholics and Protestants in pre-multicultural Australia, History Australia, 6(2), August 2009, 42.1-42.22. Original article here.


Birth, death and marriage traditionally evoke our most powerful expressions of intimacy and sentiment. Yet for numerous Australian families up to the 1970s, those occasions triggered the opposite sentiments: estrangement, conflict and hostility, which sometimes endured beyond the grave. The cause: ‘mixed marriage’ between Catholics and Protestants in a pre-multicultural Australia, where religion was still code for a social and political identity that reflected English–Irish tensions derived from colonial days. This article is based on 48 oral histories recorded by Siobhan McHugh for a forthcoming doctoral thesis at the University of Wollongong. The marriages, which range from 1924 to 1983, are recalled by spouses, children and clergy.

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