The name Monsignor John Hawes may mean more to those of us that live in the Midwest of Western Australia than those who don’t. Simply because this man known as Dean Hawes or Reverend Hawes, when he first came to serve in the Geraldton Diocese, left such an indelible and architecturally beautiful legacy on this landscape it is hard not to know who he was and be familiar with at least one of his buildings.
Perenjori, Morawa, Mullewa, Yalgoo, Northampton, Nanson (Chapman Valley), Kojarina, Geraldton and Carnarvon all have a Church a Chapel a Convent or a Cathedral either designed and constructed or just designed by this quite amazing man.
Monsignor John Hawes was born John Cyril Hawes to Amelia and Edward Hawes in Richmond near London, England on the 7th of September 1876.
After attending boarding schools for his education he began an apprenticeship in 1893 as an architect and by 1897 was working for himself designing private homes and churches.
In 1901 John Hawes entered the Lincoln Theological College and became an ordained Deacon in the Anglican Church at St Pauls Cathedral, London in September 1903. He worked as a priest as well as an architect for the next five years in some of the of the poorest slum areas until he was approached to work as a missionary in the Bahamas in 1908. He was to use his many skills to help rebuild churches and church buildings that had been destroyed by a hurricane in that same year. In January 1909 at the age of 32 he landed on Long Island the Bahamas and began not only the process of repairing and rebuilding the badly damaged buildings for the Anglican church but to act as Minister to the congregation as well as design and oversee the construction of new church buildings on other islands within the Bahamas to help expand the parish.
By 1911 John Hawes was having thoughts about leaving the Church of England and becoming a Catholic he subsequently left the Bahamas and travelled to America where he joined the Catholic church in Graymoor. By January 1912 he joined the Beda College in Rome where he was to become a catholic priest and he was ordained as a priest in early 1915.
His talents were recognised by visiting Bishop William Kelly who had a grand plan of constructing a magnificent Cathedral in Geraldton and as the enormous diocese needed Priests and Churches Dean John Hawes was offered the position of Priest but more importantly the job of designing and construction of the Cathedral in the Midwest of Western Australia.
John Hawes arrived in Western Australia in November 1915 and immediately took up a temporary position at Cue to service the towns of Cue, Mount Magnet Yalgoo and Day Dawn. It is during this time that whilst visiting the small mining town of Yalgoo he met local store keepers Caleb and Catherine Williamson, they also owned the pastoral lease for Melangata Station which they intended living on and developing but there was no suitable place for them and their 6 children to live.
John Hawes and Caleb and Catherine Williamson became good friends and they commissioned him to design their homestead.
Melangata Station Homestead is the only privately owned residence that John Hawes designed that was ever built in Australia and was also one of the first buildings constructed when he first came to WA.
He stayed in the Midwest, mostly around Mullewa and continued his work as a Parish priest and architect for the catholic church for 24 years of which 22 of those were seeing to the construction of the Cathedral.
Monsignor John Hawes left Western Australia and returned to the Bahamas in 1940 ultimately settling on Cat Island to live as a monk whilst he constructed his hermitage and the church St Alvernias.
John Hawes or Father Jerome as he was referred to for the rest of his life lived on the island until he passed away in 1956, his dying request was to have his body returned to Cat Island to be interred in the specially constructed tomb he made for himself and to everyone’s great credit that is where he was lay to rest.