John Davies Mereweather was born in 1816, the son and only child of John Mereweather, gentleman, of St. James', Bristol, Gloucestershire, England and his second wife Anna Maria Davies. John Mereweather already had a son and two daughters by his first wife.
The young John matriculated on 14 June 1839 and went on to study at St. Edmund Hall, Oxford University (B.A.,1843). He was ordained deacon in St. Faith's Church, London c1843 and priest c1844. In 1844 he was at Llanfair Chapel, Llantilio, Wales and in 1848 at Holy Trinity Church, Hulme, Manchester, Lancashire, England.
In February 1850 he sailed from Plymouth, England for Australia on the "Lady MacNaghten" arriving at Adelaide, South Australia on 15 June 1850. During the voyage he kept a journal which was later published as "Life on Board an Emigrant Ship: being a Diary of a Voyage to Australia" (London, 1852).
His ship was not proceeding on to Port Phillip so on 28 June 1850 he embarked on the "Sea Queen" and eventually arrived at Hobson's Bay, Melbourne on 7 July 1850. A visit to Geelong was made from 5 to 10 August 1850. Following his appointment to a government chaplaincy in Van Diemen's Land he departed Melbourne on 10 October 1850 per "Shamrock" for Launceston, V.D.L.
He arrived back in Melbourne on 20 March 1851 per "Shamrock" and on 1 May 1850 received word that he had been licenced by the Lord Bishop of Sydney to the charge of the Edward River District in New South Wales. Overlanded to the Moolamein area where he established a headquarters. His diary says he baptised a couple of children along the way and though it doesn't record their names he says that the details were recorded in a book at his headquarters on 24 July 1851. During January to March 1852 he made a return visit to Melbourne, overlanding both ways.
His stay in Australia was relatively short for he departed Sydney, N.S.W. by ship on 25 August 1853 on the first leg of his return journey to England. After visits to Batavia; Singapore; Colombo, Ceylon and Egypt he arrived at Southampton, Hampshire, England on 4 February 1854.
He published a second book "Diary of a working Clergyman in Australia and Tasmania, kept during the years 1850-53" (London, 1859) which commences on 17 June 1850 while he was in Adelaide waiting for a ship to Melbourne.
From 1855 he was the English Chaplain at Venice which was then under Austrian rule and was within the Anglican Diocese of Gibraltar. As there was no English Church in Venice services were held in his own home.
Among his neighbours were Captain George Frederick Greaves (late of the British 60th Rifles), his wife Ann and their large family. When Capt. Greaves died in 1869 his widow stayed on in Venice. In 1877, following advice and encouragement from Rev. Mereweather, she visited her daughter Adela and son-in-law Lt. Carl Edward Arfwedson (of the Royal Life Dragoons) at Ralambshof, Sweden. However shortly after arrival she developed pneumonia and died.
Rev. Mereweather wrote numerous further works including "Semele: or, the Spirit of Beauty. A Venetian Tale" (London 1867); "The Anglican Church, and universal religious union" (London, 1870) and "Bacchus and Ariadne, a drama in three acts and in verse" (London, 1891). For philanthropic services in 1882 he was made a Knight of the Order of the Crown of Italy. In 1887 he retired from the ministry but remained in Venice.
Rev. Cavaliere J. D. Mereweather died on 18 June 1896 at his residence, Palazzo ContÓrini, San Trovaso, Venice, Italy. He had been appalled with the burial conditions for non-catholics in Venice and had campaigned for an improvement in them with limited success. So in 1878 he purchased for himself a grave in Stockholm's Northern Cemetery next to that of that of Mrs. Ann Greaves and in 1880 paid for its perpetual upkeep. After he died in 1896 his remains were cremated (still a novel practice at the time) and his ashes taken to Stockholm for burial. The inscriptions on the adjoining tombstones, which have been copied and placed on the Greaves family website, are:
A biography with photographs of Rev. Mereweather by Ole Pein is on the internet. An unpublished biography of him entitled "From Bristol Trades to a Gentleman of Venice" by Wesleyan minister, the Rev. John Barrett (1931-1997) of South Australia is held by the National Library of Australia.
Contributed by Alexander Romanov-Hughes ( PPPG Member No. 52 )
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