Joseph Denis Nunan [Noonan] (1842-1885), convict and architect

Born in Rathcormick, north Co Cork to Denis Nunan and Joanne Murphy, Nunan apprenticed as a carpenter with his father before starting his own business in Cork. He joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) in 1864 and was implicated in the shooting of an RIC constable in 1867. He was eventually caught and tried for felony treason later that year and was sentenced to seven years penal servitude in Western Australia, arriving in January 1868.  Nunan was pardoned a year later by Gladstone and decided to settle in Western Australia where he resumed his work in the building trade, partnering with fellow Fenian exile, Hugh Brophy. Between 1869 and 1872, they won contracts to design and construct new structures for the government, business and the Catholic Church. Nunan is credited with designing Padbury’s store in Guildford, Perth Town Hall, the convent of the Sisters of Mercy in Perth and Gothic-inspired St. Patrick ‘s Church, York. After marrying in Perth, Nunan moved to Melbourne in 1872 where he became involved in relief work with Fenian prisoners. He was eventually forced to give this up after questions were raised surrounding his failure to support escape convicts and Nunan eventually moved back to Perth where he died of tuberculosis in 1885.

See Robyn Taylor, 'Nunan, Joseph Denis (1842 - 1885)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, Melbourne University Press, 2005, pp 308-309.


Picture: St. Patrick's Church in York, designed by Nunan