Forever Carnival

A story of priests, professors and politics in 19th Century Sydney

St John's College "Sydney never seemed so exciting..."

commented Bruce Elder in his glowing Sydney Morning Herald review of Forever Carnival: A story of priests, professors and politics in 19th century Sydney when it was first published in 2004.

Set in boomtown Sydney in the 1860s to 1880s, the book tells the story of the feisty Irish scholar-priest whose unhappy fate was to preside as grand hopes for a Catholic university college failed to materialise. As Bruce Elder put it, 'Here, in Robert Lehane's excellent story of the establishment of St John's College at the University of Sydney and its first rector, Dr John Forrest, is enough intrigue, backstabbing and sheer un-Christian behaviour to ensure that the book reads more like a cross between Machiavelli and Umberto Eco than a polite history of Catholicism in Sydney...'

Only fourteen students took degrees in Forrest's fourteen years as rector; 'this most interesting book needs to be read to understand how that came to be', wrote Elizabeth Johnston in the Australian Catholic Historical Society Journal. She added that the book tells 'many fascinating stories' of life in the Sydney of the time and the word 'politics' in the sub-title 'certainly encompasses both Church and state'. Frank O'Shea, in the Canberra Times, found the book 'full of interest and intrigue'. Frances Devlin-Glass, who was 'quite taken with this book', observed in the Irish-Australian magazine Tain that it offers 'much insight into the Byzantine, often secretive and power-hungry ecclesiastical hierarchy' and tells 'a moving story at a human level'.

The University of Sydney Gazette noted that Forever Carnival draws on 'an impressive array of contemporary sources'. But it is not heavy reading. The Herald's Bruce Elder wrote, 'Lehane is a good writer who knows how to walk the tightrope between populism and rigorous history. His quotes are always short and essential; his ability to tell a story is so well honed that the narrative never flags.' In the Australasian Journal of Irish Studies, Val Noone wrote that the book 'deserves to be read by all those with an interest in the Irish diaspora, the history of New South Wales or the study of modern Catholicism.'

Forever Carnival is available from the publisher, Ginninderra Press, and in both print and ebook editions from online retailers.