One Man's Gift: the Father Edward Leo Hayes Collection

The University of Queensland acquired the remarkable Father Edwards Leo Hayes Collection in 1967. To mark the 50th anniversary, we have curated a display to showcase some of the treasures that contributed to the reputation of the Fryer Library as a pre-eminent research collection. In this post we share just some of the interesting facts about the collection and its collector. 

Father Edward Leo Hayes

Father Edward Leo Hayes (1889-1967) was a Catholic priest based in Oakey, Queensland. He was also an inveterate and eclectic book collector. Terms like bower-bird, hoarder and bibliomaniac have all been used to describe Father Hayes!

The young Father Edward Leo Hayes

Books filled the house 

Father Hayes kept his books everywhere: in the presbytery, in cupboards, on the floor, in the bathtub, in the oven and under his bed. They were interspersed with jars of snakes, coins, shotguns, cowbells, stamps, bookplates, maps, letters and personal documents, artefacts and geological specimens, autographs, dinosaur bones, press cuttings, postcards, photographs, and even a human skull. 

A pre-eminent private collection 

The Hayes Collection was acknowledged worldwide as one of the great Australian collections and the pre-eminent private collection accumulated in the 20th century.

With limited resources, but with a multitude of generous friends and very patient book sellers, Father Hayes amassed an extraordinary collection.

Among the manuscripts he possessed were letters and poems from well-known figures including Dame Mary Gilmore, Paul Grano, Steele Rudd, Henry Lawson, William Morris, Miles Franklin, A.B. Paterson and A. G. Stevens. 

Father Hayes was most proud of his books, and could count such gems as a first edition Mathew Flinders’ Terra Australis, and Gregory Mathews’ Birds of Australia amongst his collection, as well as limited editions and sometimes sole-surviving copies of fiction, essays and poetry of most Australian authors.

Father Hayes' collection exceeded 100,000 items at the time of his death, and included: 

  • 25,000 books - 19,000 of these were on Australian subjects
  • 30,000 manuscript items
  • over 4,000 geological specimens
  • 1500 anthropological artefacts  

The Hayes Collection is truly a monument to one man’s love of literature and the world around him.

Whiskey bottle given to Father Hayes by General Douglas MacArthur; Condamine cowbells
Papal Medallion

The move to UQ and the impact of the collection

It took four trucks to move the Hayes Collection to The University of Queensland. Each truck carried 80 crates containing 400 cartons. The collection doubled the University’s resources to support Australian subjects and the Fryer Library became the premier institution for higher research in Australian studies. The collection has provided material for outstanding research. A special issue of Fryer Folios was dedicated to the collection in 2007.

Our noblest collection, and a great source of pride, is the Father Leo Hayes collection. This was the work of a lifetime and the work of a devoted Australian patriot. Its treasures are detailed in the University Library’s Brochure in his memory. There is no scholar working in the Robinson Room who does not surround himself equally with Fryer and Hayes material. One supplements the other to an amazing degree.

Source: The Fryer Memorial Library of Australian Literature. [St. Lucia, Queensland] [Fryer Memorial Library, University of Queensland]

See the collection

View a display of selected items from the Hayes Collection in the F.W. Robinson Reading Room, Fryer Library, Level  4, Duhig Tower (Building 2), UQ St Lucia. View opening hours.

Further reading

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Last updated:
12 May 2017