|JOE MCCARTHY's Personal Reflection|
Father Ryan was the parish priest when I arrived in the 1940’s. The site of the present church was a bare paddock. He then started building the church. We had Mass in the old school. It was a school-church combination. And it was all very lovely when I first got here. There were some wonderful people here. They were great workers. The parish was developing although it was well and truly established when we got here.
When we came to the Housing Commission here we were spurned. People looked down on us. We were not very welcome. There were some very odd types here at the time. One of them was a murderer. It happened around in the next street. He murdered a girl in Ashwood and was later convicted. I knew him. I had been in the home around there—but I don’t remember what he looked like now-but he seemed to be an ordinary sort of a bloke.
While there were some odd types around there were also some very lovely people. Mostly Returned Men. I was not a Returned Man but we became great friends. We knew everybody everywhere in this area—and they were very fine people here.
I joined the Society of St Vincent de Paul which was well established when I came. The main social need in this area was helping people who were poverty stricken. There was a lot of poverty in the area at that time. Many people had no money. When I came here I was a leading hand in the SEC (State Electricity Commission of Victoria) and at that time we had four children and my wages were eight pounds a week. It was ten shillings to buy a weekly train ticket to the city, which I could not afford. So I rode my bike from here to East Brunswick.
St Vincent de Paul Society gave people food vouchers. We did not give them money. In those days you were not allowed to go visiting those we were helping alone. You had to go in pairs. I used to go with a parishioner who was a policeman. I did it for 15 years—but I nearly brought myself to destruction by trying to organise something for some people outside the Society. I tried to help them on my own. They just about bought me down. I nearly finished up a nervous wreck.
After Father Ryan died Father Connellan came. He was marvelous. He was on Radio Reply, the Catholic radio program. He also celebrated the first television Mass here in St Michael’s—1956 or 57 I guess? During the sermon he talked about the one true church. He never appeared on radio after that. And there was no publicity given to him whatsoever. It was the end of his public life. He was a wonderful man--a fair dinkum saint. He used to take me and the family fishing. We used to love to go fishing to Eildon. I knew Eildon very well. I worked at the power station up there and knew all the stations around the place.
When we arrived at St Michael’s Parish there were many young couples and they had house parties to raise funds for the building of the new church. When I was at Yarraville where I came from, we had a Queen Carnival in 1934—in the middle of the Depression. My sister was a Queen. We four brothers worked as secretaries and we raised 400 pounds. It was a lot of money in those days. We had all kinds of functions—dances, bars, and shows—everything you could imagine. After we came to Ashburton there was a house party and it made seven thousand pounds. I have never forgotten that.
I had nine children and they all went to St Michael’s School for a start.