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Jim’s Australiana Spot – 2UE - March 17, 2013

  THE irish in Australia

Irish
 

 

Q
Who was born in Dublin, came here as an 11 year old, lost his family’s fortune in California and pioneered the cattle routes of Queensland?
A
Nat Buchanan
Q
What are BOTH names of the man who was born in Yass, lived in Naranderra and was the voice of Catholic Australians and is being celebrated in today??
A
Father Patrick Hartigan ‘John O’Brien’

In 1929 Australians, by electing the Australian Labor Party to power, brought James Scullin to the office of prime minister, both of whose parents were Irish-Catholic immigrants. In the 1930s and 1940s another three prime ministers, all of whose direct antecedents were of Irish-Catholic stock, were also elected to power: Joseph Lyons (1931–39), John Curtin (1941–45) and Ben Chifley (1945–51).

None of these leaders traded much upon their Irish background, although all had supported the right of Ireland to independence, preferably within the British Empire and Commonwealth. Scullin and Lyons both visited Ireland and were thanked officially by the government of the Irish Free State for their support in the struggle for independence. Curtin, as an Australian, thought the claims of his Irish ancestry bogus, but as a socialist he certainly defended Ireland's right to independence.

Of the four of them, the one most caught in the problems of Catholic Australia was Ben Chifley. In 1914 he married a Presbyterian in a Presbyterian church, thereby, under Catholic church law, excluding himself from the sacrament of communion. When he was in Canberra, however, he often attended mass at St Christopher's Cathedral and sat in a special chair at the back that became known as 'Chif's Chair'. Second-generation Irish Catholics gained positions of national leadership in Australia well before it happened in the US.

John Chifley
John O'Brien
John Chifley
Fr Patrick Hartigan aka John O'Brien

 

‘Said Hanrahan'
John O'Brien

‘We’ll all be rooned,’ said Hanrahan,
In accents most forlorn,
Outside the church, ere Mass began,
One frosty Sunday morn.
The congregation stood about,
Coat-collars to the ears,
And talked of stock, and crops and drought,
As it had done for years,
‘It’s lookin’ crook,’ said Daniel Croke;
‘Bedad, it’s crook, me lad,
For never since the banks went broke
Has seasons been so bad.’
‘It’s dry, all right,’ said young O’Neil,
With which astute remark
He squatted down upon his heel
And chewed a piece of bark.
And so around the chorus ran
‘It’s keepin’ dry, no doubt.’
‘We’ll all be rooned,’ said Hanrahan,
‘Before the year is out.
 ‘The crops are done; ye’ll have your work
To save one bag of grain;
From here way out to Back-o’-Bourke
They’re singin’ out for rain.
‘They’re singin’ out for rain,’ he said,
‘And all the tanks are dry.’
The congregation scratched its head,
And gazed around the sky.
‘There won’t be grass, in any case,
Enough to feed an ass;
There’s not a blade on Casey’s place
As I came down to Mass.’
‘If rain don’t come this month,’ said Dan,
And cleared his throat to speak –
‘We’ll all be rooned,’ said Hanrahan,
‘If rain don’t come this week.’
A heavy silence seemed to steal
On all at this remark;
And each man squatted on his heel,
And chewed a piece of bark.
‘We want a inch of rain, we do,’
O’Neil observed at last;
But Croke maintained we wanted two
To put the danger past.
‘If we don’t get three inches, man,
Or four to break this drought,
We’ll all be rooned,’ said Hanrahan,
‘Before the year is out.’

In God’s good time down came the rain;
And all the afternoon
On iron roof and window-pane
It drummed a homely tune.
It pelted, pelted all day long,
A-singing at its work,
Till every heart took up the song
Way out to Back-o’-Bourke.
And every creek a banker ran,
And dams filled overtop;
‘We’ll all be rooned,’ said Hanrahan,
‘If this rain doesn’t stop.’

And stop it did, in God’s good time;
And spring came in to fold
A mantle o’er the hills sublime
Of green and pink and gold.
And days went by on dancing feet,
With harvest-hopes immense,
And laughing eyes beheld the wheat
Nid-nodding o’er the fence.
And, oh, the smiles on every face,
As happy lad and lass
Through grass knee-deep on Casey’s place
Went riding down to Mass.
While round the church in clothes genteel
Discoursed the men of mark,
And each man squatted on his heel,
And chewed his piece of bark.
‘There’ll be bush-fires for sure, me man,
There will, without a doubt;
We’ll all be rooned,’ said Hanrahan,
‘Before the year is out.’

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