Growing up in the Diocese: a parish priest's tale

Dellow family property
The Dellow family property: the diocesan offices in Victoria Road now occupy part of the land.

Very Rev John Boyle EV
Very Rev John Boyle EV.
An account from St Bernadette’s Castle Hill Parish Priest Very Rev John Boyle EV, on growing up in the Catholic Diocese of Parramatta.

Mum and Dad, Mollie and Jack, had been married in St Patrick’s Church on 26 February 1944. They moved into their new fibro Housing Commission house in Prince Street on my third birthday.

My mother never joined any of the parish sodalities. Dad’s introduction to mainstream social life began when, aged 19, he was asked to join the Knights of the Southern Cross.

He told me later how intensively he was involved with the Movement. Dad was a committed trade unionist and a member of the ALP. He was also a Holy Name man.

Carmel, my sister, and I were both baptised in St Patrick’s Church and we both followed our mother to St Patrick’s convent and made our Holy Communion there.

I became an altar boy and Carmel, like her mother before her, a child of Mary. We both made the nine first Fridays – a number of times.

After the 6.45am first Friday Mass, most of us would go to the fish and chip shop in Church Street up the road from Aylwood and Kennedy’s and Munro’s the butchers, opposite Granger’s bakery. We’d buy breakfast there.

We would come back to school on the north side of Victoria Road, past the two-storey house occupied by Amy Dellow. Now the diocesan offices occupy part of her property.

Mrs Dellow was the parish organist and she was unaware that the boys were ‘borrowing’ the pipes from the pipe organ. The smaller organ pipes made great tin whistles that were traded in the school playgrounds. We knew it was death if Monsignor McGovern found out.

My maternal grandmother, Mary Helena Dubois, was a major force in our young lives. Her son John was killed in a train accident aged only 18. As a result, she joined a committee to petition the State Government to fit all the Sydney trains with automatic doors.

When she moved to Parramatta she organised concerts in all the Parramatta institutions. Carmel and I would sing and recite poetry for the inmates in Parramatta jail. We loved going to the Parramatta Mental Hospital, as it was then, and we took part in the concerts at the Girls Industrial School in Fleet Street.

It was over the building of the Parramatta Leagues Club that Dad ran foul of the Church establishment in Parramatta. A site had been chosen to build a one-storey licensed club next to St Patrick’s primary school on the corner of Trot and Ross Streets.

Monsignor McGovern opposed the development because of its proximity to the school and the matter went to court. Parishioners were asked to sign a petition. Dad refused to sign. This was seen as a great act of disloyalty.

On the day of the court case, continuous rosaries were prayed by the two-and-a-half-thousand school children who occupied the school sites. The Leagues Club lost and a new site had to be found.

Monsignor McGovern did a service to the club because the site at Ross Street was most unsuitable. But in Parramatta’s oral history, he was blamed for the 34-year-long failure of the Eels to win the premiership. The story still had currency when the Eels won the Grand Final in 1981, 17 years after Monsignor McGovern’s death.

This article is slightly abridged from the account which appeared in ‘Lot One: St Patrick’s Parramatta’ and is used with permission of Fr Boyle.