The Beginnings - Early Times up to August 1964

40,000 BCE

The material for this section was supplied by Mary Zalewski an Elder of the North Brisbane Community.

Dan-tyan tya

In the years prior to the settlement of Brisbane, Mumble (pronounced Moombal), the Supreme Spirit looked on His Creation and was pleased. Mumble often went hunting with the old ancestors – the Turrbul (stone) tribe.

The area of the Turrbul tribe extended from the north bank of the Logan River to the south bank of the Caboolture River, a distance of about 74km, and from the coast to the Taylor Range in the west, a distance of about 40km. The tribal area was occupied by five clans, three from south of the Brisbane River, the Yerongpan, Chapara and the Coopooroo Clans and two on the north side, the Duke of York and the North Pine Clans.

This story deals with the Duke of York Clan, which was known by the old ones as Barrabim (large goanna) clan. The Duke of York title came from the habit of an old Aborigine in the 19th Century who used to play a button accordion and a favorite tune of his people was ‘The Grand Old Duke of York’. Gradually the name was applied to the clan.

Following the seasons, the beautiful rainforest area of Zillmere was frequented by Barrabim’s people (for 40,000 years). The area in which St Flannan’s parish is situated was used for hunting and gathering. The men would hunt the kangaroo and wallaby. The women would gather the numerous varieties of seeds for biscuit making. They would also search for bush turkey eggs and snakes. The children would assist the women to collect wood for a campfire, which would have been set-up along the banks of Tighgum (Cabbage Tree) Creek.

Nudgee Boral (Bora) ring was located at the back of Nudgee cemetery and was a sacred site used for teaching the 42 rules of living (the equivalent of our ten commandments). A little way off was a second Boral ring which was used by the women. No trace of either ring now remains and the ceremonies were thought to have ceased around about 1855.

The Nudgee Waterhole was poisoned by early settlers and some Aborigines were massacred. Because of this their spirits cannot rest and still inhabit the area.

A very important site that would have been used for gathering near St. Flannan’s is Tighgum Creek (now Cabbage Tree Creek), which runs below the land on which our school grounds lie. The Tighgum area was a source of Lawyer Cane vine which grew prolifically in the area and was used to make baskets.

It was here that Bungwall Fern was collected to make bread. Of course, before cooking, the women would have used the leaves of the Meeamee bush (the soap tree) to wash their hands. Perhaps the children were sent off to gather some Mid-yim (Midjim) berries, which are very sweet to eat. The children would also have collected some Minti (Banksia) blooms so they could have a nice sweet drink.

The women would also gather Ta-am (Long Yam) to roast as a vegetable for the main meal that night. Depending on the season, the women would have gathered Kubbuhubburan (Native Raspberry) and Nyoa-Nga (Noongar) (figs) to serve after the evening meal as a desert.

The leaves of the Dilla (Mat Rush) would have been taken, some for dilly bags and some for bandages. The Pi-i (Piccabean) Palm and the glue from the Kum’barchu (Hoop Pine) would be taken to make baskets. The leaves of the Nyoa-Nga fig are extremely rough and were used as natural sandpaper to smooth wooden utensils.

Although the old Aborigines have left the land here, Aborigines continue to live in the area and use places such as:

  • Across the road, directly opposite the play ground of St. Flannan’s School, is Koobara an Aboriginal kindergarten and pre-school. The name Koobara means sacred place;
  • South of St.Flannan’s in Handford Road is an Aboriginal Aged Respite Centre named Nulingu. The author is not aware of the meaning of this word as it comes from the Gunggari people who live in the area of Mitchell, western Queensland;
  • Another Aboriginal organization within the area is Kariba Warngan which means Women’s Meeting Place.
  • On Handford Road is Umpie Korumba (Many Houses) which is a housing co-operative.



Karbeethon Brisbannu © June 2002


The deeds of St Flannan’s land show that it was granted to James Handford in 1866 as Portion 229 in the Parish of Kedron, County of Stanley. The original area of 20acres 2roods was later reduced by the sale of 10acres in 1933, so that the area bought by the Archdiocese was 11acres 0roods 29perches. In 1998 the flood area alongside Cabbage Tree Creek, the western boundary, was passed to the Brisbane City Council who fenced the area and built a concrete path along the creek.


In 1944 the Holy Spirit Sisters came to Brisbane, refugees from the war in Papua New Guinea, where many lost their lives. In 1945 they obtained a farm property in Aspley on the Cr Beams & Gympie Roads (now Carseldine) and established themselves there. In 1946 they purchased the old Lister private Hospital on Wickham Terrace, Central Brisbane, and set up Holy Spirit Hospital. In 1962 they opened Holy Spirit Home at Carseldine. By 2002 both these facilities were administered by lay men and women who were committed to the Sisters' vision. In February 2003 the Hospital was sold and is now operating under the title of Brisbane Private Hospital and a new Holy Spirit Hospital has been built at Chermside alongside of Prince Charles Hospital in a Joint Venture with the Sisters of Charity.

In 1944 the Holy Spirit Sisters came to Brisbane, refugees from the war in Papua New Guinea, where many lost their lives. In 1945 they obtained a farm property in Aspley on the Cr Beams & Gympie Roads (now Carseldine) and established themselves there. In 1946 they purchased the old Lister private Hospital on Wickham Terrace, Central Brisbane, and set up Holy Spirit Hospital. In 1962 they opened Holy Spirit Home at Carseldine. By 2002 both these facilities were administered by lay men and women who were committed to the Sisters' vision. In February 2003 the Hospital was sold and is now operating under the title of Brisbane Private Hospital and a new Holy Spirit Hospital has been built at Chermside alongside of Prince Charles Hospital in a Joint Venture with the Sisters of Charity.

The Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters are an international group of Catholic women living and working in more than 40 countries. They are an official “Religious Congregation” within the Catholic Church, with members (after some years) making a vowed commitment to the loving service of God and their sisters and brothers in need around the world. They were founded in 1889 in Steyl, Holland by a German priest, Arnold Janssen, and two German women, Helena Stollenwerk and Hendrina Stenmanns. From the very beginning their vision has been to share God’s love and the knowledge of Jesus Christ with people of different nationalities and cultures, in whatever ways they can. In October 2003, Fr Janssen and his confrere, Fr Joseph Freinademety, will be canonized, while Helena Stollenwerk was beatified in 1995.

Their ministries cover a wide range of services in education, health care, spirituality, catechetics, evangelization, pastoral care, community and personal development, justice, peace and environmental issues.

In Brisbane the Holy Spirit Sisters are also involved in ecumenical Parish ministry in the “Churches Together” project in Springfield, a new area west of Brisbane; in Ministry to Refugees and Migrants and in Care of the Aged; in Parish Ministry in East Kew, Melbourne; in Inter-Religious dialogue, Prison Ministry and Hospital Chaplaincy in Sydney and in ministry among the aboriginal people at Toomeloah near Goondiwindi.

The letters SSpS after a sister’s name stand for the Latin “SERVA SPIRITUS SANCITI” meaning Servant of the Holy Spirit. On the logo is the Spirit of God (the Dove) who is at the centre of all creation and within every person.

AUSTRALIA in the 1950s

The Golden Age was beginning. The election of Menzies in 1949 and the ending of petrol rationing marked the end of the wartime austerity and the beginning of the post war prosperity. This was the beginning of the Consumer society with an emphasis on the production of consumer goods. Such things as cheap housing, built by the government for people on low incomes, became available with whole suburbs springing up in bushland on the edge of Australian cities. The Consumer society had begun with people buying new furniture, refrigerators, cars, record players, wireless sets, hot water systems, all electric homes, modern kitchens with gas or electric stoves, more clothes, replacing linoleum with carpet, while many were travelling by ship to Europe for holidays.

Financing this revolution was full employment. About 99% of the workforce was employed fulltime and women were going into the workforce to make up the shortfall. There seemed to be no end of jobs. Education was becoming more important and many were pursuing tertiary studies. Many ex-service personnel were catching up on their education, which had been cut short by the war.

The Korean War broke out in 1950 and at first scared many people, as it seemed that World War 3 might break out between the West and the Communist powers. Australian volunteers were sent to the front but there was no conscription.

The scramble for resources caused by the war forced wool prices to soar to all time high levels and the Wool Boom followed. Money poured into Australia and prosperity rose to new heights. Trade was very much in Australia’s favour. The Basic Wage rose to £8/12/0 ($17.20) per week, a record high, and by 1956 increased another 10 shillings to £9/2/0 ($18.20). The Female wage rose to 75% of the male wage and by 1959 female teachers in NSW got equal pay with their male counterparts. The ‘Good Times’ were rolling.

The post war ‘baby boom’ continued as people who had been unable to have children during the war now made up for lost time. Immigration also continued to rise and together they caused a rapid growth in population. This in turn dramatically increased the demand for education, with schools being built and teachers trained in large numbers.

On the international scene the ‘Cold War’ was well under way and the fear of Communism grew, especially in the USA. The shadow of World War 3 was never far away and Australia was no longer isolated and protected by the British Empire, itself in the process of disintegrating. Australia was the colonial master of New Guinea and our other nearest neighbour was the rising power of Indonesia. These national and international events influenced, in varying degrees, the new parish of St Flannan’s.


The following excerpt from the History of St Columban’s at Albion illustrates the ethos for Catholic schools which probably applied to St Flannan’s. The principal, Br Gunn prayed for help in the task of educating the boys of St Columban’s:

In His own good time, may He relieve us of the limitations and heavy difficulties under which we are working, so that we may labour more effectively to achieve the central aims of all Catholic education, His greater honour and glory, the sanctification of our own souls and of the souls committed to our care. (Annual Report -1957)

This is very much in the spirit of the times with the emphasis on the ‘glory of God’ and the saving of souls. These were very abstract aims and one wonders how much they reflected the wishes of the parents. Many people probably wanted a good education for their boys so that they could get a decent job and lead happy lives.

Zillmere 1950s

Zillmere, in the early post war period, was a Housing Commission area with many migrants - referred to by Fr Greene as the "League of Nations”. They were generally known as New Australians to distinguish them from the Old Australians who arrived in earlier migrations. There were still many small farms in the area which were gradually being bought by land developers for housing.

Thelma & Martin Stewart recall the situation before St Flannan’s opened. Each Sunday the Catholic families who lived in the Zillmere Road area had to catch the bus run by Rex Mitchell & Co from Sandgate. Mitchell was not a Catholic but he used to drive the bus himself on Sunday mornings to take parishioners to St Dympna’s and later to St Flannan’s when it opened. He made no charge for the service. Later McGrath’s Black & White buses took over the runs. (The company ran buses into Lutwyche tram terminus near the Edinburgh Castle Hotel).

The 7.30am Mass was the only one at St Dympna’s on Sunday mornings as Fr O’Callaghan would have to drive to Bald Hills and Dayboro for other Masses. Usually the whole family would go to that Mass unless one of the children was sick. In this case, Thelma would go in the bus while Martin stayed behind and looked after the sick child. When Thelma came home, Martin would ride his bicycle up the hills to St Paschal’s at Wavell Heights for Mass. They depended on bicycles, “shank’s pony” or public transport. Just as well they were young and healthy.

The Smiths had an alarm clock which was sometimes necessary to wake people up for morning mass especially on a cold winter morning. The Stewarts did not have an alarm clock but if they were already up and about Thelma would peg a large white nappy (diaper) on the clothes hoist in the back yard. If there was no nappy flying then one of the Smiths would be sent to wake up the Stewarts. That’s community for you.

On 18th September 1952 the Archdiocese bought 4.5ha (11 ac 29perches) for £7,500 on the corner of Beams and Handford Road . Austin McShane, who lived diagonally opposite, had previously alerted the Archbishop that the property was available. There was an old residence, a barn and chicken sheds on the property. The Parish of Zillmere North and Boondall was founded. Archbishop Duhig gave the property to the parishioners as a personal gift . Previously, parishioners went to Sandgate, St Dympna's, Wavell Heights and Nudgee College for Mass.

When St Flannan’s was established it was called Zillmere North because Aspley was still called Zillmere. However it was confusing to many parishioners who found they were turning up at the wrong church for funerals and weddings. It was quipped that in going from Aspley to Zillmere they went from A to Z and back again. Consequently it was then decided that St Dympna’s be called Aspley and St Flannan’s be called Zillmere Parish.


St Flannan’s has been a parish which seems to be in a constant state of change. In fact, it was in a state of change when it started. In January the Pope issued the decree Christus Dominus which changed the time for fasting before Communion from midnight to three hours. This made it possible to have evening Masses. This change was to encourage people to receive Communion more frequently, especially at late Masses. Fr Greene had the difficult task of explaining the change to people who were used to a lifetime of the old law. The new way was much more practical. A woman, from another parish, recounted that at the time she lived on a farm and her mother used to wake the family up on Sundays at about 3am so they could have breakfast before going to Communion at the 7am Mass. On the 16th March Fr Greene came as first parish priest and took up residence in the old homestead off Beams Road which took a lot of cleaning to make it livable. Several ‘firsts’ followed on, with the next one a month later on the12th April when the first Sunday mass was celebrated in the old residence with the congregation of about 300 - 400 parishioners of all nationalities. Music was supplied by Gianbattista Piccoli and his son Sergio, playing the violin and accordion while the voices of the choir could be heard on Beams Road.

Bob Stewart, then a 4 year old in 1953, describes it thus: St. Flannan's Church had just started, but it wasn't really a Church. We walked up from Zillmere Road for Mass in what was to become the convent Chapel. Then it was the lounge room of the old Handford homestead. There wasn't much room and a lot of people had to stand out on the verandah. The walk wasn't as long as that to St. Dympna's up on the hill, and there wasn't any 5 minute bell ringing to tell us we had to sprint the last few hundred yards so we wouldn't be late.

Continuing the firsts, on the 10th May the first baptism in the new parish was for Susan Smith. About 20 years later, Susan and her sister Margaret, became the first parishioners to join a religious order, the Sisters of Mercy.

“Numerous meetings were held and a program of building planned”. This brief statement marks the commencement of the intensive voluntary and professional building activity which marked the first decade of the new parish. About this time the Housing Commission was selling some community buildings at Holland Park for removal. Fr Greene bought some, had them dismantled and transported to Zillmere where they formed the basic material for the new, soon to be built, church and parish hall, much of which was done by voluntary labour. Scrounging was the order of the day with parishioners on the look out for anything of use; a bell was found at a church at Windsor and carted home, pews were found at St Thomas Aquinas church at St Lucia where they had built a new church and the pews were left over from the old church, and so the story went on.

Sunday 9th August saw the first mass at Boondall in the Boondall Progress Association Hall which once stood on the corner of Queenstown Avenue and Carlyle Road. The site is now occupied by a kindergarten. The old hall was fully utilized by the community back in the 1950s. Aside from the association's use of the hall for meetings, functions etc., it was used regularly as a Scout hall, a picture theatre (the word movie did not appear till the 1960s) as well as the venue for Mass on Sunday mornings. No rental was charged for the hall other than a small contribution towards the cost of lighting.

Bill and Beryl Foat remember that, before mass was first celebrated at the hall, they would push a pram from their home, near what is now Boondall Railway Station, through the bush up to Nudgee College Chapel every Sunday morning. A deputation to Archbishop Duhig obtained permission for mass to be celebrated at the Progress Association Hall. In 1967 land was bought for a church and school on the site. This venture was later abandoned as improved transport and development placed priorities elsewhere.

A Mr. Blunt of Albion had the use of the Progress Association Hall as a picture theatre on Saturday evenings. The sale of sweets, drinks, etc., went to the Association. The celebration of mass on Sunday mornings at 7.30am therefore, required a quick changeover from theatre to church. The altar was set up on collapsible tables and, on Fr Greene’s instructions, all the cinema posters (John Wayne, Dorothy Lamour and, it can be assumed, Mickey Mouse) had to be covered before mass. This was done with newspaper.

Fr Greene brought the vestments from Zillmere but families, such as the Kellys, Wades, Barlows, Pashleys and Forrests, either loaned or donated the Crucifix, Cruets, Chalice, Ablution Cruet, Candlesticks, Bell, Altar Linen (three layers) and Mass Charts from which Father read parts of the Mass including the Last Gospel.

Mass was attended by around 30 Catholics including those mentioned above and the Volks, McDades and Foats. It continued until June 1957 when Mr Mitchell brought his Blue and White Bus Service into operation to take the Boondall people to St Flannan’s for Mass.

The first ever First Holy Communion in the new parish of St Flannan’s was held on Sunday16th August 1953 in the old homestead church with some twenty “Old and New Australian children”. They had their First Communion breakfast on the front veranda of the old building after the 6.30 am Mass. The children were probably trained by the Sisters of Mercy at Sandgate as that was where many of them went to school before St Flannan’s opened. The Holy Sprit Sisters mention in their Journal that Fr Greene had been to visit them to have vestments made for the new parish but there is no mention of training the First Communicants.


On the 12th February Srs Lorraine Becker (Superior-USA), Coreen (Kathleen Collins from Clifton), Elaine Le Beau (USA) and Delores (Pauline O’Sullivan from Rosewood) arrived to take up residence in the old homestead. The Catholic Leader reported that the Sisters came at the request of the Archbishop, but the Sisters Journal shows that Fr Greene asked them to teach at the school he intended to build. The Sisters also needed a school where they could train the young Sisters as teachers. The Archbishop’s permission would probably have had to be given anyway.

Bob Stewart writes about that first year: The school wasn't ready when I had to start. My cousin Jan and I were sent on one of Rex Mitchell's buses to the Sisters of Mercy at Sandgate for a couple of months. We were sent with a big Grade 3 girl who had plaits in her hair, Geraldine Cain. Geraldine's father was a policeman so we knew we would be alright.

The Sisters of Mercy were huge, and, wore big leather belts. The strangest thing they made us do was recite such things as "A like an apple on a twig". How stupid - my Mum came from Stanthorpe and I had seen heaps of apples on trees. They never looked like an 'a'.

Sr Delores writes of the preparation for school: A particularly wet season marked the arrival of the Sisters on Friday 12th Feb 1954 and the departure of Fr Greene from the old farm house to live in the partly finished church. He intended to live there till the grain and harness storage shed could be moved from the homestead area to be closer to the new church.

After a week of fine weather, the house moving equipment came. The ground between the convent and the church had been ploughed up and a flourishing crop of pumpkins was growing there. Across this paddock would have been the shortest route to the shed's new location, but the ground was far too soft to take the weight of the heavy machine and its load. It was decided that the track near the front fence (Beams Road) would be firmer ground. So we watched the shed pass by the side of the house and move towards the front fence, but when halfway between the convent and the church, the shed began to tilt. The tractor stopped dead. The wheels sank into the mud. The shed sat there for weeks until the ground was dry enough for the move to continue.

The shed, which Father Greene referred to as the "chicken house", became his home until the presbytery was built. It later became a classroom and tuck shop. The first “tuck shop” had been a movable affair with trestle tables erected each Monday beside the church. The mothers not only served the food, but also made cakes, pikelets and sandwiches. At times it was very windy and dusty. To complicate matters further the mothers usually had their babies and toddlers with them.

Another building which played an important, but unexpected, part in the early school was the toilet block. It determined the date of opening of the school; it was responsible for the first school holiday and a photo in the paper. The Courier Mail in early March, 1954 published a photo, depicting the parish priest, Fr Greene and some of the volunteers constructing what they called the "foundations of the church". Those closer to the scene knew that this was the septic tank of the unfinished toilet block.

Using voluntary labour, the foundations of the church-school building had been laid months before, the roof, built by contract, was on and the flooring had been laid in the church; window frames were in but no glass. Most of the walls were complete but not lined. The flooring for the school section which was also to serve as the parish hall had not yet arrived; in fact it had not even been purchased. As this was to be a dance hall, crow's ash was required and this was in short supply.

There was no floor, nor any desks, but the toilet block would soon be completed and so it was decided to start school in the church section. By the end of March, all were assured; the toilet block would be fully functioning. The school could open. So, on Monday March 29th 1954, His Grace, Archbishop Duhig, presided at the Mass for the opening of St. Flannan's Primary School at Zillmere North. The Catholic Leader continues the account: "The Mass was celebrated by Parish Priest, Rev. Michael Greene, in the presence of a large number of priests and parishioners and more than 150 (actually 142 children, 91 girls and 41 boys) enrolled as its first pupils.”

"Fr. Greene welcomed the Archbishop and his fellow priests who honored the occasion by their presence. He said that several circumstances had combined to delay the opening of the church and the school was yet unfinished. However, most difficulties had been overcome and the school would soon be in working order." This was the first school conducted by Holy Spirit Sisters in Brisbane.

But the septic system was not in working order. Something had gone wrong. At the end of Mass the children met their new teachers, were shown the area in the church that was to be their classroom, enrolments were checked and - a holiday was declared! All the children returned home while plumbers worked to rectify the trouble. Sr Delores concludes: Fortunately the septic system was functioning the next day. St. Flannan's School began its academic career.

It was very difficult with all the classes in the church. There were no partitions to separate the classes and the furniture consisted of kneelers for seats and pews for desks. There were four chalkboards, one for each grade, measuring 12ft by 4ft (3.6m x 1.2m) which were placed on a kneeler of a church bench (pew). “The children sat on church benches facing the board, and when they had to write, they turned around, sat on the kneeler, and used the seat of the church bench to write on.”

When the ceiling was being installed they all moved out to the Convent. Sr Delores on the back veranda, Sr Coreen on the front veranda, Sr Elaine and Sr Lorraine under Camphor Laurel trees till showers forced them under the Convent. There was no real furniture so the children sat on boards laid on boxes.

When the ceiling was finished three grades moved back to the church and the other stayed on the Convent veranda. Mrs Pat Hoodroofe, a teacher, was taken on at half the pay she was getting elsewhere, to help with the more than sixty pupils in Grade I. This splitting of the class improved things enormously but unfortunately, Mrs Hoodroofe had to leave in July as her husband had to move closer to his work.

Bob Stewart continues: Grade Ones were gathered in the back rows of the Church. There were only 3 or 4 Grades and most of them were in the Church. We had a new Sister, Sr. Delores, who wore dark blue, not black, and did not have a leather belt. What's more, she wasn't any bigger than my Mum. She didn't go red in the face like the Sandgate Sister either. Sister called out all our names, and made us write a few things on our slate. Then we were called outside because "His Grace" (Archbishop Duhig) had driven up with the boot of his car full of ice creams. He then said we could have the day off as a holiday. Sister went just a little bit pink, and started all over again the next day. His Grace did this a few more times in the next couple of years - his big black car being a most welcome visitor. And he always seemed to arrive during little lunch, so we had to start back late.

Beryl Ashton recalls Fr Greene complaining that the Archbishop sometimes used to borrow money from him to finance these treats but didn’t pay it back.

Bob takes up the narrative: I was pleased we didn't have any of that apple on twig rubbish, but we did have to learn that "God made me, giving me a botty and a soul". I never did quite gather what a rear end had to do with the divine mysteries, but thought perhaps this was why these Sisters did not have a belt.

Sister Superior (Lorraine) was in charge. Now, she was huge, and had an ever funnier accent than Fr. Greene. She was American and I found her even harder to understand than all the new Australians. They couldn't even speak English when they started school, but it didn't seem to matter. After a few days, we seemed to understand each other. Names that are only now seeming normal in Australia were then normal to us - names like Tadeusz, Adriano, Mauricio, Alicia, Renza, Eugenio, Aldo, Sandro, etc., etc.

We didn't stay long in the back of the Church, moving into the hall area which had a series of dividers between the classes. At that time, the hall was the longer part of the L shaped building, with a stage separating the back of the Sanctuary from the Sacristy. We usually went outside under a tree to use our slates, with the water and sponges needed to wipe them clean.

The arrival of Sr Robertia from Germany via the Philippines gave the community a Music teacher. However since there were not many pupils for her she doubled as housekeeper for the rest of the year.

By 8th April 1954 attendance at St Flannan’s School had risen to 170 and was expected to reach 200 in the near future. Many were New Australians which was a term applied to any recent arrivals in the immigration program. Most of them came from Europe and many could not speak English very well. The children soon picked up the language but many of the parents had great difficulty.

With the completion of the church, attention moved to the furnishings and in May, the richly carved three panel Silky Oak altar was presented by Austin & Mary McShane. It was carved by a Belgian parishioner, Marcel Rouaen, who learned the skills in his native land. Later he went on to carve the rest of the sanctuary furniture.

The school put on a concert for Fr Greene’s name day (Feast of St Michael 9/9/1954) with songs, verses and a small play showing how St Flannan’s pupils could not get past St Peter at the gate of heaven unless they were wearing proper school uniform of green and fawn. Father treated the children to ice- cream.

“Desks have long been a burning question” and all were praying hard but no money was available. No other option was available so finally, on 19/10/1954, desks, each seating five pupils were ordered. Slowly they were delivered to the school but even by “closing day” (end of the year) there were not enough available for two classes.

On 31st October, the Feast of Christ the King, 55 children made their first Holy Communion. This group was trained by the Sisters in the school and all had their photo taken with Fr Greene and the five Sisters outside the front entrance of the new church.

Sometimes a note of despondency or desperation creeps into the Sisters’ Journal: “The school inspector who visited us on 3 November (1954) is a Catholic but in all fairness he could not condone conditions. How long God wills these conditions is the question. Partitions are absolutely necessary (in the hall) but the expense and the inconvenience of removing them for dances is the drawback.” But then the mood lifts: “School life was made a bit easier with the arrival of Sr Magdalene (Magdolna) on November 22. She took charge of the little ones who will not pass to Grade II.”

The original altar in the newly built church, which was opened on 28th November 1954, followed traditional lines. The priest stood at the altar with his back to the people and ‘said’ the Mass in Latin. The Altar Boys, girls were not allowed to be Altar Servers, knelt with their backs to the people and answered the priest in Latin.

The Tabernacle, holding the consecrated hosts, was the centrepiece always covered in silk cloth, coloured according to the time of the Liturgical year. There were three altar cloths spread on the altar. The six large candles were lit for Mass by the Altar Boys and flowers were always prominent on the altar.

To the left is the oil-fed red Sanctuary lamp which had to burn night and day to signify the Real Presence in the Tabernacle. To the right is the small Offertory table which held the water, wine and communion plates but not the hosts.

The plaster statue to the left is that of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, while the one on the right is that of Mary the Mother of God. In larger churches these would be on side altars where Mass could be said if need be. St Flannan’s had to be content with pedestals.

The altar rails in the foreground, with a cloth draped behind them, separated the Sanctuary (Holy place) from the body of the church. This cloth was lifted over the rails by the Altar Boys as a sort of table cloth at which the people knelt to receive Communion, on their tongue, from the priest. The communicants held a brass plate under their chin in case any fragments dropped from the host.

The two middle panels in the altar rail made up a two leaf gate. Lay people were generally not allowed on the Sanctuary during mass or any ceremonies. An exception to this custom was at a Wedding Ceremony, or a Nuptial Mass, when the Bride and Groom knelt inside the Sanctuary. If the marriage was mixed, that is one of the parties was not a Catholic, then the ceremony would take place in the Sacristy, not in the church at all.

In the foreground can be seen the desks used by the pupils for school, as the body of the church was used for classes. During school time a curtain was drawn across the Sanctuary area.

On the 28th November, after months of voluntary labour, the church and school were blessed and opened by Archbishop Duhig. The presbytery was dedicated on the same date. St Flannan’s bell, which was about 38cm (15inches) high, hung on a post outside the sacristy where an altar boy could ring the people into Mass, or get them to hurry up to get to Mass on time. It was used for a long time until the neighbours complained about being woken up early on Sunday mornings. It was then stowed under the church and finally was sold in one of the big periodic clean ups.

When St Flannan’s opened, Mass was at 6.30am & 8.30am with a 7.30am Mass at Boondall. Bernie Smith recalls: “Before we had a church bus, it was not uncommon for me to double Fran on my bike up to Mass at St Flannan’s and then ride back home to be with our three young daughters, as I had been to an earlier Mass. I remember it being hard work riding up Zillmere Road, but was more than compensated for the effort by freewheeling down Handford Road to the church.”

The mass was ‘said’ according to the old Tridentine Rite which was developed after the Council of Trent in the 16th Century. The language was Latin, which was understood by few, and judging by the way the some priests used to mutter the words, one wondered if they had much idea of the meaning. The Altar Boys answered the prayers in Latin and they did not understand the words as they simply learned them and repeated them at the appropriate time. If there were no Altar Boys then people outside the altar rails could answer if they knew the responses. Women were not allowed in the Sanctuary except to clean and arrange the flowers on the altar. This was usually done by nuns rather than lay women.

John Cain, a police Inspector, used to usher the St Flannan’s people to their seats at Mass. This custom was to help people find seats especially if they came late. It also helped to keep them from staying in the back seats or outside the doors. The custom gradually died out in the 1960s.

The practice of going to Holy Communion in the 1950s was not as common as it is today when most people receive the host every time they go to Mass. There was still a strong belief among many Catholics at the time that a person should not go to Holy Communion too often, and then only after having gone to Confession on the previous Saturday. This, along with the rule that one had to fast from food and drink from midnight before going to Communion, restricted the number of communicants at each Mass.

In order to encourage people to go to Communion more frequently various organizations were developed, three of which operated at St Flannan’s. The Holy Name Society for men, the Sacred Heart Sodality for the married women and the Children of Mary for the unmarried women. On one Sunday each month one of these groups would come as a group, sitting together and going to communion together.

The Zillmere Catholic Youth Organization (written by Bill Fox, December 1960) carries the notice:
Sacred Heart Sodality – 6.30 AM Mass 1st Sunday;
Holy Name Society – 6.00 PM Mass 2nd Sunday;
Children of Mary – 6.30 AM Mass 3rd Sunday.

The married women would wear their red ribbon and Sodality medal, the younger women their blue cloaks and white veils, the men in their best suit with the Holy Name badge pinned on. Everyone wore their ‘Sunday best’ clothes; the women wore their hats in church while the men took theirs off. Most people wore hats outside.

The priest gave the Communion host on the tongue to the lay people, who knelt at the altar rails. The priest alone had both the host and the wine. Sometimes the altar boys, no girls then, managed to have a sip or two of non consecrated wine from the bottle when the priest was not looking.

Hymns were sung by the choir with the congregation joining in only on special occasions. One of the most popular hymns was “Holy God We Praise Thy Name”.

Holy Days of Obligation were taken as seriously as the Sunday Mass obligation and there were seven of them throughout the year. Before St Flannan’s opened, the Smith family used to attend St Dympna’s at Aspley. Frances Smith relates how, on one Holy Day of Obligation, she was faced with the problem of wheeling two small children along gravel roads to the church without Bernie to help as he was at work. She was so worried about fulfilling her duty that she rang Fr O'Callaghan at Aspley. The call had to be made from Spicer's, a neighbour, or at a public telephone as there were very few private ones at the time. Father listened to her worries and told her that God did not expect young mothers to do the impossible, and not to worry about toiling up the hill. This was a great relief because in those days it was believed to be a mortal sin to miss Mass without having a good reason. She had a very good reason, but needed reassurance.

Fr Greene bought a second hand bus to bring people to Mass, probably when the Boondall Mass ended. He recruited several of the men to get their bus driver's licences and they worked on a roster to drive it each Sunday. Later it was used to bring children to the school.

Sandra Perry (nee Guy) recalls the trick of tying up the long grass and tripping other kids. She got into ‘big trouble’ one day when one of the Sisters tripped over. But the irony was that Sister came to grief in a place where they had not tied up any grass. They probably had to pull up lantana (stinking Rogers) as punishment.


The new school year began, after the Sisters had four weeks holiday at the Aspley (Carseldine) convent, with 196 pupils in five classes. The Sisters Journal takes up the story: The new school uniform is described by the recorder: Girls - Bottle green hat and jumper, fawn blouse and socks with brown shoes; Boys - Grey hat, trousers and socks, bottle green shirt and black shoes. The hat band has the name of the school, the emblem of the Holy Ghost, a tongue of fire on a triangle with the words “Caritas et Veritas” (Love and Truth). Everybody is pleased and conduct has improved. But on the other hand, partitions for the hall have not come so some of the men made up temporary screens which help, but not with the noise.

A phone call at breakfast from Mr Hendy on 16th May let the Sisters know that he would be there to inspect the school that day. The Sisters reported - Grade I ‘showed off’ by misbehaving as never before.
In Grade II he did not stay very long because he could not hear on account of the noise in another class….. However his report to the Department of Education was not discouraging. He realized the handicaps of the environment and the poor home conditions of the children. Many mothers work……………….. In spite of both parents working and getting a living wage, many do not give any financial aid to the parish although most of them do pay tuition.

St Patrick’s Day (17th March) was kept in the Australian tradition of the time since Fr Greene wanted it. “It was amusing to notice little Italians and Poles singing “My father and my mother were Irish and I am Irish too….Whether the members of the audience noticed it or not, no comments were heard.”

“This was a very happy day (10th June) for St Flannan’s community. After sixteen months of batching we got a Sister to do the cooking. Sr Lisa is not only a good cook, but also does the washing and ironing and, on school days, cleans the house.”

On Friday 5th August, the first and only, Debutante Ball was held in the Parish Hall at St Flannan's. The nine Debutantes were presented to His Grace, Archbishop Sir James Duhig, DD, CMG, LLD. We can only conjecture why there were no more Debutante Balls in the parish. Maybe the organization was too much, maybe local Deb Balls were dying out. All that survives are a couple of photos, a program and a lot of memories. The photo shows the Committee and invited guests on the stage in the parish hall. The Debutantes and their partners are lined up on the dance floor with Archbishop Duhig and Fr Greene in the middle. Although there is no matron of honour in the existing photo it is thought that either Odle Cain or Mary Barnes would have performed the honour.

The ladies catered for the Ball with a sit down supper (Eileen Spicer was the head organizer but missed the ball as she was sick.) It was planned to serve supper on the uncovered concrete slab beside the hall. There was no kitchen in the hall at the time and the preparation was done in the old harness and feed ‘chook’ shed. Unfortunately it rained and the supper had to be served in shifts in the old shed. Umbrellas had to be used for the dash to the shed. It might only have been the ‘chook shed’ but it was important in the early parish as there was a shortage of room. The committee took out a rain insurance policy on the Ball but there was not enough rain to enable any payment to be received. Tough!

The Ball Programme, reflecting the fashion of the time, listed 13 brackets of dances such as Waltzes, Quickstep, Foxtrot, Gipsy Tap, Maxina, Pride of Erin and the Tangoette.

The School fete, which was held on the 12th November, was taken over by the Sisters and planning began before the August holidays. “The financial reports were four times as great as last year. However not half the parents made much of an effort. It will take time and patience to make them social minded – these people who have been spoiled by residence in camps whether they are new Australians or native citizens.”

The Episcopal Golden Jubilee (50 years a Bishop) of Archbishop Duhig was held on the 13th November, and only thirty girls could go in the march because only they had full uniforms. A spiritual bouquet, which was a list of all the prayers the Sisters and children had said for the Archbishop, and a cheque for 10 guineas were sent with them. Duhig gave all the children an extra week's holiday at the end of year. This granting of holidays was popular with the children but could, sometimes, play havoc with the teachers’ schedules. It showed the power of the Bishop over the school system and that had to change.

Following the fete, a Children’s ball was held on the 18th and a Grocery Afternoon on the 25th. The latter event was to enable the Sisters to eat over the holidays when no fees were collected.

Fees of 2/6 (two shillings and six pence or 25cents) were charged per week, per child, for each school week with a maximum of 10/- (ten shillings or $1) for four or more children. The Parish Priest had the power to dispense with fees for those who could not pay and there were many such families. Some people paid in kind. “One family kept us supplied with eggs from their chicken farm and the value of the eggs far outweighed any 10 shillings.”


In 1956 the Legion of Mary was operating when such people as Mary Barnes, Jean Moore, Mrs Henderson, Shirley Rochford and Ann Berton (Fox) were members. Fr Greene wanted a census of the Zillmere - Boondall area so the Legion visited every home by walking around the area. The members always visited in pairs so Mary Barnes, who ran a haberdashery shop/post office near the Zillmere Railway Station, and Ann often worked together and, because they both had jobs they visited in the evenings.

The Sisters were active supporters of the Legion and in 1958 Sister Gabriele (Sr Agabiele) formed a Junior Legion in the school named the “Lily of the Valley”. Two Legionaries, Sisters Cleary and McIvor, assisted and by September 1959 it had 30 members.

In 1960 Sr Gabriele (Sr Agabiele) either started a new Junior Legion of Mary or continued the earlier one at the school. The idea seemed to be to lead up to becoming an adult legionary. They concentrated on learning about the adult legion and supporting them by prayer. It lasted only a few years.

At the start of 1956 there were eight sisters on the school staff: Srs Magdalene (Magdolna), Delores, Elaine, Lorraine, Coreen, Robertia, Matthew (a new teacher) and a cook, Sr Bathildis. Part of the front veranda was closed in to serve as a reception room, as visitors were not permitted to enter the Convent at that time. The back veranda was also closed in as a sewing room. But there were few signs of improvement in the school conditions.

Enrolment day, 31st January 1956, brought 200 pupils and an improvement in the school spirit. Some of the new pupils came from homes where the mother was not going out to work. Since many of the boys went to the Brothers for Grade V, there were only four more children than last year, despite a Grade V class.

In 2002 responding to the question - How did the Sisters feel about many boys going to the Brothers after Grades 3 & 4? - Sr Kathleen Collins replied:
I think we were disappointed to lose so many of the ‘leaders’ among the male students. However we considered it a custom of the country and appreciated the parents who kept their sons in St Flannan’s.
The Sisters did not voice their disappointment but carried on and no one knew how they felt.

On St Patrick’s Day the Concert was again held, with the main item being Grandma Kelly’s Dream which brought in fairies, elves, a rhythm band, a chorus and St Patrick himself. The recorder mentions that there was an improvement noted in the pupils’ behaviour and in that of the audience. Things were looking up and the Sisters were winning the battle.

Margaret Smith records some of her memories of the school concerts:
School concerts were always a big event, one at the end of each year, and for special events, such as St Patrick’s Day. Sr Gabriele (Agabiele) seemed to be the chief organizer of concerts and she went to great lengths to make them enjoyable and entertaining. I remember being a toy soldier in year 1 or 2. Mum sewed the outfit which was red with gold trimming. The little hat was made from cardboard and covered with red crepe paper. Things were always quite frantic backstage on the night of the concert. When I was in Year 6 my friend, Denise Ford, and I were in our positions on stage waiting for the curtains to open. A lot of children were misbehaving, which frustrated Sr. Gabriella who grabbed the closest two children – Denise and myself – and banged our heads together! Dad observed these antics while he stood at his post, waiting to pull back the curtain for the event. Father Greene always sat in the front row, beaming his approval and thoroughly enjoying the concert.

On Friday 29th June the first meeting of St Flannan’s Conference of the St Vincent de Paul was held at the church. This was the beginning of an association that is still very active in the parish today and for many of the members it has been a lifelong work. The members present were Fr Greene as Chaplain, Brothers C Barnes, V Henderson, M R Stewart, V Cousner, D Story, U Geasen, E Kowalski and T Carroll. Apologies were received from Brothers Church and W Foat. There have been changes and these are recorded in the Appendices.

In September 1956 there was another mission (Must have been an earlier one?) Then on very short notice the Archbishop came for Confirmation of 58 children and 13 adults. Archbishop Duhig asked those confirmed to pledge abstinence from liquor until their 21st birthday. This was common practice at the time. His Grace also received 13 Aspirants into the Children of Mary and he “spoke to them about decency in dress and condemned mannish styles for girls as well as beauty contests.”

At that time, it was customary for the Bishops to administer Confirmation and the visit would be a very big occasion. Everybody dressed in their ‘Sunday Best’ and great were the celebrations. The children would have been carefully prepared by the Sisters over the preceding weeks and everybody drilled to perfection. The Bishop would examine the candidates by asking them questions about their faith, based on the Catechism which they were expected to know more or less by heart.

The Children of Mary society was partly to encourage monthly communion and mutual support to help one another keep their faith in the ‘midst of the temptations of the world’. The young unmarried men of the parish were also very interested in the society, or at least, in the members of the society.

Helen Fox writes:
I was very young when I joined the Children of Mary. We were a large sodality of dedicated girls, taught and groomed by Sisters Coreen and Delores. The third Sunday of the month was our Mass to come together in our veils and blue cloak. After Mass we had our meeting which was led by the President. Sister would give a talk which was to help us to understand our faith more, especially Our Lady’s role.

It was also a grooming for Catholic girls. I am particularly grateful to Sr Delores who encouraged me to take up the position of President for a term. It was the President’s job to give a talk on Our Lady for about 5-10 minutes. This experience gave me confidence in myself which I greatly needed. Thank you Sr Delores for having faith in me.

The Sisters encouraged us to do works of service. Each week a few of us would walk (4-5kms) from our home to the Holy Spirit Nursing home to serve afternoon tea to the infirm. This we did with great joy.

When you finished school you already belonged to a group of Catholic girls, who you saw regularly, attended Mass together, which I think was a big help to us. I was in the Children of Mary until I got married and wore my beautiful blue cloak down the aisle. I say beautiful because my Mum made it, and at that time I really thought it was nicer than all the others.

At the close of the year the Sister Recorder noted that school enrolment had zigzagged from 200 to 218 in July and then down to 198 at closing day. This was because “Zillmere still has a shifting population.”


At the end of January the school staff consisted of: Srs Delores (Gr I), Matthew (To Study), Magdalene (Magdolna) (Gr V), Maryangela (Gr II), Coreen (Gr IV), Elaine (Gr III) and Lorraine (Grs VI & VII).

Sr Maryangela decided to use the space under the convent for Grade II drill work and found that it was so quiet she stayed there using boards nailed to empty paint cans as seats. The ‘daddies’ came and used old doors and windows to close in the area. They made wooden two seater desks pupils for the Grade II and finally laid a floor of emolium (something like concrete) for them. Now there are only three classes in the dance hall. (There is a story about the floor being bitumen and in the hot weather the bitumen became soft and the desks sank into it. Perhaps this referred to the emolium?)

Mr. & Mrs. Foley donated ₤100 to improve the convent. The West veranda was made into a better dormitory using Caneite, which was made from crushed sugar cane, for insulation.

One can almost hear the sigh of relief when, in February, the chalk boards ordered the previous May finally arrived. The Recorder attributes all the improvements to the intercession of St Joseph. Now that is faith and it gives some clue as to just how the Sisters carried on under such appalling conditions.

On 13/3/1957 Robertia cut off the top of one of her fingers while trying to manipulate a folding chair. Dr Parer came and she had to go to hospital for an operation which resulted in the loss of the end of her finger. The result was that she had two little fingers on her right hand with a plastic extension to help her to play the piano. In the meantime she concentrated on violin practice. “Both doctors (who attended) are excellent Catholics and would have readily given a testimonial if a miracle had been granted.” For some reason there was no St Patrick’s Day concert in 1957.

Before the 1950s, Polio epidemics occurred at intervals and nothing could be done about them. But by that time vaccination was being used to prevent children and adults from contracting the disease. Regular injection sessions were held at all schools in Australia. One such session is recorded at St Flannan’s for all pupils and preschool children in the area on the 7th November1957.

Early in the year the Boy Savior Movement was introduced from the USA. The idea was that a candidate had to work hard to eradicate a bad habit for a month before admission when they were given a button (badge) to wear. If they regressed they lost the button. “It was truly surprising how this punishment hurt in most cases.” Buttons were presented by Sr Regional and Fr Greene presented the next lot on the First Holy Communion Day in October.

In November 1957 Sr Laudasia joined the community to look after the convent. This enabled the other sisters to handle all the extras such as First Communion, fete, concert and exams. She also found time to dig a vegetable garden in the yard.


Eleven Sisters were living at St Flannan’s – Sr Bathildis and Sr Laudasia working in the house and garden, Sr Robertia with the music, Sr Gabriele (Agabiele) Gr I, Sr Mariettina Gr II, Sr Delores Gr III, Sr Matthew Gr IV, Sr Lorraine & Sr Ehrentrude Grs V & VI, Sr Magdalene (Magdolna) Gr VII, Sr Coreen Gr VIII – the first Grade 8 (Scholarship Class). All teachers now had a chalk board and the Scholarship class had individual desks.

To reach the first Scholarship class was a real milestone for the school but it was tinged with sadness and disappointment as the following Email comment by Sr Kathleen Collins (Sr Coreen) in 2002 shows:

What really did cause us some hurt was when at the end of our first Grade 7 some parents transferred their (mainly) daughters to another Catholic school so that they could pass scholarship. ………… I was the hapless teacher of this group. However all were quite surprised, most of all Fr Greene, when for the first two years we had 100% passes.

A letter from Fr Greene to the Archbishop dated the 8th June 1957 gives some idea of the organization of the parish.
Your Grace kindly granted me permission for an evening Mass. I am pleased to state that your decision as usual was a wise and timely one; as some three to four hundred people now attend regularly that Mass. However the matter of securing a regular Supply (a priest to help) became a major problem. After serious thought I realized I had to make a definite choice. I came to the conclusion that some thirty to forty regular and casual parishioners at Boondall all with ready access to transport and within a mere mile of the Parish Church, should forego their convenience for the general well being of the Parish as a whole.

Altar Boys were very important as Bob Stewart explains: In 1955 Sr. Magdalene (Sr Magdolna) seemed short even to me. She was dark, thin and Hungarian. She was also in charge of altar boys, and I had to go up to the convent on weekends to learn to serve Mass. The training went on forever since there was a lot of jumping up and down and moving things around during Mass in those days. And, we had to learn Latin. Just picture - a priest with a County Clare brogue, and altar boys responding in Latin with an Hungarian accent. Maybe that was just how things were meant to be. I didn't get to do much that year since the Book was still too heavy for me to lift and the candles too high for me to light or extinguish - and only the most senior altar boy rang the bell. Sometimes I was allowed to hand the priest the cloth at the washing of the hands, and no way was I to get that pinnacle of achievement - swinging the thurible during Benediction.

In 1958 when Sr. Matthew took over the altar boys I was pretty well allowed to do everything - almost. I never did get to ring the big outside bell during the Gloria at Easter. The closest I got was standing at the door to signal Tadeusz to stop when Father finished the Gloria.

I did get a lot of early morning weekday Masses to myself that year. The worst part of that (after the cold) was having to wake Father through his bedroom window if he slept in, which was pretty common. He was never in a good mood those days and that's when I timed him at 17 minutes (saying Mass). Sister also explained to us that the brown marks on Father's fingers were not from the holy oils of consecration, as all the altar boys thought, but were nicotine stains.

As a senior altar boy, I also had to learn how not to step on Father's toes. Important things like not giving him wine after Communion at 6.30am Mass on Sunday, as this broke his fast, and knowing at which instant after Communion at the same Mass to start stripping the altar, setting up and lighting the candles for Benediction, and having the special Benediction cope ready for Father to put on the instant he finished the Last Gospel, so that Sr. Robertia could pump up O Salutaris (a Benediction hymn) on the harmonium too fast for anyone to leave the Church before Benediction started.

By 1958 there were almost 270 children enrolled in the school and the need for more class space was acute. Norm Ryan remembers: As usual, the parish did not have the money to hire a builder so the alternative course was followed. The new classrooms were to be built by voluntary labour. A parishioner, Barry Bunney, was a builder and he supervised the job.

The three-classroom timber building was completed in October 1958. On the first day forty men turned up for work, some of them giving up their annual holidays. Some of the men came from St Kevin's Parish as they had no school there in those days and their children were educated at St Flannan's. The numbers dwindled as the project continued but a number of the volunteers worked thirteen weekends straight before Barry Bunney finished the job with his employees.

The new building was called the High School because it was on high piers. It was a timber building and was also called the Blue School because it was painted blue. Margaret Smith writes about the internal colour scheme: “The end room (near the hall) was pink, the middle one, dark blue and one at the other end was green. I spent year 4 in the dark blue room where Sr Matthew was my teacher”.

By 1958 the parish family was estimated to be about 500 families. Just how this estimate was made is unknown and the size of families is also unknown so it is not very clear just how many people there were in the parish. The school was growing so it is probable that the parish numbers were growing also.


A problem faced by some Catholic parish schools was the interference in the running of the school by the Parish Priest who, with the best of intentions, thought he knew best. St Patrick’s Day activities were one such incident at St Flannan’s as the Recorder notes in March 1959:
Loyal Irishmen cannot let St Patrick’s Day pass without a celebration. Most schools in Brisbane, even those having Irish born teachers, do not have a concert because the teachers realize it is too close to school opening to prepare a concert. We however could not make Fr Greene see the point and offended him last year by not having a concert. This year we were delighted when Mrs Addie offered to practice with the children on Saturday. However at very short notice Fr Greene insisted there be one item entirely supervised by Sisters and since, ‘Discretion is the better part of valour’ we surrendered.

Oct 10th 1959 was Sports Day with St Flannan’s in the morning, and joined by other schools in the afternoon. The Sisters Journal comments:
About an acre of land was mowed and cleared, and on the day itself some parents spent practically the whole day here helping in various capacities. In both events we see how God has blessed us even though our prayers for the welfare of the parish through the elimination of scandal in another source, seems unanswered. (There are several such cryptic comments which leave one wondering what is going on?)

Margaret Smith recalls that there was some play equipment near the top of the path (leading from the old convent to the church) – a monkey bar and a jungle gym. “We had a netball (called basket ball in those days) court in the area where the new convent was eventually built”.

Sue Johnson (nee Woodforde) tells of a couple of little incidents which make one realize that children don’t change much over the decades (or centuries). She was a pupil at the time in Grade 1 and missed her mother greatly, so much that when the children marched into school she would get on the end of the line and duck off home. When she was missed Fr Greene would be dispatched in his car to bring her back. Finally, Sister made sure she had Sue’s hand as they marched in together.

Another time Sue observed one of her older sisters shaving her legs and decided she would try shaving. Not having hairy legs she looked in the mirror and started on her eyebrows. There is no record of what her mother said but when Sue went to school she had a hat crammed down to hide the missing eyebrows. Sister soon noticed the hat and asked the inevitable question, and then removed the hat. Taken completely by surprise Sister was horrified but could do nothing. But she probably had the sisters pray for Sue.

In the 1950s a new money raising scheme was being used in some parishes. The Wells scheme arrived in Zillmere in September and October of 1959. It was called a Planned Giving Program; the Wells organization provided the ideas and management and training of the volunteers at a cost of ₤600 while the parish provided the volunteer workers. The volunteers would visit all the Catholic homes in the parish to invite the householder to a Loyalty Dinner which was to be held at the parish hall. There they would have the whole scheme explained and they would be asked to pledge a certain weekly amount for the Parish. This was a very big undertaking because Planned Giving had never been attempted in Catholic circles before. Mostly the reception was favourable but some of the original volunteers still remember a few of the knock backs they received so long ago.

This scheme would allow a few special collections such as the annual Propagation of the Faith appeal and any other appeal sponsored by the bishop. Christmas, Easter and Quarterly Dues were dropped. There would be no need for fetes and other fund raising schemes, everybody would pledge to give what they could afford and the parish would plan its expenditure accordingly. That was the theory. Generally the practice followed those lines but not fully.

The aim was to raise ₤16,000 over the following three years. In today’s values this sum would be the equivalent of about $300,000 today, a very large amount.

The Canvass Brochure proclaimed in semi-apocalyptic language, which was common at the time but seems so ‘quaint’ today:
Remember - Only God and you know the details of your case. BUT - Don't let the "Divine Auditor" query your entry or find a blank space against your name! Pledge your fair share.

Remember - "Dividends" are unlimited and are paid for all eternity! So welcome your fellow parishioner when he calls to explain this plan and receive your pledge.

What I Spent, I Had. What I Kept, I Lost. What I Gave, I Have

Projects listed for the future included: A new Convent; A new Church at Boondall; Extensions to the school; Maintenance of existing buildings; ultimately, a new Parish Church.

The Canvass Hymn was the old, rousing, if it was sung properly, Faith of Our Fathers. How many Catholics knew that the Protestants sang it as well and, probably with more enthusiasm than the Catholics? They saw themselves as threatened by the Catholics while Catholics held the opposite point of view.

Loyalty Dinner Program
A loyalty dinner was held in the church hall under the chairmanship of Mr J Cain and arranged by Mr B N Bunney. The dinner was in the old tradition, embodying the idea that if you wanted people to do something for you, then give them a good dinner before you ask them.

The ladies catered for the dinner which consisted of the following cold collations:

Silverside & Ham
Garden Salad
Lettuce, Tomato, Beetroot, Cucumber, Potato Salad
Bread Roll & Butter
Fruit Cup
Fruit Salad – Ice Cream
Assorted Cakes
Assorted Savouries
Incidental Music

Thelma Stewart was one of the hostesses for the dinner explains: The hostesses went out and called on people to invite them to come to the dinner. Those who came then sat at the same table as the hostess who invited them.

Norm Ryan thinks that Fr Greene must have got the names for the collectors to call on out of the Electoral Roll; many of them were not even Catholics. He must have taken the names that looked like ‘Catholic’ names, which led to some embarrassing situations for the volunteers. The canvassers were given a penny note book and had to write the names and addresses in them.

Norm Ryan adds: Following the 1959 Planned Giving Program Fr Greene nominated Bob Hulett, Brian Balaam and Norm as the money counters and they did this until Fr Greene’s death in 1964. Until Fr Doyle, arrived the counters would take the collection money to Fr Norris at Geebung to bank.

On the final page of the Brochure it was stated that “Archbishop Duhig with characteristic foresight decided to purchase some 4 acres of valuable land in the Boondall area, whereon it is hoped a new Church will be erected as soon as possible.” It seems that he did not go ahead, as five acres were purchased by Archbishop O’Donnell in 1967 at a cost of $32,000. However the whole project to build in Boondall was eventually abandoned.

In November the Sisters were praying hard for scholarship pupils and student teachers. The Grocery Afternoon, accompanied by a Drill Display which attracted more people, was held as usual. Earlier, three extra tuck shops had been held, along with two raffles which were drawn on the last school day. All this was to help the Sisters over the holidays when there would be no fees collected. They were poor indeed.

Inspections were a regular feature of the school year. They were a valuable indicator to the teachers of how well the school was performing and a means of indicating where improvements needed to be made. They were also a prime source of tension and worry for the teachers as the Recorder notes:

Towards the last week of school we were really wondering if such luck might be ours as to miss the school inspector. On the last Monday one Sister was really sure we were safe. However about 11.30am on Tuesday a Sister came hurrying down the path with the message that the inspector would be there before noon. Consternation met this message. However at noon the school banker was the only man in sight and upon being questioned it was learned that our Benjamin had been mistaken. The banker phoned to see if the children were at school as one school had a picnic that day. Yes, we really missed the inspector.


On the 7th January five of St Flannan’s sisters went to Inala Parish for three weeks in their holidays to help the parish by door knocking the Catholics in the parish, arriving back at Zillmere six days before the school opened for the New Year.

During the year, the old shed in which Fr Greene had lived while the presbytery was being built became the tuck shop and Grade 1 Classroom. It served these purposes till 1966 when it was demolished to make way for a new four room block of classrooms.

On the 9th Feb Fr Greene rang the Sisters during night prayer to tell them he was leaving for Ireland in two weeks. The Recorder continues “As on such an hour things oftentimes were not all right with him and as such announcements were repeatedly already made by him but with no action following them, this one was simply received by us with incredulity.” But this time it was true, he was going to see his aged father. He was away for the year and his place was taken by Fr Hayes. The Sisters, the children and the parishioners gave him a ‘splendid send off’ on the 22nd February in the hall.

The Tennis Club, the earliest recorded youth activity at St Flannan’s, began in September 1959 when Richard & John Barnes and Bill Fox started playing on a hired court. Then they built the parish tennis court on the Church property.

The Express, forerunner of the Bayside Star, on the 11/5/1960 reported that the Zillmere Catholic Youth Organization (ZCYO) opened its new tennis court. The championship sized tennis court was built by the voluntary labour of the organization’s 29 members, the majority of whom were under 16 years of age. Working on Saturdays only, the court was constructed in just 4 1/2 months. All finance was raised from the members and their families. The President, Mr Bill Fox, thanked them for their efforts and support. Bill was tragically killed in 1961 by lightening strike when playing cricket with a team of parishioners at Marchant Park. The opposing team was a man short so Bill volunteered to field for them when the accident happened. The whole parish was deeply shocked because Bill was very active in both Church and Civic affairs.

Eileen Guy remembers the ladies tennis club which operated on week days and to which they brought their littlies. There was no dispute about line balls as the line was marked by the ball hitting it. Bill Foat would roll the tennis court by pulling a heavy roller over the surface and then line the court using a bucket of lime water and a brush. The ladies did the upkeep when Bill was not available. They charged 2 shillings each, to buy the balls; any money left over went to Fr Doyle, hopefully to build new courts. There wasn’t much money left over. Competitions were held with Boondall ladies at Roscommon Rd Boondall and they would visit St Flannan’s. The children were able to play QCLA competition on Sunday mornings. A coach, Mr Turnbull, was available for the younger players who paid a small fee to learn.

Dennis Kent of Aspley writes that the Y.C.W. or Young Christian Workers were active at Aspley. In the very early 60s Fr John O’Callaghan from St Dympna’s asked Dennis to help him start the YCW at St Dympna’s and to visit the neighbouring parishes inviting their youth to come along. About eight of St Flannan’s young people attended the YCW at Aspley where the meetings were led by Fr O’Callaghan. Dances, bus trips and other outings were arranged, as well as spiritual needs fulfilled.

Dennis tells about the time Fr Doyle was supervising a YCW dance at Geebung when some Bodgies (a label used in the 1950/60s for young men who dressed in an extreme fashion and were given to wild or exuberant behaviour) tried to gate crash the dance. Dennis and Fr Doyle fronted up to them and Fr Doyle said to them “We can settle this two ways, you can leave now peacefully or I will accommodate you one at a time.” They left peacefully.


The second Planned Giving Program got underway in September/October 1962. The parish assets had appreciated from £5,000 in 1953 to £87,000 in 1962. The huge rise in assets was due in large measure to the voluntary work done by the Parishioners in building the church and school. This kept the debt to a low £16,000 which had been reduced to ₤12,000 over the last three years.

Among the projects for the future were listed New Convent at Zillmere, expected to cost ₤25,000 and the Church School at Boondall, to cost some ₤12,000. Also mentioned is being "mindful of the ultimate need for a beautiful and modern Parish Church". This was probably a dream of Fr Greene which reflected the thinking in the old Church.

In line with the nature of the Planned Giving scheme, parishioners were asked not to have any raffles or functions for fund raising. However the following events were being retained: The Annual Sports Day as a Social event and the Annual School Concert as a Cultural event.

While all this local activity was going on there was the sound of distant thunder in Rome but it did not seem to have much relation to Zillmere. It was the first session of Vatican II which took place from Oct 11 to Dec 8 1962. Cardinal Gilroy of Sydney “thought it would all be over by Christmas. After all, he told one of his seminarians, the experts in the Vatican knew just what was needed for the church.” But they didn’t, everything went wrong, from their point of view. The Council took on a mind of its own.


The following year, 1963 saw the Silver Jubilee of Fr Greene, who was ordained on the 19/6/1938. At the end of the year the Council, Vatican II Session 2 – Sept 29 to Dec 4, was ploughing onward in the teeth of fierce opposition from the Curia. It was becoming interesting and exciting; nothing like this had ever been seen in the Church. But it was still a long way off, yet……………..

By this time there were 9 Sisters in the old house and it was overcrowded. Not only overcrowded but substandard; the Sisters silently put up with it and because they were so secluded in those days it went unnoticed by many outsiders. The school had grown to over 230 pupils with 6 Sisters teaching, a Music teacher and a Sister Housekeeper. The time had come to upgrade their residence.


Subsequently on 19th April 1964 the new brick convent was blessed and opened by Mgr John English on behalf of Archbishop Duhig who was beginning to slow down due to extreme old age. It was built by contractors and cost about £18,000.

The third session of Vatican II went from Sept 14 to Nov 21of that year but there was very little information coming out. People had to rely on the secular media, or comments from informed people, or the grape vine to find out what was happening.

Then the thunderbolt struck; the Mass was to be in English, and at last the Latin was abandoned in June/July of 1964. Just what the priests and bishops thought was not publicly stated, but they obeyed as did the laity. Some were happy, some were not, but just how many of each was anybody’s guess. There were not many public opinion surveys at that time. But the change seemed to go smoothly enough and people began to buy new missals, in English only. The same year the fasting rule was again shortened, this time to one hour before Communion, and you could drink water without breaking the fast. And this was just the beginning, although no one realized it then.

Tragedy struck the parish at 8.25pm on Thursday 13th August 1964 when Fr Michael Greene was hit and killed by a motor vehicle while crossing Gympie Road at the Aspley shopping centre. Police said he had parked his car on the outbound side of Gympie Road with its headlights on and was crossing the road towards a chemist’s shop when he was hit by a station sedan travelling towards the city. Possibly the headlights blinded the other motorist. He suffered severe head injuries and was dead when the ambulance carrying him reached the General Hospital. (RBH)

On the following Saturday the Telegraph reported that a Solemn requiem mass for Fr Michael Brendan Greene, pp Zillmere North, will be celebrated at St Stephen’s RC Cathedral on Monday at 10am

The Parish, assisted by Fr Tim Norris of Geebung, managed to carry on for a few weeks until Fr Martin Doyle took over as the new Parish Priest