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Chapter 26: They Died on our Watch


  • Chapter 26: They Died on our Watch

    By Father Bob ⋅ December 29, 2011

    Bit stunned with packing, sending to tip, storing and grieving. Nevertheless, time marches on. Gotta keep blogging to keep faith with those who’ve died for “the Cause.”

    In fact, in preparation for New Year, I’ve decided to reprint some of Chapter 26 of Ron Burrow’s book, “The Postie and the Priest”. It’s about a memorial service held in the parish garden every year on the anniversary of my arrival here, 14th September, and the birth, for better or worse, of “the Cause”.

    There’s a special poignancy within this chapter right now. Ron refers to a “Barnabus”, a code name for the founding member of Open Family, Emerald Hill Mission and, I’m proud to say, my own Foundation.

    The Postie and the Priest - “Chapter 26: They Died on our Watch"

    ‘This little memorial, insignificant as it might be, shows what I have been about all my life.’
    The flock is emerging from the church after the noon Mass. It is wending its way to where the plaque sits on the memorial wall in the garden. I bring up the rear, riding my red Aussie Post bike, with a yellow bag of mail, along the path behind the stragglers. I’m like an old sheepdog whipping them in.

    Two Board members of the Father Bob Maguire Foundation standing at the back of the gathering look conspicuous in their dark suits, like a pair of task force detectives. The “shepherd” standing in front of the plaque, which sits on the bluestone wall, begins without further ado:

    “We are her representing the Maguire Foundation. Come on ‘girls’, get in a bit closer, says Father Bob to some stragglers at the rear.
    Mandy, a survivor of the urban drug war, hands out booklets.

    “This is magic stuff,” says Bob, sounding like a hippie from the sixties, as he gets the thurible smoking. “Barnabus is here to represent all those who were on the street in the 1970’s. Were you there?” he asks.
    “Yes, I was there”, confirms Barnabus softly. His head is slightly bowed and his shoulders hunched but he lifts his big brown eyes and looks around shyly. It’s hard to believe that this is the same person who used to charge down Dorcas Street, with Bob’s dog at this heels, abusing pedestrians and nosy drivers alike.

    “His brothers aren’t here though,” Father Bob states emphatically. He reads the names of two people off the plaque. “Two dead brothers!”

    Barnabus nods and then bows his head further.

    “These people listed on the plaque never made it,” says Bob “Interestingly enough we maintain that a lot of them died because they weren’t well treated by the public service.” I take it that he is referring to the police. “We are not arguing about whether it was malicious, or whether it happened through ignorance, but the fact remains that a lot of them would have lived longer had they been dealt with in a respectful way.” Then he adds with a grin, “Even though they were a pain in the arse.” There is a smattering of laughter from the gathering.

    “Barnabus” died here 19th November 2011. His words, “Live on!” surely demand a New Year’s resolution to do just that.

    PLEASE NOTE: …… The Biography of Fr Bob – “The Postie and the Priest” by Ron Burrows is on sale from the Parish office priced at $35.00 – get your copy now as they are selling fast.


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