A final farewell

My 2014 didn’t quite commence the way I anticipated. My dad passed away 24 January. My mum gave me the incredible honour of sharing the eulogy at his funeral.

This is my final farewell to Colin Joseph Mahoney, born 30 May 1931, died 24 January 2014…

“A source of credit or distinction / high respect as for worth, merit or rank” is how one dictionary explains the term honour. I’m not sure if our modern western society understands this term and how to apply it but thankfully I was reminded of it at a family gathering a couple of years back.

Our family had come across the country to celebrate dad’s 80th birthday.This was planned to be a joyous occasion and at the event I realised it was much more than that. People representing the many seasons of my dad’s life, including many of you here today, had gathered not simply to celebrate this magnificent milestone of 80 years, but to give honour.

Honour to a man of integrity, to a man who worked ridiculously long hours building a family business to afford us a great lifestyle and opportunity, a man, who like the rest of us, may not have realised all his dreams yet remained a loving father and husband.

Sure, dad, along with most men of his era, was not expressive with his love but his commitment to family could never be questioned. The joy upon my dad’s face on the day of the event and for days afterwards was priceless. And this is simply because we gave him what he deserved every day, honour.

And this is again the opportunity we all have today, to honour Colin Joseph Mahoney as each of us knew him. As a husband, as a father, as a boss, as part of the fighting Irish football fraternity, as the plumber who came out at a moment’s notice to fix your blocked drain (often with his wife or one of his son’s in tow), as the volunteer (again with a son or two who also “volunteered”) mowing the lawns or cleaning the toilets at Holy Family or St John Fishers. From whatever realm you knew my dad, I am sure you’d have a great story to share and agree that he is deserving of honour.

Growing up in 1930s Townsville was certainly different to today. Townsville’s first airport opened becoming commissioned as a RAAF base. The CWA huts had recently been built on the Strand and following a shark attack, the first shark-proof swimming enclosure was erected across the road. Living in Mitchell Street, North Ward, this was the Mahoney’s backyard; the playground for Pat, Col, Ray and Honour whilst their parents Elsie and Tom (Musso) probably didn’t wonder where the kids were as long as their errands were getting done!

This backyard was also invaded by Japanese bombs during WW2 – the bombs missed their targets and no damage occurred. Air-raid drills became a regular part of the school day. The town’s population trebled to 90,000 with the influx of American troops. Many staples, including ice, was in short supply. These facts somehow didn’t make it to the stories dad shared about this time. He spoke about the adventures exploring Kissing Point, checking out the US military installations, starting school right here at St Josephs and later the daily trudge up the hill to Our Lady’s Mount.

Kids errands looked a little different back then as well. Bike rides to the South Townsville ice works every 2nd day ensured food remained fresh in the ice chest. Pat, Col and Ray would carry the slabs of ice across their handlebars, hurrying along before the slabs melted too much. The Mahoney boys would also ride their bikes from Mitchell St to the dairy in Belgian Gardens, collecting 2 large cans of milk, one of which would be dropped off to the Christian Brothers and the other left for a later pick up by the priests at the Cathedral. They were also the home delivery boys for the Catholic newspapers of the day, collecting them from the Post Office for personalised delivery by bike.

Post-war, things changed for Townsville and Col. Rugby league, though, continued to be the mainstay of the Mahoney clan. Sunday afternoons at the Sports Reserve were almost a ritual. Being a good Catholic boy, Col played, of course, for Brothers. Hazel would also be at the Sports Reserve cheering on her brother Bill who was a Centrals lad. One could think Brothers & Centrals – never the twain shall meet! But obviously there was a greater plan afoot. Hazel got to know Col’s younger sister Honour at the footy. Perhaps this was part of Hazel’s plan to meet the Mahoney boys?? Not long after, Colin met Hazel, and a future together was created.

Dad was a plumber at that stage having started his apprenticeship with JR Wylie & Sons, the plumbing market leader of the day. Col was sent away to Cairns to work on the hospital, boarding at a hotel and riding his bike to work. Dad was also part of the team that saw the Tully and Townsville  Hospitals open. With slightly different OH&S rules back then, I remember dad speaking about heating asbestos over open fires to create batches of insulation needed for the hospital piping.

September 1954 saw the marriage of Colin and Hazel, setting up home in the new suburb of Currajong, complete with gravel tracks and no hot water. Col was obviously a planner as the home was completed in August ready for their move in the following month. Col was still playing footy at this stage until a broken jaw brought forward his retirement.

Col was one for adventure. On their way from work, Haze and Col would occasionally swing by his mum’s place to pick up a potato pie for dinner. The ute they had then was a crank start. On one such visit after collecting said potato pie, mum was in the passenger seat, dad was out front cranking and dad’s sister Honour was watching her big brother. The car cranks alright and takes off down Mitchell Street with Honour clambering out-of-the-way, mum hanging on in the driverless car, and Col chasing it down. Suffice to say, Col caught the car and potato pie was enjoyed for dinner! This ute was apparently so unreliable that they used to carry 2 bikes in the back ready for a breakdown. Big brother Pat would then be solicited to tow the ute home!

Not long after, they locked up the house at Howlett St and headed to Mt Isa for 2 years. Dad, still working with Wylies, was involved with a project at the mine. This is where dad’s romantic nature surfaced. Renting a flat in the Isa, the place had malthoid flooring – this is the bitumen style product normally reserved for roofing! As well the obvious residential style, mum and dad enjoyed the comforts of cold water only, an ice chest and a wood stove. It was this wood stove, and its obvious need for fuel, that meant each Friday afternoon dad would take mum out bush to source timber. Hand in hand, a picnic blanket – well not quite. Dad, being the very practical man he was, quickly realised two axes are obviously better than one, so dad naturally bought mum an axe. Haze still has this original axe! A few years back, dad was obviously concerned about the effectiveness of the original axe so he bought mum a new one! Even romance looked different back in the day!

Returning to Townsville, mum and dad took a huge risk. Borrowing £600, they said yes to a business partnership opportunity with Slim Corby, dad’s 2nd boss at Wylie & Sons. Corby & Mahoney was born. However, I doubt mum expected that this was the start of her plumbing apprenticeship! Mum cleaned septic sewers, unblocked drains in addition to payroll and quotes. An employee of Corby and Mahoney obviously had to be versatile! Dad oversaw many apprentices – his approach was he would show you what to do and then expect you to do it, and do it well! If not, then some choice words, an older style of professional development I suppose, would encourage the apprentice to have another go. This worked as his apprentices recall the positive impact Col had upon their lives, not just their jobs.

Col and Haze had 8 children. I’ve often wondered why so many but I suspect its because mum became tired of being dad’s offsider in unblocking sewers and thought 5 boys would alleviate this as an issue for her!

There is no ignoring the fact that dad worked hard and long. Mum did the Saturday sporting trips to Mindham Park and the Murray Sporting Complex because dad was working. It was through this work that dad’s commitment to his family is recognised. He did sacrifice a lot to provide what he believed was the best opportunities possible for his children.

He also exemplified living a life for others. We were all regularly volunteered to help clean the toilets at Holy Family or mow the lawns at St John Fishers. Every year, we’d collect ute loads of coconuts for the coconut shy at SJF fete. The Mahoney family was the non-resident groundskeepers at SJF. Mum even recalls many a Sunday night lying in bed asking Col if he turned off the sprinklers at SJF. More often than not, the answer would be a grumbling no, prompting a trip up the road in the ute with Col in his PJs wandering around the school. This too could be viewed a little differently today!

Each of Col’s children can share a story or three about the generosity of mum and dad. They always made sure their home was open to our friends, even if our friends were on the front footpath at 5:30am playing guitar and reading Col’s recently delivered newspaper!

I’d like to finish where I began, with honour. Today is about honouring a committed man who gave everything for his family, a bold man who took risks to have a go, a practical man with a bonding-in-the-moment sense of humour, a man who we all affectionately knew either as Col, Dad or Poppy.

Life and death is all part of God’s plan. Isaiah 41:10 (NIV) “So do not fear for I am with you; do not be dismayed; for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Col, Dad, Poppy – we love you. You are missed. But we are pleased you are now at peace and with God.

I shared this today for 2 reasons: firstly, to again honour my dad, and secondly, to remind us that everyone has a story.

Let’s take a little extra time in 2014 to find out other people’s stories.


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