My Golden Years – Christmas 1998

Home » Library » The Athenry Journal » Record

Compliments of

My wife Angela and I returned in November 1994 to retire in our native land that is steeped in the faith and culture of our forefathers and now embracing a Peace and Prosperity that will enrich the lives of us all.

My forty years in Australia were devoted to education, particularly to Catholic Education, i.e diocesan run Colleges on a strictly controlled budget and grants from the State and Commonwealth Governments.  The Catholic System can educate a pupil on one – eight that of the State and still boast of excellent Leaving Certificate results and numbers that qualify for University Entrance.

Our Colleges and Parishes are populated with people from many nationalities bringing with them a rich and varied lifestyle, beliefs and expectations.  The teacher and administrator is a devoted and unselfish person always providing educational, pastoral, social and recreational services.  The one priest parish relies greatly upon the aid of the laity to administer to colleges, hospital and parish needs.  These were rich and rewarding years for me having filled most positions in education, whilst also enjoying the many sports and outdoor activities so pleasureful in that climate.

Catholic teachers came from Catholic Universities and Institutions where they were groomed to support the ethos and the character of a Religious Educator.  The extra curricula activities of Catholic Colleges and Parishes were very demanding on his/her time.  The commitment was great, the professionalism was superior and hence, the standards were admirable.  My work with youth in education, sport, clubs and the formation of conscience was always very rewarding for me.  In 1990 I was honoured with a knighthood.

I now share my leisure time with sports, youth clubs, community services and parish activities in the Athenry area.  Retirement is not about armchairs and sleeping, but is very much in giving and sharing experiences and skills to those setting out on a long career in life.

Landmarks and People

The Opera House

I1 was five years in Sydney before the plans for the Opera House were made public.  It was scheduled for Official Opening on Australia Day 28th January 1963 and the cost was then estimated at $7m.  The final cost announced in 1974 was $102 million when people stopped caring about the money and were flocking to see the remarkable masterpiece.

The Opera House is something more than that which sets off the Harbour Bridge on attractive postcards, it is where Joan Sutherland sang with the Australian Opera Company, Sir Robert Helpmann danced with The Australian Ballet Company and all famous performers visited on their tours to Australia.


William Dampier, an English pirate was the first to see the west coast of Australia in 1688.  He damned the land and its people and that was the last word on those parts for well over a century.  Captain James Stirling in 1827 came and explored and liked it and also his friends Sir George Murray and Thomas Peel liked what they saw and they wrote glowing reports.  Then in 1829 Captain Charles Fremantle visited and he hoisted the Union-Jack to take formal possession of the area and the port to bear his name.  The first building, the Round House, still exists intact from the pre-convict era.  Western Australia’s greatest problem for the next twenty years was its sparse population.  Ten thousand convicts were sent to Fremantle between 1851 and 1868.  Then the Gold Rush in the 1880s brought thousands more and Western Australia was on the map.

The Outback

Where is it?  And it is not in the centre of a vast desert.  The Outback is not where the good land finishes and the bad land begins.  The further “out’ into the interior one goes the more hostile it is and the more weird are the squatters who chose to live there.  The ‘Outback’ must mean the marginal area of pastoral country where the white man can just make a living, but it has to be the toughest possible place they could find to do so. 1 heard the remark once that in the ‘Outback’ it takes two rivers to make one stream and also that the landscape never changes, except for the worse.  The first lesson taught to the newly born and the visitor is all about bush survival.  It was in the ‘ Outback ‘ that the explorers Burke and Wills died near Copper’s Creek.  Robert O’Hara Burke was a Galway man.

Years later a small party of men rode into the same country with a mob of cattle which they had driven from Central Queensland eventually to take them to Adelaide, a distance of over 1500 miles to sell them at approximately ten pounds per head.  The leader was Harry the Drover, the cattle were stolen.  He made the mistake of picking up a pure white stud bull and the trail made by the large mob was still visible.  They were identified and arrested.  The trail is now known as the Birdsville Track.

The Aboriginal People

Aboriginal Affairs remained under the control of the Colonial Secretary’s Office in London till about 1870.  A high percentage of the Aboriginal population was centred in all the remote ports of Western Australia but it was 1897 when the W.A. Government received ten thousand Pounds to be spent on Aboriginal Affairs.  The Aborigines Act of 1905 drew up very repressive and discriminatory laws governing their lifestyle and their rights.  Some read as follows: Aborigines were not allowed into hotels, they could be rounded up if seen to be homeless and placed into institutions, i.e., Moore River Native Settlement; parents were not the legal guardians of their children but the State was. Permission had to be sought to marry with whites. They could not apply for bank loans. Welfare was restricted, they were a caste apart and confined to Native Reserves on the outskirts of town.  The Native Welfare Act of 1962 repealed all that there was before and in 1972 the Aboriginal Affairs Act passed into the hands of the Federal Government.  Aboriginal people can now own lands that are meaningful to them because of traditional and religious ties and historical value.

– –

About this record

Written by Sean Mc Gree, Tysaxon

Published here 18 Apr 2023 and originally published Christmas 1998

– –