Brother Tom Maher
Deceased 24 July 2016
The eulogy presented by Brother Mark Neeham sums up Tom;s life.
Eulogy for Br. Tom Maher
Friends, as we gather today to celebrate the robust and varied life of Br. Tom Maher, we offer our deepest sympathy and prayerful support to his family, his brothers John and Victor, his sister Frances and their families, niece Tricia with whom Tom would stay when visiting family. We also offer the family our sympathy on the death of Aileen, Pat’s wife, a couple of weeks ago.
Thomas Edward Maher was born on 22 September 1926 in Pakenham East in Victoria to his parents Victor and Anne. He was one of 8 children. His schooling to Merit certificate (Year 8) was done at St. Patrick’s Primary School Pakenham. Tom then had 3 years as a boarder at St. Pat’s Sale before heading to the Marist Juniorate at Mittagong in 1944 at the young age of 17 for the last 2 years of school before progressing to the Novitiate in 1946. Receiving the Habit in July that year was the beginning of Tom’s official Marist life. He made Final Profession at the end of 1952 and added the vow of stability in 1967.
As was the practice at the time, Tom (now Br. Oswald) headed straight into the classroom, which was his ministry for the next 28 years. Let’s reflect on that for a moment. Aged 21 with no teacher training to guide him, Tom spent his first 6.5 years in Boarding Schools teaching the sciences in middle secondary classes, firstly at Forbes and then at Kilmore, where he acquired the nickname of ‘Bing’ because of some likeness to Bing Crosby. He was in charge of the choir but can any of us imagine Tom as a crooner??? In these years there were very few if any lay teachers so Brothers taught all day (no such thing as free periods), coached sports teams, supervised study and refectories, ran a dormitory. Scarcely any time to breathe in that regimen!!!! So how tough was it? All up Tom spent 17.5 years in Boarding schools. One of these was at New Norcia where he spent 8 years. The last 5 of these years he held the position of Principal and also Leader of the Brothers’ community. In fact, he was the last Brother Principal of St. Ildephonsus College New Norcia as the Brothers withdrew in 1964. At this stage, Tom’s only ‘qualification’ was through the University of Hard Knocks, as was the case with so many other Brothers and Sisters who pioneered Catholic Education in Australia. We can only salute religious like Tom for their commitment and sacrifice. They just got on with the job graciously and without complaining.
At Hawthorn, Bendigo and Kilmore Tom also held the important post of sportsmaster. Tom certainly had a real interest in sport. His brother Jack remembers Tom as a skilful footballer who would have made the grade in VFL. While in Bendigo in the mid 60s Tom was one of the pioneers of Little Athletics in town. In fact he bequeathed the Marist Club to me! Tom did play with the students at New Norcia where they were playing against adults. He was also a competent cricketer. Jack remembers Tom scoring a century at the MCG, probably the only Brother to do so. Tom had three years as Principal at North Fitzroy and one year at Sacred Heart College, Glenelg.
In 1975 Tom was given 4 years study leave during which he completed a Batchelor of Public Administration at RMIT in Melbourne. The following year 1980 was Tom’s last in school ministry when he was appointed to Mount Gambier. Thus ended 28 years in schools, including 17.5 in boarding schools and 8 years in the role of Principal. A mighty effort indeed!! Let me quote Br. Julian Casey on the occasion of Tom’s Golden Jubilee: “Tom has referred to these days as “feverish” activity and he is right and we need to remember and record the generosity of the men like Tom who held it all together in those days…” Tom’s latter days in school were tough for him as schooling had changed, Vatican 11 had come, co-ed had arrived as well as the need for specialisation.... so Tom wisely made the move away from education at the end of 1980.
The truism “there is life beyond school” is certainly accurate for Tom. He really did get a new lease of life. At Tom’s Diamond Jubilee ten years ago Br. David Blay said: “The feel of the soil between the fingers, the excitement of seeing the veggies and vines grow are some of Tom’s joys in life.” Indeed Tom threw himself into gardening and property maintenance in a big way, firstly at the Retreat Centre at Mt. Macedon for ten years till 1991. Here Tom’s attention to detail and willingness for hard work stood out. The beautiful grounds at Drusilla certainly showed the effects of Tom’s TLC. It was here that Tom forged a close association with the Kyneton Old Collegians and he rarely missed the annual reunion on the Australia Day weekend in January thereafter. In fact he was their Pastoral Advisor. Then it was on to Bulleen from where Tom travelled daily across to Templestowe to oversee the development of the gardens and grounds of the Province Centre. Br. Oliver’s rose garden was surely the beneficiary of Tom’s care after Oliver moved to warmer climes in Darwin. That beautiful garden has welcomed many a visitor to the Centre. While in this role Tom used to regularly spray the weeds on the property at Deer Park, at the same time bringing back lots of sizeable rocks with which he built the tiered garden that graces the courtyard. Tom certainly loved to roll up the sleeves and no work was too difficult. I’m sure we can see shades of our founder St. Marcellin Champagnat here.
Tom’s willingness and openness to be available to take on new tasks was put to the test in 1998 when Tom was appointed to the aboriginal apostolate at Milikapiti on Melville Island north of Darwin. Here Tom’s main role was to supervise the community centre, a challenging time for Tom as he found aboriginal sense of time differed greatly from his own. Needless to say Tom found that time difficult. We all know Tom could be stubborn and obstreperous at times but we know these pale in the face of the energy and goodness Tom has brought to living his Marist life. After a short time at Karama in Darwin, Tom moved back south.
Tom came to Bendigo in 2001 where he involved himself in various activities. High on his list of priorities was working for Vinnies. In fact he was Chairman of the local branch for some time. The welfare of families in need was something Tom undertook with great enthusiasm, passion and compassion. He was a wonderful, caring presence around town and highly valued and loved for his willingness to help others, especially those who were struggling. Br. David Blay speaking at Tom’s Diamond Jubilee 10 years ago said: Tom.. is very active organising rosters and visiting families in need, delivering food parcels or household furniture. At an Easter fund raising event there was Tom working as one of the parking attendants, doing good quietly as Mary did.” Last Sunday Br. Des Hornsby and I attended a celebration of Fr. Ted Harte’s Golden Jubilee in the White Hills parish that Tom frequented for 9am Mass each morning. Fr. Ted mentioned Tom’s death at the beginning of Mass. After Mass and since, many people have come and spoken so highly of his concern, generosity and love for others. Tom had always been a keen golfer and these years provided a chance to spend more time chasing the little white ball around Quarry Hill with his friends. Another priority was his was his regular, faithful presence in the local parish.
It was during this time in Bendigo that Tom began moving north to Ashgrove in Brisbane to avoid the winter chills of Bendigo. Finally, Tom decided to make the move north completely in 2011. In Ashgrove he has been a vibrant presence among the community of elderly Brothers. Br. Adrian Story tells me Tom would join the regular Rosalie parish bus tours and that “despite his age and failing health he maintained his adventurist spirit to the end.” Br. Roger Burke noted “People said that knowing Tom gave them a connection with the Marist Brothers with whom they had many happy associations in former times when their children had been at the College”. Tom also became well-known at a nearby coffee shop that he frequented while out on his daily walks.
Tom has always been a solid, reliable and generous contributor to community life. His fidelity to community prayer, daily Mass, the Rosary were underpinned by his personal prayer and devotion to making Jesus known and loved. All of this in fact underpinned his whole approach to life. Apart from his Uni studies, Tom had 2 moments for personal renewal – the mid-life program in Fribourg, Switzerland for 5 months in 1963 and in 1994 a 2 month program for Brothers moving towards retirement. This was held in Manziana Italy. I guess these were for many Brothers like Tom mini-sabbaticals, a chance to slow down and reflect on their lives. It would seem that Tom came to a real contentment in his life. As Br. Adrian said: “Tom always seemed happy and content with his lot in life even in old age. It was very rare to hear him complain.”
This has given you a snapshot of the various ministries in which Tom has been engaged. But what of the man Tom and the Marist man? It comes as no surprise that we have experienced Tom as a multi-talented man, able and willing to turn his hand to many things. In earlier days that was a necessity when money was so scarce and he was in Boarding schools anyway where the need for urgent repairs were commonplace. Never afraid to roll up his sleeves, Tom has willingly agreed to do anything asked of him.. I recall early in this century when I was Director of the Retreat Centre at Macedon, I invited Tom to come down from Bendigo one day a week to work in the gardens with his very good friend Bernie Stanchinotti. Tom (now into his 70s) readily agreed so he would train down in the morning, put in a solid day’s work and then train it back home in the late afternoon. Such was Tom’s boundless generosity. Tom enjoyed greatly meeting and talking with people and sharing many a joke with them. On his forays south for the Adelaide retreat at Christmas Tom made sure he visited Mt. Gambier and Bendigo to renew friendships he had retained. Des and Maxi Purdon in Bendigo have been lifelong friends, for example. He was always on for a chat, spending time with people.
Tom was one of those Mr. Reliables. Action was always more important than words for Tom. Whatever he undertook was always seen through to a successful conclusion. While we all experienced Tom as strong-willed and determined, he was also looking out for the needs of others. Tom certainly loved the opportunities to catch up with family and he would delight in meeting up with all his relatives. The family always enjoyed Tom’s visits and his interest in all of them – his own siblings, nieces and nephews, grand nieces and nephews. Such loving bonds of a close family circle have meant so much to them all. Jack recalls he and Tom shared a whiskey or three together on many an occasion while chewing the cud together. Can’t we just see Tom enjoying those moments with family and friends! There would surely have been some positive chats about his beloved Demons this year.
So, as we continue this Eucharist we keep at the forefront of our prayer and our hearts the extended Maher family and we give thanks for the rich and wonderful life of our Brother Tom. I’m sure the words “well done, good and faithful servant. Enter now into the joy of the Lord” express something of our gratitude for Tom’s life among us and our trust that he is at peace in God. The words of one of Michael Herry’s hymns “to follow Christ as Mary did” surely captures the self-effacing spirit with which Tom lived his life as a faithful Marist Brother. May Tom, his sister-in-law Aileen, who beat him to the Pearly Gates by just a couple of weeks, and all the faithful departed rest in peace.
Br. Mark Needham
Mass of Thanksgiving
for the life of
Brother Tom Maher fms
28 July 2016
John Driscoll aka Abel
Updated 29 June 2015
Gerald Daly whose father was a cousin of John Driscoll [Brother Abel advised that John actually passed away 17 January 1991 one day short of his 77th birthday. (DOB 18 January 1915 at Kyneton!).
He died at Orange Airport NSW ;after visiting Gerald Daly’s sister in Parkes NSW; he was on his way home to Somerton Park in South Australia where he had retired after many years at Red Bend Catholic College in Forbes NSW.
He is buried in the Marist section of Kilmore Cemetery.
Gerald has other information about Brother John Driscoll. If you would like to contact Gerald please provide your credentials and we will pass the requset.
John Driscoll was one of four Old Boys who joined the Marist Order.
In 1960 the sports day teams were named after these men.
Blue house renamed Kenneth
Red House renamed Brendan
Green House renamed Benedict
Gold House renamed Abel
Brother Brendon, then aged 90, was born at Hanging Rock, Brother Benedict, then deceased, one of the Comans was born at Pastoria, whilst Brother Kenneth was the first boy of the college to become a brother. He must have been a boarder as Brother Abel was the first day boy to enter the Order.
Brother Benedict [Kieran Coman died on 12 January 1957 at the age of 55 after a complication during an operation. He is buried at Kimore.
Brother Marius Wolfe
Brother Marius taught at the school in 1949, 1950 and 1951. He has attained seventy years in the order and now lives in Darwin. Brother provided a testimonial when the web site was being established [See below]
Congratulations Brother on a great innings! Posted June 2012
At one of our reunions Brother Paul Bourke made comments about some of his past pupils.
One was “there was young Billy Deane---he made a bit of a name for himself”
Billy Deane was one of Br Paul’s students in about Year 7 at St Joseph’s College in Sydney.
We contacted Sir William Deane and asked if it would be possible for him to join us at the next reunion and be guest speaker. His personal assistant replied: -
“Sir William is currently overseas and has asked me to thank you for your email and for the invitation for him to be guest speaker at the Kyneton Marist Brothers Old Boys Association's annual reunion in January 2009. Sir William greatly appreciates the invitation but regrets that the pressure of other commitments prevents him accepting it. He has asked me to pass on to you his warm personal wishes and to tell you that he has fond memories of Brother Paul”.
Brother Paul known as Possum to many is fondly remembered by everyone with whom he came into contact but arguably more so at Kyneton.
Brother Des Hornsby now at Bendigo [email@example.com] provided this insight: -
I recall Brother Roger Reidy [deceased] entertaining us with great ghost stories from the thirties .... Rosary House ..... ending up with a goat eerily ringing the outside bell as it chewed up the rope! I am assuming Damian was Br Damian Willis. The Br Mark [must have left] was the one who was terrified living there
The Administrator of St Kilian’s Parish here in Bendigo is Father Rom Hayes. He attended Marist Brothers Kyneton and clearly remembers Br Paul Bourke coming around to his dad to discuss potato growing. This cynical writer would be prepared to bet race horses would have been on the agenda. Fr Rom finished his senior education at Xavier College.
WHAT THE BROTHERS SAY
We contacted the brothers that are still alive and asked if they would like to provide some reflections of their time at the school.
Brother Marius Woulfe taught at the school in 1949, 1950 and 1951
On the eve of his 84th birthday wrote: -
Over the years I have admired the Old Boys Association from a distance mainly because I have spent more than fifty years out of the State of Victoria, in places as remote as Perth and Manila, as well as Europe.
Congratulations on the web site. I can't contribute much but I will mention a few memories here and if you want to use them you will have to do some editing:
The boarders. They occupied a room in the back part of the Brothers' house [Rosary House ED] and went home each weekend.
The bullock team, a dozen or more yoked in pairs. They provided a steady strain on the big tree opposite the school while it was being cut down. [Would have been the bullock team operated by Bill Carey ED]
Boxing training in the Parish Hall…….. A local publican (George White a former boxing champion from South Australia) was in charge. Then the big night in the Town Hall……… It was a good fundraiser for the school. [Bill Stone a burly policeman was also involved. He used to advise this punch [a light tap] will not hurt but this one will! [as he hit your chin with the other hand ED]
There was a big walnut tree at the back of the Brothers' house. Each year I would collect the walnuts and sell them to a grocery store (Hayes) and use the proceeds to buy sporting equipment.
Brother Isidore [1949 & 1950 ED] taking his class (deeks and all!!) out into the middle of the bitumen yard! It was so hot that the students had to wear big hats to keep the sun off!!
My first sight of snow……….. I helped the boarders build a snowball at the front of the Brothers' house and we sent it rolling down the hill growing to an alarming size as it went.
Of course I remember the wood drives (Mr. Keegan?) and the rabbit drives and I used to like to watch the Sheepdog Trials on the main town oval.
As for names, well I will be 84 this month and my memory is a real problem. There’s Bill Bock and Carl Bowen and the two Bowes. Can visualize Bernie [Many of the Simpson Street Bowes attended school. Bernie Moloney advice to brother that Bernie had just died ED]
If any old boys come to Darwin give me a ring. It would be great to see you again. Marius
Brother Kevin Hoare taught at Kyneton in 1965 and 1966 and was a regular attendee at the Annual Reunion until relocating to Solomon Islands in 2009. We keep in touch by email and he sent along a story and some photographs.
Please pass onto to the Old Boys and very good wishes and God's blessings for Christmas and the coming year.
Here's a little of what I have been doing of late ...
I have been over in the Shortland Islands helping our young men who have just graduated start the building of part of a secondary school. They graduated on the Saturday and after a twelve hour boat journey on the Sunday some 28 of them started work on the Monday!!! This is so that the last years Form Threes will be able to continue on to do their Form Four and as more classrooms are build also do Forms Five and Six. One of our teachers is doing the supervising and at the end of the second week had the wall frames up and the roofing frames ready to go up.
Our school takes young men between the ages of 18 to 28. All have fallen/pushed out of high schools for various reasons eg no school fees. About half didn't get into High school; while a few only having grades 3 or 4. There were 150 there this year, with 80 in the 1st year group and 70 doing the 2nd year course. The 1st year learns general skills in Building, Carpentry, Mechanics and Agriculture and their 2nd year they specialize in any two of these skills. They come from all provinces of the Solomons and about half are Catholics.
The Marists started in "72 (at the request of the Bishop) with Brothers Francis [McMahon] and Kevin [Murray] and the early students of that time, whom I have met, still speak with praise about these men. The Shortland Islands are “right next to the PNG border and only about 20 mins by speed boat where the local people go to sell their goods.”
Best wishes to you all,