Iris Moloney was the oldest and longest serving parishioner at St Pat’s until she was Born to Eternal Life on Monday 27 August 2018.
Her eulogy delivered by her son at her funeral follows:
IRIS NOEL MOLONEY
Mum was born Iris Noel, to Albert and Charlotte Harris, on Christmas Eve 1919, hence the middle name Noel.
The first time her father saw her, he said, she looked up at him and winked. So he immediately called her ‘Winksey’ and the nickname was immediately adopted by all her family members, many of whom witnessed that beautiful moment. She was the youngest of seven and only rarely was she referred to as Iris. Many years later ‘Winksey’ was shortened to ‘Wink’s but her parents and siblings persisted with the original version until each of them passed away. Apparently one of the nieces one day asked, “Why is she called Winksey?” The answer given by an elder was…..”See she winks!” the name was then adopted by the younger generation, however use of both names was limited to the Harris family and close friends.
Mum was a lovely, selfless, humble lady. She certainly came form humble beginnings. Her mother (our Gran) was 50 years old with three grandchildren when Mum was born. Her father died when Mum was five years old and as there was no family or financial provision, Mum and Gran had to move in with Mum’s elder sister Mary and her young family. For short periods they moved to other sisters’ homes and then back to Mary.
This was the pattern of her life for the remainder of her childhood and teenage years. She loved her sisters Mary, Ada and Dorothy, who was always referred to as ‘Bub’. She regarded Mary as an extra mother and Mary’s daughters Olly and Irene and Bub’s daughter Kathleen were like sisters to Mum, indeed two of them would later be her bridesmaids.
Mum lived her early life in Enfield, just a street away from the convent of the Sisters of St Joseph. Prior to his death, her father, a Catholic, was bedridden for months, in constant pain with cancer. Frequently two of the nuns would come and sit with him for short periods to give Gran a break. Following his death, Gran converted to Catholicism and Mum began her schooling with the nuns.
Later when living with Bub at Cabarita, she continued her schooling at St Mary’s Concord. She finished school at St Joseph’s Enfield aged 14.
Mum had a different but much loved and happy childhood. She was never one to complain, however, there were occasions when she asked why she didn’t have a father and a young mother like the other kids. She also indicated that she didn’t like having a Christmas Eve birthday because there was only one lot of presents. In later years, she fondly recalled that Bub gave hr two pairs of shoes each Christmas – one pair for school and one pair for best.
At 14, Mum had a genuine desire to get a job and to make a financial contribution. She started work with a delicatessen at Burwood. The hours were 7am to 5pm plus Saturdays until 2 pm. The weekly pay was 10 shillings or $1 in today’s terms. There was no job description or enterprise agreement, of course, so the 2pm finish on Saturdays would be extended (without pay) when the Burwood Park Bowling Club placed a late order for afternoon tea sandwiches. Also, when the boss’s wife wanted a change, Mum was relegated to baby minding duties in a back room. However, this arrangement backfired when certain old customers insisted that their lag ham be carved thinly off the bone and only the young Iris could do it properly. Each day
Mum walked from Enfield to Burwood and back to save the penny tram fare each way. She continued this type of work at Burwood and the city for several years but at the age of 17 she found herself out of work when the shop she was working in closed down. It was 1936 and time were tough in the midst of the Great Depression and unemployment was widespread at the time.
One of Bub’s friends over the river at Putney was often sick and confined to bed. She needed help in caring for her husband and children. Mum moved in with the family and undertook the full range of household duties – her remuneration was meals and lodging, for which she was most grateful. The arrangement lasted for 12 months, which was the period immediately prior to her wedding. During this time, she had no cash income and there were no unemployment benefits in those days.
Mum and Dad met during one of her many visits to the Parish, living with Bub at Cabarita before moving to Putney. The occasion was the weekly dance held as a fundraiser for the school here at St Patrick’s. The venue was the Old Bufflows Hall on Tennyson Rd, opposite the old gasworks wall, a couple of stone’s throw away from here. (During 1971 it was demolished to make way for apartment accommodation). The event was organised by Bub and her husband, Jim Flynn, a fiery 6-foot Irishman and a WW1 veteran.
The story goes that Mum went along with them on the particular night. As an excited 17 year old she was overhead to ask her sister, ‘Do you know the name of the boy at the back of the hall with the beautiful blue eyes?’ ‘That’s young Moloney,’ interrupted Jim who marched down the hall and confronted the young bloke who was leaning there holding up the back wall. He was virtually dragged down the hall and given the introduction of this life.
The story goes that the young couple enjoyed the dance and had their first date the following weekend, which was a trip to the greyhound races at Wentworth Park. On the second date, at a movie at the old Ritz Theatre on Majors Bay Road, he went to sleep. His excuse being that he had worked nightshift on Friday night and played cricket on a very hot Saturday afternoon.
And so began a whirlwind courtship, engagement and marriage all within less than 2 years. The haste might seem surprising but I think the old fella must have gotten sick of four punt trips across the Parramatta River for each outing. Not to mention the pressure of missing the last punt back to Mortlake.
They were married at St Mary’s Concord on 9 th December 1939 by a young Fr Patrick Carr. Mum was a stunning 19 year old bride attended by four bridesmaids. The reception which was hosted by Bub and Jim was held in the Forrester’s Hall Majors Bay Road, Concord. They honeymooned at Toukley.
Following the honeymoon, they moved into the Moloney family home at 46 Mortlake St. Dad’s parents had recently passed away and Dad had been living there with two of his sisters who themselves married and moved on shortly after. Mum and Dad were left with the house and a mortgage but, more importantly, Mum, at last, had a permanent residence and a place to call home.
She became very attached to the old home and from that first day, to the day she left for St Mary’s Villa, it was most difficult to get to leave it for any length of time. The hard times served her well, for she put all her early experiences into building a magnificent household and family base at no 46.
Even though times were still tough, she started a family and became a model wife and mother. As children we never came home to an empty house. She was always there with loving support and encouragement. She saw to it that none of us went without, often at great sacrifice to herself. She instilled traditional family values and respect for others, in us. When friends or relatives were struggling, they were welcome at 46 for a meal.
Throughout her life she never really wanted or expected material things for herself. Her main desire was to be able to give the best to her family. However, she was grateful for the smallest thing anybody gave or did for her. She had great faith and commitment, a beautiful smile and a ‘wicked’ sense of humour. From a personal view, I will be forever grateful for my Catholic faith which she nurtured in me as a youngster.
With a daughter and three boys (four counting the husband), she became an expert on all things cricket and rugby league. She went on the assume the role of all round sports commentator, even though she never played sport herself or leant to swim. If you thought she was ‘good’ on cricket or football, you should have heard her on the Davis Cup and the British Open in the 1950s. Names like Lew Hoad and Peter Thompson rolled off her tongue as though they were best mates.
She had a special love for each of her grandchildren, all 13 of them. She had a real gift for making each child feel as though their relationship with her was special and unique, the perfect blend of love, care, patience, understanding and acceptance. They recall her many other talents including her generosity, sewing, knitting, and cooking skills. She too an interest in all their endeavours and acknowledged all their birthdays and was excited to see them when families visited 46 and she visited them. Christmas Day celebrations were always a huge occasion with every conceivable trimming. The home would be bursting at the seams with extended family visiting and children everywhere. Her kitchen was a flurry of activity and her home a bustle
of family. The afternoon was reserved for exchanging gifts from under the Christmas tree and inter and intra state cousins renewing their associations.
Birthdays and other special events were frequently celebrated with excellent dinners and fun sporting and political debates. These were treasured occasions providing lasting memories for us all.
Her great grandchildren now number 25. An impressive extension of family for whom she felt immense pride. We will forever remember her enthusiasm and excitement with the announcement of the next one on the way. With pen and paper, she would busily recalculate the numbers and quote the new total to anyone willing to listen.
Mum, of course, was a senior and long serving parishioner here at St Patrick’s. Some milestones include:
- she was a parishioner for 80 years and a visitor for a number of years before that
- she had a vivid memory of the before and after appearance of the church following the major extension of 1939
- she was present for the installation of the first Parish Priest in 1943 and supported each of the subsequent Parish Priests and administrators
- she supported the nuns who came from St Mary’s each day to teach in the school
- she was a member of various parish committees and was involved in numerous fund raising activities.
A conservative estimate indicates that she would have entered the Church on more than 10,000 occasions, which included Masses, Confessions, Devotions, visits, Novenas, Missions and cleaning.
Her passing also means that it is the first time since 1890 that there is no parishioner bearing the Moloney family name. However, the fire is not totally extinguished as one of her granddaughters has married and moved into the Parish and a son owns property in the Parish.
I guess one of the disadvantages of old age is that you outlive family and friends. This has certainly been the case with Mum. She was the youngest and last of her family of 7 and Dad’s family of 10. As the years progressed, she found it difficult to make a lot of new friends and loneliness became a factor despite the best efforts of family members and friends, for which she was most grateful. She always vowed that she would never agree to live with any of her children or have any of us live with her, as she saw this as interfering with our lives.
For our part, we are very proud of the way she managed, on her own, after Dad’s passing even though she depended on constant support from Sydneysiders Maureen, Peter and their families. This support, I might add, was already in place and operating well before Dad’s passing.
I think it fair to say that Mum never really got over the loss of Dad in 2005. They had been married for 66 years and operated as a close team. Her loss of Dad was effectively the commencement of her health decline which gradually increased over the following years. The level of support increased as she declined and eventually it became continuous and demanding, involving morning visits, delivery to appointments, lawn mowing, meals and nightly sleepovers by Maureen and Peter. At an earlier time, whilst in a good space, Mum told me she understood that the support of Maureen, Peter, Julie, Mandy and Nikki allowed her to live out the greater part of her final years in her beloved own home.
In September, last year, the onset of dementia dictated that Mum be given quality care 24/7. Indeed, it was a difficult time and a sad day for us all when we arranged for her to leave 46 and move to St Mary’s Villa in Concord. Whilst she received very good care at the Villa, she was mostly unhappy because of deep confusion, frustration and loneliness. Once again, the Sydneysiders came to the fore and between them there was barely a day that she didn’t have a visitor and company (babies and dogs included), who gave her an added lift.
Mum was also most grateful for all the wonderful companionship and support she received from others, before entering the villa, including
- the daily exchanges she had with Gladys and Terry before they passed away the many contacts, outings and dinners she had with Evelyn, Val and Acrim including pickups and returns
- the weekly meetings and outings with the ladies of the Concord Senior Citizens Group
- the parish support groups, which ensured she received various invitations and transport, especially the pick up and return for Sunday Mass the pastoral care visits from Dr Michael Purcell
- the various inhome carers and the wonderful nurses and staff at St Mary’s Villa.
We the family of Iris wish to express our appreciation to all these groups and people.
I think it would be remiss of me if I did not mention here my sister Maureen. She experienced the devastation of supporting her husband for several years and eventually losing him to dementia just prior to Mum’s decline. She too is a selfless lady. That close mother/daughter relationship that they had was so important and reassuring for Mum.
Through it all Mum displayed great courage and managed a brave front with that trademark smile, supported by her great faith in God, for which I’m sure she was rewarded. She was truly the best wife, mother, mother in law, grandmother, great grandmother, sister, aunty and friend. She will always be remembered as her life and love touched many. Although dementia took away some of Mum’s faculties her essential nature remained unchanged. We will remember her with much love as a generous, selfless, faithful and welcoming lady, always with a beautiful smile. Maureen, Michael, Peter and I are so lucky she was our mother.
While her passing carries a deep sadness and loss for us all we can take great joy from the fact that today she is united with her blue-eyed boy and that her parents and siblings have reclaimed their Winksey, all in the company of God, His angels and Saints.