Letters & Stories

Extracts from the Morning Star
Priest Profile - Fr John Thompson - Oct/Nov 1996 Issue

I was born in England (Buckinghamshire) just before the Second World War 16th May 1939. I was told that the afternoon of my departure from the maternity wing of the hospital, it was destroyed by a stray bomb - so obviously I was meant to survive.

In 1948 my mother, brother sister and I came to Australia for what I thought was going to be a holiday. We had come to live! We arrived at Union Street, Exeter in mid January 1949 with a temperature hovering in the mid 40's. We'd left England in the freezing weather of winter, and the difference made me wonder if mother really knew what she was doing.

In 1950 our family was separated. My brother and I were sent to a Boys Home and my sister went to a Girls' Home. Later my brother went to Walkerville Boys' Home, and I went to "Karmigal" on Grange road. From there I rode my bicycle to Urbrae Agricultural College each day, until I was hit by a fuel tanker! Walking from then on.

While at Urbrae I got my first job ( and a chance to fulfill my dream of becoming a stockman).All I wanted in life was to ride a horse. We were in a class of 38 boys when a man came in looking for a boy to work on a farm. As you can imagine 38 hands shot up into the air. I was so overawed that I didn't hear the man say that the farm was 400 miles from Adelaide - my hand was still up while everyone else's was down. And so I started work at the tender age of 12 and a half in a small community called Yeelanna, approximately 45 miles north of Port Lincoln. To my surprise no horses; but I didn't give up. I stayed farming in the area for 27 years. I wasn't much interested in the Church and for a while I became a "bikie". It was also around this time that I met Fr. Ralph Holden. My life gradually changed and I started going to church regularly. I became a Lay Reader and Assistant and eventually followed the path leading to ordination.

In 1980 I was accepted as an ordination candidate at St. Barnabas' College, Belair. In my first year I was sacristan(looking after the chapel), in second year I was works manager and in my final year I was Senior Student. After Ordination I was assistant curate to Archdeacon Ian Barlow at Port Pirie. In Pirie I spent a great deal of time working with young teenagers(perhaps the motor bike helped) and I was given the title there of "FJ". I was ordained priest in Pirie in 1984 and stayed there for another 2 years, when I accepted the parish of Ceduna. In 1988 I resigned and came to Adelaide and as you know, finished up in Exeter, not far from Union street, where my time in Australia began.

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PARISHIONER PROFILE  - Keith (Canterbury) Hutton - Aug/Sept 1995 Issue

My early years were spent at Plympton where I attended Glenelg Primary School and Adelaide High. After leaving school, I worked at Perry Engineering in the Accounts Department, and studied accountancy with Hemingway and Robinson, but this was interrupted in 1942 when I joined the RAAF. I did my "rookies" at Rocklands Dam in Victoria, and then moved on to Charters Towers where I spent several months before going on to Merauke in Dutch New Guinea. I was there for both VE Day and VP Day. In October, 1945 I was posted to RAAF Headquarters in Irving Road, Toorak, as Secretary to the Air Officer Commanding and I was there until discharged in December 1946. On discharge, I returned to Perry Engineering as Secretary to Mr Albert Perry.

The next big event in my life was being summoned by Bishop Robin (then Bishop of Adelaide) to become Manager of the Canterbury Book Depot. The first interview was not very pleasant as I told him I didn't know anything about bookshops, my training was in accountancy, and I certainly didn't want to take on Canterbury. Bishop Robin told me to go home and pray about it and he would see me in a week's time. I cheekily told him I could give him my answer right now, whereupon I was dismissed from his presence! Well, I went, didn't I, and I spent 34 very happy years there, ruling the clergy, and being known as the "Scourge of the Clerge"! It was all great fun. My religious training began at the Church of the Good Shepherd, Plympton, where my mother had been on the Building Committee of the new Church (1925). At age 13, and on Christmas Day, I was compelled to play the organ because the elderly Organist had fallen and broken her arm, and I remained at the organ until I joined the Air Force.

I have served as Organist at St Paul's Port Adelaide, St Peter's Glenelg, St Agnes' Grange, St Francis' Edwardstown, and finally at St Bede's Semaphore, where I was "conned" by Joan Thomson to at least get them through the Christmas music. I have never had my appointment confirmed and have been here since December 1984, and have enjoyed both it and the wonderful friends I have made here. It is a wonderfully friendly parish. I was also Honorary Secretary of the Diocesan Retreat House for over 30 years and this took a great deal of my time and energy.

Since retiring, I have had four wonderful trips to England and the Continent. With my friend Tony Whitehill, from the Botanical Gardens, I have visited the wonderful gardens of Monet in Giverney, Villandry and Fountainbleu, all in France, and the oldest courtyard garden in the world at Alhambra Palace in Madrid. A few other highlights were a personally conducted tour of Lambeth Palace(the Archbishop of Canterbury and Mrs Runcie were abroad and I was allowed to play Mrs Runcie's piano), a wonderful performance of Mozart's Cosi fan Tutte at the famous Glyndebourne and some lovely stays in my very favourite city, Salzburg, the home of Mozart. I have also been fortunate enough to attend the Oberammergau Passion Play and to visit the Holy Land. I am thankful that the Lord has granted me so many wonderful opportunities in life.

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