RETIRED priest Fr Ron Mollison put hundreds – if not thousands – of his Thursdays-off into tinkering and renovating his Holland Park home with lifelong friends he dubbed the “partners in grime”.
Graeme Whitney, who had been a carpenter before he retired in 1998 and became one of Fr Mollison’s partners in grime at the Holland Park house, said Fr Mollison loved using his hands.
He said the house “just meant the world to Ron”.
“Every bit of steel meant something to Ron,” he said.
“He was perfect; he would pull it down and do it ten times just to get it right.”
But after a stroke in February, Fr Mollison has been living in palliative care at St Vincent’s, Carseldine, unable to go out to visit his home or his mates.
Louise Power, Fr Mollison’s niece, said there was never a good year to have a stroke but “this is probably the absolute worst in terms of being bed-ridden and isolated and unable to have visitors for many parts of this year” because of COVID-19 restrictions.
After hearing about Ambulance Wish, an initiative of Palliative Care Queensland, on Facebook, Mrs Power had the idea to reunite Fr Mollison with his friends at the house.
It had to be a Thursday, she said, it did not matter what date it was but it had to be a Thursday.
Fr Mollison rode to Holland Park with volunteer paramedics in the Ambulance Wish ambulance called Betty last Thursday.
He was wheeled under the house, which he had dug out years ago, to cheers from his partners in grime – Graeme Whitney, Mark and Max Warren, Steve White, Ronnie Eager, Peter Hender, Justin McCarthy, David Bradley – as well as his older brother Bob, three of his nieces – Louise Power, Carmel Mollison and Julie Wilson – and archdiocesan clergy support nurse Helen Judd.
Even the neighbours and their dog, Captain, stopped in to surprise Fr Mollison.
“It’s good seeing all the family and friends and associates and accomplices,” Fr Mollison said.
The partners in grime gathered around Fr Mollison and reminisced about the halcyon Thursdays spent at the house.
Mr McCarthy, who had known Fr Mollison from childhood, said the demand for Fr Mollison’s services was “just unbelievable”.
“Some Thursdays he didn’t get on (site) because he committed himself to doing other things like a funeral,” he said.
Mr McCarthy and his brother, Terry, had laid the first slab of the garage, which was now home to an old Studebaker, about 40 years ago.
“It’s a different house than what it was then,” Mr McCarthy said.
The house was a blend of mod-cons and antiques from the gramophone in the corner to the sound speakers running through the ceiling.
A Czech 1972 Jawa racing bike sat pride of place in the garage.
Fr Mollison had asked Mr White, who was an aircraft engineer and Albany Creek parishioner, to take a look at the parts he had accumulated in his garage.
After hunting around for spare parts, Mr White was able to put the old racing bike together for Fr Mollison’s visit last Thursday.
“Fr Ron is an artist,” Mark Warren, a long-time Albany Creek parishioner, said as he showed off the curved walls and curved doors Fr Mollison had built into the garage space.
“Who builds curved walls? It’s just incredible.”
Fr Mollison had hand-crafted two wall niches, one holding a crucifix, and built an old gas stove, though the compartments were stocked with fine wines these days.
Outside was a garden shed he bricked and along the high ground of the property, he had constructed a retaining wall while he was chaplain at Greenslopes Hospital.
Max Warren, Mark’s father, said he loved having Fr Mollison around for dinner.
“When I have him around for dinner, we immediately go into my workshop and we spend a while there, and then after a while I think – ‘Oh, Fr Ron, you came for dinner, we should go have something to eat’,” he said.
“He’s a great man.
“He’s got a very wide interest in all things.”
Mr Warren said the house was Fr Mollison’s “masterpiece”.
“It’s been wonderful, wonderful work they’ve done here,” he said.
Mr Bradley, who had been at Albany Creek parish since it was established, said all the hard work was done on the house before he arrived after retiring in 2013.
But there was always plenty more to be done, he said.
Mr Hender remembered one day they were digging holes on the property so deep some of the guys could barely climb back out.
He said it felt like he was digging his way to the other side of the world.
“We’ve had some fun here,” he said with a laugh.
Mr Eager was the electrician, who helped install much of what kept the house running today.
Mrs Power said the day was everything she hoped it would be for her uncle.
“It was wonderful, he really enjoyed it,” she said.
“And to be able to get him there safely and comfortably was the main target because that’s not something we’re able to do without a lot of assistance.”
She said Fr Mollison chatted the whole way back from the house about how lovely it was “to hear the banter of his friends again and just how he loved being back at Holland Park”.
Mrs Power said the Ambulance Wish members she met were “just amazing”, volunteering on days off from their ordinary jobs.
“They chatted with Uncle Ron the whole way and just made sure he was really comfortable,” she said.
She said everyone was so grateful to the people at Ambulance Wish.
“It’s such a wonderful thing to provide that opportunity to someone,” she said.
Ambulance Wish Queensland’s Shyla Mills said when the team discussed Fr Mollison’s wish, it was clear that going home was going to “bring great joy” to him.
“His love of renovating old cars and working with his mates, the ‘partners in grime’ on projects was one of his great pleasures,” she said.
“It was a place where they could eat, chat, and spend time playing music, tinkering with machines away from the pressure of their daily lives, and we were delighted to reunite them through Ambulance Wish Queensland.
“Fr Ron’s wish was our ninth wish, and we are keen to grow the program across Queensland and would welcome support from corporate sponsors and partners to deliver more wishes and create forever memories as we did for Fr Ron.”