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The church Eddie built

Eddie Nunn

Eddie Nunn

By Emilie Ng

FOR 50 years Edwin “Eddie” Nunn has sat in same pew in the left corner of his beloved church, St Jude’s, Gumdale on Brisbane’s southside.

Mr Nunn’s love for this church began when he put pen to paper and drew the plans for St Jude’s back in the early 1960s.

Back then, Manly’s parish priest, Fr James Brosnan, made a complaint about the hall that was being used to celebrate Mass

“We used to have Mass in a local hall that was also used as a cinema that had canvas chairs,” Mr Nunn, 89, said.

“One day Fr Jim Brosnan came up to me after Mass and said, ‘I’m sick of looking at Marilyn Monroe when I say Mass’.”

Fr Bronsnan wanted to build a temporary church on land that was purchased by his predecessor Fr Gabriel Nolan for £220.

With a 2ha Gumdale property owned by the Church, Fr Brosnan and Mr Nunn decided there was no reason they couldn’t build a church to service the local Catholics.

“Fr Jim said, ‘If you and the other chap Bill Matthews can assure me of 10 pound a week I will arrange a loan to get a church’,” Mr Nunn said.

Church builder: Eddie Nunn outside St Jude’s Church.

Church builder: Eddie Nunn outside St Jude’s Church.

“Within three or four days, we had 15 pound a week promised.”

At the time, St Jude’s cost £3500. Mr Nunn undertook the project as part of his building business.

Under Fr Brosnan’s direction, Mr Nunn drew up the plans for a church that was “like a little hall which we can use later on as a hall”.

A short time after he had finished drawing the plans and passed them through the city council, Fr Bronsnan became ill and was replaced by Fr John O’Halloran.

“He didn’t last too long after that, they changed priests, and he said to me, ‘As soon as your new priest arrives, take the plans up to him at Manly and say, this is what I wanted done and what you want doing’,” Mr Nunn said.

“My wife Peggy and I went to Manly presbytery and knocked on the door, and said, ‘We’ve come from Gumdale, here’s the plans, we’re gonna build a new church’.

“Well, he talked to us for a while, and then he said to me, ‘Well, go ahead and build it’.”

Mr Nunn and his carpenter got to work and within three months built St Jude’s Church as it stands today.

“Fr Brosnan didn’t even want the brick front, but I did all this nice little brick front, brick veneer, I put chamferboard on the rest of it.

“That’s how I built it.”

Brisbane Archbishop James Duhig was almost the last person to hear about the new church building.

“I knew Archbishop Duhig and them up town knew nothing about it,” Mr Nunn said.

“It was just about due to be opened when they decided we’d have to tell Archbishop Duhig about it, but Fr John O’Halloran almost had kittens.

“I was bolting the tabernacle to the altar there, and it was all finished, and this priest … (came out) – it was Monsignor Moloney, Archbishop Duhig’s secretary.

“He started to ask me questions, and I told him as much as I could, when I heard this voice bellow, ‘Bring the man out here’.

“It was Archbishop Duhig down there in his wheelchair, and I had to come out and see him. He fired questions at me, right, left and centre.

“I thought I might have been excommunicated, but any rate, that was it, and a couple of weeks after that he opened St Jude’s.”

Two months after opening and blessing St Jude’s Church, Archbishop Duhig died.

It was the last church he opened and blessed.

Mr Nunn’s family continues to be a part of the parish.

“My grandsons were all baptised here,” he said.

Mr Nunn’s wife Peggy also had her part in maintaining the church’s interior.

“My wife sadly passed away a year and a half ago, but she looked after everything to do with the inside,” he said. “She would launder the priest’s vestments, and always laundered the cloths.

“She did that for 25 or 30 years.”

Although it’s been 50 years since he laid the first brick Mr Nunn hasn’t finished thinking of the potential of the land.

“It’d be a great place for a retirement village to be built,” he said.

St Jude’s, Gumdale, will celebrate its 50th anniversary on September 14 with Mass at 5pm. Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge will celebrate the Mass.

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