St. Augustine of Canterbury Church, Leeds Centenary Book.1905-2005
Housekeepers play a very central function in the life
of any parish and deserve recognition for their dedicated service.
Mrs Peg Corrigan R.I.P. was the housekeeper with Canon Murray R.I.P and Miss Annie Moran R.I.P. was the housekeeper with Mgr Spelman. Both of them were excellent. They worked hard, they lived on the job, were on call at all hours and had only one day off a week. In reality that was often only a few hours because they lived in the presbytery and were paid very little.
Priests Housekeeper was a difficult job in those days. There were three men to be looked after shopping, cooking, cleaning, ironing etc. The door was non stop and some of the callers they often had to deal with were less than pleasant, and often demanding, and unappreciative. Their work was forever being interrupted and they had deadlines to meet e.g. lunch on the table at 1.00pm.
The housekeeper doubled up as receptionist. Door and telephone
was a fulltime job in itself. I often saw Annie Moran with a steaming
saucepan in one hand and the phone in the other and possibly something
else under the grill, while people were asking for one of the priests
and wanting to know when they would be back etc. There is not much time
for pleasantries when you are in that kind of pressurised situation.
The truth is that the priests, in those days, never told the housekeeper
where they were going or when they would be back. Annie would say I
do not know, he did not tell me, and I did not ask.
As a child I lived in Bradford but spent my school holidays in the 1940s and 50s at St Augustines with my aunt Mary who was Fr. OFlahertys housekeeper. Sometimes my younger sister Anne used to come also. They were happy times and I always thought Harehills was a lovely place which in those days it was. I used to meet up with one of the school caretakers sons, Brian Hardiman and we used to have some great fun. We would play football in the back garden of the presbytery and I remember we used to go into the boiler house and play an old pedal organ that was stored there. When the film Annie get your Gun came out the maid who was known as Annie became the target of humourous anecdotes and I was thrilled when she took me to see the film at the Gaity.
The Maids Annie and Kitty
Elsie and Anne
In her late teens, when out dancing in the Irish Shamrock club in Leeds she met Tim Sheehan from Limerick. In 1964 they married and came to live in St Augustines parish where they subsequently had four children.
Tragedy struck the Sheehan family in 1991 when Tim became
ill with cancer and died after a comparatively short illness.
Those who have spent time working in the presbytery have been amazed at the constant ringing of the telephone and doorbell. Parishioners wanting to see the priest; wanting information; seeking keys for the halls; requesting Masses, wanting to hand in offerings or donations; and the many callers wanting a cup of tea and a sandwich or a food parcel. Theresa seems to deal with all of this with such good humour, patience and kindness.
Housekeeper is not the only task she performs in the parish. She is in charge of the church cleaning, hall bookings, runs a weekly prayer group, organises parish pilgrimages, is a member of the parish social committee, and involved in numerous other tasks. The phrase most commonly heard in the presbytery is ask Theresa or as Fr. Michael would say ask the boss!