St. Augustine of Canterbury Church, Leeds Centenary Book.1905-2005

Priest’s Housekeepers

Housekeepers play a very central function in the life of any parish and deserve recognition for their dedicated service.
Fr. John Nunan recalls:

“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.

Priest’s 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.’
They served the Parish well over the years and had little reward here on earth, let us hope that they have it in Heaven.”

Mary Duffy
Fr. O’Flaherty’s housekeeper was Mary Duffy. She was an aunt of Michael Halloran, who has very fond memories of spending his school holidays with her at St Augustine’s:

“As a child I lived in Bradford but spent my school holidays in the 1940s and 50s at St Augustine’s with my aunt Mary who was Fr. O’Flaherty’s 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 caretaker’s 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
Fr. O’Flaherty also employed two maids, Annie and Kitty Barrett. They were young adults from Co. Mayo who had come to Leeds to work in service as maids. It is believed that they worked long hours for very little pay and when they were not allowed any time off to celebrate Christmas, Fr. O’Flaherty offered them alternative employment as maids in the presbytery. Annie married and returned to Ireland with her new husband and Kitty became a nun living in a convent at Bramley for many years. There was also a third sister who became a nun in the Holbeck area of Leeds.

These Photos were taken outside the Presbytery

Left: The wedding of Annie Barrett (ex maid) and Tony Davitt in about 1953 or 1954. The third from the right is Mary Duffy, (housekeeper). The child on the right is Michael Halloran, the nephew of Mary Duffy.

Right: Fr. O’Flaherty with the Bride and Groom.

Elsie and Anne
Fr. Durcan had two housekeepers, a mother and daughter, affectionately known by the parishioners as Elsie and Anne. Elsie did most of the housework, cooking and cleaning whereas Anne took on the role of parish secretary helping Fr. Durcan with the accounts and paperwork and general organisation within the parish. Elsie loved bingo and probably persuaded Fr. Durcan to start the Sunday night bingo sessions in the parish hall. He frequently gave Elsie a lift to her previous parish in Bradford so she could take part in their bingo. Elsie and Anne moved with him when he transferred to Castleford. Elsie died a few years later. R.I.P.

Theresa Sheehan
When Fr. Michael Kelly took over as parish priest in 1996 he employed a parishioner Theresa Sheehan to be his housekeeper and she became the first not to ‘live in’. Theresa was born in the parish of Mt St Mary’s in 1946. Her father was an Irishman named McNamara, and her mother was from Berwick-on-Tweed. She spent most of her childhood living in Our Lady of Good Council Parish and attended Mount St Mary’s high school.

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 Augustine’s 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.
Previously Theresa had worked in the area for ten years as a home care assistant for the elderly, so her new employment as Fr. Michael’s housekeeper presented her with a new challenge.

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!”

Theresa stood at the back of a small group of pilgrims outside the church in Wadowice, Poland in May 2005