Farewell to some old friends who made a difference while they were here

Image from the Public First Campaign

Contributed by Joe Montero

It was sad to hear of the passing of Paddy Garrity the other day. This was the culmination of two bad weeks, which saw off another three friends. They were Betty, Gabby, and Jo.

Betty Little/O’Shea was an old time warrior, who had experienced the Great Depression and war, and had been an activist from a young age. She fought for those without, stood against war, and was a leading light in the campaign to build friendship between the peoples of Australia and China, and these are only a part of her contribution over the decades.

I had the privilege to work with her for some of those years. Betty possessed a wealth of experience and a canny grasp on what is going on in this world. I learned a great deal form her. Betty’s last marriage was with Clarrie O’Shea, the man who became the beacon of the battle against the anti- union Penal Powers in the 1960’s.

Her daughter married my brother, which made her part of my family. Betty died as she approached her ninety seventh year.

Gabby was the daughter of Barbara and Patricia Sullivan, with whom I worked on a number of campaigns. When I was the principal of the rebel Richmond Secondary College, at the time of the Victoria’s Kennett government in the 1990’s, Barbara was a tireless and capable organiser in the school’s office and the school’s community. She had come via the school council. Patricia helped as a teacher and in the overall campaign to save the school.

Defending Richmond Secondary College against closure

I got to know the Sullivan family during this time. I got to know Gabby, ho was a kind and generous person and devoted to her family.

Barbera Patricia and I later got to work together in the Public First Campaign, to become an important part of its core. Public First had risen out of the rejection of the privatisation drive, and it was during this time that The Pen first came into existence in its first hard copy incarnation. It eas revived in more recent times and went digital.

In 2014, I came down with serious bowel cancer. Barbara phoned me two weeks into my chemotherapy, to tell me she had been diagnosed with lung cancer. We got to share our experiences. I think it helped both of us to cope. I survived, and unfortunately, she didn’t.

Ken and Jo Mooney joined us during the Public First days, and they quickly became part of the team, bringing Ken’s irrepressible humour and talents gained as a union delegate, official and community campaigner.

Jo brought her own campaigning and organising know how.

Together they had been the founders of the Pubic Tenants Association.

Who can forget Paddy? He was another member of our team. As well as being the arts officer at the Trades Hall in Melbourne. He later run a bar at the same place.

Paddy was one of a kind. He had more than a touch of Irish humour and volatility. Everyone laughed and fought with him. There used to be a saying that ‘you never know whether he loves or hates you’.

There was more to him than this. His generosity and ready willingness to help others out was legendary.

We all worked at Melbourne’s Trades Hall (home of Victoria’s union movement)

I remember one time. We were outside the Nike shop in the city, supporting a campaign to expose the use of cheap labour in poor countries. Paddy peeled his clothes off and began to stroll through the city in his birthday suit. He’d asked me to do the same. When I knocked the invitation back, he asked me to carry his placard instead. Written on it were the words “I’d rather wear nothing than wear Nike”.

The stunt drew crowds. It certainly got the message across. And the police stood there red faced and not knowing how to react. He got way with it.

Paddy was the the first of our group to come down with cancer. He survived this to be taken down by Covid-19

So many good people leaving us in such a short time is sobering. Those of us who knew them will miss their presence. But it is comforting to know, that all of them had made the world a little better with their presence, and given those they touched, something that remains. , so that a part of them lives on.

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