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Stories from the McKay Patrol

Rolley and Teresa unload the consignment on Horn Island

McKay Patrol is the Uniting Church’s outback ministry based in Cloncurry.  Patrol Padre Rev Garry Hardingham travels around western Queensland in a twenty-six year old Cessna 182 aircraft known affectionately as MJZ visiting remote properties and townships offering ministry in the name of Jesus and on behalf of the Uniting Church in Australia.  This is one of his stories…

You know when you get married, you make all these vows and you really don’t think about them as deeply as you should; a bit like buying a new car, you know these cheap little 4 cylinder jobs that cost you about the same as an icecream. But then you discover after that you are locked into getting them serviced at a cost that suddenly doubled the value of the original cost of the car. It’s a bit like getting married. Cause no matter what you think about them, when you’ve said “I do” you not only gain a spouse, but you gain a whole new family. And, believe me, often it can be the family that you didn’t fall in love with originally that can cause you the most pain.

But I’m not writing about denigrating my in-laws…I love them…they’re mad, but that’s okay. I’m writing this because Ordination is also a bit like marriage. You see, when you get ordained, you promise this little thing that you may more or less think of as a throw away line, namely “will you also commit yourself to the wider Church?” and you answer “yep, sure.” Little realising that in the Presbytery, Synod or Assembly office your name is instantly placed into the “Fools we can use” file and you find yourself on Synod committees and Assembly agency support teams and Pastoral Relation Committees or being asked to single-handedly to represent the Uniting Church at the next visit of the Pope. Not that I don’t like being part of the wider Church…it’s actually a good laugh and makes me realise just how wonderful Cloncurry really is. Just like have sisters-in-laws makes you realise that, by the grace of God, you married the pick of the bunch.

So where am I going? Oh yes, Thursday Island. (or as we call it “T.I.”)

As part of every good minister’s service to wider Church, I put my hand up to help in doing some work for the congregations in the Torres Strait (for you Victorians and Taswegians that’s at the opposite end of Australia…where Melbourne isn’t). And so I volunteered to take a bloke and some stuff up to T.I. and do some electrical work on Horn Island. Now the big problem with T.I is that EVRYTHING is expensive and unreliable. I worked there for a while when I was employed by Telstra and getting anything onto or off T.I. is a painful experience fraught with high costs and slow transport. This is mainly because anything that you want to take up to T.I. goes on a barge, which I think must go via China. And when your precious stuff arrives on T.I. often it’s broken or you discover it was chucked overboard when they rounded the Cape of Good Hope or was attacked by pirates while the crossing of the Atlantic during their 3 year voyage. This is of course a joke…it usually only takes 2 years.

And so, it was decided that we would take MJZ. After all I was going to Weipa to be part of Michelle Cook’s recognition of the commencement of her licensed year (I must warn her before she gets ordained to look carefully at the vows!). The trip would take in a PRC meeting in Townsville, some more meetings on the Atherton Tablelands (which also meant a few nights with the mother-in-law…mostly harmless), picking up a bloke called Rolley, flying to Weipa and then on to T.I. Rolley was gonna bring a few flouro tubes for the Horn Island Church and a ceiling fan for the T.I. manse. “It won’t take much room” was his comforting reply to my enquiries. And so, right on cue at the Atherton airstrip, Rolley rocks up with his small consignment (at this point look up small in the dictionary)

I will avoid the gory details, but suffice to say we did get all of it in the aircraft, mindful of weight and balance and correct securing techniques, and off we went. Oh did I mention that Presbytery wanted us to take a box of hymn books up…or that a friend gave Teresa a bag of craft books…or what about the loaves of bread Rolley brought along….or the bags of fruit!!

Suffice to say, MJZ performed magnificently…as usual. The lights and fan were duly installed, the folk on T.I were very appreciative and as a bonus we got to fly home via the west coast of Queensland…stopping in Karumba for some Barramundi and chips for lunch. It’s a tough life.

Photo : Rolley and Teresa unload the consignment on Horn Island