Father Wally breathed a little easier

Fr Wally Fingleton 1915-2012

- Greg Growden

Father Wally kept breathing into his 98th year, and to his last days remained a friend and mentor to many throughout Australia, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, where for several decades he served as a missionary. He was renowned for his commonsense, humour, wisdom and compassion for all.

He was born two months before the ANZAC landing at Gallipoli, the fifth of six children to Jim and Belinda Fingleton. For several years Jim was the state ALP member for Waverley, but in 1920 life changed dramatically for the Fingleton family when he died of tuberculosis, forcing the children to leave school to support the family.

Wally, aged five, was held back from school for several years to help his mother run a small seafood shop in Bondi Junction, before winning a bursary to Christian Brothers College, Waverley.

Despite the family setback, the Fingleton clan flourished, son Les becoming the mayor of Waverley, son Jack a renowned Australian Test cricketer and accomplished journalist/author, and son Glen a courageous trade union organiser on the Sydney wharves.

Like his brothers, Wally was an excellent sportsman, playing first-grade cricket for Waverley, as well as being a competent boxer, rugby player and surfer. After leaving school he worked as a journalist for five years while studying English and philosophy at the University of Sydney.

He even had the chance, while the shipping reporter for The Daily Telegraph, to interview his brother Jack on his return from the 1935-36 Australian cricket tour of South Africa.

As the ship came through the Heads, Wally, who had been taken out by launch to interview the VIPs, walked up to Jack with right hand outstretched. Jack looked Wally up and down and said, ''You've got my bloody tie on.''

Fingleton was proud of the fact that he was ''personally sacked'' by Frank Packer after he had the temerity to say, ''I think you might be wrong on that one, Mr Packer.''



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