by Shelia (Cecilia) Margaret Thompson, (Nee McInerney)
MJ McInerney was the second of nine children born to John and Annie (nee Eiffe) McInerney.
They were railway people who lived and worked in the Lower North of South Australia. The town we heard most about when we were growing up was Kapunda and it was from this town that my father enlisted in the Australian Army to be one of the original 10th Battalion and therefore one of our ANZACs who stormed that formidable beach at Gallipoli.
My father always said he remembered thinking as they waited in the small boats going into that shore that the morning was so beautiful, so peaceful and what a dreadful thing to do to shatter such beauty.
He survived that battle and thence to France, where he became a prisoner of war in Germany, eventually being invalided out to Holland, to England and then home to Australia.
Shortly after his return he married Miss Hilda Gillespie, who also has a place in South Australian history. Her father was a Petty Officer on board the first Australian gunboat HMAS Protector, which went to China at the time of the Boxer Rebellion.
After a short time they settled at Cavendish Street, West Croydon. The area at that time was very sparsely settled. Alfred Road was an unmade, dirt road with box thorn bushes lining it and open land with crops on either side for a great deal of its length.
My father owned land about the size of six house blocks on which he began a market garden. Two of his friends had land bordering Alfred Road. One, Mr Ari Aris who was a dairyman and had lucerne crops planted to feed his cows. The other was a nurseryman, Mr Flag, who had large areas of seedlings and trees.
These men were all returned soldiers and became very much involved in the RSL. This is where my father began the work that really claimed his time and energies for many years, all his life really.
In those days as the Depression took effect, many of these returned men had great difficulty in procuring the war pensions to which they were entitled and my father became in many cases their representative. Many a night in our home there would be a knock on the door and a voice would say: ‘Is Mac in?’ And he always was.
My father worked tirelessly in their cause with, I like to think, some considerable success. He became a life member of the RSL and a state representative for that association. He laid the foundation stone for the original hall in Herbert Road, West Croydon and I still remember that day with great clarity.
We were always very proud of our father. He was a stern man, a man of great character and compassion, fair-minded and with a wry sense of humour, which saved him from appearing too serious and unapproachable.
My father lost one brother in battle in France during the First World War. His younger brother was in the Second World War and suffered the unspeakable trials of Changi Prison and the Burma Railway. His eldest son was killed in the Ramu Valley in New Guinea with the 2/27th battalion, aged 19. His youngest son served with the Royal Australian navy and returned home needing a great deal of hospitalisation.
My father also served in the Second World War as an instructor at Woodside.
His association with Woodville District Council began with the Depression years and he went to work as a labourer working on footpaths and curbing and during the war there was a project in some areas to build air raid shelters on which he worked. Some of these are still to be found in the metropolitan area.
My father always had a keen interest in politics and was active at the state level at one stage of his life but I don’t know the details of that, except to say he was a friend and colleague of Norman Makin, later to be Sir Norman Makin*.
His work as a councillor in Woodville District Council is not very well known to me either. MJ McInerney Reserve, West Croydon is a wonderful memorial to him. It has become a thing of beauty, a place where people can relax and feel refreshed and I think he would be very happy to think that his name place was still working for the people as he did for most of his life.
In writing of this location I have found so many names come to mind, all returned soldiers who lived in and around Alfred Road, Cavendish Street and Aroona Road and who helped to develop what must in the early days have been largely wasteland. They were gardeners, dairymen, builders, plumbers - all manner of men and the best part of all that was that they never failed to help each other out.
*Sir Norman Makin was a South Australian federal politician who was elected in 1919 in the seat of Hindmarsh. In 1946 he was appointed Australian ambassador to the United States.
After diplomatic life, he returned to politics and won the seat of Sturt.