“The Parish of St. Mel’s”
All the variety, sincerity and good humour which made “Around the Boree Log” so popular with Australian readers of light verse are present in “The Parish of St. Mel’s and Other Verses” by John O’Brien (Monsignor Hartigan).
For 27 years parish priest at Narrandera, Father Hartigan’s book was published under the pen name “John O’Brien” and such was the appeal of his verse that the acclaim it then won has been confirmed year after year as there appeared new editions. To date 82,000 copies have been printed and there is still a demand for these ballads.
For years people who had enjoyed the first collection looked for a successor from John O’Brien’s pen but the work of a parish priest kept him far too busy up to the time of his death.
Since then his nephew, Father F. A. Mecham, has collected most of the verses written since the Boree Log publication and Angus and Robertson Ltd. have just published them under the name “The Parish of St. Mel’s and Other Verses.”
Warm affection, simplicity and humour characterise this collection as they did the earlier work. Both have been written in the best tradition of the Australian school of ballad writers of which Banjo Paterson was one of the foremost.
These verses show the poet’s appreciation of the changing age with the same gentle philosophy allied with (or based on) a wide sympathy and broad understanding. Whereas Boree Log verses dealt mainly with bush people, buggies and shanties the present collection includes later trends, not forgetting the curate’s motor cycle.
John O’Brien bears an honoured place on the scroll of Australia’s most popular versifiers and the reputation won by his first book will be enhanced in the latest which most tragically must be his last.
The Cairns Post (Cairns, Qld.), 10 July 1954, p. 4
[Editor: Added a closing double quotation mark after “The Parish of St. Mel’s” in the heading.]