And it was a long way from another Irish county called Clare, where his mother and father were born – to the Australian Bush where Patrick Joseph Hartigan would become the parish priest for a large area in the Australian State of New South Wales.
He achieved further acclaim as the first of the young State's curates to serve his far-flung parishioners using his own car (owning no less than nine of them in his lifetime!). Due to his passion and ownership of a car, he was the only priest able to 'speedily' travel the distance to administer the last rites to the dying horseman, Jack Riley – the actual 'Man from Snowy River' – hero of 'Banjo' Paterson's famous poem, more recently adapted to a film of the same name.
PJ Hartigan was also a keen student of Australian literature, and whilst unable to match the fame and output of his illustrious predecessors like Henry Lawson and 'Banjo' Paterson, he was highly accomplished in his own creations – stories, poetry and recordings (including a history of religious development in Australia) – all portrayed with a fine sense of sincerity and delivered with an engaging Irish-Australian charm. They say his preaching also shared these attributes, to the great pleasure of his congregation.
A well-known and widely accepted and appreciated book is his 'Around the Boree Log' , written under the pen-name he often used – John O'Brien. Maybe such 'down-to-earth' poems were not considered appropriate creations by a priest, at that time – in rural Australia – but again, they were sincerely appreciated by the general public. Considering this book was published in 5 editions and 18,000 copies; recited on stage; even a movie made about it – and twenty of the poems set to music, it was small wonder that it was hailed a success in Ireland and the USA, as well as Australia.
So beloved was his poem 'Said Hanrahan' , that the sentiment 'We'll All Be Rooned' went into the Australian – English dictionaries, due to its constant colloquial usage for decades after it was first 'coined'. The words epitomise an attitude that everyone has witnessed at some time.
No matter what the prevailing climate; no matter how small the 'change' in weather – 'Rooned' is what we'll be, according to the sage knowledge of Hanrahan. Can't you just see him? Deep frown lines furrow his face; he holds his chin, intermittently rubbing it; he shakes his head slowly and despondently; and though his opinion is strong, his voice almost quivers with the emotion of it all.
Despite all this 'doom and gloom', if you have ever known a 'true blue' Aussie bush character, you will know that this same seemingly insatiable pessimist, will be the first to step forward to lend a hand; to share the load, with courage, patience and endurance. It's just what 'mates' DO.
After all the dire predictions about the potential for drought, and then floods, his final forecast is that the growth that inevitably follows good rains, will undoubtedly mean –
"There'll be bushfires for sure, me man,
There will – without a doubt,
"We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan,
"… before the year is out!"