Adapted from the eulogy given by his son, Jerry Vanclay
One of Fred’s first placements as a minister was in Mackay, North Queensland. Mackay was a wonderful place for Fred, his wife Donna and their young family. They all loved the beaches and the bush, and the children completed a significant part of their schooling there.
Whilst posted in Mackay, Fred and Donna enjoyed long road trips in their modest HR Holden sedan, with the family, to Uluru, to Broome via the Borroloola Track, and down the Birdsville Track to the Flinders ranges; along the way, developing the bushcraft that would stand them in good stead later in the Tennant-Barkly Patrol.
After many years in ministry in Mackay, then in Vermont, Victoria, Fred and Donna were called to the Tennant-Barkly Patrol in the Northern Territory, where he served for eight years, probably Fred’s most satisfying years.
All Fred’s parishes were welcoming and rewarding, but Fred said on more than one occasion that he had a special love for the Patrol. He felt that in an urban congregation, he ministered mainly to those who came to Church, but in the Patrol he ministered to everyone, and especially to those in need.
Fred loved to get involved with the day-to-day activities of his people, to develop a deeper relationship and greater understanding. Some remarked that when Fred helped, everything took longer, but they loved him and his assistance nonetheless.
Fred was proud to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor Padre Fred McKay, and sometimes joked that he was “Fred the 2nd”, not Fred McKay, but “Fred from Mackay”.
During his last few weeks in hospital, Fred liked to reminisce on his time in the Patrol. He joked about how he surprised the selection panel with his knowledge of bush tracks and outstations – knowledge that he had gained on those long road trips from Mackay. He reflected that many aspects of his life were good preparation for his time in the Patrol.
After their Patrol, Fred and Donna retired to Mt Waverley, in Melbourne, but they were both restless in retirement, and undertook supply ministries in Wedderburn, Kerang and North Cairns, and made several long journeys into the interior and into their beloved Patrol [in Tennant Creek] – as well as frequent visits to their eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, and occasional trips to Europe to reunite with distant family.
They never tired of ministering and adventuring, but as age and infirmity progressively clipped their wings, they travelled more in spirit and less by car.
Despite the many celebrations that he blessed – baptisms, marriages, and funerals – Fred never sought the limelight, and I think he would be surprised by our gathering today. I can almost hear him saying “Don’t make a fuss; just say a heartfelt prayer together”. – Jerry Vanclay