Br Patrick Macarius Smith and Br Nicholas Joachim Smith (Little Smithy and Big Smithy)

Two of Nudgee College's Patriarchs - the Flats are their legacy

Br Patrick Macarius Smith 

b.            1849-1927

NC          1891-1927                    = 37 years

Br Nicholas Joachim Smith

b.            1843-1929

NC          1892-1894, 1896-1929  = 37 years

These two men grew up in Trim, County Meath in Ireland. Their stories are recorded in the notes and extracts that were researched for Ms Catherine O’Sullivan of Ingham who is their great-great niece!

Patrick emigrated to Australia in the 1880s and eventually found work on the Darling Downs, as did many other Irish immigrants. He had learned the trade of baker and confectioner (which were to see him in amazing good stead throughout his time at Nudgee College) and once he had settled in Toowoomba he heard of the Christian Brothers’ arrival in Queensland just down the hill at Gregory Terrace. He already had a third family member who was a member of the Order and Patrick decided to offer himself to the Superior at Terrace as a Lay Brother, i.e a non-teaching member of the Order of Christian Brothers. After a short duration of Postulancy and Novitiate in Geelong, he spent some time at St Vincent’s Orphanage. 

The Brothers’ Superiors very quickly recognised his skill set for residential schools and he was sent to Gregory Terrace to help with the arduous duties of the boarding school there. He was now known as Brother Macarius and his duties at Terrace included being cook and household manager. He is described in the necrology written by Br Gabriel Purton (another Nudgee College legend) as a shrewd and careful businessman with the very soul of generosity and kindness. His ready smile and his attractive amiability of character are treasured memories of Terrace Old Boys. Despite the many duties he performed, he was the perfect model of religious observance – so important to the morale and calibre of each community of Brothers.

Terrace outgrew the boarders or maybe the boarders outgrew Terrace (the stuff of fun banter down through time) and as a consequence, Br Treacy asked him to join the fledgling community at Nudgee College on the outskirts of Brisbane to assist in the building of the new boarding school. Imprinted in the request was an essential ‘building’ plan employed by Br Treacy throughout his pioneering days for the Brothers in Australia, i.e always to include a Lay Brother in the community who could and would support the teaching Brothers by attending to the domestic and other duties of everyday life and living.

Shortly after Patrick emigrated, his older brother Nicholas followed him to Australia and to Toowoomba, and then onto the Brother Superior, Br Joseph Barrett (another future Nudgee College legend) at Terrace where he, too, offered himself as a Lay Brother to the monks. He was a very pious person and as Br Gabriel Purton records in his Necrology, he edified all by the fervour that characterised him at his spiritual exercises. He had little of the learning of this world but he quickly acquired the learning that really matters – a spirit of prayer.

Thus far the story is quite pedestrian but these two men, along with another Patriarch of Nudgee College, Br Albert Ryan (another Lay Brother) set about the arduous task of building the grounds of the Nudgee College we know today. In 1892 when Nicholas, now known as Br Joachim, arrived, thick forest and scrub covered all the land at the College. Joachim was a giant of a man and in true Nudgee College tradition very quickly became known as Big Smithy. Of course, it was a short draw of the bow for Macarius to be affectionately known as Little Smithy. Macarius was not a big man.

The zealous Brother Joachim, along with his brother, Brother Macarius and Brother Albert, set to work and cleared what we know today as the Flats of Nudgee College. They sank wells, erected fences, cleared land, ploughed the land and very soon smiling fields of corn, pineapples and bananas soon replaced the wild, impenetrable bush that greeted the first boarders at Nudgee College. In the early days they even had to tie paper to trees in order to find their way back to the Mound of Nudgee College – so dense was the scrub.

Br Joachim, along with Br F T O’Brien planted the Avenue of Trees along the road these men built from the western side of Nudgee College, adjacent to Sandgate Road, eastward all the way (several kilometres) to the eastern boundary on the creek across from the Nudgee Railway Station.

The Brothers Smith and Brother Ryan were each very humble and pious men, but also they were men who knew how to physically work hard. Beneath the rugged and ascetic exterior, very human qualities thrived. They loved Ireland with a love that had in it something fierce and uncompromising – "a love that brooked no questioning" was Br Gabriel Purton choice of words. It is a quick and easy leap to the modern day to get an insight into the essence of the commodity bantered around from time to time called the Nudgee Spirit. These men evoked it and the lads of the day and for 37 years imbibed it and took it on as their own as a badge of honour and mateship. Their legacy to us today is intimately connected to the stories of these great men of Nudgee College.

These three Brothers did not parade their religious life overtly. Their fellow community members certainly were aware though. The boys had an inkling because they would see them in Chapel praying on the weekends. Early morning prayers at 4.00am on weekdays; weekends spent in the Chapel; running Boarding dormitories after the physical days of work; and joining in the general routine of a religious community in a new land looking after lads imbued with an amazing breeding and character.

The story of the 'silent partners' is a massive and significant sub-par of the story of the Christian Brothers of Australia. It took many a year for their contribution to the efficacy of the educational contribution of the Brothers to be fully recognised and celebrated. It is not without irony that the very first Lay Brother to be appointed Superior of any of the Brothers’ communities was Br John Lucian Muhldorff – and it was Nudgee College that he was appointed Superior of – the very largest and foremost of the Brothers' schools and Boarding schools across the world (1982-1987). It is not without irony, too, that Br John Muhlforff was a man of very similar character to the Smiths – quiet, humble, pious, competent, passionate and tough. Nudgee College lads had no chance other than to create their own stories in the image and likeness of these amazing fellows in their lives.

It is not an exaggeration to state that Nudgee College today owes an incredible debt to these men. They were remembered very fondly by their Old Boys when the College celebrated its Golden Jubilee in 1941.

Br Albert Ryan, whilst not the focus of this set of records is remembered thus: "He possessed an indomitable good humour and native wit and enjoyed the adventures and exploits of the Nudgee boys as much as they did". If ever there was a rationale for the descriptor of Nudgee College lads as ‘good naughty boys', that is it.

Brothers Joachim and Macarius were tight with Br Albert and the three of them gave us the Nudgee College of today.

These men passed in the late 1920s within a few years of each other. Little Smithy, Br Macarius, passed first and the Nudgee College boys lined the road that they had built as he was carried to his resting place in the Brothers' plot at Nudgee Cemetery. Big Smithy, Br Joachim passed in 1929 and because it was raining, the lads did not line the road he built almost 40 years earlier, but he too was transported in cars to the same resting place as his younger brother.