LIFE'S WORK: Fr Arthur Fellows in 2017 returned to preach at one of his favourite parishes, Springsure, where his father had served before him in 1923. He said there's nothing like being rector of a country parish.
LIFE'S WORK: Fr Arthur Fellows in 2017 returned to preach at one of his favourite parishes, Springsure, where his father had served before him in 1923. He said there's nothing like being rector of a country parish.

Memories of a country preacher still going strong at 96

AT 96, Father Arthur Fellows still has a strong voice, a strong mind and strong values and opinions.

He attends weekly mass and, after almost 70 years and "officially retiring" in 1990, still enjoys the chance to preach, something he would do more if his body allowed.

However, he is pleased to find himself "in full possession of my faculties", putting this in part down to keeping his brain active through endless games of cribbage, Scrabble, Sudoku and mission fundraising through collecting and selling stamps.

He has "a very soft spot for the Darling Downs" and fondly recalls preaching over many years around the Toowoomba district, serving in Oakey for 3½ years, and in Roma where he was appointed Rural Dean for the West.

He has married his children and baptised each of his nine grandchildren, two of whose weddings he has also officiated at, and has now baptised his two great grandchildren.

Fr Fellows was not the first in the family to have a calling, with his father an Anglican rector before him.

However, it wasn't until he had worked for nine years in the Commonwealth Bank that he nervously talked to his father about the niggling feeling that he had a vocation - only to discover his parents had dedicated him to the priesthood at baptism.

He said, he realised he must be starting on the right path - even if his parents had almost given up hope of him doing so!

Father Fellows became a deacon in 1950 and received his first posting in 1951 to Rockhampton, the diocese where his father worked for 60 years.

Here, Father Fellows met his wife, appropriately enough, at church.

His daughter Margaret Jolly recalls her mum as his greatest support, including roles as a Sunday school teacher and church organist, a member of the Mothers' Union for more than 50 years, the Australian Board of Missions auxiliary, and the Clergy Wives Association, and always there with a cup of tea for visitors, parishioners, and those in need.

In 1973, Father Fellows joined the Australian Board of Missions Queensland, and preached in areas as varied as the Atherton Tablelands, Papua New Guinea, the Solomons, Fiji, Tonga, Cape York, the Northern Territory and Torres Strait islands.

"It was an amazing 10 years," he said, although he admits it could also get "pretty hairy" visiting remote communities "flying by the seat of your pants beside a pilot in a single-engine Cessna".

He said being the priest in Springsure, where his father had preached in 1923 when Fr Fellows was a boy, was a very special time.

He has since worked at Auchenflower, Nundah, Cleveland, Redland Bay and most recently at the beautiful heritage-listed All Saints at Wickham Terrace but said, "there's nothing like being rector of a country parish".

He recalled some of the odd circumstances that a country priest faced, including at one point being called to a funeral at Rolleston, some 45km from Springsure, during a flood of the Brown River.

Having gone as far as they could in a council truck with the empty coffin, he and the coffin were slung over the creek on a flying fox, then loaded onto a boat and rowed up the main street of town.

When asked about falling church attendances, Fr Fellows said what was needed was "a good priest with vigour and zeal, who loves God and can make a difference in the lives of other people".

"The pulpit is not a place for waffling ... people need to be able to see that what the priest is saying is true in his own life."


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