Home' Aurora : Aurora June 2013 Contents BY MICHAEL O'CONNOR
Harry Power working on his rosary beads.
Photo courtesy of Priscilla Scanlon.
The man who grows
How does a man go from being a larrikin
to a maker of rosary beads? It's a long
story for 83 year old Harry Power of
Becoming a larrikin was easy. The events
of his early life conspired against Harry
to create a survive-as-best-you-can
Baby Harry was in the care of an older
sister in Brunswick, Victoria, following the
death of their mother. He was removed
from her care and placed in St Augustine's
Orphanage at Geelong in the early 1930s.
Harry would not see his sister for a
The orphanage was home to 300 'kids',
some of whom were adults with nowhere
else to go. Might was right for most of
these, so being bashed up and having
possessions stolen was the rule. "I went
bad in the orphanage because I was
frightened -- frightened of everyone I came
One of the Christian Brothers helped
Harry survive in a harsh world by teaching
him to defend himself. He taught Harry
to box. Harry took these skills beyond
defence. He formed a gang around him
and became something of a champion to
others being bullied. He readily intervened
with his fists to 'resolve' situations.
In his early teens Harry defeated
all contenders in a Geelong Boxing
Competition. The final was, coincidentally,
with an older boy named Gerald Power.
After a toe-to-toe contest Harry won
on points. Brother Dwyer asked Harry if
Gerald was his brother. "I don't think I've
got any." A check of records revealed
that they were indeed brothers, and two
others had been Harry's victims in the
Harry's efforts to connect with these
new-found brothers were rebuffed. It
was not until much later in life that Harry
was to enjoy some semblance of family
relationships with his many siblings.
Stories about orphanage life run the
gamut. Some of the Brothers were brutal.
Some were supportive. Some experiences
were traumatic, others rewarding. Harry
can relate stories with tears in his eyes,
and some with a twinkle. He cried when
Resourcefulness was Harry's legacy from
the orphanage. He succeeded in many
fields: farm worker, horse-breaker, dog
trainer, barman, salesman, bus driver,
snake catcher. His fighting abilities took
on a more ominous form when he enlisted
to fight in the Korean War. With the 3rd
Battalion RAR Harry fought in some of
Australia's most gruelling and glorious
battles. Following one fire fight, Harry
discovered his life had been spared from a
bullet which destroyed the innards of the
radio on his back.
There was no debrief after the trauma of
war in those times. Harry didn't know why
he drank so heavily and so often. What
rescued Harry from the drinking and the
fighting that often accompanied it?
That's where we introduce Pat. He saw
her at a party and promptly said, "I'm
going to marry that girl." By this stage
Harry had connected with his oldest sister.
She had seen enough of her brother's
lifestyle to promptly warn Pat not to get
tangled up with that "drunken, fightin'
bastard". Pat's mother enlisted her son to
scare Harry off. She didn't want Harry to
father fifteen children with her daughter,
following his father's record. The brother
may have been lucky to father children of
his own after what Harry did to him!
Pat couldn't resist. When Harry caught
up with her at a jitterbugging competition
soon after, the future was sealed.
Harry attributes his turn around in life to
Pat. "I wanted to make her happy and
please her." His turn around was not
instantaneous. With one child, they had
moved from Melbourne to the Newcastle
area for a new start. When other children
came along (only five, not a patch on
Dad) Harry knew he couldn't spend "their
money" on grog.
Harry says he knows how the Prodigal
Son felt. He attended church and it felt
good to be back. He reasoned, "If I felt
this good then I'm going to keep coming
back." And so he has. "Then I learned
about prayer. If you pray long enough and
hard enough and have faith in that prayer,
then it will succeed."
Harry knows about success. In June
2010 he was diagnosed with terminal liver
cancer and palliative care was organised.
His weight plummeted from 82 to 39 kilos.
I had visited Harry at that time when he
looked like a fleshed out skeleton.
But Harry was fighting and praying. It was
as if he took up a saying attributed to St
Augustine, patron of his orphanage, "Act
as if everything depends on you; pray as
if everything depends on God." A chance
conversation with a building society teller
led to a regime of paw-paw leaf extract,
combined with positive thinking and
exercise. Prayer to Jesus and "my Father",
and the intercession of St Mary MacKillop
and through St Peregrine (patron of cancer
sufferers), became Harry's daily practice.
In March 2012 Harry was pronounced
cancer-free. No trace of cancer could be
found. Numerous doctors reviewed the
original diagnostic material and came away
unable to explain. Harry has a reputation
now as 'the miracle man'.
And so to the rosary beads. Harry grows
beads on a Job Bush. The slightly tear-
shaped beads are ideal for rosaries as they
have a natural hole through the middle.
Fifty-nine beads take an hour and a half
to thread into a rosary. This was one of
the few tasks Harry could do when at his
Thousands of Harry's rosaries are found
across the globe. Special orders in football
colours (glass or plastic) are common. The
red and blue of Harry's venerated Knights
have featured in his output.
What's life about for Harry now? "Putting
up with me", chirps Pat. Yes, it's about
Pat, and kids and grand-kids and great-
grand-kids, and church and friends and
ANZAC Day. "The only thing I would give
away is the war and the beer."
Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle www.mn.catholic.org.au
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