My relations with bishops since coming to Australia have often been uneasy and sometimes even troubled, except with my first bishop, John Hazlewood. Although very much a flawed man and, by the time I got to know him, in steep decline, I loved and admired him. He seemed at ease in my irreverent company and happy with my peculiar gifts. When he retired after eighteen years as bishop of Ballarat, a great shindig was put on for him to send him on his way. I contributed to that celebration by composing and reciting the following ballad in his honour. It is a little over the top, perhaps, but is also of minor historic interest to those who served in the Diocese of Ballarat at that time, not least because all full time priests of the diocese then are mentioned by name.


Ichabod! The sun is set!

           Our glory’s waned and gone!

As I’ll relate, recite, narrate

           In this Ballad of Hazlewood John.


An aesthete from the wild west

           To Ballarat he came.

To Ballarat sedate, refined,

           To Ballarat the tame.


An arty dilettante and dean,

           Fond of wit and wine

Full of style and high church guile

           And eloquence divine.


His origin New Zealand,

           By inclination pommie.

Opposed to war in Vietnam,

           To Ruxton’s mates a commie.


Famous for his rocking masses

           His views the masses rocked.

Vivaciously, audaciously,

           He all the masses shocked.


The young upon his every word

           Hung with fascination.

A priest, but not a pharisee

           A cause for celebration.


A priest who life and joy affirmed,

           Who didn’t finger-point,

A priest like this was sheer bliss

           And couldn’t disappoint.


A dressy priest, a flashy beast,

           A priest who’d risk and dare,

Who wore his church’s crazy garb

           With swirling style and flair.


A priest who understood your sin,

           Who sympathised with you,

Committed sin, admitted sin,

           Who empathised with you.


A priest who in the pulpit

           Was more than mere wit,

More than pious platitudes

           And mangled Holy Writ,


For every now and then behind

           His sparkle and his fun

He’d lift the veil to manifest

           The warmth of God’s dear Sun


And raise the heart to play its part

           In following Christ with pleasure,

Not just diverting, but converting!

           A dean to love and treasure.


And so to Ballarat he came,

           This dazzling, demon dean,

A priest the likes of which folk here

           Had never, ever seen.


And here for eighteen years now,

           He’s borne his crook and mitre,

Our witty pastor, learnèd priest,

           Courageous guide and fighter.


Jealous for the Catholic cause,

           Promoting it with zest.

With guile and joke and holy smoke

           And many a high church jest.


A bishop who could see the good

           Of both sides in debate,

Allowing him a tolerance

           Fanatics love to hate.


Always, always tolerant,

           No cyclopean fanatic,

Unlike some in Mother Church

 Who’re one-eyed, mono-manic!


Too tolerant perhaps at times though,

           He’d see the good in all,

Risk laying hands on any dill

           Who seemed to have God’s call,


Why not though? As the greatest saint

           Has often been a dill.

To priest a dill can well at times

           The will of God fulfil.


This tolerance, sweet tolerance,

           Was not a sin, I love it.

It’s Anglican. Its civilized.

           It’s something wise men covet.


It’s something Bishop Hazlewood

           Has had in no small measure

More than wisdom, learning, wit,

           His greatest grace and treasure.


He’s tolerated you and me,

           All sorts of dozy drones,

Like Walker, Willows, Rowlands, Cook,

           Turnbull, Hart and Jones.


And Stanley, Jackson, Brasington,

           Edebohls and Cheong,

Chislett, Savage, Reuss, Treloar,

           Mulhallen, Burgess, Long.


He’s tolerated liturgies

           Of every style and sort,

Roman, English, trendy, trad.,

           Interminable! Short!


Tolerance, sweet tolerance!

           His greatest gift, I love it!

So Anglican, so civilized,

           Something wise men covet.


He came and woke up Ballarat,

           This seasoned, priestly trooper,

Remaking us, and waking us

           From Church of England stupor.


He organised those zany rallies,

           Colourful, exciting,

Provocative, extravagant,

           Unusual, inviting.


The atmosphere electrified

           Almost overnight,

He gathered to him sparkling priests,

           Young, outrageous, bright.


Attracted them from near and far,

           All sorts of types and faces,

Chislett, Mansell, two Treloars,

           From Sydney of all places.


From St. Helena Island came

           Neaum the versifier,

And in a cloud of holy smoke,

           Edebohls, on fire.


And refugees from Africa,

           A wild and crazy band.

Ballarat, Victoria,

           Their shonky Promised Land.


And Fr Michael King, a monk,

           Who down at Camperdown,

Set up a lovely monastery

            The crown of Camperdown.


All came because of Hazlewood,

           Tolerant, magnetic,

Accepting, open-armed, forgiving

           Warm-hearted, sympathetic.


The Lay Thanksgiving Program was

           A highlight of his reign,

And one that one day soon we’ll need

           To bring to life again.


The Registry and Centre too

           A monument remain

To Hazlewood’s remarkable

           And stimulating reign.


But things like these, although they please,

            We don’t hold half so dear

 As attributes of character

            We honour and revere!


For best of all’s been Hazlewood

           As simply priest and man,

Fallible, incorrigible,

           No pallid puritan.


A priest who life and joy’s affirmed

           Who hasn’t finger-pointed,

Tolerant, witty, soft of heart,

           He’s rarely disappointed.


A priest who’s understood our sins,

           Who’s sympathised with us,

Committed sins, admitted sins,

           Who’s empathised with us.


Who’s tolerated all of us,

           The clever, wayward, dumb

Munson, Sankey, Steele and Tonks,

           Mathes, Ross and Neaum!


Wardrop, Hodges, Dulfer, Scott,

           De Silva, two Treloars.

Oulton, Phipps, de Dear, Hitch,

           Some bright, some dull, some bores.


There might be things about this Bishop

           We tattle of, deplore!

But most of us from him would welcome

           Eighteen years more.


That’s not to be. The end we see.

           Our friend and shepherd’s going.

So eloquent and stimulating,

           Tolerant and knowing.


Thank you Father, thank you Bishop,

           Thank you Priest and Friend.

You’ve challenged us most gloriously

           Delighted us no end.


Farewell our glory. End of story.

           I’ve finished now, am done.

Yet hasn’t it, Lord Bishop, been,

           Outrageous glorious fun!


But ichabod! The sun has set!

           Our glory’s waned and gone!

As I’ve related, told, narrated

           In the Ballad of Hazlewood John.