One of the most loved and fondly remembered features of The Far East over its long history has been Mickie Daly's Diary. We still receive requests to bring him back! Whatever happened to Mickie Daly?
Mickie Daly first appeared in the pages of The Far East in October 1922 when the magazine was celebrating its second birthday. He came initially as one of the characters in a serialised short story, "Six Little Doers," written by Miriam Agatha, a pen-name of Sydney freelance writer Agatha le Breton. Miriam Agatha was to write many stories for the Our Little Missionaries page over the next few years.
Mickie Daly and his twin brother Mack, were two of the children of Mr and Mrs Daly. They also had a brother and three sisters and a playful dog named Shamie (short for Shamrock). The whole family were great supporters of the Mission to China and the children regularly saved their pennies for the mite box. "Six Little Doers" followed the fortunes of the family and their efforts for the missions as well as the misadventures of the various boys.
Mickie had the reputation of having a volatile temper and mischievous antics even then! In the first episode he fell off the roof of the coal shed and in February of 1923 he was kept back after class by Sister Veronica for scribbling on Mossie Ryan's slate. In his defense, however, we must admit that he did it on purpose so that he could keep his twin brother Mack company. Mack was kept back for bringing beetles into class. Unfortunately, they escaped and Sister Veronica didn't like beetles or the mayhem they caused.
"Six Little Doers" concluded in December of 1923 and the pages of The Far East were bereft of Mickie's presence until March 1932 when the first extract of Mickie's Diary appeared. In this first extract Mickie laments the end of the long Christmas holidays and his return to school.
The thought of sitting in school all day turns me blue. It's wrong giving all that good time to spelling words and doing sums and reading. I reckon half a day would be plenty. We don't want to know too much now. There are adding machines and ready reckoners. And what's the hurry? There's lots of time for learning things. They give us a skingy bit of play too...
It ort to be stopped I think.
Sister Allerwishes seemed to be able to bring out the good side of Mickey.
Sister Allerwishes was talking about Lent today and about Our Blessed Lord's sufferings and death. I felt sorry I had not been making my visit every day and saying the decked every night. I like Sister Allerwises to give us our religish lesson... I'm going to try and turn over a new leaf...I'll go to Mass tomorrow. I'll ask Dad to call me early.
Over the years, Mickie Daly's spelling deteriorated terribly. Clearly his time in school and all the efforts of Sister Pawl were wasted. One day in 1942 the gang was playing in a remote corner of the school yard when ‘we found that sumone - like there jolly cheek! - had thrown some rubish into the corner. Their were some jam tins, some treekill tins, a rustie frying pan and an old sorspan. They should be proserkuted for throwing rubish in our school-yard. The lads duly decided to play Air-Raids and donned various pots and tins on their heads. Predictably, Mickie's got stuck when it slipped down over his face. Now I don't know if the sorspan contrackted with the heat or if my head swelled with the heat. Am I a syintist? But when I tried to take off the sorspan it was stuck fast on my unforchewnite hed. After resisting the efforts of removal by Sister Pawl and Sister Allerwishes (who at least was gentle) medical help was sought and the doctor was finally successful.
At heart, of course, Mickie was a deeply religious boy and quite pious in his own way. In 1955 he resolved to give up lollies, drinks and ice-creams on Fridays between meals. Temptation was strong, however, and he found himself with money in his pocket. Well, I was looking in the lolly-shop windo feeling starved for lollies. Old Saytin kept at me. He did. And he must have pushed me into the shop!...
‘Don't give in to your appetite, Micky' a nice voice seemed to whisper into my ear. (My angel of course.) Keep to your Good Rezolewshin. Make an Act of Mortifakaysin and run off to school.'
Another ugly voice growled - ‘There is no harm in eating lollies on Fridays. Nun whatever! Now meet? That's another matter.'
‘Don't listen to him Micky' said the soft voice. ‘He is the enemy of your soul. I am the Gardyin of it'.
This sort of predicament is enough to try even a saint and Mickie struggled terribly. In the end however, goodness prevailed and he simply asked Mr Wicks the shopkeeper to change a sixpence into two threepences.
I imadgined I could see Old Saytin nashing his horrible teeth in raj; and my angel smiling. At the door I burst out larfing and said ‘Got you - you old beest! That's one to me.'
Mickie and his antics captivated generations of readers of The Far East. Throughout the 60s and 70s and into the 80s Mickie's tales of school and home wove their magic. Then disaster struck. In August 1984, the Editor arrived at The Far East office to find this note:
Notice to Whum it May Consern - Michael Daly is taking a brake. He is going fishing for his pece of mind. As for the editor if I catch him in Alice Springs or Tassy I will be using a bent pin, and I will fry him for my tea.
We knew there had been some tension between the two but there had been no earlier sign that Mickie was so desperate. He never returned and the Diary ceased after 52 years.
In reality, Mickie Daly only deserted the pages of The Far East because of the death of Philomena Fitzgerald after a brief illness. Since the mid 1930s she had been the inspiration behind and writer of the children's pages. She was Maureen and The Twin. She was young Michael Daly. With her passing an era, sadly, ended.
Kathryn Boyle was Mission & Education Co-ordinator
at the Columban Mission Centre until recently.
The Passing of Maureen
(published - August 1984)
A much loved member of The Far East staff died recently in Melbourne after a brief illness. She was Philomena Fitzgerald, but was known to a generation of our younger readers as ‘Maureen.' Gifted with a joyous spirit, literary talent and lively faith, she brought to her work for the ‘Children's Pages' the dedication of a missionary and the warm affection for all the "Little Missionaries" who wrote to her or to her less conventional counterpart, "The Twin."
Her concerns also for a long time also included the Director's correspondence, but this, as far as we know, was never enriched by the idiom and the orthography of the Diary of Mickie Daly. Her passing leaves us sad and poorer. The Far East will not, in fact, be quite the same without Maureen.
We hope her "Little Missionaries" and those close to them will thus understand why the Children's Pages will be replaced in future issues with material directed to a wider readership. Commencing in October, Missionary Notebook will offer a closer look at developments in today's Mission World and the ways in which missionaries are responding to the challenges and opportunities confronting the Church in our time.