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Teresa Ralda Clarke (known as
Tess) was born on December
3, 1930, at Sister Villa’s nursing
home in Burra, the first of 11
children born to Thomas and
Ralda Fahey of Willalo.
Tess started school when she
was seven, attending St Joseph’s
Convent in Spalding while living
with her grandparents and
When her grandmother had a
heart attack, Tess returned to
the family home at Willalo and
resumed her schooling at the
local primary school, which
doubled as a hall.
When Tess was nine years old,
her family moved to Jamestown
where Tess and her siblings
attended St James’ Convent.
They eventually moved back
to Willalo, and when she was
13, Tess left school to help her
mother with household chores,
something she enjoyed more than
Tess worked part time as a
babysitter for another local family,
the Ashbys, which eventually
turned into a full time job, living
and working on their farm
undertaking many farm duties.
She had one day off a month
when she could attend Mass and
go home, via horse and sulky.
The local priest asked Tess and
her sister Joan if they would like
to take part in a debutante ball,
even though they knew nothing
However going to the ball was a
positive move, as both met their
future husbands there.
Joan partnered Jack Bunfield,
and his friend, Ray Clarke, took a
fancy to Tess.
In a double wedding on March
26, 1951, Tess married Ray, and
Joan married Jack.
Tess and Ray lived at Spalding for
their whole married life, and had
four children Philip, Rosemary,
Neville and Gavin.
Prior to Gavin starting school,
Tess got a job driving the school
bus, a job she did for more than
Tess had also worked as a
cleaner and part time cook at the
Spalding Hotel for many years,
while still supporting her children
as they were growing up.
At the Spalding school
celebration in 1996, Tess cut the
ribbon to open a new classroom,
and was also presented with
a community award by Barry
Wakelin MP for her outstanding
service to the school. Ray passed
away in 1997, but Tess continued
to be actively involved in her local
As her children grew up and
started their own families, Tess
was thrilled with the arrival of her
seven grandchildren and later 10
In late 2013, Tess became ill, but
with great determination, she
recovered, but was unable to
return to the family home.
She moved in with her daughter
at Spalding until January 2016,
when her health deteriorated
After a stay in Jamestown
Hospital, Tess moved into Carinya
Nursing Home in Clare.
With a great memory and alert
mind, she made new friends
everywhere and soon became
involved in the social activities at
Tess loved visitors including her
sister, Colleen Vermeeren formerly
from Balaklava, and children from
St Joseph’s Primary School who
joined in with Mass.
Tess passed away peacefully at
Carinya on August 14 and her
funeral Mass was celebrated at
St Augustine’s Catholic Church
in Spalding, officiated by Fr Arno
Vermeeren, with more than 300
To honour this much loved
and respected lady, the flag at
Spalding post office was flown at
half mast that day.
Born: December 3 1930
Died: August 14 2016
Spalding honours Tess Clarke
Adelaide Hills resident Laurie
Manna remembers walking from
Bridgewater to Stirling with his
parents and six brothers and
sisters to attend Mass as a six
That was before Fr John
McManus arranged for the
Bridgewater Institute to be used
as a Mass centre for those
living in the region. The Institute
was also used for Saturday
night movies and there was
considerable work involved
in cleaning and preparing for
Writing in The Bridge (the
Adelaide Hills parish newsletter),
Laurie recalled picking up empty
drink bottles from under the seats
to earn some pocket money.
He said a makeshift confessional
was set up on the stage behind a
Mrs Minnie Olsen would dutifully
prepare a table for the altar and
look after the priest by bringing a
thermos of hot water to make a
cup of tea for him after Mass.
Laurie’s tales of parish life
in Bridgewater in the fifties
coincided with the celebration
of the 50th anniversary of St
Matthew’s Church which was
blessed and opened by its
namesake Archbishop Matthew
Beovich on August 7 1966.
Built to accommodate 300
people, the church catered for
the fast-growing residential area
and was designed to capture
the nature of the Adelaide Hills
with Littlehampton bricks, natural
finishes throughout and emphasis
on a four-gabled roof rising to a
central steel spire and cross.
It was constructed nine years
after the formation of the then
Stirling Catholic parish, led by
Fr Gavin Kennare.
At the opening, Fr Kennare
praised parishioners for the
magnificent and generous way
they had responded to a giving
program to make the church a
Archbishop Beovich returned
to consecrate the church on
November 18 the same year.
MILESTONE: St Matthew’s parishioners gather for the church’s 50th anniversary celebrations.
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