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Friday, 12 May 2023 13:58

Knights enjoy 60 Years of Barney's Picnic – Rain, Hail or Shine

By Paul Sammut and Andrew Vaccaro

For about 60 years, on the first Sunday after Easter, the Knights of the Southern Cross Victoria has held one of its most enduring and unique events, which we all know as ‘Barney’s Picnic’. Founded originally as a post-Lenten feast for Members to unwind after a long penitential season, it is a tradition that has continued to the modern day, and in 2023 it took on a modified form.

Early in the morning of 16 April, about twenty metropolitan Members of the Knights, including our chaplain, Fr Tony Kerin, woke very early in order to board a chartered bus at St Francis Xavier Parish in Box Hill North, which would take them on their way to Barney’s, stopping to pick up Members along the way. Other metropolitan Members travelled under their own steam. 

All in all, there was a fair representation from Melbourne. Those on the bus got a chance to catch up on precious sleep, talk, and enjoy each other’s company. Some even got a chance to catch up on their reading.

On the way, we stopped at Longwood for a country-style breakfast made possible by past State Chairman Bro. Tom Brodie and his family. It has been said in recent Barney’s Picnic articles that much like travelling to the Holy Land or the Vatican, the Brodie Longwood Breakfast is a pilgrimage all Knights should make at least once in their lifetime. Along with giving Members a chance to stretch their legs, the breakfast featured the famous Brodie ‘egg-in-bread’ sausage sizzle, a rather unique breakfast experience. Once breakfast was over, it was straight on the bus to Barney’s.

The days leading up to Barney’s had seen much rain in the area, and the forecast for 16 April saw more rain. Due to the likelihood of rain, it was decided that this year Barney’s could not be held at “the most wonderful open-air cathedral in the world,” (as bus leader Bro. Brian Moore refers to the usual picnic site on the banks of the Murray River at the Gehrig Winery in Barnawartha North. Instead, it took place on the grounds of St Mary’s Church and School in Rutherglen, thanks to the readiness of the members of Rutherglen Branch,

It was quite a different experience this year at the different location, but it was no less enjoyable. In fact, the consensus was that it was a lot easier to enjoy, because everything was at hand and there was no need to trek the long steep path from the bus to the venue.  

Proceedings commenced with Mass celebrated by Bishop Shane Mackinlay at St Mary’s Church. As it has been every year, the Mass celebrated at Barney’s (that of pine Mercy Sunday) focused on the Gospel story of ‘Doubting’ Thomas, who Bishop Shane noted had been unfairly treated throughout history, as his ‘doubt’ was erased when he saw the proof of Christ’s Resurrection. 

At the end of the Mass, past State Chairman and Knight of Honour, Bro. John Starmans, presented his fellow Rosanna Macleod Branch Member, Bro. Pat Kennealy, with a certificate acknowledging 50 years of membership.

After the Mass we adjourned to St Mary’s Primary School opposite the church for our picnic, where we all had a beautiful fraternal time. While not the beautiful scenery we have been spoilt with for six decades, the venue at St Mary’s School was great nonetheless. Importantly, it was undercover, which protected all attendees during the intermittent bouts of rain. 

The 70 odd Members that were in attendance for the Picnic were well fed by the dedicated Members of Northern 8 District (consisting of Rutherglen, Wodonga, Wangaratta, and Myrtleford), with the usual yet amazing roast and barbeque. Many caught up with old friends, while others made new friends. Following the lunch, State Chairman Bro. Paul Mitchell addressed the crowd, before the usual raffle was conducted by the always funny and entertaining Bro. Tony Jones of Rutherglen. With the day over, at about 4:00 p.m. we boarded the bus for our way home.

Leading into Barney’s Picnic, the concern of low attendances, particularly from Melbourne, led us to believe that the days of Barney’s Picnic may be coming to an end. In recent years it has been a particular challenge to encourage newer members to experience this great Order tradition, with reluctance to give up a day with families to travel to the bush. We hope that in coming years Barney’s can be reinvigorated and entice a new generation of Knights to travel the great distances to enjoy each other’s company. As Bro. Paul Mitchell said to those on the day inspired by Mark Twain, ‘There are rumours that this might be the last Barney’s- don’t believe it!”

It is appropriate at this point that we should give many thanks to the Gehrig family, particularly the late Bro. Barney Gehrig, founder of this wonderful tradition, and Bro. Bernie Gehrig for continuing the tradition. Sadly, Bro Bernie was not present this year, as he is recovering from a recent illness. Please keep him in your prayers. 

We also give thanks to all the Members of Northern 8 District for putting on another great experience, to Bro. Brian Moore for organising the bus, and Peter Davine for once again driving us.

Let us hope and pray that a renewed Barney’s will encourage more Knights to attend in the future. 

Barneys 1

Bishop of Sandhurst, Shane Mackinlay, celebrates Mass at St Mary’s Church, Rutherglen assisted by State Chaplain Fr Tony Kerin (left) and Fr Adi Indra (right).

Barneys 2
 Brother Pat Kennealy (Rosanna-Macleod) (left) receives his 50-year certificate from Knight of Honour Bro. John Starmans (centre) and State Chairman Bro. Paul Mitchell (right).

Barneys 3
Northern District 8 Members preparing the barbeque lunch. 

Barneys 5
Knights of the Southern Cross  Members enjoying lunch at St Mary’s School in Rutherglen.

Pictures by Andrew Vaccaro