Town larrikin farewelled

January 09, 2018

Friends, family and Congupna community members have remembered Joe Farrell as a family man and a community-minded individual following his death on New Year’s Eve.

Mr Farrell, 84, died on December 31 at Shepparton’s Goulburn Valley Health following complications with his lungs, surrounded by his family.

He was born in 1933, the eighth of 10 children — an average sized Irish family — to Congupna dairy farmers William and Ivy.

He was a gifted student, but after a hay baler ran him over and injured his foot, meaning he could not ride his bike to school, his father decided he should stay on the farm.

‘‘Pop gifted him a new shovel and his career in farming was set,’’ Mr Farrell’s eldest son Peter said.

Mr Farrell milked cows on his parents’ dairy farm from a young age and had many chores caring for the stock and the land.

But he was always known as mischievous, often playing pranks on his siblings, school friends and mates — continuing these ways all his life.

Mr Farrell went to school at Congupna Primary School, St Brendan’s Primary School and St Colman’s College in Shepparton.

‘‘He was a gifted scholar,’’ Peter Farrell said.

At a St Brendan’s debutante ball in 1951, Mr Farrell took more interest in his friend’s partner, a schoolgirl named Margaret from Shepparton East.

Four years later, Mr Farrell married the love of his life — a partnership lasting 62 years.

‘‘I was on holidays in Lorne with some friends, he came down to pick me up and took me to a jewellers in Melbourne to pick a ring,’’ Margaret said. ‘‘I got engaged at 21 and we were married just before I was 22 ... on June 22.’’

Mr Farrell played football and cricket for Tallygaroopna, as Congupna did not have any sporting clubs.

In the mid-1950s the community came together to form Congupna Football Club, with Mr Farrell the inaugural president.

He played 116 senior games, 41 reserves games, was president again in 1984 and made a life member in 1978.

Hard times with drought, floods and poor cattle prices forced Mr and Mrs Farrell and their seven children to sell the family farm in Congupna in 1980.

He became involved in real estate not long after and took a huge loan from the bank to buy land behind the Congupna shop, which he developed into 32 house blocks.

‘‘We sold the blocks for $35000 to $40000 ... he was an extremely good worker and could’ve been anything,’’ Mrs Farrell said.

Retirement gave the couple a chance to travel for many months of the year, enjoying trips to Bali, Ireland, Scotland, England, France and Italy.

With community always at the front of mind, Mr Farrell remained involved in the Congupna community, most recently working with Greater Shepparton City Council on the walking track and mural.

‘‘He was a member of many committees — football, school, Congupna hall,’’ Peter said.

‘‘He also arranged to have the V/Line bus stop at Congupna, which is a great service for the community.’’

Forever the prankster, on his deathbed when asked what he was doing, Mr Farrell replied ‘‘I’m trying to die’’.

‘‘A few years ago he said to me, ‘I only want to live until I’m 85’, so he nearly got there,’’ Mrs Farrell said.

More than 600 people packed St Brendan’s Catholic Church on Friday for his funeral, with the Congupna Football Club forming a guard of honour.

‘‘We will miss his stories, speeches, jokes, banter and larrikinism,’’ Peter said.

‘‘Dad was known for his bone-crushing hugs (quite literally), his loving embrace making you feel you were the most important person in the world. We are proud to call him our Dad, Poppy and Poppy Joe and will miss him forever.’’

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