“Back to Work, Me Boy-o’s,” Ensign, Apr. 1988, 42–43
A man with a derby cocked over his round face stood facing me. The hat’s brim all but covered a cauliflower ear, and his eyes were nearly hidden under the scar tissue around his eyebrows. His nose had obviously been broken many times and, judging by the expression on his face, he was angry.
I approached him with my hand outstretched.
Suddenly he bellowed, “Get those scabs off this job or all my brickies will leave!”
A half hour earlier the job superintendent had called me for help. He and several Church members were standing around waiting for me; all the work on our new chapel had stopped. Since I was the representative of the Church in charge of the project, I had the job of battling one of the toughest unions in the world, the Australian Bricklayers’ Union. The “brickies” on my job were paid workers from the union. They had only been at work a couple of hours when they called their union representative, threatening to walk off the job because of the volunteer Church-member laborers. Now they were demanding a full day’s pay before they left.
“Use up the mud, boys, clean up, and move on out. I’ll get your pay for you, don’t you worry,” the man with the hat yelled. I heard someone refer to him as “Patrick”; someone else called him “Rep.” Okay, Patrick the Rep, I thought. It’s up to me to get things moving or the project will be stalled, maybe for months.
“Follow me, Patrick,” I ordered with a confidence I didn’t feel.
“Where to?” the rep bellowed.
I strode into the building, hoping he would follow. He did.
“This is the chapel,” I said, maintaining my confident tone as we stood inside a large room. “It will seat two hundred. The folding doors go here; they separate the chapel from the cultural hall. When needed, the doors open so we can seat another 150 people.”
I talked and pointed, and he had to hurry to catch up and hear what I was saying. He started to protest, but I continued, telling him of our sports and recreational programs. He displayed no interest, and I could feel his antagonism grow. When I got to the classroom wing, I resisted telling him about the Aaronic Priesthood room because I realized he would neither understand nor have the courtesy to listen. His patience was all but gone.
“This is the Boy Scouts’ room,” I said hurriedly.
I could see at last that I’d touched on a subject of interest. I expanded quickly with, “The closets at this end are for the lads’ gear. The Queen’s picture will hang here, and the flag will be prominently displayed … probably here.”
I quickly glanced at him.
His belligerence was gone. He removed his derby and, in a soft, Irish voice, asked, “I live close by. Could my eleven-year-old son come here to these Scouts … or is this only for your own church members?”
“Pat, your son would be more than welcome … and we need men like yourself to lead and guide these lads,” I answered.
I felt the prompting words and Spirit of the Lord in that unfinished building and continued to tell him of the building’s benefits to boys and girls and their parents. I was humbled, and Patrick was receptive.
“These people are trying to help our kids and their families. They can’t put up the money, so they put up their time and muscle. That is no reflection against your union. They’re just building a place for lads like yours and mine to learn their duty to God and the Queen,” I said, taking him by the elbow and steering him past the little group of Church volunteer workers.
Patrick’s hat was in his hand now, and his bald, round head glistened in the sunlight. Now I stood by his side, silent, for he was looking across the area that would be the chapel.
At this moment, he held the building project in his hand, for the brickies were all grouped around, waiting for his words.
He clapped his hat onto his head, and as I waited anxiously, he moved out ahead of me. Standing where I had first seen him, he bellowed forth again. This time there was pride in his voice. “Back to work, me boy-o’s,” he said. “Step lively now!”
“What about those scabs?” one man called out, pointing to the volunteers.
The rep showed a scarred fist. “Watch your tongue, Jack,” he warned. Then he sternly addressed his men. “Now get back to work, and I want your best. Any bloke who lets down answers personally to me. Right-o?”
Patrick and I shook hands as we parted. His scarred lips broke into a wide smile, and he looked positively handsome. “I just can’t wait to tell me lad about those Scouts,” he said. His grasp held mine, and there was real feeling in it. “Any more trouble, you call me.”
Patrick handed me his business card, and I carefully placed it in my billfold. The Lord had sent us a friend.