FATHER John Tinkler was keen for his 80th birthday to come and go without a fuss.
But there was no such luck for the much-loved priest at St Joseph’s College.
Father Tink, as he is affectionately known, displayed a stunned expression when he was greeted with a large crowd and an even larger birthday cake to celebrate his milestone.
“They didn’t tell me anything about it when they led me to the courtyard under the guise of a job I had to do at the office,” Fr Tink said.
The surprise party was one of the few things Fr Tink didn’t know about, after 16 years at the school there are few people or things he’s not aware of.
Fr Tink began volunteering as a priest at the school in 2002 after 27 years as a chaplain in the army.
It was on the battlefields of the Vietnam War that he learnt how to connect with people under any circumstances.
While many chaplains were content to sit in their quarters and have soldiers come to them, Fr Tink would have none of it.
If the soldiers were playing football he was in the pack with them and if they sat around the bar he was on a stool right next to them.
“If you need to talk to someone when you’re struggling you don’t go to the bloke you barely know who sits in a shack by himself,” he said.
“You go to one of your mates. That’s always been my goal, to help people through mateship.
“Have a mate and be a mate. That’s my motto.”
And that mateship philosophy flowed straight from the battlefields of Vietnam to the canteen at St Joseph’s and the football field in Moama.
Fr Tink can often be found interacting with students at the school canteen or volunteering as a water boy for the Moama Football Club.