Cold Case: The mystery of the missing chalice

The year is 1941 and the Clyne family, including Mum, Dad and eight other siblings, farewell Patrick – son, brother, uncle, relative – as he goes off to war at 25, as did so many other young Australian men who answered the call to fight for their country. He was sent to Singapore, but never returned.

As the war ended in 1945 the Australian Government confirmed to his family that Patrick had died just weeks before. He had been at Sandakan POW camp in Borneo. While the family knew Patrick was not coming back, they really didn’t know what had happened to him and on many occasions family members greeted returning troops at Newcastle railway station, sadly and desperately enquiring if anybody had heard anything of Patrick Clyne. The answer was always, “No”. They were determined, however, that he would not be forgotten.

A couple of years after the war ended, members of the immediate family came together and decided they would have a chalice made in Patrick’s  memory and give it to the Redemptorist Monastery at Mayfield. They did this and the chalice actually remained there for over thirty years.

About 1980, Redemptorist Fr Gerard Bourke, who had himself been a POW in Sandakan, noticed the chalice’s inscription indicating that it was in memory of Patrick Clyne, a POW in Borneo.  Fr Bourke decided he must immediately make contact with the Clyne family. He was successful in doing this and as Terry Murphy (nephew of Patrick) recalls, “Fr Bourke met family members in Grandma’s house for afternoon tea in the early 80s.” The chalice was seen once more by the family and then taken by Terry and Laurie’s Mum, Flo (aunt to Patrick) to a Newcastle jeweller to be refurbished. As far as anyone knew, the chalice was returned to the monastery – or so it was thought.

In 2003, the monastery closed its doors. This prompted Patrick's nephews, Terry Murphy and Bryan Tolhurst, to attempt to track down the chalice. Another nephew, Fr Geoff Mulhearn, was also involved in the search, checking with diocesan personnel and at the Redemptorist Monastery at Galong, but all these searches were in vain. Like the Holy Grail, the chalice had just disappeared. Or, said Clare, sister of Laurie and Terry, “It had gone to a good home in the Philippines,” quoting one of the Redemptorists.

In  August this year, when all thoughts of the  chalice had vanished from the minds of  the Clyne clan, a strange thing happened!  Fr  Geoff was preparing to celebrate Mass for students from St Paul's High School in the local church of St Michael at Booragul. Fr Geoff’s mind was on the celebration of this event and not so much on what was happening in the sacristy. Out of the blue, the sacristan idly commented that the chalice Fr Geoff was going to use had a name engraved on it.  Fr Geoff felt compelled to look at the bottom of the chalice…

To his astonishment, on the bottom of the chalice was the name, “Patrick James Clyne” and the date of Patrick’s death in Borneo.

Geoff explained to the sacristan that Patrick Clyne was his uncle, and that the family had been trying to track down the whereabouts of the chalice for many years.

The family has no idea how or when or even why the chalice ended up where it did. The cousins, of whom there are many, have different theories as to its disappearance, but none knew how close it had been through all the years or even whether it was still in the country.

With its return, this large, dedicated, boisterously close family began planning a reunion, with of course Fr Geoff celebrating a memorial Mass using this much-loved, much-travelled chalice on All Souls Day, 2 November, a day for remembering and honouring the dead.

However, the mystery remains: how did the chalice get to Booragul? Where else has it been?

If anyone has any information about this mystery with a happy ending, please contact the editor.

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