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Darcy Patrick McCarthy (1932–1991)

by Marianne Payten

This article was published:

Darcy Patrick McCarthy (1932-1991), Catholic priest, was born on 9 January 1932 at Casino, New South Wales, third of four children of locally born parents Huntley Duffy McCarthy, grocer, and his wife Kathleen Clare, née Dwyer. The McCarthys were devout Catholics. After gaining his Intermediate certificate at Marist Brothers College, Casino, and a carpentry apprenticeship at Casino Technical College, Darcy chose to become a priest. He entered St Columba’s Seminary, Springwood, in 1951, attaining his Leaving certificate in 1953. Completing his studies at St Patrick’s College, Manly, he was ordained at Casino on 12 June 1960 by William Brennan, Bishop of Toowoomba.

Around five feet ten inches (178 cm) tall, fair, angular, and energetic, with a broad grin, rapid speech, and a keen business mind, and driving a Volkswagen Beetle often laden with gifts for his sisters’ children, McCarthy was a well-known figure in the Catholic diocese of Lismore. He served first in parish duties at Port Macquarie and Murwillumbah and later as administrator at St Carthage’s Cathedral, Lismore. From 1970 to 1975 he was seconded as an army chaplain, serving at Singleton, Brisbane, and Liverpool. He had hoped to serve in Vietnam, but hearing problems ruled this out.

In 1981 McCarthy applied to become the first parish priest of Alstonville, near Ballina, when it was designated a separate parish. Living alone for the first time, he enjoyed cooking, in which he found an avenue for creativity, fellowship, and relaxation. The classrooms of St Joseph’s, the parish school, were in severe disrepair and an application for a government grant had failed. Among the parish’s fundraising efforts was a cake stall after Mass. ‘Father Mac,’ as he was known, often arrived with Christmas puddings made from his mother’s secret family recipe. Studying cooking at the local college of technical and further education around this time, by 1985 he was rising well before dawn to prepare puddings, two and three at a time, in a boiler in the presbytery kitchen; that year he made a hundred.

Liberally spiked with rum, and rich with spices, fresh eggs, Australian dried fruits, and dates, these wholesome treats were soon dubbed ‘Father Mac’s Heavenly Puddings.’ They sold well, and the next year McCarthy made three hundred, working at night so the activity did not hamper care of his parishioners. The public was intrigued by his cooking and, with plentiful media attention, demand for the puddings grew rapidly. So did the operation: volunteers joined McCarthy and in 1987 pudding production intensified. With his savings, he bought an atmospheric steamer discarded from a hospital kitchen and installed it in an unused classroom. Helpers arrived each day to assist him, and that year eleven thousand puddings were produced, the number rising to sixty thousand in 1990.

By 1990 McCarthy’s puddings had paid for $250,000 of renovations to the school buildings. Even after he was diagnosed with a brain tumour following a collapse while celebrating Mass on New Year’s Day in 1991, parishioners, with willing support from the Alstonville community, elected to continue production. Reportedly, his final advice about the much-loved puddings was to ‘add more rum’ (Reimer 2008, 8). As a limited company owned and operated by the Parish of Our Lady of the Rosary, Alstonville, the enterprise continues, funding charitable projects around the world as well as within the parish.

McCarthy died at Lismore on 5 September 1991 and, after a requiem Mass at the Alstonville Catholic Church and a funeral Mass at St Carthage’s Cathedral, was buried in Alstonville cemetery.

Research edited by Karen Fox

Select Bibliography

  • Adamson, Teresa. ‘Heavenly Pudding Maker Needs Miracle.’ Catholic Leader, 8 September 1991, 12
  • Catholic Life. ‘Welcome to Father Mac’s Heavenly Puddings.’ 6, no. 1 (March 2003): 17
  • Father Mac’s Heavenly Puddings. ‘About Us.’ 2012. Copy on ADB file
  • Freymark, Susanna. ‘A Heavenly Taste for All.’ Northern Star (Lismore), 22 December 2009, 21
  • National Archives of Australia. B2458, 220424
  • Northern Star (Lismore). ‘Much-Loved Priest Dies.’ 7 September 1991, 2
  • Northern Star (Lismore). ‘Puddings Pass Council’s Test.’ 11 December 2008, 6
  • Reimer, Patrizia. ‘Puddings’ Proof Is in the Eating.’ Northern Star (Lismore), 5 May 2008, 8
  • Rolls, Eric. ‘Delightful Tastes at Christmas.’ Sun Herald (Sydney), 5 December 1993
  • Sydney Morning Herald. ‘“Pudding Priest” Helped Parish.’ 7 September 1991, 9

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Marianne Payten, 'McCarthy, Darcy Patrick (1932–1991)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published online 2014, accessed online 27 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 19, (ANU Press), 2021

View the front pages for Volume 19

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


9 January, 1932
Casino, New South Wales, Australia


5 September, 1991 (aged 59)
Lismore, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

cancer (brain)

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.