Shop floor priest who mixed it with workers

Father Ian Dillon, who has died in Richmond in Melbourne, aged 85, lived an unobtrusive Jesuit life. But his story is of wider interest because it reflects some of the central changes in society, church and the Society of Jesus during his lifetime, writes Andrew Hamilton in Eureka Street.

Ian's father was Joe Dillon, the personnel manager and trouble shooter for General Motors in Melbourne. Industrial relations, particularly in a company with its head office in the United States, were robust and often confrontational. Joe Dillon had a wide reputation for being tough, but also fair.

That was also Ian's reputation as a teacher.

Later in life, he became a chaplain with the Industrial Trade and Industry Mission. He moved easily on the shop floor, ate and drank with the people among whom he worked, and for some years lived in an industrial suburb where he became well known at the Rising Sun Hotel. He spoke directly with people about faith and life in his no-bullshit style.

He still described his environment in terms of adversarial power, but he no longer represented the bosses but the workers. He flourished, and enjoyed criticising those in power at any level of state and church. His stories would end with a laugh, and his exclamation of delight, 'They really haven't got a clue! Not a bloody clue!'

FULL OBITUARY Shop floor priest (Eureka Street)

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