END OF AN ERA: Manager, caretaker and Alstonville Parish secretary of 18 years Tanya Pagotto says the closure Father Mac's Heavenly Puddings is bittersweet.
END OF AN ERA: Manager, caretaker and Alstonville Parish secretary of 18 years Tanya Pagotto says the closure Father Mac's Heavenly Puddings is bittersweet. Francis Witsenhuysen

40 years of heavenly puddings comes to an end

A CORNERSTONE of the Alstonville community will close its doors for good in the new year.

For more than 40 years, Father Mac's Heavenly Puddings have been a household name in the Alstonville area, but customers now only have until Christmas to buy the last of the stock and support the charity that's helped make St Joseph's Catholic Primary School what it is today.

It all started in 1986 when Alstonville's first Parish Priest, Father Darcy McCarthy, affectionately known as Father Mac began making puddings for the church cake stall as a hobby to raise much needed funds for the Parish school.

Demand for the delicious puddings began to grow and production moved from Father McCarthy's kitchen to the Factory - which ended up in one of the original class rooms of St Joseph's school. Since inception, Father Mac's have sold over a million heavenly puddings and have made countless donations to local, national and international charities.

Father Mac's Heavenly Puddings manager, caretaker and Alstonville Parish secretary of 18 years Tanya Pagotto said the closure of the pudding factory was bitter sweet.

"It is sad to be closing because the factory had such an impact on this Parish," Ms Pagotto said.

"Father Mac set it up because the school had buildings fallen down. He considered the school the 'worst in the Diocese'.

"But it has really exceeded what it was set up for and helped build-up a lot of the school. Not all of it, but a substantial amount.

"I think Father Mac would be feeling quite proud now if he was here."

In January of 1991 Father Mac was diagnosed with cancer. He passed away on September 5, 1991 but parishioners continued with pudding production.

In the years to follow pudding production reached a total of 65,000, but Ms Pagotto said sales had plummeted this year, reaching only about 1000.

"Our high sales figures were a lot to do with Johno Johnson, who was an MP in Sydney," she said.

"He would go to the Catholic Churches in Sydney and get them to sell puddings. He did that for many years, then he got ill and passed away."

Mrs Pagotto also put the impending closure down to competition from bigger pudding companies.

"People would ring me say 'your pudding is $20 and I can get one from Coles for $5'," she said.

"I'd have to explain that we use real rum, we use real eggs ... that it was a quality product as well as a charity.

"But it has also just had its time."

Upon hearing the news of the factory closure, Mrs Pagotto said worshippers of Our Lady of the Rosary Church, customers and members of the community have expressed how sad they were.

"When old customers ring up and order sometime it can take me 10 minutes on the phone explaining why we are closing," she said.

"Thank you to all our volunteers over the years- you were all the essential special ingredient of the pudding."

With only gluten free puddings left in the cold room now, the surplus will be donated to Foodbank and local soup kitchens after Christmas.