Tag Archives: family

Enduring Threads: part 8

Family Christmases

Magnificent Christmas days were spent with my maternal grandparents. The gatherings began with four generations.

One year I counted twenty-eight at the dining table. The miracle was where did all the food come from? The oven wasn’t huge, but like ‘The Magic Pudding’ there was always plenty of delicious food for everyone. Roast turkey, ham, and crunchy baked vegetables with freshly shelled peas from the garden. Raspberries and strawberries also from the garden, plus plum pudding with threepences and sixpences hidden in it, with an abundance of cream and home made ice cream. Uncle John R-T always had the parson’s nose, and he always made a fuss about getting a coin in his pudding, although, on occasions he swallowed the one my grandmother strategically put into his piece.

X'mas at 6 Ronald Street

X’mas at 6 Ronald Street


‘Washing up time children, and remember, …( the usual refrain), the water has to be very hot! Start with the glasses and they must be left upright after drying them, until they cool, before putting them away!’ We children washed up with excited anticipation. Decorating the tree outside followed, before Uncle Henry brought out the movie camera and presents were opened. We didn’t receive presents from everyone, nor were they expected. It’s hard to think of my mother being young, but together with her sister Mary, on film, they are flaunting their new, almost strapless, flared skirted sundresses, looking very young, playing up to the camera.


Brenda and Mary (Mother and Aunt) Christmas in the 1950s

Brenda and Mary
(Mother and Aunt)
Christmas in the 1950s

The regular visitors who came for Christmas afternoon tea were Grandma’s brother, Hector McFie, (the politician), his second wife, Toni, and their daughter Helen. Great Uncle Hector was viewed with disapproval after Nana and Papa’s deaths due to his rapacious dealings with the will. This was something that was only spoken of in hushed tones, so the children wouldn’t hear.


The Wells from Latrobe would drop in, as well as the Jennings and Volprechts. The tins of sweets the Jennings family gave us each year were always appreciated. Auntie Mynie’s single friends would often be there. Voluminous forms filled the circle of fold up director’s chairs on the lawn. Uncle Percy’s permanently bent fingers didn’t stop him holding a cigarette. Henry’s films show the ‘Greats’ gradually diminishing in number, and eventually Christmas days moved to 29 Victoria Parade, where my mother presided over the cake-cutting ceremony. My grandmother was caught on film cutting the cake for three consecutive years wearing the same dress. My mother decided she wouldn’t make this mistake.

X'mas afternoon, 6 Ronald Street

X’mas afternoon,
6 Ronald Street


Miss Jean Nichols, a spinster neighbour took Miss Benjafield’s place, after she had died. I’m sure Jean was in love with my mother, but Brenda just pretended otherwise and allowed her to be part of the family.


On 2nd November 1957 Auntie Mary married Bob Gott, and later their three children, Timothy, Robert and Susan, had their own Christmas dinners at Steele Street. This meant alternating afternoon teas between Victoria Parade and Steele Street, which lessened the burden of the main meal with the growing numbers.

My father was never very excited about Christmas. One year we went along to St Columba’s Presbyterian Church; my parents with their five children sat in their usual pew, quite close to the front of the church. My father only attended annually under sufferance to please my mother. On the way out, the minister said, ‘And who are you?’                                                      My father answered, ‘Give you three guesses!’ and walked on.

Another Christmas on the way home from Ronald Street, we stopped at the Pyetts’ home. Dad and Eric went off to inspect the bees that Dad had given Eric. Dad had become allergic to their stings. That day he received five stings on the head. We rushed home, Mum driving and Dad seeing double. On arrival, Dad passed out in the passage and Mum couldn’t get a pulse. I rang Doctor Endelmanis, who came down. Mum had told me not to bother him on Christmas Day, but I thought it was more serious than that. By the time the doctor arrived, Dad had vomited, so we knew he was alive. Doctor Endelmanis asked me to make really strong coffee. We didn’t have proper coffee in those days; so I made a brew with lots of powdered coffee. Doctor Endelmanis stayed for two hours to see that Dad would survive. How we appreciated him giving up so much of his time on Christmas day.



Enduring Threads: Part 6

Melbourne Gardens

Melbourne Gardens

Childhood Pleasures

Two trips were made to Melbourne, the first when I was 3. We stayed with Ruth Meek, and all I remember was being sick with measles, so spent my time in bed, combing teddy’s hair. The iceman came, that impressed me, as we didn’t have an iceman in Tasmania. We were lucky enough to have a fridge.

Barbara and Helen Captain Cook's Cottage, Melbourne

Barbara and Helen Captain Cook’s Cottage, Melbourne

The second flight at 7, I sat beside Christopher Pyett on the plane,  we watched the wings shake, as our mother’s chatted together. Chris was on his way to Sydney to visit his Grandparents. I was going over to the dentist. We stayed at the Windsor Hotel with my cousin Helen and her mother, Auntie Judy. We were taken to the zoo and to visit Captain Cook’s cottage in the Fitzroy Gardens. Breakfast was our biggest treat, Helen and I, alone, went to the dining room where we thought we could order what we liked; we were soon informed of the restrictions. My eyes, as usual, were bigger than my tummy. The sausages were fat and filling. Afterwards, we had a race in the lifts, here again, to be reprimanded. ‘Lifts are not play things!’

 The family holiday we had when Graeme was a baby remains vivid, as family holidays were rare. We went to the Marrawah Hotel to stay whilst my father went walking on the West Coast of Tasmania for a week, starting at the Arthur River. We took him to the punt to cross the river and got bogged in the sand on the way back to Marrawah. Grandma stayed with us and read Little Black Sambo and other books to us each night. As we were the only people staying at the hotel, the owners were very friendly; they would bring us red cordial when we couldn’t sleep at night. (That would be frowned upon today!) They served seafood, crayfish mornay and scallops, which Clive and I enjoyed; only later both of us became allergic to crustaceans. The days were spent at the beach playing, the trees protecting us from the westerly wind. The North West corner of Tasmania is isolated, but an ideal family holiday location.



The forties and fifties allowed children so much freedom. We were allowed to wander on the parade under the old pine trees with their swollen, rough, cobwebby trunks without parental supervision. The fine needles softened the ground underfoot and we would gladly collect the cones as they dropped, to take home to burn on the open fire. It was captivating when the sea was rough and the king- tide brought the water right up over the path. The force of the elements entranced me without being scared of the inherent dangers.

A stranger came along and asked me to show him the way to the Bluff. I just said, ‘Follow the path and you’ll find it.’ Perhaps there were paedophiles, but we were expected to use our common sense, and luck prevailed.

We could climb trees and make cubbies. The boys played a lot of cricket. In the summer there was a natural swimming hole where we’d swim. My mother did come when we were swimming. Collecting shells and odd shaped stones was a constant activity. I’d put them in a box under my bed, and they would disappear, nothing would be said and I’d go and collect another lot.










Enduring Threads: part 5

Childhood Memories

As a child, everything seemed bigger. The cherry plum trees seemed enormous. When my brother Clive was mean to me; I’d go into the house and put on a Fair Isle beret and come out assuming he’d think I was a different person. I’d meet him under the plum tree expecting him to be nice to me again because I was someone else. Sometimes it worked.

Clive and Barbara

Clive and Barbara

Nigel was born on 15th September 1953; I then went to stay with my best friend Penny Russell’s family at the Harbour Master’s residence. They had three girls who welcomed me and made me feel, at seven, part of the female fraternity. (That doesn’t translate to the feminine, maternity). My eyes were opened seeing them groom themselves; eyebrows being plucked, something I’d never seen before.

Unfortunately, my mother had forced me to have my plaits cut before Nigel’s birth. She had chased me around the house the night before and given up, but the next morning she’d just chopped off each plait. My front tooth, that I’d knocked out when I was two, had regrown without enamel. After the freshly enamelled tooth treatment, at great cost, it was knocked out again, playing on a broomstick. Looks were never something I felt confident about. Myrtle Russell tried valiantly to give me confidence, telling me I had beautiful eyes. No one in our family believed in giving compliments to children.

Penny listened to 7AD (the local radio station) and there was a popular song at that time, ‘How much is that doggy in the window,’ which we all sang with great gusto in the girl’s bedroom. I loved learning this song, as we didn’t have 7AD at our house. Penny was much more worldly than me because she went to the cinema, or as we called it, the pictures, every Saturday afternoon. I had seen about two movies before I started High School. ‘Snow White’ was the first. I was lost when Penny talked about film stars, trying to soak up what she told me. My Mother wasn’t one for wasting money on magazines. Though she did break this rule after the Royal visit, so that I could make a scrapbook for school. This was a large hard covered folder with brown paper pages, devotedly completed using the home- made flour and water glue to stick the latest photos and decals of the Royal family.

Penny and I both collected swap cards. Our mothers played cards and so we were off to a good start, as we collected the jokers that were not needed in the packs. I was fortunate, too, because Auntie Mary gave me her swap cards. The older cards had gilt edges, some were textured, or had gold and silver added to their designs. The new Coles swap cards had many sets, but didn’t compare to the older cards. So when one had doubles, one could get several Coles cards for one older style, if it was in good condition.

I was upset, when my father picked me up to take me to tell my great-grandparents that my third brother was born, as I had hoped for a sister.

Mother’s two weeks rest at Meercroft Cottage Hospital was the norm after a baby was born. There she had double doors that opened to the outside, so that we could visit her. Children were not allowed inside, so we crept in very quietly.

Clive, Barbara, baby Nigel and Graeme

Clive, Barbara, baby Nigel and Graeme

At 2, Nigel’s blonde curly hair was quite angelic. He was soon climbing into my bed in the early mornings to snuggle up. I remember the warmth, and then the bed would go cold – wet. I did love having another brother.



Our father would always get up first to put on the porridge. It was quite a tradition that he used ‘chicken feed’ and oats soaked overnight. My mother would bathe, as breakfast was well underway.

When I became a little older, I decided I hated porridge, and vomiting back into the bowl  proved to be the only way I could convince my parents that I no longer needed it. They then accepted this. Dad would often have eggs and bacon after his porridge, then toast and tea before pedalling off to work on his bike. We would all have eggs at the weekends; having chooks, eggs were plentiful. Tea replaced milk to drink, and I enjoyed toast; the homemade grapefruit marmalade made me sneeze repeatedly, every morning.

Building our bonfires in the May holidays for Empire Day 24th May was another tradition. Victoria Parade at that time was not manicured as it is today. We’d drag home dead branches from the whole neighbourhood to the empty block of land opposite. Old tyres were kept until last in case another gang burnt our bonfire down before the night. Eventually we invited the Stone twins, the rivals, to share our bonfire, to save it from destruction. My mother made red toffee apples for everyone in the neighbourhood on bonfire night.

The year Angus was born, we organized the bonfire a night early. Pregnant Mum, after distributing the toffee apples, had another tray for everyone to put their crackers on so that they could be dispensed throughout the evening. Unfortunately, someone put a live cracker on the tray, and my mother dropped the lot as they all began to explode. Flowerpots and spinning wheels along with the penny bangers all went off at once.

This set off her labour. Angus was born early next morning, on 24th May 1956. What a cracker of a baby he was.

This time, my mother had organized a housekeeper to come in and look after us all. She was called Mrs. Roberts, no relation. Immediately taking charge, ‘I don’t need any help from you, I’ll find things myself.’ I felt very put out, as my mother had asked me to help her. When we came home from school, ‘Here’s a biscuit and drink. Now, stay outside and play, I’ve just cleaned the floor!’ her pommy voice resounded. The meals were dreadful. One in particular stands out: boiled vegetables and meat surrounded by watery, fatty soup. It was neither soup nor a ‘proper’ meal, as we knew it. Even our unfussy father was perplexed, but diplomatically said nothing. We were all relieved and delighted to have Mum home two weeks later with little Angus.

Penny Russell, Jill Brooke, Barbara Roberts at a fancy dress party.

Penny Russell, Jill Brooke, Barbara Roberts at a fancy dress party.

Penny Russell and I would play for hours after school and holidays, mostly outdoors. One play space was in the outside laundry with the copper. This was before my father built the playhouse around the plum tree, which had white-framed windows on two sides and a door at the front, the whole house was painted in sump oil. At this time I asked my mother, ‘Why do girls marry boys?’ I thought Penny and I would be quite content to live together as adults. My mother wisely said, ‘Just you wait and see.’

Nigel had invisible friends.                                                                                                           ‘Mum, stop the car!’ Nigel would cry,                                                                                            ‘Stop! Santa and Robber have been left behind.’                                                                   Stopping, opening the front gate to let them out, before putting them into the car was a regular ritual. Nigel’s best friend was Sandy Budge. We would listen to them talk about their future. ‘When we get married, we won’t go to Holland for our honeymoon because we don’t want any Dutch babies.’ They must have fallen out with their Dutch friend at that time.

Graeme’s inventiveness didn’t lead him to become a scientist as we expected, with his



pottering about making experiments in the outside laundry. One Christmas, I unwrapped a soap shaker for washing up, consisting of old bits of wire and some velvet soap encompassed by mesh he’d scrounged. I was thrilled, as we children didn’t give each other presents, so this made it very special.

Besides Penny, I played with closer neighbours, Elspeth McIntyre and occasionally Valery Gray, though she was a year older. Elspeth and I hid in the broom cupboard as Mrs. Gray complained, ‘Those girls are being mean to my Wallie.’

My mother remonstrated, ‘I don’t get involved in the children’s scuffles. I’m sure they will sort things out for themselves.’ Mrs. Gray left feeling thwarted. We crept out of the broom cupboard when they had gone to the back door feeling elated. I was proud of my Mum for standing up to scary Mrs. Gray. Elspeth and I would always run on our way past the Grays because she would sometimes shout and swear at us. Her behaviour was bewildering; in retrospect, was she was menopausal?

Not accepting rides with strangers was one of the rules we abided by; even when Tom O’Meara, a close neighbour offered to bring Clive and me home when it was pouring with rain.   He was the local bookmaker. He was a kind man and must have been amused by our reticence. His children went to the Catholic school. In those days there was a division between Catholics and Protestants, though I didn’t understand why. I was fascinated by some of the Catholic paraphernalia, such as little cards of the Virgin Mary and writing in green or purple ink. At our house the ink was either black or blue.

Birthday parties were held and sometimes school friends were invited. Whilst at primary school, my mother made a magnificent birthday cake with a doll in the centre with a decorated skirt of icing.   I was delighted and my Mother was particularly proud of this effort. She also made cone shaped biscuits folded to contain cream and jelly, creampuffs, lamingtons, fairy bread and the table was laden with food.

I seem to remember other people’s birthday parties more than my own. Moments like, the dentist’s son, Stephen, who had been deprived of sugar, picking off all the icing off the cakes and having a wonderful party before being discovered. We saw quite a bit of our cousins that lived in Launceston, as they would come to visit our grandparents.

Graeme, Mary Elizabeth, Clive, Barbara and Peter

Graeme, Mary Elizabeth, Clive, Barbara and Peter

At that time there were no supermarkets. Our general store was the Don Store, where everything was weighed out into paper bags. My mother bought flour and sugar in large sacks. Some people bought their biscuits by the pound, but we always had homemade biscuits. Bought biscuits were considered a treat. Homemade butter was available, and it was always a deep, rich yellow. At the Don Store the money was put in a container that was fired on a wire to an accounts office raised above floor level in the centre of the shop, pulpit-like. Any change was sent back by the same method. Mr. Atkinson with his rounded glasses and large white apron, almost to the floor, wrote pencilled dockets and practised mental arithmetic.


Enduring Threads: Part 4

The Haines family


Chloris, Lillian, Brenda Front: Henry and Mary

My mother, Brenda, was second in a family that had five daughters and one son: Lillian, Brenda, Chloris, Marian, Henry Charles and Mary. Marian died very young and was seldom spoken of.

Brenda, Lillian, Mary, Henry and Chloris

Brenda, Lillian, Mary, Henry and Chloris

In my mother’s childhood, my Grandmother was a shy woman. When someone came to the door, she would tell the children to be quiet and pretend no one was at home. A visitor’s card was dropped through the letterbox in the front door to let them know who had called.

When my mother was two, she fell off a chair and became paralysed. She remained so for a year. The doctor didn’t know what had caused this, writing to International journals about the case. My mother screamed when there was noise, so straw was placed on the unsealed road outside the house to minimalize the noise. Brenda demanded a crystal glass to drink from. In later years Brenda thought that the skull bone must have been pressing against the brain, which gradually shifted, releasing pressure, allowing her to learn to walk again.

Chloris died at the age of twenty-one in Melbourne whilst she was completing her studies to be a pharmacist. She was thrown from a horse. The Devonport police rang my grandparents and asked them to come to the police station to be told the news. Henry heard the news when the Melbourne undertaker’s rang him at home, and so went to pick his parents up, knowing that they would be in no fit state to drive home. Recently, my cousin, Peter, found a newspaper cutting about Grandpa donating a wing to the maternity hospital at Meercroft named the ‘Chloris Haines’ wing’, after this tragic event. No one seems to know of this, nor know what happened to the brass plaque that was mentioned in the newspaper article, as Meercroft is now a large old peoples’ home, totally changed.

6 Ronald Street, Devonport 1940s?

6 Ronald Street, Devonport 1940s?

My grandmother held that pain in her heart, as we discovered in 1969 when we found Chloris’s things, emptying the attic at Ronald Street. There were boxes of new underwear that Chloris hadn’t even worn. My Grandmother moved to live next door to her daughter Mary who lived at 126 Steele Street; a big break with the past.

Chloris Janet Haines (my Grandmother)

Chloris Janet Haines
(my Grandmother)

Grandma wore an apricot-coloured corset that had to be laced up the front. Her body was curvaceous. (I inherited her hump on her upper back, and Auntie Mynie shared this too). Chloris and Mynie’s children missed out on this defect, lucky for them, and were proud of their straight backs. Long white hair was twisted into a bun at the nape of her neck where the clear plastic hairpins attempted to hold the bundle. Black and navy shoes were polished daily, and handbags and gloves had to match the shoes. The array of hats: wide, tall or sometimes snugly fitting, decorated or plain were always eye catching. If only we’d kept them. Osteoarthritis caused her to hobble slowly, leaning from one side to the other using a walking stick. Her swollen knees, ankles and fingers were distorted and must have been very painful, though she never complained, nor believed in taking medication.

The first morning task was to always red-ochre the fireplace before setting the fire. Farting as Grandma painfully knelt was part of the ritual. She also whistled, though denied that she omitted these noises. I pretended that she neither farted nor whistled, unless there were brothers or cousins about to share some giggles. Mornings were not her best time, as she would rather have slept in, preferring to sit up late into the night. Silence was her kingdom, and the radio was seldom used. This was before television. Talking was her entertainment. She made scones for her own aging mother and delivered them daily, till Nana died. The daily paper and the telephone brought any news. Grandma’s annoying habit was to ring at teatime, when Mum was busy preparing tea. Fridays Grandma would arrive with a welcome basket of fruit and chocolate for my mother, as Mum was a chocoholic.

Mr. Harman was the gardener for many decades. Grandma always took out his morning/ afternoon tea in a rainbow coloured jug with the milk and sugar added, accompanied by biscuits/ scones on the tray. It wasn’t until he retired that Grandma found out that he didn’t take sugar in his tea. He’d been drinking it all of those years without saying anything. When he retired Mr. Sharman took his place.

Grandma played contract bridge with her friends. My grandfather would sometimes arrive home before they had left. He’d place one of their hats on his head and embarrass my grandmother by saying,

‘Haven’t you got homes to go to?’                                                                                                     He was always full of fun. Grandpa loved to act (taking the part of a fat woman in the local        Cof E hall performance of a Charles Dickens play) and he also enjoyed singing.                       Bowls and rowing were two of his sporting interests.

When my grandfather was offered a knighthood, he refused, saying,

‘I was born Harry Haines and will die Harry Haines.’

He also hinted that his wife was proud enough, and he couldn’t bear for her to be made Lady Chloris. In those days, she wouldn’t let anyone use her Christian name, apart from a very few, who could be counted on one hand.

One of those was Miss Vera Benjafield. When Miss Benjafield went into hospital, she asked the nurses, ’Where are my teeth?’ They looked high and low to no avail. Finally they found out she hadn’t brought any with her. Such a dear old soul!

 Grandpa visited us often when I was small. He used to take Clive with him on his trips to the Dulverton Brickworks in Railton or to one of his many timber mills. I was not included on these trips, as I was a girl or perhaps considered too young. Once I hit Clive on the head in frustration. My grandfather expounded,

‘You can’t buy a new head at a shop, you have to look after them.’

Harry Haines

Harry Haines

He was a kind man, and ahead of his time. He arranged for his employees to have superannuation when they retired, long before it was law, so that he kept most of his employees for life. In the beginning F.H. Haines P/L did building work as well as selling building materials. Later he realised it wasn’t fair to other builders and so gave up the building side of the business and just kept the timber mills, timber yards and brick works, plus the hardware shop in Best Street down by the railway. The firm had a whistle that went four times a day, letting the whole town know the time of day.

When my grandfather had a fridge delivered to our house, my mother objected, being proud, ‘We can manage,’ and it was six months before she turned it on.

Harry Haines realised that his son Henry didn’t have his heart in the business, so he sold the firm to Kauri Timber Company in November 1951, a fortnight before he died. Henry managed the business for Kauri Timber Co. until June 1956. Then Henry bought the farm ‘Cheverton’ at Deloraine, surprising the farming community by making a great success of it, never having lived on a farm before.

L I H 11

Grandpa suffered from asthma; he wasn’t a strong man and died in December 1951. My mother, 34, cried, something I hadn’t seen her do before. She was devastated. I felt, at aged 5, detached, as I wasn’t close to my grandfather and couldn’t understand why my mother was so upset. Only now, as I learn more about him, am I sorry I didn’t know him better. It was after this that I started going up to Ronald Street to stay. I’d look at Grandpa’s shaving equipment left in the bathroom cabinet and it gave me conflicting feelings of discomfort, intrigue and distaste; a dead person’s things.

When we were a little older we’d play with Grandpa’s billiards upstairs. On the walls at Ronald Street Grandma’s children’s pastel drawings were framed and displayed. I was intrigued by the fact that one of the aunts was dead. This added to my belief that the house was haunted.







Enduring Threads: Part 2

I have been struggling to get it into a logical sequence. All suggestions welcomed. I am getting the M/S ready for an editor. Apologies to those who have read this bit before… Hilary has suggested a family tree, which is a great idea, but will take some working on!

Great Granny Isobella Haines

Great Granny Isobella Haines

Great Granny Haines’ thin shadow fell over me as she stood towering above me in her black dress with the white lace neck- piece at the base of her long scrawny neck. She continued to ignore me. I knew why she wasn’t my mother’s favourite grandmother. Was it that she didn’t like children? I don’t think she favoured my mother as an adult either. Perhaps her aloofness was her self- protection from the outside world, which made her seem superior and, as a consequence, lonely.

Gt. Granny and Gt. Aunt Dolly Haines

Gt. Granny and Gt. Aunt Dolly Haines

Great Granny Isabella lived with my Great Aunt Dolly in a small white weatherboard house at the top of the hill above the town at 70 Wenvoe Street, Devonport. Camellias, roses, lilies, violets, spring bulbs of every sort, hollyhocks and delphiniums filled the garden. The dovecote in the backyard completes the picture outside. Inside, on top of Great Granny’s bedside table, sat a toilet roll and a lolly jar that she seemed reticent to share. Her death in October 1953 at the age of 94 years meant that she’d been a widow for forty years. Her husband, a baker and naval contractor, had died in May 1913, aged 58.

After Granny Haines died, Auntie Dolly lived alone. Dolly’s first love had died in the First World War. Since then there had been a succession of suitors and fiancés. Her generous nature was well known. This is why Grandpa Haines had ensured the house couldn’t be sold, so that she remained with a roof over her head.



Ruby, Dolly’s older sister, then died, which left Ruby’s husband, Percy, vulnerable. Auntie Dolly pestered him until she had convinced him that they should marry and she’d look after him. He reluctantly agreed to marry her. She was seventy- three. He moved down to Wenvoe Street leaving his lovely home at 8 Ronald Street, next door to my maternal grandparents. It seemed Ruby and Percy had compensated for not having children by surrounding themselves with beautiful antiques. Percy’s father had been a sea captain, so he would have brought some of the treasures home from overseas. The garden with its double cherry trees in the front garden, one pink and one white, were spectacular in bloom. A huge tulip tree loomed out the back; their large block shared a fence, like my grandparents, with the high school.

Dolly’s house was small and so the beautiful and the kitsch were thrust together; clutter was a kind word for the chaos. She was determined to have it all. The wooden statue of a man that had stood elegantly in the entrance at 8 Ronald Street now had to compete with a myriad of eclectic objects collected over the years. In those days plastic flowers were a no-no. Dolly had those, plus a blue budgerigar, a green and yellow budgerigar and a cat. She was diabetic and going blind, so she wore a hat inside with a veil to stop any glare, as well as sunglasses. Dust was something she couldn’t see. Poor Percy lasted only six months before dying.

The story of Dolly getting her licence was one we loved to hear repeated, always with great amusement. She tried three times to get her car licence.

Cars were not common, even in my early childhood. My grandparents were probably the first couple on the North West Coast to go on their honeymoon, in 1914, in their own car. Auntie Ruby and Uncle Percy had a dear brown car with a dicky seat at the back. (I didn’t ever see anyone sitting in it). My parents didn’t get a car until I was in primary school. They let their garage to the Pyett family for their cream Austin with the soft roof (whilst they were living at Elimatta Hotel and Eric was building their house up at North Street).

Back to Dolly: on the second attempt of trying for a licence she turned the car over on Hill Street, Hobart, with the policeman in it. He got out and walked back to the police station.

Uncle Henry had spent some time trying to teach her to drive, and one day she entered the family firm, (F.H.Haines Pty. Ltd.), in Devonport and said to Henry,

‘You must come, I’m going to get my licence’,

‘Surely you are not ready yet’!

Dolly answered, ‘That nice policeman, Mr. Rothwell, said he’d take me’.

So off they went. After taking her only around the block, Mr. Rothwell said to Henry, ‘Do you think she should get it’? Henry answered, ‘I guess she’ll improve once she has her licence’,

‘Oh well, I shall leave her in your charge Mr. Haines’. Henry thought to himself, but I won’t be there! She was never a good driver, and people avoided her car when they saw it coming, as they did with my Grandmother and Great Auntie Con (on Dad’s side).

Dolly married her nephew-in-law, Ted Bolton, twenty-five years her junior; she was a ‘cougar’, ahead of her time, she was seventy-six. Her niece had died, and, oh what an opportunity! They did the deed quietly in Latrobe without the family knowing. It seems he was an alcoholic. My mother was grateful he was there to look after Dolly. My Aunt Mary had no time for him at all. Myrtle Russell, a friend of my mother’s, always asked, ‘How are you feeling Brenda’? – As she felt Frank might be next on Dolly’s list.



The lovely large, blue, white and red ochre Asian dish I have was a wedding present from Dolly when Umberto and I married. We put confetti in it, (tulle-covered sugared almonds with our names and the date of our wedding), to be given to each guest, following an Italian superstitious, but pretty ritual of fertility. I always felt honoured to have something from that amazing Aladdin’s Cave, as the rest was left to Ted’s family. What they didn’t want they auctioned off without notifying the family. A big black mark.


Enduring Threads: Part 1.


My first memory is of drowning at Paloona; a blissful feeling with bubbles coming out of my ears, no need to struggle, submerging three times. My mother’s white sandals dripping with water as she carried me back up the riverbank remains a question: ‘Why didn’t you take them off’?’ This experience at the age of two, removed my fear of death. That feeling of euphoria drowning remains with me. Death is something to be welcomed when the time is right.

29 Victoria Parade, Devonport, Tasmania

‘Yarandoo’ 29 Victoria Parade, Devonport, Tasmania

My grandfather Frederick Henry (‘Harry’) Haines built ‘Yarandoo’, (our home) 29 Victoria Parade, Devonport, opposite the mouth of the Mersey River, for his young bride Chloris Janet McFie. They were married on 21st October 1914; Chloris was nineteen and Harry was thirty-five. Six children were born to them in this house, before Harry built another home for his family at 6 Ronald Street. This was on higher ground where he thought it would benefit his asthma.

Wedding of Chloris McFie and Harry Haines  21-10-1914

Wedding of Chloris McFie and Harry Haines

Harry’s round cheerful countenance emanated good will. A watch chain stretched over his large protruding paunch symbolizing his success in business. My grandmother was taller than my grandfather, rounded too when I knew her, with a loosely twisted grey bun, held together with clear plastic hairpins, which shed themselves frequently. Her feet were knotted; she had special shoes made in Melbourne to accommodate her bunions. I thought they looked like a witch’s feet. She was a soft and generous woman who grew shorter as the years progressed.


When Grandpa travelled by car, all anyone could see was his hat sitting above the steering wheel. People would say,

‘There goes Cocky Haines,’ with an affectionate inflection. He’d often drive in second gear, Henry, his son, would say,’ Shouldn’t you go up a gear?’

‘I don’t think so!’ and soon after he’d surreptitiously progress to the next gear. He did like to go fast over the railway line, especially if his in-laws were in the car; he’d try to get them to hit their heads on the roof. My brother, Angus, inherited not only his good looks but also his naughty nature.

No.29 was given to my parents as a wedding gift on 6th March 1943. My father had been living in Melbourne during the war, helping to build aeroplanes. His skin condition, psoriasis, had prevented him from joining the air force. Two of his brothers joined the army, and they ended up as prisoners-of-war. His third brother joined the navy. Barney wrote a book called ‘A Kind of Cattle’ in 1986, describing his four-year experience as a POW in Germany and Austria, with which he won the NSW Premier’s Literary Award/ Peace Prize. Barney also wrote ‘Where’s Morning Gone’, about his childhood, which won the Tasmanian Bicentennial Literary Award in 1987; these were two of the ten books he had published.

My mother had been a nurse before enlisting to be an army nurse, leaving Tasmania for the Middle East, much to her parents’ dismay. She had done her training at the Devon Hospital, Latrobe, where she met her future sister-in-law Judy Roberts. Judy took Brenda home, and that was where she met my father, Frank. The farm didn’t have electricity at that time and my mother remembered going to bed at ‘Currajong’, still feeling for the light switch with a candle in her hand.

During the war Brenda fell madly in love with a doctor in the Middle East, but she thought her parents wouldn’t approve. He was a Pole and a gambler. They enjoyed a close friendship during that time. He returned to work in Victoria after the war as a psychiatrist. He married and had only daughters, whilst Brenda had those coveted sons.

On her return to Tasmania, my mother chose to marry Frank Roberts who was handsome, reliable and had a dry sense of humour. Grandpa employed Frank at his building firm, after bringing my parents back from Melbourne after their marriage. Frank did night classes in accountancy at the local technical college. He’d previously done a fitters and turners certificate. Frank was a very practical man, good with figures and machinery. He made many things around the house including a myrtle record player and a standard lamp from black wood. But he always hankered after the dream of returning to the land; having been brought up on a farm, it was in his blood.

Dad had left his boyhood home, Currajong, to find work because he was the eldest and the depression was affecting them on the farm. He realized that he, his sister and three brothers wouldn’t all be able to stay on the farm, so he looked further afield for work.

He went up to Queensland where he mended fences and did other odd jobs like making and selling ink, before getting to North Queensland where he cut sugarcane. There he worked with some Italians and had his horizons widened by tasting new foods and hearing their life stories.

I believe Brenda and Frank had a happy marriage, though they chose to go their separate ways some of the time. In the end I think they were grateful for one another and pleased that they had stuck it out through the tough times.

They had five children, all born at Meercroft, a cottage hospital in Devonport. Clive was a difficult birth. Judy, Dad’s sister, was Matron when Clive was born. He was in the breech position, and whilst waiting for him to be born, Judy told Mum to have a bath whilst she, Judy, went off to bed. Next morning she appeared and was horrified to see that Mum hadn’t had the baby. The doctor was called for. His comment was,

‘Thank God, they are both alive!’

This incident was never forgotten. Clive was born on 18th April 1944. The war finished on 2nd September 1945. I was born on 25th February 1946.

I loved having an older brother. The only time I saw him smacked, on the leg by my father, I cried so much that Dad didn’t ever smack any of us again.

Barbara and Clive Roberts

Barbara and Clive Roberts


When Graeme was born, 24th October 1949, Clive and I went to stay with neighbours, Ted and Nance Clemenson. We were treated kindly, and read stories, though I did wonder why we couldn’t go home. Childbirth was not discussed with children in that era. There we ate whitebait patties that were exquisite. Ted was a great fisherman. Their children, Libby and Jenny, were older than us. They had a white cockatoo that squawked ‘Caught any fish Ted?’ every time it heard the gate click. Libby was part of the neighbourhood gang that formed in later years, when we spent the holidays building our annual bonfire. Christopher Pyett was also part of this gang.

Graeme was a placid baby, though his asthma and eczema were trials my mother took in her stride. She had us all fitting in around her busy schedule of house and garden chores, committees and social activities, which included visiting relatives. In those days we walked for miles. We’d stop and chat to those we met in the street. Time was more leisurely and the days seemed longer. There was a feeling of space and our close-knit family/community gave me a feeling of acceptance and belonging.

Mum had quite a large group of friends as well as her committee commitments. The hospital and Eskleigh were her main interests. Eskleigh was a home that my grandfather helped establish, finance and build for the permanently injured or sick at Longford. Girl Guides would come to the house to do their first aid badges, until I broke the thermometer.

Afternoon tea was very popular and quite a formal event. Delicate china on an auto-tray with an assortment of home cooked scones, cakes and biscuits, covered by a delicate embroidered ‘throw over’ was the norm. The milk jug and sugar bowl were also covered with a crochet cover with glass beads around the edge. Our grandmother always had at least scones, shortbread and cream cake on the auto-tray. We children were given lemonade at Grandma’s, whereas at home we’d get homemade lemon cordial, milk or water.

When we visited the Miss Norton-Smiths their ruby coloured beads tinkled as we entered their impoverished but elegant drawing room. I was small; Mum would sit me on her knee and let me drink her tea, as she really didn’t want to be rude and refuse a drink, but she never liked tea or coffee. Addicted early, I was pleased to help.


Genius and Rapture:

Going by train to the city has its advantages. As it takes a little over an hour each way, one is able to read. Today I started a book Janet, (an author/ teacher/ friend), lent me yesterday. Such friends are rare and precious!

What a delight to find such an interesting book. It is called ‘Dear Genius’, The letters of Ursula Nordstrom, collected and edited by Leonard S. Marcus. I wonder how many of you have read it?

Ursula Nordstrom, (UN), worked for Harper & Brothers, New York, for more than forty years. She became the first woman elected to the Board of Directors, Harper & Brothers in 1954. She was a most outspoken and caring editor in the Department of books for Boys and Girls for many years.

This is a quote to give you an idea of the sort of person she was:

“Asked pointedly by Anne Carroll Moore, the New York Public Library’s powerful superintendent of work with children, what qualified her, a non librarian, nonteacher, non-parent, and noncollege graduate to publish childrens’ books, Nordstrom just as pointedly replied, “Well, I am a former child, and I haven’t forgotten a thing.”

Her letters reveal her strength of character. It is exciting to hear of someone who would support writers she thought had talent, even during their difficult, non- productive times. I shall enjoy reading further…

Our trip to the city was to meet our new grand daughter, Hazel Elsa. Such perfection, and it makes one realize that miracles still happen. She was born yesterday and her new parents are understandably besotted, as are her numerous grandparents.



Planning, planning, planning:

Retirement meant I had no deadlines, and I wallowed in nothingness and gardening for a time. Then with some broken bones, I couldn’t garden, and frustration set in.

Writing has meant that I have to plan. There are still chores that need to be done and lists  prioritise so that I don’t forget. My short term memory is faulty. Writing, I lose all sense of time. Regular habits; (such as walking, are routines that help to keep Chris , me, and Millie healthy), are essential.

There are still things I put aside, for instance, seeking out publishers. That seems to go into the ‘one day’ basket. Family takes precedence. Tomorrow I am off to Canberra to see two children and their families. One 40th birthday and one 1st birthday are to be celebrated. These mile stones are important, things we can’t recapture if we don’t make an effort to be there.

Subsequently, I shall be off air for four days. Shall miss you all, but shall try and catch up on my return.



Monday holiday:

Yesterday was a family day. Fran and James have started up in a new business this year in Central Victoria, and so they’ve been hectic; exhaustion affecting them both. Their boys, 7 and 5 are adorable, as all grand children are supposed to be. Jack organised and helped cook a chocolate cake for the celebration. Fran was able to help Christopher decide which painting to enter into a Works on Paper exhibition at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery. Her reasoning was logical; choosing one with more definition, as it will have to be reproduced and will show up better in print.


Arch and Slab No.12, ‘Birthday at a Perfect Drop’ painted by Christopher Pyett

I was able to print off an incomplete story for Mackenzie, hoping that he can advise me whether it takes his fancy or not. It is such a privilege to have children to share my stories with and to get their input as to whether it is going to be acceptable to their age group. He’ll let me know when he’s finished reading it.

James is Canadian and a whizz on the computer, so he was able to help Chris get some things onto disc. If only they didn’t live so far away!! Well it’s closer than Canada, so I shouldn’t complain.

After they left we went for our usual walk, though cut it short because of the heat. Unfortunately two dogs appeared opposite the school. The Alsatian started to attack our little spoodle. Chris lifted her as we yelled for help. Two boys appeared and restrained them, but let them out again very soon after. One started to follow us, and I yelled, ‘Go Home!’ stamping my foot. Fortunately he did, but this has made us review our route for next time. Millie is very sore and sorry for herself. Chris has bathed her and hopefully we won’t need the vet. In our area dogs are very popular, and we see many regularly on our walks. Most are well behaved.

The majority of blocks of land in Pearcedale are quarter acre; further out there are 2-5 acre lots, or farms. Some of the quarter acre ones have been divided, but most people love their gardens. At the moment gardens are looking particularly parched. It is amazing to see some crocus poking their heads up and some baby cyclamen under the camellias. There’s always something exciting happening.