Tag Archives: memoir

Pondering Memoir Writing:

Antique rug taken on my i-phone

Antique rug taken on my i-phone

This morning in the shower, my mind reflected on Memoir writing. How can one be true to oneself and yet protect other people? There is a fine line between sharing one’s life and treading on others’ toes.

 In ‘Enduring Threads’ there are many things I excluded because of my own children’s feelings. For instance they wouldn’t want to know about all of my nocturnal and sometimes daytime liaisons/entanglements. In fact, many have seeped into the never never regions of my brain, never to resurface, which is probably a mercy. Phew!

 ‘Enduring Threads’ is about to be pawed over by an editor. I have feelings of relief and anxiety. I wonder how much more is necessary to get the m/s into a readable, interesting story. It is so hard to know what a stranger will make of it. When I read it, I see all of the characters in full colour. Have I made them alive to other people and are they of interest to others?

 Irene Walters shared a wonderful post about names. Should one use real or made up names to protect people? The general consensus seemed to be that most writers prefer to include real names in a memoir; firstly it makes it easier to write, and secondly it is acknowledging other people who have had influence or have been important to you. I liked Irene’s inclusion of part of Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ with their dilemma regarding names. If you’d like to read Irene’s post with the many following comments, it can be found on:

‘Call me anything but don’t call me late for dinner: I think not? Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

 Names are important. How many of you don’t like a name because of someone you didn’t like in early childhood, or a nasty adult? Naming children has become a creative exercise in itself. Having been a school- teacher, I found names do make a difference. If a child has to explain a name every time they meet someone new, it is a disadvantage; or names can nurture self- esteem. In story writing, it is a freedom we’re faced with. Making up names can be fun.

 I have used real names in this m/s, as I wish to acknowledge and respect the importance of individuals in my life. The symbolic threads they represent weave, or are stitched into the colourful tapestry of my life, creating ‘Enduring Threads.’

Antique rug taken on my i-phone

Antique rug taken on my i-phone



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: Part3

Reblog with photos:

The Scottish Greats

My great maternal grandparents, Nanna and Papa McFie lived on top of the world, opposite the boundary to the primary school below, and the Catholic school above, in Stewart Street. Papa had been a tailor before becoming a state politician, which he remained for seventeen years, and a coroner for fifty years. In retirement, before his stroke, he could be seen marching down into town, tipping his bowler to one and all. His distinguishing features being his waxed and twirled moustache, a stiff high white collar and a striped carnation in his buttonhole. Nana, softer, would sit in her sunroom on a cane chair that pulled out so that her legs were raised, knitting, sewing or doing embroidery. Her contented round face would light up with pleasure as we approached, her halo of sparse white hair giving her an angelic look. Their garden rambled unattended with a huge pine tree up the back.

Their little electric fire, imitated a coal fire, glowing red attempting to warm the sitting room. Their frugal existence was suspended on The Red Letter Day when they received a letter from the Queen for their sixtieth wedding anniversary. Celebrations for both the royal missive and their special wedding anniversary broke the feeling of austerity in their home.

Nana and Papa McFie, 50 or 60th wedding anniversary?

Nana and Papa McFie,
50 or 60th wedding anniversary?

Bringing up their own children: Chloris, Hector, Mynie, Malcolm and Don; was succeeded by taking in and caring for Janet, Chloris and Brian, children of their son Don and his ex-wife Dawn; as well as Jock, son of Malcolm. Great Uncle Hector made good, following in his father’s footsteps, becoming a Liberal politician.

I didn’t question my mother when she said,‘The McFie men are no good!’ It wasn’t until my cousin Peter did some family-tree research that my understanding broadened. Hector McFie, our antecedent, came out to Tasmania in 1830 as a convict, aged 25. He was a tailor and subsequently married three times. His death was from ‘Fatal Effects Of Intemperance’ as disclosed in the Hobart Town Daily Mercury, Wednesday morning 9 June 1858. This side of our family history was never discussed, as my mother said,

‘I have no interest in the past.’

Considering ancient Hector’s minor misdemeanors, and being forced to leave his home in Rothsay on the Isle of Bute, Scotland, brought about a whole new dynasty on the other side of the world.

Not only was there a repetition of names in these genealogical records, a plethora of Hectors, but also a repetition of career choices: tailoring, seafaring and building, the latter two continuing today.

Taken at Queenstown on the Federal election campaign. Snow fell all the time 2 days, 5 ft in some places. Dame Enid Lyons was the first woman to be elected to the Federal Parliament at Canberra Sept 1943, with H. H. McFie

Taken at Queenstown on the Federal election campaign. Snow fell all the time 2 days, 5 ft in some places. Dame Enid Lyons was the first woman to be elected to the Federal Parliament at Canberra Sept 1943, with H. H. McFie

Hungry children from the state school were fed at Nana’s home during the depression. Vegetable soup was cooked in the copper. My mother would put her hand up to be fed too, but only on the odd occasion would she be allowed to go over the road to her grandmother’s with the others.

‘Look after this and cherish it’, Nanna spoke in her Scots burr as she gave me a little brass dog.  I still have it. ‘It is important to dry between your toes’, was another important message that I continue to pass on.  Visual memories of buckets in the bathroom to collect the rain- water from the leaky roof remain with me as Nanna shrugged her shoulders.  Papa always had sweets for us, often liquorice alsorts. I only liked the liquorice part, stuffing the gooey pastel stuff in hidden places. The twisted clear yellow ambrosial barley sugar was my favourite.

After Nanna died, Papa had a stroke that left him with no speech.

When he recuperated and was on his feet again, we children would torment him, knowing he couldn’t tell our grandmother what we were doing. He’d chase us around waving his walking stick at us, totally frustrated that he couldn’t catch us or speak. Grandma would come out and say,

‘Don’t wave your stick at the children!’

That made us feel guilty and we’d stop our bullying tactics.

Nanna died just before the Queen’s visit in 1954. She’d been so looking forward to the visit, which was celebrated very enthusiastically in Devonport with streamers decorating the way. Even my father was swept up by the hysteria and constructed a stand for friends to gather on to wave their flags. They were sorely disappointed, as the car didn’t slow down sufficiently for them to get a proper look.

Aged eight, dressed as a Brownie, I walked with the whole school to the oval. My classmate Lynette Holman presented the Queen with a bouquet, as Lynette’s father was the Council Clerk. The cortege went up to Bell’s Parade, Latrobe, where they had a toilet especially constructed for Her Royal Highness, in which she was sick. Afterwards the toilet was auctioned.

My maternal great-grandmother, Nanna, was Hannah Elizabeth Chapman before she married Henry Hector McFie in 1892. When I returned to Devonport with my two daughters in 1975 I moved into the Chapman home at 50 Wenvoe Street. The two last Chapman maiden ladies had died; they were cousins of my grandmother. They loved the view of the river and ocean in the distance. Ivy had been a pharmacist at the local chemist shop, and Chappie, as we called her, was a seamstress.

Mynie and Chloris with their mother Hannah, (Nana)

Mynie and Chloris
with their mother Hannah, (Nana)

(Great) Auntie Mynie, my grandmother’s sister, lived up in Hiller Street. She married John Donohue who was the editor of the local newspaper, The Advocate. He had six children when she married him, and they went on to have two more. Jane was nine years older than me, and Hector seven. The other children were grown and gone, though they continued to visit.

Auntie Mynie’s pastries were renown afar for their lightness. When Uncle John died she made ends meet by growing flowers and making and selling wreaths from home.  She also helped with the Scouts’ catering business. It was amazing what Auntie Mynie could produce out of her very old Moffat oven. Sometimes there would be six pavlovas sitting there, waiting to be delivered.

Even though Mynie was fourth generation Tasmanian, her Scottishness was unwavering. She had Scottie dogs on cushion covers, Scottish ornaments, a silver thistle cruet set and Scotch thistles on her dinner set and teacups. She introduced us to peppermint liqueur in lemonade, the fresh bubbling smell of peppermint tickling our noses. Unlike her teatotal sister, my grandmother, she also liked a drop of Scotch whisky.

When I was very young, a quondam story is retold; I broke a bottle of perfume in their bathroom. Auntie Mynie could never wear that scent again, as the smell in the bathroom was overpowering. She loved giving me cheap perfume for birthdays; I’m sure it was payback time for my mother, but I loved it.

Taking our first trip across the Mersey, Auntie Mynie took Clive and me with her own children and Miss Marshall for a picnic to East Devonport beach. We had their liver and white spaniel Nip with us, who was later killed by snakebite.

The house in Hiller Street expanded like a piano accordion, accommodating many and squeezing out contented visitors who exuded Mynie’s warmth, with confirmation of their right place in the world. Playing Solo was a regular activity; she even played with the dreaded dragoness, Engel Holyman, who most people were scared of. Though I didn’t know Engel well, her reputation went before her and I was surprised later to find out that we were distantly related. (Nanna McFie’s mother’s sister married a Holyman.) When Engel ordered wood, Jane related to me later, they told the deliveryman,’Tell them to pay before you drop!’

The Holyman family was known in the aviation industry; they were all keen fliers. When Engel died she wanted her ashes taken up in a plane and scattered. The family dutifully did as requested only to return with the ashes stuck to the wet plane.





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.


Rewriting and resorting:

Camellia 'Donation' little bruised after rainstorm

Camellia ‘Donation’
little bruised after rainstorm

Today I have been attempting to rewrite part of my memoir. Maggie Wilson, our blogging friend, kindly read my memoir, ‘Enduring Threads.’ One of her suggestions was that it might be better in two stories. This idea has given me the impetus to at least try a few things out. It sounds a lot easier than it proves to be! I have begun the childhood section removing insertions of later life. It is like playing with a jigsaw, trying to find the perfect fit. I never was quick with jigsaws, so this will set me a long winter task. I wish to include it in the WP Writing 201 program. Since I didn’t do the first program, I hope I haven’t bitten off more than I can chew.

Memoir writing:

Have you ever thought of writing your memoir? It can be such a therapeutic exercise. Putting all of those old memories down on paper spurs other memories, and before you know it you have a book! It can allow you let go of old grievances getting them down on paper. You feel lighter as a consequence.

Writing ‘Enduring Threads’ flowed freely. Some reorganisation happened during the process, getting a few things into a similar time frame. Letting it sit for a few months was worthwhile; as rereading later, one sees how it can be simplified, words removed and other anecdotes added. Removing adverbs is very helpful, plus some adjectives. I found I couldn’t remove many adjectives, as I liked to think they helped paint the scene and keep the atmosphere of the period. Talking to family will of course bring in other perspectives, which may or may  not be useful. It is your perspective, when all said and done!

Every revision helps to refine the work. I like to apply the same ‘rules’ writing my children’s and young adult books. It can help to have rules that bring the writing to life and remove the padding.

As far as having a routine, I’m yet to become more disciplined. When I was much younger I met a Swiss woman whom I really admired. She worked as a psychiatrist in the mornings and as a tapestry weaver in the afternoons.  This provided the balance in her life that she was seeking. My ideal would be to garden half the day and write the other half; with a walk at the end of the day. When I do this it feels the perfect routine for me as a retired person. Lucky, I know, as many of you are working.

I’d love to hear about your routines and rules that you set yourself.genious