7 Generations of Hicks Family Women in Thirroul

I’d seen another post where a writer reflected on International Womens Day 2014  and seven generations of strong women in her family. It triggered my thinking on the role of seven generations of women in my own Hicks Family in the small NSW seaside town of Thirroul.

We’ve had seven generations of women on Mum’s maternal side (Hicks Family) who’ve lived in Thirroul since the 1880’s, back when it was separated from North Bulli (now Austinmer) and it began to be called Robbinsville. Before that, from the 1830’s, earlier generations of family members had lived from Fairy Meadow to Austinmer.

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For 150 years our family’s women have lived in Thirroul – Austinmer, serving the Northern Illawarra community in many areas.

  • Margaret Hicks nee Daly/Brain spent her last years here in Thirroul, after living in nearby North Bulli (Austinmer) for over 40 years
  • Margaret’s daughter in law Mary Ann Hicks nee McKenzie spent nearly half of her 90 years here
  • Mary Ann’s daughter Edith Florence Joy nee Hicks lived nearly 50 years here
  • Edith’s younger sister Ida McKenzie Webb nee Hicks lived for over 30 years in Thirroul
  • Edith’s daughter Mary Constance “Molly” Callcott nee Joy lived nearly 40 years here
  • Molly’s daughter Joan Lois Adams nee Callcott lived all but 4 of her 80 years in Thirroul
  • Joan’s cousin Margaret Risk nee Joy has lived nearly 70 years in Thirroul
  • Joan’s daughter Kerrie Anne Christian nee Adams (that’s me) – I’ve lived here for over 45 years
  • Margaret Risk’s daughter Julie Risk has been here for 50 years
  • Kerrie’s daughter Katrina Elise Christian grew up  in Thirroul from birth and commenced her adult years here

Margaret Hicks was born in 1819, a daughter of convicts, able to read and write when many could not, including her husband, James Hicks. That she was literate undoubtedly helped their rise from small landholders to Northern Illawarra Pioneers  who supported churches, schools and were active lobbiers in political matters, while she was bearing and rearing 13 children to adulthood. Evidence of her capabilities ? Husband James Hicks appointed her Executor for his will and estate rather than his eldest son, Henry Thomas Hicks,  who was the senior JP of the district, presiding over countless court cases and Executor of others’ wills. Yet Margaret was appointed Executor of the Will and Estate in the early 1890’s, when she did not then enjoy the right to vote.

Mary Ann Hicks in 1839, was the first Australian born child of her McKenzie parents,  after they left the Isle of Skye, Scotland. The wife of a North Illawarra Council Alderman, mother of a North Illawarra Council Mayor and coal miner Union President – but Mary Ann, herself was active in the community life of Thirroul, as well as nearby Austinmer and Thirroul.

Edith Florence Joy, a widowed single mother raising her children in the early 20th Century years, long lived a little in the shadow of her iconic mother, Mary Ann Hicks, and supporting her daughter Molly’s community fundraising activities. Nevertheless she was active in community affairs in the town – in the church, fundraising for causes such as the war effort in WWI.

Ida McKenzie Webb was one of the early 20th Century school teachers in the northern Illawarra. After her marriage she retired from teaching, but remained involved in the Thirroul community fundraising activities for many years.

Molly Callcott, with her orchestra, was involved in many fundraising and community events in the years prior to her marriage and motherhood. Following her marriage breakdown, she was left to bring up her five children singlehandedly, and became a Hardies Rubber Factory Girl.

Joan Lois Adams was involved in many organisations from her late 20’s and generally as Secretary or Treasurer –  including Mother’s Club at Thirroul School, RSL Tennis Club, Stroke Support, War Widows Guild, RSL Laurel Club, Legacy and Red Cross. Joan’s cousin Margaret Risk, as well as daughter Julie Risk, have long been active members of the Kennel Club.

Kerrie Anne Christian followed in the footsteps of her community leader and Northern Illawarra pioneer great great grandfather Captain – Alderman Henry Thomas Hicks JP, and her Great Great Uncle Mayor & Miners Federation President Alex Hicks. She has been a NSW State Union President, an Alderman – Councillor on Wollongong City Council, Steelworks Quality & Engineering Manager, a Council member of the local University, occasional guest lecturing at the University on Women in Non Traditional Roles, and involved in many community activities over the last 40 years.

Katrina Elise Christian, an Engineering University student, is just starting out in life, and has already earned her Queens Girl Guide Award, presented by NSW Governor Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir. The Queens Girl Guide Award requires community service – and Katrina has now worked her way up from being a junior Girl Guide leader to a full leader.


Dr Patricia Paddy Kirton – Born to Wealth and Privilege – Taking the Hard Way – Serving her Community

I grew up near Kirton Road Austinmer and the Kirton’s were widely known to be associated with the old Excelsior Mine that was across on the side of the railway line to Redman Avenue Thirroul, where I lived.


However I knew little of the Kirton’s in the later 20th Century decades and my interest was raised when Dr Joe Davis posted a photograph of the June 1940 wedding, of Dr Patricia Kirton to Donald Neil Rankin, to The Thirroul History in Photos Page, on Facebook. Although, I knew that there was a connection, by marriage, between my family and the Kirton’s. One of Mum’s Callcott aunts, Clarice Callcott, had married Victor Farraher, a son of Elizabeth Farraher (nee Kirton), the sister of J S Kirton – to further confuse things, both of J S Kirton’s wives were sisters of  my great uncle Victor’s father, Murty James Farraher.


Confusingly interconnected – but basically Victor Farraher, my great uncle by marriage, and Paddy Kirton’s father, Bernard Kirton, were first cousins. And  of course, Mum’s Farraher cousins were also second cousins of Paddy Kirton, and her sister Sheilah.


So even though we weren’t blood relations, Paddy Kirton and I were part of an extended Farraher – Cawley – Kirton – Callcott – Hicks – McKenzie family network. There weren’t too many girls from Thirroul who had become doctors by 1940 – I really wanted to know her story, and not just the stories of the men in her family.


As I read, I learned of how Mary Patricia Anne Kirton, known throughout her life as Paddy Kirton, had been born to privilege and wealth. After all she was the daughter of Thirroul’s Bernard Kirton, and wife, Mary Dolly Keelan, who had sailed from Greville St in County Mullingar, Ireland with her brother for the wedding. Bernard and Mary had married in St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne in 1914. Bernard was the son of Excelsior Mine Owner and Bulli Shire President, John Stephen Kirton and his first wife Bridget Farraher. Sadly Bernard’s first wife, Mary died in 1921, aged 35 years, after five years of lingering illness. She left the two young children, Patricia (Paddy) and Sheilah. In 1927, Bernard would re-marry, to Alicia Borthwick, at St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney. They lived in Ballinderry, Thirroul.


However the Farraher – Kirton family had known some tough and controversial times too. Paddy’s grandmother, Bridget was a daughter of Patrick Francis Farraher and wife Anne Cawley. Patrick was the eldest son of Murty Farraher, and wife Bridget O’Malley. The Farraher’s and Cawley’s are very old Irish Catholic families in the Illawarra. Paddy’s great great grandfather, Murty Farraher, was wrongfully convicted and transported for life from Ireland in 1822 – for swearing a false oath – but subsequently fully pardoned eventually in 1841. Murty’s wife Bridget had brought her four young sons to the other side of the world to be near to her husband in 1822. They initially settled in the southern Illawarra, but later the family moved to the northern suburbs of Wollongong. Ironically, Paddy’s father, Bernard Kirton, himself would be wrongfully named in relation to a murder in Surabaya in 1925, by the Dutch press – and successfully sue the Evening News for libel  later that year. And then there would be a messy 1927 court case over the Excelsior mine property.


Nevertheless, Paddy Kirton’s adolescent and young adult early years, in the pre-WWII era, seemed to have been very much that of a young, privileged socialite. But there was also something about her, that had the Australian Women’s Weekly acknowledging her achievements as a Doctor, by the time of her marriage in 1940, and hoping that she would continue to distinguish herself even after her marriage .. in 1940 … a very feminist hope ?


And so Paddy Kirton’s adolescent and young adult years  unfolded in the newspaper social pages …

  • Educated in the Dominican College – a fancy Dress Party at Santa Sabina in 1930
  • Making her Debut in 1932 at David Jones – Dominican Ex Students Dance – attended by her step-mother, Mrs Kirton and Miss M Borthwick – and attending St John’s College Dance at Sydney University in 1932.
  • Sancta Sophia Dinner Dance in 1933
  • University of Sydney Faculty of Medicine results – Pass in 1934 and deferred results 1934 & attending Wesley College Ball in 1934 and a friend’s departure for overseas. Sancta Sophia annual dance in 1934, supporting her old college – at a Sherry Party with friends.
  • Part of the Sydney University Social Scene in 1935 
  • Still living at Sancta Sophia College in 1936 – her University of Sydney Faculty of Medicine Results 1936 – and a pre-wedding party for a friend at Sancta Sophia College
  • At the Polo in 1937. Dance Secretary for the Sancta Sophia Annual Students Dance in 1937 but still managing a Credit for her 1937 University results – including Psychiatry results in 1937. An interesting choice to practice in – certainly challenging – she was described as one of the youngest women medical graduates in the Australian Womens Weekly in July 1940.
  • 1938 – A Big Year 
    • Graduation and a Resident Medical Officer position at Lewisham Hospital in 1938 – part of the Lewisham Hospital’s Younger Set – fundraising for the hospital in 1938 – Golden Jubilee Appeal – Lewisham Hospital Ball in 1938. Celebrating a work colleague’s new baby daughter in 1938 – attending Sancta Sophia College annual dinner with old school friend Margaret Rankin in 1938
    • On an official table for a reception for Russian Principal Ballerina Tamara Grigorieva in 1938. Dinner parties and Dance at the Royal Sydney Golf Club in 1938 Final Race Week Finale.
    • Bridesmaid to Suzanne Rankin at her society wedding to Robert Duval of Edgecliff at St Mary’s Cathedral in 1938 – more detail on the wedding – another bridesmaid Morna Mackenzie was Private Secretary to Lady Wakehurst  
  • 1939 – Another Big Year
    • Bridesmaid to old school friend, Margaret Rankin in 1939 in Newcastle. At the ballet in 1939.
    •  Heading off overseas on a working holiday with her sister Sheilah, also a Sydney University Graduate. Patricia was to be the Ship’s Surgeon on a Cargo boatParrakoola – of course there were more farewell parties at the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron and Hotel Australia. 
    • On her return in late 1939, described, with her sister Sheilah, as young women   who have held interesting jobs abroad arrived in Melbourne aboard an oversea liner last night.”  Paddy had done post graduate and medical  Locum Work in London, and in Eire Ireland, while her sister Sheilah did Post Graduate work in Massage at Mullingar County Hospital in Eire Ireland.
  • The 1940’s – Years of  Change
    • Still social – engaged to Donald Neil Rankin of Newcastle in early 1940, after her return from abroad in late 1939 – Don had been admitted as a Solicitor in 1939 and joined his father’s Newcastle law firm
    • Attending the Combined Dominicans Annual Ball in May 1940
    • Becoming a Senior Resident at Lewisham Hospital.
    • Subsequently marrying Don Rankin at St John’s College Sydney University in June 1940 – the Rankins staying at the Canberra Civic Hotel in July 1940, a sentimental wedding ring. She seemed to have lived in Newcastle with her husband Donald Neil Rankin only briefly around December 1940.  By 1942, husband Donald Neal Rankin would be called up by the RAAF, based at Point Cook, and Patricia would move to Melbourne to be closer to him, visiting him at Sale and staying at the Club Hotel. Flying Officer Don Rankin would be part of the attack on Frankfurt in December 1943.
    • Sister Sheilagh’s engagement to Robert Macintosh of Leura was also announced in July 1940 and wedding soon after – a lot of that happened as men headed off to the battlefields of WWII.

However unlike the society weddings of her school mates and her father, Patricia Paddy Kirton’s had been A Quiet Wedding” …. To Marry To-day.The marriage of Dr. Patricia Kirton,elder daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Bernard Kirton, of Ballinderry, Thirroul, to Mr.Donald Neil Rankin, younger son of Mr.and Mrs. A. A. Rankin, of Newcastle, will be celebrated quietly in the chapel of St.John’s College, Sydney University, this morning. Mr. Rankin, who is on the R.A.A.F. Reserve and expects to be called up within the next few weeks, is a graduate in law and a former resident of the college. Dr. Kirton, who graduated in medicine from Sydney University, will be attended by her sister, Miss Sheila Kirton. She will wear a simple frock of chalk-white silk, with a small hat of white heron’s feathers. Mr. Desmond Hollywood will be best man. Afterwards a small reception will be held in the new pent-house of Marton’s Hall Flats, Margaret Street, where Dr. Kirton is staying.”


Patricia’s  quiet wedding was nevertheless reported in the July 6 1940 Women’s Weekly (when it was a weekly) – A life’s work -VERSATILE, charming, youthful Mrs. Donald Rankin – until last week Dr.Paddy Kirton – has fitted into less than a quarter of a century more than most people accomplish in a lifetime. During student days at Sancta Sophia, always envy of contemporaries for well-groomed appearance, round of social doings, and success in examinations, yet managed to be one of youngest women graduates in medicine.After that sallied forth to see the world as ship’s surgeon in a cargo boat, did post-graduate work in England and Eire, and returned, unruffled as ever, to take post as senior resident at Lewisham Hospital. Since then has practised for a while. Now, quietly as possible, marries Don Rankin in chapel of St. John’s College, University, where Don studied Law during Paddy’s Med. student days. He’s to be called up for R.A.A.F. soon, so we’re waiting to see whether wife will set out to further distinguish herself in her profession.We hope so . . .


Paddy Kirton had married into a distinguished family in the Newcastle area. Her father in law, Mr Archibald Aloysius Rankin, born in Tumut in 1872, married Vera Simpson in 1910. AA Rankin was President of the St Ignatius Riverview Old Boy‘s Union, the son of a Station Manager and grandson of a farmer at Tumut. Archibald became a Solicitor of Rankin & Griffiths Solicitors Newcastle (having served as an articled clerk in Tumut, applied to NSW Supreme Court to be admitted as solicitor in 1897), a legal representative to BHP, having been associated with the Newcastle hospital since 1912, with Newcastle Municipal Council in 1913, appointed President of the Newcastle Hospital Board since 1916.


And A A Rankin was being censured by the Newcastle Trades Hall Council in 1926, appointed to NSW Hospitals Commission Board in 1929, awarded a CBE in 1938. In 1940 he was still President of the Newcastle Hospital Board, still a Member of the NSW Hospitals Commission and President of Newcastle Aero Club – but he seems to have retired from the Health scene sometime during the WWII years. He passed away in 1951 – probate notice.


Married into a family such as A A Rankins, with a husband as a solicitor, it would have been easy for Paddy Kirton to have stepped back to a more stereotypical female role of the 1930’s and 1940’s. And it seems that as WWII wound on, Paddy, after after having her early life constantly mentioned in the social pages, had then ducked below the radar. Only surfacing in 1954, when giving expert testimony in a murder trial in Newcastle, described as Dr Mary Patricia Ann Kirton, Superintendent of Newcastle Mental Hospital. It was clear that she had decided to follow her own path. Meanwhile her husband who had been good at sport in his university days, was shining in the NSW Amateur Golf Championships in 1954.


Dr Kirton was elected to the University of Newcastle Council in 1971 and served on the Board of Trustees of the University’s Edward Hall Residential College – her brief CV in 1972  read :

“Dr. Kirton was Acting Superintendent of the Mental Hospital, Newcastle, from 1954 to 1959 and Specialist Psychiatrist in Charge of the Child Guidance Clinic, Newcastle, from 1960 to 1969. She is Vice-President of Hunter Regional Branch of the National Trust and on Newcastle Advisory Board of the Family Life Movement of Australia.”


Paddy Rankin would also be a significant donor to the University of Newcastle. And at the University of Newcastle’s Graduation Ceremony in 1991, Mary Patricia Anne Rankin was presented with an Honorary Doctor of the University Degree – a high accolade indeed, and it was presented by Justice Elizabeth Evatt as well.


I had served on the Council of the University of Wollongong from 1996-2007 and I knew that such Honorary degrees are not lightly awarded.


From the University of Newcastle Bulletin of May 20, 1991 : 

“Honorary Degree to Outstanding Citizen

The Honorary Degree of Doctor of the University was conferred on Mrs Paddy Rankin, who has played a key role in University affairs, in particular to the establishment of the Faculty of Medicine. 

Mrs Rankin, was well known in Newcastle as Dr Kirton, the Director of the Child Guidance Clinic until her retirement in 1969, having previously been the Superintendent of Stockton and Watt Street Hospitals for a period of five years. 

Mrs Rankin’s aspirations for the establishment of a Medical School in Newcastle were translated into reality, when, in 1971, she was appointed a member of the Council of the University. 

At her first meeting, the Council appointed Mrs Rankin, still as Dr Kirton, as one of the four members charged with preparation of a submission to the Australian Universities Commission for the establishment of a Medical School at Newcastle. Mrs Rankin also played a key role in the extensive and detailed work of the Selection Committees leading to the appointment of the first academic staff of the Faculty. 

One of the chief characteristics of the Faculty of Medicine since its first intake of students in 1978 has been its concern to develop and implement effective processes for student selection. Mrs Rankin became a foundation member of the Faculty of Medicine Admissions Committee and continued to serve as a member until 1984. The creation of this thorough and extensive selection process, which enables criteria more sensitive to personal attributes and attainments to be added to examination statistics, owes much to the input and sustained contributions of Mrs Rankin and continues to the present day. 

She was also active in the establishment of the first residential college on campus, Edwards Hall. As well, she served as the Council’s nominee to the Board of Trustees of the Community Child Care Centre, Kintaiba, in its formative years. 

Mrs Rankin continues to be interested in and active in the University life. She continues to work towards the establishment of a religious centre on the campus and is currently undertaking academic study in History. 

The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Keith Morgan, said it was fitting for the University to recognise the achievements of such an outstanding citizen of Newcastle and valued supporter of the University,and it gave him great pleasure to present Mrs Rankin for admission to the Honorary Degree.”

The hopes expressed by the Australian Womens Weekly in July 1940 that Paddy Kirton (a former Thirroul girl) would continue to distinguish herself were certainly realised.


Cate Wilson – A Strong Champion for Thirroul

It seems that Thirroul is losing a few too many strong women lately this November 2012, firstly my own mother Joan Lois Adams (nee Callcott) on November 5 2012, followed by the indomitable Cate Wilson on November 17 2012.

I first heard of Cate in her role in the Thirroul Action Group in the early 1980’s – fighting to save Thirroul from being overcome by a series of 3 storey walk-ups, and higher, of an unending series of unit block after unit block and even what seemed then to be ever encroaching risk of high rise development. I had just moved back to Bulli and my mother, Joan Adams (nee Callcott), showed me some community newsletters put out by the Thirroul Action Group. In the north we were so lucky to have her fighting to preserve the character of the area, when it was under such serious threats.

Around 1984 I encountered Cate when we went to debate the future of South Thirroul when it was destined to be overrun by coal transport facilities including  40 metre high coal storage bins. It was clear that Cate was forthright in her opinions and did not suffer fools at all. I recall being at her home towards the late 1980’s as we battled on for the South Thirroul area. Cate and partner Eric Wilson were actively involved in CANS, Community Alliance for the Northern Suburbs – a Coalition of Community Groups established by then Alderman David Martin.

Also in the late 1980’s, Cate was fighting with Anna Whelan to save the Maternity Ward at Bulli Hospital, whilst partner Eric  was fighting on a different front to achieve better planning outcomes for the northern Illawarra.

Cate and her partner Eric were strong supporters of the Active Community Team that David Martin had initiated with Arthur and Jelly Osborne.

Cate and Eric continued to battle the war of attrition that seems to be inevitable in community politics – you win won round but the issue just keeps bouncing back again and again.

Around 2000 the Sandon Point debate had morphed towards a broad social movement that the local Wollongong City Council totally failed to appreciate. The internet and email facilitated collaboration across so many different community groups. This period saw the establishment of the Sandon Picket Line and the Aboriginal Tent Embassy of which aimed to protect the Sandon Point area from development. Cate Wilson became one of the leading members of the Sandon Point Picket, which unfortunately burned down after a number of years.

In the 1980’s Cate, and partner Eric, had restored a beautiful old home on Cliff Parade on McCauleys Hill in Thirroul. I recall some friends would refer to the house as “the one that had been done up by the two teachers” – Cate was a teacher of the Deaf and a strong member of the Teachers Federation.

Cate also painted beautiful watercolours of the northern suburbs area – I have a small one that is evocative of  the coast from Thirroul up to Coalcliff, looking up from  Norfolk Island Pines towards the cliffs. I also marvelled at the beautiful hand-knitted items that Cate often wore – another indicator of her talents ?

I doubt anyone ever ever intimidated Cate. She was always forthright in her views and you knew where you stood with her. An amazingly strong and inspiring woman.

Joan Adams – One of the strongest women Thirroul has ever known. A Eulogy 13.11.2012.

From the EULOGY for JOAN LOIS ADAMS on behalf of her children – Kerrie, Julie & Daryl – read by David Christian
 Joan loved life – a real people person. Family was very important to Joan and she was a real caring and practical Mum and Nan to all of them.

 Joan was born Joan Lois Callcott at Hornsby on 16th October 1932 – although she lived nearly her entire life in Thirroul, where many of her family lived. She was the second eldest child of Mary Constance Callcott (nee Joy) and, like her mother, and grandmother, Edith Florence Joy (Hicks), she was a battler, or a tough little bantam hen, as her husband Ross described her.

Joan shared 1932 as her birth year with the completion of the Sydney Harbour Bridge – in fact she “walked” the opening of the Bridge in her mother’s womb. Little wonder that Joan would go on to walk the bridge herself in 1992, do a Harbour Bridge Climb, walk the Sydney Harbour Tunnel and the Great Wall of China, fly over Uluru Ayers Rock, and then fly in a hot air balloon to celebrate her 60thbirthday.
Life in the 1930’s was tough for many Australian children with the Depression and then the start of World War 2.  During that time, Joan’s mother was bringing up her 5 children, mostly singlehandedly, with help from her own mother, Edith Florence Joy.  Joan attended Thirroul Public School, which was opened by her great grandfather, then North Illawarra Council Alderman Henry Thomas Hicks in 1889. As a member of the Hicks Family, one of the oldest Illawarra European families, Joan took pride in learning of her family in the Northern Illawarra which dated from 1842 – 170 years. There was also Scots heritage from the Isle of Skye too – Great Grandmother, MaryAnn Hicks, was a Mackenzie.   

Years later, Joan, and Kerrie’s husband, David, would share the latest family tree finds – gradually building up a huge amount of information and stories – Joan discovered she was descended from the First Fleet “Small” Family. Sadly, one of the biggest pieces, missing for years from our Family Tree, would only emerge in the days after her death.

Joan went onto the Domestic Home Science School for girls, and the building is still located at Wollongong Public School in Smith St Wollongong. Later her daughter Kerrie attended classes in the same building. Granddaughter Katrina did school holiday programs there too. Joan was a very good swimmer and represented her school at carnivals in Sydney. 

Joan worked as a Shorthand Typist at the CRM works in the 1950’s – it became part of BHP and then BlueScope Steel. She was the first of our family to work in the steel industry. Subsequently her husband Ross, daughter Kerrie and sons-in-law David and Laurie would work in the Steel Industry, spanning a period of nearly 60 years till 2011.

Ross Adams came into Joan’s life when they met at a dance.  Ross had been at Kokoda in the 2/16th Battalion of the 2nd AIF during World War 2. He came  down from Queensland, to visit his two aunts Mabel Tuckerman and Ivy Richardson, before heading off to Perth to catch up with his army mates. However he met Joan, and they married at St Augustine’s Bulli on December 19 1953. Joan found herself in the large Adams Family, many of whom lived in the Boggabilla – Goondiwindi area up north. In 1954 she and Ross got a War Service loan and so they moved into their own home in Redman Avenue Thirroul, where Joan lived for the rest of her life.  In early 1955, daughter Kerrie arrived, and Julie in early 1956. 

With two very young daughters, and still in her twenties, Joan was for a time also caring for her invalid mother and grandmother. Both had passed away before Daryl arrived in late 1962. Her aunt, Marjorie Joy, had by then become a mother figure for Joan, just as Marjorie’s late husband, Ken, had been Joan’s father figure, before his untimely death.

Joan was a great cook. She experimented with dishes beyond traditional Australian food. Her cakes, slices, desserts and Christmas Pudding with silver coins were legendary. She was also very good at sewing and knitting, stretching the family finances by making all her children’s school clothes. Kerrie and Julie were dressed identically, and seemed to many to be more like twins. Joan was fairly strict with them, and then along came Daryl, who was a “real” boy – escaping through holes in the back fence and coming home with muddy clothes.  

Joan loved reading, doing cross word puzzles and jigsaw puzzles – the 3D Titanic puzzle done in the days before her final hospital stay was the most challenging of all she said. Joan also did a lot of photography – she had saved up when she first started working to buy her precious Kodak Box Brownie camera. Joan was also involved in the School Mothers’ Club and local Tennis Club from the 1960’s – becoming an active office bearer in each of these.

In adulthood, life remained challenging for Joan, as husband Ross experienced what we now know as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after his time at Kokoda – often she had to be both mother and father to her 3 kids.  However she always encouraged them to do the best they could, with the talents they had, and the opportunities that came their way. Kerrie was good at school work especially Science & Maths, Julie was good at Art and Daryl was good with his Hands – and so they moved into these areas with their Post High School education & careers.  Joan was also a confidential sounding board for Kerrie in her 12 years representing the Northern Illawarra, as an Alderman on Wollongong City Council.

Kerrie and Julie had left home to pursue their studies in the early 1970’s leaving Daryl as the only child still living at home.  Ross had continued to experience post combat trauma and eventually moved away under the pressures, leaving Joan and Daryl, although he periodically returned at Christmas time.

 Life continued to be tough for Joan and Daryl – and around this time Daryl took up pigeon racing with Joan’s support. We knew never to ring home on a Saturday because it was pigeon race day.  

In 1976 Ross suffered a severe debilitating stroke and Joan brought him home. She nursed and cared for him until his death in early 1990. Anna Barnett came into their lives in the 1980’s to form the Northern Illawarra Stroke Recovery Support club – predictably, Joan again became an active office bearer, until her own ill health in mid 2005. Courageously Joan had taken Ross on a 23 day camping safari to the Red Centre and Darwin in mid 1986 – with Ross using a walking frame.  It was written up in newspaper and magazine articles. In 2010, Joan was honoured with Life Membership of Stroke Recovery Association.

Over the 1980’s and 1990’s Joan became the proud & loving Nan to Erin, Gavin, Clare and Katrina. 

After Ross’s death in 1990, Joan’s aunt, Marjorie Joy, introduced her to War Widows and Laurel Club. Her aunt had been supported by Legacy for many years following the early death of her own husband. Predictably Joan became an active Office Bearer in War Widows and Woonona Bulli RSL’s Laurel Club. 

After Ross’s death, Joan was rarely home, as she was now free to socialize, see live shows  in Sydney and Arcadians, to travel –in NSW, Victoria and South Australia. In 2005, son-in-law David persuaded her to join him, Kerrie, and Katrina on a trip to China. Joan walked on the Great Wall of China and saw the Entombed Warriors.

 Several months later, she became seriously ill, but by a series of miracles survived, when many would not. In the 1930’s, a Jewish Doctor Huber, under threat of Buchenwald, was amazingly let go by the Nazi’s in Berlin, and so he came to Australia with his family. In 2005, nearly 70 years later, his grandson, Doctor David Huber, performed cutting edge vascular surgery on Joan in Wollongong Hospital. This surgery was not approved in many American states then. We will remain forever grateful to Dr Huber, as his skill gave us a precious bonus 7 ½ years with Joan. She saw all her grandchildren grow to adulthood,  to cross the Nullarbor on the Indian Pacific with Kerrie in 2011, and to finally complete the sentimental journey to Perth for her husband, Ross – visiting the Kokoda Memorial to Ross’s 2/16th Battalion of the 2nd AIF, which has pride of place in Kings Park, the main Botanic Gardens in Perth.

Joan’s adult grandchildren Erin and Gavin travelled extensively overseas, and at our weekly Sunday night family dinners, Joan loved to look at the photos of their travels on Facebook, and also photos of Clare’s latest adventures.

Joan would bring over home-cooked steamed puddings plus cakes and slices – she was always looking for new recipes to try out. David and Joan shared a love of sport and would chat on about the tennis, rugby league and cricket. And when they came down from Newcastle, Julie’s husband, Laurie, would set up Skype on his computer so that Joan could see and talk to Erin and Gavin overseas.Erin’s highly secret and surprise return home from the UK for Christmas 2011 truly stunned Joan.

Joan had hoped to celebrate her 80th birthday with her children, grandchildren, brothers Ian and Joe, sister Joy, cousins Margaret and Kath, their families, and her friends, at a picnic last month. However over the last year, various health issues emerged, and Joan was happy to just make her 80thbirthday, which neither her mother, nor grandmother, had achieved.  We had a surprise 80th morning tea with close family in the hospital. Joan’s famous wide mouthed surprise and smile were there as usual. 

We could never ever thank Joan enough for all that she did for our family. Joan was a very special lady, a real people person who loved life, with a great sense of humour and fun, a battling, tough little pocket rocket, a great friend, always ready to help others. She was greatly loved and respected by her extended family and many friends. So we thank you for sharing this celebration of Joan’s life with us today.

Who is Alison Fettell – Community Activist -the latest to lead campaign for Bulli Hospital

It’s been 3 years since I last posted to LingaLonga – work and family commitments got in the way .. but at last there is more time to pick this up .. to share the stories of Women of Thirroul who have made a difference for their community.

I first met Alison maybe 10 years ago or so when I was still a Ward 1 Councillor for Wollongong City Council. Back then Alison & Jayne were lobbying hard for McCauley Park in Thirroul. I left Council in 2004 but still see them power walking the streets of Thirroul – often with their dog.

Then in February 2012 I was helping the NSW Asthma Foundation & University of Wollongong at local Shopping Centres with Asthma Awareness promotions for The Over 55’s. Alison just happened to wander past with her youngest daughter and we had a quick chat…

Alison had decided something needed to be done to Save Bulli Hospital Emergency Department – and I couldn’t sit back .. friends had been saved by treatment at Bulli ED. A number of us starting meeting at Cucina Coffee Shop in Thirroul & Save Bullli ED was born with Alison as its Convenor.

So Just Who is Alison Fettell ? Previously a Single Mum Fighter who didn’t collapse under the pressures ? An Executive Health Administrator Manager ? Sea Change resident ? A Tough Fighter for our Local Thirroul Community over the last 10 years ? What’s her story ? How is she honouring past campaigns for Bulli Hospital & spearheading the resistance to the latest attacks ?