Thirroul and Railway Families – Ashley Hay – Author

Oops. I confess that I hadn’t heard of the writer Ashley Hay, until the Illawarra Mercury (13/4/2013) featured her in an article on artists and writers, who had drawn inspiration from the narrow strip of land between Thirroul and Stanwell Park. But of course as a Thirroul resident, how could I not like the way the article described how her new book opens –  with Thirroul being “the most beautiful place in the world.

“The Railwayman’s Wife” has been only recently published  –see review and from The Australian, as well as an interview.

I was intrigued as my grandmother “Molly” Mary Constance Callcott (nee Joy) had been a Railwayman’s wife in Thirroul during the 1930’s, as also had her sister-in-law, my great aunt Marjorie Louisa Joy (nee Tollner), during the 1930’s-50’s.

The Callcott’s lived in Harbord Street Thirroul very close to the Thirroul beach, and the Joy’s lived in King Street Thirroul. Coincidentally Molly’s in-laws, Alf and Lucy (nee Midson) Callcott, were the Thirroul real estate agents who had let Wyewurk to DH Lawrence, and his wife, Frieda, in the early 1920’s. Hence the use of the name Callcott for one of the main characters in DH Lawrence’s novel “Kangaroo“. Wyewurk was in fact owned by Lucy’s sister, Beatrice Southwell (nee Midson), my great great aunt.

In the Illawarra Mercury article, Ashley Hay described how her grandfather had worked on the railway and was killed in an accident in the early 1950’s – and how her grandmother then worked in the Library that used to be at the Thirroul Railway Institute Hall. And again, coincidentally, my grandfather Russ Callcott, and my great uncle, Ken Joy both worked at the railway at that time. It seems that Ashley and I had both grown up in the Thirroul area in roughly the same era.

In “The Railwayman’s Wife” Ashley apparently describes the train trip to Sydney, also one of my earliest childhood memories. I live at “Southie” aka McCauley’s beach just north of where the Sandon Point jetty used to be – it features in the book too. Other shared memories – the Glass Roundhouse just over the railway line from my parents’ Redman Avenue Thirroul home, the Hardie Rubber Factory where my Grandmother Molly Callcott, worked after the breakdown of her marriage and was a single mother raising her five kids. So the Railwayman’s Wife is in some ways evocative of my Grandmother and Great Aunt…. there is something rather eerie to see memories & feelings of your early life also captured quite independentlyby a writer.

Ashley’s family story intrigues me as it runs in parallel to the stories of my own family in Thirroul. Looks like I am going to have to read a copy of the book “The Railwayman’s Wife” !