Posted 21 Sept 2019
As a young child born in 1970 and brought up in rural Donald, Victoria, Australia I was fascinated by my mother’s sister, my urban Auntie Muriel. I was particularly puzzled, given Muriel was single (at least as I long could recall as a young child), by her wedding photo. This why I have called this narrative ‘Muriel’s Wedding’, after the iconic Australian film of that name released in 1994, but more of that later.
I sent an earlier version of this document out to family members to ensure this was accurate and appropriate for wider circulation and my sister Judith Hastings generously added a few missing ‘pearl’s. I am posting this 99 years after Muriel’s was born (in 2020).
A century on, very few of Muriel’s former close friends or relatives are still alive, and I sense her story is worth telling for others to hear and learn from. There is much in here which will inform our children and grandchildren about the very different world in which I grew up.
If there is anything in this narrative that is factually wrong, that requires correction or amendment, or that inappropriately violates confidentiality, I am responsible, so please let me know. While Muriel was a private person in life, I sense it is perhaps time to ‘come out’.
Muriel ticked lots of fascinating and different boxes that took me a long time to understand and connect just some of the many threads. This narrative is my attempt to celebrate and do justice to just a little of Muriel’s life seven years after her death in Donald, Victoria on 22 September 2012 age 92. If Muriel were born today she would likely have had many more opportunities to publicly express and explore her many differences across her lifetime.
My account consists of my personal recollections augmented from recollections from my elder sister, Judy Hastings, buttressed by documentary evidence. Only a small amount of Muriel’s records survived her last tumultuous decade, including those that were recovered in a flood-damaged and smelly state by my sister, Judy Hastings. Muriel and my mother Joan were forced out of the Goodwin Village aged care home by the unprecedented Richardson River flood in Donald during January 2011. Some other family and war records that inform this account were found via online searches as well as via www.ancestry.com.au.
What Muriel squeezed into the first 80 years of her life, as this narrative seeks to document, is truly remarkable. Between 1970 and 2000, aged between 50 and 80, Muriel and her dear, lifelong friend, Beryl Braddock, undertook at least fifteen extended international trips and many more interstate trips.
In her final decade Muriel separated from Beryl, sold up their shared double storey home at 11 Lucerne Crescent in Karingal, Frankston, lived on her own in successive rental properties in Ballarat, In her ‘Fourth Age’ of dependence reluctantly went into the Goodwin Homes, a comprehensive aged care complex in Donald. When Mue and Mum got flooded out of there in January 2011, they experienced a difficult and prolonged relocation to the ‘Dunmunkle Lodge’ aged care home in Minyip until the flood damaged Donald facility was repaired.
In her final days Muriel sat quietly in the Goodwin Homes, silently fuming as carers read her the international news in the papers, including about Paris, assuming that this old lady had no idea where it was. In fact Mue had been to Paris at least five times.
Daughter of Mary and Ralph Lane
Muriel was born in Marrickville, New South Wales on 16 July 1920, the eldest of three children, including my late mother (Joan, born 12 Feb 1922, died 5 April 2011) and my late uncle, Ralph Lane (junior). There is a wonderful photo of Mue and Joan as children, both with snowy white hair with their mother Mary Lane, my Nana. Much of Mue’s early childhood was spent in Sydney, where her father’s ships returned to dock including at Garden Island Naval Dockyard in Sydney Harbour.
Mue and Joan were to spend much of their childhood and adolescence on the move between multiple schools in Sydney and on the Mornington Peninsula, and also with an absent naval father. Pa (Ralph) Lane, also called ‘Snowy’ as on account of his blond hair as a child, spent his entire working life of 50 years in the Royal Australian Navy, much of it away at sea including a dozen years at war.
Born in East Ham, England, part of Greater London, on 21 August 1897, Ralph signed up as a ‘Boy 2ndClass’ on 1 June 1912, initially serving on HMAS Tingara, a three-masted clipper ship propelled solely by ‘two acres of canvas’. Launched and operated as the Sobraonafter plying the Australia – UK cargo and passenger route for many years, it was purchased by the Commonwealth Government and fitted out as a boy’s training ship, to become permanently moored in Rose Bay until decommissioned in 1927.
Ralph served on ships in and beyond both World Wars, for 30 years between 1915 and 1945 as a ‘telegraphist’, manually sending and decoding messages sent in Morse Code. During World War 1 he served on the battle cruisers Australia, New Zealandand Indomitable. He was also present at the surrender of the German High Seas Fleet at Scapa Flow in 1918.
In World War 2 he served on the HMASCanberra, Australia, Hobartand Shropshire. He took part in the ‘Battle of the Coral Sea’, 4-8 May 1942 as well as ten other major naval battles in the Pacific. I recall him being farewelled on discharge from the Royal Australian Navy as a Lieutenant Commander on 3 April 1956, six months before the Summer Olympic Games in Melbourne. Of the first 500 boys enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy (formally created only one year before in July 1911), Ralph (called ‘Jerry’ by his fellow seamen) was the last serving member. His long and valuable military service was acknowledged in 1951 by an M.B.E. (Member of the British Empire).
Some of Ralph’s post war years were based at the HMAS Cerberusnaval base in Crib Point on Westernport Bay, training many other communications sailors. The Frankston area was therefore the logical Lane family base and became Mue’s home for most of her life, aside from her early years in Sydney and her later years in Ballarat and Donald. The first house Judy and I remember was ‘4 Cranbourne Road, Frankston’ backing onto the train line to Crib Point. Later it was at ‘23 Kelso Street, Frankston.’
In his spare time ‘Jerry’ was active in the Frankston Yacht Club, a passion taken up strongly for a time also by his son Ralph and also Muriel. At one stage Mary and Mrs Glowery (the wife of a naval colleague of Pa Lane’s) ran a part time tea and sandwiches shop in the then ‘Log Cabin’ near the Frankston Pier. In later life both Nana and Pa Lane became passionate croquet and lawn bowls players respectively.
My childhood recollections
My older sister, Judy and I used to go down to our grandparents in Frankston during summer school holidays to give our parents a break. Muriel then lived with her parents, Mary and Ralph Lane, and we slept in the same room as Muriel in the red brick house at 23 Kelso Street. Curiously for us as young kids, Mue had a different surname. ‘Sherwood’ was the surname Muriel retained until she died in 2012. While her death certificate states ‘divorced’, if Muriel was here she would dispute this.
As young kids we innocently asked lots of inappropriate questions including ‘Who is that man was in your wedding photo?’ and ‘Why aren’t you still together?’ The standard, defensive answer from both her and her mother, Mary, was that he was a no good drunk and the subject was quickly changed.
Muriel was incredibly generous to Judy and I as kids. She took us to the snow for my first time at Mount Donna Buang. She took us into the Sherbrooke Forest around Mount Dandenong to search for lyre bids. She tapped into my interest in rocks and fossils, generously taking me to Fossil Beach at Balcombe Bay near Mornington and also to scour the 5-6 million year old Loveniaand shark tooth-rich shoreline and cliff deposits in the Miocene Beaumaris Sandstone. We went panning for rubies and zircons in the table drains at ‘Foxey’s’ Hangout (on the corner of Balnarring and Tubbarubba roads on the Mornington Peninsula). We collected zeolite crystals from amygdaloidal cavities in the basalt on the cliffs at Cape Schanck.
Mue walked with us, talked with us and tapped deeply into our childhood interests. She played endless games of cricket with us in the back yard and on the beach. We stuck thousands of used matches on trays of various shapes and sizes in geometric patterns. She bought us bamboo ‘hula hoops’ when they were the craze from the late 1950s and ‘did the hula’ better than we did. She organised bottle-collecting forays for Judy and I amongst the ti-tree on the Frankston foreshore. We got to keep the money from the sale of the bottles from the ‘bottle-o’ to buy sweets and ice creams.
At Frankston we first saw black and white TV (that only began in Melbourne 1956) and regularly watched GTV-9 ‘In Melbourne Tonight’, hosted by Graham Kennedy between 1957, with Bert Newton from 1959. We excitedly went to the Skye Road Drive-In Theatre and sat through one memorable, humungous thunderstorm. Judy and I both recall Mue calming our childhood fears by telling us that each thunderclap was God moving another piece of furniture. Mue was nominally Church of England but was definitely not a churchgoer.
It was all stodgy English food in the Lane household at Cranbourne Road and Kelso Street, all prepared by Nana. Given Pa spent much of his life at war with ‘the Japanese’, it never included anything remotely Asian. Mue could sort of cook for herself and make coffee but food preparation and entertaining for others was not up there as her main priorities. When they were together Beryl was the cook. They both enjoyed getting out (in Beryl’s case, ‘dressing up’ with full makeup) and also eating out.
We spent endless summers at the former Lane family owned ‘Bathing Box’ on the Frankston beach, swimming and hiring the plywood paddleboards, exploring the inky and grossly polluted Kananook Creek where it enters the bay. We watched people catch fish and dive off the Frankston pier. We walked the rocky shores to collect shells and worn coloured glass around Canadian Bay. We looked for Lyre Birds in Sherbrooke Forest, visited Stan and Anne Lucas’ apple orchard at Tyabb, visited her taxidermist friend Eileen at the Melbourne Museum, and sat and watched Muriel talk and smoke with her close Frankston friend, Marj Whykes in her rambling timber house on Skye Road, while us kids played under the cypress trees.
There were lots of things about Muriel that set her apart from other women I knew from my sheltered Rechabite Methodist upbringing in rural Donald. Mue was a chain smoker of cigarettes. She enjoyed a beer or shandy on a hot day with her father and sometimes a sherry before dinner. Before she turned grey she always had short-cropped, fair hair and almost always wore slacks. She was fiercely independent and there were no men in her life aside from her brother and father, both called Ralph. Like her young brother Ralph, she shared a passion for playingfootball.
This was around 75 years before Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs played their first women’s match (in June 2011) that kicked off the AFLW (Women’s) football league in 2016. There is a wonderful photo of Mue as a young woman age 26 in 1946 alongside the passionfruit vine at the then family home, ‘4 Cranbourne Road, Frankston’, wearing a Melbourne football jumper, long football socks and lace up football boots about to kick a football. She was excellent at kick-to-kick well into her 40s. If only Mue had been around to play today for Melbourne in AFLW.
Ralph junior, born ten years after Muriel on 16 March 1930, died on 29 May 2014 was also a keen and talented footballer. He played 71 games as a ‘wingman’ for Melbourne in the VFL between 1951 and 1956, including in the winning 1956 Grand Final team, and later with suburban McKinnon in the Federal Football League, including three premierships between 1957-9. Muriel took me to several of these McKinnon matches, always loudly barracking with great passion for her brother and his team and abusing the other team and particularly the umpire. Mue kept following the football, barracking for Melbourne … and enjoying the ground passes that came her way … once Ralph become Ground Manager at the former VFL ground in suburban Waverley.
Mue was a bright, independent, engaged and worldly young woman in a world where women usually took second or no place. Her hobbies, appearance and dress would have marked her out in that era as what was then called a ‘tom boy’. She matriculated and was Dux of Frankston High School. She began training as a primary school teacher but quickly found she had little patience with what she called ‘snotty-nosed kids’.
Mue enjoyed sailing, mainly with the men, on Port Philip Bay. Judy and I recall she also enjoyed gardening, mowing the lawns at Kelso Street and tending the garden, particularly the camellias and hydrangea. Her serious hobby, which we as kids participated in, was collecting stamps. ‘First Day Covers’ were shared with other collectors from all over the world. I became aware through the ‘Gibbons World Stamp Catalogue’ and Mue’s many stamp albums of the world of valuable, old rare and misprinted stamps, stamps with watermarks, overprinting, perforations and curious postmarks.
This was my first window also into the many different countries around the world. Stamps were material evidence of how the national names had changed over time with the demise of the British and other colonial empires. In later life Mue gave it all up and disposed of her extensive album collections, but continued to collect stamps for many years including for my nephew, Lachlan Hastings.
During my childhood years Mue worked in the accounts branch of ‘Tas Pickett’, a former tobacco manufacturing and distribution company then located at 95 Lennox Street in Richmond. Nearby was the four-storey, red brick ‘Pelaco’ shirt factory, with its distinctive neon sign above. Mue would usually commute via train from Frankston to Richmond, packing a lunch that often consisted of baked bean sandwiches, leaving her car at the Frankston railway station car park. In the earliest of times I recall, the car was a green Morris Minor. Part of her remuneration package comprised the company cigarettes (for her) and tobacco (for Pa Lane’s ‘rollies’). When Muriel left the company she was thanked with an inscribed silver tray.
Later Mue worked in the back office of the ‘Safeway’ supermarket, still located in Balcombe Road, Mentone. Her job as a ‘comptometrist’ operator is now an obsolete profession. In the days (during the 1960s) prior to calculators, large companies employed people to run adding machines all day, checking the figures that would be entered in the General Ledger. The now extinct mechanical adding machines she used were called ‘comptometers’.
Mue loved reading. Books that my sister Judy recalls her reading were mainly the leather-bound English classics: Jane Austen, Shakespeare and Sir Walter Scott, as well as books about military battles from World War 2. Like her father, she enjoyed doing crosswords and always kept a Dictionary, World Atlas and Thesaurus handy.
Muriel almost never wore a dress aside from the one in her wedding photo. There was always a battle between her and her sister (my mother) Joan when it came to her dressing ‘appropriately’ for formal family occasions like weddings. ‘Mue’ as we called her, was more at home in a boiler suit fixing the car. She treated her car like a child, lovingly changing the oil, servicing the engine and polishing the chrome and duco.
I recall at one stage she drove what I think was a ‘Nissan Bluebird’ and also a Nissan ‘Cedric’. Her choice of Nissan cars was in part dictated by family connections via Beryl. Beryl worked ‘pulling petrol’ and doing front of garage work at Jackie Proctor’s Motor Garage in Playne Street, Frankston. Jackie, a totally bald, safety obsessed, self promoting motoring enthusiast was the brother of her very good friend, Joy Proctor and was also the Frankston Nissan dealer.
During my early teens Beryl moved into ‘the sleepout’, a separate flat renovated by Pa Lane at the back of the family house at 23 Kelso Street in Frankston, joining the family for some meals. Ralph spent his retirement days sitting in his chair smoking and doing cryptic crosswords. He did not cope well with retired life out of the armed services in a house shared with two strong and independent women and a relatively flighty Beryl. Mary had run of the house, budget, children, family and kitchen for all of their married life and Pa was literally a duck out of naval water. Nana would growl and scowl, ‘Get out of my kichen!’ whenever anyone, including the husband she called ‘Jer’, ventured in.
If Muriel and Beryl had been around to be part of the same sex marriage debate and subsequent legislation their lives and life opportunities might have been very different. When I asked my mother about their relationship in my early 20s she asked me never to utter the ‘L word’ and insisted they were just close friends. The beautiful truth is that they loved and cared for each other deeply for decades and became inseparable lifelong friends in an era where nothing could be spoken about love outside of heterosexual marriage.
Pa escaped to and loved the solace of his backyard shed and vegetable garden, making and fixing stuff. He built us some wonderful wooden boats. Once the navy and recreational sailing were over he developed a strong loathing of the sea. He would spit in it every time we walked along the seashore, guaranteeing he might one day be encouraged to swim in it if it got over 100 degrees (Fahrenheit), but only on 30 February, a day that for some reason never came around.
Pa Lane gradually developed signs of dementia. The symptom I remember best was his habit of saying ‘Yesssss’ and smiling, regardless of the question that was posed. Muriel actively supported and acted as a staunch carer and advocate of both her parents through the final difficult decades of their shared later lives and the health issues they both faced with increasing dependency.
Pa’s lonely life in a dementia ward at Mont Park Military Rehabilitation Hospital came to an end when Mue got him moved to Seaford Nursing home so Mary and Ralph could be together. They died within three months of each other after celebrating their 60th Wedding Anniversary together.
When I went away to boarding school at Wesley College in the mid 1960s Muriel and Beryl would drive down from Frankston to meet me while I took day leave to visit Albert Park Lake. In 1966 I recall a memorable meeting at the then iconic ‘Rob’s Carousel Restaurant’ on the Lake next to the golf links. They were decked out in headscarves in Beryl’s low convertible sports car, perhaps a Datsun 1600 Roadster, an indelible image I now associate with the Thelma and Louise film. They took the then very revolutionary ‘drive up’ option, ordering their food from their convertible with a telephone similar to the typical speaker set up in the then very popular ‘drive-in theatres’.
Some Rob’s Restaurant patrons from the same era recall it as ‘the grooviest, funkiest thing in the 60’s when everyone else was being deadly serious … with swizzle sticks, fancy match books, saucy waitresses in leotards offset by patrons in grey cardigans and patent shoes.’ Rob’s (that opened in 1963) was the Hard Rock Café of the 1960s. It was reputedly revolting food in the revolving restaurant part, but we mainly drank thick shakes in the car. Muriel and Beryl, then in their 40s, were right up there amongst it all as I joined them as a self-conscious, clumsy, acned adolescent in my Wesley College school uniform.
Mue also kept contact with her nearby brother Ralph and his wife June (nee Kennedy), but particularly her nephew Chris (born 1957) and her nieces Elizabeth (known as ‘Libby’, born 1960) and Catherine (known as ‘Cathy’, born 1962), regularly visiting their family home in Bayview Road, Beaumaris. Similarly with Judy and Wayne’s children, Sean and Lachlan Hastings but it was less often that Mue came up to Donald. In part this was because Mue was often not on the same ‘wavelength’ as my father Jack and she was not afraid of vocally standing up for her sister, my mother, Joan. When Mum married and moved to Donald with Jack in the middle of a prolonged drought, Mue felt like it was like moving to the end of the flat, dry earth.
In the years I was at university, travelling interstate with Mulga Bill’s Bicycle Band and moving to Daylesford in the mid 1980s, my trips down to Frankston and regular contact with Muriel dropped right away. In the same era my younger brother Peter (born 1955) spent much more time with my grandparents and also with Mue and Beryl.
Peter developed a close lifelong friendship with them both. In the decades that followed between 1970 and 2000 Muriel and Beryl winged away as often as they could, often swinging home via the Golding family home in Columbus, Ohio and later in El Paso, Texas. Mue maintained regular contact over many decades also with Peter’s first three Golding children (with first wife Martina: Sarah, Simon and Hannah, particularly when they were based in the US) as and well as with Aaron, Joan and Walter (with Diane).
It was much later in Muriel’s life that I go to know Muriel more comprehensively as an adult. Mue and Beryl purchased adjacent apartments at Seaford before moving to their shared house in Karingal after her parents died. Muriel nominally lived downstairs and Beryl lived upstairs.
My understanding is that Muriel was increasingly pressured, including by my mother, not to be in a position where she was responsible for Beryl beyond her 80s. What eventuated was that after around 50 years together they agreed to part ways and sell up their jointly owned home in Karingal.
Beryl moved back to Bundaberg in Queensland to ‘return to roots’ and be nearer to her family, particularly her niece Heather Smith and her extended family. Muriel moved into a rental property off Wendouree Parade in Ballarat. Despite this late, painful (and I consider an unnecessary and tragic) separation, Muriel and Beryl either fondly corresponded by post or rang each other almost every day. The letters from Beryl were always lovingly addressed to Muriel as ‘Dearest Madame’.
Mue’s choice of Ballarat was a compromise. It was around half way (in travel time) between Melbourne and Donald. At that stage Mue was still mobile and driving her own car, though many scratches and scrapes began to miraculously and spontaneously appear. Ballarat had a very good range of services including comprehensive health care. Mue accurately surmised that moving straight to Donald would be imposing on my mother’s ‘home patch’, and Joan was adamant she did not want to take on the full responsibility of looking after Muriel.
During her late 80s Muriel would poor scorn on what was then called ‘Wendouree Village’ (now Stockland) Shopping Centre where she spent lots of time wandering and window shopping with the support of her walking frame, saying there were ‘too many old people’ there. Mue gave up smoking in her 80s soon after she moved to Ballarat, but she was increasingly limited by a painful hip and shortness of breath. Mue enjoyed telling the story about her Ballarat doctor who asked, “How much exercise do you do?” replying, “I walk to the car, park outside the shop, go in, go out and walk back to car.”
Jan and I live at Kingston only 25 minutes drive out or Ballarat, and when Muriel moved to ‘8/464 Wendouree Parade, Lake Wendouree’ I was still working at the local university the other side of Ballarat at Mount Helen. It was relatively simple to swing by on the way home as need be, usually once a week, or for Muriel to drive out and pay us a visit. Jan also dropped in regularly when shopping in Ballarat and did important essential tasks for Mue. We developed something of a routine where I would have a beer and chat and do anything that needed doing around her house on the way home from work. Sometimes Joan would drive down to stay with Muriel and we’d often have dinner at the Golden City Hotel.
Mue missed Beryl desperately. While she was still mobile I was able to organise several visits by Muriel to Bundaberg. It involved two flights to Bundaberg via Brisbane. I would pick her up and make sure she got safely to the airport gate. At the other end her niece, Heather, met her. The aged care home in Bundaberg cooperated by providing a fold up bed for Muriel.
Increasingly Mue had become limited in her mobility and by her late 80s her walking and driving range shrank. The crunch came when Muriel was approaching 90. Muriel had a fall in early 2010 that fractured her hip, forcing her to cancel her last visit to see Beryl. The doctor who operated on her hip advised that she would ‘not be able to live independently after her rehabilitation’.
The family checked out several aged care options before Mue decided, with some trepidation, to join her sister Joan already at the Goodwin Village in Donald. While the sisters were close in some ways they were both used to getting their own way and not always good at being social together in community settings. Muriel usually tended to bite her tongue, but Joan could be very and inappropriate and insensitive.
The move wasn’t easy or simple psychologically for either of them. Joan was showing several early signs of dementia and was becoming very ‘prickly’. Mum sometimes became jealous when her lifelong friends also became Muriel’s friends, but overall it worked out better than Mue going into an unknown home with strangers elsewhere. The disbursement of Mue’s furniture, car and other belongings in Ballarat was by contrast relatively simple. She sat on the seat of her walking frame and dispassionately pointed out with her stick where things should go: ‘bin, keep, recycle, donate to the Salvos’.
Muriel’s 90thBirthday was a celebratory purple patch in her later years. By that time on 16 July 2010 she was well settled into her own room in the Goodwin Homes, in a room well away from Joan, and it was time to party with friends. Muriel got dozens of cards wishing her well from extended family as well as lifelong and recent friends.
Joan’s card said, ‘Yes, 90’ and wished her a Happy Birthday and happy celebrations’. Beryl’s card from her niece, Heather and ‘Beebe’ was to ‘Our dearest and fondest Madame, on the very special occasion on this year’s special Birthday. One card for Muriel was signed by 18 of Joan’s Donald friends, many who were also in the Goodwin Homes.
Mue’s sister, my mother Joan, died the following year in April 2011. Joan had not been coping with the forced relocation to Minyip and was struggling with worsening symptoms of dementia. Mum became seriously ill around the time of the move back to Donald. She accurately vowed she was not returning again from the Donald Hospital to Minyip. Joan’s husband, my father Jack (John William Golding) had died unexpectedly in Ballarat nine years before (26 April 2002) from the poorly managed side effects of surgery after an operation for bowel cancer.
The evidence from Mue’s papers
Muriel had many lifelong friends whom she and her sister Joan socialised with on the beach at Frankston during and immediately after the Second World War (1939-45). There is a photo of Muriel and Joan Lane (later Golding) sitting on the boat ramp outside the family Bathing Box in Frankston with Joy Proctor (later Joy Osmond who later lived in Warracknabeal) and Marjorie Whykes. The unpowered former bathing box with its canvas changing room and cold shower was the first one on the left where the extension of Wells Street hit the coast, in 2019 close to the site of the ‘Waves on the Beach’ Restaurant.
There is another photo of my maternal grandfather, ‘Pa’ (Ralph) Lane beside the family ‘Dodge’ car with Thurza Barclay (who later lived at Mitiamo), whom Muriel still visited in Bendigo in her late 80s. ‘Thurza Jane Barclay’ was on the electoral roll in Frankston between 1949 and 1952.
One photo Muriel kept amongst the small number of personal mementos a photo of a ‘Major James, Kaitaichi, Japan’, in shorts, hat, rugby jumper and the then ubiquitous cigarette dated ‘October 1946’. The 34thAustralian Infantry Brigade was briefly stationed at Kaitaichi in Japan and was responsible for the Hiroshima Prefecture from early 1946. On 13 February 1946, Australian troops, the vanguard of a 37,000-strong British Commonwealth Occupation Force (BCOF), disembarked at the war-devastated Japanese port city of Kure. Finding who Major James was remains a mystery.
In a small notes diary amongst Muriel’s papers was a tiny newspaper cutting that read:
LANE, on July 27th, 1978, at Carrum Private Hospital, Lt Comd Ralph Lane MBE, Royal Australian Navy (retired), devoted husband of the late Mary Lane, devoted father of Muriel, Joan and Ralph, loved father in law of June and Jack, dear pa of Judi and Wayne, Barry Peter and Tina, Christopher and Libby.
Muriel and Beryl’s first ‘round the world trip’ flying BOAC in 1970 lasted 14 weeks. Their trips overseas, mainly to the UK and Europe were generally made in the cooler winter months between March and September. Sometimes they booked organised tours but most of it was done the ‘old way’ before the internet by letter and phone. They travelled incredibly lightly with tiny backpacks. In Europe they often travelled on a Eurail Pass, frequently saving on accommodation by overnight journeys.
In 1973 they went via Dubai flying QANTAS and included a visit to then West Berlin. 1983 they flew Singapore Airlines and included visits to Greece (which they loved and returned to several memorable times), Turkey and Sri Lanka. Their 1987 trip flying ‘Thai International’ included Canada. In 1995 their overseas trip included Ireland and Switzerland.
Undaunted at the age of 80 (and in Beryl’s case. 82), their six week overseas trip in 2000 included an ‘Exotic’ European Tour which took in East Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Austria and London, travelling via the ‘Chunnel ‘to France and coming back via the US including Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon and El Paso.
In between they travelled to many destinations within Australia mainly during winter up the Australian east coast, where they sometimes visited Beryl’s parents and other relatives in Bundaberg. Sometimes they holidayed with Mue’s parents who typically spent a few months each winter escaping the winter on the Queensland south coast at Tewantin.
With the passing of her one surviving parent in 1978 ,Muriel and Beryl were freed up to travel further and more often. In 1979 they spent seven months in Europe (including Greece again) and the UK. With her nephew Peter and family based permanently in the US their travels increasingly included extended visits to them at in the US, at Columbus, Ohio and later at El Paso in Texas.
Amongst Mue’s papers were the many postcards Jan and I had sent to her when travelling, many with the overseas stamps removed for sending on to Lachlan Hastings. Several survived that we sent during 2011 to ‘Dunmunkle Lodge’ in Minyip from Dubai, Helsinki, Tallinn, Ireland, Glasgow, Nottingham, Samoa, Nottingham, Thessalonica and Athens as well as from Kakadu. Mue would look out and give Jan and I postcards decades old that they had kept as a memento of their extensive travels. Mue loved travel.
Mue kept regular and close contact with Tony and Margaret Mattin, Lane relatives from Wooten, Beds in England whom they visited the UK and who also visited Mue whenever they were in Australia.
Other strands in the story
Beryl, often called ‘Beebe’ was Muriel’s lifelong close friend. ‘Beryl Alice May Braddock’ was around two years older than Muriel, born 6 February 1918. Her father was Joseph Braddock, in 1914 working with the Queensland Railways Department. Her mother’s maiden name was ‘Kate Helen Matilda Whittaker’. Beryl’s parents were married on 11 March 1914 at the Bundaberg Methodist Church. Beryl was a regular churchgoer and a supporter of church ‘fetes’ for much of her life.
Beryl’s maternal grandparents were ‘Mr and Mrs F. E. Whittaker’ of Dundowran near Hervey Bay. Joseph Braddock’s parents were also from Bundaberg. A photo of the Braddock’s double storey weatherboard family home, usually described as Queenslander’, was amongst Muriel’s files, located at 32 Maryborough Street, Bundaberg.
Us kids never met Jim Sherwood, and no one talked about him. This account is all from records publicly available on line, in an attempt to belatedly paint a picture of his life including post ‘Muriel’s wedding’.
Muriel and Mum when pressed, referred to her former husband as ‘Jim’. James Vern Alf Sherwood was roughly the same age as Muriel, born 6 October 1920. His father was Ted Sherwood and his mother was Margaret Peterson. Margaret was listed as his next of kin during his time in the army, then living at 2 Julian Flats, Bronte. Muriel and Jim were married the same year I was born, 1950.
Jim’s Australian War Service Records confirm he enlisted age 21 on 17 December 1941 and attained the rank of Sergeant in the AIF before he was discharged on 13 March 1947. Half of his military service (580 days) was to postings overseas including to Bougainville between 1945-7.
I was surprised to find how relatively recently Jim actually died, on 21 June 1992 then age 72. The Electoral Roll gives some idea of where he lived and what he did for a living. In 1958 he was a ‘railwayman’ in North Sydney. In 1962 his address was ‘C/ Mrs V. Newman, ‘Surfside’, 2 Dundas St, Coogee’. By 1963 he was a ‘farm worker’ in Biloela in Queensland. By 1977 Jim was a ‘storeman’ in Eastlakes New South Wales.
Jim’s death notice in June 1992 revealed that his final address was ‘Bundanoon’ in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales. The notice reveals he was, at the time of his death, the ‘brother of Veri, Margaret and Ted, loved uncle of Robert, Jim, Robyn James (deceased) and Anne’.