Showing posts with label family in Australia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label family in Australia. Show all posts

Friday, October 19, 2012

Waterview folk: Howley and O'Shea

I've often thought that some of our greatest friends in Waterview (South Grafton, Australia), in the late 1940s, were the Howley family. I remember well the charming widowed mother, whose maiden name was Thelma Nasser [1886-1968]. I was told that she was Syrian, and indeed there were folk named Nasser from all over the eastern Mediterranean world. As for her late husband, Michael Howley [1883-1925], he was born in the Nambucca region, and probably of a run-of-the-mill English background. How did he meet up with a Mediterranean girl? Your guess is as good as mine. In any case, they were married in Redfern in 1907.

George Howley was born in 1908, Edward ("Teddy") in 1911 and Amy in 1913. The aviator Roger was probably born soon after, followed by Freddy in 1919 and Sammy in 1921.

We Skyvington kids knew the children of Amy and her estranged husband Joseph O'Shea, married in 1941.

Today, I'm amused to discover that Maureen O'Shea appears to be residing in the old Howley house at 279 Ryan Street (to the left of the house of Maude McMenemy, my piano teacher, whom we referred to as “Mrs Mack”). What's more, Maureen is an anti-CSG combatant, using knitting needles as her sole arm.

                                                                                    — The Daily Examiner

Who said we didn't breed revolutionaries in Waterview?

Just for the record, "a man called Freddy" (an expression I used in one of my family-celebrated childhood school texts about my encounter with a snake at Deep Creek) once showed me a huge jungle knife, and told me that he had used it to kill Japanese opponents. It's a fact that Frederick Howley [1919-1991]—an amusing friend whom I admired and adored—had been a member of the 2nd AIF [Australian Imperial Forces] in the Pacific. For me, Freddy Howley was a marvelous symbol of my Waterview childhood.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Uncle Peter

I've always looked upon my maternal aunt Nancy Walker (8 years older than me) as a kind of big sister. So, when she married a Sydney gentleman named Peter Smith in 1954, he too became, for me, a kind of brother-in-law, rather than an uncle. In any case, for well over half-a-century, Peter and Nancy welcomed me constantly into their family environment on countless occasions… even as a house guest at times, as if I could look upon their home as my home. Retrospectively, I believe that I tended to overplay my pseudo-sibling status at times… but Peter and Nancy never suggested overtly for a moment that they might have been a little fed up with my constant presence.

I thought of Peter as a link between two quite different worlds: the city (Sydney) and the bush (Waterview, South Grafton). Nancy and I were both country kids, who met up with the "big smoke" at the end of our adolescence. Peter, on the other hand, was characterized by the relative sophistication that came from being brought up in a prosperous North Shore context. His father owned a butchery business named Leroy. Peter, when I first met up with him, was actually an accomplished butcher… who once gave me a blue-and-white woolen butcher's apron. He had attended a prestigious Sydney Presbyterian school (Scots College). When I first met up with Nancy's future husband in Grafton, he drove around in a superb sports car.

In July 1982, in Bangkok, Emmanuelle, François and I encountered a new facet of the existence of Peter and Nancy. Peter had abandoned the butchery business and moved into marketing with a multinational pharmaceutical corporation, which had promptly sent him on a mission to Thailand. Back in Sydney in 1985, when my children and I disembarked in Australia, we were promptly welcomed by Peter and Nancy. Frontiers between our generations dissolved permanently when I found my uncle and my son, clad in plastic bags to keep themselves dry and warm, participating side-by-side in the City-to-Surf foot race on 17 August 1985.


Last week, after a startlingly rapid decline, Peter left us. And there are no longer any men of his generation in our family.