The home now owned by Joe and Joanne Peel in Betka Road was originally the home of Bill and Suzie Maddison. Bill had travelled the world with the Shell Oil Company, and came to Australia with his wife, Suzie, when he was appointed the Australasian Manager, a position he held until his retirement. After some consideration, they purchased land in Mallacoota before the Great Depression.
The whole front yard was bare and uninviting, and a “Beware of The Dog” sign warning of the existence of their fox terrier did nothing to dispel childhood fears! No way would Mrs. Maddison permit gardens to be established in the front, as she maintained it was “God’s Ground”. But they had a magnificent garden at the back of the home. Their citrus trees grew prolifically and produced wonderful crops, as did their vegetable garden. Yellow jasmine grew tall on the high fences, and in the spring, jonquils and daffodils carpeted the ground. It was the daphne bush, the first one I had ever seen, that fascinated me with it’s wonderful perfume. Sprigs of that daphne adorned the evening dresses of women on dance nights! Suzie and Bill were the typical English couple. I still can remember them clearly. She with her bobbed hair, fashionable in that era, and wearing long cardigans with long tweed skirts. Bill always wore pin-striped trousers, a cap , and of course, carried a cane.
During the war years, Mrs Maddison would invite we young school girls to her home. And in the kitchen, sitting around the white enamel table, she would teach us to make little woollen crinoline-skirted ladies for egg cosies. She would produce wonderful, colourful damask and tapestry materials which we would make into lavender sachets (the lavender from her garden), or pin cushions filled with sawdust. No polyester filling in those days! She sowed the seed of patriotism in all of us. When I manufactured a black velvet pincushion with a red, white and blue chainstitched “V” for victory embroidered on it, she showed her approval. Later, our efforts were sold at school stalls for the War Relief Fund. She also patiently tried to teach us to knit scarves for the servicemen.
Always, as we stitched and sewed, she would regale us with stories of the cities they had visited or lived in. Stories of London, Paris, Hong Kong, Bombay, Cairo. She would whisk us away ‘ona magic carpet’ to that outside world far from our little bush township. I remember her telling us of glamorous balls they had attended, on prior to their coming to Australia, where the ladies wore leis of white jasmine. So vivid was the picture she painted us, that one could literally ‘smell the perfume’. In contrast, she told us about their arrival in Fremantle, where upon disembarking from the ship, they were met by company representatives and their wives. One of the ladies stepped forward and presented her with a spray of , what she thought were the most uninteresting brown flowers she had ever seen, until she smelt the boronia’s perfume!! The Maddisons were part of my childhood memories of those 1930 years.
Sadly, Mrs Maddison’s health started to deteriorate and people became wary of her. Had it been today, it would have been recognised a the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease, something we were not familiar with back then. The last time I saw her she was standing at our gate, and in her hand was a small posy of flowers. Robert, our first child, was about 8 monts old and she said, ” Do you know it is Mother’s Day?” It was a day we did not observe. Although I had read stories the The Women’s Weekly that some of our boys serving in the Middle East during the war had found small, white flowers growing in the desert sand, and wore them on that day. I took the little
bunch of flowers from her… It was my first Mother’s Day.
By the way, the builders of the Maddison’s home were Charlie Kiernan and his son, Ray, originally from Phillip Island. The Kiernans had the first timber mill at Cann River. Ray’s sister, Eva, married Cec Wilson’s uncle, William Murray. A member from the pioneering family from Wangrabelle, and Cecil’s Grandfather, Henry Murray, had the mail service from Wroxam to Genoa. At the time of his retirement he was the longest serving mailman in Victoria. In the early days he had a saddle horse, coach and pairs. But with the the advent of motor vehicles, he switched to a car for the ‘run’.
In 1927, after leaving Mallacoota, Ray Kiernan moved to Sydney where he built army work boats. Later he returned to Phillip Island, where he built two 60 foot boats. There are still boats built by him in in Gippsland; a reminder of his skills.
With Ike Warren from Eden, he built a boat for the Maddisons which is currently owned by Roger Bruce. My late husband, Rod, had it for some years, but it became a worry to his mother whilst he was overseas during World War 2. Hugh Brady (Mione Wilson’s and my father), bought it and named it after our mother “Beatrice”. When he gained the contract for transporting supplies and personnel to the RAAF and Navy bases on Gabo Island, the little boat commenced ‘war time duties’.