Bill and Susie Maddison

The home owned by Joey and Joanne Peel was built in the early 1930s by Charlie Kiernan and his son, Ray for Bill and Suzy Maddison. Bill had travelled the world with the Shell Oil Company and came to Australia as their General Manager, a position he held until his retirement. After some consideration, they purchased the land in Mallacoota before the Great Depression, also two blocks where the Service Station is now situated in Betka Road.

The whole front yard was bare and uninvit­ing and a “Beware of the Dog” sign warned of the existence of their fox terrier. No way would Mrs Maddison permit gardens to be established in the front as she maintained it was ‘God’s Ground’ but they established a magnificent garden in the back of the house. 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. But it was the daph­ne bush, the first one that I had ever seen that fascinated me, with it’s wonderful per­fume. Sprigs of it often adorned the evening dresses of the local women folk on dance nights.

Bill and Suzie were the typical English cou­ple and I can remember them clearly, she with her bobbed hair, fashionable in that era and wearing long cardigans with long tweed skirts and he with pin-striped trousers, a cap of course and he carried a cane. Bill was al­ways interested in Cricket and would extol the prowess of the English Teams.

In my stories about school days in Mal­lacoota, I mentioned how Mrs Maddison would invite we young school girls to her home to teach us to make items for the school’s stalls for the War Relief Fund. Amongst them were the sachets made from colourful damask and tapestry materials filled with lavender from her garden. Always as we knitted and stitched she would regale us with stories of the cities they had visited or lived, London, Paris, Hong Kong, Bombay and Cai­ro. She would whisk us away on a ‘magic carpet’ to that outside world, far from our little bush township. I remember her telling us of glamorous Balls they had attended, one 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 ‘smell that perfume.’

In contrast, she told us about their arrival at Fremantie, where on 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 was the most unin­teresting brown flowers she had ever seen. Then she smelt the Western Australia’s boro­nia perfume!

Sadly, Mrs Maddison’s health deteriorated and people became wary of her, had it been today it would have been recognised as Alz­heimers Disease, something we were not fa­miliar with back in that era. The last time I saw her she was standing at our front gate, a small posy of flowers in her hand. Robert, our first child was about six months old and she said, “Do you know it is Mother’s Day?” It was a day we didn’t observe, although I had read stories in the Women’s Weekly that some of our boys serving in the Middle East during WW II had found small, white flowers growing in the desert sands and wore them on that day. Thanking her I took the little bunch of white flowers from her. It was my First Mother’s Day!

Leone Pheeney

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