What the Butler did

A collection of writing by Brother Tony Butler

Chapter Eleven – Malcolm George Butler and Honor Delores Whittaker November 25, 2008

CHAPTER ELEVEN MALCOLM GEORGE BUTLER and HONOR DELORES WHITTAKER PAUL, ANTHONY, ADELE

And so we come to the objects of our quest, the subjects of our enterprise, the descendants of all those who have gone before, Malcolm George Butler and Honor Delores Whittaker and their children, Paul, Anthony and Adele.

Honor’s happy childhood amongst the pumpkin patch and smiling young men of the boarding house, the children she delighted to nurse, and the rocksalt and molasses parties, comes to an end in 1926.  It is marked with a gift of a book from her dearly-loved parish priest, Father O’Brien: Varieties of Irish History from Ancient and Modern Sources and Original Documents by James J. Gaskin, Dublin 1869.  It is inscribed “To Honor Whittaker with best wishes for the future.  James O’Brien, Condobolin.  30th January 1926”.  (It is also inscribed “Michael Casey 1872”.) Gladys, Honor and her brother Douglas moved into 28 Gosbell Street, Paddington.  Doug went to school at the Christian Brothers’ School at Darlinghurst, and Honor went to Business College.  It could only have been for a short time, for on 22 September 1926 she receives a letter from the firm that was to become a household name for future years: “Dear Miss Whittaker, We have decided to engage you and would like you to call along tomorrow the 23rd instant prepared to start work. Faithfully yours, Bray and Holliday Ltd.  I. Coburn, Chief Clerk”.  The letter was typed by Ann McNulty whose family were friends of our family in the Condobolin days and for many years in Sydney. Miss Coburn’s influence on her “girls” was very strong and long-lasting and helped shape Honor into the excellent telephonist and receptionist she was to become.  Not that life was all hard work and no play during those early years in Sydney: Honor was a vivacious, life-loving young miss.  There were picnics, parties and outings to the theatre, to Neilson Park, to Wallacia.  The “Mucky Kids” in the photograph taken at Wallacia, Easter 1928, are your bright young things of today.  The attractive Muriel Mann and Honor were great friends and smiling girls, and soon drew the boys.  Max Butler and Sam Sudlow were on the horizon.  Sam writes: “Muriel Mann was going to a dance at Kogarah and invited Honor, so I found out from Max Butler and attended the dance and started to keep company . . . Our company lasted twelve months and the question of religion in my home arose and I made the break”.  Honor was a visitor to Sam’s home at Belmore in 1927 and 1928, and Mrs. Sudlow liked her, but religion was in the way and that was that.  Sam and his wife, Edna, were to become firm friends of our family in later years, and when Honor died in 1983, Sam told me: “There is a part of my heart that is still in love with your mother”. Sam had been serious about marriage.  I was long under the impression that it was his mother who discouraged the match.  Sam told me that on one occasion when he was walking down Boundary Street from Oxford Street on his way to work at Bray and Holliday and he passed opposite the paint and spray garage where Jack Whittaker, Honor’s father, was working.  Jack called Sam across and spoke to him, saying in effect: “I’m not a Catholic, yet my marriage to Mrs. Whittaker has been a happy one. Religion has never come between us.  If you want to marry Honor, don’t let religion stand in your way.” But it was not to be.  Nevertheless, Sam remained devoted to Honor.  In fact he made for Honor’s twenty first birthday a glory-box, handcrafted, polished and quilted, with a glass lid.  Sam’s little secret was that he had placed in a hidden compartment his first week’s wages for the woman he loved.  We still treasure that glory-box. One delightful episode from their period of courtship occurred at the Kings Cross Cinema, a very respectable, not to say plush, place in those days, with its own orchestra.  (It stood somewhere near the present Darlinghurst Road entrance to the Kings Cross Underground Station.)  It was company policy with Bray and Holliday that office girls were not permitted to go out with the male staff and this was firmly policed by Miss Coburn.  Sam and Honor had gone to the cinema at Kings Cross for the evening, only to find behind them, at the interval, the redoubtable Miss Coburn.  The reader will be relieved to know that nothing was ever said; and that the two lovers eventually went their separate ways had nothing to do with her.  Sam’s devotion to Honor and her family is displayed in his oft-repeated statement: “I had three mothers – my own, Mrs. Whittaker and Edna’s”.  There could hardly be a lovelier tribute, except for him to say to me in 1985 “I am still using one of the two hairbrushes your mother gave me when I was twenty one”. Soon after the break with Sam Sudlow, Honor met George Hansen, an officer in the U.S. Navy.  The relationship went on for a couple of years.  There are some photographs of George, one of which shows an incomplete Harbour Bridge in the background, which, observing the progress on the Bridge, would put the picture at about March 1930.  Within the year, Honor and George are engaged: her parents of 28 Gosbell Street, Paddington, “announce the engagement of their daughter Honor Dolores [sic] to Mr. George A. Hanson of Berkley, California, U.S.A.” The Gosbell Street address is pre-1933.  But, according to Sam, George ran into the same problem with his parents over religion and broke the engagement.  Another version of the story is that Mac Butler, left by trusting George to take care of Honor, took more care than friendship would have considered necessary and eventually married the woman.  Honor’s recollection years later suggested more than a touch of untoward pressure on Mac’s part. Whatever the facts – and Honor’s story was an oft-told one, never intended for the public arena – Mac and Honor were married 26 September 1936 at Saint Canice’s Church, Elizabeth Bay, by Father J.F. Donovan.  Mac had become a Catholic in order to marry Honor, but he never practised the religion – the conversion had been a token gesture.  Roy Chater and Dorothy Jones were witnesses.  In later years Dorothy was to marry Doug Whittaker and  become our aunt; Roy was to marry Rene, and their daughter, Robyn, married Paul and  became our sister-in-law. There is a very revealing photograph of the Bray and Holliday staff taken outside the building, probably after Mac and Honor were married.  The way Mac is staring at Honor in the photo is obvious for all to see and so obvious as to demand comment from anyone looking at the photo.  Honor sits in a typical pose, mouth a little tight, as is one fist, and one arm holding the other.  It is an interesting study in relationships. [In October 2011 I received the following emails from Richard Selleck:  20 October 2011 – “I have just read on the web with great interest and profit the introduction to your family history. I started reading it because I am trying to write a family history of my own, then I got interested in it because I found it moving. I got even more interested when I noticed the appearance of the businessman, Patrick Bray, who is a great-uncle of mine, on my grandmother’s side. She was born Catherine Bray and your Patrick was her brother – half brother actually, as Catherine’s mother died when she was a quite young, her father(John Michael Bray) married again and Patrick was one of the product of that marriage. Pat Bray and his wife, Ida, moved from Melbourne to Sydney abut 1915, eventually started the business with Holliday and remained in Sydney until his death. I was interested in the comments you made about his business, and would be most interested to hear any comments that your mother made about him.” Mum often referred to a Father Selleck CSsR with great affections and respect, so I asked Richard whether he was related. In response to my question, Richard replied: “Father Richard Selleck was my uncle, and one of whom I was very fond. I was named after him.” In hindsight I believe Father Selleck was Mum’s spiritual director.  She held him in high regard and it may be that he helped her through the difficulties of the marriage, giving her the advice that strengthened her to stay with it.  We will never know, but it make a lot of sense that Mum listened to, valued adn acted on his advice. Father Selleck preached a retreat for us as Juniors at Bowral in 1954 if my memory serves correctly. 23 October 2011 Richard wrote again: “I have been re-reading the introduction to your family history this morning. It is still more moving on the second time through, partly because of the carefully understated way in which you tackle the difficulties of writing honestly about yourself and your family while also preserving family dignity. It is very hard to do both, especially, in my case at any rate, when I am sometimes writing about people, such as Patrick Bray, whom I met only a few times. Of course I heard a lot about from his sister, my grandmother, Catherine née Bray, who was the mother of the Redemptorist, Father Richard Selleck. If I may say so the honesty and gentleness with which you write which you write about your family is very moving. Even more so on a second reading than on the first.”] The lots of these two people are now thrown together for them to make a life for themselves and bring a family into the world.  Who were they? Mac, or Maxie, as some of his friends called him, was a man of great charm by all accounts.  He was working at Bray and Holliday where he learnt his trade as a French Polisher, and he was a good one.  He and his workmates made a four piece bedroom suite for Honor as a wedding present: hand-made, a beautiful walnut veneer which deepened with age so well was it polished by Mac, and the joinery masterly.  That bedroom suite – double bed, wardrobe, lowboy and dressing table – was part of this family for forty-five years and should have remained an entity and become and heirloom, such was its craftmanship and beauty. Mac was a man out of a cold family, his mother died when he was young and his father seems to have been a distant man.  He never seemed to have any of the softening touches that marked the women – our mother and our two grandmothers – in our lives, and we could not approach him.  Contact, in our relationships, was aggressive not gentle.  How he felt towards us we never knew; whether he yearned for our warmth, or hugs and goodnight kisses, we could not tell.  Whether he was a possessive man – the look on his face in the Bray and Holliday photo suggests that thought – or whether he was a cold man, or whether he was simply unable to show his affection, I do not know.  His friends found him charming, but in the family circle he was an outsider.  Did he start that way; did he grow that way; or did we make him so? Honor was beautiful.  I did not realise that when she was just my mother, but in time I came to realise it: photo after photo attests to it.  She was also a splendid dresser.  Her wedding dress is a calf length skirt and a coat which reached to just above the knees.  The skirt was pleated in front and the jacket had wide lapels and side pockets.  Her hat was close-fitting with bunched ribbon at the front and a mere wisp of a veil.  The ensemble was cream, and Honor knew how to make the most of it.  In fact the coat did service for some time afterwards: that was typical of her, for she had a lot of clothing remodelled for further use; and when she died, we came across a skirt and coat in a houndstooth pattern that she had had for at least thirty years.  She had innate good taste.  She posed well for her wedding photos as she did for every photo taken of her, and I never knew her to dress with less than good taste when she went anywhere – to work, to the theatre, a function, a wedding. She was a reserved, modest woman, which probably added to her attractiveness.  She used to say she had no “man appeal”, but she certainly had “it” in her younger days.  I never knew any man to be attracted to her after Mac died, and I could never understand why.  She simply never set out to use her beauty to attract.  It was as if twenty five years of marriage was enough of that sort of thing, thank you very much. Honor left Bray and Holliday, probably soon after her marriage.  Mac stayed on for many years, though I have a recollection that he worked at Clyde Engineering early in the War years – but I’m not sure.  I know I went there with him once, whether it was while we lived at Stanmore or after he returned from Japan, I do not remember. Honor and Mac settled down to married life first of all in Boundary Street, Paddington, above the fish shop, second from the Liverpool Street corner, in the set of shops opposite Number 43 where her parents were now living.  Their first son, Paul Edward, was born 14 July 1937.  There was a move to Bondi – where, I do not know – and at some time a move to 91 Cavendish Street, Stanmore; they were still in Paddington, however, when I, their second son Anthony Malcolm was born, 18 July 1940. This made a whole set of “July birds”, as Honor called them: John James Whittaker and Paul on the 14th, Honor on the 16th and Tony on the 18th. There were happy times.  What a beautiful photo it is of Mac, Honor and Muriel Mann – a close friend of Honor’s who died, if I remember rightly, of consumption – outside Repin’s: Honor in black and cream (that wedding coat again) and matching simple hat, Mac in a dark suit and light hat looking very swish, and a broadly smiling Muriel with a fur flung over her shoulder.  And another happy photo of Mac and a smiling Honor in close contact on the Genoa velvet lounge in Stanmore. Honor’s brother Doug married Dorothy Jones, 28 June 1940, and Doug was whisked away to war in the Merchant Navy.  Dorothy settled in Merchant Street, Stanmore, just around the corner from us in Cavendish Street; and in those troubled days of the early ‘Forties we had many people to care for us.  Dorothy and Doug have remained close to our family ever since, in many and varied circumstances. Dorothy May Haynes was born 10 June 1912 in St Kilda, Melbourne.  Her father was David Haynes and her mother Mary Anne Jones.  Her maternal grandparents had a farm, “Ganmain” near Wagga Wagga.  Mrs Jones (senior), known as “the Mater”, had thirteen children including Annie, Dorothy’s mother; Tom, who married Truda (a Middle European woman who once understudied to Pavlova); and Dick, who married Nell.  The Mater would never countenance Annie’s marriage to David Haynes whom Dorothy described as “a complete rotter who had many women”.  Nonetheless Dorothy was bitter about the treatment of her mother, and used to recall a story of two women approaching Annie on a tram and telling her they were the daughters of one of her sisters, who had recently died. Dorothy had a brother, David, who had nothing to do with Dorothy for many years before he died in 1996.  I remember Mrs Jones: she lived in Dillon Street Paddington for many years, under the name Jones, not Haynes. Dorothy and Douglas had no children.  He died. having gone quickly and quietly, 14 April 1986.  She died in the Nursing Home at McQuoin Park, Waitara, 5 July 1995.  I had arranged for her to move from the Legacy Hostel at Norah Heads where she betook herself after Doug died, and where she spent six or seven happy years.  I was her only regular visitor over those last years, though there was the occasional visit by other kind folk. It was at Stanmore that I first came to consciousness of life around me.  My earliest recollections are of a visit to Condobolin perhaps in 1944: I remember rushing home – wherever that might have been – to beat the approaching dust storm.  There is a photo of a dressed up little boy in his Grandmother Butler’s hat and apron.  The same little lad walked the streets of Stanmore in his singlet and was led home by a cattle dog which promptly adopted us – our much loved Bluey, my dog (so they say – I have no recollection of it at all.)  And the splinter from the front fence straight up my buttocks: promise not to cry when I get it out and you can have an ice block.”  I still remember my chagrin because Adele got an ice block, too, without the agonies of the splinter. Adele was born 15 November 1942 at Braeside Private Hotel (Cambridge Street Stanmore), as we children impishly called the private hospital for years.  A year or two later something had gone wrong: Adele was being taken care of by Dorothy; Paul and I went to St. Joseph’s Orphanage at Croydon.  St. Joseph’s was a cruel place for us as little children, not through any fault of the Sisters, who did their best in the War years.  I remember the pea soup that first night, the lonely dormitory, brothers separated, scary tricks, mixed-up tooth brushes and being made to spend the rest of the night in soiled pyjamas, bread and jam for the afternoon tea – I can still taste the jam.  The child’s memory is sensitive.  I was never so pleased to see my father as when Sister came down the yard that afternoon to tell Paul and me there was a visitor for us in the parlour – well, there was one other time. Paul and I had been admitted to the orphange by Sister Mary Winifred 6 May 1944,  taken there by Mum.  Her occupation was given as Home Duties; she paid 10/- per week for each of us and was to provide our clothing.  Dad’s occupation was given as AIF (Australian Infantry Forces) and his address as Overseas.  Dad, of course, was not to go overseas until he went to Japan with the British Commonwealth Occupation Forces in October 1946.  He certainly collected Paul and me from the Home, 22 July 1944 (four days after my fourth birthday), according to the records – and my memory.  I believe Dad was living with his step-mother in Womerah Avenue, but he must have moved back to Stanmore around that time, because my memories are starting to become clearer then, and he was there.  I had always been led to believe that Mum was in hospital during these six weeks, and that may be so; but then it may also have been a period of some kind of breakdown for her. So life resumed at Stanmore.  I remember playing the priest saying Mass: a candle in a biscuit barrel, green vestments and my sister serving.  Dad blew the candle out and closed the service, not  so much for fear of fire – temporal or eternal, I’m afraid.  I remember my fifth birthday: the three-piece jig-saw puzzle, walking down Merchant Street past the house with flowers for sale, and watching the boys play football beyond the wire fence – that was Newington.  Adele recollects her broken leg and the quaint picture she made in the pram; and rushing home from Dorothy’s house in Merchant Street (Stanmore, where Dorothy lived, around the corner from us in Cavendish Street) in such a hurry that she had her two legs in one leg of her pants. Amongst Dorothy’s effects left when she died I found some charming photos taken between about 1939 and 1945.  Several of them feature happy picnics in the Blue Mountains and include Mum, Dad and Paul with Dorothy and Doug, and two beaming pictures of me at Merchant Street. In 1946 I went to school at St. Michael’s across the other side of the railway line, and Paul was sent off to Saint John the Baptist’s boarding school at Hunters Hill.  Mac was not on the scene, and three children were a lot for Honor to manage, so Paul went to boarding school and Honor had to work.  I think she must have started those cleaning jobs she had for some years, for she was not at Bray and Holliday. My next recollections are of being at Kensington in a small goods store in Anzac Parade almost opposite the old Doncaster Theatre.  I went to school at Our Lady of the Rosary just up the street, and was in the Preparatory Class in 1946; I know that because I have a certificate for “First Place in Religion” for that year.  I was the only man in that household which consisted of Honor, Adele, Dorothy and a friend Meryl.  Meryl was a mystery: she was known as Miss White, but was really Miss Gilmore, and was eventually to marry Dorothy’s brother David.  She was part of the family scene for another twenty years, but that is a different story. We could have been at Kensington only about twelve months, probably late 1945 to late 1946.  I remember one of my Christmas gifts, a large sweet in the shape of a fish, pale green.  And there was a tremendous hail storm during the year, too, severe enough to make the headlines.  There were problems at Kensington, and Honor decided to move out because the atmosphere was hostile.  I remember it as Dot and Meryl against Mum (my memory of one violent encounter is crystal clear fifty years later – Meryl holding my mother up against a wall with a carving knife while Dorothy looked on.  Adele and I were standing there as well) though Dorothy remembers the whole business differently.  Mum gathered up Adele and me one night, we walked along Anzac Parade to Alison Road, caught the tram to Taylor Square and walked down to 41 Boundary Street where Gladys was living.  Adele and I remember the night with some clarity: the ringing of the doorbell, the matresses hastily arrranged on the floor.  It must have been late in 1946 or early 1947, and we stayed there until 1956. Where was Dad at this time?  It seems that he was back at Womerah Avenue with his step-mother, though he did harass Mum at the back fence at Kensington.  Dorothy Whittaker said in later years that we “did not give him a hearing.”  She also expressed disapproval of Honor’s move to Darlinghurst, saying Gladys should not have “interfered” in affairs between Honor and Mac, as she had done when they lived over the fish shop in Boundary Street some years before.  She was blunt enough to say (August 1993) that “Gladys should have refused to allow Honor to stay and sent her back to Kensington to face things and sort them out.” Mac joined the Australian Army 14 March 1946 for a period of two years.  He spent most of that time as a Private, but was promoted to Lieutenant Corporal for about six weeks.  He served with the 21 Works Company (Engineer Unit), 67 Battalion, and Headquaters 34 Brigade.  He embarked per “Kanimbla”, 31 October 1946, for Kure, Japan, and was to stay there till he re-embarked per the same “Kanimbla” 9 May 1948 for Sydney.  He spent two periods of about a week in hospital suffering from eye strain and later with pharyngitis.  I have no idea of the nature of his work in Japan, but the surviving photos show a great deal of fun and familiarity with the local people.  All in all it seems to have been a not unpleasant tour of duty.  He was discharged from the Army 13 April 1948, by which time Mum, Adele and I were settled in 41 Boundary Street, Darlinghurst. Adele and I began school at St. Canice’s, Elizabeth Bay, in 1947 with the Sisters of Charity.  I remember being moved from First to Second Class in that year, being taught by Sister Eleanor and Sister Francis Xavier; and in Third Class I met the first of my great mentors, Sister Ursula.  Adele was taught in Kindergarten by the aged Miss Keneally and got herself into trouble for calling the playground the back yard!  She redeemed herself in time sufficiently to play Mary in the annual Christmas pageant, but it was more because of her long fair hair than from any recognisable incipient virtue.  Paul was still in exile at St John the Baptist, Hunters Hill, and we would catch the tram to Salter Street or the ferry to the Figtree Wharf to visit him every month or so.  Then there was the long haul up the hill and an occasional visit to Saint Joseph’s College across the road and an adventure into the dark recesses of the grotto of Our Lady, (it was a replica of the grotto at Lourdes, and is now demolished) or up the high tower (not so accessible to the casual visitor now).  And I remember Sister Clothilde dandling me on her knee and letting me fall through the folds of her habit. Things settled down as we made our home at 41 Boundary Street: Pop Whit remained in the front room, occasionally setting it on fire with his pipe which had an impressive will of its own; and Nan Whit moved into 43 which she let upstairs to the Moffats upstairs – a dour, unsmiling couple – and a room dopwnstairs to two delightful Maltese migrant lads.  Upstairs at 41 was let to the Hamilton family, so our privacy was not even relative. Honor was now working at the Goldhills’ and for Mrs. Fiaschi.  Mr. Goldhill was a wealthy Jewish bookmaker who lived in Wolseley Road, Point Piper, with his wife and her father, Mr. Norman.  They were a lovely couple and were very kind to Mum who cleaned and washed and ironed several days a week: we children were always made welcome and invited to have a bottle of Coca-Cola, which they purchased in crates, whenever we went to visit Mum out there – we were not encouraged to do so, for Honor always had a strong sense of the propriety of things.  It was the same at Mrs. Fiaschi’s wine bar in Little Hunter Street where Australia Square now stands.  Honor used to paste labels on bottles in what would      be described as Dickensian conditions, but in those days it was atmosphere and no one complained, least of all Honor.  She had a little table under a high, dusty, barred window, and would mix her own paste ready for the bottles which had been filled and corked and trundled along by Mr. Hunt: bottles of sherry, port, muscat, frontignac and aleatico, magical names.  And how we enjoyed playing there, being made much of by Mrs Kay and Mr Hunt who would let the little rubber tube ‘accidentally’ drip wine into our hands between bottles, and even being allowed to touch Mrs. Fiaschi’s typewriter: “It’s alright Mrs. Butler they’re not doing any harm”.  Her husband had been a well-known doctor at Sydney Hospital, and Il Porcellino that stands outside the hospital was erected in his memory by his daughters. Doctor Fiaschi had eloped with a Sister of Charity from St Vincent’s Hospital where he worked.  The Mrs. Fiaschi we knew was his second wife, Amy Curtis.  She was a real lady who lived in the Astor flats in Macquarie Street; she always made us children feel special, and that has never ceased to amaze me.  And she loved and respected my mother, as did the Goldhills. The story of Doctor Fiaschi, his benevolence, his marriage and his vineyards out near Richmond and now operating at Mudgee under a different name (Stein’s, I think) is fully told elsewhere. There was regular church, for we grew up in a very Catholic atmosphere which I took for granted and never found oppressive.  I made my first Communion at Saint Canice’s, Elizabeth Bay,in October 1947.  St Canice’s is a beautiful little Gothic church modelled on the cathedral of the same name in Ireland.  I found it dark and not very appealing as a child, but I have grown to love its quiet and its dusky light and peace. I started piano lessons, too, with Miss Carmelita Hayes, a black haired beauty who still enhances the Gladesville social scene to this day (1986), though no longer black haired.  I met her and her son at a function at St Joseph’s College in 1985, though she had no memory of me.  She was the first of a long line of music teachers who included, among others, Carmel Lutton of the Newcastle Conservatorium and for a short spell Sylviane Huguenin of the Fribourg Conservatorium in Switzerland, and a very humble lady, Sister Cecily Coaldrake in Newcastle. Home was a place where we were educated in spelling and good values.  Honor was an excellent speller and insisted that we spell properly – she taught us fascinating words and could tell us how many letters in a word as quick as a wink; she taught us quaint ways of remembering “Parramatta”, Mississippi” and “Woolloomooloo”.  But more than anything else she taught us the value, reinforced by Gladys’s words, of devotion to little things and loyalty to a job.  Amongst her papers are bits and pieces of verse and good advice from the radio or the Readers Digest or magazines which she continued to collect all her life.  In a prominent spot in our kitchen, a framed verse stood: Keep forgin’ ahead though the going is tough; Keep tryin’ – you’re sure to win – Keep swingin’ along when the trail is rough And fate seems a crook web to spin. Keep smilin’ when others are wearing a frown, Keep up your spirits, be gay, Keep in the swim, only feeble ones drown: There’s blue up above the gray. Life may be a gamble, but play the game fair; Keep up your chin, and you’re sure to get there. E. Gailer It’s not Shakespeare and it’s not religious, but those values lived out in a very positive way in Honor’s life became our values, and good ones they are too.  She used to quote often: “A still tongue is a wise head”, and I think in living out that precept she kept many things hidden which would have been easier if shared.  She chose to keep them close and thus she suffered.  Nevertheless she was a happy woman who sang a lot: she had a song for nearly everything we said. We were happy in those days of post-war ration books: we ate well and were neatly clothed, even if some of the clothes were patched or hand-me-down.  We always had shoes.  We had good, simple food, and were not permitted a lot of soft drink or cooked food from shops – hamburgers and chips were not allowed.  I, who had a delicate stomach, suffered the pains, and the joys, of scallops clandestinely bought and hastily eaten. Adele once, on an outing in an open car from Kensington with some of Dorothy’s male friends, let the side down unwittingly when she failed to gobble her hamburger quickly enough: she also avoided the indigestion.  But all is long since forgiven! In April 1948 Mac returned from Japan with a sword and some beautiful dolls, lots of stories and a dozen Japanese words.  I will never forget the day.  Adele and I were at Saint Canice’s school, mother arrived early to take us home – and I knew.  We went to Nan Butler’s place in Womerah Avenue and he was there.  I was so overcome with the joy of seeing him that I had to clasp the newel post at the bottom of the stairs to control myself.  It was never like that again. There was a picnic at National Park – the only time I can remember all of us being together.  On one occasion he took Adele and me fishing in Rose Bay; I remember he had to leave his watch (an old Jewelux, not worth much, but I still have it and it still keeps excellent time). I caught a leather jacket, and Adele was afraid he was going to drown us: not a successful day.  So off he went to work, back to Bray and Holliday and called out that first morning “sayonara”; we all dutifully chorused “onara”.  But after that there was a slow decline in family life as he had all his teeth extracted and would never wear false teeth; and the drinking grew steadily worse, we began to dread the hearty whistle through the letter box in the front door, the tantrums and abuse and the taunting. At the end of 1948 Paul was ransomed home, and the next year he and I went to the Marist Brothers’ High School on Darlinghurst Hill.  It was touch and go: I nearly went to the Christian Brothers at Rose Bay, but I did not like the atmosphere on a preliminary visit. Darlinghurst was a wonderful school and the Brothers in their black habits were giants of men and were good to the core: Brother Edmundus (long since a priest and still a dear friend [he died a few years after this was written]), Brother Michael Naughtin, (these two had walked down to St Canice’s and, dressed in their habits, encouraged us Third Class boys to attend the school on the hill), Brother Honorius who produced “Trial by Jury” and the “Pirates of Penzance”, the saintly Brother Cyrillus (now Brother Brian) who ‘mistook’ Honor and Gladys for sisters, and the delighful eccentric Brother Wilbred (John Norman) for whom I had a lot of affection.  There were others, all of whom left their impression.  They were good men. Adele and I grew closer, playing in the back lane (Lindsay Lane) with Kenny Gold and the Restuccia boys, racing down the hill in a billy cart which might or might not take the corner at the bottom, playing hidings in Woods’s huge backyard like some moated grange, twice five miles of fertile ground.  We would ring doorbells and run away down to Rushcutters Bay, do a spot of fishing and dare each other to enter the storm water channel where Bea Miles was supposed to camp: we never saw her in there.  There were explorations of the factory dumps in McLachlan Avenue looking for biros and rubber plugs and Christmas decorations and crayons: it was at the crayon factory that I first learnt I was a philanderer, whatever that was.  We would also go to Redleaf Pool, but that wasfull of “reffos” so we preferred Bondi.  Out we would go on the tram, the sight of the water as we crested the hill was coolness itself.  We always swam in the Baths: I swam better than she did, but she was a better diver.  I didn’t want her hanging around but we were close; and though we fought, I also entertained her with dramas performed under the piano stool set up with curtains.  The actors were the Japanese dolls and the primitive scripts depended on dreadful puns concerning “flied lice”.  Paul in the meantime was off with the boys, Dominic Alfano, the Italian boy from the house behind us, and Bobby Morris, who was not quite good company for a boy of Honor’s. Paul also moved into 43, to a room of his own, partly because of space problems but primarily to give him a break from Mac who was very cruel to him.  We had a small room built off the kitchen which became mine, and a throughfare.  Adele slept in our parents’ bedroom. One Sunday afternoon while Honor and Mac went off for a rest, we were playing in the backyard.  I harnessed some ropes to two big old garage doors leaning against the back shed, and drove these horses wildly till they came crashing down on my legs: two of our neighbours hung over the back gate (which had replaced the wild horses) rather amused, mother and father were rather disturbed and I ended up rather sore in bandages for six weeks. Meantime life went on with anger and hurts because of Dad’s drink.  We went to school, we went to church, we attended the Saturday night novena when Dad was not too contrary to let us go. I don’t know whether he disapproved of religion, though he had become a nominal Catholic to marry Honor, but he certainly did not take to it.  We must have appeared very odd to him, and I’m sure he never understood my decision to become a Marist Brother.  I just don’t think religion had any meaning for him, even though his step mother was not only very religious, but also a very good woman.  Cardinal Freeman was right: Dad had no religion. Honor returned to Bray and Holliday in about 1950 and remained there till 1959.  She and Gladys took a holiday in Tasmania for two weeks in about 1950 or 1951 and they lived on the memory of that for many years.  Gladys was not the one to take many holidays – the occasional few days with her sister Stella in Katoomba, a trip to Perth on the Indian-Pacific probably about 1966, and a farewell visit to Condobolin on 1972. Anger at home turned to battle, I being very defensive of my mother who suffered greatly.  She often used to scare me by saying: “You children will be the death of me.  My brain will snap”.  One day beforewe left for school she collapsed in the hallway and I had visions of the brain finally gone.  During lulls in the storm Mac would take one or other of us (generally me, as I recall) to the Great Wall Chinese Cafe on the corner of Victoria and Sussex Streets: it seemed like spite at the time, because our food at home was very good, but he was also looking for our support and affection. Our music lessons went on: Adele and I learnt the piano, she from Sister Roseanne (still alive and well at Auburn in 1998) at St Canice’s and I from Sisters Anastasius and Christopher at Sacred Heart.  Paul learnt the banjo-mandolin from Mannie Piers who was rather well known then.  Adele was to take up athletics later, and ballroom dancing.  Honor was very conscious of the need for a good education for her children and she worked hard to supplement Dad’s income, which was slowly being drunk away.   She also continued to instil in us the very strict  values by which both she and her mother lived.  Once I took one of my little journeys by public transport – I loved getting on the tram for a ride to Erskine Street or Watson’s Bay or La Perouse, on the bus to Palm Beach, the train to Hornsby or the ferry to Manly – and on this occasion having got to Manly, I went to Narrabeen by tram.  I ran out of money, having bought some Lifesavers I couldn’t afford, so I approached a gentlemen in the street for the sixpence I needed for the trip home.  He gave me a shilling.  My mother felt constrained to send him some postage stamps to repay him – she had taken the trouble to look up his address.  He was kind enough to reply: 26th August 1952 Dear Madam, I acknowledged the receipt of your letter of the 25th inst., and I can assure you that I never at any time suspected that Tony was up to any ruse to obtain money.  As an instance, after a short conversation with him when he asked me what the fares were from Narrabeen to Manly, I guessed what his trouble might be, and offered him 2/- which he stoutly refused to accept.  I can assure you that I had to persuade him very forcibly to accept even l/-. I take this opportunity to congratulate you on the excellent bearing of the boy and his display of good manners and right training. I might add that the old school tie which he was wearing first attracted my attention to him. Yours faithfully, J.0. Williams One wonders today what a boy would be doing wearing his school tie on a day off, though casual clothing was not common for children in those days: your best clothes were your school clothes. I met Mr. Williams many years later at a Darlinghurst ex-students reunion. Mum’s values were quite powerful and counter to the common.  On another occasion years later, just before I was about to enter the noviciate of the Marist Brothers, Honor, Adele and I went with a group of Darlinghurst parents and friends to a New Year’s Eve Dance at the Presbyterian Church at Peter’s Corner at Randwick.  As midnight approached, the minister invited us to attend a little ceremony in the church to mark the occasion.  In those days it was forbidden for Catholics to worship in the churches of other denominations, but to my mother’s credit she insisted that we join in what was a very suitable acknowledgement of past blessings and future hopes.  It was a lesson I never forgot and an action that was intuitive on her part, not planned. During my years at Darlinghurst I began visiting Sister Ursula who had taught me at Saint Canice’s.  It was a very strong friendship and in retrospect an unusual one: I was ten and she was three score and ten and probably more, but it was a very natural and affectionate relationship.  She was born Mary Ethel Leary in Melbourne, 28 September 1878, and was professed as a Sister of Charity 26 September 1903 aged twenty-five.  She taught in various schools in Melbourne and Sydney and died 25 September 1959, three days short of her eighty-first birthday and one day short of her fifty-sixth year of religious profession. I would walk to Saint Vincent’s at Potts Point after Mass every few weeks to talk to her and walk around the grounds; there would always be a cup of tea or a glass of soft drink and some biscuits which I had to consume under the affectionate eyes of a half a dozen old nuns called Mother Saint Peter and Sister Scholastica, because they were not permitted to eat in front of lay folk.  Even when I visited her in St Vincent’s Hospital over the years, I had to eat my ice-cream in the corridor while she ate hers in bed.  I was bitterly disappointed when she died in 1959 not be permitted to go to her funeral because my Superior at the time told me “Brothers don’t go to nuns’ funerals”.  I had been faithful to her for many years at Pott’s Point, at St. Vincent’s Hospital and at the Sisters’ house at Lewisham. Her letters were couched in the beautiful piety of the time and reinforced the lessons of our home.  Her first letter to me was a model of the expression of the  pre-Vatican II church and nonetheless dear now: The Sisters of Charity St. Vincent’s Convent Potts Point June 13th, 1950 Dear Anthony, Today is the feast of your great patron and yours! I wish you a happy one.          There is no sunshine and rain is falling heavily, but I hope there is sunshine in your heart – the result of having it filled with God’s grace and being free from sin.  Where God’s grace reigns there is always happiness. It is a long way down to Potts Point but I cannot forget your kindness to me while in the hospital.  Your visits were bright spots while I was there, and for them I am very grateful to you.  In holiday time you may be able to get a chance of calling in at the Convent.  Some Sunday afternoon your mother might bring you down if she is not too tired.  I would like to see Del too. I am enclosing a card with a prayer to St. Anthony on the back.  Try, from reading it constantly, to learn it by heart.  Then all through your life call on the help of your patron by saying it when in any difficulty.  He will never fail to come to your assistance.  It is a nice little prayer and very efficacious. I do hope you are working well at school, Anthony, and practising your music well.  What you will be in the future depends much on how you devote yourself to your studies now.  You ought to be filling your mind now with thoughts of what you would like to do for God when you grow up.  No matter what sphere of life you work in, your work may be done for God whether as a lawyer, a doctor, an engineer or a priest, even a labourer of any kind.  To enter heaven we must become a saint.  Only that St. Anthony became one, he would have been forgotten hundreds of years ago and would have received none of the honour that has been his. Don’t say this letter is a real sermon, Anthony!  I do want you to be good – to try to be a leader in what is good.  You have it in you to do this and will always have the help of my poor prayers. Again, a happy feast day!  May joy, happiness and goodness be yours always. Sometimes say a prayer for Your old Friend in J.C. S.M. Ursula Remember me to the boys! In 1953 change was on the way again.  Paul left school and went to be apprenticed as a boiler-maker at Nichol Brothers, Balmain.  He was sixteen. And I decided to join the Marist Brothers’ Order: I was twelve and a half and about to enter the second year of high school. My decision to join the Brothers was probably a hard blow to Mum who apart from saying No orginally never stood in my way.  It was only many years later that she told me how she wept inside for a long time after.  I made my decision in July 1952, quite definitely at school one day, and that afternoon I met her bringing Adele home from her music lesson.  I told her immediately that I was going to join the Brothers at the end of the year, she replied “No you’re not”, I answered “Yes I am”, and that was that.  I knew better than to argue with my mother.  She presumed it was a passing fancy, but at the beginning of January 1953 we went to see Brother Andrew Power, the provincial of the order at that time, at Saint Joseph’s College, Hunters Hill, to make final arrangements.  His letter of 20th December 1952 had us as little monks already.  We were encouraged to say our morning and evening prayers better, to attend a few extra week-day Masses, to say an extra rosary every day, to be more helpful and docile at home, to make a careful choice of our amusements during the holidays – and me every bit of twelve years of age. Off I went on the 4 p.m. train from Central Railway, Wednesday 28 January 1953, in the company of twenty or thirty other potential Marist Brothers to continue our secondary schooling.  It meant giving up many things, but in time the things that mattered most were not knowing my family as we all got older and not being permitted to continue my piano lessons. In 1954 Adele went on to St. Vincent’s College, Potts Point, walking up to the Allans’ in Kings Cross Road and on to school with Juliana, sister of my school friend Peter, Gerard and the beautiful Leonie whom I’d have married once I’d gotten over Caroline Shorter in Third Class.  Adele continued to go to Katoomba for her holidays, loving Merriwa House as much as I did, sleeping in Room Six above the kitchen stove, walking around those splendid tracks to Echo Point and into the valleys.  Holidays were a regular feature of her life: it was off to North Haven when Stella Sivyer moved there from Katoomba, and travelling by car with Mum in the years after she left school.  She continued her music for several grades, and became a good athlete: Sister Ursula writes, 27 September 1954, “the Sports Day of the united schools of the Sisters of Charity takes place at the Sydney Sports Ground 10th October.  Del should do well.  She is a live wire and keenly interested in sport”.  To this day she still plays tennis and badminton, and has won prizes for pistol shooting.  She loves watching tennis on the television, as does Paul: this brother, on the other hand, has no interest in sport in any form. I spent two years at Bowral with some eighty other students, under the severe eye of Brother William Molloy, given the job as a reward for many years of devoted service in the education of youth: he was a good man but too old to have any real flair for the task.  It was Brother Cyrillus, our old friend from Darlinghurst days, who kept the place livable by his own patient hard work and personal goodness.  God alone knows how he coped. After two years at Bowral, having completed my Intermediate Certificate, I moved on to Fourth Year and Leaving Certificate at Mittagong.  The two years at Mittagong were difficult years for me because of my lack of interest in sport, and people who spoke my kind of language were not easily understood.  For fifteen months we lived in fear of doing wrong, and little genuine growth took place.  It was Brother Owen Kavanagh who made sense of life for me, displaying a sensitivity without words, which I only appreciated years later.  There were, of course, regular visits from my long-suffering family and regular letters from Sister Ursula: happy birthday wishes in July, “Your last letter surprised me so wonderful was the writing (for you)” – I had been a shocking writer and she had nicknamed me “Smudgy Butler” in Third Class.  She says “I saw Dell this morning.  She has grown very much but is very thin.  Believe she looked very nice at the ball last week and danced very well.  Someone told me she was most graceful.  Hope your studies are going well.  The results you sent along were very good.” And after the Leaving Certificate exam she writes, 30 November 1956, “Am pleased you found the papers so easy . . . you seem quite joyous over your entrance to the Noviciate.  There you can have a very happy time if you enter into the true spirit of things, and this I am sure you will do”. I did, indeed, in spite of the warnings of Father Tierney, administrator of Saint Canice’s ringing in my ears: “Don’t take it too seriously”.  I did not understand the common sense behind his message.  If I had, the noviciate might have been even better.  As it was, it meant an encounter with one of the most wonderful men in my life, Brother Ethelred Ferguson: he was erudite, urbane, charming, witty, a genuinely cultivated man, holy and practical in an era when so many of these good men could not allow their humanity to shine forth.  I came to say of him, as Ben Jonson said of Shakespeare: “I worship that man this side idolatry.” So Mittagong became, and remains, the womb: it has provided on several occasions a life-restoring retreat for me. Towards the end of 1956 the family moved to 22 Coolena Road, Elanora Heights: Gladys and Jack, Honor, Paul and Adele.  Mac would not go.  He chose to live in a room at Rushcutters Bay with the Fraser family whose children were old school friends of ours.  We found it a little embarrassing.  Things began to fall apart for Mac at this time: the drinking increased, he was to lose his job at Bray and Holliday through various indiscretions.  Adele recalls some years before when she and Ken Gold went fishing down at Rushcutters Bay that they discovered Mac doing his own spot of fishing:  they were promptly told to take themselves off.  He had been sprung, as they say.  He eventually found himself a job with O’Brien Glass, and ended his days with them. Life at Elanora may have had its advantages but it made for long hours.  Gladys walked every morning of the week down to Narrabeen to catch the 6am bus to town; Paul drove Honor and Adele in later.  Adele would go to the A.N.Z. Bank to help Gladys with the cleaning until it was time to go to school; Honor was at Bray and Holliday till early 1959; Paul was at his work and going to technical college in the evening.  That meant either a bus ride home for Honor and Adele or a long wait in the car till classes finished for Paul.  Still, the hours were sometimes lightened with waffles and fresh cream from a shop near Central Railway (I can still picture that shop from many years before) and purchases of squill candy.  Squill candy had been a favourite of Nan Butler and could be purchased at the Cross or Taylor Square, but nobody has heard of it today, nor of the barmbrack we used to buy at the breadshop at the top of William Street.  Alas, the pleasures of our childhood. Honor returned from Bray and Holliday in February 1959, with this complimentary letter from her old friend Pat Bray (though it was always “Mr.  Bray” to his face): Seventeenth February Nineteen fifty-nine. Dear Honor, With pleasure I make this record of your long association with us extending over many years.  You have always had the company’s interests at heart and proven to be most capable in the duties of telephonist, combined with clerical work. On many occasions we have received very complimentary messages concerning the efficient way you have treated our clients, sellers and my personal friends. We are very sorry indeed to lose your services, and we do miss you very much.  Attached hereto is cheque Pounds 26.0.0 less tax, being your usual bonus. Warmest of good wishes, Honor, and please visit us when you have the opportunity. BRAY & HOLLIDAY PTY. LTD. The next six months were a bad period for Honor: she was experiencing tension and bad health and undoubtedly suffered a slight breakdown, which may have occasioned her leaving Bray and Holliday; but I think the bottom was falling out of that business – they were manufacturers of shop-fronts and show-cases, and life was not so elegant any more.  I do not know the details of these difficult days. Before she found work with the W.B. Lawrence Advertising Agency, she turned to various businesses, and survived on her savings – she knew nothing of sickness or medical benefits.  She began with W.B. Lawrence 3 September 1959 and stayed until January 1975.  It was a job which suited her talents and allowed her to mix with a very different class of people from the solid, old-fashioned, but eminently reliable, Bray and Holliday group.  W.B. Lawrence personnel were brilliant, arty personalities, witty and creative, charming but febrile.  Honor fitted in well because she herself, though she could not be described in all the above terms, was charming, cool and competent, providing a stability these fascinating people appreciated.  Till the day she finished most of them called her “Mrs.  Butler”, only a few of them being close enough to address her as Honor. In the meantime I had received, 2 July 1957, the habit of the Marist Brothers Order and the religious name, Brother Placidus, and gone on to make my first vows exactly twelve months later, in an impressive ceremony held in the huge chapel at Saint Joseph’s College, Hunters Hill.  My first teaching appointment, a green, unshaven lad, two weeks short of my eighteenth birthday, was to St. Augustine’s College Cairns, a boarding school.  It was not quite an unmitigated disaster, for the six months’ experience taught me what not to do in a classroom.  During those six months, from July to December in 1958, I was well looked after by the Brothers, who made sure I visited whatever was within the bounds of the Rule and possibility.        They packed me off to Sydney in December to the next stage of training, the scholasticate at Dundas, with Ten Pounds in my pocket.  So it was there I began my four years at Sydney University and Sydney Teachers College, leading me to a Bachelor of Arts Degree and a Diploma of Education. 1959 was a big year for three of us: Honor left Bray and Holliday and began at W.B. Lawrence, Adele sat for the Leaving Certificate and I went to Sydney University.  The details of these years will be left to another time if not another chronicler, but they are well documented in letters, cards and memorabilia and await only the right moment for the telling. The big shock which began 1960 was Dad’s death.  I had seen him at the Marist Brothers Scholasticate, Dundas, where I was studying, in September 1959 for the last time.  He did not spend Christmas with us.  Dorothy Whittaker saw him at Christmas dinner in a city hotel.  Early in January he appears to have returned to his room at the Frasers’ on the weekend and engaged in some fairly heavy drinking which presumably killed him.  On Wednesday, 6 January, he was discovered, having been dead for some time; the police called at Elanora Heights to break the news to Honor and the family – we had no phone.  The next morning they contacted me at Mittagong where the young Brothers were holidaying: we were down at the coast for a picnic, so I did not get the message till that evening; and I travelled alone to Sydney next morning for the funeral – a few dozen people and a three or four Marist Brothers to see him across the Styx. He left a better impression in some hearts than he did in ours, regretfully.  His drinking mates at the Bayswater Hotel, Rushcutters Bay, put up a plaque: MAXIE (EUCHRE) BUTLER FROM STAFF & PATRONS OF THE BAYSWATER “Its [sic] monotonous being Perfect” This presumably was a favourite saying of Mac’s, and there is no doubt his friends believed him.  They were still there in 1986, drinking, in the same spot, Les Jorgensen, who had the plaque inscribed and erected, and Roger Murphy – they remember him fondly still and recall his prowess at cards and darts, a bonzer bloke all round.  I can see his gummy smile and his arm around his mates.  It was a picture of my father I was unaware of till I discovered the plaque there in November, 1985, advised of its presence by Paul. Adele, having gained her Leaving Certificate, went to work at the British Institute of Engineering Technology, where our future sister-in-law, Robyn Chater, was secretary to the director, Mr. Alex Carter (a former Marist Brother).  Having worked there till August, Adele began her preliminary training at St. Vincent’s Hospital – a difficult time, “nearly the end of me, but I survived”, as we all were taught to do.  Something of the Cant in us, I believe. In 1962, Paul went away to sea as a ship’s engineer.  He wrote regularly while he was away, which is mentionable simply because he is a self-confessed poor correspondent.  His early leters are newsy and excited and everyone of us gets a mention, particularly Dottie, his long-standing girlfriend Dorothy Ford, who later became Dorothy Knox and stayed very devoted to Honor.  But love pops up unexpectedly and in May 1963 Paul is set to marry a Scottish lass, Marion Low.  Whatever it was, it passed, and Paul returned to Sydney to marry not Dorothy Ford but Robyn Chater.  The wedding took lace at Saint Canice’s Church, 23 October 1964, just a couple of weeks before Jack  Whittaker died. The old gang was beginning to split up.  Adele graduated at Saint Vincent’s, 29 July 1964 and after a holiday at Canowindra, began “specialling”, which meant moving around hospitals and private patients as required.  On one of these jobs she encountered an old flame of the Prince of Wales, Edward, later Duke of Windsor.  And on New Year’s Day 1965 she left for Adelaide via Melbourne to study midwifery.  We remember that day well, for we had been out on Middle Harbour with some friends of mine for the day.  I was enjoying my first holiday home since Christmas 1956, and we returned late in the afternoon to such a tirade from Gladys about the irresponsibility of not being packed and ready to step onto a train for Melbourne, that Adele and I are still quite bewildered by it. Gladys was matriarch to the end: Adele and I at that stage were twenty three and twenty five years of age; she had completed her nursing and was working as Sister Adele Butler; I had been teaching High School for several years and was Brother Placidus Butler – but none of that cut any ice with Gladys, it was still “Do as you’re told.  Don’t argue with me!  Look at the time!”  Gladys’s wrath was something to be reckoned with: I remember once at Boundary Street that I locked myself in the toilet to escape it, but was ultimately so afraid of it that I meekly opened the door and gave myself up rather than make it worse. I had completed my Bachelor of Arts Degree, majoring in English and History, and had taken the same subjects for my Diploma of Education.  Having graduated at the end of 1962 I was happy to see the end of ten years in training institutions and can say the only years I really enjoyed from 1953 to 1962 were my noviciate under Brother Ethelred’s mild and magnificent eye, and my Diploma of Education year at Sydney Teachers College, when I had the time and freedom to enjoy my studies as well as to write poetry and music and produce “The Pirates of Penzance” with my fellow scholastics.  Beginning with “Trial by Jury” in 1961 there developed a tradition of annual Gilbert and Sullivan operas at Dundas, with an all male cast, which lasted for fifteen years: I was to be there at the beginning and again at the end, having provided the accompaniment for the last four productions, concluding with “Ruddigore”.  They included some of the best Gilbert and Sullivan productions I have ever seen. For two years I taught at Villa Maria, a little day school opposite Saint Joseph’s College, for Third Grade to Intermediate boys; in fact, 1953 was the final Intermediate year for N.S.W.  Villa Maria was a delightful little school of about 250 pupils, very homely, very friendly, very close-knit.  One of the little primary boys once said: “At our school there are six Brothers and one man” – that “man” was the lay teacher, Doug Sellars.  The mothers in the canteen would vie with each other in providing big lunches for the Brothers and I grew. Penshurst was my next appointment: it was similar to Villa Maria but growing, as all schools were in those days, with increasing numbers of pupils and lay teachers.  The old order was passing. At the end of 1965 Adele returned to Sydney with Leonard Bruce Davey whom she married at Narrabeen, 12 January 1966.  They returned soon to Adelaide as Len was with the Air Force and had only a short leave. By 1967 the Elanora Heights property had become too much for two women to handle, so Gladys and Honor sold up and moved to Neutral Bay, into a lovely unit which in those days looked straight across the Harbour, up Macquarie Street and to the War Memorial in Hyde Park – but if you buy units for views you will soon be disappointed, and of course the inevitable happened in time.  They were happy there for a number of years: it was a comfortable, convenient place which served them well, and their neighbours were of their own kind. That same year I moved to Eastwood and was teaching senior English and Geography in the newly constructed Wyndham Scheme for N.S.W. high schools.  They were heady days in education, exciting for a young man, stimulating, challenging, productive; besides, we were fighting for state aid for our schools.  I was also studying theology several nights a week at the short lived Holy Spirit Institute of Theology, set up under the wing of St Patrick’s Seminary.  I did four out of the required five years.  I later joined Proscenia Theatre, a group of amateurs who produced excellent Gilbert and Sullivan, and Offenbach operettas.  I performed in “HMS Pinafore”, “Iolanthe”, “The Yeomen of the Guard” and “Utopia Limited”, among others.  Proscenia Theatre was something of a training ground for folk who went on to greater things, people like David Russell, choirmaster of the St Mary’s Cathedral choir, Richard Divall, who became well known in the Victorian Opera scene, and Brian Stacey as a sought-after conductor (he was killed on a motorbike just before the opening of “Sunset Boulevarde” in Melbourne in 1996).  I had always taken an interest in concerts and the theatre and had done a lot of work in that area in our training days and in the schools: some old friends still ask me if I am still producing dramaticals. Adele and Len moved to Katherine, Northern Territory, where three of their children were born: Bruce Timothy, 27 July 1966, Wayne Anthony, 22 July 1967; and Neill Malcolm, 7 October 1968.  They left the Territory in May 1970 and travelled to Perth via Mount Isa, Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and Port Augusta by car with the three children and the cat (which was lost, found and air-freighted to them in Perth).  They took the train from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie, and eventually reached Perth.  They settled for a while at Armadale where Kathleen Grace was born 5 August 1971, and moved to Pinjarra in May 1972.  They were to spend some years at Dwellingup on a five acre block with their own home and a menagerie of cows, sheep, dogs, cat, geese and chickens – it was a good life for those years.  In August 1984 they returned to Pinjarra. Paul and Robyn moved about a good deal, too: Bondi, Box Hill, Freeman’s Reach.  Their son Michael was born, l0 December 1972.  Their marriage broke up for a time, they came together, and finally they agreed to part.  Paul remained in Melbourne where they had moved to try a new start, and Robyn returned to Sydney with Michael who attended Saint Gregory’s College, Campbelltown, for several years, to complete his School Certificate. At the end of 1969 I was transferred to Auburn where I became the English Coordinator in the school.  Auburn was a tough area but in my seven years there I grew to appreciate the wonderful quality of family life which marked the people of the surrounding suburbs that fed into the school.  It was in some ways the peak of my teaching career though it began with a period of breakdown that was to be the making of me.  This period began at Christmas 1970.  I spent about five months at the Noviciate at Mittagong, recuperating, and gradually took up full time teaching again in 1972.  I was transferred to Newcastle in 1977 and spent almost five years there amongst very likable people.  It was a rewarding experience to recommence piano lessons after twenty five years, with the gifted teacher, Carmel Lutton, of the Newcastle Conservatorium.  Her husband, Bob, was the nephew of Dorothy Cant née Lutton. In June 1981 I left Australia and travelled overseas for the experience of a lifetime: Tokyo, Moscow, a month in England, which was like coming home, a five months’  course in spirituality in Switzerland, a country of clean streets, well heeled citizens and time-tables that ran to clockwork precision: I loved it.  It was there that I began a very beautiful friendship with Madame Rita Schneider: two genuine soul-mates. I spent two weeks in Rome and a week in Jerusalem concluded my journey.  I returned to Sydney and was appointed to Pagewood where I continued the work I had been doing since 1970: teaching senior English, co-ordinating the subject within the school and involving myself in the lives of senior students.  Pagewood was an apostolate very demanding on the soul and I began to feel myself more and more at odds with the environment I was called to work in.  That did not stop me achieving at long last my Associate Diploma in Piano Studies – and engaging in the research and writing of this family history. The history of these good people, our forebears, draws quickly to its close.  At Easter in 1972, Gladys, Honor and I went to Condobolin to contact the past.  Later that year Honor went overseas, leaving at the end of May, spending most of her time in England and some time on a tour of the Continent.  She returned 10 September 1972, the trip having turned a touch sour for one reason or another.  Life in fact was to become something of an uphill battle for Mum in the next ten years.  In 1974 she and Gladys made arrangements to go and live in Western Australia, closer to Adele, going so far as to put a deposit on a unit in Mandurah.  Gladys at this stage broke her hip, went into hospital and never came out again: after protracted negotiations, Honor was able to cancel the purchase and reclaim the deposit. This experience left its mark on her and she began to show signs of a severe nervous breakdown which threatened to end in senility.  It was tragic to watch a good woman deteriorate in this way. On 16 January 1975 she was forced by circumstances to terminate her employment at W.B. Lawrence after fifteen wonderful years.  She was genuinely and deeply loved at that place.  When she had a spell in Sydney Hospital in 1968 there were wonderful expressions of affection, cards which their artists drew, flowers: Max Fulcher, Vic Mahoney, Theo Woods, Sue Lawrence, Betty Wilson and so on; four girls doing her work while she was away (so they encouraged her) and the red carpet out when she returned in September.  It wasn’t just show: for years later they remembered her, wrote to her at Christmas, invited her to parties.  And there was a beautiful floral tribute when she died, from Brian Bona and Max Fulcher, even though the firm had folded up by then. The loveliest tribute is the simplest one; Lynne Amanda Gee’s little poems say it all: Christmas 1971 To my Dear Mrs. Butler, Thank you for all the happiness you’ve brought me through the year, You bring me lots of everything – like happiness and cheer, Whenever there’s a problem and I’m away from home, You always help me out with it, and never leave me alone, You’re warm, funny and friendly and really nice to be near, So I wish you many joyous days, for now and the coming years. Tons & Tons of Love, From your little switch girl Lynne Amanda Gee There once was a nice little switch lady, Who was always nice to people, She had a nice nature, So no-one could hate her, She’d laugh and she’d smile, ALWAYS – not just a while, It’s a pleasure to be with her, The friendliness she gives, OH Boy!  I’M glad she lives. L.A. Gee Miss Coburn had taught her well those many years before: she took the lessons she learnt to heart and applied them with all the solid values ingrained in her by her mother.  Honor was a true Cant, in the mould of her cousins.  Her notes concerning switchboard manners are succinct and common sense and well worth repeating: A switchboard is the FRONT DOOR to a business and it is important to treat each and every call as important and urgent.  Messages are important.  Do not keep people waiting, without going back and apologising etc. or getting the person they are calling to phone them back. Be at all time courteous and obliging. No slang Ask for the name of the person who is speaking – for Directors, all executives etc. and say when connected. Be prepared for people entering to be attended to in a bright manner.  Try to learn a personal attentive manner to all – at ALL times. 1975 was a bad year for Honor: it was twelve months in and out of hospitals including Saint John of God,Burwood and culminating in a long spell at Mount Saint Margaret’s, Ryde.  I can only say that it was love that pulled her through.  She spent the next few years quietly at Neutral Bay, but was never the same again.  She visited Gladys every week in the Loreto Nursing Home at Strathfield, enjoyed the company of her old friends and cousins, went to the opera with me – we grew very close in those years. Gladys died in 1979 and 1981 Honor decided to go to Western Australia at last.  It  was an unfortunate move, made with some bitterness in her heart and perhaps    some misunderstanding – she would never discuss it.  Understandable as it might be in the circumstances, she did some sad things in moving: gave away old family treasures (the word is relative), split up the bedroom suite, retrieving twenty-four dollars for what was priceless. Her time, in Mandurah was mercifully short – she was dead within two years. She died quietly and, like her husband, alone: she was found next morning.  The two years were full of bitter herbs and salt tears, and she did not know a moment’s happiness. It was not a fitting end for this woman and it was not deserved: she had been too personally good and too personally giving for that.  If she had a fault it was that she bottled up her feelings, including her love, so she could not receive love in return.  She gave till it hurt and the hurting destroyed her at last.  I can only conclude her life in the words I spoke at her funeral in Mandurah, 8 September 1983, at which there were two dozen acquaintances from the Day Care Centre, all her children and grandchildren and, as at her husband’s funeral, a scattering of the Marist Brothers she had grown to love deeply: Br Alexis Turton, a close friend of mine, and several elderly Brothers from the Melbourne Province, who were holidaying a little south of Mandurah. Now is the time to praise good women. Most of you have come to know Mum only recently, and saw much less of a happy, capable woman than we knew. She was christened Honor Delores.  For years I spelt her second name Dolores presuming some connection with the word of sorrow in Latin.  Somehow it seemed apt, for she had a lot of sorrow in her life: and a less than happy marriage, bringing up three children on her own, closing herself off from remarrying after Dad died in 1959.  “I have no man appeal” she used to say, little realising what an attractive, intuitive, capable good woman she was.  She lost herself in her work – she was a superb receptionist – and she centred her life on her mother. She was a woman of exquisite taste: she loved good cut glass, fine linen, her cedar china cabinet and a magnificent walnut bedroom suite.  She let lot of these things go, because she felt she had been abandoned by others.  What she could not see was that so many people tried to support her: her family, the Marist Brothers, her friends in Sydney, and latterly here in W.A.  She loved good paintings; she loved opera – “I don’t know as much as you do about it, dear, but I thought Sutherland was not quite her best tonight” – and she’d be right. She loved people, and I have often seen her the centre of attention and attraction at parties.  A lot of my ex-students used to comment on her wit, and the interest she took in people; and she could hold up her head amongst all manner of folk. She was a fussy woman: I remembered how she abhorred ice in her drinks!    And how much she liked finely cut lettuce. She was a woman of great value, who never appreciated her value.  She loved the Marists, who loved her equally well.  She centred her life on her children and tried hard not to grasp.  It was hard for her to let us go, and I think the effort to do so cost her her life, for she died of a broken heart.  “I’ve done the wrong thing” she chorused even to the last time I spoke to her. She never knew her own potential in life: sad, but true, to say it is only now in eternal life with the God who created her beautiful self, that she will realise what a beautiful person she was. Mandurah, W.A., 8 September, 1983

 

2 Responses to “Chapter Eleven – Malcolm George Butler and Honor Delores Whittaker”

  1. Chris M Says:

    I was taught by Br Placidus at Marist Brother’s Auburn. Great teacher.

  2. Tony Says:

    Thanks for your kind comment. Put me out of my misery – Chris who? Br Tony


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