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Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Friday, September 25, 2009

Fifty Years ago

On 25 September 1959 - fifty years ago, today - my family moved from Melbourne to Canberra. My father was 47 years and 3 months. I was aged 10 years and 10 months old.
Birdwood Street, South Oakleigh, Victoria
My father was reluctant to move from Melbourne, but it was forced upon him when the group of Defence Departments (including the Department of the Navy, where he worked) was relocated from Melbourne to Canberra.
2 Scott Street, Narrabundah, ACT
Shortly after they moved there in 1959. Probably 1960.
It was a truly transforming moment in my father's life, and for the rest of the family. My two eldest brothers who were already working chose to make the move with the family. My next brother and I were both still at school, so our move was pretty much "automatic".

My Mother decided, with Dad, to make the most of the new circumstances.
Neither of them allowed themselves to feel homesick for Melbourne, but accepted their new circumstances - new house, new school for the kids, new shops, and for Dad - the same job but in a new environment.

In truth, opportunities opened up for Dad as many people had found other jobs, and so there were promotional opportunities for him over the next few years.

He worked in the Naval Personnel Branch of the Navy Office. When the Melbourne cut the Voyager in half, it was my father who answered hundreds of distressing calls from relatives. The worst part was that the Navy did not have a fool-proof system of knowing exactly which sailors were on which ship, at an time. Hence the anxiety and distress for many people, not to mention the fact that quite literally, many sailors had a "wife" in every port. Part of his duty was to acknowledge that Sailor X was indeed missing, but that the caller was not the only person claiming to be his "wife".
That experience very nearly broke him - but he was one victim of that disaster who never complained.
In a happier mode, my father rapidly established a new garden, which he loved.
Taken in the late 1970s, probably.
And in the realm of bird watching, he quickly became recognised as a keen amateur, and recieved official; encouragement from senior CSIRO Wildlife Division people, who encouraged him to become a bird bander. I remember him saying that when we were in Melbourne, we were merely small fish in a big pool. In Canberra, in 1959, we were small fish in a very small pool. But he was recognised as showing great scientific attitude and rapidly became one of Australia's leading bird banders. He founded the Bird Banders Association of Australia. On behalf of the Bird Banders Association, he imported good quality nets from England, for other bird banders to use.
Possibly taken after the house was sold.
The car in the driveway is not theirs.
Dad then started to write articles for the Canberra Bird Notes, and other scientific journals. He was invited to write most of the section on "passerines" (small perching birds) and most of the Cuckoos, in the "Birds in the Australian High Country", edited by Dr. Harry Frith - who was Chief of the Division of Wildlife in CSIRO. Subsequently he was also invited to write some 40 entries in the 1st edition of the Readers Digest Complete Book of Australian Birds.
Finally Dad wrote his own book - Birds of the ACT: Two Centuries of change.

Meanwhile, my Mother established herself in Canberra's community, especially the local womens groups of her Church, and the Floral Art Guild of the ACT. She also worked for many years at CSIRO Division of Plant Industry, as a typist and clerical assistant. She really enjoyed mixing with the Plant Industry scientists and technical officers.

My brothers established themselves in Canberra, the two eldest brothers married there, and have lived there all their lives. One brother married and trained as an Engineer and moved around Australia for a number of years before eventually moving back to Canberra and now lives on the far South Coast of NSW. I married and settled in Canberra, travelled interstate and overseas and then moved back to Canberra, where my daughter, Zoe was born. I lived there until moving to Robertson some 7 years ago.

After my father had a minor seizure (a mini-stroke?) my parents decided to leave their first Canberra house, in Narrabundah, and moved to a house in Kambah. Dad started out again to build a new garden, with several specialist cactus garden beds. So much for him taking it easy! He also started propagating plants for his local Church school fete. They lived there for some 15 years (I think), until Mum's declining health required them to move to a Nursing Home, where she died in 2006.

As readers will be aware, my Dad died in Canberra two weeks ago.

All in all, today is a significant anniversary in my life and in the life of my family. A true turning point. And it is all due to the bravery of my parents, especially my father, who agreed to meet the challenge of a new job, in a new city, at the age of 47 years.

When he died, two weeks ago, he had lived longer in Canberra (49 years and 11 months) than he had in Victoria.

The move to Canberra was a significant challenge, which he met in remarkable fashion.


tilcheff said...

Hi Denis,

A nostalgic story, and one I can very easily relate to.


Denis Wilson said...

Thanks Nickolay, for the comment.

Miss Eagle said...

A beautiful eulogy of a constructive and productive life, Denis. I note the end of September date for the "big shift". Almost all my "big shifts" have occurred near that date too. Don't why it keeps recurring but that is how life turned out.


Denis Wilson said...

Thanks Brigid for your comments.
It seems to be a good time to move. It certainly coincides with a major change in seasons.