Thursday, October 11, 2012

Family gathered for a funeral today

from w
Today at Bacchus Marsh relatives from three generations gathered to pay tribute to the long life - of 99 years - of our Auntie Mary.  Peceli and I had been visiting her in recent weeks and realized it was her time to go.  The first photo is of Mary Collins and the second is of the six siblings - Pat, Mary, Lin, George, Jean, Ivy. Mary was the last of her generation, a lovely woman.

Today we were able to meet up with so many family members for the ceremony and afternoon tea. Here are a few photos, especially for the Collins and Lay families.

Remembering Aunt Mary

If we tell the life story of a woman who lived to be over ninety nine years, there is much to tell. However my memories of Mary Collins, who we called Auntie Mary, are made up of fragments of her life, her coming and going into our lives. She was essentially a kind woman, generous and loyal with family members, but private in some ways and I regret now that I never even asked – what are your favourite songs, music, books.
Anyway here are some of those fragments of memory. She was born on 14th June 1913 the daughter of James Charles Collins and May Morris McDonnell. The Collins family lived at Gowanford near Ultima on a wheat farm, Mary was a sister to Ivy Morris, Mima Martha, Linda Georgina, Amy Frances, George Lawrence and Jean.  The family background was of the Collins family and Macdonnell family who came out from Britain and the Collins story was written up in a book by Iris Hocking in 1973, ‘From Cotswold to Castlemaine’.

My earliest memory is of Mary selling women’s clothing at a Swan Hill store owned by Mr Williams a very old man, and the money flying up on a wire in a little box.  Mary got a job there after going to Swan Hill High School.  Mary was extremely pretty but perhaps shy and was noticed by the young men but she remained single.

My parents told us that Mary came to the rescue of family in the early days such as when one sister, Mima died in Donald, Mary helped with the boys, and then another time George and Linda needed a break and drove to South Australia and Mary looked after the Lay children.

Moving to Melbourne to a downstairs flat on the corner of Wattletree Road Malvern Mary lived with two sisters and friends. The names Leila and Toby come to mind and Mary was close to her cousin Mabel during those years. Mary worked in Melbourne, at one time with the post office and then the tax office.

As her sisters and brothers married, Mary was often the beautiful bridesmaid.  As families grew Auntie Mary was often part of holidays beside the sea, or going up to Swan Hill where Linda and Ivy had settled.  Jean was in Hobart with her husband George and their daughter Linden, and Amy, by then called Pat, had married Fred Luckman and settled in Glen Iris.

Eventually as Jim and May Collins, living in Swan Hill, became frail and elderly, Mary moved up to Swan Hill to the Campbell Street home to help care for them, and then lived alone there, working at Clarke’s Gift shop in Swan Hill where she was the book-keeper.

From there Mary moved to Bacchus Marsh to be closer to her sisters, Jean and Pat, at Mt Eliza on the outskirts of Melbourne, and particularly to be near to her brother George, Joyce, a warm easy-going couple and the two boys, Gary and Lindsay.  Mary made a good life there joining groups such as CWA and Probus and going on occasional trips. 

Mary had a great knowledge of family history and over the years collected many papers and photographs of the Collins family which she has passed on to John and myself. Living such a long life meant that her siblings and their partners all passed away and she became the last of her generation, but still kept a neat household and maintaining a lovely garden, her passion for beauty.  She was able to live in her  unit until recent months until bout the time of her 99th birthday her health failed and there was a need for hospitalisation and eventually a few weeks in the Providence Nursing Home.

We sincerely thank Lindsay and Marilyn Collins who patiently cared for Auntie Mary’s needs over recent years.

We are grateful for knowing Mary Collins as a beloved part of our extended Collins family.  She has been generous towards family members, thoughtful about our welfare. Her intelligence was always there right up to the last days and my last conversation with her, two weeks prior to her passing, was memorable, for fifteen minutes she was animated and talking easily with me.

Thank you for a long and kindly life, Auntie Mary.

October 2012.
Some things we only learn at this kind of occasion as different members of the family tell stories. One thing was that on her 14th birthday, Mary came home and her mother said, ‘Tomorrow no school for you, you have to go and look for a job.’  Now how devastating that must have been for a bright young girl going to high school.  Choices we make, choices made for us, have significance don’t they, and alter the course of one’s life. So sad at times.


Blogger annie said...

She sounds like such a lovely person, Wendy. We are always so lucky when we have someone like that in our lives. Thank you for sharing her with us.


11:54 AM  

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