Sunday, June 10, 2018

52 Ancestors - Going to the Chapel

This week's theme for #52ancestorsin52weeks is Going to the Chapel. Behind every good wedding is (should be?) a good love story. This week we are are close to home in terms of ancestors, but the Chapel certainly wasn't...

...Once upon a time, there was a young woman called Heather Hardwick. She was working at King George V Memorial Hospital at Camperdown, in Sydney, as medical record librarian. Mutual friends from the hospital invited Heather out of drink in a pub down at Circular Quay. It was here that she met Ted. They went out for a couple of dates, but it wasn't Ted that would walk her down the aisle!

A 21-year-old Heather

Ted was friends with Laurie Butler (or "Butts", as we know him). The boys were very excited because "Stiffy" was coming home on leave from New Guinea. Now I have it on good authority that Terry Sedgwick gained the name Stiffy at school from Butts because of his propensity for drawing skeletons. If you thought any different, get your mind out of the gutter!

Terry, Heather, Margaret (from Royal Prince Alfred Hospital) and Butts

Anyway, they all went over to Butts' place at Carlton, where Heather met Terry. They got on well and saw each other a few times until it was time for Terry to go back to work at the Post Master General's office in New Guinea. Heather wrote to Terry for over a year, until her holidays came up.

Terry asked Heather to come and visit her. "I can't go to New Guinea! I've never been out of Australia!" she protested. Terry must have worked his charms because next thing you know, Heather had met his mother Cora and then was being seen off at the airport to head off to the wilds of Rabaul in New Britain, Papua New Guinea (March 1963).

He was bit alright, wasn't he?

Things must have gone well up in New Guinea, because when it was time to go back home, Terry's friends up there implored Heather not to leave him alone, because "he needs you up here!" And so a wedding was planned!

Cora was a dressmaker and asked if Heather would like it if she made her wedding dress and Heather agreed. Cora made a toile mock-up of the dress from a pattern and sent it up to New Guinea, where adjustments were made and then it was sent back and the final dress sent back. Heather still has the pattern and a bit of the lace (side story - her kids wrecked the dress using it as dress-ups when they were little!).

Anyway, the big day arrived and the dress was ready. There were no relatives at St Francis Xavier Catholic Cathedral at Rabaul on 18 May 1963, which, quite frankly, is an impressive 'chapel' for the back blocks of New Guinea in the 1960's!

Despite the lack of relations, the wedding party went off without a hitch and a good time was had by all.

Heather and Terry lived in Rabaul until October 1963 and then Port Moresby until they returned to Sydney in January1965 (when things started to deteriorate).

In a case of things travelling full-circle, I went to New Guinea on a cruise in May 2017 and we stopped in Rabaul. I got the tour bus we were on to detour to St Francis Xavier's and despite the time difference of almost exactly 54 years and the ravages of volcanic explosions that damaged much of Rabaul in 1994, the Cathedral still stands (albeit with new roof). It was surprisingly very emotional being in the exact spot Heather and Terry got married all those years ago:

Heather and Terry are my Mum and Dad (just in case you hadn't worked that out). I love their love story and you'll be glad to know they were happily married for 46 years before Terry died in 2009. They continued to be adventurous, living on a houseboat at Cammeray, a caravan in Coffs Harbour as well as Blacktown, Kogarah, Brighton-Le-Sands, Tasmania, Batemans Bay and Ulladulla! I think their love can give us all hope for love!

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