I think I might have indicated on Facebook that maybe there would be a blog post like this…. I’m not going into full family details. If you want that look at my series here. And this search will take you into deeper time.
So that is Wollongong, where in my 70s I find myself again after links going back all my life, and beyond most likely for thousands upon thousands of years — way before anything you will read about in your Bible. For yes, this is Dharawal country, and there is strong reason to believe that I myself through one strand of my ancestry am of the Dharawal. The link I gave you above may lead you further down that path.
I began my life in another part of Dharawal country, now known as Sutherland, in 1943, though my father was born in another part, Shellharbour, in 1911. So the roots go back….
I did not myself live in Wollongong until 1970, when the Department of Education posted me to Dapto High School, and I moved to a half-house in Finlayson Street Wollongong which my mother dubbed The Hovel! But nearby was where my father’s sister, Ella, and her husband George Moon had lived, both of them passed on by 1970. Still living there was — when I look back on it — one of the most remarkable women I would ever meet, and it is a 1970 conversation with her that prompts this post. But first let me tell you about her — and as I have posted the story before I will simply recall it now from my archives:
Posted on August 27, 2011 by Neil
That’s not a pizza oven!
Miss [Bessie] Foskett gave 40 years of service to the steel industry serving as personal secretary to Sir Cecil Hoskins and successive general managers. She retired from the steelworks in 1965 and opened her own secretarial service and was involved in many community organisations. She died in February, 1985.
I was reminded of all this by a letter in yesterday’s Illawarra Mercury:
You may read an outline history of steel in the Illawarra here. [Dead link: go instead to this PDF. Most of that document is in fact by Bessie Foskett!]
Bessie Foskett, then, was what we would now call PA to Sir Cecil Hoskins, one of the bigwigs in the history of industry in this country and especially in this area. She lived for as long as I can remember with my aunt and uncle, Ella and George Moon, in Wollongong. Because it was so often Bessie who appeared to be in the kitchen I made my erroneous judgement about her role, even asking my mother once if Bessie was Aunt Ella’s maid. There was much laughter about that…
She was also a musician, a cellist, playing in the the 60s and 70s in Wollongong Symphony Orchestra. That skill went way back, and I have wondered if this is how she met my aunt who in her young days was training as a concert pianist.
My father once said Bessie is the one who really ran the steelworks at times. It may well have been true.
* * *
Yes, Bessie Foskett. (And in another coincidence it was her brother’s family who occupied 61 Auburn Street Sutherland, my first home, after we moved in 1952 to Vermont Street.)
So soon after moving into Finlayson Street I visited Bessie. Recall I was all of 26 at the time. And she said to me: “Neil, it is time you put down your roots….”
Well, I didn’t really. By 1981 I was back in Sydney, the inner city — and there until 2010. And now here I am back in The Gong, more than ten years on, and as I have said on Facebook I am now feeling so much part of The Gong as I sit in one or other of my clubs, or look out my window at Mount Keira and Mount Kembla.
Perhaps it was meant to be, and perhaps, Bessie, you knew this is where I belong. As Uncle George and Aunt Ella did. As you did.