essay: Lady Audrey

Mum’s Eulogy  5.1.2009


Good morning.  I’m going to use notes, because I’m also reaching the age where details tend to blur a little.

It’s not easy to describe somebody’s life in a few words, or even their personality.  And a son’s perspective is different from a daughter’s, and quite different from an old friend’s.  I suspect that some of you know things about mum’s life that I don’t know – but this may not be the right place to air those stories.



Mum has been a loving wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend.  She loved her own mother dearly, and it was sad that Ruby died quite young, and that Audrey’s childhood was to some degree constrained by her father’s poor health.  She has had strong, enduring friendships with dear friends like Pam and Bogs, and her wonderful sister-in-law Helen who supported her to the end, and others who of course cannot be here today – I think particularly of Russ Law, Geri and Val, Fred Moylan, John and Joan Allen. She adored her ‘little brother’ Bill Jamieson, and Bill and Norma have always been there for mum, even when afar.


Audrey was a loving mum to Peter, Kim and I.  I sometimes think that parents really only have to get one thing right, and we were fortunate that ours did.

She was a loving, proud and supportive wife.  Dad was a public figure for a significant part of their life together, and so she was the major support to his career.  Like many women of her era, she stayed at home and ran a good household – she was a professional wife and mother.  And she was no shrinking violet – more of that in a moment.


Audrey was a party girl, a good time girl most definitely, with a naughty sense of humour.  I remain in awe of her social skills – clearly passed on to my sister Kim but barely if at all to me. On one occasion when we children were quite young, Bill Jamieson gave her something that was rather exotic in our household – a bottle of Chianti – with the raffia half-encasing the bottle. I remember waking to the sounds of a flaming row, and peeping round my bedroom door to see mum running out the front door in her nightie, heading for St Kilda St, with dad in pursuit.  To my great relief they soon returned much more quietly.


And you may be wondering about the mink coat on the casquet…………………..


There was much happiness in mum’s life, and also of course significant sadness.  She buried two sons – one soon after birth and Peter, who died at 17 of a rare illness.  She had a wonderful year at age 20 on a rubber plantation in Malaya, with her beloved cousin June Ferguson.  She spoke fondly of her job as a Red Cross driver during WW2, and that was in part how she came to meet dad.  In their life together they went to many interesting events and places – meeting up with old American friends in Hawaii and their dear friends the Overlands in Norway.  She was very proud of her grandchildren, and Ollie was like another son.


The last few years of mum’s life were sad for those close to her as she slipped further into the loneliness of dementia, though the staff at Brighton Gardens cared for her with much kindness. Until very close to the end, those keen social instincts remained – she would spark up again at the hint of a party.  And when little else remained she would just say to her family ‘I love you, I love you’ – as if her personality had shed all but its deepest element.


Thankyou very much for coming to say goodbye to Audrey today. We’d be very pleased if you’d join us for coffee in the church hall after the service.



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