Today we farewelled my mother Edith, who died last week aged 86.
It was a simple ceremony, overlooking the River Derwent in Hobart, a view she knew through most of her life and that, especially in later years, became one of her greatest joys.
The service was arranged by Mary Eleanor Natural Funeral Care.
I offered a eulogy, and Kiri, Tanya and Dad all shared memories of mum, and we played some of the music that she loved.
Edith Peggy Webberley was born in Hobart in 1937 to Vic, a police officer and Ethel (known to everyone as Peg). Vic’s work saw the family transferred to postings all over southern Tasmania, but mum had particularly fond memories of school years spent at Bothwell, and especially of childhood years in the early 1940s spent on Bruny Island, surrounded by a growing number of brothers and sisters.
This love of Bruny extended to the whole family, and following the war Vic bought land and built a shack at Adventure Bay. The shack remained the focus of family holidays for several decades; according to Mum, every weekend and holiday, the family would be packed up and race to catch the ferry. She recalled many times they would be running late and would blow the car horn from the top of the hill above Kettering, signalling the ferry to wait for them.
She attended the New Town Commercial High School, later known as Ogilvie, learning typing, shorthand and other skills considered useful for a bright young woman in her brief career prior to marriage. After completing school Edith began work in the office of the Zinc Works.
Although always a quiet person, Edith had an independent streak and an early manifestation of her this desire for freedom came when she bought her first car – a Goggomobile. Yes, ‘G-O-G-G-O’, as made famous in the Telstra adverts many years later. This tiny car had a body made of fibreglass and was so lightweight that the lads she worked with would prank her by lifting it up and turning it around in the car park. She would come back later in the day to find it facing the opposite direction to when she’d arrived for work. Oh, how they laughed….
Sadly the Goggomobile wasn’t to last. Driving along the Neck at Bruny after a weekend with the family, Edith tried climbing a tree in it, resulting in a wrecked car and a badly broken ankle. The ankle was patched up, pinned together as well as surgeons at the time could manage, but the Goggomobile disappeared from Mum’s life.
Photos from this period show an attractive young woman, and Peg was keen to see her eldest married, apparently manipulating her into meetings with various eligible bachelors. Again, mum’s independence came to the fore and in 1960, long before the concepts of ‘backpacking’ or ‘gap years’ had been thought of, Edith set off to see the world, ultimately aiming for the UK, with a first stop in New Zealand.
She worked in hotels and on farms, especially enjoying seasons fruit picking in the company of other young people, until one day in Auckland she met a handsome young ships engineer from Aberdeen. She tempted him away from the sea, and Edith and Stewart were married in Hobart in 1964, before returning to New Zealand where they lived for several years.
The late 1960s saw them settled back here in Lindisfarne, with a growing family. Dad soon found work, but Mum stayed home to care for the family. While my sisters and I were at school, Num would find ways to contribute to the family budget. After selling Tupperware proved disappointing, she took to baking and decorating elaborate wedding cakes. We have memories of multi-tiered white icing creations sitting upon a card table in the loungeroom, which we were banned from entering for the duration.
With a steady hand, she used a piping bag to create filagree patterns in sugar all over the cakes. One of my sisters – I won’t say which – recalls breaking the taboo and entering the loungeroom to take a kiddie-sized bite out of a cake. There will have been retribution, but the anger would not have lasted long.
Mum had always been skilled with her hands and around this time attended the Hobart Technical College, gaining skills and qualifications in dressmaking, design and pattern making. She would later return to the College as a highly regarded teacher of these skills, and also of an early form of word processing, in the very early days of office computers.
She gave up on wedding cakes and began to work as a tailor, creating bespoke outfits not just for the family but for what seemed to us like most of the population of the eastern shore. There was a constant procession of the mothers of our school friends coming to our house for fittings.
As if that wasn’t enough, she would also knit and crochet, and during the 1970s became involved in with the Handweavers, Spinners and Dyers Guild. Weekends were spent driving around the countryside, buying whole fleeces and scraping lichen from rocks. These lichens were boiled up in stinky brews with skeins of wool on our camping stove in the back yard to create natural dyes in ‘autumn tones’. We still have hand-knitted jumpers, blankets and socks that mum made for us.
Mum was a contributor to our school community, especially the annual school fair, for which she spend days baking bread. There was always a queue to buy it, and it sold out matter of minutes. Tanya recalls that parents would get their kids to ask her weeks before if mum was making bread to sell that year.
Mum’s skill with the sewing machine also saw her making tiny, elaborate doll’s clothes for my sisters to sell in the peddler’s parade. Again she worked flat out weeks before the fair, hand making Barbie outfits to sell for 10 or 20 cents. She also used to do a Barbie knitwear line! Tanya reckons that any Barbie doll owned by a Lindisfarne North Primary School kid was pretty much guaranteed to be wearing an outfit made by Mum.
Mum had to wait until 1984 to realise her dream of visiting the UK. She and Dad took off for a ‘big trip’ holiday, which was also dad’s first visit home since heading off to sea in the early 1960s. Mum loved Scotland, and they returned home with dreams of one day going back for an extended stay, during which they would spend time on some of the remote islands watching the seasons change.
Mum began making quilts, producing many for family members including by her beloved grandchildren, Alex and Harriette. These have become treasured heirlooms. She made one of her last quilts for me during the early 2000s and was horrified – in the nicest possible way – when, instead of putting it on my bed, it was (and still is) hanging on the wall of my living room alongside other works of art.
My sisters have inherited much of mum’s sewing and crafting skill. In the late 1980s Mum started working in the uniform room at Wrest Point. Kiri soon joined her, working to put herself through uni.
Mum was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in the 1980s, just a few years after dad had a similar diagnosis. Neither of them showed any symptoms initially, and while Dad’s continue to be mercifully mild, Mum began to suffer attacks during the 1990s that saw her mobility and motor skills gradually fail.
One of mum’s greatest pleasures in her later years was looking at the view of the River Derwent and the mountain out the window of the family home at Rosny – a similar view to the one we are enjoying here today.
In a cruel twist, the ankle she broke as a girl began to crumple and Mum eventually was confined to a wheelchair. Sadly, Mum and Dad’s dreams of returning to Scotland were never realised. As her mobility waned, Mum was cared for at home, primarily by Dad. Over the past few years, she also received home care from the team at Parkside, and, in the last weeks of her life, from the team at the Queen Victoria Home here in Lindisfarne. We are all very grateful to all who contributed to her care.
Farewell Mum, we hope you enjoy a final look at that view.
Dad’s memories of Mum
I first met Edith in Auckland in mid-1963. I was an engineer on a British registered vessel and, while there, some new crew joined the ship. One of them was an electrician, an English guy named Graham Garbutt; we became great friends.
We went ashore that evening. Graham had his girlfriend Jo, from Sydney. She brought along her friend Edith from Tasmania to make up a foursome. Edith and myself kept in touch, indeed we were best man and bridesmaid at Graham and Jo’s wedding in Auckland about a year later.
We became engaged, much to her mother’s relief. Edith flew back to Hobart to attend her brother Dudley’s wedding. In December 1964 we came over to Tasmania for our own wedding. We went back to New Zealand, and in October 1966 we returned to Tasmania to settle, this time with a bouncing baby boy in tow.
In 1967 we bought our first home in Lindisfarne, about this time I landed a job as an engineer with the Hobart Tug and Lighterage Co. I then got a job at the University of Tasmania, I was there for about thirty years, till I retired.
We moved to Rosny in February 1986 and the following December Edith was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. She kept on top of things till about 2000, then she had to use walking aids. Latterly she had to use a wheelchair. I had some modification done around the house to help Edith get about.
Edith’s condition gradually worsened, until she became a paraplegic. By this time she was assessed and received an A4 aged care package, with carers coming in the morning and evening, this still left me looking after Edith 22 hours per day seven days a week.
In early September Edith went into the Queen Victoria Home. for respite, in the third week of her stay the home told us that they had a permanent room for her.
Edith went into a coma on the first of November, dying on the 15th at 7.35pm.
Edith gave me and our children almost 59 years of love and companionship, being a wonderful wife, mother and grandmother.
Goodbye Edith, you will be greatly missed.
Kiri’s memories of mum
As you know, mum suffered with multiple sclerosis in the latter part of her life. In the last 15 years or so, her health declined, limiting her participation in the activities she once loved. Yet when I think of mum, it’s her creativity that comes to mind most. Mum delved into various crafts, from baking and cake decorating to spinning, weaving, sewing, embroidery, quilting, knitting, and crocheting. And curiously, this passion for crafting became a shared joy between us during my childhood.
My earliest memories are painted with moments of observing mum intricately decorating with royal icing, sewing from scratch, or of sitting beside her for hours as she embroidered scenes of the river, city, and mountain from Alexandra Esplanade. Early school holidays meant joining mum at spinners and weavers’ guild meetings, embarking on walks to collect lichen for dyeing fleece, or sitting with her and the quilting group as they industriously worked away. I recall mum interrupting her own work to help me sew clothes for my teddy bear or let me to experiment with food colouring in sacrificial marzipan. Thinking back, I marvel at her unwavering focus to complete her work, despite the presence of an eager child with perpetually itchy fingers who longed to be involved.
Mum’s ingenuity meant that, at a time when it was more economical to make clothing rather than buy it, my siblings and I often donned outfits of mum’s creation. Whilst I was oblivious to the “uncoolness” of it in my younger years, later childhood saw me yearning for shop-bought school uniforms and Lee Ranger jeans.
Mum’s love for crafting was shared with her own mother and sister, both talented and creative women. Like generations before them, the skills and knowledge were passed from mother to daughter. Between them they would trial different crafting and baking projects, presumably often sourced from the Women’s’ Weekly or Family Circle, and compare notes. For example, there are multiple sets of the knitted nativity scene amongst the extended family on my mother’s side. Our version, made by mum, still makes an annual appearance on the mantel piece at Kellatie Road and is appreciated more now than ever for the loving intent with which it was made.
Of course, not every crafting venture received unanimous approval. Even in our tender years, my sister and I questioned the choice of matching mustard yellow and olive-green outfits of crocheted midriff tops and vinyl miniskirts. Then there were the Christmas angels, each crafted from the boiled and blanched vertebral bone of a sheep with an oven baked clay ball for a head. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these unique decorations have been “lost” from the family collection and whilst I searched online for illustrative examples, it seems even the internet doesn’t want to admit to such interesting creations.
But through her crafting, mum taught me valuable life skills and the mindfulness that comes from simply doing something with your hands. She taught me about patience, resilience and perseverance. Life’s challenges can be navigated by reflecting on your efforts, acknowledging your mistakes and re-applying yourself. Not all imperfections are mistakes – learn to know the difference and embrace the imperfections. You will make mistakes but it’s how you respond to them that matters. In remembering mum, I weave what she taught me into the fabric of my own life through endeavouring to embrace new challenges, by completing what I start and by applying myself in whatever I do with care, attention to detail and generosity.
We had a display of just a tiny number of the many items mum had made over the years.
Tanya offered a reading for Mum
For me, one of the most precious gifts mums shared with me was her love of books and reading, mum particularly loved the classics and way before Colin Firth rocked up and made Mr Dacey sexy, I could quote passages from two of my all-time Favorites Pride and Prejudice and Little women from memory. I struggle even today to walk past a bookshop without popping to have a quick look.
One of her most prized possessions is this well-loved little green book of Kenneth Grahame stories giving to mum for her 13th birthday by her parents, mum loved and looked after this book for 73 years, dad has told me how if mum ran out of books to read, she would often take out this and re-read it.
One of her favourite Kenneth Grahame stories is Wind in the Willows and for me Wind in the Willows is a story about courage, freedom, loyalty, being adventurous and brave. Which to me is what mum was when she made to decision to travel the world and while she only made it as far as New Zealand (thanks to dad) I can only image how much courage that leap alone took, let’s remember in those days there was no such thing as $99 JetStar flights, so even beautiful New Zealand would have felt like a world away from home.
I would like to read you a couple of passages from Wind in the Willows.
Goodbye mum, I hope you’ve found a quiet spot to catch up on your reading.
Schubert – Ave Maria performed by Leontyne Price
Mum always loved music and was blessed with a fine singing voice. As a young woman she was often asked to sing at weddings, with Schubert’s setting of Ave Maria a popular request. Later, in New Zealand, she began to notice a young NZ woman singing in pubs and clubs – often rock & roll music. That young woman was a young Kiri Te Kanewa.
At her service, a number of musical items formed part of the service.