Donald C Holland a short biography

Don was born in London England in 1932 and died in 1987.

Don Holland 1961

Don Holland 1961

In his early life living in England he lived with his parents Marjorie and Harold in East Barnet greater London. This area was also known as Whetstone.

Throughout England there are a few places named as Whetstone. They were places where Knights would pass by and sharpen their swords. This one however was legendary and thought to have the name due to soldiers preparing for the battle of Barnet in 1471. This battle was one of the pivotal battles of the war of the roses where the Yorkist King Edward the IV was to meet the Earl of Wickham in battle.

Don lived in a two-storey terrace at 412 Oakleigh Road North now in Brunswick Park above his father’s cycle shop. He probably went to school at the local Oakleigh infants School which first opened in 1928. This school is in easy walking distance from the shop, only about a street or two to the north up Oakleigh Road North.

One of Don’s favourite past times apart from playing in the park down the laneway beside the Pub opposite the shop, was to train spot from the railway bridge south down Oakleigh Road North. In the early forties there would have been many steam locomotives to see on that line.

As Don attended this school from about 1937 through to about 1942, on a very few occasions he would tell of his experience at school during the London Blitz.

For those who do not know what that was, it is a terrible time during the second world war for Londoners when the Luftwaffe or German bomber units would relentlessly bomb London with incendiary bombs. Don recalls being caught in the school playground during one of these raids, recounting that one firebomb fell in front of him and then one fell behind him as he was attempting to make his way to the bomb shelter. It must have made a large impression on him, as he would have only been about 8 years of age at the time.

He also recalled sleeping in the air-raid shelter built-in the back yard of their shop front home. Most houses would have had a bomb shelter built-in the back yard if the yard was big enough and this property had a sizable rear yard. One night during some wet weather, Don recounted that on the bottom bunk his hand fell out of the bed while sleeping and fell into water that was starting to flood the shelter. The family had to evacuate and move to the public shelter down the road that night.

Don’s father Harold was listed as a bicycle mechanic on the manifest for the family’s immigration to Australia in 1948. It is known that Harold ran a bicycle shop business through the war years.

There is a small group of shops just south of Balfour Grove on Oakleigh Road North, which is the probable location of his small bicycle business.

During the war after the retreat of British forces from Dunkirk, England started to get more enlistments in the home guard service. This was made up of shopkeepers and older residents and formed into neighborhood groups. Don’s father Harold joined. During his service he sustained an injury when training on one of the coastal guns. After this, he was never able to straighten one of his arms, although he continued as a bicycle mechanic for many years.

When Don was about 15 year of age he decide to ride his push bike all the way up Oakliegh Road, past Barnet and up High Road to the St Albans Road to the town of St Albans. He recounted how impressed he was with the magnificent cathedral in the town. The trip was about 60 miles, a decent feat to cycle for a young lad.

St Albans Cathedral

St Albans Cathedral

The cathedral was built-in memorial of Alban a Roman citizen martyred in the persecution of Christians in England before Emperor Constantine recognized Christianity as a religion. Apparently Alban in an effort to protect the Bishop of the area, took his clothes and was captured by Roman soldiers and beheaded in about 250 AD. The cathedral and abbey had been added to and repaired over the years at one stage saved from demolition and a new building being built-in its place.

After the Second World War, Harold and Marjorie would have felt that little was holding them back from emigrating. Although, Marjorie had a brother William whom she was close and her Father Horace left in England, Harold had little to do with his family.

Harold and Marjorie after deciding to emigrate sold the shop and moved to a terrace at 10 Balfour Grove, not far from the shop.

So for the princely sum of about 50 pounds the family of five boarded the ship Orion on the 10th of January 1948 to become what is affectionately known as 10 pound “Poms” in Australia.

On the three-month journey to Australia from England, the family made a few friends. Two families became long time friends to them. The Alan’s and the Mock’s.

On many occasions the Holland’s would visit the Alan’s small holiday house at the beachside town of Rosebud situated south of Melbourne on the southern parts of Port Phillip Bay. This would continue for many years, even taking Grand children down to enjoy the beachside atmosphere. The Alan’s house also had a Beach hut or bathing box on the beach, which was very convenient for a changing room when bathing.

When they arrived in Melbourne Don was still only 16 years of age. However he never went back to full-time school. His younger brother Bernard, however did attend Mentone High School being only 13 at the time.

The Holland family settled down for another winter, the second in the year for them, finding a residence in Mentone, then another Melbourne southern suburb.

Don had been involved in scouting in Barnet in greater London so for him it was a logical thing for him to get involved in scouting In Australia.

At age 17 years old he was too old to be a scout so he became second in charge of a Sea Scout troop in his local Mentone, late to take the reins when the group scout master resigned suddenly.

Reginald, Reg for short, his twin brother, got involved in ballroom dancing and various athletic pursuits. He became a very good dancer and won some quite large medals and cups through competitions. Many of these cups could be viewed for many years in Harold and Marjorie’s house.

Why the cup became housed in his parent’s house is a bit of a sad story. Reg had a girl friend and at 21 years old was engaged to be married, while Don was a bit of a recluse or at least did not have the same opportunities to meet women as Reg. Don was involved in scouting and going on scout camps. His habit also was to do a lot of reading. Don through the war years became a prolific reader and one would think this was still the case in his late teens and early twenties.

Both Reg and Don would cycle. Reg would do more cycling than Don it has been reported but since their father was a bicycle mechanic and now setting up business in Australia as a bicycle shop owner one would think they would both ride extensively.

Don found himself working at the Yorkshire Insurance Company from about 1949.

Don Holland 1949

Don Holland 1949

He was employed as an office clerk, but by the end of his short career working for the same company he became the manager in charge of systems, which means that he was one of the chief problem solvers in the Melbourne head office of the company. During this time of his career insurance companies were getting bigger to survive and Yorkshire was no different. The Yorkshire insurance company took over the Scottish insurance company and then itself was taken over by General Accident some time in the late 1960’s.

Don after working for the company for a few years, he became interested in a young lady named Rita who worked as a secretary for one of the bosses in the company. Rita traveled to work, which was in the central business district of Melbourne, by train from a small station called Chatham, just a stop or two east from Canterbury station.

Don started to get a bit more interested in riding his bicycle. The reason was that he wished to visit Rita although the train would have taken him to Chatham from Mentone, it meant a considerable commute changing trains at Melbourne’s Finders Street Station. So Don would ride from Mentone to the locality of Hyfield a considerable ride one-way but then would ride home again probably in the dark on the return journey. This feat of endurance seemed to impress Rita’s mother Ruby as the story was told many years later.

Don Holland about 1952

Don Holland about 1952

Around this time Reg had bought a small car. An Austin 7, and the two boys Don and Reg set off on an adventure through to southern NSW. They travelled the Princes Highway from Melbourne through Cann River and on to the Boarder of New South Wales. It is not clear from stories whether this road in 1950 was tarred, but in about 1964 this section of road east of Cann River in Victoria was only tarred to the width of one car. One assumes, then as now large log trucks would frequent this stretch of road regularly.

But to the ever sadness of his mother, in his prime at the age of 21, Reg had a devastating and eventually fatal bicycle accident with a car at the five way intersection not far from his Mentone home in Cheltenham Road. He was rushed to hospital but later died of his injuries. All were devastated, but none more than his fiancé and his Mother. In fact within the family it is know that is Mother never got over his death.

The family thought that she loved Reg more than Don over this, however after Don eventually dying in 1987, his mother was still alive and reports came back that she was never the same and lost her own will to live, dying not long after at the age of 75.

After a decent courtship of several years Don eventually married Rita in 1955. By this time they had gathered a deposit for a home in South Blackburn. After their Marriage Rita could no longer work for the Yorkshire Insurance Company due to company policy related to married couples both working at the company, so this is when she went to work at the Repatriation hospital as a secretary.

But the company looked after them through Don’s employment providing a low-interest loan fixed on the 3000-pound purchase price of the house.

Donald Holland 1958 In new home

Donald Holland 1958 In new home

Don and Rita had two children, one boy and then one girl as hoped for by the couple.

After Reg dying and Don moving to Blackburn, Harold and Marjorie moved into the back of the cycle shop at Ormond a small suburb in Melbourne’s southeast. Bernard being still at home had the small bedroom at the end of a long passageway towards the back yard of the property, but to the right of the hallway. (The passageway may not have been as long as made out in this story but for a small observer everything can be big)

Don would still go to Rosebud with his parents to the Alan’s beach house, taking his family. Although coming from England, all the 10 pound “Poms” in this group enjoyed the summers and the clean sand of the bay. Often times Don would have a whole dug in the sand by his son David, daughter Gail and nephew Glen and allowed himself to be buried up to the neck in sand by them to the laughter of all.

By this time in the early 1960’s Bernard, had married a lovely little English girl, from another family of 10 pond “Poms” and had the first and second of three children.

Later both Bernard and Don’s family and the grandparents would often go to Mordialoc Beach on the Bay for a day out. Edithvale beach was also a family favourite beach location for Don and Rita as it was the closest beach to their home in Blackburn. However in the 1960’s and 70’s much of the trip was in the open country unlike today with houses both side nearly all the way to the beach at Edithvale.

Don was a hard worker, some suggested that he was a workaholic. But he certainly enjoyed being involved.

After moving to his own home, he started a new scout group. The scout group first met on a chook farm, about half a kilometer or so from Don and Rita’s home.

Don Holland about 1960

Don Holland about 1960

It was an interesting place to visit, chooks and eggs everywhere. There were process workers checking eggs to ensure eggs were not fertile before they went out for sale. This farm was a true free-range farm with roosters and hens in the pens together. Little fluffy chick in small pens could be seen and handled if desired.

But progress never stops and this farm was due to be closed and subdivided up for new housing, so the fledge ling scout group needed to move.

Don became Group Scout master at the age of about 25 years and had several scout and cub leaders to manage. The group would go on bottle drives to get money to sink into the new property for the scout hall on MacCracken Avenue Blackburn South. Scouts and leader would drive around neighborhood on a Saturday and collect bottles. While this was happening the scout hall was being built. Once finished, you could always see large stacks of beer bottles and all kinds of other bottles along the side of the scout hall ready to be picked up by the recyclers.

An old piano adorned the entry to the hall for a few years, however seldom was it in tune.

Don didn’t seem to mind either way as his level of interest in music was negligible and he had a tin ear anyway.

Don ran a news-sheet for the scout group called the “Spotlight”. He would use a Roneo machine to produce copies of the paper. Rita would often type the words on a special paper. This typing would partially cut the wax paper and allow ink to come through onto plan paper when in the Roneo machine.

Don and his scout troop about 1960 with his son bottom right in stripped shirt

Don and his scout troop about 1960 with his son bottom right in stripped shirt

The Roneo machine was a proprietary brand of mimeograph machine. The paper would be placed on the Roneo machine barrel and a handle would be turned to allow a print to be made on copy paper.

After Don’s death the Scout group wanted to honor Don for his dedication to the 2nd Nunawading (1st Blackburn) Group so they named the scout hall the “Skipper Holland Hall”.

During his time working in the Central Business district of Melbourne at the Yorkshire and later General Accident insurance company, he became a fellow of the Insurance institute and after completing extensive study in the area of insurance.

While working in the industry and in Melbourne he joined a lunchtime club of the Victorian Rostrum Club. As the years went by Don became more involved and my the late 1960 was a convener of one of the major competitions for the Victorian club.

Rostrum is an after dinner speaking club and many a politician cut their baby speaking teeth in a rostrum club environment like this.

Don was a member of Club 23, but as the convener of the Joe David Cup Competition, he was responsible for ensuring all the Victorian clubs were invited to put competitors into the competition.

On the night of the presentation of the Jo Davie cup in about 1966 or 67 the governor of Victoria Sir Roden Delicom was present siting next to Don who was presiding over the proceedings. On that night he brought his son David who also sat at the head table next to the governors aid.

In about 1964, Harold and Marjorie sold the cycle shop and bought a pet shop living somewhere in Ormond. A little time after this moved to Blackburn south not far from both their sons.

However a year or so after, Bernard and his wife now with three children, two boys and a girl, moved to Western Australia in about 1967, first to Perth and then later after getting a job at Mount Tom Price, moved there with his family.

In about 1970, Harold and Marjorie were on the move. They had bought a block of flats at Tugun on the Gold Coast of Queensland, just north of the New South Wales border. They had become partners with one of the friends they met on the boat coming to Australia, Mr. and Mrs. Mock.

So in 1970, on his annual leave Don and his family went by car to visit them on the Gold Coast at the flats they owned and stayed for about two weeks. Harold was in the process of gaining his real estate license at the time, which he gained a little time later. He could be found working in a small yellow sign written office at the front of the flats doing tourists bookings and selling real estate.

The weather was superb, but all to soon the family had to drive back home to the Melbourne suburbs.

In the early and middle 1970’s he became more involved in Rostrum. One time was leafleting, with his son David, two country towns Druin and Warragul, located to the south-east of Melbourne, for a planned Rostrum event. During one of these trips for Rostrum, but by himself on this occasion, he had a serious car accident where a car failed to stop and ran up the back of his stationary car at a set of lights near Dandenong. He was hospitalized and made a good recovery after about a week in hospital.

In about 1977 Don was involved in inducting new speaking clubs into the rostrum culture. He would travel around the State of Victoria and assess club proceedings as part of their application to be a Rostrum Club. One such trip was to the locality of Vermont where his son David had joined a club not yet affiliated with Rostrum. Sitting in the background, Don observed the proceedings, later recommending the acceptance of the fledgling clubs application to Rostrum.

Some time after this Don became a freeman in the organization. This was an office in the club that members aspired to.

By 1978 Harold and Marjorie had retired to a 3 bedroom house in Tugun. Don, as a dutiful son went and visited them without the family this time not long after they had moved.

After many years of high blood pressure and at about 48 years old, Don had a bad heart attack that caused him to retire from work. He was still involved in the rostrum club as much as possible but scouting had to take a back seat in his life after this. When he was about 53, and had been Victorian president for a couple of years, the Victorian Rostrum realizing that Don only had a short time to live due to his illness and voted to make him Honorary Victorian President for life for the recognition of the service he had done for Rostrum over the years.

Don died just before his 55th birthday and one month after the birth of his first grandson save one day. He never saw his grandson as he was born in Tasmania and Don was convalescing at home and later in the hospital. His son David travelled back from Tasmania not long after he went into hospital and noted some of the last words he spoke to him.

“Always remember your family”

Later he would have a grand son born on his birthday a year later and his first granddaughter born on the day he died. Ultimately he would have four grand sons and two grand daughters.

His life seemed to be normal yet extraordinary. One where the effects of war would have made a large impact on him and even the death of his twin, yet able to push those sad times aside and enjoy life as he had it and even excel in a quiet way, gaining honor and respect from people he helped and members of organization he dedicated much of his spare time to.

by David Holland


My Son the Medieval Knight

Gallery2020 Publishing

How can you predict what that little baby boy that you hold in your arms for the first time will do when he grows up?  One would think a boy growing up in seemingly an average environment would turn out to be an average teenager who would grow into an average adult.

As many of us as boys, we would play different games with our siblings, which would include perhaps sword fights with an array of tree branches and sticks. In my case my sister was the one who had to endure a young 10 year old’s exuberance for experimentation with these kinds of implements.

My son, probably fortuitously when playing these kinds of games, only had brothers. He often made good sport of his younger brother as he practiced his techniques as a young lad. Of course, his younger brother, slightly smaller at the time would often fight above…

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by Margaret Ellem

             Acknowledgement to my family and to my friend Ray Rauscher who relentlessly urged me to write down my Bangladeshi experiences. 2009

(Author’s background)

Where to start? Like the song in “The Sound of Music” – “Start at the very beginning!” I was born in Sydney in l942 to Les and Eda O’Toole. My father was an accountant, and my Mum was working in a tea room her parents managed in Wentworth Falls in the Blue Mountains when my father walked in! After they married, my brother John was born in l926. They moved to South Curl Curl on Sydney’s northern beaches before I was born. My brother Jack was sixteen years old when I was born. I loved him dearly and followed him around whenever I could! We moved to Dee Why when I was eight years old, and when I was twelve Jack moved out of the family home and I missed him immensely. Apart from my parents he was the single most influential person in my childhood. I continued this close relationship with him until he passed away in 2005. I miss him a

Growing up I was a bit of a “wild child”, until fifteen years old when I met my first love David! Up to this stage I hadn’t attended church (only Sunday School spasmodically). When the handsome minister’s son invited me to Dee Why Baptist Church I gladly went! (I would have gone anywhere he asked!) I recognized God’s claim on my life and about three months later committed my life to God and was baptized. New beginnings! After four years of keeping company with David, and frequently being jealous of the many girls who were attracted to him- I had to let him go, for him to discover what it was like to date other girls! I was his first girlfriend, however I had gone out with other boys. At nineteen I was devastated and I can remember sitting in vain by the phone crying, waiting in vain for him to call. I found it extremely hard to let him go because I truly loved him and had hoped for a future with him. I still find I have a problem in this area with people I love.

Around this time , along came Roger Ellem (a student Pastor at Narraweena, a local Baptist church). He was good looking, and very committed to going to Bangladesh (thenEast Pakistan) as a missionary. I was attracted to him, and my mother heaved a sigh of relief when I stopped sitting by the phone crying! My parents liked Roger, in spite of the fact that after our first date he told them that if I ended up with him I would be living in faraway East Pakistan! It was a bit of a shock (to say the least) to hear that their beloved daughter may end up the other side of the world but they accepted it! They wanted me to be happy!

Consequently, after one year doing a Missionary Course at the Baptist Theological College in Eastwood in Sydney, we were married in February 1964. Then followed a series of short ministries in Baptist churches in New South Wales, Armidale in 1964 (a country church with the older ladies all waiting for me to take over ladies meetings etc). I found this very daunting, as a young inexperienced minister’s wife! Times were economically tough!

I can remember only having baked beans in the house – and Roger having to go and ask for his salary when the church Treasurer frequently forgot to pay us on the Sunday night after church. We were to be commissioned and leave for Bangladesh (East Pakistan) the next year – but the Pakistani war with India postponed our leaving Australia.

So early in l965 we moved back to Sydney for Roger to be Pastor of Concord West Baptist Church. I was dying to have a baby and during this year became pregnant with our first child! The pregnancy delayed our leaving for East Pakistan again because the Australian Baptist Missionary Society wanted me to have the baby in Australia. Needless to say, I was thrilled and so were the grandparents.

We moved to Mudgee in l966 and in July our beautiful daughter Joanne was born. (Joanne means “gift of God.”) Roger was the first father the Matron reluctantly allowed to be in the delivery room at Mudgee Hospital. She was certain this would open the floodgates for future fathers – and she fought against it and lost. Joanne was like a little doll – and much loved. The head of A.B.M.S. (Australian Baptist Missionary Society) J.D. Williams, came up from Melbourne to do a dedication service for Joanne (a little like a Christening).


Time was now running out for the grandparents to enjoy Joanne – because at last, in February l967 we were to sail for Dhaka- the Bangladesh capital city, We spent a couple of lovely months in Dee Why in N.S.W with my Mum and Dad in their home unit, before sailing off with eight months old Joanne Gwyneth on the small Italian cruise ship the “Castel Felice.” I can remember my Mum and Dad and brother Jack, standing together with Roger’s parents waving on the wharf with “Lara’s Theme” from Dr, Zhivago” playing as the ship pulled out of Sydney, I cried my heart out – and they played that same music in and out of every port to Colombo (three weeks later), in old Ceylon. To this day I can’t hear “Lara’s Theme” without being teary!

I t was supposed to be the “Castel Felice’s” last voyage – but in fact it made afew more! As soon as it made its way out of the Heads in Sydney Harbour – it made its way down to Bass Strait. I was so sick! I didn’t dare take Joanne down to the cabin until we hit New Zealand. We were travelling with two other Australians – Laurie Skinner (who was returning to East Pakistan from furlough (holiday) after many years service in East Pakistan. Betty Edmonds was going out to be the missionary children’s schoolteacher in Mymensingh. Even though Laurie was a
bachelor, he was so good with eight months old Joanne. He kept walking her around the deck when we needed a break to recover. He was an angel.

However, Laurie also insisted on Bengali lessons every day (come rain or come shine).  By the time we reached Auckland I had got over my sea sickness- and we got off the boat for the day. What a beautiful city! It took about two weeks to get to Singapore. Then another week to get to Colombo, which turned out to be so hot and sticky! Bad news! The boat that was going to take us to Dhaka was delayed indefinitely so we had to find somewhere to stay in Colombo.

It took about two weeks to get to Singapore. Then another week to get to Colombo, which turned out to be so hot and sticky. Bad news! The boat that was going to take us to Dhaka was delayed indefinitely so we had to find somewhere to stay in Colombo! I was very stressed, Joanne was covered in prickly heat and we stayed in the British Mission House – old Colonial British residence. Mosquito nets, very high humidity – and no cot for Joanne! I was still stressed and Laurie combed Colombo for a cot – and finally found one (cane sides) in an expat’s attic. I
was so grateful to him and kissed him and told him he was an angel! He put up with a lot from me on the trip.

We spent three weeks in Colombo waiting for the boat that didn’t come. We made the most of our stay (English style
breakfasts in the garden) etc., waited on by servants – which I found difficult, because they are our equals, and called you “Sir” or “Madam” (“Sahib or “Memsahib}.” Our Bengali lessons continued. We all went by train to Kandy
(up in the hills). It was so cool compared to the heat and humidity in Colombo. We saw the Temple of the Tooth (Buddha’s tooth).


Finally Laurie arranged with the Mission for us to fly to West Pakistan (Lahore) and from there to Dhaka over in East Pakistan (Bangladesh today). I was finally in the country – and it was so hot and humid! We were met by other missionaries and put on a Fokher Friendship smaller plane to Ishurdi (out in the country). It was so good to be met by Annette and Phil Gillman (old friends from Australia who lived in Ishurdi) – with their son Andrew (he’s about eight month’s older than Joanne). They have remained friends over the years.

What were my first impressions of Bangladesh? I loved the brown faces and was shocked at the poverty (children begging- older beggars, crippled with a begging bowl) and in those days there were only the rich and the poor – not
really many people in between. Very hot and humid weather – and from the little plane we saw endless flat plains – no hills or mountains ! Very green though! Rivers flowing through the rice fields and little villages with bazaars
(markets) and lots of dirt roads, bullock carts (“goru garis”) – four wheel drive vehicles and rickshaws. The average life span of the rickshaw “wallah” being 35 ! They worked so hard pedalling people around

We spent a pleasureable afternoon at the Ishurdi Mission House with Phil and Annette. Their house was nice, a long verandah with double doors opening out onto the verendah. They had a cook Raphael and an “aiah” (nanny) Cargil. I determined there and then not to have an “aiah” for Joanne but to look after her myself.

I remember saying to Annette how good her house was and her replying “Yes this is a good house – but unfortunately your house in Pabna isn’t!” What a shock! Stinking hot! Joanne with prickly heat! Our house was forty minutes away by an old Land Rover, through hot flat plains, small bazaars, past bullock carts (“goru garis”) – to Pabna , a rural town; and into the mission compound (which was comprised of a boy’s hostel and several houses built in the British Raj. Our house was single story cement built by a single lady missionary single handed.

We couldn’t even try to settle in, because there was a missionary conference there. People were staying in our house – so we were given one room and a bathroom in it.

Stinking hot, mosquito nets, shutters (no windows). It was quite a feat to get out of our mosquito net to get under Joannes’ mosquito net to get to her in the middle of the night. The rest of the house (one other bedroom) kitchen and lounge room was occupied. A New Zealand couple with a child were in the only other bedroom. Joanne was very unsettled with her prickly heat, and the ceiling fan went round ever so slowly (being connected to the same electrical system as the local cinema).  Consequently when the cinema closed we nearly got blown out of bed at two a.m!  The Muslim Calls to prayer took place five times a day ! To this day Joanne and her sister Megan (born in Rajshahi the following year) love the Muslim call to prayer and Eastern music!

I can remember lying in the uncomfortable hard bed thinking “What am I doing here? I need my Mum ! How will Joanne survive until the tea chest arrives with the Heinz baby food in jars and the Lactogen powdered milk arrives by boat? Goodness knows when this will happen!

It was a pretty spiritual conference however – so I reminded myself that God can give the strength to endure the heat, cope with the home sickness, look after Joanne, support Roger, learn the Bengali language and make a life with the
Bengali Christians in this predominantly Muslim country. Pabna had quite a population of Hindus as well. The senior missionaries (“misso’s”) were Lois and Arthur Newnham, who lived the two storey house at the other end of the compound. Their children were grown and in Australia (having gone to boarding school in Darjeeling in India when they were younger). I have never been there but apparently it’s a beautiful place in the Hills District of India. It sounded like Shangrilah to me, after the hot flat plains of Bengal.

That first year passed with lots of support from the Newnhams, and the three single lady missionaries who lived there,Ros Gooden, Lyn Spicer and Rita Wingrove. Laurie Skinner (who had travelled out on the boat with us) lived in another building in the Pabna compound along with the Bengali boys’ hostel master.


The heat was very hard to get used to – and I was pregnant again, which I had badly wanted ( because I was so homesick). At least Joanne would have someone to play with. She actually thrived with the attention of the single “missos”, Laurie and the Newnhams. The Bengali language wasn’t coming along very well – because I preferred to look after Joanne myself and refused to have an “aiah”. Morning sickness didn’t help either. The other missionaries did their best to persuade me to have an “aiah” to no avail. I wanted to care for her myself – like the Bengali mothers. I felt a kindred spirit with the Bengali mothers in the local Pabna Christian Church. They used to bring their babies and toddlers for afternoon tea and I’d try out my stumbling Bengali language, until I made a big “fopah”! I told them I had a “Koob karup house” in Bengali – and after the initial shock, they told me I hadn’t said “ I have an untidy house” but “I run a brothel!” After that I didn’t try out my Bangla much.

What about cooking in the hot climate, in primitive conditions in a small kitchen
with a kerosene stove and kerosene fridge? We were provided with Edward , a
Bengali cook from one of the villages. He was an O.K cook with curries etc –
and I taught him a bit of Australian cooking. No supermarkets – just Edward
going down to the bazaar early to get a healthy chicken and carry it home
squarking over his shoulder (tied by the feet). Fortunately it was killed and
plucked etc. out of our eyesight – and as soon as possible became a tasty curry
on the table! We noticed Edward smoked a lot outside (we weren’t sure whether
they were normal cigarettes or not)! However he loved Joanne and did his best
to feed us-and cope with our poor Bengali to make his shopping lists!

Joanne and Andrew Gillman (from Ishurdi- 40 minutes away) played together whenever the two
families got together. I used to love going over to beautiful home in Ishurdi
for the day. Joanne and Andrew would paddle in a wading pool, fight over toys
and generally have a good time. Annette was a great support for me when I was
down and homesick. The baby was due in January l968 (which fortunately was in
Winter) which is a bit like our Autumn. These couple of months our type of vegetables were able to be grown which was good. I came to love the Bengali vegetables too, such as “brinjawl”.

The rest of the year we ate Bengali vegetables and rice etc. The worst time of the
year was in May-June (hot and dusty and sandstorms and dysentery). Dust came in
the house during sandstorms because we only had shutters no glass windows.

We had our first family holiday that first year – when I was about 6 months
pregnant. Fortunately it was in the hot dry season before the monsoons. We were
able to get away to the Cameron Highlands of Malaysia. We stayed in the
Lutheran bungalows up in the mountains! We entered Malaysia through Kuala
Lumpur and hired a car, and wound our way up through the mountains! What a
glorious place! Cool weather, beautiful Chinese food – walks, some semblance of
the normality I had been used to in Australia. We used to go on jungle walks –
Roger carrying Joanne on his shoulders! One day we were walking along a jungle
path and looked down and there were huge tiger paw prints! Needless to say we
went back as fast as we could!

Roger decided to play golf on the Cameron Highlands Golf Course and Joanne and I went
along! Half way round we were asked to allow the Tunkhu Abdul Rahman to play
through (accompanied by his entourage). He thanked us- and we noticed a
beautiful little Malay toddler following him around! Apparently a poor family
had given her to him to bring up- as a sign of respect and so that she could
have a better life! How unusual! Our first introduction to adoption I guess.
Later on in our life back in Australia we were to adopt three children from
overseas – after our first son was born. That holiday was so surreal to me
after the Bengal heat, I really enjoyed it. The year wore on- my stumbling
Bengali was much slower than Roger’s (he had intensive language classes daily).
I tried to study myself- and with Laurie Skinner. By this time Roger had even
preached a short sermon in the local Pabna church! Church was an experience. I
wore a sari- because if you didn’t you were too much of a rarity. This way I
could avoid men in the street standing around staring at my legs and arms. The
women and children sat on one side of the church, and men on the other side.
The Bengali women covered themselves from baby I feel Megan my have also had
the same problem, because she vomited after her bottle.

One frustrating thing after Megan’s birth was that the grandparents in Australia
didn’t get the message about her birth for three weeks after the event! These
were the days before emails etc, and telegrams took ages between East Pakistan
and Australia. Consequently some gifts and cards were sent – but they never
arrived at our address. How do we know this? Well, Roger went down to the local
bazaar to get a haircut and, and in a shop displayed proudly up on the wall,
were some of our “Welcome Baby” cards! Maybe the postman made a bit of extra
money for his family that day.

I love the Bangladeshi people – in those times the majority of them were so
poor-but so hospitable. Many a time we were invited to dinner at a very poor
home (cow dung plastered walls and sticks etc, in the walls – and a thatched
roof). The humbling experience was that we knew they probably went without a
meal to feed us – and yet we couldn’t offend them and not eat. Many families
had ten to twelve children! This was not only because of lack of family
planning education, but to ensure that some of the children would survive to
care for them in their old age. Back in the sixties and seventies there were no
aged or disability pensions. Often children died of dysentery, cholera,
malnutrition, worms etc. One Bengali Muslim woman had ten child births (half of
the children had died) and the poor woman was about five days in labour with
the eleventh birth. Fortunately she and the baby survived, but the future was
pretty bleak.

Many beggars would come to the mission house, some with babies. I always gave
clothes and milk for the baby. Only God knows how needy they were-but to this
day I prefer to share what I have with folk in need (and take a risk that they
may not get to keep it all), than to say no and turn God’s people away. The sad
thing is that there are beggar masters that rob the beggars of their earnings!


Things proceeded uneventfully even through the dysentery ridden hot dusty May. I was
very upset however to find worms in Megan’s nappy. I still tried to learn
Bengali, but was miles behind Roger. When Megan was eight months old Roger was
very ill. He had chronic dysentery and it developed into Hepatitus A. He had to
be looked after at home-but I also had contracted the Hep.A and much to my
dismay at leaving Joanne and Megan in the care of Kath Kells (a single
missionary nurse)-I was transported to Rajshahi Mission Hospital and put in
isolation. I remember saying to poor Roger – “Don’t leave our girls – they need

When Roger consequently landed in my room in the hospital – I gave him a pretty bad
time! We both had intravenous drips-and when the news came that Joanne and
Megan also had Hep.A and were being looked after at home by Kath Kells, I was
so stressed.

After several weeks (and much soul searching and frustration) we were allowed to go
back to Pabna. . However, I was very frustrated because Kath wouldn’t let me do
anything with my babies! I had to toe the line.To recuperate we were ordered to
our Australian Mission Hospital at Joyramkura (a Tribal Garo area) up near the
Indian border – at least a day and a half journey by train, ferry,train and
four wheel Drive . Kath Kells had to come with us and carry Megan, We journeyed
from Pabna-Ishurdi day train to the Ghat (ferrying docking place) and up the
river by train again to Mymensingh , where we spent the night with Aussie
ex-pat missionaries. The next day a driver took Kath and us to Joyramkura by
four wheel drive,

We were met by John Spicer (an Aussie doctor) and his wife Heather and their small
family Meryl, Gillian and Joe. We were given a house and stayed for
recuperation and fellowship. We were advised to take early holidays and decided
on Pokhara in Nepal. Had we known that we were going to stay in a thatched roof
hotel and that I would have to wash nappies (in Winter) squatting next to a
bucket of cold water-we may not have gone.

The scenery made up for the fact that we had to walk everywhere and carry Joanne
and Megan (so much for the rest). The scenery was Anapurna mountain (covered in
snow) and Marchipuchra (the fish tail mountain). Tibetan refugees carrying
enormous loads of Sticks etc, on their backs (children did this as well). They
were at the airport as we got out of the DC3. The incongruous thing was that
the Royal Nepal Airlines seat I sat in –had a seat belt but the seat wasn’t
attached to the floor of the plane! Donkeys everywhere, curious kids, and a
small aircraft pulled up next to our plane and out got the crown Prince of
Nepal. The plane ended up staying the night on the airstrip and the pilot and
air hostesses ended up staying in the next cabin! Pokhara in those days was a
very small place at the foot of the Himalayas.
These days it is a thriving tourist destination . I remember we hiked to
a beautiful lake and crossed it in a dug-out canoe, The most beautiful clearest
water I have ever seen. I really enjoyed the mountain scenery after the hot
flat plains of Bengal.

Christmas Eve was unforgetable! We decided to walk to the Leper Colony at The Shining
Hospital ran by missionaries, out of Pokhara. It was such an experience-sitting
on the floor next a leprosy sufferer and sharing Christmas Eve and carol
singing. I think it was then that the “Universality of Man” and the fact that
all folk have a common love of the Creator, imprinted on my mind!

Christmas dinner was at the Mendies home back in Kathmandu (where we flew out the next
day). Tom Mendies was an Anglo-Indian man married to an English lady. They had
taken abandoned babies off the street into their own home and they had adopted
some street children and had other unadoptable toddlers in their old mansion.
Perhaps this was when the seed of the idea of overseas adoption (of kids who
needed a family) was planted? Tom and his wife could never live anywhere else
but Nepal with these kids-because some of them were unadoptable and they had no
official identity (or permission for adoption). Here we tasted buffalo curry
(for the first time). It was a very rich taste, and quite fatty. Kathmandu has
many Buddhist temples and markets. I guess the British Raj, did some good
towards cleanliness etc. in India, because Nepal really showed the lack of
this. The streets were literally full of rubbish and folk threw slops of all
kinds out the windows!

The British never ruled in Nepal. The people were lovely and shopping for saris was
wonderful(beautifully coloured silk).

Unfortunately we had to return to Pabna where a move was imminent. Phil and Annette Gillman
were moving to Kulpotak and we were moving into their Ishurdi house! I was so
excited about this-but of course we were still recovering from our family
Hepatitus A experience!

The move to Ishurdi was a happy one. The house is out in the rural area-windows and
French doors as well as shutters. We inherited a gardener named Tokon
(assassinated during the future East – West Pakistan war). We took Monah
(Monahor) Pandy with us as our driver. In fact Monah’s fourteen year old
daughter was married after we moved. Monah had been a Pastor at Fuljhana
Village and his daughter married a man much older than herself from the same
village. We had a very happy Christmas in Ishurdi.

We had had a new cook for some time in Pabna. Profullah was about nineteen years
of age when he first took Edward’s place. He was from Chatmahor village in
rural Bangladesh and was a beautiful person . I had to teach him some English
cooking but he was excellent at chicken curries and vegetable “bhajee” (vege
curries and “japathi”). We took him with us to Ishurdi and he was so good with
Megan and Joanne. He was unmarried (but in the future-when we were in Australia
again-he married Judhikah and had two sons). He was also to contract T.B
(Tuberculosis)in the future and lose the fight for his life when his boys were
teenagers. We were to keep up this contact with him from Australia with gifts
of money as long as we could. We grew to love Profulla, and really respected
him as a person.

Roger continued to have chronic dysentery and the whole family had lost weight from the Hepatitus A. We sent a family photo home and were oblivious to the fact that both sets of grandparents
thought we looked like holocaust survivors. We had a very happy Christmas in
Ishurdi that year.

Joanne and Megan only got one present each – and were probably the better off for it.

What of the local Bengali people? I loved them and tried my best to communicate in
Bengali. We had church services on our verandah at Ishurdi for the Christians.
Some of the Muslim women would bring their babies and toddlers to visit and I
would often give away our clothes, and milk for the babies etc. The Bangladeshi
people have remarkable tenacity , a lot of the families in rural Bangladesh
only having one meal a day. We acquired a small black goat that Joanne named
“Half”. Many a happy hour was spent playing with Half.

One day a travelling snake charmer came with a monkey and a wicker basket full of
snakes. He tipped the snakes out on the verandah and started playing his bamboo
pipe to “charm” them. He would send his monkey around the audience to collect
the money – and if anyone refused to give any then he would tip all the snakes
out of the basket onto the verandah! Another time Roger stepped on a cobra
while walking on the “bund” (a raised surface alongside the path). Often I
longed for home and my parents, or just to put Joanne and Megan in a shopping
trolley and walk around a supermarket!

Something happened that was of grave concern for a while. A bat flew into Megan’s cot and
bit her on the finger! We had to find out whether Bangladeshi bats have rabies
like some South American bats! Fortunately they don’t! Roger continued to get
better at the Bengali language – and started a deep litter poultry system to
breed chickens and to teach the local people how to do it. This was very
successful, and we had fresh eggs for ourselves as well.


Roger’s health was still not good, and a holiday was planned in Penang in Malaysia with
Dr. John Spicer and his wife Heather and children. Consequently John was able
to observe Roger while on the holiday and tell him to go and rest, often. We
stayed in a Christian Guesthouse in the Foreign Quarter on the beach in Penang
(“Batu Ferenghi”). The Chinese food was beautiful, and life at the beach was
good – that is until poor little Joanne got stung by a box jellyfish tentacle
across her arm! It was very itchy – and the wound opened right up and the
doctor said Joanne would have needed to be given and injection straight away on
the beach for the wound to have a chance of healing. To this day Joanne’s arm
looks like a knife had cut it open! The scar has grown with her.

The outcome of the holiday in Malaysia was that John Spicer recommended that we
return to Australia as soon as possible. Much to Roger’s dismay he was told he
was not to live in Bangladesh or a similar situation again! This was a great
shock to Roger as he had thought that we would stay there at least until the
children were teenagers! So we had to return to Bangladesh and start to pack.
Roger was very unwell – so I packed up our wedding presents etc – and some o
actually my dolls I had as a child – and put them into storage along with
Roger’s theological books etc (we were still expecting to be able to come back
for at least another term at this stage). So they were stored in one of the
Mission Houses in Pabna.

Unfortunately the war between East and West Pakistan stepped up while we were in Australia –
and our things were looted and we were never to see them again. Roger’s books
became sugar bags in the local markets (“bazaar”). However, if there was one
thing we learned out of these experiences it was that material possessions are
just that – only things! People are more important than things, and God is good
and we’ve accumulated much more since.

Roger found it very difficult to live with the fact that he wasn’t medically allowed to
return to reside in Bangladesh. After several ministeries in Canberra and New
South Wales – he applied for a job in Compassion Australia and became very
successful as an iterant representative in their Home Ministries Division
getting thousands of sponsors for children in the third world. This actually
became his compelling passion – and substituted for not being able to fulfil
his Bangladesh dream.

As for me – I was thrilled to come back to Australia after three years overseas
and give the grandparents the pleasure of getting to know Joanne and Megan and
our new first son Gareth, who was born when we lived in Sans Souci for a year
in l970. Later on we adopted five year old Joy from Korea in l978. When we
moved to Newcastle to work for Compassion we adopted l3 months old Derek from
Brazil in l980. In l987 we adopted our last child, six year old Ruth from
Korea. I feel honoured to have given birth to three children and to have added
to our family another three who needed a family.

I also feel privileged to have had the opportunity to share with the Bangladeshi
Christians and to appreciate what life is like for the poor. They certainly
have a sustainable faith in God that puts ours to shame! Most of the poor
consider themselves fortunate if they eat one meal a day – and yet they cope
and share what they have with others. We could well take a leaf out of their

This Bangladesh experience has taught me to be grateful for what I have, and to
treasure our time with our children and grandchildren, and to concentrate on
living in the present! GOD IS GOOD!