Spoken by Lola Burrows
Mom was born at Byfleet near London on November 23 1918. Her father
William Batten had been working there at Vickers Aircraft Factory where they
built the planes for England’s first air force. Here he, a Tasmanian, in England
as part of the war effort, met Mary Ame Ollie whose job was engraving serial
numbers on the planes’ machine parts. He was 38, she was 20.They married.
Once the war was over William brought his young wife and baby daughter
home to Tasmania. They came first to Hobart but by the time Mum was ready
for school they had moved to Launceston. Granddad and Nana had a fish shop
Mum went to Sacred Heart College Launceston for all of her schooling. Mum
said that in the upper classes she was often asked to “do the blackboard”, not
cleaning it but putting up decorated borders and drawing any maps needed.
She loved the eurhythmics class. She just generally loved learning and,
although a Protestant did not “do” religious studies, she was in the room and
topped that subject as well as all others.
When she was 14, the family moved to Cressy where Granddad had bought the
top hotel. By this time there was a brother Bill and a little sister Beryl. Mom said
Bill was a terrible tease and a trial to her. He was also responsible for knocking
out her front teeth in a collision in a dark passage. This affected Mum’s smile
and confidence for some time.
Leaving school at 14 was not the best decision Granddad made for Mum. She
was a natural student and should have continued her education. She had to
wait until she was in her 60s to take up her formal education again.
Life at the Cressy hotel was a lot of work for Mum. She milked the cow and
made the butter, waited tables, and did a lot of the cooking for afternoon teas.
She learned to judge the temperature of the fuel stove perfectly for pastry,
sponges or scones. All Mum’s life she loved to swim and dance, and, with Dad,
she also played pennant tennis. She also made most of her clothes from her
teens on as well as those for Beryl, who, being a very full-on child often
wrecked the clothes soon after they were made.
It was at Brumby’s Creek when she was 16 that she cheekily called out to a
nicely muscled likely lad, his bathers rolled to his waist “Hi Tarzan!” and that
was Dad, Kenneth Gordon Powell, 21 to her 16. His Dad, Tom Powell owned
both the town butchers shop and bakers shop. They courted on the horse
drawn baker’s cart (as Dad delivered bread to many outlying farms) and later
went riding on Dad’s first motorbike. They married when Mum was 20 and
moved into a new home in Main Street, Cressy. This was their home for the
next 26 years.
For the first 6 years of their marriage Dad worked as a linesman for the
Railways and was away Monday’s to Fridays. And Mum was at home, first with
Lola, then Victoria (Vicky), and then Rosemarie too. In 1946 Dad saw the
opportunity to start a grocery business in the little, empty shop across the road
from our house. For all of their marriage Mum and Dad were very active in the
community: Parents and Friends, cricket, football, tennis clubs and later Mum
with the Girl Guides. Mum’s wonderful creations, such as a hollow swan, made
of crepe paper and filled with homemade sweets, were much in demand for
raffles. They had a very busy social life. Dad was president of Northern
Fisheries for some years.
In the 50s they often hosted card and music nights with local friends and the
New Australians who had arrived to work at the saw mill. Mum and Dad were
both welcoming to these new arrivals, interested in their history, culture and
cuisine. Mum added several European cakes to her repertoire. The first
wedding of these new arrivals was celebrated in our house at Cressy. Lasting
friendships were forged.
Mum couldn’t survive without a book. Not always fiction but books on
archeology, anthropology and science. Mum had her own copy of “The Silent
Spring”, Rachel Carson’s path-breaking book. Throughout our childhood Mum
gave us wonderful birthday parties, made our clothes and loved to create
fantastic elaborate costumes for fancy dress balls, often out of crepe paper. We
always got the leading roles in school productions, because teachers knew Mum
would always come up with the best costumes.
Mum was ambitious for her children. She knew what it was to be unable to
follow a dream. She had asked her Dad for art lessons but he said artists were
usually self taught and anyway there were no women artists.
However Beryl had developed a beautiful singing voice and Granddad knew
quite well that voices had to be trained so he moved the family to Melbourne
where Beryl attended the Conservatorium of Music. So Mum had no near family
in those early days of marriage and motherhood. Mum also had a lovely singing
voice and also sang at local concerts but also at home and to Dad. Dad and
Mum often danced around the kitchen. They were both great dancers.
In 1954 Lola and Vicky, already attending Launceston High School, Rosemarie
in Grade 5, Mum became pregnant again. After a difficult pregnancy, Mum and
Dad’s fourth child Thomas William Powell was born on 2nd August 1954 so the
family was complete.
The next years were very hard working ones for both Mum and Dad. The
competition of a supermarket had arrived in town which Dad didn’t think would
go as country people were used to credit and deliveries. But no, the inroads the
supermarket made, resulted in Dad having to keep the shop open late into the
evenings and at weekends.. Mum helped as she always had, even adding
home-made hamburgers at lunchtime to attract school children.
Mum also made wedding dresses and clothes for women in Cressy. She sowed
miles and miles. We were used to the sound of the treadle machine and young
women standing on the table for hems to be leveled.
Everything Mum did, she did well.
After attending the Tech College in Hobart, Lola graduated as an art teacher,
married and became a young mother; Mum and Dad had their first grandchild
Elizabeth. Vicky had become a laboratory technician at the Launceston General
Hospital after first doing Mothercraft in Hobart. She was married with a
daughter Cathy, Rosemarie was at teachers college in Melbourne and Tom
was at primary school. Mum became very unwell and needed an emergency
hysterectomy. During the recovery period she was not able to help Dad as she
had. He was working very hard and working with the flu when he had a major
coronary and died. He was just 50. He and Mum had celebrated their 25th
wedding anniversary the year before. Mum had to pick up the pieces and she
did. She had a 9 year old son to raise. Mum carried on the business until she
was able to sell it at the end of the year.
In the January of 1965 Mum moved to Hobart, to Howrah, not far from Lola and
Geoff. Once settled Mum went out and got her first paid job in the Hardware
Store of Charles Davis. In 1968, Mum saw an advertisement in the newspaper
for a new group that was about to start called “Parents without Partners”. She
went the first meeting and was elected its first president. This opened a new
social network and in 1969 Mum married Archie Glover, a widower with 4
unmarried daughters who came to live with them until they married. This
marriage lasted 17 years.
Mum next joined the Spinners and Weavers Guild. Lola bought her a spinning
wheel and she settled down to being more than good at it. She spun superfine
wool to incredible fineness. The knitted lace garments she made won awards
and are in the collections of the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery and the
Craft Council of Australia.
She became a judge in international spinning events and also learned to make
felt from which she designed and created beautiful jackets.
Wanting a new challenge she decided to take up pottery at Rosny College. She
completed a 3 year diploma course. She loved it but wanted more than to just
throw pots. Although she felt inadequate about her lack of education (having
left school at 13), with Lola’s encouragement, she enrolled for the Fine Arts
Degree at the University of Tasmania. She graduated at 70 in 1988. At that
time she was the oldest University student to graduate.
Her art form was sculpture, genre pieces in clay that reflected her observations
of society, street kids on the steps of the GPO, old ladies at bus stops, tree
feller and footballers, mothers, children and lovers. She had a number of very
successful exhibitions often at the Hibiscus Gallery and at the Lady Franklin
Gallery, the home of the Tasmanian Art Society, and also showed in group
exhibitions at the Long Gallery. This was the happiest time of her life. She was
an artist and was part of the art community.
She was a prodigious worker. After graduating she continued to work at the
Hobart School of Art. She loved the place and being among young people.
Many students remember her help and encouragement. A fall down the Art
School steps broke her right wrist. She had an operation but her hand was
never quite right afterwards, even though she had asked the surgeon to remove
the plaster because her fingers weren’t positioned correctly. She was right.
Within days she was writing and drawing with her left hand.
Mum was a doer. She was a “can do” person. She made our wedding dresses,
our wedding cakes, knitted for our babies, cooked fantastic meals. She cared
about larger issues. She grew herself.
Her last years were difficult. Not having a purpose was the hardest thing for
Despite Alzheimer’s, Mum knew us till almost the end, greeted us with “It’s a
miracle, my family.” What will we do now? She always said “I love you” and
And we loved her too
Lola's eulogy can be downloaded as a PDF