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Thursday, April 18, 2024

VALE Marjory Long


Here is the eulogy delivered for Marjory Long at her funeral service on Monday (Feb. 20):
Hello everyone. On behalf of my sister Denise, my brother Greg, myself, and our families, thanks for being here today to pay tribute to the life of Marjory Norah Long.
We wish to thank our funeral celebrant Simon Beasy, and we also wish to thank the Bethel Funerals team (Miriam and Chris) for their care of Mum.
Marjory Norah Lawrence was born on Monday, February 25, 1924 – some 99 years ago. Marjory was warmly welcomed into a family in Clarendon Street, Thornbury, that comprised her father Bert, her mother Honora, elder brother Jack, older sisters Joy and Sylvia, and a younger brother Bobby was to follow. Bobby died, aged about age five, at the time of the diptheria outbreak in the 1930s, with Mum also spending time at the Fairfield Infectious Diseases Hospital at the time. There had been an older brother, Charles, who died after birth.
The Lawrence family of Thornbury were big fish in a little pond. Bert, his brothers, and their father Joseph, ran Lawrence Leathers, a tanning company. They employed a number of the locals, and they were generally happy days. When we were doing some Lawrence family history in recent years, Mum cautioned that it might be best not to dig too deep!
The Lawrences had their own home, some good looking cars, even a beach bungalow at Merricks … but Mum recalls that it was not uncommon for Grandpa Bert to have to don a suit on Thursdays, and go to the bank manager to ask for an account extension to pay the wages. “A cheerful grin will get you in,” was his motto.
The Lawrences had married with the Fletchers who had originally come from the Lakes District of England, and Scotland prior to that. Mum sometimes wore the McLaren tartan.
Mum recalled started at the Wales Street Primary School just before her fifth birthday. She said she wore a pretty organdie bonnet tied under the chin. On enrolment day, she was sent home, and had to return to school with her mother, to explain the underage enrolment.
Her uncle Frank nicknamed her ‘Pimmy Pink Pants’, after a cartoon character of the times. In later life, if a pen name was required, it was Pim O’Brien.
Her mother, Honora O’Brien, had sailed to Australia from her homeland – ‘Shamrock Cottage’ in Epsom, England, to marry Albert Fletcher Lawrence at All Saints Anglican Church, Preston, on January 30, 1915. Honora had worked in the homes of the well-to-do. She had been a recptionist and parlour maid for a doctor. We understand that she had connections with the Suffragette movement, which gives a hint to explaining why we have so many incredible, strong women in our clan, including Marjory. The O’Brien sisters were Mary, Kate, Honora and Julia. A number of siblings died as children: there was a first Honora, and Margaret, Annie and John. The O’Briens had a proud Irish heritage.The three Lawrence sisters – Joyce, Sylvia and Marjory – shared a bedroom. They remained close always. Sylvia was lost to us in 1995, and Mum missed her dearly. For many years, Joy and Mum kept daily contact, just to check in with each other. Our Dad, Jim, used to say, “Never try to interrupt the Lawrence sisters when they are in conversation.”Family life was to the fore with the Lawrences. Lots of uncles and aunties, lots of cousins. The Lawrence clan was Joseph Junior, Bert, Ida, George, Frank, Clara, Arthur and Robert. Grandpa Joe and Grandma Sarah lived a few houses down Clarendon St, Thornbury. Their tannery was on the same block. Mum used to doubt whether her grandfather would have even known her name. He always dressed well, and wore a gold watch. They also had a house at Black Rock, where a number of the extended Lawrence family settled.
Mum remembered using a slate and slate pencils in her early school years. Students would hold penny concerts where they tap danced, recited or played the piano. Past-times were dancing, gymnasium, piano and elocution. Mum said that the children who did not learn to dance, used to peep around the corner to watch the pupils, and would then imitate what they did at backyard concerts.In those depression years, Honora would give extra lunches for the Lawrence children to take to school, to share with those who could not afford one. Mum recalled that children gathered in big groups, big sisters and brothers, with littlies following. It was safe to wander around the streets and parks in those times. Part of the lifestyle, as they grew older, was to walk High Street in Thornbury, Croxton and Northcote, on a Friday night, saying hello to all, everyone knew everyone. Mum said that as kids they knew most neighbours’ backyards as well as their own. These were the days of a local iceman, a baker with horse and cart, same for the milkman twice a day, postman twice a day including Saturday, and a butcher’s boy would deliver even the smallest order.
Mum recalled that the kids mostly drank water or a cup of tea. Cordial was for Christmas, and lemonade, ginger beer and Kola beer was for party time. The Lawrence home was full of books, and the Lawrence girls were writers to the Sunbeamers column in the Sun News-Pictoial newspaper.
Sunday School was big – classes in the afternooon, and the option of morning and evening services. Faith – in a true, uncomplicated way – remained part of Mum’s life, for all her years. She read the Bible daily, and she had her favourite verses. Until the COVID years, she participated in weekly worship. Sunday was also big with its roast lunch for the family.
Mum participated in Brownies, Guides and Rangers, and even became a Cub leader. She went to the Jamboree at Frankston in the 1930s, and coincidentally a scout from Bendigo – Jim Long – was also there, but they were not to meet until years later. With Brownies, one trip was to the Fairy Tree in the Botanical Gardens. Mum had a lifetime interest in fairies and the ‘Little People’.
There was plenty of sport with tennis, basketball, and Mum saved for a bike, persuading her Dad to lend her the balance which she dutifully paid back. Other activities including ice skating and ballroom dancing. Merricks Beach was a big part of the family’s life. Bert and some brothers bought land at the ‘Manly Estate’ in the 1920s, and newspaper ads show the Surf Street blocks nearest the beach selling for £100 each. The holiday home was used during school holidays and weekends. The family would go in the family car, luggage on the running board of the car, stopping at Frankston for cakes and refreshments, with a record player pulled out of the boot to set the tone. In the winter, the last few miles were so bad, they had chains on the car. The place was lit by lanterns, long before electricity. The Monday morning return trip was at 6am, to get the children to school, and Grandpa to the factory by 8am.
Merricks Beach meant swimming, fishing and friends. The neighbouring Brooks family had a piano. All the families were involved in bringing the big fishing nets in. Mum said the haul was plenty of seaweed, shells …. and, on the odd occasion, even fish.
Mum started at Preston Girls’ High School, which meant a cable tram ride to Dundas Street, then the electric tram up Plenty Road. Then followed Stotts Business College, and a job in her mid-teens at Club Motor, the insurance arm of the RACV. Mum also studied at what was daintily called the Emily McPherson College of Domestic Economy.
World War II came, and Mum became soldier VF508243 in the Australian Women’s Army Service. A Craftswoman, having just turned 19. I think she was first in her family to enlist. Interestingly, Mum had her mother sign the parental approval papers for her to join. Mum trained at places including Darley at Bacchus Marsh, she was involved at the Seymour Military Post Office, and was then transferred to the Electrical and Mechanical Workshops at Bandiana, near Albury. She was a stenographer, competent in Morse Code, and was involved in office administration for a team that included Colonel Wadsworth, and a Warrant Officer Class II, James Long. Her Jim.
Mum had been going out with a different Jim in Thornbury prior to the War. But Jim Long upped the ante by leaving her a Violet Crumble or Polly Waffle in her top desk drawer every day. The Long family’s power of confectionery! They became engaged in 1944. An interesting thing at this time was that Jim told Marjory that he was Aboriginal. Mum said that she thought Jim was joking, and not another word was ever said about it. Mum kept that secret for 70- years, and it was only around 2014, when asked, that she acknowledged that there might be some veracity to the story. Possibly three aboriginal girls including Jim’s mother Althea raised in a family of 11 – the Clay family of Gorae, near Portland. Perhaps we will never know whether Jim was joking, or quite serious. But it brings relevance for our own acknowledgement of country here today, what is now known as Fawkner, but what also remains as Kulin Country of the Wurrundjeri people. With our own possible links, we also pay our respects to the Gunditjmara people and their elders.
Mum was taught in the Army to keep secrets, and to keep them for life. When she was quizzed in later years if she had any link to Army intelligence, she usually smiled and skillfully directed the conversation elsewhere, sworn to secrecy. Our Dad had been involved with some work for British Intelligence whilst in the Middle East, so it makes sense that could have been some of their work together.
Marjory and Jim married at Prince of Wales Croxton Park Methodist Church on February 24, 1945 – one day before Mum’s 21st birthday. Because of the laws in those days, it meant that no liquor could be served at the wedding breakfast. But we are sure that Jim would have found a beer somewhere!
Their first home was in Pemberton St, Albury, with Jim continuing at the Bandiana workshops.
Mum and Dad then lived with Jim’s parents – and his siblings Girlie and Alan – at 151 Sydney Road, Moreland, where Allan and Althea ran a Tarax bar and small confectionery factory. Mum and Dad later built a home at 42 Rene Street, East Preston, but the builder went bust. They had to break into their own home, through the roof, to take possession.
Denise was born on March 12, 1949. Greg followed on September 27, 1952. Then me on October 19, 1956. Dad said that he had to sell his Triumph car to pay for my hospital bill, and from the change he purchased a cheaper car, and was one of the first to buy a television set at the time it began when Melbourne hosted the Olympic Games in 1956.
The family later moved to 29 Acheron Avenue, Reservoir. A happy home. Dad was involved in various jobs: at Chandlers, as a Director at Great Southern Constructions, and then other office jobs including Wildridge and Sinclair in South Preston. It was a home of love, respect, humour and a strong work ethic. Mum and Dad made considerable financial sacrifices to provide good educations for us all – Denise at Wesleigh and Coreen, and Greg and I at Ivanhoe Grammar School. Greg went on to qualify as a lawyer, going into practice at Corryong. Proud times indeed.
There were always pets such as the Australian Terriers Rita and Ali, Sally (a Corgi), and dear Meggs. Greg had Tenny, part Heeler, and the famous crockett, a bassett hound. Denise had Bootsy and Smoky, the cats. Jim raced pigeons. There was often a stray bird being nursed back to health, fed by eye-drops, in a Jim-made nest.
Mum enjoyed craft, and collecting dolls..
The family took on a weekend newspaper distributorship to supplement the income. Mum was up at 4am Sundays to help in the packing of newspaper bundles. Similarly, she fronted at the James Long Confectionery Company at 56 Newlands Rd, Coburg, to pack snowablls, when Jim decided to have a crack at a business of his own, following on from my father and great grandfather, James Long, of Sunshine Biscuits fame.
Mum and Dad warmly welcomed the partners of their children. And they especially welcomed the grand-children that followed. Great grandchildren too.
In their few years of retirement, they motored together around Australia. They had a weekend home at Hastings, part of the Lawrence family heritage. And it was in 1987, when Jim aged just 66, passed of a heart attack at Tweed Heads. Marjory missed Jim dearly; she was a widow for 36 years. Such a long time. Keen observers will note ‘Jimmy The Bear’ – in Australian Army fatigues – atop the coffin.
In her later years, Mum travelled through Europe and the United Kingdom, sometimes with her brother, sometimes with her sisters, sometimes alone. She joined our family for a three-week trip to America. At one stage, she went alone on a shopping outing on one of the Hawaiian islands, without knowing the return address of the house that we had rented. But she somehow found her way back, seated in the back of a big white stretch limousine, giving instructions to the driver.
Mum’s addresses after Reservoir included Grenfell, Benalla, Camperdown, three different units at Ivanhoe, and then for the past 10 years at the Royal Freemasons Homes. She showed courage and resilience, especially after a bad fall in which she broke both shoulders. In a number of health incidents, she fought back every time, beating the odds.
Mum kept abreast with her daily and weekend newspapers, lots of magazines and books. It is very likely she quietly stalked every one in this room on Facebook. She was so proud of every member of the family. She welcomed all the letters, visits and phone calls.
She was a member of the Country Women’s Association, joined Probus, participated in Adult Education, was involved with Legacy and the War Widows.
We thank Denise, who hosted Mum in her home at Camperdown, for a number of years. Lived alongside her at Grenfell. Was close by to Benalla. Denise had the big Thursday night phone calls, where every element of family was managed in conversation, as only a mother and daughter can.
Greg, as well as regular visits with Anne, and other family members, made sure that Mum had multiple up-lifting positive messages every day on Facebook. She loved each and every one. Greg also attended to Mum’s legal affairs … that degree I spoke about came in handy!
Thanks to all the grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Every achievement, every milestone was precious. I want to make really special mention to two people who have travelled a long way to be here today: Matilda Bryant, aged 7, and Luke Perris, aged 6. Two people who were very special to Marjory, some of the youngest in our clan. Thank you also to our young man, Jack Bryant, for being here today. (Others?)
In our own family, I want to pay special thanks to Fleur, who Mum had known since Fleur’s schoolgirl days. Fleur came into the Long family life when she was 13 … more than 50 years ago. Every week for close to 30 years, Fleur has been there without fail, to provide company, cut hair, do nails, run errands … and to love, Marjory. Hundreds of hours, thousands actually, of selfless acts of love. One of Mum’s last words – when all other conversation was over for days – was to look at Fleur, say her name, and to utter the words “I love you”. At a time of sadness, it was a beautiful cherished moment.
Selfishly, I want to mention Kristi, who Mum adored. She so admired Kristi’s mental toughness, and her brain. She loved Crunch and Jack too, and especially adored Matilda who always addressed her as ‘Marjory’. Marjory was there at Bendigo for Kristi’s graduation, and was so proud of her completing her Masters, as well as her many other achievements.
A photo of the current day Warrant Officer II James William Tunzi Long, took pride of place in Marjory’s room. Marjory had flown to Townsville for the wedding of James and Sarah. Mum was always interested in the doings of Sarah, Emma and Madison. Not a week went by without the enquiry: “How are the lassies?” or “How are the girlies?” Amongst her possessions were newspaper clippings from when James, at age 30 was named as a Conspicuous Service Medal awardee in the Queen’s Birthday Honours of 2013. She was so proud.
All of us here have our own special memories of Marjory. As the youngest child, I was often not in good health in those young years, and stayed at home where Mum kept me company. I cannot remember ever having a fight or even a disagreement with Mum. In fact, I cannot remember Mum ever being at odds with anyone. That was simply the way she deliberately chose to conduct her life, and to raise her family.
Mum taught us to reach for the stars. She was amused with how my career put me in touch with Prime Ministers, Premiers, the biggest names … and she recognised it as one big game. Mum taught us not to be concerned with ‘stuff’, meaning possessions. She was also the person who taught me life’s most important lesson: always use the bathroom towel on your face before your bottom.A sharp humour was one of her best qualities. Marjory was an example of the intelligent, strong women that have defined and continue to define our family. She was simply a good person.
On Sunday, February 5, at our usual visit, Mum told Fleur and I: “I’ve lived a very long life.” She said how she didn’t wish to be 100, in fact she had no real desire to be 99, in a few weeks time. Some years ago, she had made her end-of-life plans. I think on that day, straight after Fleur’s brithday and our 45th wedding anniversary, Mum decided it was time to go home. She was very tired. She died elegantly and peacefully last Wednesday, on her own terms, and is now in the very best of hands.
As I finish, may I share a short story of Mum’s final minutes. God gave me the gift of being there. Mum was resting peacefully, but knowing that one of the last senses is hearing, I decided to recite a rollcall of everyone who loved her. Every one in this room was named. I watched her breathe slightly, and her legs twitched as I mentioned each name. After 2-3 minutes, a doctor and nurse came into the room, looked at Mum, and said: “I think she has just passed.” Without pain, without distress, Mum had simply gone into the next room. What grace!
As I mentioned, Mum had her daily Bible lessons, but I hope she will forgive that my reading now comes from Mr Magorium’s Wonder Emporium. Mr Magorium said: “When King Lear dies in act five, do you know what Shakespeare has written? He has written, ‘He dies.’ No more. No fanfare, no metaphor, no brilliant final words. The culmination of the most influential piece of dramatic literature is, ‘He dies.’ Now I am not asking you to be happy at my leaving but all I ask you to do is to turn the page and let the next story begin. And if anyone asks what became of me, you relate my life in all its wonder, and end it with a simple and modest ‘He died’.” End quote.
Yes, Mum died. But, thank the Lord, she lived. She lived a great, honourable, wonderful, useful, loved and loving life. So long, Mum.
Soon, after this service, burial will take place in the South Lawn plot here at Fawkner, where Jim Long has rested for the past 36 years. You are welcome to join us there, and you are welcome to join us for refreshments afterwards.
Mum, as you said so well in your final written message to us all: “Thanks for the ride.”