Born to Sew and Knit

I was born in Brisbane on Thursday the 22nd of February 1945 and my father Eric immediately sent a telegram to my Bock grandparents in Canberra with the news. The next day they wrote straight back. My mother kept the letter and gave it to me when I was “old enough to appreciate it.” Appreciate it I did and especially noted that in the very first paragraphs my fate was sealed!

The richness of the textile world I’d been born into is all there, all spelled out in terms of how interesting it is to “dress up a little girl” complete with details of the fabrics and the threads and the design of my first “walking frock. And so the letter went on. The rest of it has detail about what they had for afternoon tea, about bottling fruit from the garden, putting bunches of hydrangeas on the mantelpiece in the dining room, playing tennis and bridge during the week, news from family letters from Melbourne etc etc……………..

For most of their married lives Madge and Wally [we called them Nan and Pop] lived in Port Moresby but from 1942 to later in 1945 they lived in Canberra in Acton in a house that is now the School of Social Science Research building part of the A.N.U. It’s quite a story about how they came to be there………. but I’ll leave that for the moment.

Not specified in the letter at that stage but certainly part of the tradition for girls and women that I’d been born into was the prescription that I too, in time, would be interested in “dressing up a little girl”. That I would grow up being interested in clothes and that I would learn to sew and knit those clothes for me and others.

Balmain Cres.
Feb. 23. 1945

My Dear Children

We were delighted to get Eric’s telegram yesterday, to know that the worry was over and that you had a daughter. A son would have been nice too, but it’s so interesting dressing up a little girl and Esme has been saving up her pretty pieces in the hope for so long – very interesting for the grandparents too, who are thinking of dolls and dolls houses already.

I’ve just been trying to imagine you all together- and would love to see your joy in the tiny lady. You know that hakf linen Aunty Nell gave me Esme – it will probably be a little walking frock sometime with threads let in, in pale blue and mauve flowers.


This was the event that Madge [my grandmother] and Mrs Gough were invited to. She doesn’t mention the length of of the Duke’s speach in her letter but does note what the Duchess wore.

I was looking for “Baby’s Arrival” cards for you today, and finally saw them in the Newsagents in Manuka, but the woman was so slow in serving me that I had to leave them and dash out to the bus [it was 5.30] but will call in and get some next week. It will save you writing letters to everyone , won’t it if you have a few of those.

On Wednesday afternoon I went to see the opening of Parliament – admission by invitation only so I felt quite elite. Only members’ wives were down below, but I had a very good view from the upper gallery. I was right opposite the Duke. I went at 1.30 and even then there were very few seats left. The Duchess had on an eau-de-nil blue frock and pale blue hat and looked very dainty and sweet.


The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester – he was the Governor General at the time – join Elsie and John Curtin – Prime Minister at the time – and an unknown woman on the left for drinks at the opening

After the ceremony Parliament was adjourned – their Graces went off to Government House to interview an N.N.R., a delegation and we all went into the Parliamentary dining rooms for afternoon tea. I had met Mrs Gough in the King’s Hall and she came in with me…………………