Memories of Barbara Richardson

The late Barbara Gwyneth Richardson's children reflected on her extraordinary life.
The late Barbara Gwyneth Richardson's children reflected on her extraordinary life.

Excerpts from the eulogy read by Barbara’s children at her Thanksgiving Service on February 18, 2019 at the Forbes Anglican Church.

Marc - It is not easy to talk about our mother Barbara Gwyneth Richardson on this occasion. Not because we are struggling to find things to say, but because we struggle to identify what to leave out. Mum was so loved by Michael and her family, but she was also loved and admired by many others. I know that each and every one of us here have special memories of Barb. 

Our mother had a truly remarkable life. 

Mum was born on February 21, 1928 in Adelaide, to Alfred Raymond Greenleaf Rhodes (a wool merchant) and Gwyneth May Rhodes. Mum went to Presbyterian Girls College in Adelaide. Her mother, Gwyneth, died when Mum was just 13. She had a younger sister Helen, with whom she has always been very close. Her father later married Margaret Culley, and they had two children, Sandford and Andrea.

In 1946 Barb commenced training to be a registered nurse at the Adelaide Children’s Hospital.  In 1947 she met Don Laycock, a trainee tea taster with Findlay and Sons. They became engaged in March 1948, but her father wouldn’t allow them to marry until Mum finished her nursing training.

They married in August 1949 in the St Peter’s College chapel. A few months later they sailed to Calcutta in India where Don was to further his tea tasting experience. While there Don contracted polio. He was hospitalised, and died a few days later. 

Aged just 21, Barb returned to Adelaide. In December 1950, the headmaster of St Peters College invited Barb to apply for a job as Junior Matron. After some consideration she accepted, and later reflected that this role kept her very busy during a difficult time in her life. In December 1951 Barb contracted mild polio and had to resign from this role, but went on to make a full recovery.

In May 1952 Mum, accompanied by a school friend, set sail for England to be matron of honour for a friend she had met in India. Before the Orcades had even departed Adelaide, she was introduced to an English chap. His name was John Oliver Ellis. JOE Ellis. 10 days later Joe proposed, and they were married on September 4th 1952 in Sussex, England. Barb and Joe lived in Broadstairs in England where Joe was a teacher.

Late in 1953, and with me on the way they returned to Adelaide, arriving on the very day that Barb’s beloved grandmother died. 

Joe managed a dairy farm at Mt Compass, just south of Adelaide. I was born, and Hugh and Stuart followed in quick succession. We later moved to Myponga to a grazing property where we lived until 1966. We have wonderful memories of those years. We attended Yankalilla school, on a bus trip which took one hour at each end of the day. How we loved it when Mum picked us up from school in the car and treated us with an icecream on the way home!

Hugh - In 1966 the farm was sold and we moved to Adelaide. Our father was appointed to the staff of St Peters College to start an agriculture course. Not long after, Rachel was born.

Mum became very much the home renovator when our parents bought a very rundown bluestone house with a huge garden. Mum and our father turned the property into a beautiful home which we as children enjoyed very much.

In 1973 father was appointed boarding House Master at St Peters College which meant we had to move into the school grounds. Tragically father died a year and a half later and mother was widowed for a second time at age 46.

Mum’s true strength became evident at this time. She was strong, robust and resilient – she had to be. She had three teenage children and Rach was only seven. 

In 1975 Mother focused on caring for Rach. She worked as a physio’s aid in a retirement home. We older children had all left home, Marc nursing, I was at Ag College and Stuart was at Duntroon in Canberra. As part of my college requirements I had to gain experience by working on a farm in my holidays. My father had a distant relative who was a bachelor farmer at a place called Bedgerabong and it was here that I worked during my holidays. Michael Richardson was the farmer's name and little did I know the chain of events that would follow.

Mother came and stayed at ‘Flower Dale’ in January 1976. There was a flood which prolonged her stay by a week. On mum's return to Adelaide, there was a letter of proposal waiting for her. She didn’t have to think about it for long and replied by telegram because she feared the whole district may hear her reply if she phoned because of the old party line and exchange lady.

Mum replied in the telegram with the words “Thank you, yes”! Their wedding was in 1976, which led to almost 43 very happy and successful years together. 

The years at ‘Flower Dale’ were happy and fulfilling times for Mum. Her hospitality is legendary. Marc and Barry, and Stuart and Jo and their families were regular visitors. The grandchildren loved being together and loved being on the farm with Granny and Grandpa. There was a constant stream of visitors from Adelaide. She kept up connections with family, particularly her sister Helly and husband Rob and her brother Sandy and wife Di.

Mum wasn’t frightened to get her hands dirty on the farm. She worked happily in the sheep and cattle yards. She always had food on the go in the kitchen, be it for entertaining or making marmalade or jam when fruit was in season. Mum made her ‘HarriDale’ brand of mustard, from mustard grown on the farm and there was always music playing while she cooked. She loved her beagles – she had three or four, all called Basil after our Grandfather.

Ten years ago, Mum and Michael made the decision to retire to Forbes. They built a lovely house in Berkley St and had to start their new garden from scratch. What they achieved was amazing. Mum and Michael were a great team. They would look after the art gallery together and do meals on wheels.

We must make mention of several dear friends. Goldie Ridley and Dot Byrne were wonderful neighbors. Mary Lou and Barry Kemp and Lach and Lee Reynolds have been a tower of strength and dear Nancy Neville has helped Mother and Michael for over 35 years – our sincere thanks.

It is testament to how much she was loved that all her grandchildren are here today – from Queensland, Victoria and South Australia - and Aunt Jane from Tasmania.

We are so grateful for Michael’s love and care of Mum. 

Stuart and Rachel - We would like to finish with some short reflections:

Mum was a dignified, stylish, respected and beautiful woman, who always cared for her appearance.

Mum would want to be here now, simply because she loved catching up with family and friends. She was always interested in you and other people; what you had been up to and connections between us all. We are sure that is one motivation for travelling widely with Michael, meeting people and visiting places throughout Australia but also in India, Malaysia, Vietnam, Europe and the UK.

Mum loved classical music from an early age. She attended concerts throughout her life - it was a great, shared joy to attend a performance of any sort, be it at the Forbes Town Hall, or an obscure chapel in Paris. 

She maintained an attitude of grace and gratitude but also loved a giggle and a laugh, best of all with her sister Helen. 

Together with Michael, Mum loved being hospitable - she thoroughly enjoyed people’s company. 

Mum inspired others and set high standards, by what she did and said. She was determined to a fault. 

But perhaps most of all Mum was a loving wife and mother: There would not be a telephone conversation or a letter to her children that would not finish with ‘Lots of Love’ or TOL ‘Tons of Love’. 

Mum was such an unfailing, unquestioning source of support for each of us. Always interested, always encouraging, always believing in us. 

Mum had a quiet faith in the Lord that endured to the very end. 

Apart from Mum’s unfailing love and determined resilience as an impressive, country women of her time, we must not forget the giggles. In our sadness now, we should all smile for the joy and love she has brought us all, and the fun she has left behind.