Posted by: Nick Ward | 7 September, 2010

My Mum’s Story

My mum died last Thursday. Today was her funeral.

It’s been a hard day, but also bizarrely a wonderful one. Today I had a chance to talk to some 150 people about my mum, the best mum in the world, and it was nice. She was very very special.

This is what I told them…

Pamela Ethelwin Ward, my mum, was born in Wellington New Zealand in May 1929. Her lifelong partner, Ray, my dad, related their story and I would like to share some of it with you.

Pam was the second youngest in a family of six, two boys and four girls, to Cedric James Hackworth & Fay Eglantine Rayward. The children were June, Jim, Patty, David, Pam and Diana. While Jim died quite young, as was mum’s way, she would remain throughout her life incredibly close to all her remaining siblings.

Pam emigrated to Australia as a six year old when their father, who was a master mariner with the Union Steamship Company, joined the Port Phillip Sea Pilots as a Bay Pilot. While the family initially lived in Camberwell they were drawn back to the sea and ultimately settled in Williamstown in a big house at 38 The Strand.

Pam was educated through the state school system to high school, and while she was academically accomplished, she was also an outstanding sportswoman, representing Willy High in swimming, and also being a member of the Williamstown Swimming and Life Saving Club. Sport would always play a big part in her life.

She left school to start work in the legal profession as a Clerk & General Secretary, then moved into the fashion world with Rothchilds as a secretary and house model.

By this time all her brothers and sisters had married and left home, and being the late 1950s her mother, who had always wanted to travel, encouraged her to go on a solo overseas adventure, becoming an early backpacker to Europe. These were the days before widespread air travel, so Pam journeyed by ship to London. There she found an Aussie contingent and worked for Australia House for two years, promoting Australian exports, including a continuation of her modelling work selling Australian Wool to the world. After much travel and adventures in Western Europe she finally returned home by ship to be greeted by Captain Hackworth with the pilot as they passed through Port Phillip Bay heads.

Back into life at home, Pam then started work with the Ski Club of Victoria as secretary and booking clerk for their various lodges in the snowfields. There she became an accomplished skier, but more importantly for Richard and I, she met her future partner Ray who was on the board of the Ski Club. Their friendship blossomed and they finally married in January 1963 in Williamstown.

Cedric had by this stage split the big house on The Strand into two apartments, and now Pam and Ray took over the rear half of the house. They kept up all of their outdoor activities, camping, hiking, sailing and skiing, until Pam was pregnant with their first son, Nicholas Raymond, who was born in November 1964. Richard Andrew followed in February of 1967.

I can’t imagine mum without children, something so central to her life and her priorities. My childhood is a blur of fragmented memories, but what I remember clearest is the backdrop to everything we did in those years, and that was my mother’s unconditional love and support.

My earliest memories were birthdays. Mum would always cook us our favourite meal on the night of our birthday. Richard’s was roast chicken. Mine was Beef Wellington. If you’ve every cooked Beef Wellington you will be developing a picture of a child who was a lot of hard work. It was never hard work for mum though, or it probably was but if it was for us, it wasn’t.

You see, nothing was too much for my mum when it came to her children and her family. She was the dependable rock from which we could launch the adventures of our young lives.

And there were plenty of adventures.

The whole of Williamstown was our playground, and we were hard to contain. While Richard was the one who spent half his life in plaster casts from falling out of trees and the like, I was also wreaking havoc by setting fire to my clothes (luckily, while I wasn’t in them) after disobeying parental instructions to not light camp fires while off on adventures. Mum’s anxiety levels over her boys’ life expectancy were no doubt pushed through the roof. Ah, those were the days. Both of we boys went to Sea Scouts in Williamstown, more to put some order to our recklessness than to encourage it, where dad volunteered to help and eventually ended up group leader. Meanwhile, summer holidays were at Blairgowrie where our whole family cultivated a shared passion for all things water, be it swimming, body surfing, sailing or just having adventures at the beach.

Richard & I spent our early years at Willy North Primary and our first two years of high school at Willy High before heading to Melbourne High School where we, I know, made mum and dad very proud. I went on to Melbourne Uni and pursued an honours degree in Science while Rich went to Rusden for a degree in Physical Education, and mum couldn’t have been prouder of the two of us. The sporting achievements of her sons were equally things which brought great pride, with Richard constantly topping the team and me trying to keep up with him.

Family being so important to mum, we would travel to the aunts and uncles places all the time. There were visits to Uncle David and Aunty Patsy in Blackburn, trips to Castlemaine to visit Aunty Di and Uncle John, trips to Adelaide to visit Aunty Patty, and to our great excitement I remember waving mum off to fly (wow, to FLY, on TAA!) to visit Aunty June and Uncle John in Hobart for a family wedding.

Now, we grew up in the best place a kid could grow up in the world, in Williamstown. 38 The Strand was a regular destination for visitors, and all of us just loved it. Family were regulars and there were lots of days spent playing with our older cousins, but the most regular visitors were The Barnard Family and The King Family. The closeness we had with these clans can’t be overstated, and mum just loved the time we all spent together.

Mum’s parents were dominant in our early family years. While my grandmother died when I was five, mum was always so proud of the influence she had on Richard and I even in these short years. She would read the newspapers to me every morning, and never tire of answering my no doubt ceaseless questions about the world and what was going on in it. Grandfather died when I had just turned 15. Living with us he was an ever present powerful figure of a man, and would regale us with stories of The War, of sailing to Antarctica in a failed attempt to pick up Mawson, and of life as a Sea Captain. Mum loved every bit of it, and watching him ail and finally leave us took its toll on her.

Mum loved to travel, and her love of travel passed to me, and I have made it my career. As a person who thought about things as much as she did, the world and its wonders couldn’t have not impacted her. She always encouraged us to discuss what was going on in our lives and in the world as a whole, to think it through and take our own position on it. She brought us up to be strong and confident enough to then act on what we saw and what we deemed needed to be done. When we strove to achieve and did our best, she was proud, oh so proud, and we knew it.

While after Grandfather’s death we eventually moved away from Williamstown to be closer to places of work and study it was always our home in her heart. As our family matured and Richard and I lived for periods of time in other cities and other countries we always knew she was watching our every move, and was at the end of a phone line the moment we wanted to talk. Whenever something was going on in my life I would instinctively pick up the phone to talk about it with mum. That never stopped, even in recent weeks while she was in hospital. I’m going to really miss that.

I was chatting yesterday with my cousin Roger in Hong Kong, and I wanted to share a couple of his observations about mum. As a child he clearly remembers Pam as having been the beautiful aunt who had come back from overseas adventures and was the epitome of glamour. Mum would never have thought of herself as beautiful, but of course she was to the day she died. What was important to her was to look the best she could look, and to BE the best she could be. One of my last memories of mum was her weak hands putting on lipstick she had asked dad to bring from home on the weekend before last. She always wanted to look her best.

Another thing Roger reflected on was mum’s genuine caring for what was happening in their lives. Well, of course, I thought. Mum would never have been anything less than genuine, I can’t think of an instance when she wouldn’t have been 100% focussed on the person she was talking to. There would never have been a commitment she would not have kept. These rock solid values she passed down to her children, and they have been passed on to her grandchildren.

I’m not sure whether there is an afterlife, I just don’t know. What I do know is that the existence of something in this world can only be confirmed by the impact it has on the other things around it. The impact of mum on the people she loved, the way their values were shaped by hers, is unmistakeable in her immediate and extended family and the next generation which has followed. This is her legacy. In this way, I have no doubt she lives on and will for as long as her memory is preserved and her story is told.

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Responses

  1. Dear Nick,

    My name is Brendan Moloney and I am writing the history of the Port Phillip Sea Pilots. I have just read your lovely tribute to your mother and was very pleased to learn that she was the daughter of Cedric Hackworth. Do you have any photographs of him? The pilots have been going since 1839 so it has been a long haul. We have a picture of his name on the honour board in the pilots’ office in North Melbourne and a reference to him from one of the old pilots but no picture.

    Kind regards,

    Brendan

    0412 362 000


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