‘Get out and enjoy life’
Margaret Quigley is a very familiar face in Mossman, Wonga and Port Douglas and is very happy she has made her home here, as she tells
Born in country Victoria in 1934, Margaret spent her early years on her family’s wheat farm just out of Horsham in the Wimmera. She attended a 14-student school at Greenland Dam.
‘It was a lovely life being brought up on farm,” Margaret said, “and the best fun was when visitors came out from Horsham and we would play in the swamp, getting my best dress all muddy.”
“My father’s health was poor so we moved into town where I finished my schooling and my first job was with the office of the local newspaper.”
Whilst living in Horsham, Margaret was to meet her first love, Bob, a local welder and they were married in 1953.
“Why he really took my fancy was because he loved to dance and he danced really well,” Margaret said.
They would go to the weekly local dance held in the Scout Hall and then their daughter Dianne came along.
“We moved out to the family farm and after my having to milk our small dairy herd twice a day, it became apparent that Bob was no farmer,” she said, “so back to town we went.”
Although it was not a regular occurrence for married women to work in those days, Margaret yearned some independence so she successfully applied for an office job for the Forest Commission.
“They weren’t really supposed to employ married women, so they put me on as a casual and I was still a casual 20 years later when I left.”
Margaret became interested in the performing arts scene in Horsham, was appointed to the inaugural committee for the Horsham Eisteddfods and was soon involved in the local theatrical group, making costumes and helping out backstage.
“I didn’t perform on stage much however I was needed in the play Auntie Mame where I had to manoeuvre Auntie Mame’s wheelchair.
“Little did I know how sloping the stage was and the wheelchair started to roll down towards the edge and I almost lost the leading lady,” she laughed.
Unfortunately the marriage to Bob ended and, as their daughter Dianne wanted to pursue a hairdressing apprenticeship, Margaret and Dianne moved to St Kilda in Melbourne.
“St Kilda was a bit racy but we didn’t live in a ‘red light’ street,” Margaret said.
Margaret had got a transfer to the Melbourne office of the newly named Conservation, Forest and Lands Department where she looked after the administrative side of the fleet vehicles.
“We would send old 4WDs from the bush to the Commonwealth Auctions in Tottenham, 9km from the city,” she said, “and we used to make sure they travelled in convoy in case one of them broke down.”
Margaret next went to work for the Valuer General’s office and she met her next husband, Bobby. “We were together for over a year before we got married in 1983, and on our wedding day he mentioned his throat was burning. It wasn’t long after that they diagnosed cancer and we only had four years together and he was such a lovely man – a real softy.”
They had moved to Oakleigh where Margaret continued to live there and work for the Valuer General.
In those days women could retire at 55 so Margaret decided that, as she had lots of things on her bucket list, she would resign.
“I started to buy a few properties to rent out which gave me a nice income.”
“I have most of them still,” she said, “and one tenant has been with me for 25 years.”
By now Margaret had three grandsons and she was a regular at the Melbourne theatres, enjoying anything from opera to musicals, from dramas to ballet.
Eventually Margaret met Joe and whilst holidaying in Port Douglas, escaping the bitter Melbourne winter, he announced “I could live up here” to which Margaret replied, “So could I”. They had a look around for a suitable house and found the ideal home in Wonga.
They moved in 1996 and within 12 months of moving here, Margaret was a member of the Mossman branches of Red Cross and Meals on Wheels.
“It was a great way to meet people – that and going to the Redbacks Hotel at Wonga Beach which is sadly no longer here.”
Margaret has become one of the treasures of the Shire and at 82 years of age, she has enormous energy which she devotes to Red Cross, the Cancer Council and the Mossman Community Centre.
She remains a keen theatregoer and frequents The Clink and theatres in Cairns.
She loves her three dogs, luncheons, clothes, shoes, and jewellery. Melbourne Cup Day Luncheons often feature Margaret receiving ‘The Best Dressed’ prize or, this year, ‘The Most Elegant Woman’.
As an octogenarian, Margaret has had a full and varied life and can speak with some experience about the secret of a long and happy existence.
“I enjoy a very busy social life,” she said, “and it’s up to you to get out and enjoy life and seek companionship.
Margaret Quigley, and (inset) at her wedding in 1953