A grand town to call home
THEY may have spent the past 32 years in the same home, but it took Michael and Geraldine Dixon some time living in various places before they settled on Tasmania.
Even now, it’s rare for their caravan or motorcycle to sit idle for long before the Victorian- born travellers are off on another trip across the country.
Their 1919- built New Town home has been the scene of many a family celebration, as well as official parties with distinguished guests.
Over his career, barrister and solicitor Michael has worked as, among other things, a recorder of titles, deputy ombudsman, director of the advisory council for inter- government relations and legal adviser to the administrator of Norfolk Island.
It was the last job which led to he and child health nurse Geraldine moving to the island for which their New Town residence is now named after.
“I came home to Geraldine after being offered the job and said, ‘ How’d you like to live on Norfolk Island?’,” Michael laughed.
“We got out the atlas and found where it was and just a fortnight later we were on the island with three children in tow.”
Their youngest daughter, Jennifer, was born on the island and, living across the road from Government House, the children would often sneak inside through the large cat flap to sample some of the governor’s wife’s latest cakes.
Returning to Canberra after almost five years on the island, Michael was offered a position in Tasmania.
“We sat at our kitchen table in Canberra and told our eldest son Peter we were thinking of moving to Tasmania so Michael could take up an interesting job,” Geraldine said.
“We’d been in the habit, because we’ve always had a caravan, of traipsing all over New South Wales and Victoria so we got out the map and of course Tasmanian’s not very big on the Australian map.
“Peter, aged 10, said, ‘ We’ll see it all in 12 months and then what will we do?’ I must say there’s very little of Tasmania we haven’t seen.”
Originally moving to Lindisfarne, the family of six moved into the seven- bedroom New Town home in 1981.
Built after the end of World War I, the house is believed to have been the city home for a wealthy farming family and was also used as a boarding home for a time.
Renovated in the 1960s, the home contains extensive Tasmanian oak features, particularly downstairs in the vast library and lounge which is big enough to seat more than 40 people – and it often has.
One corner boasts the children’s vast collection of university degrees – at least three each to Peter, Stephen, Elizabeth and Jennifer. Upstairs, everyone has their own domain. “I have my sewing room and Michael has his train room,” Geraldine said.
“Jennifer drops in with her kids every now and then to stay, so her old bedroom is still there for her.
“Our friends often come over and it’s been a bit like a hotel lately.
“We had the house on the market for a while last year and we’d go to bed at night and say, ‘ Do we really want to sell it?’ and in the end we realised we didn’t.”
A welcoming house often filled with people, the Dixons continue to take in friends and relatives when they stop by Hobart.
“With four kids growing up here, it’s a house full of memories,” Michael said.
“Ours was the house all the kids came to, strangely enough, because of Sallies [ the Salvation Army] just up the street.
“You’d think they’d want all the latest brand names but they were after the second- hand clothes at Sallies.
“As they got older you’d hear all this guffawing at 3am and you’d come down and there’d be heaps of kids sitting around the table and that’s what this house was meant for.
“The kids were comfortable bringing anyone home. You’d characterise it as a home, not a house.”