RALPH WILSON ARTIST & SAILOR, 59 BULIMBA
“I met Suzy when I came late to a party straight from the boat, still in full, bright-red wet weather gear, dripping wet from the rain.”
My grandfather, Allan, built my first boat, a little rowing dinghy, under his house at Manly [on Brisbane’s southern bayside] when I was about eight. His father, Alexander Brown Wilson, started Wilson Architects [still in its original premises at [inner-city] Spring Hill and run by Hamilton Wilson] – he was the “architect/ artist/boating type”.
There’s always been a kind of pattern running through the family of architecture and painting. I wanted to be an architect from about the age of five but once I started the course and learnt what it really meant, I decided I didn’t want to be one. I must have been a disappointment to Mum and Dad. I started painting to earn pocket money to travel, and it grew from there.
I met Suzy when I came late to a party straight from the boat, still in full, bright red wet-weather gear, dripping wet from the rain. I soon discovered that we shared a love of the ocean. She started Riverbend and neither of us saw it becoming such an all-consuming business. Because I was working at home, we were able to share the upbringing of the kids [Hannah, 26, Charlotte, 25, and Harry, 21]. In the beginning, the bookshop was overwhelming and I often felt compelled to stay and work.
Suzy’s never been jealous of my work – she’s more likely to tell me to get back to my easel! She has these unique qualities of gentleness, strength and humility. She was able to sit quietly with the indigenous people and ask what they needed to help with literacy teaching; they were used to people telling them what they needed. She’s made a difference to many lives.
We’re still surrounded by boats and water. We’re a very lucky couple, I think.