EL­IZ­A­BETH GALBRAITH WOODYATT

AF­TER SEE­ING OUT A CEN­TURY, THIS RAZORSHARP CHAT­TER­BOX IS STILL ONLY HALF­WAY THROUGH HER MEM­OIRS

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Gold Coast Eye - - PEOPLE - AS TOLD TO DENISE RAWARD

Iwas born in the lit­tle town of Dundee in Natal, South Africa dur­ing the Great War. My father was a lieu­tenant with the South African forces and, when the war fin­ished, he be­came a mag­is­trate. He was trans­ferred all over Natal so we never stayed in one town for more than four or five years.

I had an older sis­ter who bul­lied me ter­ri­bly but it made me stronger so I think maybe that’s why I made it to 100. We had an amaz­ing child­hood. We ran free. My mother had no idea what we were do­ing half the time.

We went to school at a boys’ board­ing school as day stu­dents. There were five girls who did that and it was the most won­der­ful ed­u­ca­tion. A Welsh­man and his wife ran the school and he used to ex­plain things with won­der­ful sketches on the board. When I left school, my father was work­ing in Jo­han­nes­burg. I wanted to be a por­trait painter but my father said we couldn’t af­ford the lessons so I be­came a short­hand-typ­ist.

I met my hus­band when my aunt ar­ranged a pic­nic with a fel­low she’d met. He turned out to know my father and he brought with him a young man who was stay­ing with his fam­ily. That was my hus­band.

I was only about 15 then but I was more or less fixed up for life. We mar­ried when I was 18 on the same day King Ge­orge be­came king af­ter Ed­ward ab­di­cated in 1936. We sur­vived the De­pres­sion. We didn’t have much but our treat was to go to the pic­tures.

It took me three years to fall preg­nant and when war broke out, I had a new baby. My hus­band didn’t sign up straight away but he did when our daugh­ter was nine months old. I went to stay with my par­ents who were back in Natal by then. My hus­band was sent to Mada­gas­car where they kept an eye on the Vichy French and then North Africa. He had quite a good war. He didn’t go to Europe.

When he re­turned, we bought a house in the sub­urbs of Jo­han­nes­burg and he worked in real es­tate. It was just about 10 years be­tween my first and sec­ond daugh­ters then my third came two years later. In that time, we left the city for a small town on the Natal coast. I did ev­ery­thing for the girls. I slaved for them. I made them beau­ti­ful dresses; I got in­volved in their ac­tiv­i­ties. When they mar­ried and had their own chil­dren, my hus­band and I moved back from the Cape to help our youngest daugh­ter with her five chil­dren, so I did grand­mother du­ties as well.

Our daugh­ters all even­tu­ally left South Africa. They ended up in Aus­tralia and, when things were stir­ring up in South Africa, we de­cided to join them. It took 18 months to fix it all up. By the time we came, I was 72 and my hus­band was 81. It was just an­other move.

We moved around a bit be­fore we bought a lit­tle cot­tage at Lai­d­ley in the Lock­yer Val­ley. We had chooks and a vegie gar­den. It suited us but we started get­ting old. We moved to a re­tire­ment vil­lage at Coom­babah. I took up line danc­ing there at 80. I was very good at it and even started giv­ing lessons. I did it un­til I was 93. I’d have loved to have kept do­ing it ex­cept my bal­ance started to go.

My hus­band died at 97 and I stayed on at the re­tire­ment vil­lage for a while un­til my daugh­ter found an aged care place in Talle­budgera Val­ley. She was con­vinced I was go­ing to drop dead but I’ve been here for eight years. Never in my life did I dream I’d make it to 100. I’m a bag of bones now but I don’t have any arthri­tis. I’ve al­ways been a chat­ter­box and I still love to read. I’m writ­ing my mem­oirs on my com­puter. I started a few years ago and I’m only about half­way so I’m go­ing to have to hus­tle. The early days are easy but as you get older, ev­ery­thing spreads out like a huge um­brella.

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