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ABOUT MARY...and I shall call her "Mary" or "Mum" as it suits me.

MARY WILLIAMS was born May 13th 1922. Her parents were James Gribbin and Elsinore Goddard. Her older brothers were Jim and Jack. To follow came Kathleen, Terry, Alan, Elsie and Brian. Twin boys arrived later but died very young.

Mary's Great Grandfather, also James Gribbin, arrived from Armagh in Ireland in 1859 and worked in a slate quarry in Castlemaine where he died in a rockfall. He left behind his wife Annie Coffey, and two little boys. One of them was Patrick, who married Elizabeth Smith and had a large family including James Gribbin, Mary's father.

He fought in the First World War, on the Somme where he was gassed, from which he suffered all his life.

Mary's mother's side was the Goddards, who came possibly from Manchester, and like the Gribbins, were free settlers, not subsidised. Mum's Aunt Edwina said that her mother's side was French stock, and her father's German.

Mary went to St. Anthony's school in Glenhuntly, and hated it. She was very good at her schoolwork, but the Depression years were hard and she was acutely aware of the nuns' favouritism of the affluent families. Her older brother, Jim, was already a schoolteacher at the age of 15, with one day preparation.

Mary left school at 13, and helped her mother with the younger children till she was old enough to work - 15, at Manton's Department store. She was good at it, as she was at most things she tried. As the war approached, she changed to telephony at the GPO in the centre of town. She made good girl friends there, mostly called Mary, but sadly, Mary Williams is the last one standing. MARY LYNCH (died recently, in Mansfield) and Mary Carrick (who married Mary's cousin, Brian ) are two I recall. 

During the war, there were 5 of them in a train and American soldiers tried to chat them up, asking their names. When they all answered "Mary", the guys thought they were being sent up.

Her father was a bit of a tyrant. She was forbidden to ride a bicycle but of course she did, wearing culottes. Her father said she "looked like a tart". She was forbidden to wear red in case it over-excited the men. Makeup was out, too, but she had a great complexion anyway. 

The house looked beautiful, as Granddad (her father) was a great gardener, and it was the pride of the neighbourhood. She loved dancing and singing of course. During the war they had a lot of parties and her parents were very hospitable, bringing in soldiers on leave to enjoy the food and beverages, and singing round the piano. And Mum (yes) remarked to me recently, "You know, in all that time, I never saw one person drunk." Her own brothers and father also were extremely moderate drinkers. 

Mum met Dad (Arthur Griffin Williams, known as Griff) near war's end, when he was in Melbourne with the Air Force. He administered entry tests (formerly a Queensland school teacher), and they were soon married, and all too soon I arrived (10 months later),

The three of us went to Mackay in Queensland (Dad's home town, where his grandfather had settled in 1863). They made a big fuss of Mum.

"Oh Mary, you have such a beautiful complexion, peaches and cream. You'll soon be like us though."

And Mum thought, "Oh, no I won't", and really looked after her skin all her life.

Griff was concerned that she might miss company and found her a friend in Mary Johnson, who was not only a great friend but taught her to cook.

Within a year I had a little brother, Brian, whom we called "Duff."

Griff's father had been a newspaper founder and proprietor, mayor of the city, hotelier and inventor. He was retired, and spent a lot of time talking to Mary, who remembered him as a kindly gentleman of the old school with rather a gentle British accent (despite having spent the years aged 2 to 14 in California).

Before long, Mary found herself longing for a wet and foggy Melbourne day, and she never got used to the creepy-crawlies that abounded. Within three years both Griff's parents had died, and Mary, Griff and the two boys returned to Melbourne, buying a home in West Brunswick. The first prayer we learned was, "Dear God, thank you for bringing us this lovely house and please help us to look after it."

She made friends with Mary Hodges, and her son Terry still lives there and is a great friend. On the other side was the Southern Family and yeas, Michael, and his wife Mei, still lives there. Speaking of which, Michael and Mei were the most wonderful support for Mary 

As Paul and Brian went to school, Martin and Anne arrived, at which point Mary was extremely ill. She remembers quite well the operating table surrounded by the doctors, nurses and nuns. She also remembers feeling that her face was being twisted off, and then saw herself looking down from the ceiling at her own body. She heard the doctor say, "We've lost her". At that point she thought to herself, "I can't die, I have children to look after." Then, a feeling of warmth in her face, back in her body and hearing the head nun say, "Look sisters, such is the power of prayer."

With Trish the family was complete - or almost. Her ailing parents came to live, as well as her younger sister Elsie. Every night was a meal for 10, plus the running of the house and all that work. She said, "We never thought about it, just got on with it." 

One by one they grew up, died, married, in various order and Mary and Griff loved road travel and weekend getaways. They looked after elderly relatives and young ones in the form of grandchildren. The Dance club was another interest they pursued for many years.

She said to me once....I loved all my relatives, I don't know why, I just did.  And she thought about them and missed them, whether in Queensland in Sydney in SA. 

The years passed and the dancing grew slower and in 2007 Griff died, aged 90. Till near the end, they would go out with us, looking marvellous. Mum stayed in the house and life, as always was about family. Mum now watched different tv shows and engaged in debates on topics she had previously avoided. She knitted constantly, garments for babies in hospital who didn't make it. In the end, her take on life was..."I think the first place to start a better world is just to learn to simply respect each other." 

She would say, toward the end, "Thank you for coming. I love you." And we would say, "We come for ourselves. We want to see you. We love you."