Sunday, July 13, 2014

Vale Aunty Mary

Last week our family farewelled my Aunty Mary.

Mary Aileen Curry with her brothers Thomas (left and Allan (right)
Mary Aileen Corbett (nee Curry) (25/5/1923-26/6/2014) was my father's' sister and the third child of Mary Tierney and Thomas Curry of Canowindra. Born and educated in Canowindra, NSW Aunty Mary finished her schooling at St Edwards in Canowindra where she gained her Intermediate Certificate in 1937, she may have commenced her schooling at Bangaroo Public with her elder brothers. The Curry family lived on the Fairview property and later in the nearby town of Canowindra.

Mary and Kath Curry with their city cousins, Fairview 1937
After leaving school Mary worked in Forbes NSW before moving to Sydney in the late 1940s. She and her younger sister, Kathleen, lived in a flat in Springfield Avenue, Kings Cross. Accommodation in post-war Sydney was hard to find and, as my parents and I were living in rooms in Kensington with a shared bathroom, my Curry Aunts gave up their flat for us and moved in with their parents who had moved from the country to Brighton-le-sands.

My first memory of Aunty Mary is of a visit to Goldsborough Mort's office in Pyrmont to see her at work. I was probably three or four at the time. Apart from that Mary was always around when we paid our regular Sunday visits to my grandmother's house at Brighton. I was allowed free reign in my Aunts' room where I was allowed to dress up in their clothes and sample their makeup. As I had the status of only Curry grandchild for seven years I was indulged and spoilt rotten by Mary and her siblings especially when I had a holiday with them.

I remember when a young Irish chap, Edward Corbett, joined our Sunday gatherings. I think the twinkle in his eye was directed towards Mary as they soon became engaged and married on April 22, 1957 at St. Thomas More Church in Brighton-le-sands.  I was excited to be included in the wedding party as flower girl.

Aunty Mary and I on her wedding day 1957

Not long after they were married Aunty Mary and Uncle Ed moved into their home at 54 Scott Street Mortdale where Aunty Mary lived until she downsized in 2013.

I was short of cousins until Aunty Mary and Uncle Ed started a family. They had five children Elizabeth, a boy, Catherine, another girl and a stillborn. Aunty Mary said that 1960, the year that two year old Elizabeth and one month old baby Catherine both passed away, was her annus horribilis.

I had quite a few school holidays with Aunty Mary and Uncle Ed at Mortdale. I remember going in Uncle Ed's Ford Prefect (or was it an Austin?) for picnics to The Royal National Park and swimming at Cronulla Beach, the little girl from next door that I played with who was my age is still one of my dearest friends. When the Corbetts moved to Armidale for a couple of years for Ed's work as a hydrographer we made a few visits. My 13 year old schoolmate and I travelled  to Armidale by train for one holiday, we were rather adventurous girls who had great fun and no doubt gave Aunty Mary a few headaches.

Aunty Mary (and Ed's car)- Picnic Armidale 1962 

After their stint in Armidale the Corbetts came back to Mortdale where they lived a rather uneventful life while my two cousins went to school and started university. Until my grandmother died our Sunday visits to Brighton sometimes included a further drive out to Mortdale to visit the Corbetts or the Corbetts came to Brighton to meet up with us. We would always gather as a family to celebrate Christmas, Easter and major birthdays.

Family Christmas 1967 at Mortdale 
Although she had a rather old stove Aunty Mary turned out the most delicious sponge cakes which she filled with fresh cream and covered with passionfruit icing. We all looked forward to these light and delicious cakes at family gatherings.

When her children grew older Aunty Mary returned to the workforce at Palings Music store in Sydney. As she loved music she enjoyed working in the environment at Palings. Family members also found it useful to use Aunty Mary's staff discount, it helped when we bought our daughter's first flute.

L-R Aunty Mary, my baby son Aunty Kath, Uncle Ed, Mary's daughter,1978
Tragedy struck again in 1982 when Uncle Ed passed away from heart disease at the age of 56. Mary missed her beloved Eddie but soldiered on making the best of her new situation.

Like many girls of her generation Aunty Mary did not complete secondary school but she was always keen to learn. When she retired she took many courses at the WEA in Sydney where she made friends with several of her fellow learners.

The five Currys with their mother 1970 (L-R) Kevin, Mother Mary Tierney, Allan, Kathleen, Mary, Thomas
Mary was a devoted sister. When my Dad was in the nursing home she visited him often, this was a challenging activity as Dad had dementia so it was difficult to conduct a conversation and Dad could not remember who had visited him five minutes after they left. Mary and her younger sister Kath had a special relationship, they kept in daily contact until Kath passed away last year.

Mary, Thomas, Allan and Kathleen Curry 1994
Her sight was a constant challenge for Aunty Mary. She lost an eye in a childhood accident and as she got older  had trouble with her remaining eye. Mary did not complain about her affliction but it impacted on her quality of life as she got older. Stoic that she was she hardly ever complained.

Mary loved her family. When I was growing she and Ed played many games of Scrabble with me when they would probably would have preferred to be doing something else. The Corbetts are probably responsible for the Scrabble addiction I suffer from today. Mary was always interested in the doings of my children and grandchildren and loved to hear their news. That she invited all of my 11 grandchildren to her 90th birthday lunch last year when she could have had a more 'adult' party is testament to this.

Mary with her daughter, granddaughter and nieces at her 90th birthday party last year
As was her wish Mary passed away suddenly at her home on  26 June 2014 and was laid to rest with her beloved Eddie on 3 July 2014.


Kerryn Taylor said...

Jill that is a beautiful tribute to your Aunt Mary. I could feel the love in your family.

Dot Elder said...

What a wonderful Aunty Mary! I enjoyed reading your tribute to her very much. Interested that you went by train to Armidale. I am from Armidale and often went to Sydney by train as a child to visit my relatives.

Crissouli said...

What beautiful memories your family has created over the years. Your Aunt Mary sounds lovely, must be the name, I also had two Aunt Marys, just one now... I love your flower girl photo, Jill.. really pretty.

Thank you for sharing.


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