SUE JACKSON Therapist/Writer/Photographer/Activist

Last year, as the unofficial blogger/photographer to the anti-East-West Link campaign, our battles were my blog's entire focus. But by Christmas, with the electoral win for people power and the dumping of the dud Tunnel, I was suddenly at a loss. What to write about now? Not sure yet. But there will be ongoing musings and images from this Australian life. So please leave a message. (No need to sign into an account. Simply comment as ‘anonymous’; then leave your name within the comment itself.)

Friday, May 03, 2013

Final episode? - Happy Birthday House!

By 1922 the Misses Balchin had disappeared from our house, leaving their brother, Henry, alone and by now the owner. I like to think that N.E moved on to bigger and better things, to somewhere where she was feted as a maestro 'teacher of pianoforte'.
In the meantime, on the other side of the Tasman, two young Kiwis were preparing to take centre stage in our story. Mungo Gordon Mackney and Ethel May Lily Mackney had married in 1911 in beautiful Otago, Dunedin, on New Zealand's south island.
By 1914 Ethel, whose occupation was listed as 'home duties', had emigrated, apparently on her own, to the house below.

Ethel Mackney's first Aussie home at 168 Scotchmer Street North Fitzroy

Ethel's lone occupancy got me thinking. Had the marriage been a fizzer, with the runaway bride abandoning her homeland to make a new life as a single person in Australia? Somehow that explanation didn't quite square with Ethel's continued listing under 'occupation' as 'home duties'. Presumably if she intended going it alone she would have needed to find paid work. I got the feeling that she was waiting for her husband to join her. And that's when the penny dropped, at exactly the same time as I lucked on another piece of information.
I found a listing for Ethel and Mungo in 1919 living together in a nearby house.
I entitled the Mackney's story Torn Apart Kiwi Lovers Reunited in Paradise for several reasons. Given the date of their shared occupancy, I wondered if Mungo had returned from overseas after fighting as an ANZAC in the Great War. Perhaps Ethel had spent four long years, alone in a new country, waiting patiently and anxiously, like so many other women, for her husband's safe return. Suspecting that this was the case, I was delighted when I located the home they lived in after their reunion. It is a beauty, as I'm sure you'll agree:

21 Alfred Crescent - luxury retreat for reunited lovers?

Below was the view from their first floor verandah. I imagine them holding hands, sitting quietly in adjoining chairs on the verandah, as they watched the light shifting over the leaves of the trees opposite. Maybe this serene view helped them open up about the loneliness of their lives during their separation, with Mungo perhaps working hard to protect his wife from the harsher realities of his war-time experiences.

Balm for Mungo's troubled soul?

The Mackney's moved to our house in 1924, with Mungo, a painter by trade, continuing the painting tradition established by its first occupant, John Hawkins. The couple lived here together for thirty years until 1954, when Mungo apparently died. Ethel ended her marriage where she started it, living alone. I only hope the intervening years with her husband provided some solace.
And that's where we leave our story, except to say that the streets of our neighbourhood still brim with stories, as they always have done.
Helen Garner lived nearby (and was fired from the local high school) during the years she wrote Monkey Grip. Walking in the Edinburgh Gardens recently I stumbled on a crew filming an episode of Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, which is set at the exact time the Mackneys would have been admiring the gardens from the comfort of their verandah. And nearby streets are regularly cordoned off to facilitate filming of the popular series Offspring.


The family home in Offspring

Keeping with the creative theme, next time I will move on to art of a very different type.

What do Paris, Sao Paolo, London, Los Angeles and Melbourne have in common?... They are all renowned open-air art galleries. And the epicentre of  Melbourne's street art is Fitzroy.
So look out for some of my top picks next time. And do let me know what you think!

4 Comments:

Blogger Luke C Jackson said...

A fascinating series of posts! Thanks for sharing your discoveries. :)

12:04 AM  
Blogger Sue Jackson said...

Thanks so much for that feedback, Luke.
I had a wonderful time doing the research and met some great people along the way. Somehow it makes living here every more satisfying to now know a little about some of the people who did so before us.

12:50 AM  
Blogger Tom Keel said...

Well done Sue.
An excellent piece of detective work.

4:45 PM  
Blogger Sue Jackson said...

Thanks so much for all your support, Tom. I look forward to next year's Happy Birthday House! when I hope to take up where I left off.

4:52 PM  

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