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Patricia Gregory

20th June 1924 - 27th April 2004

by Linda Drake (Pat's daughter)


I believe I've lead a blessed life as a loved only child. Certainly blessed with the opportunity to really know my Mother Pat as a Mother and friend. With a background of Scottish gentility, wartime England and an adventurous life in aerial surveying, my Mother surprised those who knew her by making her home at Anakie. Her inclination for hospitality and tourism was nurtured early in life, growing up at my Grandparents home "The Manor House" at Market Harbro in Leistershire. During the summer it was run as a cycling club with accommodation and in the winter it was the hub of the hunt. Mother met and married my father Bruce in 1944. He was a dashing RAF pilot based close by. Father was part of No.138 Squadron, known as the moonlight squadron, flying out on moonlight nights to drop agents and supplies into enemy-occupied territory. He had developed a special navigational tool, which not only helped him and his crew to be one of the very few from the squadron to survive, but also came in pretty handy later in their new life in Australia, conducting aerial surveys and map making.

I was born at home in Newhaven Sussex, England in 1947. Father made a living as a painter and decorator, and also followed in his father's and grandfather's footsteps as a scenic mural artist. During a train trip to visit my grandparents, Mother met a lady from Melbourne, Thea Montgomery, who enthused her into going to Australia House. Mother told me how she read the local newspapers and was amazed at the advertising and bounty of the country. England was still on strict rations at that time so in 1952 our little family boarded the "Austorious" for Australia as 10 pound immigrants with Thea as our sponsor.

We first lived in the Dandenong Ranges near Melbourne and would you believe it was winter and Mother had given all the warmies away before we left! Father had an introduction to de Havillands in Sydney and Mother and I followed him up there when he had secured a position as an aircraft draftsman with the company. My parents bought a little temporary dwelling. By this time, father was going to aeronautical college as he had to start from scratch to obtain an Australian pilots licence and Mother was holding down two jobs including walking 5 miles home at 2am in the morning from the factory where she hand-painted the emblems for Holden cars. Then next day she managed a Drycleaners shop and later a fashion boutique. My parents were working hard to make a start in a new country. My father's brother Sid joined us in Australia and later Uncle Steve came as well. It was a wonderful period in my life, I was the cherished child of 4 fun-loving adults. Father played the violin, Uncle Sid the banjo, Mother sang and uncle Steve was the clown. Dancing and singing was integral to our family. We had a little beach shack for swimming and spear fishing with adventures into the countryside a couple of Sundays a month, always with a swag of kids. My parents bought a brand new house and the uncles came along as well. Mother's parties were legendary. She would invite everyone in the street, plus the street behind and the one in front. Nobody could complain about the noise if they'd been invited!

By now, father was back flying and working in aerial geophysics with an American company. He was away a lot. Then he changed companies to Adastra Aerial Surveys, an Australian company based at Mascot who allowed wives to accompany husbands, a much better arrangement. I chose my own boarding school and would fly to wherever they were for the holidays and when they were in Sydney they'd come up to Bowral and we'd go out for lovely picnics and take my friends in the old Buick which father fitted with extra seats so we could carry about 12 children and two adults - no seatbelts then! In 1959 Mother got her driving license and literally her very first drive was to Perth. That was a challenge - no bitumen and miles of bull-dust and huge potholes! She had a beautiful Alsatian dog called Attila who traveled as guard dog. Father would sometimes check on her progress from the air. They had a contract in New Guinea to map the border and conduct mineral surveys. Father had a crew and Mother was needed to work the storm monitor on the ground so she had her first job with the company. Luckily the managing director of the company was supportive and recognised her willingness to learn. He sent her books and she studied the manuals of the Doppler magnetometer and maintenance of the intricate equipment. The company took a punt and bought an Aero Commander aircraft which my parents turned into the most productive and profitable crew in the country, and were in demand by clients and Governments. Father was pilot, navigator and engineer. They would be in the air and on line as the sun came up and Mother would work hunched over the equipment in a squatting position, often flying unpressurised at 17,000 feet. She couldn't work wearing an oxygen mask, so she would work, take a swig of oxygen then head down again! At the other end of the scale, they also conducted low level contour mapping at 300 feet.

When I was 15, we bought a waterfront place at Lugarno on the Georges River in Sydney. It was a boat shed that we turned into the cutest home. Uncles had their own place out the back. There was an art studio and almost 400 steps to get up to the road and the cars! When they came home or were leaving, we'd meet them by boat at the ferry and load up the gear much easier! At 16, I attended the Julian Ashton Art School in Sydney, first living with friends of the family for a year, then at a hostel for country girls at Kirrabilli followed by an attic flat in Kings Cross right opposite Les Girls. My dear Mother worried of course. By then I was earning great money as a folk singer and to give you an idea of the support I received from my parents, they insisted on paying my rent in case I forgot!

After 14 years with the company, they resigned as they had become interested in a large Kimberly property, "Caranya", situated 92 miles south of Halls Creek. It has the second largest meteorite crater in the world half a mile from the homestead. Mother had visions of flying saucer-type accommodation and intensive beef in the high country where there was water. Charlie Court was the WA Tourism Minister at the time and was prepared to build her a new airstrip and facilities. The three of us went up to take a look at it calling into various properties where they had been previously based. Uncle Sid and father moved there and only just got in the supplies before the wet. Father became ill and the Flying Doctor's medical supplies were old. When the negotiations fell through after some months, they had to dispose of the all the goods and equipment. Mother said that at least Bruce was able to do some paintings whilst he was there and produced several good oils.

They went back to work for Adastra for another 12 months. They were looking for a run down pub, in an interesting area with potential. In Rockhampton they saw an advertisement for the Anakie Hotel and took over in February 1970. The pub had pig wire between the staff and patrons (to protect the staff from flying fists). Mother held the license, no way would she let father hurt his hands! They took down the wire, scrubbed the place from back to front and Mother donned an evening gown. They called her fancy pants (always up with the fashion she also sported a wardrobe of cullottes). She would take no nonsense. No-one swore at the Anakie pub. They added a stage and an office and quickly became the hub of entertainment for the region. They built the portable pub for race meetings, raised $9,000 to put in the first generator at the Anakie School, contributed to clubs and became part of the community. Mother did the "grog run" to the miners that placed an order. There's many a story to be told from that. There were 14 staff at the Hotel, really an extended family, but she had trouble keeping the girls she brought in. They'd run off with the miners or get married to local graziers. Some of these women still regard my Mother as a surrogate mum and are close friends. The miners were poor though, often living on kangaroo. Father heard that there were buyers from Thailand at Inverell in NSW. He flew down and lined some up to come to Anakie. The first time, Mother had to issue tickets because people had been camped at night outside waiting their turn. The prices quadrupled overnight. Mother always gave her hospitality to buyers and journalists at no cost and bought Thai cook books so they would feel welcome. The 70s boom had started. In those days it was usual to have 5 or 6 coaches a week for lunch. Guests were served by waitresses wearing mop caps and frilly aprons, roses adorned the tables, and the meals were a banquet. Then Uncle Steve (always the clown) would knock at the door dressed as a swaggie and ask if he could have something to eat. Mother would tell him off and as soon as someone said "Oh poor fellow" or even sighed, she would say "well if you're happy to have him, he can sit next to you!" Uncle Steve had many guises to keep them amused! As each coach arrived she would ask the driver if there was a grump, or someone celebrating a special occasion. She made them the guest of honour and always had her "huff and puff" cake to present to them. For years she would get letters saying: "Do you remember me? I'm the one you made the cake for In 1975".

Mother stood for and was elected to the Emerald Shire Council, a position she maintained for 22 years, retiring in 1997. The early years were frustrating. She proposed innovative projects but had a hard time being heard. She was a tenacious lady and won respect from the men through basic hard work. She loved the Gemfields and Emerald Shire, and has contributed much to its economic horizons, events and services, forever fighting to preserve the Gemfields lifestyle. They sold the pub in 1977, having already built ladies and gents facilities on their land next door (that was so that when Mother took away the keys of someone who was past being able to drive, the patrons had somewhere to shower). This area they turned into a caravan park. The land included the old Ramboda Woolshed, which Mother had had made into staff quarters. So Little Mick and Larry, Father and Uncle Sid and Steve built it into a home with the Uncles down the back of course! Linton Toby Aram and I moved up in 1977, not really intending to stay long. Mother was delighted to have us close and soon we became enmeshed in the Gemfields community. The caravan park was a jumping off place for so many visitors to also join the community. Our complimentary afternoon teas brought in more visitors than advertising ever did. Fresh pikelets, jam and cream, home made cakes and pizza, sausage rolls and savories. Afternoon tea often lasted until 6pm. It was an enjoyable atmosphere and many friendships grew from there. Father passed away in 1985 and Uncle Steve in 1993. We sold the park in 1995.

My boys and I have played a major role in her life. Above all, she loved her family, and helped me to raise my sons to become independent young men in the Electrical, Engineering, and Hospitality industries and was so proud of the wonderful men they became. It was a joy to welcome the wives Leanne and Emily and a bonus when Sarah Rose and Casey May were born. There are also many people who have called her "Grandmother Gregory" or "Grandmother Pat". Mother was devastated when Toby was killed canyoning in Switzerland in 1999, an event that I believe contributed to her failing health. In her retirement, Mother enjoyed her family, garden, and animals. Diagnosed with cancer in September last year, Mother met the challenge by enjoying every minute. When we were away for her Radium treatment, we had a ball and although she suffered a serious illness in February, I was able to bring her home for another special 6 weeks. Just last week she was lunching at the Memorial Club with friends, had a splash on the pokies and went shopping. What a woman.

Linda Drake