In the last post I shared some photos and a little bit about Great Aunt Dorrie. In 1982, her daughter Jean Adams sat down with her 80 year old Mum Dorrie and cassette recorder, and asked Dorrie to talk about her life. There are two ~45 minute recordings of Dorrie. Dorrie passed away in 1998. Her daughter Jean passed away in 2020, not long after I met her, but her family found the precious cassette tape, and was able to transfer it to MP3 file. Her son Dick (Richard Seddon) in turn shared the file with me, and gave permission to include it on the blog, and share it on the blog with all the Waddell descendants…. Here is part 1.
Here is the original audio of Dorrie, telling her life story in her own words.
Here is the transcript, including timestamps to be able to find the section of the text in the audio file. There are a couple of italics notes where I have added (for example) that “Mag” is Dorrie’s eldest sister.
Transcript – Dorothy May Seddon, 18th April 1982 (Part 1 of 2)
This is April the 18th 1982. Dorothy May Seddon speaking, born Dorothy May Waddell in 1902 at the Two Mile, Gympie, Queensland. I had a happy childhood, good home and good parents and started school at the Two Mile at the age of five. And had a wonderful day the first day. The kids gathered round, asked my name and I did as I’ve been told at home “Doctor say Dorothy May, the Queen of the day”, and I wondered why they took such – made such a fuss of my all day!
At Christmas time, we’ve always had a Christmas tree and we had picnics to a place called Widgee Crossing on the Mary River. And we had other picnics out into the Bush to gather raspberries. They weren’t real raspberries, they were wild raspberries, but was it a good day out anyhow.
The first trip away from Gympie was to Pialba (?). We’d all had the whooping cough. So, children after whooping cough were always sent to the seaside and that was enjoyable. The only thing that I didn’t like about it was my 5th birthday and the only thing available in the way of a present was a slate and pencils from the little shop next door. So that was rather disappointing. We used slates at school in those days and the pencils used to squeak like mad.
When a very erratic headteacher was sent to the Two Mile school, Ida and I were sent to a private school on Miss Lymburners . This was quite different and at the break-up party, strangely enough, we were given Blancmange and pears. I’ve never had that before at a school picnic.
Later, Mr. Nash was sent to the Two Mile School and we were sent back to the Two Mile. He was the son of the founder of Gympie, or at least the man who first discovered gold in Gympie.
I can remember that Sinking of the Titanic. And there was a matinee in aid of the wives of the sailors who died, and all the school children went to that picture. I can’t remember what it was, but I know we all walked from Two Mile to that theater and it was over 2 miles. Quite a walk.
When war came, things changed for us. George (Waddell, Dorries brother) and Major Nash our school teacher were two of the first to leave Gympie. They took their horses. They were Light Horse. And they got no leave – they were very quickly sent overseas.
George was wounded on Gallipoli and Major Nash was killed and cast a gloom over the whole of Gympie. George was later killed at Maghdaba after the Battle of Romani. Yes. And that was on the 23rd of December and it spoilt Christmas for us for years to come.
Jack (Waddell, Dorries brother) wouldn’t rest until Mum (Mary Alice Waddell nee Whittington) signed his papers so that he could go to the war too. And he survived the war, although he fell a victim to malaria. And when the troops came back, Mum and Mags (Margaret Waddell, Dorries eldest sister) went to Brisbane to meet his ship, only to see him carried off in a stretcher and in hospital for weeks. So they came home without him.
00:05:10 Speaker 1
By this time we’d moved to Kin Kin. And after having several months at Noosa and Tewantin, Ede (Dorries 2nd eldest sister) was married by this time and mum thought they all needed a good rest. So there we were — first at Noosa and then Tewantin. We really had a lovely time there.
By the time we got to Kin Kin, School was well in. So I begged not to be sent back to school because I’d be put behind my grade and that was a point of honor because I was in the 25 top ones. And all the others were in the next grade.
00:05:59 Speaker 1
When Ida and I were teenagers, we went to Brisbane to stay with the Mrs. Storer. For a holiday. She looked us both over and said Hmm, all right, but neither of you will ever be the good looking girl your mother was. Quite deflating, but probably true.
I haven’t got any photographs of Mum to show unfortunately. They were packed in suitcases after she died. All our photographs were stored under Mags house at Cooparoo. Those suitcases were stolen when they were away one weekend, so goodness knows what happened to the photographs.
In Gympie, we had a family called Rodney’s living opposite to us. And Anastasia and Peter. He was a tailor. Anastasia kept house. And Mr. and Mrs. Rodney had died by this time, but they used to ask Mum could I go and spend a couple of days with them. This happened quite often. And they used to take me to church with them and I’d go to the cemetery with them. And always for my birthday, Peter would give Anastacia monies and say “Go and buy her something nice” and I still have a glove box. I think that was probably the last present I got from them before we left Gympie.
At Kin Kin, we soon settled into a different life. But we had tennis and lots of trips to the beach, but plenty of hard work and long hours.
Later on, I met Seddie (Bert Seddon, her future husband) and we were married in 1924. Married at the house because the Church of England had not been built at that stage and the minister was lucky to get across the Creek as it was in flood at the time.
There was a drowning a little earlier. A man was washed off his horse and found later well down the Creek.
After meeting the Seddon family and being welcomed into the family, especially by Mrs. Seddon. She was always very nice to me. She was a marvelous woman. And very cheerful as she had had a hard life.
00:09:03 Speaker 1
After relieving work for about six months, Seddie was given a managership of Berriwillock (in North West Victoria). And we had half a day to buy what we required in the way of furniture and furnishings. So we bought most of our crockery and kitchenware at Danks and McEwan’s. And the dresser – the one I still have – I bought at Myers just on closing time on the Friday evening, for five pounds.
00:09:53 Speaker 1
Berriwillock was quite a change. It was my first experience of a dust storm, and if you’ve never seen a dust storm, you’ve got no idea what it’s like. You’re walking on grit, you’re breathing grit, you’re eating grit, gets everywhere.
Jean (Seddon, Dorries first child) was born at Sea Lake. And I had her in the pram on the veranda one day, and a dust storm came up. By the time I got out to rescue her, you couldn’t see her face for dust.
However, we met some very good friends there and Mrs. Godwin, who was an estate agent’s wife, took me under her wing. Guide me quite a few tips on housekeeping and fruit preserving and so on and so forth.
We’ve always had lots of Houseguests throughout their lives. And even at Berriwillock where we had cramped quarters, Uncle George came to stay. Ida came to stay. And I went back with Ida, and Seddie he came when his holidays were granted a little lighter.
Jess came back with us to Berriwillock as George (Dorrie’s second son) was looming on the horizon by this time. And we had pretty rough weather on the trip back. And one of the passengers, a older woman, said to me “I thought we’d have you in hospital”. She said “but I’m pleased to see you’re alright.” She said “Your baby will be a wanderer” and he’s turned out to be just that.
And anyway, George was born at Sea Lake. He was a very good baby. A little fatty and all was very contented. Then we moved to Romsey and Jess came with us. And life there was pretty good.
Next trip to Queensland, Jess stayed home. And so I was on my own then with the three children and the office. When two friends in Romsey, Mrs. Bowen and Mrs. Shaw, put their heads together and thought I was looking terrible. Mrs. Shaw said she thought I was going into a decline, so Mrs. Bowen approached Miss Daly to see if she’d come and give me a morning every week, each week. So, she came and told me about it and Miss Daly duly came every morning during the week.
And we had her until we went to Heathcote. She used to have a midday dinner with us and then go home.
We saw electric light come to Romsey. Up till then it had been kerosene lamps and no electrical appliances at all of course. Carpets had to be taken out and put on the line and beaten. I didn’t get an electric iron straight away as I had a petrol iron, but Miss Daly wouldn’t use that. She was afraid of it. She used to use the Mrs. Potts iron heated on top of the stove. I had a very good stove at Romsey and used to cook very well. I remember the first time I made cream puffs. I had little girl from next door Joyce Forward (??) in to play with Jean. Her mother was a wonderful cook, so when it was time for the cream puffs to come out, I had to make an excuse to get Joyce out of the kitchen in case they were no good. However, when I came out of the oven, I was wishing Joyce were still there to see just how good they were!
We used to go to the – follow the cricket. Seddie played cricket and the children went. We took afternoon tea for the cricketers. The children had quite a good play and Mrs. White, one of the wives of one of the cricketers, said she’d never seen a better pair of kids than Jean and George. And as little children they got on wonderfully well together. But unfortunately nowadays I’ve only got to see each other and I start to disagree about something!
Later on, Pat (Waddell, Dorries sister) and Jess came down for a holiday. And Jess stayed on with us because Mary (Dorrie’s 3rd child) was now putting in an appearance. Well Mary duly arrived, a nice plump baby. Jess thought she was beautiful. And George had been sent up to Liney’s (? Unclear but Seddie’s sister was known as Liney) to be out of the way for the time being and a stray dog had come in. George had a wonderful time with this dog and christened it Bouncer. So when he knew he had a little sister and we said “What do you think we should call her?” and he said “Bouncer!” but however, we didn’t take his advice on that.
00:16:02 Speaker 1
Well Jess stayed with us and helped and she was so good with the kids. Until Mum had an accident and she had to go home. Oh, I think I probably said all that before.
00:16:25 Speaker 1
In Romsey, our food was kept cool in a cellar and we also had a Coolgardie Safe. We had that Berriwillock and then wasn’t used so much at Romsey. But we didn’t have a fridge until we got to Nhill (Vic).
00:16:47 Speaker 1
The depression arrived while we were in Romsey, and we have to go without holidays and have a 10% cut in salary. However, as we grew our own vegetables or Seddie did, we had our own chicks and ducks, and meat was cheap there, so we didn’t do too badly. We used to go out with other families on picnics to pick Blackberries and quite a number of outings like that helped life along.
00:17:26 Speaker 1
There was golf at Romsey and of course, we always followed the cricket and sometimes the football. But it was so cold at the football we used to take a newspaper to stand on.
After Romsey, we went to Heathcote and while we were there, Jean would come over and stay at the Langs, and Bruce (Seddie’s brother?_ would come over and stay with us, or vice versa.
Bill, and particularly Len, used to come and visit us at Romsey and if they’re running a little bit late, Pop would ring up the station and say “Hold the train, my brothers on his way.” and so they got off to town in time to get to work. It was only 30 miles away.
00:18:35 Speaker 1
We had our first car in Ramsey, a red Dodge. Second hand. It wasn’t very fast on the flat road, but it beat everything else going up hills. And we had quite a number of trips around about the country in that.
Seddie wasn’t a natural driver and it was rather hard for him to learn to drive and get his license. But however he knew the policeman well and he was rather accommodating. One Sunday afternoon, we were going for a drive and I got the three children ready. Put George on his tricycle and told him to ride up and down the drive so we were ready. So then we got in the car and we got about a mile down the road and I suddenly said “Where’s George?”. George was still (laughing) riding his tricycle up and down the drive!
The Wallers came to stay when we were in Romsey. And George had a box of paints which are kept up on top of the dresser and just gave them to him when he wanted to play with them. And one day Jack was there – Jack Waller — and George came in and said “I want to faint. I want to faint”. Jack, who had no children, which terrified and he didn’t know what to do with George was going to faint! Luckily I came along in time to interpret. He wanted to paint!
00:20:28 Speaker 1
George Seddon – Uncle George — used to come and stay wherever we were, and we’ve never been short of visitors.
When we were at Romsey, we had the whole Seddon family for Christmas dinner which was quite a big thing. Jess was with me, fortunately, because for 18 altogether, took a bit of cooking. We had a goose and all the appropriate vegetables and the pudding which we boiled up in the copper as we couldn’t fit everything onto the stove. And dinner over, we had to start getting ready for tea. Jess and I had baked all the day before. And with cold meats and salads and all sorts of things like that, we had 18 again for tea. Oliver nearly caused trouble. He stood up and said it was the best Christmas dinner he’d ever had. But of course Liney (Seddie’s sister, famous for her cooking according to my father) wouldn’t take that without a protest. She said “What about the Christmas dinners you’ve had with me?”. Anyway, that’s all in the past.
At Heathcote, we had three years and they were very pleasant years although the depression was still on and money was tight, but there were lots of people on the roads at that time. And I can remember Jean coming in and saying there’s a poor old lady that wants money for a meal. And I said I won’t give her any money for a meal, but you can tell her to sit on my garden seat and I’ll bring her out a tray. So I made some sandwiches and some tea, and Jean joyfully took them out to find there was no old lady there. She wanted the money, not the food.
It was in Heathcote that we bought our piano. Secondhand one, but some poor unfortunate had to sell because of the depression, I suppose. And in Heathcote Richard came along, praise be. He was another good baby.
The children have all been a great joy to me. I can’t tell you just how much. They were beautiful. Although times a lot of work and always a lot of worry.
In those days you just couldn’t be sure of employment. And then I was a long way from home if I needed help. However, we got by. We had tennis. There was a lovely park just opposite the bank at Heathcote where there was tennis and cricket, bowls, croquet, and there was an old tram car for the children to play in so that they all played happily in the park while their parents played their various games. And I can remember after one cricket match, the ladies had some food over and called the children. And Mrs. Storey said to George “Would you like a piece of cake?” and he said “Mother told us all was to start on scones!”.
I enjoyed my children. And I’m very thankful to them for giving me such lovely grandchildren. The trouble is, they’re running out! I’ve only got 1 great grandson, but he’s a very special man. So thank you for that.
We went to Mildura soon after. Richard in the basket. And we lived in the house there until the new premises were built. We had plenty of ups and downs there. Dusty weather. We’d get a girl to help. And as soon as the package shared opened off, off they’d go to work at the packing shed. We had one girl Cath who came from up on the Dowling somewhere. She had webbed feet. Pooncarie Cath came from and she used to take Richard for a walk. And always very pleased when Mrs. Hargreaves admired him.
But she’d say to me “He’s a good little kid, considering.” And I often wondered “Considering what?”
00:26:21 Speaker 1
Well, we moved into the premises and it was very nice to have a new place. But it was terribly hot.
And the lights in the street were so bright that very often the children had difficulty getting to sleep as early as children should. So I used to let them stay in the morning as long as possible.
When we were at Mildura the shops closed on Wednesday afternoon and were open on Saturday and Saturday evening and meant there were two different blocks at the various sports – there was the Wednesday players and the Saturday players and I didn’t play golf then, but we did have tennis on Sundays at the Hodson’s place, and we really enjoyed that.
It was at Mildura that we met the Pullens who became great friends of ours and we kept up with then until they both died and I still see Betty occasionally. We also met another lovely family at Mildura – that was the Coffeys. Unfortunately Mrs. Coffey died few years ago, but she was a great friend. At one time Pop got a new suit, so she arrives in with a new tie for him to go with his new suit. Just she apologized then and she said, well, that’s what I do to my brothers. We used to go for picnics with them and David. She used the make vialla(?) shirts for David, they might be handed on to Richard, and from Richard they’d go back to Jeffrey. They left to go to Sydney while we were still there. We used to go for picnics with them to Lake Gol Gol and to Chaffeys’ Bend, and that was really good.
And we had Christmas together. We had some lovely Christmas at Coffey’s place. We would share the food and then the kids would put on a concert and George had Mary trained in magic tricks. At one time, after a little bit of talk, he said “Now Mrs Coffey, if you look under the mat, you’ll find the magic wand.” So Mrs. Coffey lifted the mat – there was the magic wand. It was really quite good fun. Pop was Father Christmas dressed in my red dressing gown and with the mask and beard. But his shoes put the show away.
00:29:45 Speaker 1
Fruit was plentiful in Mildura and that helped very much because the budget was getting strained as the children grew up their needs were greater. But oranges – we used to get seconds. For two shillings a chaff bag, half a chaff bag. And grapes were brought to us by the dip tin.
00:30:07 Speaker 1
Also, Pop used to get walnuts on his trips to Wentworth. He’d call at Coomealla and got walnuts for 8 pence a pound. I wish I had some now!
00:30:21 Speaker 1
Richard learned to walk at the Commercial Bank at Wentworth. Pop used to go over there once a week to the sub-branch. Then Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton were there and sometimes I went and took Richard and that was where he took his first steps. CBA Wentworth.
The second war was on when we were at Mildura. And the planes used to fly over and we used to see quite a lot of the Air Force personnel. In fact, one of them, a French boy came and cooked a meal for us one night. We had the same thing at Nhill – the Air Force had bombers there and we show quite a lot of the Air Force boys there too.
At Mildura, we were pretty good Church of England people. Pop was really a Methodist but he was on the hospital committee with Cameron Horner whom he liked and admired. And Cam said to him “Why don’t you come to communion with your wife?” And he said “Because I’m not Church of England, I am Methodist. I have never been confirmed” Cameron said, “We’ll will soon fix that.” So Pop went along to the confirmation classes and he and George were confirmed at the same time by the Bishop of Ararat who was Archbishop James. He was a great little chap.
And then when we went to Nhill, Pop was asked what religion we were. Nhill was mostly Methodist and Lutheran, and when he said Church of England the man said “Well, perhaps, it’s a good thing. There’s not many of them. They need your help.” So we certainly pulled our…. We certainly did our part at Nhill and worked on all sorts of community efforts there. Not very wonderful place geographically, Nhill, but still we had quite a good time and made some very good friends there. I played quite a bit of tennis and golf.
From Nhill, Mary went nursing. And then when we moved to Horsham, Richard went to Ballarat Grammar. So there were just the two of us. There were big premises there and we still had plenty people to stay. From relatives, both Seddie’s and my mine, to school friends, boys from the boys home, commissioner, even to the Bishop of Ballarat and the Registrar of the diocese. We’ve had them all.
We had a good life at Horsham although we missed the family a great deal. But there’s always somebody coming and going. Mary married from there. And George, who’d gone to England to work and taught in various places and then to Canada, came back there with a bride, and then went to Perth to live.
I think we could have enjoyed Horsham even more than we did because we kept thinking surely will have another move soon. Instead of that we stayed there for 10 years until Pop retired. We had many good friends. And I had good games of cards and good tennis – no we didn’t play tennis there. We played golf. We were getting a bit old for tennis by that time. Church was still a big factor with us and we went once and sometimes twice a day – a Sunday – to church.
We had Cam and Anthony whom we both loved but he went to Bendigo and then we had MacIntyre. He was also very good but very different.
Jean had married and gone to live in England. And she returned when we lived at Horsham with two beautiful little girls. =- Bronwyn and Sue. And we went for drive one day with them and Sue was a bit of an Acrobat on the swings and so on. And then she fell. Pop was sitting with me watching her and he ran to pick her up. He had been smoking and he dropped a cigarette. Anyhow, she was none the worse for the fall, but as we continued along the road we could smell something burning. The cigarette had dropped into the cuff of Pops pants and was just slowly burning away.
Well then came retirement. And you know all about that. 20 years – a quarter of my life’s been spent in Glen Iris. Plenty of ups and downs. But I’m lucky to have a home. And I’m on my own now after having people around me all my life. Because on the bank, you could always go and have a word with somebody in the office, or you’re on the street — you could go out any old time. I used to sometimes sit in the sewing room and watch Mr. Beer changing his frock shop window.
Lots easier in a lot of ways, but harder in the lot of others. The shopping, for instance, is hard today and I feel sorry for mothers big families having to go and shop with and take home such loads of stuff. In the early days a man would call for an order. And the groceries would then be delivered. And the same thing with the butcher.
Well, the last chapter you all know about. But in 80 years you see a lot of changes. Lot of ups and downs. But I suppose we had more ups and downs and plenty of laughs. One thing I can remember about my home, the first thing that comes to me is the sound of laughter. But when George was killed, the laughter went out of that place for several years. That was a terrible blow to Mum. She was wonderful. I don’t order know how she managed us all and loved us all the way she did. When I was in Berriwillock a friend, Mrs. Mason once said to me “Are you an only child?” and I said “No. I’m one of 10”. And she said “Well, I thought from the way you speak and the news you get and the letters from your mother that you must be an only child”– but we were all only children to Mum. She really was key.
I suppose it should say she didn’t have a great life because she didn’t go out very much. She was very fond of reading, an occasional game of cards and she loved her garden. And I think I’ve inherited that love of the garden from her. And anywhere I’ve been I’ve made a garden or improved on the one that’s there, and I just hope I can keep on going with mine. It’s got its good points and it’s bad ones.
00:40:40 Speaker 1
After coming to Glen Iris, life was pretty good for a while and Pop was lucky to be able to get jobs. After 12 months at home, it was obvious that he was much better doing something. And he was very happy in his job, so he made some good new friends. And of course it enabled us to get about more. We had plenty of trips to Queensland. And my sister Mag made us very welcome there, lent her car, and Nunt, her daughter, leant her car once for us to go to Bundaberg to see Jess. We couldn’t have done that without those jobs after retirement.
00:41:56 Speaker 1
I think the most noteworthy thing I’ve done in my time is to restore that old rocking chair. Took me about a year to do it because it was painted green. Springs and everything. And I can still make marmalade and still make a good lemon shortcake.
00:42:19 Speaker 1
Dad (George Waddell) used to be very fond of fishing. And when we were at Noosa, he used to get so sunburnt to go out on the boat.
He’d come home with the skin off his nose. He had a fair complexion, beautiful Auburn hair, curly hair. And most of the family inherited curly hair from Dad. I had straight black hair. Mum said I was like her sister (Most likely her older Sarah Elizabeth Sparrow, nee Whittington b1867 d1947 who came out to Australia with Dorries Mum Mary Alice Whittington but hated it, moved back to England and eventually to Canada). I don’t know about that, but Mag used to work on my hair. She used to brush it and brush it. She should give me an egg shampoo one week, then she’d read about a beer shampoo and she would give me a beer shampoo anyway. It worked well in the end because by the time I was teenager, my hair was very good.
Well, I hope you don’t find all this very boring. But I’ve got lots and lots of happy memories. And a lot of very amusing ones too.
00:43:41 Speaker 1
One thing I realized I said earlier was that Pop and George were confirmed by the Bishop of Aarat, but I meant to say the Bishop of Saint Arnaud.
When we were young, Ida and I went to Methodist Sunday school because it was the nearest to us. And there we were rather disenchanted on the times when we had to go to church. Sometimes there would be church after Sunday school and there was a Mr. Fox and he threatened us all with fire and damnation every time so the Anglican Church was a great success after that.
Ken and Anthony we really loved. And strangely enough, here in Glen Iris, we had a minister called Marks. And it turned out that he was the same Marks that George went to Trinity with and shared the exhibition in English with Ron Marks. He later went to Brisbane to the University to teach theology there.
00:45:31 Speaker 1
I wish I had kept a scrapbook of all the doings of George and Richard. I think it’s wise to do that because George has been newspaper material ever since he acted in the Apple Cart at Ballarat.
00:45:53 Speaker 1
My nine grandchildren and one great grandchild, Bronwyn, Sue, David, Robin, Simon, Jack, Holly, Sarah, Nick and Ben.
I’m going to tell you a few things that happened when I was a child. You might find it a bit different from when – from your childhood.
You know, when I had the mumps, I was brought little boxes of chocolate — penny boxes of chocolates. Now, could you imagine a box of chocolate for a penny. They’re about the size of a pack of cards with a nice picture on the front. And another great treat when we were young were orange cream biscuits. If my mother went to town, she’d often bring home a packet of orange cream biscuits and we were given one. Well I used to hold mine in my hand for awhile till it softened a bit and then twisted round so they’re separated and I had two orange biscuits.
Mom was a very good cook. She made beautiful pastry. And beautiful fruit cake. But my sister, my elder sister was the one who made the sponges.
[End of tape #1]
Part 2 will be shared in the next post….
Transcribed by Karen Hapgood, great niece of Dorrie Waddell, April 2021.
Thanks to Dorrie’s descendants for making this recording it, keeping it safe, sharing it, and giving permission to share it on the blog.