James McAlpine Woolley 5/11/1923 – 1/12/2021
Our Dad and Papa was born in Camperdown Victoria the day before the Melbourne Cup was run in 1923. He always reckoned we had no excuse to forget his birthday on 5th November because of the great race! He was brought up with horses too as his father Stewart Gordon Woolley was the curator at Camperdown Racecourse and they lived in a cottage there and later at the family home originally owned by his grandparents called Bexley near by.
Dad’s mother was Alice Eva (nee McAlpine) and he was named after her brother, his Uncle James who was KIA in 1917 at Polygon Wood in Belgium. Brother Leslie was 5 years older, born in 1918. Dad’s memoirs describe in great detail his life in the country and he said his childhood life style was magnificent and marvellous! He loved the outdoors, his dogs and pony and even though he lived here through the depression, the family was pretty self-sufficient and were very involved in the community.
His schooling was at Camperdown State School then Camperdown High School up to Intermediate Level. He met his lifelong friend Don Ross on his first day at school. School days were fun with a bit of learning with plenty of spare time to enjoy lots of interests. There were birds and sheep and horses and dogs to enjoy and rabbits to hunt, cousins and friends to explore with, billy carts, kits and model planes to make and launch, Church and boys club activities and cricket, his favourite sport.
Dad’s first job on leaving school at age 16 was as a clerk in a Stock and Station Agency in town and he completed an Intermediate Accountancy Course. By now WW11 was well underway and many of his older mates were enlisting. Dad had always wanted to join the Airforce but his parents would only agree to the Army so in November 1941, aged 18 he enlisted.
After basic training he was drafted into the 64th AntiAircraft Searchlight Company at Maribrynong and became a Sapper. The company transferred to Charters Towers in QLD to defend the American Air Base. He worked as an orderly clerk then Sergeant and here he made another life long friend, Charlie Cawsey. The unit relocated to Cairns and was preparing to take up officer training when he was hospitalised for tropical ulcers and psoriasis. It was 5 months before he could rejoin a new unit in Victoria. He travelled to Sydney for various army activities which he obviously found pretty dull. By May 1944 he managed to transfer to the RAAF as an aircrew trainee.
This same month another very important thing happened. Dad received a letter from a Sydney girl called Joan and they arranged to meet on Proud’s Corner in Sydney, Joan dressed in a blue frock and Jim with his great coat over this arm. They went to the pictures and Dad wrote in his diary ‘excellent type of girl’ , Two days later he met her parents at their home in Five Dock for dinner and he wrote “ very nice folk’! Over the next year, they corresponded with scores of letters and just a couple of visits while Dad was in the RAAF.
Jim enjoyed his time in the Airforce- he was based mainly at Laverton and was selected for training as a fighter pilot. He loved flying and found the RAAF conditions much better than the AIF. But alas the war ended in 1945 so ended his flying career and 4 years of war service.
Joan and Jim became engaged in December 1945 and soon after he moved to Sydney and lived with his future parents-in-law Horace and Elsie Jefferys before he and Joan were married in June 1947. They honeymooned in Surfers Paradise. To where they would both return many years later.
Dad summarises the period from 1946 to 1968 in this way: he completed his accountancy commerce course and held responsible positions in 3 quite diverse industries- Engineeering at Gibsons, Travelware at Duro Travel Goods and meat exporting at James Barnes Pty Ltd. He was an accountant and manager in these companies and during these years was involved in the Sydney Chamber of Commerce and became a Justice of the Peace.
But some other very significant events also occurred during the 50s and 60s. He became a father. I was born in 1950 when Joan and Jim were still living in Five Dock with her parents. They started building their own house in Wishart St Eastwood and moved in during October 1952.
Judy was born in 1953 and Lyn in 1956 and family life was busy with 3 growing girls. We remember our childhood as happy and content as we enjoyed the big backyard with bird aviaries and gardens, friendly neighbours and friends and fun family gatherings and birthday parties.
Dad was pretty proud of his 3 daughters and supported us as we progressed through our primary schools in Eastwood and West Ryde. When it was time for me to go to high school, dad and mum were horrified at the thought of me going to Ryde High School as we were not in the zone for Cheltenham Girls so they found the funds to send me to MLC at Burwood and later Judy and Lyn ensuring we graduated as Methodist Ladies College girls. They were always encouraging of all our pursuits at school, music and sport and supported us to undertake our university studies and careers.
1968 was a big year as the family moved to 50 Trelawney St along with Grandma Jeffreys and dad was appointed as Executive Director of the Dental Health Education and Research Foundation, University of Sydney and he was very excited and enthusiastic about this position. He was responsible for initiating and developing community preventative dentistry programs like the Good Teeth Puppet Theatre which visited schools and promoted dental health. In 1977 he was very proud that the foundation won first prize in the inaugural International Community Preventive Dentistry Awards. This meant a trip to Canada to collect the prize and thus began many years of world travel. He presented papers at seminars and conferences for a few years and he and mum enjoyed visiting many different countries including Canada, US, Europe and Fiji. Dad certainly ended his working life on a high note as the Foundation and his contribution recognised world wide.
During the 1970s and 1980s dad was involved in lots of community organisations including Eastwood Rotary Club and District Committee, Eastwood Primary School P&C Committee, MLC Parents Association and later School Council as well as the National Trust Speakers Committee. He was awarded Rotary’s Paul Harris Fellowship in 1984.
Retirement came in 1984 at the age of 61 and he found other pursuits to occupy his time. He took up painting and loved using his memories of childhood places and world travel as inspirations for his art. He began researching and writing World War 1 history and wrote several biographies as well as his own memoirs. In one of the records of his life (and we have several versions) he wrote: ‘My wife complains and states ‘ these days all I see is the back of your head sitting at your computer” ‘. He spent much time and effort researching family history too and was thrilled to visit Europe especially England and Scotland to retrace the steps of family members.
During the next decade or so he became the much loved Papa to 8 grandchildren and very much enjoyed the many family gatherings we managed particularly at Christmas time. Over the years he had great fun celebrating special events with them all- birthdays, wedding anniversaries, Christmas and then weddings and baby births! Stephen, Kirstin, Katie, Jon, Jenny, Josh, James and Lara- he loved you all dearly and was a very proud Papa.
Dad enjoyed very much his involvement in the MLC Council. He was chuffed to have Judy as fellow council member and was a founding member of the MLC Foundation and followed the school’s progress closely.
After he retired Dad joined the Victoria Barracks Corps of Guides and Guided folk through Old Government House in Parramatta. He loved this volunteer work and the chance to share his interest in military and Australian history. Meeting and chatting to the visitors was always a buzz for him and I remember well how enthusiastically he guided Bill and I through Victoria Barracks on one occasion.
He had a lots of fun in the late 80s working as an extra on TV soaps. He appeared in Home and Away, E Street, and a Country Practice among others and his stardom lasted about 3 years. Dad was also a great Santa working at Grace Brothers for several years. We have marvellous photos of his grandchildren sitting on his lap telling him their secret requests! The Santa suit stayed with him for the rest of his life as he continued to entertain people in the big red suit and white beard, even in recent years at HillView House.
In 1994 Dad was awarded the Order of Australia Medal for service to education, the promotion of dental health and to the community. He and mum were so excited and honoured to receive his medal from the NSW Governor at a reception at Government house.
During the 1990s dad and mum travelled heaps around the world and around Australia. They clocked up miles and miles in the UK, Eastern Europe, Fiji and Italy and many Aussie destinations. No COVID travel restrictions then! He loved taking photos and videos and on return made interesting photo albums of the trips using mum’s detailed travel diaries. One of these trips was to the Gold Coast in 1997 to visit Melroses who had escaped Sydney for the north. All the family turned up to celebrate Mum and Dad’s 50th wedding anniversary. Dad wrote how thrilled they were to have all the family there for 4 days of nonstop carnival style antics! In 1997 there were 3 daughters, and 8 grandchildren! Hard to believe that was 24 years ago!
In 2000 dad had a great time working as a volunteer driver for the Sydney Olympics and paralympics, he was happy too to share this volunteering experience with Kirstin and the Stokes family.
By 2000 Stephen, Kirstin and Katie had moved to Sydney for university and dad wrote in his year 2000 diary that he was delighted to have them visit regularly. He said ‘ this contact is a bonus as we did miss much of the pleasures of their school days and growing up years. We are justly proud of our grandchildren and their many accomplishments.”
Then this close contact was changed again as late in 2000 dad decided to sell up Trelawney St and move to a lovely house on a lake at Mornington Terrace Robina close to Lyn and Warwick and family. This came as a big shock for us southerners and meant that there was the big house cleanout and distribution of 50 years of treasures. Mind you, a huge amount of stuff ravelled north with them too which has been dealt with gradually over the next 20 years and 2 more moves!!!
Dad and Mum happily set up their new home complete with the flag pole that had stood proudly in Trelawney St for many years. Dad became involved in Gold Coast RAAFA and enjoyed his time as state delegate and editor of their magazine. They continued to travel and did so in luxury with Captains Choice Tours to Egypt and on several Aussie trips.
Dad settled into a quieter retired life in the Gold Coast. He continued his family research and became a competent computer user enabling him to get rid of the typewriter and learn all about the internet and emailing. Thanks to Josh for spending many hours and using great patience helping him with this! This gave him the opportunity to be in touch with people all over the world which he really embraced. In 2010 he collaborated with Jenny to produce an amazing book of Woolley family history- a fantastic collection of photos and snippets. He was very proud of Jenny and thankful for her time consuming commitment to this project. No wonder he always called her My Treasure.
Dad was very excited when no 1 great grandson Stewart Daniel was born in 2001. The name Stewart has been in the Woolley family for at least 3 generations so he was very chuffed at the name. And excitement has continued over the years as each one of his 12 great grandchildren were born. He loved every minute he had with Jacob, Zac, Micah, Beau, Sam, Lachlan, Matilda, Hugh , Aashray and Tommy. How special they have all been to him and he loved being surrounded by lots of pictures of his beloved family. He was fondly named Papa with the White Beard by the littlest Hawkshaws as they had to distinguish him from Bill!
One of the delights of dad living in QLD was the ability to be so involved in Josh and Lara’s life . He loved attending their school and sporting events and giving addresses on Anzac Day first at their primary school St Vincents and then at All Saints School. He helped organise letter writing between students and residents at TriCare and lovely relationships developed between the children and the oldies.
Anzac Day has always been very special to dad. When in Sydney he regularly participated in the city march often cheered on by Judy, Katie, Jon, Jenny and James. Once he moved to the Gold Coast, Josh became his Anzac Day mate and walked the march with him and later pushed him along in a wheel chair proudly displaying his medals.
By 2006 mum’s health had declined so in 2007 they moved to Cypress Gardens retirement village. Another downsizing and big clearing out of furniture and many many boxes! They lived in a lovely villa with water views at Kramer Court and enjoyed the extra support and activities available there. Dad was active in the residents committee and enjoyed the comradery of fellow residents.
Dad’s love of travel had not diminished so, even though mum could no longer manage it, he set off on amazing trips with his daughters. He went to South America with Lyn, on the Silk Road from Beijing to Moscow with Judy, a tour of the UK with Rob and Bill, Around Australia by air with Lyn, Japan with Judy and New Zealand with Jenny.
By 2011 mum was in need of extra care so moved into the Cypress Gardens Nursing Home just a couple of hundred metres from dad’s home. He visited her often and participated in many of the activities but sadly as his health also declined he needed to be looked after as well.
So in 2013 Kramer Court was sold and dad moved into his room at Hill View House. More downsizing and stuff to clear out as he was now down to just one room! Here he settled in well and happily spent the last 8 years. He was content and so well cared for and every day was thankful for the wonderful staff who met his every need. Mum joined him at Hill View after a few months and resided in the Dementia Unit for 6 months until her death in January 2014. How special that they were together again for these months.
Dad spent hours scrapbooking at his desk filling volumes with pretty and scantily clad ladies, beautiful houses and travel destinations. He loved listening to music and participating in the many and varied activities provided for the residents at Hill View. He was pretty good at bingo and shuttle board judging by the number of chocolates he won, loved the Friday concerts and celebrating special occasions with the staff and residents. He enjoyed the food and the dinner time tipples and enjoyed his stash of chocolates that Lyn ensured were in his cupboard. Dad so appreciated the regular and almost daily visits from Lyn- how blessed he was that she looked after him so well and ensured Hill View kept on their toes! And of course he also loved other visitors and was so pleased to have Josh, Lara, Kels and Chris so close. And so recently was able to share fun times with his newest little great grandies High and Tommy. The saddest thing about the last couple of years has been the border closure which has kept visits for the rest of us to very few.
Dad had a remarkable life. He was ambitious and focused on doing his best at whatever he tried. He dearly loved all his family and worked hard to support and encourage us all. He was very proud of his many and varied achievements. Over the last decade a softer and caring side to his nature has shone through as he expressed his joy of life with the family and thankfulness of the care he received. Right up to the last day he was saying thank you for looking after me.
We say farewell to dad but not to the wonderful memories which will be forever with us.