Memoir unlocks piece of local history
ELAINE Crabtree left Rockhampton when she was just 16 to live in the United Kingdom.
Yesterday morning she returned to her roots to address staff and students at Glenmore State School and share stories from her book, When We Were Very Rich, which reflects her family's close connection to the Rockhampton area.
Elaine's mother, Isabel Donnollan, was a student at Glenmore School in the 1920s, where she developed a burning ambition to be a teacher.
Years later, Isabel would later live her dream of becoming an educator at the school when it was a one-teacher institution.
After she married, Isabel wasn't allowed to work full-time any more due to the regulations of the day, however that only motivated her to fight for the rights of married female educators.
"She was a determined, strong lady,” Elaine said of her mother.
After her mother died, Elaine found an exercise book filled with jottings written by her mother.
Not long afterwards, she went through her mother's papers, where she unearthed five or six more exercise books.
Much to Elaine's excitement, they contained more insights from Isabel's early days and wrote in great detail about the Glenmore area, so she decided to type up the notes to give to her family.
She soon realised that her mother's story was not just family history but it also chronicled Rockhampton's social life early in the 20th century.
The book was a joint effort between Elaine and her sister Felicity (both live in the UK), who designed the front cover and drew the illustrations that brought back to life Isabel's stories of yesteryear.
Isabel was the eldest of 14 children. Times were tough during that period and the family struggled financially.
In spite of their hardships, the family was rich in love and freedom.
"My grandfather did have a job on a farm. Something went wrong and he lost his job, so he lost his home as well,” she said.
"When my grandfather lost his job they had nowhere to live, so they were living on a farm somewhere in Glenmore.
"They went across the creek and he chopped down the trees, he made the house and the shack, made beds, sewed sugar bags together and had an earth floor.
"In some parts of this book, when she (Elaine's mother) used to go into town with her father (Pop would be a naughty boy and go to the pub), Isabel would be left to wander around. She wasn't very old at all, only about eight or nine.”
Isabel went on to become the first woman to be elected to Rockhampton City Council, where she served between 1952 and 1955.
Elaine arrived in Rockhampton last Tuesday and flew back to the United Kingdom yesterday.