BIRTHDAY GIRL: “Grandma” Miriam Hill attending a Father’s Day celebration in 2009.
BIRTHDAY GIRL: “Grandma” Miriam Hill attending a Father’s Day celebration in 2009. Contributed

Miriam to celebrate 90 incredible years

MIRIAM Lonergan was born on Friday, October 23, 1925, and started her life in Park Avenue, only a block from her aunty and uncle's farm where Tropical Auto now stands.

A visit to the farm was like a shopping excursion as they returned with fruit, vegetables and milk generously provided.

Miriam attended the Park Avenue Convent School for her primary schooling before graduating to the Range College where she stayed till Year 10. Then, in exchange for tuition in commercial and business studies, she assisted the elderly nuns at St Theresa's School by teaching the Scholarship class.

An offer of a Commonwealth job in Canberra was turned down during the war as she and her parents were concerned with talk of the Brisbane Line and invasion.

On completion of her commercial studies, Miriam took a secretarial position with Rees R and Sydney Jones.

During the '40s as the war progressed she and friend Marie Burke helped with the war effort by packaging parcels for soldiers abroad.

Richard Hill's family lived in Face St, not far away, and he was off fighting in New Guinea, so packages were addressed to him. It wasn't till he returned at the end of the war that they were formally introduced by the local undertaker and romance blossomed.

Dick and Miriam married on December 15, 1947, and purchased a house and five acres in Face St where their first two boys were born.

Here they began their first farming project. They grew flowers, acres of flowers which were delivered to shops on Dick's way to work.

Miriam's boss Clive Palmer had contacts at Walter Reids where Dick landed a truck driving job.

Miriam loved the outdoor work and loved her husband, who had dreams of owning more land. Many weekends included a drive in the country to search out and inspect land and houses.

They settled on "Derry Vale" in Milman, which was a dairy farm just 30 miles from town, where a further four children were born. The busy mother then found the time to plead the case for a school bus run and the school bus became the family car.

The "tree change" took Miriam away from her regular church attendance, church cleaning and flower arranging for Sunday mass.

The house needed work and Miriam's father was available and keen to help. The Walls family didn't want their favourite niece to move away with her children so, to keep in touch, they made the weekly Sunday run to the country, loaded up with beautiful home cooking.

There were no modern conveniences for Miriam; a copper for Monday morning washing, carbide and kerosene lights which attracted thousands of bugs at night, a wood stove which made the kitchen a sauna, flood waters that cut the road for a fortnight and a wireless to bring the news, Blue Hills, When a Girl Marries, Dad and Dave or Pick a Box.

The manual telephone exchange interrupted any time and the school bus had to run twice daily, often with her younger children aboard.

With all the ups and downs of farming, they made progress and expanded the area by purchasing other blocks, and tried cotton, peanuts, hay and small crops as well as some contract heading.

While there was all this activity on the farm, Miriam, without a single complaint, went about feeding and caring for all.

Uncle Joe moved in to help with the dairy and school bus. Grandma and pop arrived also when they sold their house in Park Avenue as some of the older children went off to boarding school. Bradley and Stuart stayed a while as did old Bill Morris towards the end of his life.

Luckily there was a huge dining table where the masses were fed on a daily basis.

A major catastrophe occurred in 1981 when Dick passed away just as their dream retirement home on the hill in Sherwins Rd was being built and only months after the motorhome had been purchased for that round Australia trip.

Now 34 years later, as she reflects on a very busy life, she finds life much quieter than before. "Too quiet," she says.

On October 25, the six children and partners, the 19 grandchildren and 18 great grandchildren will come together to celebrate an outstanding life of dedication to family.

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