Lane Cove local Penelope Ransby has lived in Lane Cove for a long time. This is in direct contrast to her younger years when she attended six different schools in three countries. Penelope has released two books: Thursday’s Child, the story of her childhood and teenage years, and Dream of Margaret River.
ITC asked Penelope about her two books and her life in Lane Cove.
What Prompted You to Write Thursday’s Child?
I wrote my memoir after many requests from family members to write about a life that no longer exists.
My family was interested in my life growing up on mines in Africa and an English boarding school, but also in the era that it encompasses: the post-World War II British diaspora, the Boer War, long-remembered in the Transvaal, the last of the boarding school generation, perhaps a residue of empire; growing up with Depression-era grandparents; developments in medicine removing the dread of polio epidemics; the advent of jet-powered aircraft on commercial routes which revolutionised air travel.
We lived a peripatetic life in small mining communities following my mining engineer father’s work from South Africa to Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Tanganyika (now Tanzania), the Gambia and Sierra Leone, interspersed with boarding school in England.
In the five years between the ages of seven and twelve, I went to six different schools in three different countries – South Africa, Zimbabwe, England, Zimbabwe again (two schools), and finally, England again.
The Book is called Thursday’s Child from the popular Monday’s Child nursery rhyme: ‘Thursday’s Child has far to go’.
What Inspired You to Write Dream of Margaret River?
Dream of Margaret River tells the story of Lance and Chris Andrews and of Alida’s father, Evelyn Wilton, their partnership in Komani Farm, their service in the war, their dreams of returning home, and the aftermath of the war.
This account of their lives is entirely non-fiction. It is drawn from sources (letters, personal diaries, battalion diaries, government records, eyewitness accounts, contemporary newspaper articles) and, seven decades later, recollections by contemporaries.
The story started for me when I read Chris’s letters. His enthusiasm, love of his new life, plans for his farm, hopes, and plans for the future leapt out of the page, even now, more than a century after they were written.
I inherited his letters from my parents, Peter and Alida Ransby.
They had been mainly concerned with finding out the story of Evelyn Wilton, my maternal grandfather, but as I read Chris’s letters, I found myself being drawn more and more into the lives of the Andrews brothers, Chris and Lance.
Chris was killed at Gallipoli and Lance on the Somme.
They left no descendants to speak for them, so this is primarily their story.
I published ‘Dream of Margaret River’ in 2007 and a second edition in 2017 after people expressed interest in learning more about my sources. I had previously included a bibliography, but I added chapter notes detailing my research in the second edition.
How Difficult Was It To Write and Self-Publish Your Books?
It was not difficult to write either of them! The stories almost wanted to be written.
I did not have an urge to become a writer. In my professional life, I was an accountant, working mainly in capital markets. I got drawn into writing when I inherited the letters written to my grandparents before and during the First World War and felt a story needed to be told, the story of three young men who went away to the Great War, two of whom never came back. This led to me writing ‘Dream of Margaret River’.
With ‘Dream of Margaret River’, I found my current publisher very helpful for a self-published project, so I approached them again with my memoir.
What Advice Do You Have To Others Who Would Like to Write a Family Memoir?
Do it! Talk to your family, especially the older members! Ask them about their memories. Look at old photographs and talk to people about these, too. You could record your conversations with them and get someone else to write up your story.
How Did You Finally End Up in Australia?
I came to Australia, to Melbourne, after university in the UK with my then-husband, who had a three-year post-graduate fellowship with CSIRO, and we decided to stay here afterwards instead of returning to the UK. Australia is a so much better place to live!
Later, I moved to Sydney with a job opportunity, and my daughters and I lived initially in Neutral Bay, then decided we needed more space. Lane Cove is perfect! It has plenty of space, a lovely village feeling, and lots of trees, and it is still very convenient for schools and for commuting to the city.
How Long Have You Lived in Lane Cove?
I have lived In Lane Cove for 35 years. My five grandchildren all went to Lane Cove primary schools, three to St. Michael’s and two to Lane Cove West, and we all still live locally.
Why Do You Like Living in Lane Cove?
The bush and trees! There are lots of bush tracks. Lane Cove has modernised over the years without losing its village feeling. The Lane Cove Fun Run is always a joyous community event, too!
ITC note: Penelope has entered the event four times and came second in her division last year.
Has Any Particular Lane Cove Resident Left a Lasting Impression on You?
Naomi Bassford, Manager of the Local Studies Section at the Lane Cove Library, has been enormously helpful to me over the years, mainly when I was writing my ‘History of Lane Cove Schools 1876-2018: A History of Lane Cove Told through its schools’, which won the Lane Cove Historical Society Prize in 2018.
I had the idea for this paper when I attended Harmony Day at Lane Cove West Public School in 2017.
To see such an extraordinary number of students proudly displaying the national costume of their parents, grandparents, and forebears caused me to reflect on how our suburb has developed and how our schools represent our vibrant twenty-first-century community.
Where Can Locals Purchase Your Books?
Dream of Margaret River and Thursday’s Child are available from selected bookshops, library suppliers and from the author.
Dream of Margaret River ISBN 978-0-987621-37-5
Retail price $32.95
Thursday’s Child ISBN 978-0-6459557-1-2
Retail price $29.95
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