Eulogy Rita Grigg by Paul Grigg
Mum was born in Hopetoun on the seventh of June 1924, the fourth of ten children of William and Teresa Monaghan.
Mum was typical of many from that generation, born and raised into a large farming family, walked the three miles to school at Speed, in fact right past what will be her final resting place, and what we think was part of the original Monaghan farm, she recalled how they loved catching a lift from a passing wagon or gig especially when cold or wet.
(No stranger danger in those days.)
Mum recalls having to walk home backwards from school when the dust storms were bad to avoid sore eyes and faces but to end up with stinging legs instead.
Mum also recalled the night she and Grandma had to check on some broody chooks and when half way across the yard, they heard the bellowing bull. Not knowing from where or when he was coming, Mum and Grandma dropped the lantern in the dark and headed for the machinery shed, mum on top of the header and Grandma on top of the stripper, where they stayed until safe. They found the lantern still burning the next day and laughed about this for years.
Mum left school at 13 ½ years of age to work at Mrs Thrower’s boarding house in Speed, then for the Cook Family business doing secretarial type work for about six years before she married.
Dad always thought he might have been punching above his weight when he began courting mum after they meet at a dance. Mum had no such doubts, she knew dad was punching above his weight, but as they say in the classics, “stranger things have happened” and they were married at Tempy on the 9th February 1952. Her two bridesmaids Margie and Rose are here today.
Mums life after marriage revolved around her family, extended family and of course Barry, her own brood of five then later her seventeen grandchildren and more recently, her five great grandchildren, plus, as we heard yesterday another two on the way, the second set of twins inside two years. The circle of life continues.
Nothing was ever too much bother in regard to looking after her grandchildren, especially the “Mallee ones” who half lived at Nanna and Pa’s on the farm and she absolutely loved it when the “Melbourne ones” visited and the house was full of noise and many mouths to feed.
Mum was a very keen golfer at Patche holding down most leadership positions with the associates over the years, so she mostly did the afternoon bus run, often fitting in a few holes of golf, singing between shots, with the younger ones trailing behind with a 4-iron, before the second bus arrived with the older kids. Carpet bowls in the passage, followed by lamingtons and cream for afternoon tea was much preferred to the apple cut into quarters, which mum regularly did to avoid waste. They would ask nanna what she and pa were having for tea then call up Jenny on the two-way and suss out the best option. Nanna often won with her roasts with all the trimmings and desserts in the middle of the week.
Mum never inspired a lot of confidence with her driving, especially with the big V8’s that dad seemed to regularly buy. The kids however, were oblivious to any danger when Nanna managed 360’s in the lush clover at the golf course after way too much throttle, or the couple of times she managed to execute perfect 180’s on the back roads after rain. Clapping and cheering; they loved it, and mum would get cranky believing they were all doing something to make the car behave as it did.
Mum’s driving may have left a little bit to be desired, but as were many of her day, she was a fantastic country cook. There always seemed to be mouths to feed, shearers/crutchers, farm workers, sons-in- law, sons and husband. Very rarely did you leave Mum’s table unsatisfied. Her roasts, apple slice, date scones and cold meat and pickle sandwiches were legendry. There was always a cold leg of lamb in the fridge and milk coffee in the thermos at the footy.
Sheep were an important component on “Grey Oaks” and shearing/crutching were big jobs that sometimes lasted weeks. We had a shearer’s cook a couple of times when we were young. Mum found out this was a paying job, and she never did it again without being on the payroll. She cherished her shearing.
cheques from Dad, even though I don’t think she ever cashed them. They were always there - just in case.
Mum and Dad had a long and happy marriage built on love, friendship and respect. We rarely saw disagreements but I would loved to have been a fly on the wall when they walked home five miles through the desert late one night after a small miscalculation. Dad got round the last corner past O’Shannessy’s when a call of nature took precedence. Parking on top of the hill he ambled into the scrub leaving the car running. Mum, thinking he was taking a long time, and ever the frugal person, leant over and turned the car off, but left the head lights on. The combination of a cold night and an old battery .. you can guess the rest.
Mum and Dad retired, somewhat reluctantly from the farm, to Ouyen in 1995. Mum was amazed at how much she enjoyed her ten years there with a large new garden, many new friends, everything was more accessible and far more visitors than the isolated farm at Baring North. Mum was a huge help with Simons and Karen’s children’s during this time, as they all attended school in Ouyen. It was also much easier to play the bowls she learnt to love after golf became too difficult and she always managed to watch the big tennis and golf tournaments on TV. Mum become a townie but it was hard to take the farm girl from within. On one visit, Maria and Virginia complained about the rooster next door keeping them awake all night. Unbeknown to anyone, mum fixed the problem -the rooster lost his head! Mary from next door was said to be very upset upon returning from a trip away, to discover she was one rooster down.
Mum always had hearing problems which steadily became worse until she was profoundly deaf. However, the world came to mum through the written word and text on the telly, she loved reading: novels, newspapers she was very relieved when the “Age” came out in the new compact format, ABC 24 was her favourite for news and politics. She especially enjoyed watching when parliament was sitting, and discussing the current affairs of the day with an incredibly sharp mind and opinion till the very end.
Last Christmas most of the family, including the grandchildren from interstate and those who live overseas were able to spend time with their nanna at the beach, knowing it would be their last. Mum was able to say how much she oved them and they her. I know she will always hold a very special place in their hearts. We were also very fortunate for the family to spend time together three weeks ago at Mark and Michelle’s at Binalong NSW. We had been planning to get Mum up there for some time and it was fantastic for it to come off at such a late stage in mum’s illness. (this is a bit of an in joke, but even mum, and remember mum was deaf, could hear Michelle screaming when a spider wandered across the cars dash, just as we settled into the car for an exploratory drive around the district) Mum really did have a wonderful few days with us all.
We all had a laugh about Mum’s last remark on Friday not long before she died. Opening her eyes, she looked at Maria and asked if she was dying. On hearing the answer in the affirmative, she said “well where is everyone then” Mum was obviously of the opinion the number of family members round her bed was insufficient.
Mum had a deep unshakable faith. It never wavered. She was a prodigious church goer, involved in all aspects of parish life at Patche and Ouyen. As children growing up and even later as adults, we were subjected to her faith whether we wanted to be or not. The rosary was a constant companion on nearly every trip to or from Patche, fifteen minutes being the required time to recite. The first ad break in any evening TV program was the signal to get on bended knee to groans of complaint and excuse. We all remember brother-in-law Phil’s first visit to the farm, when he retired to bed, only to hear what he mistook for some demonic pagan ritual chanting, rising and falling, emanating from the lounge room. Phil had no idea what was going on. As adults if we thought a four am bedtime after a big night out was excuse enough to miss Mass, we were sadly mistaken. Mum lived her life, never doubting and with full confidence of what lay beyond. She faced her death with complete absence of fear or trepidation. An inspiring lady, she made us as a family, better people.
Finally, Simon, Mark and I would like to sincerely thank Maria, Phil, Virginia and Tony for the selfless love, dedication and respect shown towards Mum these past nine years while she lived with them two months at a time. It’s a little ironic that she had so much more time with the “Mallee Grandies” as babies early on, but so much more time with all the “Melbourne Grandies” by then young adults, later in her life, while living with Maria and Virginia.
We would particularly like to acknowledge the grace, humour and tolerance shown by Phil and Tony as sons-in-law over this time. Thankyou both.
Thankyou Lorna for your help these last few days.
Fr Tom - a phone call from Simon on Saturday and you immediately offered your services from a long distance. We sincerely thank you.
To all here today, all those unable to be here, especially Sam who sends his love, who have offered help, support and condolences in any way, our family would like to thankyou.
Rest in Peace mum.
A good life, lived well.