In the instant that my eye fell upon my Grandma’s name I knew straight away that she would be the next subject of my blog. A mixture of excitement and apprehension flowed through me. Writing about someone who I actually knew means that I can not only share the factual details of their life but also share who they were as a person. On the other hand, I knew that writing this post would be a very emotional experience.
Audrey Flynn was born on 7 November 1921 in North Fremantle, Western Australia and she was the eldest child of Ernest Holt Flynn and Grace Esther Wallace.
Apart from a few years spent in York, she and her siblings grew up in the small town of Merredin. It was here that she met Ronald Victor Barratt.
With the outbreak of WWII in 1939, both Audrey and Ron decided to enlist in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and serve their country. Audrey enlisted as an Aircraftwoman on 22 June 1942 in North Perth.
Amidst the war, on 5 May 1944 in St George’s Cathedral in Perth, Audrey and Ron were married. Audrey’s bridesmaid was her sister, Elizabeth and Ron’s best man was Audrey’s brother, Maxwell.
With WWII coming to an end, Audrey was discharged from the RAAF on 2 July 1945. She settled down into married life and subsequently gave birth to three children, Estelle Marie Barratt (born on 7 January 1946), Glen Victor Barratt (born on 9 January 1949) and John Ernest Barratt (born on 21 January 1951).
The family lived in North Perth and Audrey watched her children grow up and eventually marry. Each of them had children of their own and Audrey became Grandma to eight grandchildren.
Where to begin. There are so many things that I loved about my Grandma. She was the sweetest, kindest lady and in my whole life, I cannot remember her saying anything mean about anyone.
Whilst growing up, visits to my Grandma and Grandpa’s house were a weekly occurrence. Whether we were there for afternoon tea, weeknight supper or a roast dinner, we’d arrive to find the table set perfectly with tablecloth, cutlery and a vase in the middle filled with freshly cut flowers.
Grandma was an amazing cook. She regularly baked cheese straws, sausage rolls, chocolate cake, cupcakes (of which she always ensured there were some left over for my brother and I to take to school) and fruit cake. Her roast dinners were to die for! Roast meat smothered with delicious gravy and accompanied with roast potatoes, pumpkin, mint peas and cauliflower cheese. There was always dessert which often consisted of a multi-tone jelly with fruit suspended in the middle, ice-cream and cream. We never ever went away with an empty tummy.
After dinner we’d retire to the lounge room and Grandpa would watch the news or current affair programs. These programs were not very exciting for children and the attention of my brother and I soon waned. When this happened, Grandma was always on hand to play a game of cards.
I have always been a girly girl and this was evident in my childhood wardrobe. I would only ever wear dresses up until about the age of eight and of these dresses, quite a few of them were made by Grandma. Pretty floral material, lace trimming and a sash for the middle. I felt like a princess when I wore them.
She had two hip replacements when I was little and I can still remember the reprimand from my mum after I innocently made the comment that Grandma was walking like a penguin. Apart from this operation, she was never really seriously sick.
I guess that’s why it came as quite a shock when one morning we received a very early phone call from my Aunty stating that Grandpa had found Grandma on the floor of the kitchen. She had had a stroke. She needed professional care and so was put in a home across the road from the house that she had lived in for most of her life. She was quite altered. The stroke had affected her speech but she could still recognise us and would squeeze my hand in acknowledgment. Surrounded by patients who were even worse off, it was a heart wrenching sight.
Always the dependable presence in my life, I harboured the belief that even though she might not be quite the same, she would get better. This belief shattered when at 2:30am on 16 April 2007, we received a phone call to say that she had passed away.
My Grandma loved Western Australian history and especially loved family history. She and Grandpa took my brother and I to various historical spots around Western Australia including the Swan View Railway Tunnel which I have previously written about (click here to read the post). She is also the biggest influence in relation to my family history research. There have been many times where we sat around the kitchen table and listened to her talk about our convict ancestor, Enoch Pearson Barratt.
There isn’t a moment when I’m researching that I wish my Grandma was still here and that I could ask her the questions that are plaguing my mind. I will always miss her. Not just because of the help she could’ve given me but because she was a wonderful Grandma who I loved very much.
“When I miss you, I don’t have to go far…I just have to look inside my heart because that’s where I’ll find you.”