Finding Family

One woman's obsession with family history.

Written in honour of Valentine’s Day.

The early death of William Nicholson on 17 February 1945 suddenly left the Nicholson family without their principal breadwinner. Perhaps concerned about their situation and needing a place to live, his wife Jessie and her four young children (including my Pop, Reece) eventually moved to William’s Aunty’s house in Subiaco.

Aunty Mary Kate Cochrane (nee McCarthy) lived on 134 Hay Street with several of her sons. She was in her early 80s and probably at the age where she needed a little help around the house. The situation would’ve suited both families and in no time at all the Nicholsons made themselves at home living with the Cochranes.

Across the road and a little further east at 111 Hay Street lived the Harwood family. They had already been in Subiaco for a few years so it’s likely that a new family with children to play with was a source of interest. My Nan, Gwen was a teenager when she met Reece who was three years older than her. Though details of how they actually met are unknown, it’s possible that they came in contact through their siblings. Being of similar ages they all knew each other and grew up together.

Regardless of how they met, Gwen became smitten with the boy next door. In one instance, to express her admiration, she employed her little brother, Kevan as her makeshift postman where she would write a note and give it to him to take the short distance down the road to pass to Reece.

Sadly, apart from the above, most of the stories concerning the intricate details of the early years of their relationship haven’t survived. Of the few precious things that did survive were photos of the couple. The body language speaks volumes. It’s clear just from looking at them that they were very much in love and equally smitten with each other. To me, they appear inseparable.

Gwen & Reece 1


Harwood Nicholson


Gwendoline Joyce Harwood and Reece Thomas Nicholson were married on 13 October 1950 in Perth. Over the next 10 years they had five children, including my Mum. As they grew older they stood together and watched their own children get married (including one of their daughters continuing the trend of marrying the boy next door) and then subsequently have children of their own. They revelled in caring for their grandchildren and lived out their retirement in Safety Bay. They were in their 49th year of marriage when Pop passed away in 1999. Devastated by the loss of her soul mate, Nan lived on for a few more years until she too passed away in 2001.

Throughout the years they certainly didn’t have it easy but whatever life threw at them, together, they survived. Despite the commercialism of Valentine’s Day, sometimes love stories aren’t always akin to a Hallmark greeting card. Covered in hearts and a sea of red they don’t really reflect the troubles and difficulties a couple could go through during their life. True love stories, in my opinion, are those where the couple stay together in spite of the difficulties that arise; working together side by side throughout the good and the bad. Just like Nan and Pop did.

Nan & Pop

6 thoughts on “The Boy Next Door

  1. that is a beautiful story well told Jess.

    1. Jess says:

      Thanks ancestorchaser! 🙂

  2. sandra says:

    Well written Jessica they sure did stick together good and bad

    1. Jess says:

      They certainly did! I imagine it would not have been easy either.

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