A SIGNIFICANT piece of Shoalhaven history has come to a close with the death of longtime resident, Mary Newing.
Mrs Newing, nee McClelland, passed away peacefully on March 15, aged 88.
Her funeral service was held at St Andrews Presbyterian Church, Nowra on Friday, March 20, followed by a graveside burial at Worrigee Lawn Cemetery.
The following eulogy was prepared by her grandson Aaron Pegram, who is a senior historian at the Australian War Memorial.
Newing, Mary Elizabeth (nee McClelland), 1931-2020.
Mary Elizabeth McClelland was born on September 6, 1931, the third and youngest daughter of Oswald and Alma McClelland of Beaumont, New South Wales.
Mary was born in the Edmond House Annex at the top of Junction Street in Nowra and was christened in the dining room of the cottage her father built on the hair-pin bend atop of Cambewarra Mountain after the First World War.
There, in the midst of the Great Depression, the McClellands ran the Tucker Box tea rooms where they served cordial, fruit salad and their own brand of ice cream, Mountain Mist.
They supplied it to local shops in Kangaroo Valley and other parts of the Shoalhaven and was considered by one major newspaper as "the best ice cream south of Sydney".
The roads were not then sealed, and the cottage lacked electricity, but Mary described her formative years as "tough but good times".
Located where it was, the family home served as a central drop-off point for the postman, baker and dairy farmers from around the mountain and Kangaroo Valley; the local GP, Dr Frank Ryan, would occupy the family dining room once a month as a surgery for community consultations.
During her time on the mountain, Mary was ingrained with a solid work ethic that never abated over the duration of her life.
As with her sisters, she was just as comfortable hunting rabbits as she was carting sugar bags and supplies for the shop up the mountain.
Mary was particularly close to her father and would spend precious time with him rabbiting and fishing in an effort to support the family.
She would travel with him to Sydney each year to watch him march in the Anzac Day parade. For many years, Mary and Alma could be found among the crowds, perched atop of the fence of the NSW State Parliament on Macquarie Street, eagerly waiting to see Os and wave him on as the men of the 13th Battalion Association marched towards the cenotaph in Martin Place.
Mary spent nine years at the small Beaumont School after which her father's ill-health from war service prompted a move to the coastal air of Crookhaven around 1943.
Affected by asthma, Mary remained on the mountain with her grandparents until she finished school in 1945, then lived with her parents at the Crookhaven camping ground, where Os managed the park and was lightkeeper of the Crookhaven Heads Light House.
For a while, Mary lived and worked with Mrs Jean Evans at the Greenwell Point Post Office; her mode of transport between home and the post office in those days was by rowboat paddled by the maritime pilot, Frank Evans.
She would often make her way onto the Roseby Park Aboriginal Mission, where she played with the children and struck up many friendships.
In the end, asthma forced Mary to move to the colder climes of Goulburn, where she lived with the Boyle family, and worked for some years at the telephone exchange at the Goulburn Post Office.
In those days, before smart phones, iPads, YouTube, Facebook and Netflix, the one big social event of the Shoalhaven calendar year was the Nowra Show - it was also the time of the year Mary could look forward to a new pair of shoes.
At the show in February 1951, she met Tom Newing, a young dairy farmer from Pyree and a solid allrounder at the local cricket club.
Mary and Tom had their first date in the corner of the pavilion that year at the Nowra show, and before too long, Tom was making the journey to Goulburn in an old ragtop Vauxhall, often chaperoned by Mary's sister Heather - much to Tom's frustration.
"Tom grew up on the land", she said of him much later on in life.
"He had a love for farming and in particular Friesian cattle... I think Friesian milk ran through his veins".
Tom and Mary Newing married at St Andrew's Presbyterian Church on November 1, 1952, and went on to live and work at Banool, the dairy farm owned by Alan Hodgkinson on Pyree Lane, Pyree.
Everything was family, and family was everything
There between milkings, harvests and preparing prize cattle for shows, the couple raised their four children - Glen, born in 1955, Carol in 1959, Gary in 1961 and Malcolm in 1964.
While pregnancy and physical exertion never interfered with her relentless energy for hard work, Tom and Mary juggled the demands of the dairy while raising a small family (during this time, some of the connections Mary had made at the Roseby Park Aboriginal Mission became farm hands at Pyree).
Mary was just as proficient on a Massey Ferguson tractor as she was with milking cows, and she never thought twice to bundle the infant Newing children into a pig pen on the verandah or place them in a milk can in an effort to safely restrain them while she did the milking.
The rhythm and routine of farm life continued throughout the 1960s, as Glen and Carol completed their primary schooling at Pyree.
In an effort to work towards something for themselves, Mary and Tom built a house at 22 Elder Crescent in South Nowra which went on to become the family home from 1967.
The house brought the family closer to town and Nowra High School, which the children would go on to attend.
But it also relieved Tom and Mary from the burden of managing the dairy on their own.
With extra sets of hands then available in the old farmhouse, Tom continued to work at Banool until the perpetual cycle of flood and drought eventually forced its sale in 1984.
By then, Glen, Carol and Gary had moved on to begin their own adult lives, and Tom was spending vast amounts of time on the road classifying stud cattle with the Holstein Friesian Association of Australia.
Mary did not have hobbies or interests of her own, but as Malcolm puts it, "everything was family, and family was everything".
By then, Mary was spending less and less time on the dairy milking cows, but she transferred that remarkable capacity for hard work into maintaining a home that was a great source of warmth, comfort and consistency in the lives of many others.
Floral biscuit tins were always stocked with shortbread and Anzac biscuits, and the same aluminium tea pot seemed forever warm from the brew before.
Despite a cavalcade of children, grandchildren and great grandchildren that Mary would go on to have, the house at Elder Crescent would never appear cluttered or dishevelled.
Mary enjoyed most things Tom did, both then and in later life, which included travelling across the country for classifying, judging and stewarding cattle at shows, and later when Tom retired, helping maintain his two houses of prizewinning orchids.
Mary relished Scottish Country Dancing which saw the pair at dances between Batemans Bay and Nowra for many years.
Community dancing had indeed featured prominently throughout much of Mary's life, starting with the community dances in Bill Lumsden's shed, HMAS Albatross and at Pyree, during her early years.
Family was at the very fibre of Mary's being, which meant she keenly felt he loss of those she held so dear.
Her father had died in 1965, her mother in 1990, and her sisters Jean and Heather in 1992 and 2013.
A reluctant move to independent living at Greenwell Gardens in 2013 was made all the more upsetting when Tom and Carol both succumbed to cancer within the 18 months that followed.
Her small apartment was adorned by artworks reflecting the the Australian landscape, including Cambewarra and Crookhaven, and photos of Tom, Glen, Carol, Gary and Malcolm, but they served only as stark reminders of the home they had all made together at Banool and Elder Crescent.
Despite this, she remained incredibly proud of her children and their families, and all they accomplished over the years.
Severely affected by her asthma, her health steadily declined, and Mary Elizabeth Newing passed away peacefully in her sleep with Malcolm by her side last Sunday, March 15 at the age of 88.
She is survived and fondly remembered by her sons Glen, Gary and Malcolm, her grandchildren, Vernon, Adam, Aaron, Emma, Brendan, Nigel, Joel, Mikaela, Bryce, Emilie, Gabby, Riley and Ben, and her 13 great grandchildren.
NOTE: I was lucky enough to chat to both Mary and Tom many times over the years and their wealth of knowledge of the local area was astounding. And they were always willing to share that knowledge. I will forever remember her stories about living at The Eyrie at the hairpin bend at the top of Cambewarra Mountain at Beaumont. And of course her recollections of times during WWII when two mines had been dug into Cambewarra Mountain, filled with explosives which were to be blown up if Australia was invaded to stop the Japanese possibly making it to the Southern Highlands. Robert Crawford
Rest in Peace Mary Newing.