Tapestry series no. 43
Contributed by Isobel Tait
Jean Ingall Cooke (née Collard) was born in the Morpeth District of NSW in 1895. She was the third daughter and child in a family of nine siblings. Before WW1 the family moved by boat to Rous Mill outside Lismore in the Northern River District of NSW.
By this time her mother had become a semi invalid and Jean being one of the oldest of the siblings was kept busy helping to care for this large family.
In 1919 the family moved again, this time to Maleny, a beautiful farming district on the ranges overlooking the Glass House Mountains, eighty kilometres north of Brisbane.
Jean married Roy Cooke in 1923 and within six years four children, two girls and two boys, had arrived. Roy took up a soldier Settlement in Canondale down the range from Maleny in the Mary River Valley. Here they dairy farmed for twenty years. Life was not very easy for Jean over these years and money always seemed to be in very short supply. As well as doing all the household chores Jean sewed and mended for the family. She also assisted Roy outside especially at the dairy where the cows were hand milked for many years.
For three years Jean taught the three older children by correspondence lessons. She was a very capable teacher and certainly gave the children a sound grounding in the three R’s which stood them in good stead in later years.
Her only transport for many years was a horse and sulky. This was used to drive three miles to the local community hall where all Church service and Social functions were held. Jane always played the piano for any Church Service conducted there and often accompanied herself while she sang a solo, having a lovely contralto voice.
When the Second World War came and after the Japanese entered the war Roy joined the permanent V.D.C. so Jean carried on at the farm with the help of her teenage son Alf. The other children had by this time left home. Jean also organized the women of the district to form an Australian Red Cross Group.
This band of hard working women found time from their farm duties to raise many hundreds of pounds for the cause with various social functions. Their sewing machines also worked overtime as they turned out pajamas and other articles required by the Society. Anyone who had a spare minute or two sewed chain stitch red crosses on all articles made.
By 1946 the offspring had gone their own way so the farm was sold and Jean and Roy built a home in Maleny. Once settled Jean was able to enjoy an easier way of life. She became a very keen and active member of the Country Women’s Association and at times represented the Maleny Branch at conference. Once again she was able to worship regularly at the Church she loved.
The easy life ended when the elder son Alf, won a ballot for grazing property at Banana in the Callide Valley south west of Rockhampton. Jean and Roy sold their home to move to Banana to help their son and his wife and small son, physically and financially.
This return to pioneering eventually became too much for Jean and the high blood pressure she had lived with for years took charge and she died of a severe stroke at the relatively young age of 62.
With no near neighbours and few visitors the early years must have been lonely for Jean and Roy despite the chatter of four children. However Jean always had her Christian faith and love of God which she had all her life to help her in times of need.
She kept in touch with friends and relations by writing and receiving letters and occasional visits to Maleny, sitting on a bow in the truck which carried the cream to the butter factory.
She was only one of hundreds of women living this kind of life but to us, her children, she was very special. From an early age she encouraged us to read and to read selectively. She was very particular about our manners and the way we spoke. To this day I shudder when I hear ‘I done’ or ‘I seen’ and really have to bite my tongue when the culprit is an adult.
For a few years she was a very loving grandmother to her three grandchildren but sadly she did not live to see two others who were shortly born after her death.
Dear mother we salute you and you will always be with us.