Lower Portland - Connie Lowe
Interviewee: Connie Lowe, 1900 to 2002
Interviewer: Esther Fagan (radio interview on
Date of Interview: 11th Nov 1994
Transcription: Kevin Murray, April 2008
This interview represents the personal recollections, views and opinions of the interviewee
Connie, you were born in Annandale, no? You might tell us the little story about your birth.
Well, my parents had a business in Erskine Street, Sydney, near Wynyard, and they were expecting me to be born on the 30th of November. My mother was out at the midwife's home in Johnston Street, Annandale on a preparatory call, and I decided to cheat and I arrived on the 29th of November in Johnston Street, Annandale.
Actually, you share a birthday with my sister. My older sister was born on the 29th.
And my birthday's on the 17th of this month... we're 11 months apart, my sister and I.
I see here, though, that you have done so many things during your time here on this earth, and we might just run our people through some of the things... but before we do anything that's here in front of me, you have obviously seen a change in so many... looking at motor vehicles, TV, phones, all these things that we just take for granted... obviously you've seen so many changes there, Connie?
Indeed. When I first went to Lower Portland to live after living in Ashfield with all the conveniences in the world, then, in 1931, there was no sewerage, of course, there was no lighting - we had kerosene lamps. No refrigeration. A few years later when the mailman brought me down a block of ice from Windsor, tied up in a piece of paper, I was thrilled to pieces because I had a little piece of ice at Lower Portland. Of course we have electricity there now, and all conveniences. But, yes, I have seen great changes. It would almost fill a book.
My word it would. Connie, I have some notes in front of me so I'm going to work with these notes, and you can fill in the blank spots and come in whenever you feel like it, Connie... What was your name before "Lowe"?
Oh, Wilson. Constance Myrtle Wilson.
Yes, and then you married Harvey Lowe?
Rumery's former home on Windsor Road Box Hill 2003
And your father-in law was with the Baulkham Hills Council?
He was an original councillor, in 1906 when the Baulkham Hills Shire Council was inaugurated. And he took 3 days to attend the meetings... in those days the tracks were almost unmade - the roads. And he used a horse and sulky. He'd start out on Monday morning for his meetings, stay overnight at the Rumery's home on Windsor Road - it's still there - and stay there overnight, and go to the meeting on Tuesday (this is history, actually history) and attend the meeting on Tuesday, back again on Tuesday night at Rumery's, stay there overnight and then back to Lower Portland on Wednesday morning. And I've often put this little addition to it - he even had time to have 13 children... he worked that in!
Just as well! I see here that you've been a community minded lady for a long, long time. And your husband too?
Oh yes, he served 40 years on the Council and he was awarded the OBE - the Officer of the British Empire - for his services to the community.
I just think it's wonderful - I think sometimes am I community minded or not, and I meet somebody like you and I think by golly there's so much more work to be done. Connie, what made you get interested in the community?
I suppose marrying a man who had grown up in a family who had always been interested in local government, and the... Well I like to be involved in community activities. I'm a member of the local CWA branch here. I've been their Cultural Officer for 4 years. And I have made such along the journey... I've formed so many lovely friends and I think that contributes to my... still hopefulness that I go a few more years, maybe.
Baulkham Hills Shire Councillors at Lower Portland c.1947
I really enjoy people who do so much in the community and I think you have to have a passion for it, though, because there is so much that the community can do with help, and talking to people like you who have seen a lot... in fact only this morning I was talking to another gentleman who was another announcer on our station and he was talking about the War years as this is Armistice Day, so we're remembering the fallen, of course, and we took time out here at the station to remember them at 11 o'clock this morning. And for you, there must have been a lot that is in your mind from perhaps World War...
Oh, absolutely. In the First World War I was at Canterbury School, and we children were allowed to sell our little emblems that we made, little buttonholes, on the railways. And we travelled from Campsie to Sydney, selling these little tiny emblems for sixpence each. That was in 1916 and 1918. And then I went to College, at Tech, and each year we had a stall in Martin Place for the War efforts. Then I would like to mention Lower Portland's involvement in the Second World War. The highlight of the year was the ANZAC service, every year, that a colleague and my husband and myself organised. And at that ANZAC service it was our own "pattern", perhaps I'll say... we had speakers such as Sir Howard Beale, Sir James Bisset, from year to year. We had the trumpeter that blew the Last Post from the morning service at the Cenotaph in Martin Place - he'd come to our home in the afternoon and do the Last Post and the Revallie for us. Year after year. He used to say "I'll be here with you next year". So I thought that was very fine for a man to do those two things, connected with the big service in the heart of Sydney, and then to Lower Portland.
You know, when I talk to you you give off some lovely vibes, Connie, some really happy... obviously in looking back at those times there must have been times that were very difficult, but you seem just to give off some very happy vibes. No wonder Rana set this interview up, it's great. You have a happy, beaming smile. I have to keep saying that the lady's 94 - I don't believe it. Anyway, we're going to talk about back in about 1941, we're going to go back then when you received a letter from the Queen...
Yeah. I'd like to pay a tribute to the ladies that contributed to this letter. It was during the War, of course, and we had this active Patriotic Fund at Lower Portland, and the lady friends of mine down there - I'd like to name some of them, but perhaps I'd better not - they were all noted for their beautiful hand knitting, and I heard an appeal on the air from London by Princess Elizabeth who was very active then in War work, appealing for baby clothes for the bombed out babies victims of London. I suggested to my lady friends that they set to work with their needles which they did, willingly. And we packed off to Princess Elizabeth a large carton of exquisitely knitted garments, all trimmed with little French roses and the letter came back at the command of the Queen which perhaps you would like to read?
Knitted baby clothes made during World War II
Oh yes, in fact I will do that. It says...
Dear Madam... In fact this is March 29th, 1941... Dear Madam, the Queen commands me to write and ask you to convey to the ladies of the Lower Portland and District Patriotic and Comforts Fund Her Majesty's warm thanks for the gift of beautifully made babies clothes which they have so kindly sent to Princess Elizabeth for distribution. I am to say that Her Majesty is causing the baby clothes to be distributed amongst poor babies in bombed areas. I am also commanded to express the Queen's thanks for your message of loyalty which Her Majesty much appreciates. Yours faithfully Miriam Hyde, I think, Lady in Waiting.
And this was addressed to you...
Oh yes, because I organised it and posted it. And I was able to get the wool at cost from my firm D and W Murrays that I had worked for for 11 years in Sydney, so it all worked out very nicely.
Connie, what sort of jobs had you done before you retired?
Well, I went straight from Tech - I did the Commercial Arts course there - and organised the Arts Needlework department at D and W Murrays in King Street, Sydney. And I was in that position as Chief Designer for 11 years, which the department has closed because of the economic situation in 1931. It was a luxury line that I was designing for and that particular department was closed and that was the only job I had as a commercial artist.
Doyle home 'Dargle' at Lower Portland
I've just been reading here while you've been chatting there about a road project that you and your husband had... something about travelling along and you holding a torch while your husband drove? What happened here?
The roads were very unformed back in those years and we were travelling home from a Council meeting quite late at night. We had to take the back road down behind Dargle, a very treacherous road. Our lights failed, our battery ran out because we had been using the brakes a lot, and I walked along the road in front of the car with a torch while my husband drove in low gear to get us home safely. We always arrived home safely! And on our honeymoon - may I mention this? - the Hawkesbury was in flood. We were rowed across the river at Lower Portland in a rowboat, and then on another little boat by the late - he was later Councillor Albert Watkins - he was only a lad then. And his black dog in the front of this little rowboat. He said everything's going to turn out alright if you've got a dog on board.
I haven't had a chance to read everything before you came in, and I see here that (in) the War effort you raised 39 pounds, nine shillings and tenpence - is that how I say it?
That was for the War effort...
I think that was a fire, wasn't it?
Yes, it was a bushfire in 1939.
Yes the fire raged across the valleys - Rouse Hill, around Kellyville and that area, and burnt down I think it was 13 homes. And I circulated the business people in Windsor who all advertised on the little pamphlet that I got out and 39 pounds in those days was a lot of money and that went to... and there is one gentleman still alive, Mr - I can't think of it right now - and he remembers Harvey's and my efforts in raising that money. I was always able to get concert parties up from Sydney because I had been a singer in Madam Nichol's Concert Party, so it was very easy to get professional singers for our efforts at Lower Portland.
Box Hill-Nelson Bush Fire Brigade's first water tanker
You have done so much in those years. Have you put this to paper?
Oh, bits and pieces. I have been asked over and over again.
I might ask you, Connie, how many children do you have?
And how many... have you got grandchildren, great grandchildren...
No. My grand-daughter is sitting here by the side of me. Daughter-in-law, I should say. You confused me by saying grandchildren, I'm sorry... daughter-in-law.
So you had just the one child?
Also, we have here "Connie Lowe with articles which appeared on the Royal Visit in 1920. Robert Lowe is pictured, bottom left, handing over a bag of oranges to the Prince of Wales." So that was back in 1920. Now who was Robert?
Well, that was Harvey's father. The original Councillor. He was Councillor Robert Lowe, then, when he did that. And the year previous, he did the same little exercise to General Pau, the French General who journeyed up the Hawkesbury River to have a nice view of this wonderful "Rhine" of Australia. And Grandfather Lowe did... in one picture he's in his working clothes, but when he was to present the oranges to the Prince of Wales he was in his good suit. I have a letter at home in French, written by General Pau, thanking Robert for the oranges which he was able to take back to France with him and his French colleagues tasted the Hawkesbury River oranges and found them delicious.
Wow, isn't that great!
I have that letter at home.
Well you have a lot of history there with you, Connie.
Norman Kentwell above orange orchards near Tuckwell Road Castle Hill c.1920
In your spare time, now, what do you do? Do you have spare time?
Yes, I have Church work, I'm still the organist in the Church - I've been the organist at the Uniting Church, Lower Portland for 57 years. And there's the School of Arts, and principally the CWA and I do a lot of writing and answer the phone a lot and I have a lot of friends who keep me up to date with things.
Are you the lady that has something to do with taxis down at Lower Portland?
Maybe it's not that one... We'll just move on from there, we won't worry about that. Now the girls at the Medical Centre, I'm sure you'd like to thank them for...
Love to. Are you there Rana, and your colleagues? I hope this is going over to your satisfaction because I wouldn't like to disappoint you, my dear. All my best wishes to you all. Thank you all for what you are preparing on the 27th of November.
Does that bring you to the age of 95 on the 29th?
No, 94. Three weeks to go before I grow up!
Well it's just lovely to have chatted with you, and it's just lovely to have had history sitting here in front of us here in the Hawkesbury and I hope that the people out here in the Hawkesbury really do remember you. The pieces that I have here from newspapers - I'm not sure which papers they were put into...
Mainly Castle Hill papers, they are.
We need to do a spread on you here in the Hawkesbury. So you've lived at Lower Portland for how long?
Since 1931. I met my husband on Windsor Station. It wasn't exactly a "pickup". I came with one of the Concert Parties that I mentioned, and our pianist was Florence McEckrin (?), the niece of Malcolm McEckrin, our famous bass singer, that was very famous years ago. But, yes, he and... (?)
That's wonderful, keep going...
And my husband came in his rather new car to pick the concert artists up and another gentleman in a little Model-T Ford, and I decided to go with the young gentleman, which sealed my fate - the young gentleman was Harvey Lowe! And some people say "Oh, Connie, a pickup on Windsor Station!", which virtually it was.
How old were you when you got married, Connie?
Excellence in Youth Awards 2000
Just lovely. It's just been a delight to have you come into the studio and I'd like to thank Rana for giving me a tingle to set this up. They obviously think a lot of Connie Lowe, and all the things that she's done, including receiving a letter from the Princess, as she was at the time then. As you say you are still very busy and I guess you may attribute your good health - you have good health...?
... to being constantly busy, do you think?
And good genes, as I said earlier. My mother was a tiny little person, but she was full of vigour and activity and, as I say, lived just two months off 100. But I don't want to live that long.
It's been just lovely to talk to you, absolutely lovely.
Thank you. It's been a privilege.