April 25 at 12:44 PM
Today, on Anzac Day, Maureen Hartley and I, of Violet&Rose productions would like to share a small glimpse of our show 'A Dreadful Time for Mothers' that we have had the honour to present as Readings at the Old Treasury Building in Melbourne @oldtreasurymelb and in Brisbane over the past 18 months. These snippets were recorded from our homes yesterday.
We were fortunate to be able to access Maureen's friend Penny Bristol-jones ' Great-Grandmother Edith Digby's diary and letters that she wrote from her home in Neutral Bay, Sydney during WW1. Edie had a husband and two sons serve in the Great War. Everard, her husband, was in the Suez Canal when war broke out in 1914. He was an Officer and stayed for the duration of the war. Their eldest son John, a Doctor, joined up in March 1915 - he was 22, and their youngest son, Gerald (and Penny's Grandfather) followed at the age of 20 in August 1915.
Edie was alone at home during that - in her words - 'long and lonely' time. She wrote copious letters to her men to keep up their spirits, and poured out her heart in her diary as she watched from her front window more and more troopships leave the Harbour taking men and women to 'this cursed war'.
Edie's writings give us a rare and full glimpse into the lives of the many women who were at home - sometimes alone for the first time in their lives - loyally sending letters and comfort parcels, knitting socks for soldiers, attending to the families who were left destitute, rallying to end the war, and 'keeping the home fires burning' in anticipation of their loved ones returning to them. Edie taught spinning for the Red Cross and worked tirelessly to stay busy. She tended a beautiful garden, dreamed up many tasty dishes to feed her men on their return, had various pets to keep her company, kept a close circle of friends who were her life blood and battled her own demons in quiet throughout this time.
Edie was awarded for her services after the war.
Ironically, Edie wrote a lot about the Spanish 'flu, or 'the influenza' as she referred to it, and how it affected them. Mask wearing was mandatory, schools, pubs, theatres etc were closed, and there was a general feeling of isolation. Sound familiar?!
As mothers ourselves, Maureen and I could not comprehend the heartache these women must have felt, and their stoicism was inspiring to us. We felt privileged to be able to give voice to Edie's words, and went about editing and bringing together a show that could let Edie's voice shine without props, costume or paraphernalia. We called it - in Edie's own words - 'A Dreadful Time for Mothers'. We invite the audience to just 'sit back and listen' for 50 minutes as Edie takes us on a journey, now over 100 years old. Poignantly, our first Reading was on November 11, 2018. We hope to once again present this in November this year - all being safe to do so.
We hope you enjoy these very short excerpts and keep a small candle burning (virtually or physically) and remember not only the men and women who fought during War (any war) and whose memory we honour today, but for those who stayed at home, keeping the Nation going, and hoped (sometimes in vain) and prayed for the safe return of their loved ones.
I will keep my Dad's memory alive today. James William John Larman served in WW2 in New Guinea, and I'm sure, though I never knew my Grandparents, that their thoughts would have been very similar to Edie's in that they longed for his safe return throughout that horrendous time. Obviously he did, went on to marry Pat and had seven children together. We were proud of our Dad. His Army buddies were his closest and most valued friends.
Lest We Forget
PS Lovingly collated by Penny Bristol-jones is the whole of Edie's writings. Go to: digbystories.com
PPS Also, Phoebe Hartley , Maureen's daughter made a beautiful podcast of this story that can be heard today at 5.30pm on Radio National's The History Listen called Edie's war.
Thanks for listening and reading this long tract!