Tapestry series no. 104

Born at home in Grantham Street Burwood 10 Feb 1914, Lesley was 4th child and 3rd daughter of Howard Gordon Hardie (1810 – 1958), who was among the first dental graduates of Sydney University and Marion Edith (née THOMPSON (1881 – 1951).

She was educated at the Methodist Ladies College which was situated next door in Grantham Street. Lesley’s grandpa Robert Hardie, had left part of his estate to MLC in 1928. Here it was that Lesley excelled in studies and also played in the MLC hockey team of 1930. One particular English teacher, Miss Dorothy Low , became a lifelong friend with whom Lesley shared poetry and literature gems.

Musically adept at piano. Lesley had MLC’s music teacher Lindley Evans who wrote music for MLC’s school song – he was also known by ABC Argonauts Club as ‘Mr Melody Man’). Years 1923, 1925 and 1928 marked Lesley’s piano grade progression: she is seen in 1930 Sydney Morning Herald photo of L. Evans conducting the school choir. Head Prefect in 1930, Lesley was forced to repeat her final year because she was considered ‘too young’ at 16 years for tertiary studies. In 1931, she was again Head Prefect and on 10th December 1931, she received the School Prize in English and Latin. A Sydney Morning Herald photo shows the occasion with Sir Mungo McCallum and the school dux, D. Roseby.

The Hardie family attended the Congregational Church in Burwood Road and Lesley participated in young people’s activities. Howard Hardie was a church deacon and Roger Lambert, eldest son of the Lambert family of Sunbeam Avenue Burwood also was a deacon, so Lesley and Roger knew each other. In addition, some of the Hardie and Lambert family members would take holidays at guest houses in the Mittagong area in 1930s; there would be horseriding, picnics and tennis.

With family persuasion, Lesley attended Sydney University from 1932 to 1937, obtaining a Bachelor of Arts degree, 8th May 1937. Among Arts students in that period was the eccentric heiress, Bea Miles. Her erratic behaviour later became a byword among Sydney commuters by bus, taxi or tram, up until the 1960s.

Lesley found it a struggle she later said and was required to do a ‘post’ exam in Latin. [I believe she had omitted to give the dative tense after one verb and her lecturer said he couldn’t POSSIBLY pass that.]

She was employed in teaching until the exam was passed at a Bathurst college.

The Hardie family moved to a new home about 1936 at ‘Gulnarer’, 182 Pacific Highway, Roseville.

Roger and Lesley became engaged sometime early in 1937 and married at the Burwood Congregational Church, 30th October 1937. Lesley was aware that the renowned local photographer Harold Cazneaux (1837-1953), then lived with his family at ‘Ambleside’ in Roseville. She insisted that he should be photographer for the wedding portraits. There were five beautiful portraits done at Roseville. Of the originals, there were duplicates of three.

On 10th August 2005, Lesley’s daughter Judy received a thankyou letter from Linda Groom, the Pictures Librarian at the National Library in Canberra, accepting these photographs, as well as a piece of Lesley’s lace wedding dress for the Cazneaux archive. [‘They will be housed in optimum conditions to ensure their preservation for future generations. The photographs will also be digitised and placed on the Library’s Pictures Catalogue to ensure widespread access for researchers via the internet’].

The honeymoon was spent camping in the Bathurst area. Roger had always loved the bush and done much hiking and camping with friends. He had also mined for black opals at Lightning Ridge (Walgett Shire) and Lesley had earrings and a ring using the stones.Roger bought four acres of land at Dundas near Eastwood, for 720 pounds in 1937. Then known as No, 12 Church Street, in the altering of names it later became 165 Marsden Road. Here their home ‘Lyndale’ was built to their own plan. This was at the time part of Sydney’s ‘Green Belt’ and orchards were so numerous the area was called the Fruit Bowl of Sydney. Roger was able to engage in his farming interest: he had been a jackeroo before the Depression, then was apprenticed in the printing trade.

As a new mother in 1938, Lesley with her fractious baby daughter Judith, was able to get assistance from the 1930s Baby Health Centre booklet. Its distinctive cover showed a stork and a kookaburra. ‘I hardly like delivering the goods Mrs Kookaburra them humans is so gum, careless of ‘em’. It was well used. Pioneering work in paediatrics by Dr Margaret Parker had resulted in 1921 in the ‘Infant Care Training School’ known as TRESILLIAN being set up. Here Lesley spent some time getting Judith established on a suitable healthy feeding program during 1938.

We four children (born 1938 to 1947) grew up surrounded by cows, sheep, goats trees of apricots, plums, apples, almonds and pecan nuts, along with vegetables such as sweet corn, potatoes, beans, tomatoes, spinach and of course, strawberries.Lesley made great use of the freezer and Fowler Vacola jars for excess produce. Family visitors marvelled at the colourful range of jars on specially built shelves with Roger’s spotlight focus, in the kitchen. In early 1950s, use was made of Dundas Markets corner of Marsden and Parramatta Roads, for bulk buying of fruits such as peaches, to be bottled when in season. It was quite an adventure usually on Friday night , for us to go to choose and purchase produce. In 1950, Roger had use of an Austin A40 car, replacing the old Austin Seven and the family proudly posed for a photograph with it.

Abundance of fresh milk and cream meant the washing and sterilising of the milk separator parts when Roger milked about three times a week and we had homemade butter.Lesley did a dressmaking course for which she showed talent, enhancing her own and the children’s wardrobes.

To assist with washdays we had ‘Brockie’, Mrs Brock, a 60-year old widow from nearby Mobbs Lane, Carlingford, adept at ironing and full of stories from her Kent UK home county.

In 1950s Lesley was involved in son Ron’s Meadowbank School Canteen, showing forthright organising skills, also used at daughter Helen’s Marsden High School. She played piano at home for her own pleasure; it was comforting to hear the sound as we walked in from the school day. She remained an avid reader, especially of detective novels and continued to collect poems and favourite pieces in a bound anthology Roger had made for her, all handwritten with her personalised green ink and fountain pen. When son David became engaged to German-born Ursula Widmaier in 1960d, Lesley took German classes and was later able to trade expressions with son-in-law Peter Newton.

Using a legacy from her parents, from 1958 on Lesley was able to indulge a passion for antiques, especially chairs. Some wonderful pieces came into the home: Victorian cedar, Georgian mahogany, Georgian tub chair, walnut, reproduction Sheraton, Tasmanian blackwood oak, the pinnacle being a Chippendale English dining chair won at an exhibition in 1965. Lesley catalogued all in a handwritten inventory.

In 1966, Roger purchased a 25-year oild horse ‘Snow White’, who had featured in the movie ‘The Sundowners’, filmed in Nimmitabel NSW in 1959, starring Peter Ustinov, Deborah Kerr and Robert Mitchum, with a host of Australian actors.

Roger had moved from Simmons Ltd Printers to his father’s firm The Law Book Company of Australasia, becoming personnel manager: health stresses of the city job caused him to look at retirement in 1967.

Thus came the decision for selling ‘Lyndale’ Dundas (where the Green Belt was long gone and the area was now heavily built up) in 1968 and purchase of one thousand acres of rainforest and pasture land north of Wingham NSW, near Elands at Glenwarrin on the Bulga Plateau. The children were independent; Helen was finishing a degree in Veterinary Science, Judith was due to have a baby, David and Ron were married.

While using the old farmhouse built 1930s, the new ‘Lyndale’ was planned to take advantage of the views of rainforest and mountain and built with Ron’s carpenter and joiner skills. Lesley had a large kitchen with walk-in pantry and modern fuel stove which supplied hot water, adequate store room and medicine cabinet and windows large and low enough to see the countryside, wherever you were seated. There was a wall of local timber panels in the office.

Reasonable water volume could be kept up with tanks from house run-off but Roger’s discovery of a spring in the creek allowed a pump and pipe system to be set up to supplement the tanks. Lesley used separate taps for spring and tank water.

Again, a large vegetable patch was developed, wire-covered to keep marauding birds away and amply fertilised with cow manure. Using the freezer, Lesley’s ‘green fingers’ kept up the vegetable supply,when provisions were an hour’s drive away in Wingham, along the narrow, winding road on the Bulga plateau, where one was likely to meet a heavily loaded timber jinker negotiating the bends. Lesley’s grandchildren delighted in watching the progress of these jinkers. Which could be heard in the distance as they passed the ‘lyndale’ bend on their way down the mountain, carrying the huge logs to the timber mills.To Lesley’s delight she found a sating bower bird’s bower among the heavy growth, not far from the house. Family and grandchildren were fascinated to see blue clothes pegs, children’s toys, pens and other discarded pieces of blue plastic carefully placed around the bower.

While Roger was organising cattle and fostering Snow White’s progeny (foals King, Zella and Eva) used for cattle mustering and meeting neighbouring farmers, Lesley was somewhat isolated.

Communication involved a cranked local telephone where you asked for a connection (if the telephonist wasn’t out milking the cow or some such). Lesley was sure many conversations were overheard. Neighbouring families on the Bulga Plateau for several generations included: Coopers, Worths, Grebers, Milligans, Colemans and the annual rodeo of Little Plains was a community occasion. Roger would help on the gate and Lesley joined her friend Enid Greber, a retired nursing sister behind the scenes.

Planning the enclosed flower garden with appropriate trees and shrubs occupied Lesley’s research and botanical skills and she enjoyed identifying flora and fauna with extensive use of ‘What Bird Is That?’ Then there were the dogs, the incumbent Blue, a cattle dog and Lou whom Lesley trained to assist with cattle roundups. Lesley maintained the farm’s books, details of horses, cattle (the regular brucellosis vaccinations) and the accounts.The Manning River Times of 17 June 1975 reported: ‘The first falls of snow in twenty years’ and their front page photo showed Lesley and Roger Lambert looking over their snow-covered property of the Bulga.

Together Lesley and Roger had almost 25 years on the Bulga Plateau before their hearts gave out in 1990 and 1992. In spite of all the challenges, they found the natural beauty of their property immensely satisfying.