8 October 2016, The Boulevarde, Kew, Melbourne, Australia
On 2nd July 1939 Sally Gillian Leighton was born in Tientsin, China to expat Brits Edgar and Madeliene Leighton. All of our lives, in some way shape or form, were impacted by this event. It was world changing. A shock of black hair apparently. Standing straight up all over her head, soon to be replaced with those fair curls we all knew so well. Young Sally certainly had an interesting start to her life. Indeed her entire life. A planned holiday to Australia at age 2 1/2 when World War 2 was in its infancy. Japanese tensions were high though and resulted in Mum, her mother, father and brother Tim being blocked from leaving Hong Kong Harbor via ship, when Pearl Harbour was bombed by the Japanese. Interned in a Prisoner of War camp for three years, repatriated after the war and sent back to England, once again moved to China in 1947 to reclaim the family home, prior to finally making the planned journey to settle in Australia and Barwon Heads in 1950. Moved, again, to Portland and to Avonmore to establish a Carnation Farm. Schooled by nuns in a convent, trained as a nurse at the Alfred with a group known as Group X, further travelled via a bomb of a VW Beetle across the continent and on ships around and through Europe, working as a dishwasher for board, falling in love with skiing and chasing snow, a passion that remained her entire life until her knees said no more, and even then getting two replacements (we have the technology to re-build her); settling in Melbourne, meeting Dad and marrying in 1972. Moving back to Portland to share in the running of Avonmore Carnations, giving birth to myself and Fiona, constant trips to Bridgewater Bay, Discovery Bay and the wild coast of the South West of Victoria, often to assist her brother Tim find driftwood at Discovery Bay. Moving back to Melbourne and Terry St, re-training as a nurse, private nursing to the rich and famous in Toorak while sending her two children to private schools. Still more trips camping, to Falls Creek, Mount Buller, Mount Hotham, Thredbo and Perisher then taking the family to the US in the summer of 89 / 90 to again chase snow. Learning signed English , then later Auslan and Auslan interpreting. Working at two renown Melbourne private schools as their much loved school nurse. Finally retiring, only to pretty much take up full time travel. Anyone would think Mum actually liked travel!! Playing an active role with her two grandchildren ….. and granddog, Bolt. Travelling to Canada (this was supposedly to see me, but I still think it was still primarily for the snow), further travel to Russia, Africa, Western Australia, South America. Hiking just last year to Machu Pitchu and, as I have only recently found out, with future plans (and deposit paid), for Greece. All this while somehow maintaining a boundless amount of energy, and an enthusiasm for life that had no limit.
As her son, I literally have a lifetime of memories with my mother. Many of you in this room do too. Memories that certainly predate my lifetime, but that I have been reminded of or told of recently, through messages, stories and photos.
Stories of mum in her childhood years, battling constantly with her younger brother Tim. He pulling her pigtails, Mum finally having had enough, and hanging him by the jacket he was wearing on a coat hook in the hallway of the family home. Leaving him dangling there and unable to do a thing until their mother found him there, a good hour later.
Not so discreet tales of Mum during her nurse training years and with Group X. As one member who shall remain nameless has said …. “Oh we were very naughty girls. We got up to so much mischief.” ….. I would be disappointed if it had been any other way.
Two of Sally's oldest friends, Sue and Lace, are unable to be here today and have sent some of their thoughts:
“Oh our beautiful friend Sally with an amazing zest for life. How we will miss you. The laugh, the welcome and all the fun times.
From 1957 - innocent girls starting nursing, supporting each other through thick and thin.
In later years with distances separating us for so long and with families to love and care for - it never diminished our friendships.
Such wonderful memories of Portland at the 21st, other times picking carnations or fishing with Edgar and Madeleine.
Hilarious times in London with Lace and Peter, trying on hats in Marks and Sparks laughing all the way from Kensington to Oxford St and finishing in a pub to cure the aching jaws
Our first year nursing holiday at Mt Buller - we think the start to Sally's romance with skiing which she loved, and trying to knit mittens. Not a very successful exercise, in fact, disastrous. Dancing on tables in Victoria Parade. New Year in Mansfield and caring for her after breast cancer - so very brave. The happy and fun times are what we will remember - they will put smiles on our faces and hide the tears behind our eyes.
Sally, farewell to a true and wonderful friend. Always in our hearts”
Memories and photos shared of a trip through Central Australia by Mum and Gisella Barrett. Getting bogged in bottomless sand, climbing Ayres Rock when you were still allowed to, getting lost in the gorges of the Olgas and many more. Mum being mum, she didn’t quite get around to keeping a diary of this trip. Too much to do!! But Gisella did, and I look forward to hearing more of this trip when the time allows.
Gisella also recently shared a memory with me that she has let me share:
“On my first date with Christopher, only a few weeks after my arrival in Australia, I met Sally. She had invited friends to see slides of the Snowy Mountains. This was the beginning of our friendship and it never ended. We shared many highs and also lows. Sally became more than a friend – I regard her as my Australian sister and shall miss her terribly.”
Another friend, Liz Fletcher who also could not be with us here today recalled: Kayaking with Sally at Fairfield.
“Most would have retired after a dunking, but not your mum. I was lucky enough to ski with her at Hotham – I wished I had her grace and style on the slopes. And as for those privileged whale sharks off WA …. I’m sure they would have been smiling as the adventurous Mermaid Sally swam past. Then there was the time we danced with the African drummers at the Werribee zoo ….. what memories.”
Mum introduced me to skiing at Buller at the age of eight. Dressing me head to toe in a red one piece suit, equipping me with skis that were far too long, then patiently trying to get me to snowplough, when all I could care about was going straight and fast. Mum eventually saw the merit in ski school. And her passion became mine. Yearly trips to Falls Creek with the Grays being just the start.
Christmases. Mum absolutely loved Christmas. Annual street Christmas parties at Terry St. Almost every year the whole street invited to mums for some Christmas cheer. The traditional watching of Christmas Vacation. The laughing at the same scenes. Every year. For a small family, we certainly had an enormous Christmas lunch. All the trimmings of a full ham, a turkey, roast vegetables, the works. Plum pudding and her hard brandy sauce. A sauce that more than once sent the uninitiated off the deep end with the level of alcohol contained in the recipe.
Mum absolutely adored her grandkids. Just loved them. When I was young I had named my grandmother Gung as Gran didn’t quite come out correctly. Mum, being mum, in a similar vein also wanted a particular name. She wanted to be called Gigi! This didn’t quite work with Annabelle though, as Annabelle declared that Mum, would be called Momo. So Momo it became. And she loved it.
I have so many memories that come to mind when I think of Mum.
Selflessly looking after dad when he was so very ill 4 years ago. Something she deserved a medal for.
Sadly having to give a similar speech to this one for Dad and seeing her looking at me while I gave it. She looked so proud.
Holidays at Portland. History repeating. Just loving seeing her grandchildren enjoying not only what she enjoyed, but what Fiona and I enjoyed also. Primarily waterskiing and the Bridgewater Lakes.
School fete volunteering, school markets, 15 Lbs Café. She was an adopted Fairfield local.
Her brave Cancer fight. Her stunning, in my opinion, short hair, pink balloons and the BCNA.
The Cats. Those mighty Cats. Theatre productions. Cats, Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables and most recently, while Mum wasn’t there, I was able to take her place, taking her grandkids to see Matilda. She would have loved it.
Entertaining at Terry St. Monster dinners and providing second dinners for most of my close friends at least once a week.
The closeness to her daughter, Fiona. As recently as their holiday together in Cairns. They were often simply inseparable. I know how much Fiona loved her Mum and how much she is going to miss her.
What a life lived. As a great friend of Mum's recently said …. "Unfortunately, we all have to die at some point. But it's how we lived that matters".
And live mum did. I do not hesitate in saying she bloody well lived.
Mums “other daughter”, Kate, recounted to me that she didn't think she had ever met a more positive person than Mum. On me informing many of you here of Mum's untimely passing, a constant theme emerged. Mum's energy, her smile that simply lit up wherever she may be ..... and her laugh. You would know when mum arrived in a room, a house or in fact anywhere at all, by her infectious laugh. It was unmissable ….. But we miss it now.
She has left a huge hole in so many people's lives. The phone calls, and rambling voice messages, the long lunches, theatre and MTC productions, ballet, opera, walks on windswept beaches. None of these will ever be the same.
It was always Mum's wish for her farewell to be a celebration rather than a sad affair. Good food, good friends and good music. A party in fact. In Mum's words, “None of this sadness rubbish!”. This is going to be hard for all of us here today …. It already is ….. and of course we are going to be at least a little sad at such a huge loss, but Mum …. Momo, would want us to remember the fun times, cherish the memories of times shared and celebrate the life of a woman that was .... Bloody well lived.
You were one in a million, Mum. And absolutely irreplaceable. Wherever you may be right now mum, be it a windswept beach, a mountain covered in a fresh dusting of snow, catching some sun, or somewhere else far more exotic that would no doubt suit you perfectly…. And cater for your dancing style …… Thank you for being a sister, a friend, a mother, a mother in law and a grandmother whose spirit, energy, enthusiasm and memories will live on for a long, long time. Thank you mum. We miss you terribly already, but we hope you are breathing easily and are smiling ….. and laughing as only you could. We love you mum, and we’ll miss you forever.
Sally Gillian Crisp (Leighton) 2 July 1939 - 12 September 2016
Related Content: Angus's eulogy for his father, Ian. Also lovely and also on Speakola.
" Dad, Well, we knew how much you hated the thought of funerals, didn’t like the thought of them and didn’t like going to them, so I hope you don’t mind that we give you this send off. I think it’s important that you know how much we loved you and how much you meant to all of us. " Read more