Mrs Ursula Hennessey
Words of Wisdom
As told to Melise Coleman
This week we caught up with the beautiful Mrs Ursula Hennessey. A genuine, happy and down to earth lady who has some wonderful wise words to share.
Where and when were you born? Saint Agnus Private Hospital on the Bathurst Road, Orange in 1941.
What are the most important lessons you've learned in life? To just accept people as they are, you can’t do much else.
What’s the secret to a happy marriage? It’s a give and take business, you have to give, and you have to take, you have to sit down and work things out between the both of you, and what you think would be the best thing for your family and all the rest of it.
How did you meet your husband? I met my husband Jeff at a Ballroom Dancing class, and now we have been married for 56 years.
What big world events were the most memorable while you were growing up? The War was a terrible thing, my Father wasn’t allowed to talk about the war. He was called away just before I was born, and he was positioned on the front line in New Guinea. I was very lucky that my Father came back home, there were so many who never did. I was five when he came home, that was when I met him really, my Mum would tell me “He’s gone to fight for this country,” I never really understood until I got older.
What was it like to live through a major historic event? They were terrible days, I hated them. You could only get a certain amount of food with food coupons that were given to your family, and everything was rationed. Not many people had money in those days.
My Mother was left to manage a big vegetable garden, the house, her five children and the cooking when my Father went to War. I was only four when I was helping her pull weeds out of the vegetable garden, there was no one else to help. They were hard days, very hard days. I remember our clothesline was just a line held up by two pieces of timber, but we managed, and we all seemed to be happy, my parents always had enough food on the table, my Mother was a great cook, we were never short of food.
What do you miss about the ‘Good Old Days?’ I miss my parents terribly they originally came from Lebanon. My Mother was very caring and very much wanted me to learn to cook at an early age. Father had a thing about women wearing slacks, he didn’t think they looked feminine. I would always wear slacks, he would say to me “Are all of your dresses on the clothesline?” *laughs* It was different fashion back then.
My Father had the biggest vegetable garden you could ever wish to see, he grew all of his own fruit trees, plum trees, walnut trees, fig trees - and the backyard was covered in black and white grapevines. It was just beautiful.
What took you a long time to learn? I always wanted to learn dressmaking and I eventually did. Then I did another college course of cake decorating, then I did floral art and the last course I did was furniture restoration and re-construction. That was the most interesting hobby I think I ever took on, it was heavy work but in those days I was strong. My children used to say “Oh Mum that’s hard work” but I loved it.
What is your favourite childhood memory? Getting dressed up to go to the Croagh Patrick Orphanage Fete. I was only about eight and it was a full day out, it was just so wonderful, they had pony rides and donkey rides and we got to walk through the orphanage. My parents used to invite a boy from the Orphanage for Christmas and Christmas dinner each year. My Mother and Father’s values were very Christian.
What are you most proud of? My family, my husband, my three wonderful daughters, my six grandchildren and three of the most wonderful sons in laws you could ever wish to meet. I am so lucky.
What life advice would you pass along to your grandchildren? Enjoy what you have of life, don’t bother drinking or smoking, that runs away with your money and ruins your health… and I love them all, I just adore them.
What did you want to be when you grew up? I always wanted to be a dressmaker, and that’s what I did. When the children were little, I would make little dresses for them and they just loved it.
What was your first job? In the Commonwealth Bank, I didn’t stay there long. I worked at a steam laundry, I was put into the parcel and docket room and was there for nine years before we started our family.
What have you not done that you still hope to achieve? I’ve achieved a lot of things in my life, just getting married and having my family was the most wonderful thing that I have done in my life.
Did you get an allowance? No, no such thing, and I will always remember my Christmas gift off Santa Claus was a bottle of Mayfield soft drink to drink myself, well that was the ant’s pants. A pair of socks and a little white paper bag of lollies, and two shillings! I was so, so happy.
Who is the person who influenced your life the most? Why? My Mother, she really was the backbone of the family. She kept us on the straight and narrow, whatever she said made sense.
What was your favourite thing to do for fun? I loved Ballroom dancing, it was so graceful and elegant, my favourite was the jazz waltz, most of the dances were held at ‘the Strand’.
What do you enjoy getting up to now? When the Santa Maria College girls get together and have an evening out for dinner. It’s always so lovely to see them and hear what the other girls have got to say about their families and what they have been up to. Jeff and myself also go to the Ex-Services Club and play Cash Housie, and we absolutely love it, we have a tonne of fun - I wouldn’t miss it for all the tea in China! If you win a prize it’s a bonus and the proceeds go to Lifeline Central West.
I often lay in bed at night and think I am so pleased to have met Jeff, had my children and lived the life I have.”