Monday, 17 July 2017

How do you decide whether to write a biography, or tell the story of some-one's life.

Edna Probert in her Fifth Street  home May 2017
Surrounded by mountains of memories in the form of notes, journal entries and photos I'm trying to find the best way to record my mother's stories. We have plenty of Stud Books as my Uncle Doug calls them, family trees that document our ancestral roots, but these are as dry as a vacuum cleaner repair manual. I want something more, more entertaining. Therefore I have started imagining my mother as a ten-year-old and working from the stories her sisters and brothers told me and used them as the base to paint a picture of her life just before the Second World War.

Below is an excerpt from the introduction.

Iris looked at her mother, pointed toward Edna and said. ‘What’s the chance that next week Dad can take both of them?’
Emily brushed at her dress again. ‘Absolutely none. If anyone needs to know their Bible, it’s Edna.’
‘What, who said my name?’ Edna was never one to be left out.
‘Mum said you’ll need a lot more Bible lessons yet.’ Aileen grinned at her, ‘just to keep you out of the Devil’s clutches.’

From the moment the visitor from the north took the pulpit, Edna always knew she wanted to be a missionary in New Guinea, so it did not matter what anyone said, God understood her and she knew he would help her resist any of Satan’s temptations. She thought about New Guinea and how she would look after unwanted babies. Along the way she would spread God’s word. While this was the world of many a scrawny country kid whose social life revolved around family church and school, it was how Edna saw herself. She still does.


  1. Its a tough job, Terry. I recorded my mum's memories, but that doesn't really help in some ways. I spend a great deal of time trying to work out the best way to present the real person at her funeral. I am the designated speaker !

  2. Thanks Frank, I'll probably need to couch it with a disclaimer, but as I thing the characters are more important than the description of events, I want to breathe a bit of fun into her memories. Probably to help herself see how she was as a kid, a young woman and mother. She has had a lot of tragedy and a fair amount of fun too. I want my reader to feel those emotions when they read about her life. Better crack on with it then.