|Interviewer: Robin Hughes
Recorded: August 7, 2002
This is a transcript of the complete original interview conducted for the Australian Biography project. Each transcript page covers one videotape (approximately 35 minutes). There is also QuickTime video of the full interview available. To play the video, click on the icon in the right hand column. In addition, each question in the transcript is linked to the video. Clicking on a question will play the video from that point. (Help with this feature.) Optionally, you can download the video file for offline viewing (approx. 10MB).
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Can we go back now to your childhood, and I wonder if you could begin by picking up a little story that you told the other day, about your childhood and tell us again, when you were taunted by the other children because you hadn't done well at school, and I'll - if you can get into it, I'll just ask you and then you can tell us. How did you get on when you went to school?
I was an outsider at school, and I'd had that disadvantage of having the year of correspondence and not starting when I was five, starting when I was six. So I, you know, was out of step. And I was always a little bit of out of step [sic] until I twigged what it was about, because I really didn't know why I was going to school, what this was all about.
I had no sort of preparation. Nowadays, I think it's so good. I watch my grandchildren. They go to pre-school - they go to kindy, then they go to pre-school, and it's all building up so they're beginning to understand what it's about. And I didn't know why I was being sent here for the day, you know, and then the end of the day I'd go home and then the next day I seemed to be going back here.
I had no idea what it was all about. And, ah, certainly no idea that the aim was to read and write and to calculate numbers. I had no idea about that. And, um, I can remember when it first dawned on me what it was about and it was the - some other children. I was sitting down in my little favourite spot that I had at school, which was a lovely - I can remember it still - a lovely round tree that divided like this, I'd made almost a lovely big, wide, warm patch.
And I used to sit there and day-dream. Day-dreaming was my great joy, and still is, I think. I can day-dream anywhere and anytime at great length. And I was day-dreaming there, enjoying myself and not worrying 'cause I wasn't playing wth the other children, 'cause I really didn't want to.
But, ah some little girls came and started taunting me from the bottom, saying "Betty Cameron second last again". And I thought, "Second last? Second last of what?" And then it suddenly [sic] realised, you know, you could be first or last and then I suddenly thought what those exams were about. What we were doing when I was gazing out the window day- dreaming, I should have been busily doing sums, or busily writing little essays, or ...
And I was handing in at the end of the lesson, probably nothing. And it's a miracle I wasn't last, not second last. I wonder who was last? But, ah, that's when it sort of suddenly - I thought, "Ah, that's what it's about. That's why we're doing those sums". And that's - that competitive thing, I think, entered my life for the first time, seriously.
You know, that you could compete and succeed, and compete and, ah, achieve.
And has success and achievement been important to you ever since?
I think it probably has, yes. I think it has. I've never been ambitious in setting out and saying, "I want to be ... you know, by the time I'm forty, I want to be ..." and I know people who think like this. I've never, never, never thought like that. I've always been very happy in what I was doing, but I've always done it to the very best, you know. That competitive thing has been within the area that I've been working.
When I was high school teaching, I wanted to do the best I possibly could as a high school teacher. I didn't want to be a high school principal. I wanted to be the best high school teacher. And then when I was in art school, I wanted to be the best art history lecturer I could possibly be, and then when I was a gallery director, and so it goes on.
But it's never towards any other end. I always say to my sons, "Whatever you're doing, make yourself indispensable at what you're doing. Don't be sort of thinking what you want to do next. Just make yourself absolutely indispensable at what you're doing now". And that's really what I've done all my life. And the other things have just come.
As I said, you know, I've only ever applied for one job and I didn't get that one. And the other jobs have just come to me. I've hesitated before taking them, thinking, you know, was I able to cope with this next step, and then I've dived in, and then swum madly for shore, and, you know, then made that the sum total of my ambition, until the next thing happened.
I often think, you know, getting back, right back to where I first [sic] invited to the National Gallery, "Why did they think of me?" And certainly, I'd made a name of myself at the Australia Council, and I s'pose to a certain extent in Melbourne, but I often wonder, whimsically, if it was not the fact that when Gough Whitlam - who was then the Chairman of the Board of the National Gallery - visited the Art Gallery of Western Australia, it was on a day when I had arranged to get little children interested in.
That they would come in, schools ,little - this is primary school children - and we'd have a story day and we'd have - stories would be told that would relate to pictures on the wall. So the building was full of little children, and Gough Whitlam arrived. Well, the stir ... it was like Gulliver and Lilliput. You know, hundreds of little children.
The teacher would say, "Oh, that was a Prime Minister, a former ... " And you'd see these little children suddenly leap on and leap towards Gough, and of course Gough preened and just adored it. And I wonder whether he thought that the Art Gallery of Western Australia was always like that. It's just that he happened to turn up on a day where this activity was happening. The place was just teeming with people, and life, and you know, vivacity and, and interest.
And whether he thought, "Oh, you know, there's something going over [sic] on over there in the west". Had he come the day later or the day before, it might have been a very different story. So I do wonder whether luck, and circumstance, don't play a role in the outcome of things. I think perhaps they do.
But of course succeeding does as well. And I wanted to ask you, how did you feel in life, when - how would you have coped if you'd been in a situation where you didn't get ten out of ten for what you were doing? Has that been a worry to you, when you've taken things on, that perhaps you wouldn't do them to the standards that you expected of yourself which was the 'ten out of ten' standard?
Oh yes, always. When, um, Rigby asked me to do the - no, it was Penguin - asked me to do the book on Molvig. They said, it's part of a series that we're doing of artists, and we've asked Humphrey McQueen, who's writing on - I think he was writing - I forget who he was writing on. But Richard Haese was writing on one of the, um, - I really forget who they were.
But they were really eminent people. And they'd all started writing and I - my immediately [sic] thing was, "Oh, I'm up against the best. I'm starting from behind the eight ball, you know. They've all started work". So I go in there like a steamroller and of course, I come out first. Molvig is the first book in the series to get published. I think Humphrey's McQueen's [sic] book - I don't know whether it ever did get published.
But there has been always that thing, you know, that, "Ah, I've got to be in there, you know, I'm going to be the - I mustn't be last. I must get in there and - not necessarily be first - but must perform and achieve". I've only ever ditched one project in my life, and that I just didn't have the strength to go on with it. It was in the year when I moved down to Melbourne, when I was living in that awful student digs at, um, in La Trobe University.
I decided to do another book. Rigby asked me to do another book, on Australian art, taking it from the, the Second World War onwards. All of the art histories brought you up to Sidney Nolan, Arthur Boyd, Albert Tucker, but nothing took you on through the '50s, the '60s, the '70s, the '80s.
And I thought it'd be fascinating to do a book that took the history of Australian art through those centuries, showing what Sidney Nolan continued to do in the '60s and the '70s and '80s, what did Boyd continue doing, but when did John Firth-Smith came [sic] and when did all the other artists start appearing, so that you could see it as a continuum.
Some of it was the older artists continuing through, and some were the new artists coming in, and the new movements. And I worked really non-stop because I had nothing - no family, no nothing. Nothing to distract me at all, other than the job at Phillip Institute. And when I'd finally - I'd got the house, we were going to move and I'm packing up with great relief, and I packed all of the manuscript which is almost finished by this stage.
Massive amount of research. All original research because nobody had ever done it, so it all had to happen in the library of the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Packed that all into cardboard boxes and all of my rubbish and other cardboard boxes and suitcases and lovely young Asian students who had this great respect for the elderly.
And I at that stage was still, you know, in my 50s I was still elderly. And, ah, they came rushing up, "Mrs Churcher, Mrs Churcher, we help you?" And I said, "Well look, those are going to the boot of the car, these are going to the dump, and these are going ..." And of course, it was several days before I opened, after I'd got to the house.
The manuscript had gone to the dump and all I had was all of the scrunched up paper that I'd put into this - these cardboard cartons and taped them all neatly. You know, equally they looked the same, and I remember this terrible feeling. And I knew it was no good, I knew it was a waste of time, but I had to do it. I got into the car, I knew which dump - there was a dump in Bundoora, you know, behind Phillip ...
I drove out there. It's now about three weeks later, and I'll never forget arriving. I was the only person there. It was all bulldozed flat, this dreadful smell and these seagulls just swooping. And that - and then I - they asked me to start again and I said, "Look, I'm sorry, I can't. Simply can't." 'Cause I'd kept no notes. I kept - it was before computers, so you had no ...
The hard copy was all that you had. So that was the death of an idea.
Would you do it now?
Oh, I don't think I could. It's a huge amount of work, you know. It was huge. I had to go through all of the old exhibition catalogues, and all of the new ...
Has anybody else ever done it?
It's never really been done as a whole sort of history, so that - school people can see, you know, that while John Firth-Smith was doing this, Arthur Boyd was still working on this. He was doing those wonderful pictures of the artists, you know, in the - with the barbed wire, you know, the chicken wire windows.
You know, and see that, you know, the old tradition continued into a different mode, but there were new people coming up. No, I don't know that it ever has been done, but it won't be done by me.
Have you ever done something, not abandoned it, but felt you failed at it?
Um ... I have to think very hard here. I don't think I succeeded very well anywhere with, ah, fundraising in the terms of foundations. It wasn't my real interest and I wasn't too brilliant at it and, um, I think if there was an area where I didn't operate so well, it was in managing foundations, and managing the boards of foundations and getting really enthused and sort of passionate about raising money in the way I was enthused and passionate about making exhibitions or buying pictures.
Or making the gallery look beautiful and, you know, accommodating for people. It just never had my - I couldn't, you know. I tried, but I just didn't have that particular skill.
This seems to be quite common in the Australian scene, though, doesn't it, that people don't feel comfortable with that sort of role, of begging from the rich.
Probably. Americans are very good at it, but then Americans are very good at giving, too. I remember reading - um, I'm trying to think what the director was, of the Metropolitan Museum - and the board there, the Metropolitan Museum, were trying to buy something, and there are all these mega-wealthy people, and one of them says, "Well I'll donate five thousand", or fifty thousand, or whatever it is, and, you know, then around the table become competitive as to who could give the most money.
That doesn't exist in this country, that competitive thing of being - the more you give, the more your - the higher your status, your social status, rises. Social status here is based on other things, but not necessarily on the amount of money that you give.
Now you started out a day-dreamer ...
Yeah, and ended her life a day-dreamer ...
... discovered the importance of success, and so started pursuing success in a competitive way. At this stage of your life, looking back with a bit of hindsight, do you think that success really is so important?
Yes I do, because success - all success means is that you have achieved what you wanted to achieve. If success was to become very wealthy, well then I failed, because that I certainly have not done. But for me, success was to do what I wanted to do, and yes, it was important to me, because it would have meant that I wasn't actually reaching my goals and my aims.
And as I said, my goals were always limited by what I'm doing. My goal is never outside of the square that I'm working in at any one time. And so it - achieving that is terribly important. But had my goal been to be a millionaire, let's say by the time I was fifty, well clearly, I'm a failure. Didn't work.
It was another paradox, really, in your life, that you had simultaneously, what you recognised was ambition, and you've described, as quite a strong ambition. And at the same time this, "What, little me?" side to you, always wondering whether or not you really would do it. How much tension did that put on the decisions you made about what you were going to do next?
I think a lot of tension, because feeling inadequate is really an uncomfortable situation to be in. I remember when I moved from high school teaching into tertiary teaching, I was terrified of having to - I knew I could relate to 17 - 16 and 17 year olds. Could I relate to that next, rather sort of bolshie, independent age group? You know, the young adult.
And I can remember, we were in Sydney, and Guy Gray Smith, who'd been - ah, Guy Warren, who'd been teaching in art schools forever and he said, "What are you talking about? Of course you can do it". And I thought, "Well, I wish I had your confidence". But of course, when I got into that particular pool and started to swim around I realised that yes I could do it, and furthermore, that I enjoyed doing it.
And then my goals for what I wanted to do within that, those parameters clarified and I could see where to go, but before I got in, I couldn't quite see where I would go. Could I achieve? Would I be accepted? Those are all of the things that were going on in my head.
'You've succeeded at this in high school, but that might be your limit, you know. You're jumping up into the next square, and can you do it? You don't know." And then, when I moved into Melbourne, exactly the same feelings. When I moved into the Art Gallery of Western Australia, exactly the same. And on and on.
Do you think that was important, though, when you were doing well? That bit of anxiety?
Yes, I wanted to do well. I didn't want ever to fail, and this is why when I went to Melbourne, that feeling of possible failure was so strong that I didn't want to uproot the family. I wanted to fail on my own. I wanted to go down there, live on my own, for fear that I'd made the wrong decision. I wasn't going to achieve in that, um, environment.
I couldn't do it, but nobody else would have been inconvenienced and I could then go back, pick up the threads in Brisbane and continue. So it was very strong. Strong enough to make that decision to live for twelve months in those awful conditions at La Trobe University.
Going back to that crucial decision you made that you're always asked about, where you left art and moved into other things, and you know, at various times you said, well, you left art and went into motherhood and that's where your emotions went, and you didn't think it was an excuse to get out of something you felt weren't doing so well at, and so on.
There was also another thing that you do seem to be extraordinarily and unusually gifted as a teacher. Had you become aware of that at the time that you gave up art?
I think I probably had, because I hadn't given up art when I started teaching. See, I started teaching when I left school, at the age of 17. I went straight back into teaching at Somerville House, at Moreton Bay College and at Clayfield College. So I, I then knew I had this love of sharing my enthusiasm, and real return for when I could see that my enthusiasm had been picked up by others.
You know, like - when they, they - when I clicked, in other words. So - and that is really all that teaching is about, to be able to rouse people's enthusiasm to the level of your own. And if you're not enthusiastic, well forget it. You know, this is where I think a lot of bad - I mean, when I think of some of the teachers I had and I can suddenly realise, they couldn't have cared less about the subject.
But because - I remember once when I was lecturing in, ah, Melbourne, I was lecturing on Manet, and I was so taken up with this lecture, and I got sick in the middle of it. We used to have a break in the middle of it. And the thought of not being able to go on, and finish this lecture that I really so wanted to share with the students, and it was going so well, and I could see that they were really agog to get to the - to understand this artist better.
And to feel this thing descend on me, and realising that I was not going to be able to finish it, was greater than the inconvenience of the malady. I didn't finish the lecture, unfortunately.
So do you think that you were, in fact, endowed by nature with even greater gifts as a teacher than you had as an artist?
Were you ever conscious of that? Did you ever think of that?
No, I didn't, but I think it is to do with, ah, a desire to communicate, um, a willingness to communicate at the level that whoever you're talking to can come in at. Um - and a real love of the subject that you're trying to communicate.
See, I wouldn't be a terribly good teacher of geography. I remember when I went to, ah, Kelvin Grove, they believed that there were teachers and not teachers and they said, "You're just a teacher". And I said, "No, I'm not. I'm a teacher of art". "No, you're not. You're just a teacher." I said, "What, are you telling me I could teach geography?"
They said, "Yes". I said, "Well, I'm telling you I couldn't". You know, because I'd have to - unless I became passionate about geography. But I think you've got to have a, a, an overriding passion yourself in order to want to communicate it. And, and you only communicate it with any degree of, um, flair if you, you really want to make contact with that particular person.
Whether it's a 16 year old, or a 26 year old, or a 66 year old. It's all different the way you come at it. When I'm doing those television things, I could only do it in the end if I could imagine at the end of the camera, there were two little people sitting on a couch, and they were about 66 - Mr and Mrs Jones - and I was talking to them.
And when I was writing the Molvig book same thing. When I wrote the first book, the 'Understanding Art', I was writing to my eldest son, Ben. Ben was then just the age that I wanted that book to be directed to. So I tested everything out on him, and if he said, "What does that word mean?", I'd just remove the word and put another one in.
Because if he didn't understand, I thought the chances aren't- you know, the other age group won't - but ah, when I was writing the Molvig book, I could not get going. Brian Johns, who was then the, er, chief publisher, you know, of ...
... Penguin, had asked me to do it. And I was just making a terrible hash of it. And I suddenly realised what it was. I was writing with my other art historian peers in mind, and trying to do the rigorous art historical account. I wasn't talking to anyone. I was trying to sort of keep up with the Joneses. And so I stopped that immediately, and I thought, "Now who am I going to write to?"
And I picked Brian Johns, because he was interested in Molvig. He - intelligent man, he didn't know a lot about Molvig - he wanted to know about Molvig. Perfect. So I wrote the whole book to him, and when I'd submitted it, etcetera, I got a phone call. He said it was Brian Johns. I said, "Brian", I said, "How are you?"
He said, "All the better for having read your book on Molvig". So it worked. I was talking to someone. And that's, I think, the secret to teaching. If you're not talking to a person, if you're just talking to the ether and thinking of, what are your peers thinking of you, you know, is this academically or politically correct, I think you've missed the point.
Is it also the secret of presenting a good exhibition in a gallery?
It probably is. It probably is, yes. And the way you present it. All of that.
How far did the teacher in you get an opportunity to express herself in the role of gallery director?
Well, I think in the same way, through the acquisition of works of art, and how they were presented and the publications that we put out. Very, very important. The way the works were displayed, the exhibitions that we organised, the sorts of exhibitions. What I thought was useful, you know. When I thought - after we'd done that big exhibition of Renaissance art and baroque, in 'Rubens and the Italian Renaissance', I thought it would probably be good to see something of the twentieth century.
And that's when 'Surrealism' happened, you see. So you're getting a balance of, um, art, you know, European art and I, I - and always at the back of my mind is how does it relate to the people who are looking at it. So the Australian component was very, very important, because they could look at Australian art, and there were artists like James Gleeson, etcetera, and Sidney Nolan that they could immediately relate to, knew of, and then they could learn about Miró and Masson and the, and the European - André Breton - the European surrealists.
So there - that, that is in a way a sort of teaching process.
Did you see a link between your teachering [sic] - I mean, I sort of can see a little pattern in your life of things that you were good at. The mothering, the teaching, the gallery directing, and of course, your style of leadership as well, which also had that nurturing ...
Does that - do you respond to that at all? I mean, would you like to talk a little bit about that thought, that they might have all been expressing something really unique to you, something special to you, that you were given an opportunity to bring out in that way?
Yes, I think they do, one leads into the other. I used to think sometimes, when I was dealing with a really difficult situation. I'd think, "Well thank goodness I've had four sons, and I've had to deal with all of their different personalities and their conflicts and their problems". I think it does help you. One thing that you do in life does lead into another.
Um, but how it sort of really feeds in, I'm not quite sure. You know, but I do think there is a connection, and I think the overriding thing in my life is to be - get the best out of every situation I can, and that is, if I move into an organisation, in - if I, if it's with - in Phillip, the other teachers, the people that actually are in contact with the students, well I had to really create a situation where they could operate to their optimum.
Not as dissatisfied, frustrated artists, but as inspired and enthusiastic teachers. And I introduced a system whereby they could job share, so if someone didn't want to teach full-time, they could keep half of all of their entitlements, you know, their tenure, their holiday pay, etcetera, share it with another person, and have half the time to be an artist.
And so they stayed enthusiastic artists, and productive artists, and therefore, better teachers. And the same thing in, in the gallery. You know, my aim was to let everybody, or to try and have everybody, operate to their optimum of their particular satisfaction, and their particular ambitions. And of course, their ambitions helped me.
Your relationship with Roy, with Roy Churcher, which started so long ago. How important has that been in relation to the rest of your life? How has that worked? You had a marriage which was sort of, in a way, a bit ahead of its time. How did that support you, or inhibit you, or how has that worked in relation to your career?
Well, I think it's been very fortuitous, that I have had the freedom to move wherever opportunity has moved me, and we've all moved and in different ways, benefitted by it. But, um, I, I think, you know, had Roy been a medico or a scientist or something attached to a university, probably nothing that I've done would have happened, you know.
Because I would have probably been locked in to his position, whereas he, he's the one who's been moving with me, which is unusual. And that can become a great friction in - when you have two professionals in a family. And now Roy's profession - he is a professional, but his profession was, in effect, moveable - although not without some angst, but it was moveable - and that made it work.
Um, I think my solitary, um, laconic, inhibit- ... not inhibited, probably, but, um ...
Inward looking, I s'pose is one way of putting it. I think that has been a bit of a problem. Roy, by nature, is gregarious, outgoing. Roy would like to throw the place open, you know. All I want is peace and quiet and time to sort of sit by myself and - and so that has caused a bit of problem [sic], and I think, you know, Roy has probably suffered a little bit because of that, because of my inability ...
But on the other hand, I sometimes think opposites work. Probably if I was - or equally gregarious, it would have been a [sic] complete chaos, with - nothing may have happened. Who knows. But I think that that has been, as far as - if you ask Roy what has been the downside, he would have said, "Well, she's the cat that walked by herself and ah, she's always walked by herself, and I just wished, you know, she'd be more ..."
And the children might even say that. I don't know. But I think they sometimes see me, just sort of on my plane, moving off. What they don't realise, probably sufficiently, is that had I not been on that plane, they would not have been having a lot of the benefits that they did have, you know, that - coming from that.
Was that ever a problem with Roy, that you became effectively, the primary breadwinner?
I think it has been a bit, yes. He's not the perfect consort. He sort of doesn't like that second place. He - and that's simply a, er, we're all victims of our own time, and I think his time when he grew up, like his father was, you know, just the - like my father who couldn't make a cup of tea. I don't think Pop would have, I think he probably could have, but he wouldn't have.
And, ah, Roy - we're all products of that a little bit, and Roy hasn't found that easy, I don't think, with me being the one that's being phased - or me being the - like when we went up the Pilbara, I thought we were both going. I, I misled Roy. I thought we were both going to judge. They wanted me the art historian and he the artist.
And we were judging together. And I thought, "Well, what a good idea. We can bounce off each other". But it was quite clear when we got there that it was me that they were after, you know, and the little things like that are hard - they're hard for me, too, I have to say. But I think they're hard for Roy as well.
How do you resolve difficulties between you when they arise?
Probably not as well as we should. We probably should - there's - I'm quiet - I just go inwards, you know, and, ah, probably if there were a few slinging matches and slanging matches and shouting and thumping and carrying on, it probably would be better. But there isn't. We don't fight a great deal.
Um, I sort of go onto a slow simmer, which must be very hard to live with, until I, you know, cool down. But I - and I think that's probably Mum. I remember Mum just hated shows of, er, outward shows of wild emotion. I remember her saying to me, "You don't have to make a noise, just because you're enjoying yourself", and of course, you do have to make a noise when you're enjoying yourself, you know. It was a sort of a very ...
It was always that control, control, control. And I think it's built into my nature now.
When you made a big decision, like going down to Melbourne and leaving Roy in charge of the children, or, or making other moves, did you discuss that fully with Roy, or was it something you'd make a decision about, and then work out how to do it?
Oh no, we discussed it, and I put that to him, you know, that it may be a terrible failure. It may be a terrible thing to do, you know, and would it not be a good idea that I went on ahead. And he thought it would have been. Um, no, that is - no, those sorts of things are discussed. But, um, I did have trepidation leaving four little kids - well, they all weren't little, you know.
By that time, Ben and Paul were sort of fairly grown up. But Tim and Peter needed a lot of nurturing, and I did feel that. And I think fathers don't necessarily give that sort of nurturing.
Yes, you've been married for almost fifty years, haven't you? It's a long time to survive, what do you think has reallt been the secret of the longevity of your marriage?
I don't know. It hasn't been all beer and skittles, I have to tell you. We, ah, have had a bumpy ride, you know. But, um, I think we both have felt that, ah, a sort of commitment, having made that commitment, having four children. I think if we hadn't had four children, there are many, many times I can think where we would have separated and gone separate ways.
But, ah, that sense of responsibility. You've brought four little people into the world and you've got a responsibility to give them a sort of fairly stable base, you know. It was always very paramount in my mind, anyway, and I think in Roy's, as well.
Because you married at a time, back then in the sort of, um, when the '60s and '70s happened, and there was a very strong fashion in marriage, of things being very loose. I mean, concepts of fidelity that had been there before went out the window - they're coming ... but they seem to be making a comeback now. But there was - all of those things, I, you know, put a lot of strain, especially on a, on a couple that had started out in a bohemian environment. Do you think that made it easier or harder for you?
Harder for me. This is why I hate Brisbane, I think. Because it's so applauded, and encouraged, that thing of infidelity, and, you know, multi-rel- ... you know, relationships, etcetera. Which I never went for. I would never ... was into that, really, in a serious way.
Roy got into it in a serious way, as you could imagine. That lovely, gregarious, very handsome young man. Um, he had a wonderful time, and that was hard for me. Now I'm not pretending it wasn't.
Do you think that affected that frantic painting style that suddenly became apparent? Were you expressing ...?
Well actually, I'd never thought it in my life, but probably, yes. Probably yes. Because I was frantic inside, you know, I was really frantic by what was going on, and yes, very likely. What an interesting thought.
And so the painting got very frantic, and then you had the baby. Then you started the anchor of the family.
Yes. And then once Ben became a fact, you know, once I became pregnant and this was clear we were starting a family, then I became absolutely rooted to the idea that that was going to be it. And - but it - Brisbane was awful from this point of view. You know, people would invite Roy and his lady love to dinner and not invite me, you know.
It was just outrageous. The '50s and '60s was just unbelievable, you know. The way people behaved and the way they thought it was perfectly appropriate to behave.
Well, especially in art circles.
Yes, I s'pose it was.
The banker's wife probably wasn't doing it.
No, the banker's wife would have done better, I think. Mum was right. Mothers are always right. But then I wouldn't have had my lovely four boys.
But you were determined to hang in there, Betty. And why was that? Why do you think you had the power to endure that humiliation?
Yes, it was humiliating. Um, well to be honest, you don't have many options. In the '50s, you know, with four little children, you didn't have many support systems, other things. You - there weren't too many options. Um, I couldn't up sticks, you know, and take four little people off. Where would I take them and what would I do?
And how would I then, you know, support them? Because I wasn't working full-time at this time. I was working part-time, but not full-time. I think that that was always paramount, you know, that the need to keep, you know, this little nest intact, you know, with these four little people in the nest. Um ...
And Roy felt that too?
I think he probably did. Yes. I don't think - Roy always used to say to me, it always used to drive me absolutely mad, "Look, it's got nothing to do with you. Doesn't affect you and my feelings for you at all". Well, give us a break. I didn't want to get on to this, actually. Better get off it.
But it's a very important part of the history of the times ...
It is. It is the social history of the times.
'Cause this is a story that a lot of women from that time could tell.
Oh, yes. In fact, I think, just about everybody, almost, of my age. Except as you say, the bank manager and his wife, secure and happy in their ...
But in hanging together for that time, what are the positives? What are the things that you feel now that you have in your relationship that, you know, has come from the fact that you have stuck to it and raised the children? I mean, you're still together, although the children are raised.
Yes, well, I think the, ah, thing - I look at other people, you know, and these - with these multi-marriages and multi-relationships, and you know, the untidiness, I think, would have driven me mad. You know, these - there are sometimes, you know, different fathers, you know, five children with five different fathers, and then all of the families that relate to those different fathers. I mean, oh God, you know.
I couldn't bear that. I like the unitary thing, that has been maintained. I think the boys like that too, really, to be honest. I think they may do many things, but one thing that they will never, never, never do is be, ah, is engage in any infidelity. I think they will be sort of absolutely faithful to their wife.
[end of tape]