Vivienne Clarice Swan (nee Buxton)

17th December 1922 - 19th November 2011 (Aged 88 years)

In loving memory - this is her photo album

(Please contact me for a high resolution version of any photo for printing)

Rosemary Fredriksen (nee Swan) Vivienne's daughter
My mother’s world was her family and friends, her books and stories and her remarkable love affair with words. Many of you will be familiar with her love of ‘promulgating esoteric cogitations’ and I think there are three words which describe her: she was clever, she was compassionate, she had courage. And yet if you were to say that to her she would shrug and “Who me? What would I know? What have I done?’ She would then likely recite one of her favourite limericks:

I knew a young woman named Myrtle,
she had an affair with a turtle.
One morning at dawn,
she gave birth to a prawn.
And that proved that Myrtle was fertile.

My mum grew up in the town of Gracemere, the second youngest of a family of six, elder sister to Shirley and known to all as Boo. She was clever at school and could beat the boys in running races. She did well in scholarship and was told by her teachers she was clever enough to win the prize for the best essay in the State. I well remember her almost irrepressible excitement when she came home with the Websters dictionary that stood almost was a foot high. She told me recently that she had paid it off over many months and never told my dad its real cost.

She grew up during the depression and was just 17 when world war broke out. She may not have attained the education she yearned for but how grateful I am for what she and Dad made possible for Rod and myself. As well she took great pride in the achievements of the students and apprentices she took into her home after my father died and was acknowledged for her assistance in Dianne Dorfler’s final thesis for her Master’s degree in teaching, a profession she herself would have loved to pursue.

Many who knew her have stories of her compassion, her gentle consideration for others and her generosity in reaching out with a helping hand. And if it was Michael, it was probably accompanied by a big jug of custard. And today I know she will be worrying and Boo will be watching out for Shirley who is not well enough to be with us.

But it was her courage, her quiet confidence to have a go that I most love. She could drive a car from the age of 10 and during the war years drove for the Yanks as part of the Women’s Emergency League. As just a young woman and with some health problems, she went west and found the love of her life, my dad Herbert Harold, amidst the revelry of the Welcome Home Hotel in Longreach where she worked as a waitress and barmaid. She was widowed when just in her 50’s but very much thrived on her independence and enjoyed her travels to many parts of Australia and to Asia and America.

But above all it was her courage and inner strength to rise above trials and tribulations that I hold most dear. It was the loss of my brother, her beloved Rod at just 35, that most beleaguered her and was at times unbearable. However in recent years, with the shared loss of my Adrian and with the move to Gladstone, I felt she found some peace.

Amongst her papers I found a quotation: ‘Wit has truth in it. Wisecracking is simply calisthenics with words.’ Now over the years, she won many prizes for her witty ditties, but if wit and wisecracking had been Olympic sports she would have been a dual gold medallist.

Mum, we will well remember your ‘promulgating esoteric cogitations’ but it will be your way with words, your gentle touch, your wicked humour, that twinkle in your eyes that will stay in our hearts, and in my heart forever. Rest in peace.

In promulgating your esoteric cogitation's or articulating your superficial and sentimentalities and amicable philosophical or psychological observations, beware of platitudinous ponderosity.

Let your conversational communications possess a clarified conciseness, a compact comprehensibleness, coalescent consistency and a concatenated cogency. Eschew all conglomerations of flatulent garrulity, jejune babblement and asinine affectations. Let your extemporaneous descantings and unpremeditated expatiation's have intelligibility and veracious vivacity without rodomontade or thrasonical bombast.

Sedulously avoid all polysyllable profundity, pompous prolixity, spittaceous vivacity, ventriloquial verbosity and magniloquent rapidity. Shun double entendres, prevenient jocosity and pestiferous profanity, observant or apparent.

In other words, talk plainly, briefly, naturally, sensibly, truthfully, purely, keep from slang, don't put on airs, say what you mean, mean what you say and DON'T USE BIG WORDS.

Helen and Peter Funch Vivienne's neighbours
Helen: I have been given the great privilege of being asked by Rosemary and her family to say a few words about how much Mrs Swan mean to our family – the Funch’s.

I immediately started to think about how Mrs Swan would have handled this task. All we would need to do is tell in “25 words or less” and she would have whipped up a clever and pithy sentence that encapsulated all you needed to know. For Peter and me, Mrs Swan has always been a part of our lives. She was Mum and Dad’s best friend and Peter’s godmother. Quite simply she was considered part of our family.

Peter: The friendship began within a few days of Mum and Dad moving into 30 Brighton Street. Dad made the difficult decision to move from his boyhood home at number 17 to number 30. Yes he moved his new bride only 4 doors away from her mother-in-law. For Mrs Fredriksen there was a lot of comedy in that situation. Anyway a few days later Mum was pegging out some washing in the backyard when Mrs Swan called out over the fence and introduced herself as “Vivienne Swan, your neighbour”. Fortunately the two houses were separated by a very low broken down fence. Over the years as neighbours, this fence remained in that state for a very good reason. It was the location of many over the fence chats under the mango tree where they both shared their family’s triumphs and failures and their own frustrations and worries through life’s ups and downs. Their 46 year friendship stood the test of time through nosy children moving out, moving away and finally moving on.

Helen: There was not a single achievement in our family that was not shared and praised by Mrs Swan. She patiently praised all our swimming medals, cub scout or girl guide badges, school report cards and Uni graduations. She bought God knows how many packets of girl guide biscuits, sponsored us in spell-a-thons, raffles etc. ,and oohed and aahed over stitches and plaster casts.

Peter: There was not a single birthday or Xmas that was forgotten. What’s more I believe Mrs Swan enjoyed having us escape to Fitzpatrick Street where we were welcome to watch her cook, help in the garden, read her Women’s Weeklies, play carefully with her delicate miniature teasets or stare partly fascinated at the enormous red china bull in her lounge. She had a colour TV which was a big thing back then and she had the novelty of recliner chairs which we loved to sit in with the leg rest popped out.

Helen: I made a reference before about Mrs Swan’s fondness for competitions. She entered hundreds of them, possibly thousands. And what’s more her strike rate was extraordinary. We were in awe of her ability to come up with entries that if they did not win, received a runner’s up prize. I remember her winning a Fab laundry powder t-shirt for guessing the number of lemons in a picture. She presented this shirt to me and I remember at about 8 or 9 years of age feeling just so cool and important in that shirt.

Peter: Not only did she enter competitions, she was a regular contributor to the “Mere Male” column and the crazy-things-kids-say” columns of newspapers and the New Idea. She passed many of her clippings to Mum before her move to Gladstone and all I can say is that she knew a lot of mere males and silly children (including her own).

Helen: A favourite stupid utterance was one from my darling brother, Peter. As children we often referred to Dad as “a mighty old bloke”. This, by the way, was when he was only 30-ish. One day after regaling Mrs Swan with all the great things Dad did she remarked to him that Mum could use 6 more like him. Peter apparently looked horrified and said “But they won’t all fit it Mum’s bed:”. The mind boggles at where that thought could lead.

Peter: I recall while in Brighton Street staying with Mrs Swan while Mum and Dad took Helen down to university to install into college. I was wined and dined and every whim catered for more than ever happened at home. So much so that when Mum and Dad returned home on the Wednesday, I managed to stay on at Mrs Swan’s until the Saturday before I went home.

More recently I visited Mrs Swan in Gladstone late one day and when it was time for tea, Mrs Swan had me walk down with her to the dining hall door she stopped me and held me close strolling arm in arm through the dining room. Mrs Swan stopped me well before the door staying within clear sight of everyone then planted a big kiss on me laughing and saying “This will keep them guessing”.

Helen: When I think of Mrs Swan, I can always hear that wonderful laugh and giggle. She had a wicked sense of humour and loved a “good, clean, dirty joke”. Given the sadness she had lived through, that laugh and sense of humour is even more amazing and says so much about her character and inner strength. To finish and in memory of Mrs Swan I would like to relate a good, clean, dirty joke that she told Mum and Dad only a few weeks ago when they visited:

What did one strawberry say to the other?
if we hadn’t been in the same bed together, we wouldn’t be in this jam.

Dylan Swan Vivienne's grandson (son of Rod)
There once was a lady who entered competitions
Winning so many, she gave the prizes to her relations
Her secret was simple
A true skill unequalled
Twas the limericks she wrote, to the judges elations

Nanna could have given Dr Suess a run for his money, but instead used her rhyming powers to win competitions. She could even win random prize draws with her persuasive powers so when I was introduced into this world as a baby, she promptly won a brand new car for me, care of the 1974 Brisbane Floods Appeal.

Some competitions would require Nanna to buy lots of the same product to enter. This was a dream come true for us kids when the competition was for lifesavers lollies. I have vivid memories seeing all the brightly coloured jars of lollies that needed to be eaten, so out of the kindness of our hearts, we thought we might be able help her out.

It was always a joyous occasion when we received a letter in the mail telling us that we had won a prize in a competition that we didn’t enter, but we quickly realised the culprit behind this cunning plan. One of those prizes was for a BBQ for my amazing limerick that apparently I had written. So to receive my prize I had to go down to the shop and recite it in front of the TV and newspaper journalists. Alas, for I had somehow forgotten my limerick but we grabbed that BBQ anyway and got outta the place as fast as we could.

To remember Nanna like a limerick draft
Her positive attitude on a board it is cast
In her kitchen it portrays
"The most wasted of all days
Are the days on which one has not laughed"