Looking back, my stepfather was one of the most highly principled men I have ever known.
I remember watching him one day and thinking there was no reason why we couldn’t get on. I later came to realise that this was my decision to love him.
During the great depression, as a young man and the eldest of a family of eleven living children, and being the only one with a trade, it fell largely to him to earn enough money to keep his family going.
He had an old two-stroke motorbike which used very little fuel and he travelled around all the engineering shops in the Sydney area looking for a days work. Eventually, he landed a permanent job, working a 12-hour night shift, seven days a week.
When I was young, he worked for the railways in the marshalling yards at Chullora and loved working on the big steam trains. He also loved driving one when he had to move it around the yard. He never wanted to work at anything else. Everything he did, he did well and could fix most things.
He loved his chooks too, and things weren’t good the day he came home from work to find his Rhode Island Reds staggering around the yard after Mum had dusted them with insecticide powder in order to eradicate lice.
Mum stayed somewhere else that night.
By Margaret Irwin