Friends And Memories From Australia In The 60S

Jan Leeming

Shoreham 2007

Shoreham Airshow 2007
Me looking brave before taking to the air (and the wing) of the plane. Wow, it was cold !! But the whole experience was totally exhilarating.

 

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Jan's Blog

Computers and the internet are amazing things. One of my concerns with putting together this site was that it could remain current, yet with all my travelling I've often much to say, but little time to say it. Years ago when reading the news it would take me days on end to reply to the kind letters people sent. Now, with the magic of the modern age, I can keep you up to date with what I'm doing and other events in my life.

FRIENDS AND MEMORIES from AUSTRALIA in the 60's

Date: 22nd November 2010

I keep talking about coincidences - well one of the strangest happened the other day.

I had managed to make contact with Australian actor, Peter Whitford (Strictly Ballroom apart from a huge list of achievements) with whom I was on tour in 1964 taking potted Shakespeare to the Bush in New South Wales.  

Not only are we meeting up but he's also bringing along another two members of the little troupe - Charlie Little (married to daughter of Robert Morley whom I interviewed and had lunch with in the late 70's) and Peter Rowley.  We think that Mark Albiston, our leader, has died, and we don't know what happened to Tony Crerar who hailed from Wales and the other female member of the troupe - Laura James.

So there am I all excited and what plops into my Inbox a few minutes later but this - and I did ask permission to share the correspondence with you.

 

Hello Jan!

I don’t expect for one moment that you have any memory of all this, but I have just been reading your blog reminiscing about your time in Australia in the sixties and just had to share this with you.

I was a schoolgirl of 16 at Narrabeen Girls’ High when you visited the school playing Portia in the Arts Council’s production of The Merchant of Venice. It was my first exposure to Shakespeare and I instantly became your biggest fan - (and maybe first???) After seeing the wonderful performance I was inspired to write to you – a fan letter I guess - and joy oh joy, received a reply, which was beyond my wildest dreams!

Being a bit of a hoarder of precious things, I still have that letter and thought you may enjoy my sharing it with you after nearly fifty years! It just may bring back some fond memories of your time on tour!


“C/- The Arts Council of Australia
165 Crown Street
SYDNEY

6th of June 1964

Dear Christine

Many thanks for your letter which I received yesterday when we arrived here in Walgett. No, I hadn’t forgotten you or the little chat we had. I’m afraid to say I still haven’t received your first letter to me but who knows, it might catch up somewhere on tour. As you can well imagine, this business of touring is a bit of a shambles – we don’t know whether we are coming or going half the time and as for our mail – well, it has to be seen to be believed. I get letters from my family in England that have four and five postmarks on them before they finally reach me.

Answering your questions – I’m flying back to Sydney for TV on Sunday June 14th but after that I’ll be away in the bush again until about the 24th July. The Company then returns to Sydney where we have five weeks of touring the Sydney schools until the end of our contract on August 21st. The young lady at the Arts Council certainly had got her data a bit mixed up if she told you we were going to Queensland – a Young Elizabethan Company does go to Queensland but it is an entirely different company, thank goodness, New South Wales is quite enough of a job!!!

I’m highly honoured that you should think of framing a photograph of me but the one in the programme is quite vile – I’ll have to send you a better one as soon as I can lay my hands on any but at the moment all my belongings are in storage and I haven’t a single photograph with me.

Yes, I did live at Collaroy, but only for a very short time as it was really too far from Sydney for someone without a car. At the moment I’m virtually homeless because of being on tour – but I hope to find a flat in Sydney when the tour ends – that is, of course, if I don’t decide to go home. I love Australia very much but sometimes I feel I’d like to see and be with my family again. Anyhow, we’ll have to see what happened work-wise when the tour ends – if I’m still alive to tell the tale!! We’re going over some pretty rough country at the moment – dirt roads, kangaroos, mud tracks etc etc. We even went to Lightning Ridge today and I was thrilled to see the opals and watch them being polished. The people at the Ridge are fascinating too – really Australian – which is what interests me most in this whole tour – seeing how other people live, visiting places of interest – there are simply hundreds of things I find exciting. Most of the boys are fairly blasé about kangaroos, Lightning Ridge and the like, but they’re all very new to me.

I must bring this letter to a close as I have to write home and if I don’t take the opportunity of writing letters when it presents itself I never know how long it will be before I have another chance.

Once again, thank you for your sweet letter.

Yours sincerely

?Jan Leeming.”


I’ve been following your blog with delight for a couple of years and was very keen to read “Addicted to Love”, which of course wasn’t available in Australia, but being determined, I obtained it recently when I asked a friend who was visiting England to bring me back a copy! What a wonderfully honest book - but I guess there’s not much point in writing an autobiography if you’re not totally honest. I was very touched and found tears running down my cheeks as I was reading it! I enjoyed it so much. One of those books you don’t want to end. Perhaps there will be a sequel??

Wishing you only the best things in life

Fondest thoughts
Christine Maver

 

So what about that for a coincidence!

In the old days, cameras were not very good but I will post a photo of yours truly (and a lot more plump) and Tony Crerar at Lightning Ridge - the Black Opal Fields at Walgett in Northern New South Wales.  The Fields resembled the surface of the moon.  It was a fascinating visit and is the one and only time I met an Australian who wore corks strung out around his hat.  I was offered the most gorgeous Black Opal for £30 - but between us we couldn't  raise that amount in cash and a cheque is no good on an Opal Field.  I've often dreamed of that gorgeous Opal - it was round like a marble and looked like a Coal Fire with Flames.  Heaven knows what it would be worth now.

 

FRIENDS AND MEMORIES from AUSTRALIA in the 60's

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