Mary Hollingworth, Glen Innes
As featured in the 2018 Country Web Annual.
What is your background?
I grew up in a noisy Catholic family with a strict father. For as long as I can remember, I was responsible for something or someone, and as the eldest of seven children under nine years there were always many jobs to do.
We had a property east of Glen Innes and my father worked long hours for what seemed like little reward. When I was 11, my mother went back to full-time work due to the 1970s cattle recession. As the eldest I seemed to be the one responsible for all of my siblings. It was always a case of making do, missing out, or making something out of nothing.
In my final two years of school I had the opportunity to go away to boarding school. For me, recognition and rewards seemed to come with another job completed or success at school so that’s what I strived for. I remember how exciting it was to have a store bought dress layered with frills for my Year 12 formal at the princely sum of $15. I still wear it today and I still love frills.
My first job was at the local pharmacy, followed by a stint in Sydney before returning home to be married at 19. While raising three children I worked the property with my husband; drenching, mustering, spraying, pulling calves and doing paperwork.
Ten years ago I landed a dream role as the administration assistant for the Australian Celtic Festival based in Glen Innes. In my ‘spare time’ I volunteer in the community, participating in local groups and working bees and catering for a myriad of organisations. This work has been truly rewarding.
What did you want to be when you left school?
My parents thought I was smart enough to be a doctor and so this was the view I took. Deep down however, I felt from my strict Catholic upbringing that marriage was the ultimate success, and so I wanted to be the mother that I always wanted to have. Getting married seemed to be the pinnacle of success, so it was with great sadness that my marriage did not stand the test of time. Now, many years later, I know that marriage is only one of many life choices, and one that is best enjoyed with another career.
What would you tell your 18-year-old self, knowing what you know now?
Believe in yourself and accept the help and guidance offered to become educated, with the ability, courage and knowledge to make wise decisions. Don’t be in a rush to be an adult and enjoy being a teenager. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. The harder you work the luckier you will be in life. It is the simple things that matter most in life. And finally, it is in giving that we receive.
Who has inspired and supported you along the way?
My great Aunt Gaga has always been my mentor. She was remarkable in all regards and in my eyes could do anything; from cooking, changing oil, sewing and mending family relationships. She always loved, encouraged, thanked and taught me. She laughed with me and made me feel like she had all the time in the world for me. Gaga had this amazing ability to see opportunities where there seemed none, and this was her greatest gift to me. From her resting place above, she is part of the fabric of my daily life and has truly shaped who I am today.
My children continue to inspire me and bring me great joy as they carve out their own lives. I am so proud and inspired by the new initiatives and practices they implement, their ability to make the intergenerational changes of a family business work, and the choices they make for a balanced rural family life.
Special female friends are a wonderful part of my life and each friendship is a gift and blessing in itself. It seems that a chat, coffee, cry and some chocolate can fix most things. The great joy of female friendships inspires and supports me daily.
What have your experiences taught you?
To always be positive and look for the opportunities in every chapter of life, even the ones that seem overwhelming. That small things, small gestures, and small acts of kindness are big things and their value should never be underestimated. I have also learnt the value of really making do by upcycling, and saving up for something really special.
Some of my biggest and hardest lessons can be summed up in the prayer of St Francis of Assiss, ‘God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference’. This is such a powerful mantra and truly has given me graceful courage during some very dark days. Yes the challenges have at times seemed insurmountable, but the love of my children has paved the way in moving forward.
I have also learnt the tremendous value in seeking professional guidance, from financial and personal help, to help from service providers such as the Rural Women’s Network. These services are invaluable to rural women and families and for many of us we owe them such a debt of gratitude.
What has been your biggest triumph?
Being a mother is my biggest triumph. I remember each pregnancy and birth as if it was yesterday. I truly love being a mother, mother-in-law, and grandmother.
What does being a rural woman mean to you?
For me, being a rural woman is like creating a splendid and crazy patchwork quilt. You start with a pattern but pretty soon the pieces don’t fit and you alter, adjust or take it out altogether. The original pattern may have been perfect but probably lacked soul. My ever changing pattern has given me untold opportunities and has enriched my life in a way I never dreamed possible.
Being a rural women means I am resilient, resourceful and reliable. Relationships are paramount, distance is no barrier, weather will always feature in the conversation and, like a girl guide, I am always prepared for the unexpected. Mostly though, it means I am richly blessed every day in my rural life.
Where to next?
Days ahead will be shared with family, friends and community—the reasons for the seasons of every day of my life. And I have now found the marvellous joy of friendship with a soulmate, so it seems life is truly wonderful for this rural woman.