Book of Life Stories

My Story – Margot Bailey

Margot Bailey

BackgroundFirst I am going to tell you something of my background. All of my ancestors who came to Australia migrated from England in the 19th century and they mostly came direct to South Australia. In 1849 my maternal great great grandparents John & Rachel Myers arrived in South Australia. Also in that year my paternal Gentile great great grandparents, Charles and Harriet Bridgland, arrived here. In 1850 other Jewish maternal great great grandparents, Joseph and Julia Hains, came to South Australia. My other non-Jewish ancestors, my great great great grandparents William and Sarah Wigzell, arrived in 1860.

Some of my ancestors lived first in eastern colonies of Australia before coming to Adelaide. Two of them were my great great grandparents Samuel Barnett and Sophia Saunders. They were also the great grandparents of Helen-Tversky Steiner, John and Alan Lipert, and also Mark Bloustien and Michael Shnukal. My paternal Jewish great great grandparents, Henry and Elizabeth Cohen, settled in Sydney in 1853. Their eldest son Lewis and his wife Selina, nee Marks, came to Adelaide
in 1876.

ParentsI was born at Glenelg in 1930. My parents were Betty and Walter Bridgland. My mother was the younger daughter of Sol and Ray Saunders. My father was the only child of Hannah and Harry Bridgland. Hannah was the elder daughter of Lewis and Selina Cohen, later Sir Lewis and Lady Cohen. Harry was a Gentile. His step-father was Vaiben Louis Solomon, a prominent Jewish businessman and politician. Although Walter’s mother was a Jewess Walter was not brought up as a Jew. Before he could marry Betty at the Synagogue in Synagogue Place, off Rundle Street, on 9th April, 1929, he had to receive instruction in the Jewish faith, learn Hebrew and be called up to read a portion of the Torah in Hebrew. The Chief Rabbi of the British Empire then sent a certificate from London certifying that Walter was a Jew.

Most of you know my husband, Keith. We have three children and eight grandchildren. I have a brother, Michael.

Childhood
My childhood was extremely happy. I was the first grandchild and great grandchild, and I was greatly fussed over. We lived near the beach at Glenelg and I have happy memories of daily swims in the summer with my father and of surfing at Moana with my father and grandfather Bridgland.

Education
For twelve years I attended Woodlands Church of England Girls Grammar School. Other Jewish girls were also students there and it was accepted that I would be absent from school on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. I have never experienced any obvious anti-Semitism and realise that I am most fortunate in being able to state that fact.

After I left school I attended the Art School of SA part time, and also commenced a Diploma of Arts and Education at the University of Adelaide. Soon I realised that I did not have enough talent to make my living as an artist. However, watercolour painting is still one of my favourite hobbies. I completed my Diploma of Arts and Education, majoring in Politics.

Paid Work, Voluntary Work and Social Life
During my teenage years and in my early twenties I led a busy social life. Also I followed my family’s tradition of being active in a voluntary capacity in community organizations. The first function I ran was a small fete when I was eleven years old.

In 1953, the year of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, my mother and I flew to England via the Pacific Ocean and the United States. My father joined us a few weeks later. While in London I was Presented at Court. It was great fun. This was an Afternoon Presentation in the Throne Room at Buckingham Palace.

After returning to Adelaide I did a typing course, then I became the Organising Secretary of the Young Liberals in South Australia. For several years prior to this I had been active in the Young Liberal Movement. Part of my job was to go to selected areas and form Young Liberal branches. This involved a great deal of speech making, often on the same platform as Federal and State Cabinet Ministers. Through this work I met a great number of interesting people, including Sir Robert Menzies and Sir Thomas Playford.

My father was a member of the Adelaide City Council for twenty-six years. He was Lord Mayor for two years and was active in over thirty organizations. My mother was also active in many organizations. Sometimes if my mother had a previous engagement or was in ill health I deputised for her as my father’s hostess. I enjoyed doing this as it gave me the opportunity to meet many interesting people. On one occasion I wore out a pair of gloves having my hand vigorously shaken by members of visiting sporting teams in Adelaide for a carnival.

Marriage
Keith, who is a dentist, and I first met in 1952. He had an x-ray machine and was asked by my dentist, who did not have one, to x-ray one of my teeth. I have never let him forget that he failed to turn on the power and I had to return to the surgery the next day for a repeat performance. Soon after Keith and I met he went to England for three years to further his studies. We met twice in England but did not get seriously interested in each other until 1957. After we became engaged Keith’s mother told us that her mother had been taught to fry fish, using a Jewish recipe, by my great grandmother Cohen in about 1911. I expect Keith was looking for a girl to marry who could fry fish like his mother did. Little did he know that I had never ever fried fish until after we were married. I must do it to his satisfaction as we have been married for forty-three years.

When we married I gave up my paid position, as most girls did in those days. I was fortunate that I had plenty of household help and, even with three children, I still had time to assist my parents at social functions and work for several organizations. From 1984 to 1991 I was on the committee which established Camp Quality, an organization for children with cancer, in South Australia. I also did several courses, including some on investing and on computing.

Why I Became a Member of Beit Shalom
Now how do I happen to be a member of Beit Shalom instead of the Orthodox Shule where my parents, my maternal grandparents, my paternal great grandparents and some great great grandparents were members?

From the time I was a very small child with my parents, brother and Saunders grandparents I attended the Orthodox Services. The Synagogue Sanctuary was very ornate and very beautiful. The women of course had to sit in an upstairs gallery. Women did not take any part in Services, neither did they serve on the Board of Management. There are still no Orthodox women rabbis. For most of the time I attended Services there the gallery railings were of open wrought iron and I was forever being told to keep my legs together. Later the lower railings were backed with wood. The Services were very long and nearly all in Hebrew – very boring for a small girl.

My father was in the Army during World War II, part of the time in New Guinea. When he went away I was a child, when he returned home I was a teenager. Before the War we had the lovely ceremony of Lighting the Shabbat Candles on Friday nights. During the War there was rationing of petrol. We could go to Saturday morning Services occasionally by car and often I went by public transport. However, in those days, no public transport ran on Sunday mornings, and I was seldom able to attend classes at the Synagogue. I did some correspondence lessons on Jewish Festivals and traditions, but no Hebrew.

In 1944, together with several other girls, I was confirmed at the Synagogue by Dr. Alfred Fabian. This did not take place during a Saturday morning Service but during a Shavuot Service. We stood in front of, not on, the Bimah, and read a prayer and the Ten Commandments, in English.

When I was in my teens I spent several holidays in Melbourne with my aunt and uncle, Rebie and Reg Hains, and attended Services with them at Temple Beth Israel. These Services, with so much of them being in English, were more meaningful to me than the Services at the Orthodox Shule. I also liked the equality of the men and women – it was good not to be on a segregated balcony. I decided that when a Liberal congregation was established in Adelaide I would join it, which I did. This was in 1964 when Rabbi John Levi visited Adelaide for that purpose. Our first Service was held in the basement of the Masonic Temple on North Terrace.

Keith is a Christian and an active member of his Church. He has always supported me in my involvement with Beit Shalom and I have supported him in his Church activities. It was Keith who encouraged me to attend Hebrew classes here, first with Rabbi Ian Morris, and then with Rabbi Lenore Bohm. Rabbi Bohm’s classes were part of a course she was running for women preparing for conversion, and I thoroughly enjoyed these classes. I felt very proud the first time I was called up for the Reading of the Torah and was able to read the Blessings in Hebrew – without using the transliteration!

Thank you for allowing me to share My Story with you.

Margot Bailey
Prepared for the Shabbat morning Service at Beit Shalom Synagogue, Adelaide, 21st July 2001

Addendum
Joseph Hains arrived at Port Adelaide in the “Troubadour” on 30th March 1850. Recent research indicates that he later returned to England where he married Julia Delevante on 7th June 1853 in London.

On 20th September 1858 the “African” arrived at Port Adelaide with only nine passengers, one of whom was Julia Hains (nee Delevante). Joseph is not listed on the passenger list. Was he a member of the ship’s crew? Julia’s parents Moses and Ester Delevante were also passengers on the ship. They were my great great great grandparents. The small number of passengers may indicate that the “African” was a cargo ship.

Margot Bailey, 28th April 2003

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