After some collaboration my mother and I managed to figure out the name and locate the nephew of my Grandfathers second wife. We were hoping that he would be able to answer some of the questions that we had about my Grandfather and his wife. Indeed he was able to help me out and he had some wonderful insights to add about their lives.
So a summary of what I learned. These are rough notes and will need to be put together and later possibly turned into a story. But for now it is a record of most of what I learned in a conversation over the phone after tracking down a relative of Helens. It was a lovely conversation that I enjoyed very much.
Helen Park, Ray Beans second wife was the person I will always remember as my Grandmother. By the time I was born Helen was my Grandfathers wife and she was known to me as Grandma. She always treated me like I was her grandchild and it wasn’t until I was much older that I eventually came to understand that I was not related to her and that Helen had never had any children at all.
Helens parents were George and Clara Park. There were six children. Of the children Ruth was the eldest, Helen was the youngest. George did in infancy, Stewart lived and married. Mary died when she was about 12 of diphtheria we think and Isabel was two years older than Helen. George, Helens father married twice. His second wife was Clara who was Helens mother. He divorced his first wife and had one son by that marriage.
Clara’s surname was Perdeaux and they were a fairly well off family. They owned a rubber company that made tires etc in Blamain, also a Balmain Ferry and an Engineering works. Up until about 1898 when there was a bank collapse.
George was one of 8 sons and he had three daughters of his own, Clara- Helens mother, May who married Bill Tilly and Alec who went on the land. George was by profession a dentist.
Helen and Ray knew each other from when they were quite young adults. Ray was running his photography business in the same building that Helen had her dress making business so they met that way. Later, after Ray left Linda, his health was not so good. He took a job doing garden maintenance and that was when he met up with Helen again. He was working as a gardener in one of the units that Helen was running her dress making business in. Helen was a dress maker from when she left school, apparently she had an excellent reputation and never had to chase clients, they came to her.
When Helen was younger and with her father, after her fathers marriage had broken up, as in George and Clara’s marriage, the family used to move around a lot. They never stayed anywhere for more than one year until they finally made a home at Westholme in Blaxland, which is now longer there.
George was a product of his time and an extremely religious Presbyterian who was very rigid. On Sunday evenings Clara would make dinner and then the kids would have to kneel behind their chairs for about 45 minutes while he said grace. By the time they had finished the food was very cold and they then had to eat it. When one of his girls became pregnant he refused to acknowledge the father even after they had been married for some years. However, he did acknowledge all of his grandchildren and was considered a benevolent grandfather by them who was always there for his children.
George ran a Public Lending Library near Waverton Station. It was called the Waverton Lending Library. In later life the girls would look after George while he was ill. At one time he got pneumonia and Isabel, the sister closest to Helen in age was looking after him. Apparently she though he was going to die. So she started giving away all of his stuff. But he got better so she then had to go and collect it all and get it back again.
Ray did a canoe trip down the Murray in about 1947. As a photographer his focus was the paddle steamers, some of those photos are still with Helens family. He did another through Central Australia at a later stage for walk about magazine. Many of those photos are still available in old copies of the magazines and through the NSW State Library. A few of them are on the flickr site attached to this website.
Ray ran a photography business out of his house in Lane Cove, taking pictures of houses for sale. He built up the business so he had four cars each with a photographer that would go around and take photos for him, each of those photographers was trained personally by Ray. Eventually the business grew too large for the house so he had a shop front on Longuevill Rd in Lane Cove. He then gave that up when he retired. He used to work with a consortium of Real Estate Agents and he would send his photographers out to take the photos of the houses for him of houses to show them to their best advantage for sale and rent. My father learned his own photography skills with Ray and worked for him for a short while, as did my mother who used to do their books in the early days of her relationship with my father.
Towards the end of his life Ray grew very sick. He had had many operations and decided that he did not want to continue to have more. Eventually he refused treatment and more operations as he had just had too many and he wanted to die.
For the last 10 years of his life Ray had had a new partner after Helen had died. He and his new partner had moved to Terrigal and enjoyed their retirement together. Lilian had been a long time friend of Helens. They were very happy together. Lilian herself passed away around 10 years ago.