Penelope Margaret Dawe
14 May 1963 to 11 June 2022
Hello, my name is Andrew Dawe, I’m Penny’s older brother, and it is an honour to deliver Penny’s eulogy today.
Penelope Margaret Dawe, also known as Penny, Penster, Penny Girl, Dolly, Penny Anydots, Penny Farthing or mostly just Pen, was born on May 14th1963 to Margaret Dawe (nee Bone) and Robert Dawe at the Memorial Hospital, North Adelaide. Margaret was a devoted housewife and Robert an accountant with the Adelaide Advertiser by day and by night an up-and coming Bass Baritone in the local and national classical music scene. I was about 2 1/2 years old at the time. To say mum was overjoyed at Penny’s arrival would be an understatement. In a thank you note to her sister-in-law Jan Borgelt who, incidentally was a midwife at Memorial Hospital at the time, mum wrote;
Dearest Jan, Have been wanting to write to you ever since receiving your gorgeous letter…My cup is full and overflowing to think that my dearest wish was granted - to have a darling daughter to bring home to Rob and Andrew…(Thank you for) your beautiful flowers and simply adorable card…I only hope little Penelope will be as gorgeous as the little darling on the card. My little pet is so tiny….she’s doing everything right. Penny Farthing is her nickname.Hope you can find a minute to pop in.
My special love to Des and Richard - Marg.
Penny was the fifth grandchild of Lewis and Dorothy Dawe (Nanna and Puppa), Fourth grandchild of Edward Leanore Bone, and niece of Ted and Joan Bone, Peter and Sue Dawe, Jan and Des Borgelt, and Rod and Roney Hutchison.
Mum and Penny soon came home from hospital to our new house recently built in the (then) outer eastern suburb of Rostrevor. 212 Montacute Road became the home of mum, dad and TWO KIDS, and life settled into a “new normal” for the Dawe family. As you can imagine the home was filled with music and Penny developed a love of music and singing from an early age.
It was soon discovered that Penny had been born with a cleft plate - there was an opening in the roof of her mouth. This resulted in her having difficulty drinking and I can remember her sitting in her highchair trying to drink milk and seeing it trickling from her nostrils. In due course, Penny underwent surgery to repair the cleft palate at the Adelaide Children’s Hospital. It was a complete success.
In her pre-school years, Penny became a serial flower-girl. The premier engagement was as a flower girl for the wedding of Aunty Roney, dad's younger sister, and Uncle Rod Hutchison (affectionately known by family and friends as “Noddy”). I remember at the reception Puppa trying his best to control the unruly kids running up and down the stairs - by that stage we as a family had acquired one or two more cousins to play with.
Penny attended Stradbroke Infant School then Stradbroke Primary School where she made many friends.
1967 saw the arrival of our young brother Matthew. As a four-year-old Penny would do her best to help mum look after Matt. Penny took on the role of“mother hen” - something she would become known for in later years. She and Matt became very close. To Penny, Matt became known as “WeedyBro”.
On dad’s side, we were fortunate to have a very close extended family. When all was said and done there were thirteen grandchildren, Penny being the eldest girl. She took the little ones under her wing and they looked up to her as the grown-up girl of the family. As cousins, we all got along really well and are still very close to this day. When leaving family gatherings, as the car was about to reverse out of the driveway we would always reach out and touch whoever was outside the car and call out “Last Touch” - a tradition I attribute to Great-Aunty Mary. Penny and I as adults would always end our phone conversations with - “Last Touch!”.
On mum’s side, we would often get together with mum’s brother Uncle Ted and sister-in-law Aunty Joan at their place in Fulham, west of Adelaide. We loved visiting our cousins Sandra and David and in our early teens I remember us all cramming into Sandra’s bedroom - she had her own record player and pop records! Penny adored Sandra. She is a little older than yours truly, and to Penny was so grown up.
Penny’s Puppa, Lewis Dawe, a former Tenor and national performing and recording artist, was the founder of the Adelaide Harmony Choir which put on regular concerts at the Adelaide Town Hall. The choir was like a second family to us. We would always “go around the back” afterwards. There was a certain rhythm to the calendar in the Dawe household. St Matthew Passion at Easter, and The Messiah at Christmas (with Dad often a soloist), but the highlight for the kids was the Harmony Choir Carols held a few days before Christmas. As a grandchild you couldn’t just front up to the Carols - you had to qualify! You had to be old enough to sit still and sit quietly for the whole evening. Penny soon joined us. We would excitedly search for relatives in the choir - Nanna in the Sopranos, Penny’s great-Aunty Mary in the Altos and Uncle Des in the Tenors. Puppa would stride out to the conductor’s podium, welcome distinguished guests, etc. then proceed to read out the names of all the children and grandchildren of choir members who were present. We all waited excitedly for our names to be read out - feeling very special indeed.
In 1971 we embarked on, quite literally, the trip of a lifetime. Dad took time off from the Advertiser to undertake studies in music and packed up the family and headed to London for a year. On a warm January evening we departed Port Adelaide aboard the Angelina Lauro for Fremantle, then on to Cape Town, Tenerife in the Canary Islands then (a very chilly) London. We settled in a terraced house in Barking Essex and Penny and I both attended school at Barking Manor. As a family, we made the most of every spare minute - on weekends often piling into the maroon Ford Anglia Estate, with one or two school friends along for the day, and heading off sigh-seeing. Much of it was captured on Super 8 home movies which would be enjoyed for years to come.
Home from England and after a brief stint renting in Prospect while our new house was being built in the (then even-more outer) north-eastern suburb of Banksia Park, Penny attended Banksia Park Primary School and then Banksia Park High School. She loved singing and took part in the schools Festival of Music concerts at the Adelaide Festival Centre. She took up recorder which is not uncommon for school students, but then took things one step further by taking up the oboe in high school. I can’t help but think that the inspiration behind this decision was born from the St Matthew Passion, specifically the aria/chorus “I Will Watch Beside My Jesus” which features oboe throughout. By now I had my driver’s licence and mum, who hated driving, had handed hers back in. Part of the deal for use of the family car was to drive Penny to private lessons with oboist Noel Post in the city. Penny would enthusiastically head inside while I sat in the car listening to Rock music.
In November 1980 tragedy struck. Our dear mother passed away suddenly from heart disease at the age of 47. Her death sent shockwaves through the whole family. How could someone so kind and gentle be taken so young? Of course, Penny was severely affected by mum’s passing - it was a lot for a 17year old to contend with. Penny set about looking after Dad and making sure the household kept running smoothly.
Penny finished high school and attended Adelaide University, graduating with a Bachelor of Music Performance. We were all extremely proud of Penny - she had worked so very hard. The wide world beckoned and Penny was offered a place in the ABC Sydney Sinfonia - a training orchestra for young musicians. She thrived in this environment as a full-time musician and made many enduring friendships while consolidating her knowledge.
Nearing the end of Penny’s year with the Sinfonia the government established the Teachers in Training Pilot Programme, with a wind quintet to be based in Bendigo. Penny applied and was soon off to Bendigo to join the Victorian Wind Quintet. It is here she formed what was to be a life-long friendship with her then next-door neighbour Carol Taylor, a school teacher. They literally lived at each other’s units and became very close. Penny was really enjoying life in Bendigo but unfortunately, was about to learn a harsh lesson about being a professional musician - that of job insecurity. Funding for the programme was suddenly withdrawn and Penny was out of a job.
She headed back to Sydney and picked up casual playing jobs here and there. One such job was to deputise for the oboist in the pit orchestra for the Sydney production of Les Miserables. Penny was later offered the oboe chair which she readily accepted and the rest - as they say - is history. She played extended seasons of Les Mis in Sydney and Melbourne, then toured with the production nationally and to New Zealand. She went on to play many different shows across Australia, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong including productions of Phantom of the Opera, Miss Saigon, The King and I, Aspects of Love, Beauty and the Beast, Sound of Music, Cats, and Wicked. Whenever she was in town Penny would generously take family members backstage to meet cast and crew - she knew everyone by name….and I mean everyone. On many occasions I had the privilege of sitting next to Penny in the orchestra pit, reading the music over her shoulder as she played. These would have to be some of my most cherished memories. The passage she loved the most, and where she really shone as a player, would have to be the oboe solo in Les Miserables known as “TheSewers”. Everybody loved her beautiful sound. Her colleague, clarinetistStuart Byrne recently recounted asking her how she produced her vibrato on oboe - whether it came more from abdominal muscles or more from the throat or mouth. She answered…
“It comes from the heart, Stu.” With that, she smiled and laughed with that great laugh of hers.
She developed a strong bond with Musical Director Peter Casey and his wife Catherine, and while in Sydney formed a special friendship with French Horn player Debbie English, her husband Trumpeter Dan Williams, and their children, some of whom are now brass players.
Penny shared a flat in Sydney with theatre manager David McDonald and they became life-long friends. The flat became a drop-in center for the whose-who of the musical theatre scene and Penny took on the role of the hostess with the mostest, her signature dish being her corn relish dip -simple but scrumptious. One day while walking through Darling Harbour shopping precinct Penny came across the novelty souvenir booth. Being in a playful mood she looked at the selection of coffee mugs where they superimpose your face onto a celebrity body. She went ahead and got the dolly Parton mug complete with cowboy hat and ample bust. From then on she was known as Dolly Dawe. And the relish…….Dolly’s Dip!
Work took Penny back to Melbourne and in about 2003 Penny moved in with her friend Carol, husband Bill, and children Kaitlin and Bethany who had relocated to Craigieburn in outer Melbourne. Penny became 2nd mum to the girls, educating them on babycinos, all things music.
By 2010 Penny was struggling with the grueling pit orchestra schedule. With eight shows a week blowing an oboe at this rate was taking its toll. Penny decided to take a break at the end of the Melbourne season of Wicked. Carol was promoted to a senior teaching position in regional Victoria so they all relocated to the Buninyong/Ballarat area, Penny having her own unit a couple of blocks away from Carol, Bill, and the girls. Penny’s Place became a second home for Kaitlin and Bethany. Both Carol and Penny took in international students - Penny was host mum to Selena from China andSonoko from Japan. They would often dine at Carol’s and it was common to have 12 at the table.
During this time Penny took a small business course and it is here that she met a young man named Austen Maiger - otherwise known as Happy. They became the best of friends and would help each other out at the drop of a hat. She also did the long country drive to Adelaide as often as she could, catching up with friends and relatives and enjoying time at the beach as often as possible
.In 2015, after a hospitalisation, the girls growing up, and struggling to find work, Penny was offered accommodation in Maryborough throughWintringham Housing. In a recent letter Penny wrote;
“Having family in Adelaide and having worked in Sydney and Melbourne for years then friends in Buninyong and Ballarat as well, I really didn't fancy starting over again, but the opportunity was too good to refuse. So I moved to Maryborough knowing absolutely no-one!”
Penny embraced life in Maryborough and soon made many friends. She found work as a volunteer at the Maryborough Hospital as their WelcomeAmbassador - someone to greet nervous surgical patients and escort them to the day surgery suite. I couldn’t think of a better person for the job with her beaming smile and positive attitude. Sadly the job was discontinued with the outbreak of the Covid pandemic.
Penny quickly made friends with her Wintringham neighbours, Del, Jeanette and Lorraine who will miss the long chats over morning or afternoon tea and their shopping trips, and neighbour Bill who will miss his weekly treat of Pennys home made cup-cakes delivered fresh from the oven.
Penny became a member of St Andrew’s Uniting Church and was very active in church activities and administration. Legend has it that on Sundays in winter Penny would get up, walk across to the church, turn on the heating, walk back home and get ready for church - she didn’t want the older members of the congregation to be cold.
She also loved the cinema and was a member of the local Casablanca MovieClub.
We will all very much miss you Penny…….last touch!