The magic of photos and memories – 67 years on from Rabaul 1952.

It’s an image woven into our family tapestry of memories, stories and personal lore.

A special guard of honour by girl guides for our parents’ wedding in Rabaul, New Guinea, nearly seven decades ago.

Mum was “Miss Harris” to the guides she led and those she taught at Rabaul’s Sacred Heart School, before becoming Mary Louise Uechtritz by marrying Alf Uechtritz at Saint Francis Xavier Catholic Church on April 26, 1952.

Except for her own mother who then lived in Rabaul, none of Mum’s family or friends from her homeland England had been able to make it to the wedding – so she had everlasting fondness for those who helped ensure her special day was indeed special.

Now, sixty-seven years later, I’ve had a pleasant, surprise catch-up with two of those whose smiling young faces have been peering out at us for all those decades.

Last Sunday I was a guest at the PNG Chinese Catholic Association Christmas gathering in Sydney. PNGCCA president Dr Dennis Chow organised a delightful family ‘reunion’, introducing me to Eulalie (Woo) Chow and Helen (Lee) Yun.

The girl guides visiting our family plantation Sum Sum

I was thrilled that Eulalie and Helen both remembered that day well and also the visit by the girl guides to our family plantation Sum Sum on the south coast of New Britain (see photo). Also, that they were able to name most of the other girls in the picture. Some of them are still with us and perhaps they will see this post.

Mum taught on and off for many years in PNG and eventually became deputy commissioner of the PNG Girl Guides – but she always reserved a special favouritism for those first Rabaul roles in the country she came to love and cherish. 

Mum’s previous teaching role – her first after university in London – was at the British Council in Prague, Czechoslovakia. She went straight from ice skating on Prague’s frozen river to being wooed on the Beehives on tropical Rabaul’s harbour by Dad.

She passed on last year and recently, in September, we laid hers and dad’s ashes to rest in our family cemetery at Kuradui, near Kokopo.

It would have been lovely for her to meet Eulalie and Helen. It’s a nice thought, however, that she’ll have joined in heaven others in the photo including the guides head girl, the late Philomena (Ning) Seeto, picturing standing next to my father in the photo.

The wedding photo identifications include Mary Rose Chan (kneeling left next to bride), Eulalie Chow (kneeling right next to bride) and Rita Chow (kneeling far right). The three standing in the second row on the left , left to right, are Doreen Woo, Lucy Chee and Louisa Chan. Behind them in the back row are, left to right, Rosemary Chow, Josephine Woo and Philomena Seeto. On the bride’s shoulder at far back is Clare Chee, unknown, and Helen Lee. In the second row standing on the right are Dorei Chan, Margaret Woo and Dorothy Chan. It would be good if the correct names could be also added to the photo at Sum Sum.

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