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Offshore account

Much-loved local Margaret Molloy’s connection to Little Lovett Bay extends 45 years; now she’s preparing to celebrate the 25th anniversary of it being her home.

“Get a water taxi,” says Margaret Molloy when I ring her about visiting, “the ferry doesn’t stop at Molloy’s Wharf anymore.” With the exception of Michael and Lynne Clay at Elvina Bay, Margaret Molloy is the longest resident of the Western foreshore, and Alex, who operates the Pink water taxi service from Church Point to Pittwater’s offshore communities, describes her as “absolute salt of the earth”.

She grew up on the NSW South Coast, and wanted her two sons to have a similar coastal experience. So in 1970 she and her husband Tom came with a real estate agent to look at a house on Scotland Island. “That’s not us,” Margaret told the real estate agent, who then took them over to look at the boatshed and a block of land on the foreshore here. “That’s what I call ‘a weekender’,” Margaret exclaimed when she saw the little wooden building, which she later described as, “leaning over a lopsided jetty like a drunken sailor”. They bought the boatshed, and that was the family weekender until 1992, when Tom and Margaret moved here permanently.

The boatshed was washed away twice during that time, and until they raised the floor it used to get wet every time the tide came in. But their two boys spent their holidays and weekends growing up with the bush at the back door and the water on their doorstep.

“It made them who they are today,” says Margaret. Her oldest son Scott is a technical officer with the University of Newcastle who is developing an electrical process to convert waste materials, such as toxic refrigerator gases, into useful products. While her younger son, David, operates a yacht charter business in the Whitsundays. When Tom and Margaret decided they wanted to make Little Lovett Bay their permanent home they asked local Lovett Bay resident architect, Richard Leplastrier, to design a house for them. In the 1960s Leplastrier worked in Jorn Utzon’s office assisting with the documentation of the Sydney Opera House, and shares with Utzon a similar love of creating buildings in keeping with the surrounding natural world.

“I rang Richard, and he agreed to design it,” Margaret recounts, “but he said, ‘I’m working on the Opera House and it’ll be eight years before I can start.’ We were happy to wait eight years, and when the time came he sat up on the hill for three weeks doing sketches.” Sadly, Tom Molloy died in August 1993, soon after their 35th wedding anniversary and the blessing of the house which was finished soon thereafter.

The simple, stylish wooden structure sits on the side of the hill up from the jetty and boatshed. Flames are licking a couple of large logs behind the glass window of the wood-burning stove in the corner of the main room and Margaret’s piano sits up against the main wall. China cups and plates are arranged on a large tray, and we sit having morning tea at a round table overlooking the bay. “What I love most about Pittwater is the peace,” reflects Margaret. In the same breath she points out a young wallaby on the hill behind the house.

The goes immediately to the kitchen, cuts up a carrot, and calls it down to her. Margaret celebrated her 85th birthday on May 22. “I had my Pittwater friends in for drinks, about 60 people, and everyone brought food. One friend came with a large board, and the figures 8 and 5 made from little marshmallows with a candle in every one.”

Margaret is the youngest of six children. Her grandfather owned newspapers and her father inherited the Shoalhaven News (now the Shoalhavean & Nowra News). One of her brothers drowned, aged 19, and her father died in 1946. Margaret was a young teenager and moved with her mother to her grandmother’s house in Sydney. Then from 1949 until she married at the age of 27 she lived with her oldest brother, Bert.

She became a fundraiser for The NSW Society for Crippled Children, joining the Nunyara committee to raise funds for a meeting room for older children. It was while she was making a fundraising speech that she caught the eye of Tom Molloy. “We called this house Nunyara. It’s an Aboriginal word meaning ‘a place of peace’.

“I married the most marvelous man, and he thought I could do anything,” says Margaret. As a result, she has never been afraid to take on a challenge. One was accepting her nephew’s nomination of her for secretary of the NSW Debating Union. Soon after, the Salvation Army suggested a prison program called Rehabilitation Through Education, and for six years she taught debating in maximum security prisons.

Although she never thought she would become a journalist, she has written and taught writing for much of her life and is author of several books, including A Century of Flying Sailors about the Sydney Flying Squadron. She attended Prince Charles and Lady Diana’s wedding in St Paul’s Cathedral as a journalist for the Shoalhaven News, as well as the marriage of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson. She also represented the Sydney Journalists Club at the 100th anniversary of the London Press Club.

In 2009 Margaret received an Order of Australia Medal for her service to the community of West Pittwater, which was presented to her by the then Governor of NSW, Honorable Marie Bashir, who said at the presentation: “This is for 55 years of voluntary service to this great nation of ours.”

She has been a member of West Pittwater Community Association since 1970 and is considered an integral part of the Western foreshore.

In the 1990s, the West Pittwater Rural Fire Brigade wanted a boat, but the Rural Fire Service Headquarters were not willing to give it one, so Margaret became the driving force to raise $30,000 to build one.

“I was asked to launch it, and when I enquired what the boat was called, I was told you weren’t allowed to name a fire boat. Having broken a bottle of champagne, and said, ‘God bless this craft and all who use her’ I was told to uncover the hatch. There on the hull was written ‘The Margaret Molloy’.”

“At a meeting years later it was announced that the Rural Fire Service Headquarters were giving us a new boat. Someone asked what would happen to the old one and was told, ‘We’re going to wait until she dies, then put her in it and scuttle it to make the Molloy fishing hole!’.”

- Story by Rosamund Burton

 

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