A Tribute to My Sister Sadie Robinson


By Mary Hammill, August 2009

Many people who have known Sadie for many years are surprised to learn her name is Sarah, none more so than Joe her husband, when she signed the Marriage Register. “I’ll be calling you Sarah from now on” he said.

In Scotland where she was born, Sadie is apparently the diminutive of Sarah. (She had a cousin also called Sadie although registered as Sarah). Sadie continued to use the name she was so used to even in banking transactions, which recently caused a big problem for Terry, her son, as the bank refused to accept that Sadie was the same person as Sarah, until they unearthed an early record signed by Sarah.

Our dad served with a Scottish regiment in France in the 1914-18 war. In 1917 his lungs were so badly damaged by mustard gas, he was discharged and spent many months in hospital where he was advised to immigrate to the tropics. So, in February 1922, the family —mother, dad, Sadie 9, John 7, and Jim almost 3, arrived in Brisbane. In 1925 they settled in what was then Geebung, on land that had been a vineyard on the corner of two unsealed roads — no town water or sewerage, no electricity, no telephone, no public transport. It is now part of Wavell Heights.

Sadie studied Book-keeping but preferred tailoring and dressmaking. She enjoyed hockey, dancing and swimming. She literally dropped out of hockey when she was knocked unconscious by an opponent’s club. She was a member of one of the first Women’s Lifesaving Teams at Palm Beach. This entailed traveling at weekends in the open back of a truck, on hard benches, to practice life saving techniques in the surf at Palm Beach and to train for the annual State competition.

In addition to all her activities Sadie found time to help our mother with cooking etc. and looking after us, the young ones. I have a fond memory of her hushing me to sleep when I was three years old. She kept saying “mummy will be home soon”. All we younger ones loved our big sister.

Her love of dancing was not confined to the dance hall. When friends came around on a Saturday evening the old house shook as the verandah became a dance floor to music provided by the gramophone.

When she and Joe Robinson married, they bought a house in Rode Rd, Chermside about opposite where the bowling green is now. They had a small car and, to our delight, were frequent visitors.

Years went on and to their distress there was no patter of little feet in the house. As both Sadie and Joe came from large families this was puzzling. After five years Sadie was referred to a gynaecologist who cleared a blocked fallopian tube. A year later Terry was born and just over two years later Colleen arrived. What joy — a pigeon pair!

When many years later Sadie was diagnosed with advanced glaucoma it was a devastating blow. Joe provided physical and emotional support. He never complained so it was a shock when an operation revealed bowel cancer that had spread to his liver. He died within a few months in 1982. Sadie amazed us as she pulled herself together and managed on her own — even taking a bus to Toombul shopping centre regularly.

There she discovered a music shop where she took organ lessons and delighted in playing the organ. Her hearing deteriorated but faced with blindness she could not accept the possibility of deafness —“you all speak too softly” was her dismissal. By the time she agreed to a hearing test it was too late — she couldn’t cope with hearing aids, and so she sank into an ever darkening silent existence.

When dementia set in Terry and I managed to keep her at home until he became ill and I then I had to have a big operation. Colleen then took her until, after eight months of managing her on her own by day and broken sleep at night for the family, even the respite provided by the wonderful staff at Colthup nursing home, Ipswich, was not enough. To our tremendous relief Clifford House were able to accommodate Sadie and we can never thank staff and volunteers enough for their wonderful care.



Written by Mary Hammill, Sadie Robinson’s sister.

Sadie is one of the much loved residents in Grevillea ward at Clifford House nursing home, Kalinga, (Brisbane, Australia).