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Authors: Mary-Anne O'Connor

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BOOK: Gallipoli Street
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The winter sun of France shone across her fields and nurtured the sleeping poppy plants, now fed by the blood of men who had become a part of her earth.

And, as the builders sorted through the rubble of her cities, two lovers found their way out of the debris at last, and into the hope of a new life.

Author's Note

Gallipoli Street
is a work of fiction and although it is based on true events in history, artistic license has been employed at times to ensure cohesion is maintained.


Some of my fondest memories revert back to childhood when I would pore through my mother's marvellous book collection, pick a world to fall into and curl up on the couch with a nice red apple to do just that. I knew even then that I wanted to write, to fill a tome of my own one day, and wonderful heroines like Josephine March and Anne in her Green Gables taught me that in order to make that happen you need to write from the heart; to write what you truly know.

Now, due to my wonderful publishing family at Harlequin, I hold my own novel in my hands at last. I like to picture my readers curled up on their couches, falling into this world, and feel grateful for the people who made it possible, not only the publishing staff (Annabel and Sue – you are an author's dream come true), but family and friends who share my life.

So much of this novel comes from my heart, so without them there would have been little to say.

For example, the relationships between mothers and daughters. How could I have written a word about maternal love if not for the first-hand experience of my own mother's gentle care and patience? Dorn Best, you instilled in me a passion for literature and I would never have become a writer without it. Thank you also for the many, many hours of editing and discussion. This is our book.

Then there's Dad, a man who began his professional creative career at the same age as I am now, becoming a successful and much loved artist. Kevin Best, you taught me to ‘follow your star' and showed me first hand how much happiness that can bring. A father's faith and love echo in these pages because of you, just as they echo in my heart forever. My inspiration, my hero.

To my beautiful sisters, sisters-in-law, nieces and girlfriends, how could I have written about the bond of sisterhood without you all? Thank you for the hours of reading, dissecting and discussing and for inspiring some of the main characters herein. (Perhaps our girly lunches could encompass more than one subject from now on!) In particular, Theresa Meury, my real life muse and confidant, and Benison O'Reilly, the voice of reason and my personal mentor, thank you for believing in me.

To my brothers, brothers-in-law, nephews and ‘mates', thank you for teaching me what the latter truly means. I could not have imagined what our forefathers endured without understanding the ties that hold men to such depths of loyalty and bravery. Nor could I have imagined how vital a part humour played in keeping them going. Those words are born from you. (A special mention must be noted to my brother James for helping his poor sister understand some of the finer points of warfare. I now know that WWI tanks could not swing and aim at one particular man with accuracy, not even one as villainous as Gregory Chambers. A machine gun would have to suffice.)

To my large, wonderful, Irish-Catholic Australian families, how could I have written about such an upbringing without you? I am sure you have recognised some first-hand memories embedded in the story and thank you for sharing them with me. (And yes, Nana was ‘witchy'. How she ever knew Uncle Jack was coming home from war that day is anyone's guess and yes, she did enjoy the term ‘ugly man's dog', bestowing it on Uncle John Colgan on more than one occasion.)

To the community I live in, Hornsby Ku-ring-gai, how wonderful it felt to write about our home in days gone by and how grateful I am to have been born and raised, ‘barefoot and unencumbered', in the Bushland Shire. I hope you all enjoy envisaging it as it was during this era as much as I did researching and writing about it.

To my husband Anthony, it is only because of you that I could find the words to express what enduring love truly means. Thank you for being the safe, warm centre of my world. Additionally, without your patient support while I tapped away for thousands of hours this novel could never have eventuated. (Sorry about the many requests for cups of tea and for hogging the computer. I'm sure I owe you a boy's golf weekend or two).

To my children, James (Jimmy) and Jack, you make every day brighter and give meaning to everything I do. I can only imagine what it must have been like to send a son to war and my deep love for you made such contemplation possible. I am so grateful to live in times of (relative) peace and pray that you never have to fight or give your life for Australia. You are being raised in a land where democracy reigns and freedom of speech is your right. You have your forefathers to thank for that and may you never take it for granted.

Thank you for being patient while Mummy locked herself away and for being not-so-patient sometimes and giving me cuddles and little boy chats. Love you my angels.

And so to my last acknowledgement: the Anzac generation, in particular my maternal grandparents, James Dennis Clancy (my Da) and Gladys Mary Veronica Clancy (my Nana).

Gallipoli Street
is dedicated to these two amazing people and, although this is a work of fiction, some elements of their story have wound their way into my tale.

To begin with, James did serve in Gallipoli. He joined the army, not as a Lighthorseman, but as an infantryman when he was only seventeen, four years underage. James soon found himself at the Mena Camp in Egypt. Tales have been handed down of a young man climbing the pyramids at sunset and enjoying himself with his mates in the Wazza district during time off. Like the character Jack in the novel, he received a silk scarf from King George whilst in Cairo and wrote his rank, name and date on it that day. They remain there still, in one hundred year old ink, for our family to trace in wonder.

James was shipped across to Gallipoli and endured horrors he would never speak of to my mum or her sisters. ‘Little girls don't need to know about things like that'. She believes it never left him and he carried some of those unspoken images for the rest of his days. Whilst there, he nearly lost his life to dysentery and was evacuated to Cairo where he received an honourable discharge. However as soon as he was able to he rejoined, because, as he said to my mother years later, ‘you can't just leave your mates to face it alone'.

James served in the Somme, a bloody, muddy business, the only highlight of which was sharing Christmas Eve with the German soldiers, swapping cigarettes and playing soccer on that famous night in history. He never forgot it and spoke of it often to his children. Soon after he was injured, receiving nasty shrapnel wounds that needed immediate surgery, however they had run out of morphine. In the end James had to be knocked out by drinking large amounts of French champagne. He survived, again, was discharged, again, and rejoined, again.

James served out the war in the Middle East and returned home to marry the girl with the curls whom he had long admired in mass, Gladys. This spirited young woman had spent much of her formative years on a dairy farm in Beecroft and had been known to race a cart along a dirt track on occasion. Although five years his junior she matched him in every way and could find a hidden penny no matter how hard he tried to trick her, even the one hidden in the bedpost. They struggled through the Great Depression living in Braidwood on a small farm and using a dug-out anthill for their oven. They had eight children, one dying in infancy, and managed to get through those difficult years living on rabbit and panning for gold in the creek, with James travelling wide and far for any carpentry work he could find.

They returned to Sydney and after a time Gladys fell in love with a house on a hill with a rose garden and a wide verandah. It was situated on Gallipoli Street in Hurstville. It is family folklore that she used every bit of willpower and a fair dose of prayer, even burying a holy medal in the garden, to get that house. She succeeded, and it was by all accounts the happiest days of their lives living there, marred only by a new development shadowing over them: World War II. Their son Jack tried to join up underage but the army turned him down. Ironically James was offered the role of sergeant at a training camp for underage soldiers at Liverpool and Jack was sent there to be trained under his father's tutorage. Uncle Jack tells me there were merry times at that camp as he played guitar and his dad played the fiddle and many an impromptu party ensued.

The parties soon ended, however, and Jack was sent to New Guinea. One day a telegram arrived and Gladys had to sit and wait all day for James to come home from work as the postmaster wouldn't let her open it. Jack had been injured but would survive. Not so his brother-in-law. Iris, their eldest daughter, received a telegram on Valentine's Day. At the age of only eighteen she was informed that her husband Wally had been killed. She was seven months pregnant with the family's first grandchild, my beautiful cousin Daphne.

The war ended just as James and Gladys's other son Des finished his training as a pilot, and both boys lives were spared in the end.

My grandparents spent the rest of their married life together in Gallipoli Street. One day their second youngest daughter rang from the hospital to tell them they had a new grandchild, one of many by then. Her name was Linda Jayne and she was born on Anzac Day.

‘What a beautiful name,' James said to Dorn. They were the last words he ever spoke to my mother. James passed away in his sleep a few days later.

Nana lived to a great age and saw great-grandchildren and even great-great-grandchildren come into the world. She was the kindest woman I ever knew and never, ever complained about anything, despite living through such turbulent times. She passed away surrounded by her loving family and I believe she and Da watch over us all.

Such were my grandparents. Such were these years in my family. Such were the Anzac generation to me.

Thankyou for giving so very, very much and for inspiring these words, firstly, in my heart.

Lest we forget.

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ISBN: 9780857996169

Title: Gallipoli Street

First Australian Publication 2015

Copyright © 2015 by Mary-Anne O'Connor

All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilisation of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including xerography, photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, is forbidden without the permission of the publisher:

Harlequin Enterprises
Level 4, 132 Arthur Street
North Sydney NSW 2060

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

MIRA and the Star Colophon are trademarks used under license and registered in Australia, New Zealand, Philippines, United States Patent and Trademark Office in other countries.

For questions and comments about the quality of this book please contact us at [email protected].

BOOK: Gallipoli Street
8.95Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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