Thursday 9 April 2009
Hansard of the Legislative Council
Contribution to Tasmania from Mrs Doreen Jewson
Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Thank you, Madam President, for highlighting my guests today, Doreen Jewson and Frank and Kate. Welcome to Parliament House. Doreen is a very interesting character. She is Irish and grew up in a little town called Lisnaskea and her father was from Northern Ireland and mum was from southern Ireland, so you can imagine the fun that ensued with debates over the kitchen table. In her time growing up there was no TV; you made your own entertainment and had your own concerts, so there was plenty of singing and dancing in the family home and throughout the town.
Doreen came to Australia in 1971. As a child she had a job in Bangor and she and a friend snuck off to a gypsy to have their fortunes told. The gypsy said, 'You'll cross the water over and over but you'll live further a field', and that is what she did. She came out to Australia in 1971 but kept going back to Ireland for visits. Eventually she came to Tasmania for a weekend and never looked back. She loved Tasmania because of the fresh air, plenty of room and it was a great place to relax.
In the 1980s, Doreen saw a need for more live entertainment around Launceston so she formed the British Isles Social Club in 1988, with the aim of bringing together a number of entertainers, both amateur and professional, to provide live entertainment and concerts for those who would normally not experience them. Many of these free shows were in nursing homes and others were at a variety of public functions. Doreen organised scores of charitable concerts in the north, north-east and central Tasmania, raising funds particularly for the Red Cross appeals.
Why call it the British Isles Social Club? It is perhaps a slight misnomer because Doreen was keen that the organisation not be confined to people from the British Isles but that it be a celebration of our community, our Tasmanian-ness and our Australian culture. It was so named because it was formed after Doreen returned home after almost a year in Britain, where she attended an Irish club started by her brother in London. It attracted entertainers from Ireland and, as Doreen put it, plenty of singing and dancing. She missed all that on her return home so she decided to develop a club in Launceston. It began slowly, with a newspaper advertisement, and received a big boost when members decided to sing God Save The Queen as Queen Elizabeth entered Launceston's Civic Square. The Queen heard them, noticed them, came over and stopped to talk to members of the club, and asked them to let her know how they got on. When photographs with the Queen appeared in the Examiner the next day, as Doreen puts it, the phone never stopped ringing. Everyone wanted to join the British Isles Social Club.
Former State cabinet minister and Speaker Dr Frank Madill was invited to be their compere and he compered their first formal show in Launceston. As we know, Frank has an irresistible urge to perform anywhere. He became part of the entertainment at that and numerous other shows. Speaking of entertainers, Doreen even enlisted me at the ABC to help promote some of the shows. I remember the success of an on-air appeal that we had for corgis to join a look-alike royal family in an old-time musical hall presentation at Launceston's Festivale in 1989. Of course I take no credit for this, but 22 corgis turned up for auditions for the two star roles so many disappointed corgis were turned away.
It is obvious that Doreen Jewson's initiative, borne out of that longing for song and dance at a London Irish club started by her brother and others, has entertained thousands of northern Tasmanians who would otherwise have missed out, those in nursing homes, migrants trying to understand our culture, Launceston Festivale patrons and people who just happened to be walking by. The British Isles Social Club also has done wonderful things for its members, amateurs and professionals, allowing them to perform and to fulfill the club motto, 'We are happy to help others', and happy they have been.
Doreen Jewson was the driving force. Now she has retired to Bridport - and we are all growing older, aren't we, Doreen? - and sharing her life with her son, Frank, and Kate. There will be no‑one like her to drive a similar initiative, I am sure. Our community will always produce people with vision, energy and determination to fulfill community needs that no‑one else has noticed. Doreen Jewson deserves recognition for what she has done for our community.
Members - Hear, hear.