Gwen Hawke – Her Story

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Gwen Hawke – Her Story

By Bev Moore

Dedications Photo / Articles from her loving Daughter Alicia Hawke, Mrs Beryl Patulo, Mrs. Wendy Lowry, Mr. Bruce Batten & Robert Wuachatsch

This story is a dedication to a warm and wonderful individual Mrs. Gwen Hawke, of   whom I had the pleasure of meeting for the first time at the Whittlesea Courthouse Visitor Information Centre where I, like Gwen were volunteers.

My very first impression of Gwen,  was and still is the same.  So humble and caring and always willing to advise and inform on matters pertaining to historical significance, such as the Whittlesea Courthouse.  Gwen as I learnt at the time was/is Research Officer for the Whittlesea Historical Society. 

It would be on one such occasion at the courthouse chatting to Gwen before she finished her shift,  at the courthouse on a particular afternoon, that she told me the story of the courthouse and how it  was saved from certain destruction.  Gwen began the story by saying it was so sad when the Whittlesea Courthouse was closed down in 1989 and how over the ensuing years, the Whittlesea Historical Society made countless attempts to contact those who may be able to enlighten them as to the fate of the building that by the 1990’s had taken on a look of certain neglect and was an eyesore to so many who passed by it on a regular basis or whoever just passing by.

Fate it seemed, lent a helping hand and no doubt divine intervention also played a part.   As a member of the historical society received confidential information that came out of the blue and totally unexpected.  This information was crucial and required urgent action. 

The Historical Society contacted the City Of Whittlesea and passed on the information without hesitation and the City Of Whittlesea took matters a step further by contacting the appropriate department within the Victorian State Government and would make an offer to purchase the building as a Visitor Information Centre.  The City Of Whittlesea were successful and immediately ensured that the building would be heritage listed to protect it.

The news came via the City Of Whittlesea to the Historical Society who were delighted and so grateful to the council for ensuring that the courthouse was safe and would forever remain a treasured piece of historical significance for all to appreciate and admire.

Gwen continued by saying that once the Courthouse was refurbished and opened again as a visitor information the Historical Society assisted as a subcommittee and overviewed certain aspects in relation to volunteer roster set up, promotional and advertising and an unofficial opening plan, where the newly restored building could be viewed by the public on a designated times during the week,  or by appointment.  This would remain until the official committee commenced with a business plan in place.  The Historical Society by this specific time welcomed and appreciated the new committee, they could now continue with the usual historical format.

 Gwen has worked tirelessly over the years and devoted so much of her time so generously to both the Whittlesea Historical Society and has arranged many historical displays in which she would model her costumes.  From the earlier times when the Whittlesea Historical Society were first founded their meetings would be held in a domestic home, as they did not have a place set aside for them to meet.  The Church of England would soon come to their aid in the 1980’s whereby they were able to hold a weekly evening meeting, on a once a month basis.

Gwen was always on the go with her researching but also appearing in period costumes to delight but at the same time educate on past historical trends and matters of interest.

Modern technology was still years away but Gwen meticulously maintained her filing system in hand written notes and in appropriate alphabetical order.  Should her phone ring with a request or a mailed item be read out at the meetings Gwen would follow up and report in response


During her many years with the Whittlesea Historical society, Gwen also wrote books in collaboration with Robert Wuchatsch who was the president of the Historical Society in 1983, also the year that Gwen was Secretary. 

Robert Wuchatsch wrote….

“Gwen Hawke, John Waghorn and I were all elected as office bearers of the Whittlesea Historical Society at the 1983 AGM. Gwen was Secretary, John Waghorn Vice-President and I was President.”

Gwen continued on as Secretary long after I resigned as President in 1991. She was always a joy to work with and achieved much during the many years of service she gave to the Whittlesea Historical Society.

Along with the normal duties of a Secretary, Gwen answered many of the family history enquiries we received; did most of the work (with her husband John) in setting up the City of Whittlesea Photographic Gallery (now sadly gone) at the Bundoora Park Stables; co-authored the Society’s 1988 Bicentennial book Historic Views of the City of Whittlesea with me; contributed historical articles to the Whittlesea Town Crier; and also with husband John, set up the Society’s annual display at the Whittlesea Show for many years. Gwen often wore her old time costume at the Society’s public events.

Gwen drew many new members into the Society with her ready smile and unfailing assistance to enquirers. I can’t recall when Gwen finally ceased as Secretary, so it must have been after I moved to south-west Victoria in 2006. The minute books would tell us.

For many years Gwen and Maureen Doyle, who Gwen recruited as Minute Secretary during the late 1980s, worked on a book about women in the City of Whittlesea. I was always amazed at the stories Gwen and Maureen were able to uncover.

The Whittlesea Agricultural Society would also hold dear and appreciate Gwen’s many appearances in her vintage costumes and view with pride her historical displays that were set up by her and assistance from her  many colleagues of the Whittlesea Historical Society.  On one such occasion at the Whittlesea Agricultural Society Show in November 1996 Gwen attended a display in costume and this was recorded with 8mm video camera and later converted to digital media.   The Antique’s and Collectables” displayed by the Whittlesea Agricultural Society were rated above excellent as the display always attracted a huge crowd.  Gwen would appear at times in her costume and walk amongst the spectators who were always eager to ask questions on the costume she wore but also the collectables that were the property of the Whittlesea Historical Society.

When I first mentioned to Alisha and Gwen Hawke via email that I was intending to write about her, both were delighted.  “Mum knows she is loved” replied Alisha, “but has really no clue about how much she was loved, admired, thought of, and relied upon around the traps”. 

My sincerest hope that after posting on the Whittlesea Historical Society Website, Gwen will be more than just a little aware.

Some members of the Whittlesea Historical Society have provided their own special thoughts, pictures and articles, and to which I acknowledge and thank them sincerely.

 Wendy Lowry, Beryl Patulo, and Bruce Batten.  Rob Wuchatsch

Indeed a highlight for so many who know Gwen and even those who had only just met her, was her unique sense of style in the way she dressed in her period costumes. There were no airs or graces with our Gwen as she was far too modest to indulge in self appreciation.

 Should an air of so called self importance ever show it would be when Gwen dressed in one of her many vintage outfits and when she felt it honourable to the ladies of that era, to do the costume justice.

I had the privilege of playing a role with Gwen on the occasion of the 150th Birthday celebrations of the Whittlesea Courthouse.

Gwen decided that we both should have “titles” to  match our wardrobe,  hence Gwen became “Lady Lyncraft” while I in plainer type maid outfit, “Mistress Of Plenty”

As we strolled along Church Street Whittlesea, on that beautiful sunny day, the passing traffic alerted us to the fact,  as car horns honked in unison at times,  we were the center of attention by the appreciating public, the majority who were on the way to participate in the 150th Year Celebrations that had been meticulously planned and organized by the Managing Committee of the Whittlesea Courthouse Visitor Information Centre.

We were also welcomed warmly by representatives of the Whittlesea City Council as we approached the Whittlesea Community Activity Centre, where council had arranged a special morning tea.

See photos  provided by Bev Moore, Mrs Gwen Hawke.

As the years passed by the Whittlesea Historical Society would hold many displays at various venues and their work on the displays prior to opening was one of exhaustion.  Not having  a home base meant that many members would need to gather together their stored items that were the property of the Whittlesea Historical Society and deliver them to the venue.   The preparations were exhausting and I speak from experience but I would also admire the team effort of many of the Historical Society Members who felt a certain high degree of responsibility in the transferring of the items for display and the removal of them at completion of.

The Committee meetings of the Whittlesea Historical Society were able to conduct evening meetings at the premises of  the Church Of England for some years, and would later hold Sunday meetings on a once a month basis at the Whittlesea Community Activity Centre in Laurel Street Whittlesea.

During 2019 and prior to Covid the WHS were invited to apply for use of the boardroom at the premises of the Whittlesea Bowling Club, Church Street Whittlesea, free of charge.

Gwen at this time had decided to step back a little from her role as Research Officer, but is always on hand and available to share her knowledge and expertise for the society.

During the years Gwen has endured family sadness and grief but has managed to always maintain her delightful and humble attributes.  We at the Historical Society miss her presence but it is always a lift to our spirits when we can view her on a chance Zoom Meeting, compliments of the retched Covid.

Although Gwen was in attendance for the daily meetings held  for some time at the Community Activity Centre, Laurel Street, Whittlesea and prior to that at evening monthly meetings that were held by curtesy of the Church Of England, Wallan Road, and more recent meetings that are now held at the Whittlesea Bowling Club, Church Street, Whittlesea.

Included are special thoughts, memories and photo’s of Gwen from her friends and colleagues of the Whittlesea Historical Society

Mrs. Wendy Lowry wrote

“Gwen Hawke has an incredible passion for history and enthusiasm to help and share her knowledge with others.  She was instrumental in conducting excursions and events for the Whittlesea Historical Society.  She helped research many a query and published several books and articles for the Society.   She also visited schools dressed up in her olden day clothes and talking to the children of days gone by.” 

Mrs. Beryl Patulo wrote

“I have known Gwen for many years including her extended family.  When Alicia was a young girl. Gwen was always ready to assist you with any enquiry you had regarding Whittlesea area history, her knowledge was profound.   I admire her for the work that she did, time spent, it was her love of history that kept her busy.  Sad that Gwen and Maureen did in the research  on the women of the area didn’t get into print.  A lovely person, I know at Will Rook Cemetery one day, she even said “don’t stand on that flower” it is “such and such” which I can’t remember now, but her interest in wildflowers was also knowledgeable.  It is great to be able to be part of  “Gwen’s Story”