Saturday, January 17, 2015

Bohemian Melbourne Part 2

When we moved to our East Malvern semi detached house in the early 80s, our neighbour in the attached house knocked on our front door and presented us with a tray of piping hot scones. Her timing was perfect. We were exhausted and hungry after our moving endeavours and we quickly devoured the scones.

She was a good neighbour to have and we had many a pleasant conversation with her. In fact, nearly a daily conversation. While she could not see us enter or leave by our back door, she could see the back door open or close. "Is that you Andrew?"  "Is that you R?" She would then stand on her box beside the dividing fence and chat with us. Sometimes it was a pain but mostly the chats were welcome. I used to buy The Age daily and she bought The Sun and we swapped papers by tucking them into a crack in the fence, which is how we alerted her daughter to both her first and second fatal stroke. The Sun was not put out for us and The Age remained untaken.

Every few months she would invite us in for canap├ęs and a glass of Amontillado. In such a chatty situation, over time, she divulged some of her life, including her, shock horror, her bloshie anti authority daughter who was married to, lower the voice, an Indian, and her  famous brother, the artist Albert Tucker. Her other daughter is perfectly nice and now owns a picture framing business in Northcote. Her Indian son in law and her brother Albert visited at least once that we saw. She would take them to the smart French restaurant at the bottom of Waverley Road to dine, now an Indian restaurant we occasionally patronise.

So we knew rather a lot about Albert Tucker's life, before much went into print and was widely known by the those in artistic circles of that time. Mrs Sutcliffe told us all about Sweeney Reed, who was certainly featured in the Bohemian Melbourne exhibition at the State Library, along with his Reed parents and his biological parents.

Albert Tucker was part of the Heidi artistic set, with patrons and the Heidi property owners, John and Sunday Reed. Albert Tucker married fellow Heidi artist Joy Hester. Joy bore their son, Sweeney, but Albert was not content with a conventional artist's life in Melbourne and moved to Paris. Joy became very unwell and died at a young age. While checking details, I learnt that Albert made a caravan in his small Paris apartment, piece by piece and lowered it from the window for later assembly. Funny. Albert in Paris and Joy unwell but kind of deserted him, left Sweeney with John and Sunday Reed who subsequently formally adopted him. He was very nice looking and married, and his wife had two children, but as Mrs Sutcliffe couched it in ever so subtle terms, perhaps Sweeney should not have married. Perhaps he was not the marrying kind.

Sweeney with his wife and son.


Sweeney with a friend, a photo taken by his bio father, Albert Tucker. There was a lovely colour photo of Sweeney at the exhibition, but it does not seem to be online.


Sweeney suicided in 1979, and just couple of years later we learnt about him and his famous antecedents from Mrs Sutcliffe. While it is a disjointed and disconnected exhibition at Victoria's State Library, you will not regret a visit to the State Library exhibition  Bohemian Melbourne. There is something there for you, going right up to the years of the pop group Skyhooks, who were anything but bohemian. .

There is a good piece about Sweeney in The Age, 2002.

22 comments:

  1. Andrew, having good neighbour is a fantastic possibility. But som Polish said "Fences make good neighbour. And I think it is true.

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    1. Gosia, I know what you mean, but I like for neighbours to be friendly, just not too friendly.

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  2. Some parents must have an inkling of the future when they give their newly born exceptional names such as Peregrine and Sweeney, or perhaps they generate that future by the names they choose.

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    1. All in the genes, I think Victor.

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  3. I have read about Joy Hester, Sweeney and the Heidi set. With a great deal of interest. I wouldn't/couldn't live their lives but they do make fascinating reading - and it would have been a delight to chat to your neighbour.

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    1. EC, I agree, good to read about. She was very interesting old style middle class neighbour, but ahead of her time with her ultra healthy diet, which ultimately did not seem to do much good.

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  4. Those kinds of neighbourly interactions are rarer living in an apartment. Everyone seems to keep more or less to themselves.

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    1. It is an unfortunate fact, Ad Rad. The we got to knew people in our block is by being on the owners' corporation committee.

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  5. I will definitely go and see the Bohemian Melbourne exhibition, thank you. But I haven't seen any advertising for it. Do you think we are still a bit humiliated by literary and artistic types who wore sloppy clothing and got involved in spouse swapping?

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    1. Hels, I don't know how you have avoided advertising for the exhibition. I don't think we are at all humiliated by our artistic types and if those in the Mother Country want to roll their eyes at us, so be it.

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  6. I had never heard of the Heide, so I have been reading about it and what went on there. Very interesting. When I read about a poetry hoax, I had to look that up. Wow. You've heard lots about it living here, I would suppose. The Ern Malley hoax?

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    1. Strayer, people my age and who are interested would know a bit but the general population, especially younger people, would know very little. The Ern Malley hoax was a terrific bring down to the pompous literary world. Max Harris, who was a great newspaper columnist and the principal victim of the hoax, tried to explain it away that as they were poets who published the nonsense, they could not help but compose well.

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  7. How lucky for you to have had your history/culture lessons straight from the horses mouth all those years ago Andrew.

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    1. It was quite a privilege Cathy and stimulated my interest.

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  8. Loved this post Andrew.. The newspapers in the fence such a good way to keep track of an older neighbour. Sweeny was very handsome, I can see how he would be attractive to both men and women!

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    1. Grace, it wasn't our intention to monitor whether she was ok or not, but the papers turned out to be very useful. I clearly remember the alarm we felt when she had her first stroke and we noticed the newspapers had not been swapped.

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  9. I bet the chins were wagging with the neighbour :) It's wonderful to have good neighbours, you both were very lucky. We have good ones whom we don't see very often at all, but they are there if needed as we are if needed.

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    1. WA, I don't think you could ask for much more from neighbours these days than what you have. It's probably all you want too.

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  10. i'd love a neighbour like that. I speak to some of mine here, but not my immediate ones. They all keep to themselves.

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    1. Maybe you scare them, Fen :-P

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  11. StJohn Reed had an antique shop in Lt Bourke St near McKillop St cnr in 1966. Heide is a great place to visit - big park, sculptures, multiple galleries and the old house with great library and garden. The entrance drive does come up suddenly though, as you hurtle through the big intersection.

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    1. Been a couple of times Em Stacks. I think we shot past the entrance. http://highriser.blogspot.com.au/2007/06/heidi.html

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