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 canapés 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.