Since stepping down from vice-regal office, the former governor-general has been travelling with people she loves to places that left a mark.
Ballycastle, Northern Ireland
2014: My husband, Michael, and I made our first visit to Northern Ireland in July 2014. The weather was glorious and we drove leisurely through picture-postcard villages. I was on a mission to explore some family history in Ballycastle: my great-great-grandfather, Thomas McCauley, was born in 1812 in Ballintoy and, as a young man, settled in the Wollongong region [of NSW]. Ballycastle is a charming rural seaside town on the north-eastern tip of County Antrim, surrounded by beauty and steeped in history. We followed winding narrow roads to Moyarget Woods, Turraloskin and Knocknagoran [in Ireland] – places where the McCauleys farmed. Helpful people in Ballycastle put us in touch with the local historian, the library, the museum, churches… there are McCauleys everywhere! Our family loves to gather in Austinmer, near the NSW South Coast. It’s easy to see why Thomas settled there. It’s beautiful – so like the place he came from as a lad.
2015: Last April I travelled to Japan with my eldest granddaughter, Alexandra, 15, for cherry blossom season. We made our base a hotel in Tokyo Bay with splendid views – magic lights across the city at night. Each day we set out to see the gorgeous pink and white blooms in parks, gardens and avenues, stopping to wonder at their beauty and perfume. Alexandra is a talented art student so we gave priority to museums and galleries, marvelling at the aesthetic of Japanese culture, the exquisite attention to detail in the tea ceremony, the presentation of food. A highlight was a visit to the GK Design Group’s studio – famed for its designs of high-speed trains and Yamaha motorbikes – and we loved the shops in Ginza, where Alexandra found groovy gear for her twin sisters. The best bits for me were late-night conversations with my very dear companion after long days in a rich culture.
2015: In May I took my daughter, Revy Bryce-Browning, to a very favourite place in Central West Queensland: Winton. As we flew into the birthplace of Qantas I thought of my mother, a city girl setting out to take up teaching there in 1932. It was where she met my father. My parents loved the west; it’s where our family was formed and it remains very special to us. How terrible to see the devastation of the drought, to sense first hand the anxiety and stress affecting communities desperate for rain. I was invited to launch Stage 3 of the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum of Natural History, where you can join a dig or drill a bone – both are addictive tasks! The landscape is enormous; magnificent wilderness surrounded by cliffs, boulders and gorges. Its grandeur and beauty touch my heart and give me a sense of belonging. ￼
Inspirations, a free exhibition of the works of William Robinson, curated by Quentin Bryce, is showing until June 26 at the Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane.