Gwen Dyer: Barry Dangerfield

From the Eulogy delivered by Rev. Barry Dangerfield on behalf of the family

Gwen married Keith Dyer in 1948 and they sailed to Taskul, New Hanover, Papua New Guinea, where he was the Patrol Officer in Charge. Gwen learned to speak and write Pidgin fluently and enjoyed the respect of the indigenous people.

She quickly adapted to a house with a grass roof, walls woven from bamboo, frame bush timber, no fitted doors or windows, just spaces. Water was trapped from two sheets of galvanised iron flowing into an aircraft belly-tank. That shower caused a lot of fun and sometimes embarrassment when the Administrator came to visit. JK Murray was in the shower when the rose head came off causing a cascade of water and a crash against the unsupported flat iron divider. He was an environmentalist and he appreciated the effort they had made to develop eco-friendly measures on the station.

Gwen also learned to do the daily radio Schedule to Headquarters; ordering and issuing stores; keeping an eye on police prisoners, and the labour line. She filled in when Keith and the officers were away.

One of the distinguishing marks of Gwen was the fact that there was rarely anything that fazed her. During the 63 years of marriage they moved 16 times, including 12 places in PNG. They were filled with happy memories. There was a wealth of experience gained in places like Kavieng, Madang, Bogia, Hoskins, Goroka, Mendi and Port Moresby, to name but a handful. The older children had to be taught by correspondence, so that was fitted in between caring for the home with the ever faithful Karolina; catering for the unexpected and regular visitors and developing a herd of goats. She would use the milk and also slaughter one for meat. Visitors were known to ask for a second helping of lamb, Gwen having cooked it and served it so well.

Gwen’s circle of friends was ever expanding with people of all races and colour and religion, even prisoners. The list of visitors at Hoskins for the three years they were there was legendry, averaging nine a day with three a day to accommodate. Their home was like a motel with bed and breakfast, but often going for the full serve all day. Her greatest of many friends was Tina Leo, one of the Gangloff family who had befriended Keith 20 years earlier in Kokopo. Tina had a trade store, was the local baker, aand taught Gwen how to cook Chinese meals. She was a great help to Gwen when she had to entertain. Gwen and Tina maintained a beautiful 40-year friendship, and she often stayed at Salford Waters on her visits to Australia.

She loved the chance to travel with Keith and kept a sense of humour under trying circumstances. One day she was upset when her son Peter was given 100 lines to write out for a misdemeanour that Gwen thought was quite stupid. A few days later the teacher accepted a gift of some fish from Gwen and when he left, the fish was still on the door step. He was bluntly told by Gwen to write out 100 lines, “Thou shalt not leave fish to rot on the District Commissioner’s doorstep.”

They had 10 years at Port Moresby through self-government, independence, the marriage of their daughter, and the birth of their first grandchild, before retirement to Australia in the mid 1980s.

Gwen excelled in multiple sports and represented PNG in the South Pacific Games. Their children were all born in the PNG: Lynette in Kavieng, John and Peter in Madang, and Mark in the Lutheran Hospital Wapnamunda (Enga Province). They were home schooled by Gwen with correspondence lessons. John was only a few days old when a volcano was erupting near Bogia. Should the people be evacuated? Keith went off to assess the situation with a vulcanologist. Now, in the meantime, Gwen met a friend who was a charter pilot, and she and the baby arrived at the airport, but so did the vulcanologist. He had preference, so Gwen started home on a small pinnace which broke down at sea, and that was the start of a 10 hour horror trip by canoes and walking, arriving home tearfully and in the dark with a four-day-old baby.

The Queen’s coronation was celebrated in style in PNG and Gwen made a significant contribution to the big event. Gwen often accompanied Keith on patrol, and had many stories about snakes and crocodiles and other creatures. She was alone at Saidor shortly after Peter was born, while all the other expats and her two elder children were away at a picnic when the rain began to pelt down. It was impossible for the picnickers to get back over the flash flooded creek. There was a call for help, so Gwen gave an order to the police to release the prisoners to go and get the party home. They did and she never lost a prisoner.

She entered fully into community life, and made lasting friendships in the twelve coastal and highland station employment locations. When the Dyer family returned to Victoria Point, Gwen was active in service for Blue Care, Lifeline, the Victoria Point Uniting Church, Meals on Wheels and Neighbourhood Watch.

Gwen’s welcoming hugs, good humour and smile will be long remembered. Gwen will be greatly missed by her husband Keith, the extended family and her many friends.

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