From mountain home to garden village, Dorothy shares her love of community
Community has been an important focus of life for Dorothy Sherratt since her years lived in rugged and icy conditions in the Snowy Mountains during the construction of the Snowy Mountains Hydro Electric Scheme.
Seventy-two years after the start of the scheme, Dorothy is still building community from her home at Bolton Clarke’s Westhaven Retirement Village.
“In a lot of ways the Snowy Mountains community was just like living here – it had the same community spirit,” she says.
An engineering tracer and talented artist, she arrived in Australia with her engineer husnamd from England in the late 1940s.
“Initially we moved because we answered an advert in the paper for engineers in Australia. My husband had an uncle in the air force and word got round that he was looking for work, so he was encouraged to apply.
“We spent five years in the Snowy Mountains before heading back to England for four years.
“When we decided we wanted to come back, we were asked ‘how soon can you come?’
‘We had one month to sell the house and get our affairs in order.”
They sailed from England on the 4 January 1956 on the SS Orcades.
“We were able to attend the ’56 Olympic games when we arrived, and on the way, we were on the ship for a month with all the lords, ladies and earls. That was where we first met Queen Elizabeth, the Duke of Edinborough and Prince Charles.
“My husband had dinner on the ship with the Duke of Edinborough along with all the other senior engineers.
“It was a whole other world! The cabin hands would knock and say ‘madam, your bath is ready,’ and dinners were always eight courses - we never got through it all! The ship rocked so much that they had to dampen the tablecloths so the plates wouldn’t slide, and when we danced after dinner, we’d slide from place to place as we danced!”
Their second encounter with Prince Philip came when he made an informal visit to the Snowy Mountains Scheme.
“I helped draw up the plans for the Duke’s tour in 1958,” said Dorothy. “They built a house on the mountain just for him.
“But it wasn’t an official visit, so we didn’t receive any signed letters or gifts. He did tell the engineers that he and Charles made buildings out of matchsticks – and he asked all the men what their hobbies were.”
Dorothy says life in the mountains could be challenging but rewarding too.
“Sometimes the snow would bank up against the door so that we’d have to climb out the window to get out of the house.
“We found ways to entertain ourselves, including putting on a production of Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, and built a wading pool out of concrete for the kids to swim in.”
In the late 60’s, Dorothy spent four years attending art school in Sydney.
A talented artist, she now runs regular craft groups at Westhaven.
“I’m teaching a few of the girls needle felting - you paint with your wool, and you can add actual paints as well if you want to fill out your imagery.”
She says life at Westhaven is wonderful, especially since she was able to keep her dog Bonnie by her side when she moved in.
“We love it here,” she says. “Bonnie is very intelligent and loves to go for a walk around the village with me.”