From The Dinkum Pommie (1963)

British-born painter Bernard Hesling arrived in Australia in the 1920s. In his memoir he describes his first sight of Bea (or Bee) Miles:

Nearing Macquarie Street a young faun-like creature, female (it could have been a boy except for the skirt), raced in front of us and, crossing the pavement, ran onto the road into the path of a slowly moving Bentley.

‘She’s a bit of all right,’ said Tom.

She was indeed, for instead of vanishing with a scream beneath the car, she ran with it and, getting a toehold in the Bentley’s complicated exhaust system, vaulted nimbly into the open tonneau.

‘D’you see that! … Does she know him? … Whoever is she?’ I asked, as the great car, pausing a moment from shock, roared into the twilight with the full-throated Bom! Bom! Bom! peculiar to blown Bentleys.

‘That’s Bea Miles,’ said Tom. ‘Everyone knows Bea.’

Today everyone in Sydney knows Bea, just as everyone did thirty years ago, but she looks a bit different, as we all do. Now she’s on the big side, gets around in a leather jacket, and is not so good at leaping on fast cars (although she still tries it). But then! Ah! then she was a faun.

‘Where does she live? How do I get onto her?’ I paused: was probably even blushing. She was a piece of all right, certainly, but to me she was a symbol. There couldn’t be only one Bea Miles – that was nonsense. Somewhere in this dreamy town there must be hundreds of such ‘look alive’ types, the sort I’d occasionally known in London.

Tom didn’t know where Bea lived.

‘Her father, old J.B. Miles, is president of the Rationalist Association, but he’d be the last person to know. Anyway, I couldn’t ask him. She’s…well, different, you know: lives any old place. You’ll run into her again, don’t worry!’

I did run into her and it was through Tom (by the luck that occurs constantly in Sydney); she boarded his Chev in George Street some weeks later and he, once over the shock, had the sense to scribble her address for me, as I made a point of seeing him on Sundays.

–Bernard Hesling, English, 1905-1987

Bea Miles 1

Bea Miles c. 1930s. (Randwick City Library)


Bea Miles 2

Bea Miles in her later years. (Randwick City Library)


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