From This Fair Country (1951)

The British journalist and broadcaster Godfrey Winn went in search of British suburbia in 1951. ‘I was in the very heart of suburbia, and isn’t life there considered by some to be the cemetery of all youthful drama, the burying ground of all ambition, the apotheosis, on the other hand, of all convention?…So the modern school of psychiatrists are never tired of telling us.’

At number 20 Firgrove, Kingston-upon-Thames, London, he found the Pegg family. Mr Pegg was a senior tax inspector who was treasurer of the Green Lane Tennis Club, Mrs Pegg was a homemaker (‘I can honestly say that I have never envied anyone anything – not even our neighbour’s show of tulips last year’); and their grown-up daughter Marion taught handicrafts at Wimbledon Art School and was saving up for a Baby Morris. One member was missing, in an exotic-sounding location:

The family produced a cable that had just arrived from their son, now married and doing splendidly as an engineer, in Australia. The cable had been sent in birthday greetings to Marion, from Turramurra. Whereupon, I found myself repeating the name aloud, like a mystic invocation – ‘Turramurra, Turramurra’ – as I asked the three remaining members of the family whether they were not eager to set forth on a visit to New South Wales themselves, to this far-off place with the strange and challenging name. We take the road to Turramurra.

At once the father answered as though for them all: ‘I shall be very happy to spend the rest of my days in Firgrove’, he said quietly.

I can understand why now.

–Godfrey Winn, British, 1906-1971

Marcell Seidler, Untitled (Rose Seidler's house at Wahroonga), 1951, Art Gallery of NSW.

Marcell Seidler, Untitled (Rose Seidler’s house at Wahroonga), 1951, Art Gallery of NSW.

2 thoughts on “From This Fair Country (1951)

  1. Bear in mind this was during the period of post-war austerity, when rationing for some things was worse than during the war.

    Since reading this, I can’t help wondering – what ever happened to young Pegg? He’d be in his eighties now if he’s still alive. Did his family join him in the end? Did he ever regret emigrating, or think it was the best thing he ever did?

    And does anyone remember an English engineer named Pegg living in Turramurra in the 1950s?

    • A search of records reveals that an engineer named Ronald Foster Pegg was indeed living in Turramurra in 1954 with his wife Dorothy, having arrived in Australia in 1948. A daughter was born at St Monan’s Hospital, Cremorne in 1951, but he and Dorothy were divorced in late 1958 or early 1959. By 1968 he was living at Elanora Heights with his second wife Maria. In 1977 he and Maria were living in St Lucia, Brisbane.

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