Celebrating the life of Celia van Tilburg – 1940 – 2018

Celia with the Brownies
Celia with the Brownies

Celia was born in London in 1940 at the beginning of WWII. Her father Herbert was in the army. Her mother, Meagen Morfyyd (known as Movie) was from The Rhonnda Valley in South Wales. The house in which they originally lived, in Fulham, was bombed and so they moved in to the three-roomed flat next door to her grandparents. Consequently throughout her early growing up years she spent a lot of time with her grandparents.

Because they did not have a garden most of the children played in the streets. Marbles in the gutter was a favourite – also two-balls up the wall, skipping, hopscotch etc. No tv’s and no computers in those days! And a lot of reading, particularly Enid Blyton books. Jeff, her brother was born in 1947, just after the war.

She joined the Brownies and Guides, and eventually became a Brown Owl (Guide Leader). She left school at 15 and her first job was as a Junior Clerk at County Hall, north of Westminster Bridge just where the London Eye is now. The 1950’s and 60’s was the “Rock-n-Roll” era and Saturday nights were always occupied with dancing at the Hammersmith Palaise (her local – where Victor Sylvester played) or other dance halls around London. A long time was spent in the ladies dressing rooms backcombing and lacquering hair etc.

She was 20 when she was working at Hyde Park Cnr for the NFU (National Farmers Union) and answered an advert in The Daily Sketch for “Amazons” in the film “Barrabbas” filming in ltaly.

Celia and 2 others won the parts and were flown to Rome (her first time in an aeroplane). The arena scenes were filmed in Verona, with Jack Palance, who was the lead gladiator, and Anthony Quinn. “Cleopatra” was being filmed in Rome at the time, with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. She spent her 21st birthday in the hills of Verona in a restaurant with friends from the film.

That experience left her feeling very unsettled, and after “temping” all around London, she took a job as a Receptionist with a Butlins Holiday Camp in Clacton, Essex. At that time, 1962, many up and coming entertainers performed at Butlins Camps, including Cliff Richards, Lonnie Donegan, Tommy Steele, Winifred Atwell, Bruce Forsyth etc. They all had to come to Reception on arrivall!

By 1963, feeling very restless she decided to look for work overseas. She had, what she termed, “the travel bug”. She finally settled on Australia because her cousin John was in Sydney and you needed somebody to vouch for you. This was to be just a 2 year stay to travel around and see the country. She couldn’t afford to return within 2 years and pay the return fare. And so in 1964 she became a “Ten Pound Pom”.

Meeting Paul on that 5 week boat trip became the start of a new way of life – unbeknown to her at the time. Paul was one of just 12 full-paying passengers – he was retuming from a visit to Holland.

They were married in May 1965 and Rob was born at the end of that year! Neither families could afford the fare to Australia, and so it was quite a small wedding at ??? , Mosman.

They were renting in Berowra and started looking for land, preferably around Avalon, near Whale Beach where Paul had rented a flat earlier. They just wanted a level block of land to build a house and have some space for a “backyard”. But there were very few “level’ blocks for sale, and so they ventured inland where Paul had been doing television service work. They finally settled for 10 acres in Arcadia – no water, no electricity and completely covered by bush!!

And so every day, before or after work, depending on his shifts, Paul would go to Arcadia and start clearing the bush and then go straight on to work. Also of course at week-ends. At alternate weekends they would go to their friends in Berowra to help them. So two homes gradually began to develop over the years. Without electricity everything was done by hand and food and water taken along. The first item to be built in Arcadia was the water tank. Paul’s first experience with bricklaying! By March 1968 the first stage was finished and Paul and Celia and Rob moved in. Still no electricity – they used an old kerosene fridge and heater and paraffin lamps. The gyprock walls and ceilings were completed in July of that year – at the time of the birth of Janine.

Ridge Road was just a track in those days and had no name. Hornsby Council gave them the option of naming the road, but they didn’t take up the option. Eventually the Council inserted a small road opposite and Paul named it Geebung Close, as he thought it sounded Australian!

Gradually over the years with the addition of electricity the house developed and so did the van Tilburg Clan! Four beautiful children to add to the Australian population. Robert, Janine, Leanne and Paul.

Both Celia and Paul became active members of the local community in Guiding and Scouting, Soccer, Netball and the local schools.

Learning to drive was of vital importance to Celia. They didn’t have a car in England – infact she was 11 years old before she had a ride in her uncle’s car. Over the years she drove their old Holden to all the various activities in which the children were involved, including sometimes the local “school run” as there were no buses then.

Paul was very keen on animals, and over the years they had: pigs, cattle, horses, chickens, emus, kangeroos, and a variety of birds and dogs. When young Paul was a teenager he wanted a camel and that became another addition to the “flock”.

Celia was always enormously conscious of her isolation in relation to her family, and because of that she was a constant writer. Keeping in touch with both families overseas, with letters, photographs, tapes and emails. Consequently when her own beautiful grandchildren arrived she was in her element – never without a camera in her bag. The joy her own mother must have also experienced when she came to live in Arcadia in 1988.

Apart from the immense satisfaction, hard work and joy of rearing her own family of four, the arrival of her grandchildren gave her the ultimate pleasure.