There is something so special about childhood friends, especially if you grew up in the country. Our nearest neighours in 1950s Tasmania were the Richards family.

Cheryl and Michael were almost the same age as me and my sister Robbie. We lived on adjoining dairy farms at South Road Ulverstone, and went to school together. However, our play visits had a charming, semi-formality about them.

Sometimes Cheryl and Michael would appear in our laneway, immaculately dressed in hand-knitted cardigans. My mother would provide afternoon tea, just as she did when her adult neighbours called. For we kids it would be a cream filled sponge, or maybe Chocolate Simplicity Cake. Oh the memories.

When Cheryl told me she had written a memoir about her lovely mother Philma I couldn’t wait to read it.

The very first chapter was a complete shock to me.

Cyril Keith Deed and Philma Howard.

What had become of this young, 25 year old man? Cyril was a gunner on a Lancaster bomber, the most dangerous position of all on the plane. But when they were hit in mid air over Holland on Christmas Eve 1944 there was no hope for any of the seven man crew. The Lancaster simply exploded. The bodies were interred in a common grave in the churchyard at the Dutch village of Oostelbeers.

The crew of the Lancaster Bomber with Philma's fiancee Cyril Deed.

For many years a local Dutch woman faithfully tended the grave, in acknowledgment of the ultimate sacrifice by the Lancaster crew.

A Dutch woman tends the communal grave.

For Philma there was unbearable grief, but thankfully she found love again. She was a talented singer, and young Joe Richards would listen to her performing on the Devonport radio station 7AD. The story goes that he fell in love with her voice before he even met her!

Joe and Philma Richards on their wedding day.

The couple made their home with Philma’s widowed father Fred at South Road, and the first of three children came along.

Cheryl, Michael and Janine would all inherit their mother’s musical talents, along with her strong Christian faith. Later they would form the gospel group The Ascension Four with Chery’s husband Kevin Weeks. (I still have their first album).

Philma Richards with baby Cheryl.

I cannot resist concluding this piece with some funny stories from the family’s years at South Road, recalled by Cheryl.


The farm was the ideal place to grow up, and as children on a farm we got up to many ‘high jinks.’ We had free range hens in those days and it was a mammoth task to find the eggs around the bushes. As kids we used to find the rotten ones and have rotten egg fights. Mum used to really tell us off when we came home for tea smelling like I don’t know what!

I remember we had an old billy goat that had huge horns, which curled up over his head and looked quite menacing. At the old farmhouse we had an outside toilet, ‘an outhouse’. We kids took to tormenting the goat, which would take one look and then chase us at great speed. We would go screaming down the path into the outhouse, slamming the door after us, and with all our weight pressed upon it would listen in trepidation to the clipity clop, clipity clop of Billy’s heels tearing down the path until BANG! he would butt headfirst into the door with a tremendous CRASH! We thought it was a great joke and did it often, usually when Dad was busy with the milking and Mum was busy with preparations for tea.

Cheryl, your memoir is a beautiful tribute to your mother Philma, and brought back so many memories.


  1. Hi Pauline,

    Everything looks lovely. I was amused at the new woolen cardigans. Mum was a bit of a clean freak..we weren’t allowed to get dirty!! I loved the way you have put it together. Maybe you should write your life story one day.:) Let me know what feedback you get from the article.

    I will keep in touch from my end and let you know how things are going with it. I have had a lot of requests already.

    Many thanks,

    Cheryl xxx

    • Pauline

      Well Cheryl, I have virtually written my life story on this website. I’m trying to finish a biography of a Tasmanian surgeon at the moment. I’ll post the memoir piece to the Ulverstone FB group, so you can follow any feedback there as well. xxx

  2. What a sad but very moving start to this story, but so glad that Philma found love again, and produced the family she had.
    I had to smile at your childhood memories Pauline. The rotten eggs were part of our family holidays in Gloucestershire with our maternal grandparents, hidden among foliage usually, but no goat thankfully in their large country garden. I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to lock myself in their outdoor ‘privy’ (dunny to you!). However well my grandfather tended to its needs, you could always smell at 50 paces.

    • Pauline

      Well of course these were Cheryl’s memories rather than mine and oddly enough I don’t remember the goat. I do remember their terrifying Jersey bull called Roly. He used to break out on occasions and local men would have to venture out with pitchforks to get him back into the paddock.

    • My wife and i attended a special memorial service at the graves of Cyril and the others. Happy to share photos

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