Gwladys McTernan: Naracoorte icon

NARACOORTE ICON: Dedicated local Gwladys Marion McTernan was born on July 9 in 1926 and died on June 29, 2016. Photo: ABC SE.
NARACOORTE ICON: Dedicated local Gwladys Marion McTernan was born on July 9 in 1926 and died on June 29, 2016. Photo: ABC SE.

Born in Ouyen in 1926, the foundations for Gwladys Calnan’s life of public service were paved out early. 

Her parents, Dennis and Gwladys, were very community minded and they passed this on to their children. 

By her own admission she was not the best student, one of her report cards read “Gwladys would be a much better student if she would stop organising everybody”. 

She did however have a love of music and was an accomplished violinist. At the age of 18 she saved the money to buy her first chanter to learn to play the instrument she truly loved, the bagpipes, and went on to play in the Melbourne Ladies Pipe Band.

During WW!! Gwladys decided to help the cause by joining the Army as a nurse. This led her to Melbourne’s Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital where she earned the nickname “Bernie” because her tendency to gallop down the wards reminded her colleagues of the great racehorse Bernborough. 

LOCAL LEGEND: Gwladys McTernan.

LOCAL LEGEND: Gwladys McTernan.

While living in Melbourne she met and married Bernard (Bruce) McTernan and her first child David was born, soon after came a second son, John, a third Grant and a fourth Richard. 

After beginning their life in the SE at Padthaway, in 1961 Gwladys and Bruce moved to a farm at Stewart’s Range with their four children in tow. 

During this time Gwladys took up one of her first fights, to get the State school bus to pick up her boys to take them to the school at the Convent of Mercy in Naracoorte. She won. It was ironic that her last fight was to save that same Convent, a fight fought valiantly, but one that she ultimately lost. 

In 1968 the family moved to Kyby to run the local store and post office and in 1973 they moved into the township of Naracoorte to become the first leasees of the Caravan Park. 

It was at this point that Gwladys’ service to the Naracoorte community really took off. 

First came a position on the Hospital Board, then volunteering for the SA Ambulance Service, the Red Cross, Meals on Wheels and the St Vincent de Paul Society. 

She was the deputy mayor, coroner, a Justice of the Peace, a marriage celebrant and spent 28 years as a councillor on the Naracoorte Lucindale District Council. 

She was an inaugural member of Soroptomist International Naracoorte, a member of the Womens Agricultural Bureau, the RSL, Legacy, the Caledonian Society, the Naracoorte Choral Society, the Main Street Theatre Company Board, the Naracoorte Highland Pipe Band and as a member of Rotary was recognised as a Paul Harris Fellow. 

What Gwladys was perhaps best known for was her work with the Naracoorte Tidy Towns, an organisation which saw her earn the title of “Her Tidiness”. 

She, along with her band of loyal volunteers, worked tirelessly to beautify and clean up Naracoorte and it was their dedication that saw Naracoorte crowned Australia’s Tidiest Town in 1994. 

Gwladys was awarded the Naracoorte Citizen of the Year twice for her service to the town. Her other awards and certificates would be too numerous to mention. She will be remembered for her hard-work, her unwavering determination and her commitment to Naracoorte and its prosperity.  

While the town knew Gwladys as “Her Tidiness” her family knew her as Mum and Grandma Mac. We were so very proud of the life she lived and the example she set for us all. 

She is survived by her sons, her daughters-in-law, Decima, Rosalie, Heather and Narelle, her grandchildren, Kristie, Bradley, Lachlan, Hamish, Matthew, Wesley, Cameron, Crystal, Campbell and Maddie and her great-grandchild Dean.

Naracoorte last month lost another well-known community member, Lavington Fisher. Click here to read his obituary