In loving memory, this obituary was written by Beryl Brierley's granddaughter Ashley Harrison.
Aunty Beryl or Mrs Brierley was a strong woman, who was well-known and respected by the community of Moruya and surrounds. Her passing on the 20th November 2021 marks the end of an era and she will be missed by many.
Reaching 89 years of age, Aunty Beryl was born in 1932 at the base of Gulaga Mountain and raised around the Central Tilba area. She was the daughter of Robert Andy and Winifred Andy (nee Bloxsome).
Her childhood was difficult, yet she would often say that "we lived a good life then". She would talk about how she loved swimming and how her family could always feed themselves with mutton fish, oysters, lobsters, bimballas, fish, bush foods and home-grown fruits and vegetables. In those days they would just make a fire and feast with what they had gathered.
From a young age, she worked hard on the weekends by cleaning houses and stunning rabbits. She often joined her father to work on farms with cows and horses, clearing wattles, picking beans, peas, corn etc. she also helped her mother clean houses for wealthy people and knew all the farms around Tilba.
She continued this kind of physical work even into her late 70s and was known to work at a pace all day and provide a lot of encouragement and advice as she did. She also kept chooks, and grew veggies and did her own repairs on her house.
She had the quality of perseverance in the face of adversity. As a child, in the 1940's, the townspeople of Tilba voted to exclude Aboriginal children from the local school. She and her siblings had to walk for hours across country to and from the Wallaga Lake Aboriginal School. The conditions at the school were very poor.
Despite being denied a proper education, she taught herself to read and write. She was passionate about education. Her knowledge about the local area, plants, animals, remedies, and practical skills such as gardening, and building was vast. She was always on the go. Her family were particularly proud when she took up painting in her old age and began to represent her stories and memories in her art.
Aunty Beryl was part of the Moruya community for most of her life. She first came here to visit family who lived down near the Aerodrome at the age of 16. Cultural and commercial fisherman "Ernie" Brierley saw her fishing off the rocks, he liked what he saw and pursued her. They married in 1952. Their children were John, Bernadette (dec.), Wayne, Allan (dec.), and Gregory (dec.).
Over the years her door was always open to those who needed a home or care. Although she could give tough love when needed, many will especially remember her generosity of spirit, ability to keep family together and for the assistance she offered when most needed.
Always a humble woman, she lived modestly. A long-time resident of Garlandtown, she loved to be surrounded by bush and near the river and sea. She had a strong compassion and love for animals. Over the years she lived in the old house on the hill at Garlandtown, she cared for just as many, if not more, animals than people including dogs, cats, horses, geese, chickens, sheep, a cockatoo, kangaroos, foxes, magpies etc. Countless birds and animals would visit.
Her love of home and the length of her time there, even though she always said it was "a place with no time", was why the loss of it and her Irish wolfhound Stinky, in a housefire in August 2021 was especially devastating. She described crawling out the house while it burned around with her other dog Little One. Many of her beautiful paintings and memorabilia were also destroyed in the fire. She was so appreciative of how the community rallied around her to help and assist her to get back on her feet.
Aunty Beryl shared her Welcome to Country and acknowledged the old people who camped and travelled across the land. She was opening up about her experience of the past for those willing to listen and learn. She had stories upon stories to share. While her body let her down, her mind was sharp.
Deeply impacted by bushfires, and then the loss of two of her children and her home in 2021 during the isolation of COVID-19, her last year was difficult. Yet she was positive, hopeful and looking forward to her return to a new house on the hill. Her independence and strength of character will always be remembered, so will her care and compassion. Rest in peace Nan, you will be sorely missed.
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