A Life Sketch1
Hesba (‘Pixie’) Hungerford2
[box type=”info” style=”rounded” border=”full”]This eulogy was delivered by Prue Brinsmead3[/box]
HESBA HUNGERFORD, or ‘Pixie’ as she was known, was born in Bilpin, NSW on 15 March 1922. Despite having had little formal education she became a governess and school teacher. She married Reg Brinsmead in Melbourne on 13 February 1943 and accompanied him to Wycheproof in the Victorian mallee. Her sons Bernie and Ken were born in 1944 and 1947.
The family moved to the Melbourne suburb of Nunawading in 1950. Again without any formal training, Pixie here began her writing career. After early attempts with essays and short stories she achieved success with her first novel, Pastures of the Blue Crane in 1964, much of it written in a caravan due to lack of creative space in the family home. It won the Dame Mary Gilmore medal for literature in 1965.
Pixie went on to publish over 20 books, including the semi-autobiographical Longtime Passing, an account of childhood in the then remote Blue Mountains. It won the Children’s Book of the Year Award in 1972. Her literacy successes were noted in New York and London as well as in Australia, and many of her books were published in foreign languages.
In the early 1980s she achieved some notoriety within the environmental movement during the (unsuccessful) struggle to save Tasmania’s Lake Pedder from flooding. Her account of this episode is recounted in her only published non-fiction work, I Will Not Say the Day is Done.
Pixie had a wide circle of friends both within and outside the Australian writing community, and devoted much of her time to encouraging younger writers and promoting literature in schools. Though always of poor health she loved to travel, was fiercely independent, and tireless in the causes in which she believed. She was always a devoted mother and aunt, always actively involved in the lives of her sons and many nieces and nephews, some of whom spent a considerable time in her home in Nunawading.
In 1976 Pixie and Reg moved to Weathertop at Terranora. They divorced about 15 years later, but always remained firm friends. Increasing frailty forced her to leave Weathertop in 2001 and move to a unit in Mountain View Retirement Village in Murwillumbah. She spent much of 2003 in and out of hospital. In August she fell and broke her arm. After a brave and defiant struggle she and her doctors realised that her osteoporosis and lingering cancer would not allow her to recover.
Pixie died peacefully in her sleep in Murwillumbah Hospital on 24 November 2003, aged 81. Her son Ken was with her at the time. She will be greatly missed by her sons, her daughters in law, her four grandchildren, Reg and Wanda, and her wide circle of family and friends.
[box type=”note” style=”rounded” border=”full”]See also:
Longtime places: Berambing and the Hungerford Family, by Lesley Abrahams, HAFS Journal, Vol 12 No 3 May 2014 p43 and Hesba Fay Brinsmead: Memories of my Aunt, by Lesley Abrahams, HAFS Journal, Vol 15 No 1 May 2019 p2.[/box]