Notes from the Author
Gallipoli Street is dedicated to two amazing people, my maternal grandparents, James Dennis Clancy (my Da) and Gladys Mary Veronica Clancy (my Nana), and although this is a work of fiction, some elements of their story have wound their way into my tale.
To begin with, James did serve in Gallipoli. He joined the army, not as a Lighthorseman, but as an infantryman when he was very underage- only seventeen in fact. James soon found himself at the Mena Camp in Egypt. Tales have been handed down of a young man climbing the pyramids at sunset and enjoying himself with his mates in the Wazza district during time off. Like the character Jack in the novel, he received a silk scarf from King George whilst in Cairo and wrote his rank, name and date on it that day. They remain there still, in one hundred year old ink, for our family to trace in wonder.
James was shipped across to Gallipoli and endured horrors he would never speak of to my mum or her sisters. ‘Little girls don’t need to know about things like that’. She believes it never left him and he carried some of those unspoken images for the rest of his days. Whilst there, he nearly lost his life to dysentery and was evacuated to Cairo where he received an honourable discharge. However as soon as he was able to he rejoined because, as he said to my mother years later, ‘you can’t just leave your mates to face it alone’.
James served in the Somme, a bloody, muddy business, the only highlight of which was sharing Christmas Eve with the German soldiers, swapping cigarettes and playing soccer on that famous night in history. He never forgot it and spoke of it often to his children. Soon after he was injured, receiving nasty shrapnel wounds that needed immediate surgery, however they had run out of morphine. In the end James had to be knocked out by drinking large amounts of French champagne.
He survived, again, was discharged, again, and rejoined, again.
James served out the war in the Middle East and returned home to marry the girl with the curls whom he had long admired in mass, Gladys. This spirited young woman had spent much of her formative years on a dairy farm in Beecroft and had been known to race a cart along a dirt track on occasion. Although five years his junior she matched him in every way and could find a hidden penny no matter how hard he tried to trick her, even the one hidden in the bedpost. They struggled through the Great Depression living in Braidwood on a small farm and using a dug-out anthill for their oven. They had eight children, one dying in infancy, and managed to get through those difficult years living on rabbit and panning for gold in the creek, with James travelling wide and far for any carpentry work he could find.
Gladys was acknowledged in her latter years as a 'pioneering Australian woman' in Canberra.
They returned to Sydney and after a time Gladys fell in love with a house on a hill with a rose garden and a wide verandah. It was situated on Gallipoli Street in Hurstville. It is family folklore that she used every bit of willpower and a fair dose of prayer, even burying a holy medal in the garden, to get that house. She succeeded, and it was by all accounts the happiest days of their lives living there, marred only by a new development shadowing over them:
World War II.
The essential threads of Gallipoli Street were certainly inspired by James and Gladys, shadowing his struggle during the war and exploring the difficulties the soldiers and their sweethearts faced to rebuild shattered lives post-war. It is incredible to think that these men came home to widespread unemployment and had to struggle through the financial hardship of the Great Depression. And it seems inconceivable that this generation were then forced to watch their own children march off to war a mere twenty years after WWI ended- especially knowing first-hand what they faced.
Worth Fighting For is inspired by the experiences of their sons Jack and Des and has many references to real-life throughout- although I must stress both books are fiction. When WWII broke out Jack tried to join up underage- just like his father before him- but this Clancy was caught out. Ironically James was offered the role of sergeant at a training camp for underage soldiers at Liverpool and Jack was sent there to be trained under his father’s tutorage. Uncle Jack told me there was plenty of respite amongst the hardship of training during that time. Both father and son were excellent, self-taught musicians, with Jack playing guitar and James playing fiddle, and many impromptu parties ensued. The group of underage soldiers became a close bunch and were nicknamed 'the Elite'.
The parties soon ended, however, and Jack was sent to New Guinea. One day a telegram arrived and Gladys had to sit and wait all day for James to come home from work as the postmaster wouldn’t let her open it. Jack had been injured but would survive. Not so many of the Elite who perished in the explosion.
...They knew war would be a shock no matter how prepared they were. Facing death square in the eye had its inevitable terrors but at least they faced it together, with their Elite brothers. Men they’d bunked with in cabins, under stars and in the rain nearly every night for a year, men they’d eaten with, drunk with and laughed with. Even shed tears with. The Elite were in each other’s blood ...