Farewell Pamela Gallagher

The End of an Era.

by Mary Brettell

Brisbane Folk stalwart Pamela Gallagher passed away on Wednesday evening 23 March.

Pamela (never Pam!) became involved with folk music in 1972 after moving into a house rented by her son, Martin Gallagher. This accommodation was shared also by daughter Cyndi Gallagher and Mary Brettell, who were all involved in the Brisbane folk scene.

She joined the Queensland Folk Federation when Bob Michel was its president and after serving on the committee eventually became QFF president herself. She was also elected as secretary of the Australia Folk Trust (AFT) and recalls Queensland was the only state allowed to have three representatives as she talked them into it!

Pamela’s Folk Scene involvement was mainly in organising events. She ran school concerts and invited local folk musicians to perform. Other folk concerts Pamela organised in Brisbane were the monthly Roma Street Forum Concerts (1972-75), Warana Folk concert at Brisbane City Hall (1974), a benefit concert for Colleen, the widow of Declan Affley, a benefit concert for the Darwin victims of Cyclone Tracey in 1975, That’s Australia All Over for Warana (1982), Folk Spectrum for Warana, compered by Bernard Bolan (1983) and folk concerts for high schools (1993-94). Dances included Fling Things which ran for three years at the Foresters Lodge Hall at Latrobe Terrace in the 1970s, Orientation Week folk dances at University of QLD 1976-78 and the Commonwealth Games Bush Ball at Cloudland in 1982 where she and Martin Gallagher received the guests.

She also organised the Mediaeval Fayres for the QFF for four years and, also for the QFF, the Moreton Bay Folk Festival in 1973 and the National Folk Festival in Brisbane in 1974. Wine and Cheese fundraising parties were also held for a number of years at Pamela’s Bellevue Street home. Many hours were spent singing and playing music and hardly a room in the house was without music makers. She recalls getting up one morning after a wine and cheese party to find Martin and another person asleep on the couch in the living room and Alan Forshaw and someone else sprawled on Martin’s bed.

Pamela recalls doing several trips to Taromeo Station, as mentioned in the song Brisbane Ladies, written in 1897 by Saul Mendelsohn. Taromeo was rediscovered by an intrepid group of folkies who, in the 1970s, decided to retrace the old stock route. They were so welcomed by the owners of Taromeo at the time that the folk community were invited to return for camping and music weekends. There was a folk festival held on the Taromeo property around 1979.

Pamela also did calling for dances. She once got herself into trouble when someone commented to her that folk dancing was the same as country dancing to which she replied no, country dancing is just people walking around looking bored. With a grant from the AFT Pamela helped to organise and assemble a set of cassette tapes and books of instructions, titled Let’s Dance Folk, 5 minutes a side, everything colour-coded to avoid confusion. These were sold all around Australia and some to the USA and Germany, the profits going back to the AFT.

Pamela spent several years as editor of the QFF newsletter, having taken over the reins from Bob Michel. To raise funds to be able to produce the first newsletter in a more aesthetically pleasing format, a dance was held at Taringa. The newsletter was assembled at Bellevue Street with Pamela and David Gallagher folding and posting. Apart from the QFF newsletter she was later editor of the newsletter known as FOQUE which was funded by subscription.

Pamela recalled son David Gallagher did a lot for her and the QFF. At one meeting at the Metro Arts Centre David was nominated as secretary and took the minutes, which he had never done before.

During all of this organising Pamela managed to study for and acquire a Bachelor of Arts (even through the adversity of breaking a leg and losing her daughter Cyndi in a car accident in 1981). During her time at Uni of Qld she formed the Uni-Que folk club which was a weekly event which provided a platform for seasoned artists and new, up-and-coming musicians. She insisted on total silence while performers were on and instigated talking time between acts. Pamela said “Dear, I am a bossy bitch – but it was the only way to get things done”.

Besides the scheduled wine and cheese parties Pamela also recalls numerous other folk gatherings at Bellevue Street. She would have gone to bed and Martin would call ahead and say Party and she would get up and open the house. One night there were musicians spilling out onto the footpath (the house being located very close to the street) with people dancing on the pavement and (luckily) the people across the road opened their windows so they could hear the music better. Bellevue Street is now part of the XXXX brewery complex and the only thing that remains from no 8 is the big old mango tree which was in the back yard.

At all of these events Pamela took along her trusty cassette tape recorder and she had literally hundreds of hours of Brisbane Folk Music History recorded and sitting in a suitcase in a cupboard at Mary B’s home.

C. P. Gallagher was an accomplished author having published three books of poetry, a children’s book The Big Steam Roller, For Those in Peril (an anecdotal history of her life on a light station (lighthouse with husband Dennis) and countless short stories in numerous publications. Her list of awards attained in writing competitions is far too numerous to mention and would easily fill a page. She taught creative writing for 12 years and has conducted workshops and given lectures and interviews on writing also too numerous to mention here. Failing eyesight did not dim her passion for writing and Pamela continued to write with the aid of typists who visited her regularly.

Black Saturday
7th February 2009
Was it the fallen Lucifer who lit the fires?
Creating pandemonium across the land
His heavy breathing strong, like a cyclone's gale force wind
Causing chaos, disturbing nesting birds in trees
Destroying homes and all that stayed within
Hungry flames devoured the drought-dried bush
Climbing eucalypts, igniting a roaring wall of fire
Black smoke so thick it seemed to bring a night too soon
Blanketing the stars and choking thirsty throats
A cacophony of misery, of stock held in by the fence
So bleating sheep and bellows from cattle with no place to go, they died
While wombats, echidnas and koalas with legs so short
Wild creatures faced a certain cruel death.
Confused survivors grieve when they try to count the cost
To them and Victoria and its paradise lost
by C. Pamela Gallagher