Uncle Laddie Timbery
Uncle Laddie has been the shining light of the Jervis Bay Maritime Museum, originally called the Lady Denman Museum, since before the ground was broken. In 1981, he led a team of workers from the Nowra Aboriginal Legal Service, in the construction of the rock wall that now protects the tidal enclosure and fish pond at the heart of the site, just across the water from the birthplace of his mother and brothers. Shortly after, he relocated the family’s arts and crafts business from La Parouse to one of the original, restored school buildings, where he has been based ever since.
Raised by his grandparents in a tin hut at La Perouse in the 1940s, Laddie’s childhood was spent learning to fish for muttonfish and lobsters and honing timber into the rough shape of a boomerang with a rasp and glass bottle, under the guidance of his grandfather. He was called back to his mother’s country on the South Coast at the age of 16 and married the love of his life Ann in 1959. A shadow crosses momentarily when he speaks of her passing 11 years ago.
The dynastic Timbery family have been creating art for “just on 257 500 years and five months” says Laddie with a cheeky wink. The girls, he explains, learn shell work. The boys learn carving and song. Shell work by Esme Timbery; Laddie’s Aunt, is acclaimed both nationally and overseas. Timbery art has been collected literally since Captain Cook stepped foot on his country at Botany Bay. Five boomerangs acquired by the crew of the Endeavour are held by the National Museum. Laddie says it was Cook’s contemporaries who added the ‘y’ at the end of the ‘Timbere’ name. Laddie’s great, great grandmother Queen Ann Timbery exhibited her shell work in London in 1910. Laddie has travelled the world himself as a historian, elder and ambassador of Aboriginal art.
In 2019 Uncle Laddie passed away at the age of 78. It is our honour and privilege to continue sharing his stories.