Farewell to 1 person but 3 sisters

1979-sep-jan-brisbaneJan Niall passed away in Darwin on Thursday 9th February, 2017 after a long battle with multiple medical conditions.  This is one of my favourite photos of Jan – taken in September 1979 in Brisbane.

I have so many favourite photos of Jan it’s hard to limit them, but I have restrained myself to just four which cover different periods of Jan’s life.

So where do the ‘3 sisters’ fit in this tribute?

  1. Sister Jan Niall IBVM [Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary] – Jan was a ‘Loreto’ nun.  I’m a Loreto Old Scholar and regularly suffered the difficult situation of getting home from school only to find Mum had already heard about anything and everything I did wrong during the day.  Sometimes it included what I did right as well!  It didn’t matter that Jan was interstate – news travelled fast in the world of Loreto.
  2. Sister to my late Mum.  There were almost 20 years between Mum and her baby sister with no-one in between.  Grandma struggled to cope with a young child at her age so Jan was quickly bundled off to boarding school in Denman, New South Wales.  All her school holidays were spent with our family.
  3. Sister to me and my brother – just 5½ years between Jan and my brother, and 7½ years between Jan and me.  She was so much closer to us in age it was understandable that she was our ‘big’ sister and when Jan went to Teacher’s College she had two ready-made guinea pigs on whom to practice!

I don’t have the words to do justice in summing up Jan’s life.  What I can say is that she touched so many people in so many roles in such positive ways throughout her 72 years.  It was wonderful to sit in the Cathedral in Darwin with others who had travelled from across Australia to pay tribute to ‘Sister’ Jan.  There were so many who looked on Jan as part of their extended family and they reminisced with the rest of us – such great memories!

And in this modern era, the tributes on the Facebook pages of Salvatores Cafe in Darwin, and Wendy Beresford-Maning demonstrate the far-reaching impact Jan had on those who met her.

Those other ‘favourite’ photos?

1948 – not quite four but definitely full of beans – I think I like this one so much because she was so mobile in this photo.  It’s hard to believe that she spent more than 50 years of her life with limited mobility.


February 1990 – Brisbane – Jan’s Silver Jubilee.  The person standing between Jan and me was a dearly loved part of our extended family – Fr Bernard Shah OCarm.  Although Bernard was born in New Zealand, we accepted him as a true blue Aussie and definitely a special part of our family.  Like Jan, Bernard also died in a nursing home.  That was in March 2010 and we all missed him so much.


And this photo is so special – it is the banner on the blog site of another special member of our extended family – Wendy Beresford-Maning.  I created this montage for Wendy and to do it justice you really need to read all about it on Wendy’s blog.  BUT I do want to point out the important ‘family’ members in this image:

  • Back left – Jan aged three as the flower girl at my Mum & Dad’s wedding.
  • Front left – Bernard [represented by a stuffed doll] sitting on the ‘waiting seat’ – I think the space on the seat was left for Jan!
  • Back centre left and right and front right in a Santa suit – Button – a much-loved member of the Darwin family.  Sadly Button lost her battle with pneumonia on 14 December 2016.  And don’t miss reading ‘Button – Hero Dog’ on Wendy’s blog!
  • Front centre – Wendy is represented by her Akubra sitting on her colourful gum boots
  • Front centre right – I am represented by my computer complete with a photo of Ocean Grove on the screen.


Jan was special and I’m lucky to have had her as my ‘sister’.