The Rotary club of Grenfell held their annual International night at the Bowling Club on November 29, featuring Italy. Guest Speakers were Mary Dodd and Jenn Graham. PP Roma Sinclair, proposed a toast to the Dr Ercole family, an important Italian family of Grenfell's past. See Roma’s tribute below:
Thank you, Sue, for allowing me a few minutes to recall the extraordinary Ercole family and it’s association with Grenfell. I must point out that none of this has been corroborated by Google, or by consultation with other elderly Grenfell residents; it is purely personal recollection, any errors or omissions are mine.
Dr Quinto Ercole came to Grenfell in the mid 1920’s. According to my mother, he was lucky to have escaped from Italy with his life; he had been involved in one of the political upheavals quite common in Italy in that era, and after an adventurous journey, eventually ended up in Australia. He served, with distinction, as a doctor in Allied forces in the first World War and eventually settled in Grenfell, after spending time in White Cliffs. The practice of Medicine was a very hands-on profession then. It’s hard to imagine a time when there were no antibiotics or anti-histamines; when the usual treatment for hypertension was to sedate patients with phenobarbitone, and if one survived a coronary he was prescribed six weeks bed rest. Pneumonia was treated with poultices applied to the chest and again, complete bed rest, it was, literally, a different world; GP’s, for instance, routinely made house calls and even in smaller towns like Grenfell, safely and regularly performed complicated operations in the local Hospital. My mother always spoke very gratefully of the Doctor for his attention to, and care for her, when I was born. As a former city girl, an older (she was 34) first-time mother living a day's journey from her relatives in Sydney and married to a pharmacist working long hours she really did feel isolated, and remembered the doctor’s understanding and kindness fondly for the rest of her life. The Doctor retired to “Campewarra” in the mid 1930’s and spent his time mostly in his well-stocked library; it is the only domestic library I have ever been in with three walls stacked with book shelves from floor to ceiling. To a little country girl, he seemed an exotic figure slow-moving, mustachioed, and with the aroma of cigars about him. He and my father, who visited him frequently, remained firm friends until the Doctor died- I think in the early 1940’s. Mrs Adele Ercole, whom the Doctor had persuaded to marry him when she was 17, was the epitome of an increasingly rare attribute – un-forced, instinctive, charm. She would ask a little favor - “would you mind” - and open those big, limped blue eyes and you were gone. She went back to live with relatives in Sydney after the Doctor died. The Ercols had two children; a daughter Velia, who became a best-selling author with her first novel “Escape me Never”, but never quite reached that pinnacle again. My mother was quite dismissive about Velia’s talents; I can’t comment except to say that she was a very attractive woman with oodles of style who made a good marriage and had a couple of children. The Ercole’s son, baptized “Quinto”, like his father was called “Boy”, made a well-documented contribution to research into anti-malarial drugs during the second World War. I think everyone that knew him would agree that he was a brilliant “one-off”; without a single academic qualification so far as I know, he had a genuine feel for veterinary work and he was outstanding at it, and as a person. I will never forget his kindness to my father and me when my mother died unexpectedly in 1966 during Grenfell's Centenary Celebrations, of which he was an organiser. Boy and his wife Michaele, a woman of wisdom and kindness, farmed “Jungara” for a few years and then he discovered the Stock Exchange, and became a very cluey investor. For instance, I remember him taking shares in the hosiery firm Kayser very soon after mini-skirts became fashionable, because he realised they would result in a demand for panty hose. He also managed the Paper Shop when Harry and Alison Nicoll went on holidays. Boy had a very slow, characteristic, speech delivery but, as he always said, because of that he never ummed or ahed. He and Michaele retired to Cronulla where he died in 1972, I think. Their daughter Jeanne went to high school here for a few years, then MLC in Burwood, which her father chose because at that time it was recognised as having an excellent science department. She was a student in Sydney University’s first course in Indonesian studies and after graduating - with Honours - travelled through several islands in that country on her own, using public transport and staying with families. She spent some years as an official of the World Bank and on the board of the ABC. Jeanne was, to use a rather archaic term, a genuine Polymath, who, sadly, died of cancer at far too young an age. This family’s contribution to our little town has been largely and undeservedly forgotten, but I think our “Italian Connection” deserves better than that; respect, and a passing thought, at least, and a warm toast to a unique family. The Ercoles!