Elizabeth Hetherington Jones (Carruthers)

28th July 1919 to 6th August 2003

The following is an edited version of a eulogy delivered by Mr. Michael C. H. Jones, President of the Australia China Chamber of Commerce and Industry of New South Wales, for his mother, Elizabeth Hetherington Jones (Carruthers), who passed away on Wednesday 6th August in her 84th year. The small family service was held at the Ann Wilson Chapel in Mona Vale on the Pittwater and Northern Beaches of Sydney, Australia.

Mr. Jones wishes to acknowledge with thanks the Chinese Consul General in Sydney for his kindness and his representative Mr. Zhang Peng, Consul (Economic and Commercial), who attended the funeral service.


This afternoon I wish to mark the life and times of my mother, Elizabeth Hetherington Jones (Carruthers) as I did for my father, James Cornelius Jones, in August 1999 when he passed away.  At that time we gathered here to mourn in part the way of his death. Janice Anne Jones (Loy), my wife of 31 years, was with us then but is not today – yet her memory is still so very strong, as is that of my nephew Gregory van der Kwaak.  For me the memory of another young man, Michael Walker, is also exceptionally vivid.

Over the years we all have attended many funerals of friends and associates, but family remains the hardest.  To depart with dignity is special. Janice, and I think Greg were in that situation.  Michael was an exceptionally brave young man facing enormous suffering. Both my parents faced the terror of a slow and non-recoverable death.  My father knew his situation even though severely brain damaged from a motor vehicle accident – he definitely went strong.  My mother was lucid until the very end, conversing with her doctor and staff at the Ocean View Nursing Home in Mona Vale within 5 minutes of her passing.  Yet she suffered the great indignity, especially for her, of paralysis for nearly three years and slow memory deterioration for up to ten.

So what does a son – an only son say at his mother’s funeral?

Platitudes are tempting. However that has never been my style and certainly would not be expected by my mother.  Keep it simple people tell me, however the life of a mother for a son is never simple.

So for better or worse I intend to make some observations, interspersed with music that reflects some of the passions of her life.  These will address four issues:

·         words to describe my mother

·         the stages in her life

·         the issues in her life

·         and what mattered to her

I must be frank and say that from a very young age I had a ‘love/hate’ relationship with my mother.  She had the qualities of courage, independence and loyalty that were inspiring during times of crisis, but also a ‘born to rule’ streak that was demeaning to herself and those around her.  In my view, and perhaps wrongly, it was the Carruthers’ trait in spades.  I ‘fought’ her tooth and nail right up until her death.

Like all of us she was both the product and the victim of her times.

Mother was born on Swain’s Island which was owned by her family in the Samoan Islands at the end of Empire – Eastern Samoa is still known as American Samoa and part of the United States, whilst Western Samoa was then a German colony about to be placed under New Zealand Administration, and now of course an independent country.  Her mother having died very early, she departed the “family kingdom” at the age of four years for New Zealand, only once to return briefly for a few months in 1938.  Yet the planter colonial culture was forever in her blood.

She was exceptionally clever at school being two levels higher then her age at an Auckland Girls Grammar School, still claiming to be the most prestigious in New Zealand, winning prizes in English, History and sporting endeavour, as well as being granted a scholarship to study in Italy as a coloratura opera singer.  This young ladies did not do and her father would not give permission.  Indeed mother often spoke of the hurt of his apparent disregard for her academic success, and she did not complete her final year of high school opting instead for a two year secretarial course.  Nevertheless the ideal of ‘family’ always remained a somewhat obsessional trait with mother.

Evacuated from Papua New Guinea to Sydney in mid 1942 she did secretarial work for the Head of the Australian Hygiene Unit at Victoria Barracks and among other things ‘danced’.  Sometime towards the end of the Second World War in 1944/45 she met my father who had recently won the Combined Allied Ballroom Dance Championships in Melbourne and they married in February 1946.  I came along in November 1947.  Dad served in the Australian Air Force and was at Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea, the first defeat of the Japanese Army in the Pacific War, and this experience scarred him for the rest of his life – in part it was the ‘why didn’t I die’ syndrome.  Anyway he gave up dancing completely by around 1950.  This was a characteristic of both my parents, very hard workers in what they were doing but with the capacity to move on to new challenges without regrets.

The over 30 years from December 1949 to March 1983 is the period of Liberal or Conservative dominance in Australia, broken only by the chaos of the three elections the Whitlam Federal Labor Government faced during 1972/75. It is essentially the productive years of my parents’ lives. There was a harmony between them.  My father physically strong and mentally sharp – I always said and still believe he was smarter then my mother in the quality of his thinking. However there was a latent conservatism which grew stronger from his disillusionment with the Whitlam, Hawke and Keating Labor Governments – it was what is now known as the ‘Clinton Factor”.  He was in some respects an old fashioned man who could not tolerate the sleaziness of modern politics.  On the other hand my mother was extremely well read, knowledgeable about the world, progressive in her thinking which shocked some people, yet there was always something missing – a dream or child like aspect of pretend and unreality. Perhaps it was too many Hollywood Movies – she definitely played roles and I would tease her by saying the Star, Movie and Scene.

Both my parents were ‘social democrats’ but non-joiners of organizations. Somewhat bohemian in lifestyle and yet at the same time being very Presbyterian in values, and strong believers in a better world, resolute on questions of human rights and the principles of Nuremberg, and emphatic supporters of China’s right to a place in the sun rather than accept the tutelage of either the USA or Soviet Union – China was not America’s to lose in 1949 and the Soviets were false friends up to the 1969 military confrontation on the Amur River.  My father had been involved with the anti-Japanese struggle as early as 1934 and the military provocations in Northern China.  My mother was a foundation member of the Australia China Friendship Society in Melbourne in 1950 and Sydney in 1951.  Obviously the books and discussion influenced me so that I studied Chinese history at High School and government at Sydney University and have been involve one way or another with China over 40 years.

In every decade from the late 1940s to the mid 1990s my mother was involved directly or indirectly with politics and China, either with my father or with me.  I can remember the meetings of the Friendship Society – even though most of the attendees were communists whom mother did not like, she thought many of them were too fanatical.  I can remember the Chinese Opera and Acrobatic performances, the debates on the Menzies Government’s anti-communist legislation, the Korean War and the French in Indo-China and the Nationalist Forces on Taiwan.  In the 1960s she was active in the protest movement against the Vietnam War (as well as other issues such as Aboriginal Rights), then was disillusioned by the Whitlam Government and its aftermath in the mid 1970s (but she still supported me in my political campaigns in the heartland of the Liberal Party on the North Shore of Sydney).  She encouraged me in my small contribution to the struggle to win corporate support for the Hawke and Keating Governments in the 1980s.  She typed for Nelson Mandela and South Africa, Carlos Menem and Argentina, as well as for India and China.  She was still typing for ‘the cause’ up until about 1994 when her deteriorating memory became too much and she retired unhappily to her religion.

For example most of the typing for the ACCCI sponsored Late W.J. Liu O.B.E. Memorial Scrolls Project initiated by Chamber in late 1988, and exhibited at the Mandarin Club, Australian Museum and Mitchell Galleries at the State Library of New South Wales in Sydney, Victorian Museum in Melbourne and Golden Dragon Museum in Bendigo Victoria, and then the Australian High Court in Canberra during the early 1990s, was done by my mother and gratefully acknowledged by his son Mr. Bo Liu, grandson Mr. Richard Liu and family. Incidently I first met Billy Liu when my mother introduced me to him at a meeting of the Australia China Friendship Society in early 1966 – this was a connection of nearly 30 years totally outside my father’s knowledge.

It is absolutely the truth to say that the ACCCI would have collapsed in the early 1990s if it were not for my mother’s resolute determination to provide the logistical office support at Belrose that any organization needs to survive.  Even in her early 70s she was administratively better than anyone I have ever met – and I have met some pretty smart women, one of course was Janice my deceased wife and another of a totally different vintage being Marilyn Walker.  Mother was very thrilled that the Chamber recognised the contribution of my family to Australia China economic relations over so many years when in 1997 the British Consul General in Sydney, Mr. Philip Morrice, presented the last ACCCI Achiever of the Year Award to my father at a ceremony in the Rugby Club in Sydney.  He was the non-executive chairman of Indauspac Pty Ltd, Corporate Consultants on International Affairs, between 1979 and 1996.  Subsequently on mother’s birthday in July 2001 the Chinese Consul General in Sydney wrote to her and sent flowers with congratulations on 50 years membership of the Australia China Friendship Society – the President of ACFS, Mr James Flowers, and the Senior Vice President of ACCCI, Mr John Zerby, did the same.

There were some character building periods in mother’s life.

Her education at an exclusive girls school during the decade of the Depression when so many men were unemployed – she felt guilty.

Her safety and enjoyment of the ‘good times’ during the Pacific War when other women’s men were dieing at the front – she felt guilty.

Her work in the News Room of the ABC during the decade of the 50s when the distortion of the truth and straight out lies kept a disreputable federal government in office – she felt guilty.

Her work in the private sector during the 1960s when corporate and individual greed really took off, yet at a time young men were being conscripted for the Vietnam War – she felt guilty.


You guessed it, mother for some reason always felt guilty. She was religious but a non-institutional Christian – only in the last decade of her life did she go to church and found it a mixed blessing, both calming and irritating – the sermons were never quite good enough.  Nevertheless I used to tell people that I was brought up on “Jazz and Jesus” – Jazz from my father and Jesus from my mother – and it was effective because I won all the scripture prizes at my High School for three years without ever being inside a church until I married Janice in February 1970 – and as you know it really was Leigh Theological Chapel.  You now can understand why I chose this Chapel for the funerals of dad and mum – traditions are not to be broken.  Even at Jan’s funeral in early May 2000 mother was arguing/negotiating about what Psalms were to be read – that is why we had Corinthians earlier this afternoon.

Finally mother was a Royalist and believed in the British Empire from the perspective that it was global and brought both a form of civilization and equality to the peoples of the world.  It did not matter whether you were in India, or South Africa, Canada, Malaya or New Zealand etc you all studied William Shakespeare and Robbie Burns.  She believed in her family and gloried in her ancestry back to Baron de Rufus and the Norman Conquest of England in 1066.  Indeed I was always either unkind or derisive. I used to embellish by saying that there were William, and great, great, great granddad, old Rufus of Carruthers carrying the spears at the battle of Hastings, when Rufus yelled out to the Saxon King Harold –‘look up’ and when he did a Norman arrow got him between the eyes - and so English history was changed because of the Carruthers.

However my father always took this history very seriously – he admired mother’s father.  Only late in life did he tell me why he agreed to my name Michael Cornelius Hetherington Jones – Cornelius being his family name and Hetherington my mother’s. His mother was Christina Richmond and his parents had known of the Hetherington-Carruthers, part of the family of the founder of the Scots Church in Collins Street, Melbourne.  His father had been born in Young NSW in 1871;  Hetherington-Carruthers and his second wife had lived in Singleton NSW from 1841.  It was and still is a very small world.

My parents admired each other greatly, and as I get older I understand them a little more each year.  They will be cremated, their ashes mixed together and spread on the family property, the property they pioneered from late 1952.

Thank you for you attendance this afternoon and your farewell to my mother.


Music played in order:

Ave Maria – Beniamino Gigli
Bluebird of Happiness – Jan Peerce
Lord I Want to Be a Christian – Spiritual Singers of Harlem
Ride Up in The Chariot – Spiritual Singers of Harlem
Be-Bop-A-Lula – Yakety Yak – Rock ‘n’ Roll Sax
Lucille – Yakety Yak – Rock ‘n’ Roll Sax
Jerusalem (Hubert Parry) – Seaford College Choir
Rule, Britannia! (Thomas Arne) – English String Orchestra with Tenor and Trumpets