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Melita's song by
Pam McLean

Melita Grace Law (Scotland)

"Celebrating the life"

August 31, 1917 - March 16, 2002
84 years


Tom Scotland

How many Melita's are there?

Obituary in the 'West Australian'

The Scent of Humanity

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Thoughts from Tom Scotland about his sister Melita
We believe Melita was conceived on the island of Malta, hence her name Melita. Our mother, Paula Scotland, with baby Norah had been on a ship torpedoed by German submarine in World War I. They were rescued and our father came to them on Malta. He was Lt Thomas Scotland of the Australian 10th Light Horse Cavalry based in Egypt. Mother returned to Australia and Melita was born, second in a later family of seven. Subsequently she became a woman who received accolades for her gifted service and care of others.
On Saturday 16th March, Melita's son Tim, my wife Laurel and I were together with Melita after she died in Hollywood Hospital. It was a tender and loving time as we kissed her and came to grips with how quickly Melita had slipped away. While we talked it seemed she was just quietly resting and would enter the conversation at any time.
On Wednesday 20th March my wife Laurel and I went to Purslowes Funeral Parlour to view Melita, but this time in her casket. I was not ready for the emotions that welled up within me. I really broke up. It was to be my responsibility to lead the service at Karrakatta Crematorium later. How could I do it? The time came for the service to begin and I asked the 200 people present there to bear with me if I showed emotion However, I assured all present that we could do the service together and share our grief when needed. It was a precious time of honouring the Lord who had so inspired Melita in her many and varied roles of home-maker and carer for family and the needy.
Previous to the service and after being at Purslowes to view Melita in her casket I had sought a quiet spot to allow my emotions to flood out. As I had prayed, the words of an Old Testament prophet had come to mind. I recalled the words from Isaiah 61 verse 3, "He gave me beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, that we might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord that He might be glorified." The remembrance of those words had greatly strengthened me and I felt ready to lead the service, as I had needed to do.
Melita had been a nurse at Holly wood Military Hospital in Perth when Hospital ships brought the wounded from the North African Campaign in World War II. Later she had also been a nurse on the battlefields of New Guinea and Bougainville where Australian forces were stemming the tide of Japanese invasion.
She was on Bougainville when she wrote to me in Europe in 1944. I was flying into the midst of air-battles at the time and her letter said, "I'll race you home." It was my sister's encouragement for me to survive the war. But it was also a reminder of our days as young people on horseback on our family farm when we rode our ponies to distant places. On our return journey to the farm, the horses really let out to a gallop. As we neared home we would say to each other, "I'll race you home."
Well actually I beat Melita home to Australia in wartime because war in the Pacific went on another 4 months after peace in Europe. But of course when you think of Melita now going home to glory, well she has raced me home hasn't she.
Earlier on in 1942 I had been an RAAF pilot sailing with others by ship from Fremantle for the fierce conflict of Europe. Melita had then been a lone figure in an Army nurses uniform standing on the wharf to farewell me. How she had obtained a Pass to get on that wharf I'll never know for ship departures were very highly secret. But that was our Melita.
Now it was my turn to feel sadness and loss in farewelling one I loved. But Melita's journey was into the exciting completion of all God's promises to her in Jesus Christ. And her life had been but her preparation. On the Island of Malta in 1916 our mother had experienced the grace of God in her rescue from the elements after her ship was torpedoed. She gave Melita the second name of Grace. Melita Grace, the grace of God in her life through her faith in Jesus Christ and we all have benefited.

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How many Melita's are there?

Melita Law (Scotland) was named after the island of Malta, where the family story has it she was conceived. This happened during a joyful reunion between Tom and Paula Scotland following a near tragic torpedoing of Paula's boat in the Mediterranean. See the whole story here.

Over time came several other Melita's, all named after Melita Law (Scotland) who we will tag M1.

There's Melita Brown <M2> who is the daughter of a KEMH nursing friend of M1 - Marjory and husband Alec Brown. Born 14 April 1952.

M3 is Melita Enright, nee Pustkuchen. M3 is the daughter of one of M1's cousins and is farming at Doodlakine. Born 8 July 1958.

M4 is Melita Barrington. She is actually the same generation at M1, but M1 was her godmother. M1 was godmother to M4 and her two sisters, Nathalie and Cynthia. M1's mother, and M4's father where cousins. There was 14 years difference between the cousins, which explains the godmother role and age difference a bit.

M5 is Melita Dennis, born 27 June 1949, is Tim's cousin. She is the daughter of Pat Dennis, M1's youngest sister Pat (twin of Elsa). She is currently in Poona, Queensland, out of Noosa.

M6 is Melita Mulley. M6 is the daughter of Tim's cousin Helen. Helen is the oldest of the cousins, first born to Norah, oldest of the "seven little Australians". M6 was born on August 31, 1978, the same birthday as M1 - hence the same name.

M7 is Melita Pustkuchen. M7 was born 1 February 1976 and is the daughter of M3's cousin and living in Perth.

If you think about it, if the Captain of the submarine that sunk the Arabia had gone on to kill the survivors, all these Melita's would have been Joans, Bettys and Mildreds instead!

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Published in the "West Australian"
Tuesday April 2nd, 2002
by Patrick Cornish.
For commercial reproduction permission, contact Patrick.


Melita Grace Law (nee Scotland)
Born: Narrogin, August 1917
Died: Perth, March 2002

Grace by name and nature

MELITA Law had already spent many years helping people with mental health problems when she learned, in December 1980, of a condition which was then not part of common language.
This was Alzheimer's disease, which Dr Richard Lefroy had heard much about at a medical conference in the United States. His lecture, at a Mental Health Association meeting, impressed Mrs Law enormously.
After Dr Lefroy successfully recommended the immediate establishment of an association for Alzheimer's, she volunteered for the committee.
Meeting in private homes and borrowed buildings, they raised cash and awareness. As a foundation member and energetic treasurer, Mrs Law was the sort of all-round inspiration all volunteer groups wish for.
Over the next two decades she won formal awards and informal praise for help especially to the families of people with the condition that today merits plenty of attention worldwide.
Melita's earliest experience of the caring profession was during nursing training at Perth's Children's Hospital, later renamed Princess Margaret, before World War II. The second eldest of seven children, she had grown up in the Wheatbelt, where her parents Tom and Paula Scotland farmed at Kulin before moving to Perth during the Depression.
Mrs Scotland, who had worked at the same hospital before marriage, had a dramatic story of wartime survival that explained how Melita Grace got her names.
In late 1916 Paula and her first baby, Norah, were steaming to Europe on the P and O liner Arabia to join her husband, wounded in Egypt while with the 10th Light Horse Regiment and sent to England for treatment.
Near Malta a German torpedo sank the ship, and all 439 passengers were rescued thanks to the arrival of four minesweepers.
They were taken to Malta, where Lieutenant Scotland arrived from England on the first available troopship. Their second baby was conceived on the island, and nine months later, while Paula was living with her sister in Narrogin, a daughter was born. Melita, her mother wrote in a memoir, is the island's name in Maltese, and "Grace was acknowledgement of God's favour" in delivering her from the Arabia disaster.
Grace was certainly Melita's watchword while she tended for patients in several country hospitals before joining the army nursing service in 1942. Four years of duty in New Guinea and Bougainville gave her experience of the mental anguish connected with physical injury and deprivation.
After training in midwifery at King Edward Memorial Hospital she worked at a doctor's surgery in Perth, and married Max Law in 1956.
Six years later, when their son Tim was approaching school age, Mrs Law began driving for Meals on Wheels. She did a training course for volunteers, and became an enthusiastic member of the psychiatric support service. This entailed strong commitment to ex-patients living in hostels, encouraging them in literacy classes and social activities such as horseriding, swimming and dancing.
Val Meredith, manager of the Alzheimer's Association support service, said last month she had often tried to tell this life member how wonderful she was. "But she would look me in the eye and reply: "Thank you, my dear, but the privilege is mine, to be with all of you special people.' She always brought flowers into our building, thus literally and symbolically adding beauty into our lives." In 1991 Mrs Law received the Senior of the Year award, and in 1997 the Rotary Club of Perth's granting of a community leadership award was greeted by a standing ovation by the 130 members and guests. Her response combined gratitude with emphasis that she was merely representing hundreds of other volunteers.
After the death of her husband - who after retirement in 1977 had also volunteered to help families affected by mental problems - she was sustained by her love of family, delight in music at home in Mount Claremont, and faith in God. Arranging flowers in the vases at Graylands hospital chapel, for example, or at nearby St Michael's Anglican Church, was another way of adding colour to people's lives.
Melita Law is survived by her son Tim, three grandchildren, and her sisters Norah, Helen, Pauline, Elsa and Pat, and brother Tom.
The Alzheimer's Assocation stand at the Royal Show has plenty of other willing hands to offer fridge magnets and leaflets, but one particular volunteer will always be remembered as a "beacon of light."

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In memory of Max and Melita Law

A month living in Graylands Migrant Hostel passed so quickly. Fifty families, most of us from Vietnam and some from Eastern Europe like Poland, Hungary - had settled down nicely with the Hostel routine. We had regular medical check-ups, English classes, and several outings to the surrounding neighbourhood, and for more adventurous souls, ventures to downtown Perth itself.
Now that compulsory English classes were drawing to its end, everyone had only one thing in their mind: to look for a flat or a house to rent and get out of the Hostel as soon as possible.
Was there something wrong with the Hostel, you might ask? Well, nothing wrong at all. On the contrary, it was a wonderful place: it fed you (from the canteen) three times a day. It put a roof over your head, provided you with all the essentials for your living, from blankets to bath towels ­ when all you could call yours were a few clothes you brought from refugee camp.
So, why move out?
It was a case of proving you were mature enough to fly off the "nest". It was the ultimate proof you were indeed a free and independent person. And having a place to your own was to show that indeed you were king of your castle, if only a tiny and rented one! And last, but not least, there was one important fact: in that "rented" castle, you would be able to cook Vietnamese food! What's wrong with Australian food, you might ask again? Nothing! In fact, we enjoyed it tremendously for the first few weeks ­ it was heaven compared with canned food in refugee camp. But in the end, it was too much of a carnivorous diet for us ­ we needed more vegies, more properly cooked rice, and gallons and gallons of that smelly fish sauce so dear to us!
So all the busy bodies got busy, and little by little, the Hostel got emptied of all the Asian families.
It was harder for our family, because of our sheer numbers. My husband and I were newly married, and I was pregnant with my first baby. But we were in charge of one brother of mine, two of my husband's children (all teenagers) and three nephews of his, all under ten years old, whom my husband promised to their mother to take good care of, because their dad was in prison. Eight people in one big family, enough to scare off any landlord!
But in the end, we had been able to rent a three-bedroom fibro house from Miss Leonie Ryan.
A social worker herself, she helped us out with whatever she could lay hands on from her Catholic Church: some odd beds and mattresses, blankets, and an assortment of crockery and cutlery. But alas, no pot or pan big enough for us.
That weekend, the church in our neighbourhood held a garage sale. Giao, my husband decided it would be just the place to look out for it.
We had been up and down the stalls twice, and not one pot in sight. Disappointed, we were ready to leave when one of the old ladies tending the stalls stepped out and asked me: "What are you after? Can I help you in anyway?"
In what little English in my possession, I tried to explain we just moved out of the Migrant Hostel and needed some pots and pans. The lady turned to her friends, said something, then told me: "Come with me, I got some spare ones at home you can have".
She drove us to a cottage as pretty as a picture, with an old chubby man mowing the lawn under a blue blooming jacaranda. She introduced herself: "My name is Melita Law, and this is Max, my husband". Then she showed us around the house. It was Paradise itself to me: a neat and leafy garden, with flowers in every corner.
That day, we went home, richer by three new friends, Max, Melita and Tim, their son, and two decent size pots. Our new life in Australia couldn't have started any better!
The day I had my first son Anh, Max and Melita came with a set of woollen jumper and socks. I handed the baby to Melita and said: "Hello Grandpa and Grandma!" With us Vietnamese, the way we address each other always shows some kind of relationship. It's never a case of bland and neutral 'You' and 'I' in Western way. Max and Melita were around the age of my parents ­ hence why they were automatically qualified to be my son's grand parents! They seemed very moved by the appellation: "We are very honoured!" And immediately I had that fuzzy and warm feeling: in spite of being born thousands of miles from VN, from the rest of my family, my son still got someone to call grand parents
During the time we lived in Perth, we went often to Mount Claremont to visit them, or they called on us in Swanbourne. Until the day we said good bye to all friends far and near and moved to Sydney
From that day, every Christmas I sent to Max and Melita a card with a long letter, relating every events within our family, from jobs to first house, the consecutive arrivals of our three other children. And in reply, either Max or Melita wrote to us lovely recounts of their work in the church, their different holiday trips, Tim's wedding to Kerry, and then their joy and pride, Jacob, Cassidy and Christopher
Then one day out of the blue, in the middle of the year, we received a letter from Melita with all the photos of our family I've sent to the Law's long time ago. I was totally puzzled until I read the letter:

"Dear Thanh and Giao,
Max passed away on the 16th of May. He's gone peacefully. Don't be sad. Max had had 84 beautiful years, with nothing to regret about. Every friend had been there to say good byeTim and Kerry would want me to come and live with them. But it seems Max is still around the flat, so I don't want to leave it. The flat seems so bare and lonely without him. I wandered in and out, taking stock of our belongings. I've given away a lot to the church, returned all friends' pictures - when I would join Max, who else would care for those? Thank you for sharing with us parts of your life".

Tears falling, I was achingly sad for the whole week, with the haunting image of Melita alone in the flat, preparing herself to meet Her Maker. That letter just felt like a farewell to us
No, Melita, it was us who have to thank both of you for sharing your lives with us - not the least the fact you so readily opened your hearts and accepted us from faraway country, running away from brutal regime and starting anew in this peaceful country.
As I had once written to you, our lives are so much richer because of people like you. Furthermore, you are living examples for us on how to live selflessly and generously.
Recently, various ethnic groups in Australia were in upheaval because of the acid tongue of a certain Pauline Hanson. For myself, I felt totally unaffected and detached to the event. Maybe because I inherited my father's incorrigible optimism. Maybe because through my own experiences, I saw only one Pauline, but life was full of Melita and Max Law, Leonie Ryan, May and Harry Thompson, Nanette and Brian D'Arcy As my father uses to say, the scent of humanity is always there, subtle but persistent.
This coming Christmas, we would be lucky if we would get a card from Melita again. If not, that last letter would be her final farewell. I strongly believed Heaven above had already reserved a place for her and dear Max. For us, remembering them is to see Max mowing under the blue jacaranda and Melita trimming flowers nearby.

Thanh Vu
November 1997

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