Melita Grace Law (Scotland)
"Celebrating the life"
August 31, 1917 - March 16, 2002
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Thoughts from Tom
Scotland about his sister
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
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.
How many Melita's
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
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
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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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
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
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
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
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
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
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
THE SCENT OF HUMANITY
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
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
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
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
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
"Dear Thanh and
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
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