Obituary: Blackheath identity Laurel Phillips

Laurel Phillips. Photo by Trish Davies
Laurel Phillips. Photo by Trish Davies

Long-term Blackheath resident Laurel Phillips died on July 20, just a month after her 100th birthday.

Mrs Phillips was a tireless member and supporter of many of the town’s societies, including the Country Women’s Association (CWA) and the Rhododendron Festival Committee, of which she was a founding member.

She lived in Blackheath for more than 80 years after coming to the town as a young woman to work as a maid for the Phillips family in the Glenella guesthouse.

She eventually married Morris Phillips, the youngest son, and spent decades working in and later running Glenella.

Laurel Evelyn Peime was born in Bathurst on June 26, 1917. She moved to Portland where she worked in a guesthouse and then, in 1938, to Blackheath.

She was a life member of the Blackheath CWA, spent 50 years  on the management committee of the community centre and also had long associations with the Horticultural Society, the Campbell Rhododendron Gardens and Red Cross.

She was for many years president of the tennis club, which was named The Phillips Tennis Centre after her.

In 2002, as the only surviving original member of the Rhododendron Festival committee, she was given the honour of planting the first rhododendron bush in Sutton Park to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Rhodo Festival.

Mrs Phillips worked at Glenella until 1973 when it was sold. She had originally lived in Inconstant St but later moved to a house in Park Avenue, directly behind Glenella, which had originally been part of the guesthouse’s property.

She lived there until her late 90s, when ill health forced her to move to Three Trees at Lithgow.

Mrs Phillips wrote a chapter for the Blackheath history book, Blackheath today from yesterday, about her memories of Glenella and its heyday of the 1930s and 1940s.

At that time, accommodation cost guests three pounds and 12 shillings a week, which including all meals, a big feature for visitors.

She wrote: “For lunch we offered soup, a choice of two entrees, a choice of three or four roasts plus vegetables and usually five or six sweets which always included a pie plus cream, a baked pudding with custard, plus various jellies, fruit etc.

“Tea was soup, a hot entree, a choice of four roast meat salads, plus a range of up to six lighter sweets like flummery, Spanish cream, fruit and jelly.

“Guests could have repeat sweets at lunch time but not at tea!”

Glenella had its own chooks for eggs and an orchard which supplied the fruit for home-made jams and preserves.

It was probably the Glenella experience that refined Mrs Phillips’ outstanding cooking skills. She was an excellent baker and excelled at cake icing and decorating. She was still winning prizes for cooking and handicraft at the annual flower show hosted by the Horticultural Society well into her 90s.

Mrs Phillips is survived by her only child, daughter Judith. Morris died in 1974.