Margaret (Maggie) Gowanlock was a pupil at Cremorne Girls High School in the 1950s. As an only child she loved the environment and the friendships she found there. Unfortunately her eagerness to talk and communicate sometimes found her standing outside the headmistress’ office. She drove some of her teachers batty with her well-meant questions.
A good English and history student, the spirited and well-liked teenager became Ashton House Captain. Maggie captained the school hockey team in 1956 when it won the metropolitan championships.
By the time she was 15 she had already decided on a career as a journalist. At school, vocational guidance teacher Mrs Heaney, gave her cautionary advice: ‘perhaps a librarian, or at very best the advertising world. Journalism is simply too difficult a field for young women to consider. After all, it’s a male dominated scene; women usually run the social pages,’ she was told.
‘On the other hand, my unconventional English teacher Dora Birtles gave me huge encouragement. I was not aware she had previously written articles for magazines. Nor did I know that she and her husband Bert had been stood down from university in their student days for publishing erotic poetry! Another young English teacher Trixie Carruthers, became my mentor. We corresponded for 52 years as she patiently waited to finally read the book she expected me to write.’
Maggie’s subsequent career as a journalist began in Sydney and took her London’s Fleet Street in the 1960s. Her exciting and varied years as a reporter and feature writer led her to interview some of the world’s most famous and well-known: Luciano Pavarotti, Peter Ustinov, Joan Sutherland, Frank Sinatra, Danny Kaye, Sir Edmund Hillary and Kathryn Hepburn among them.
As publicity director for publishing house Angus & Robertson she handled national book launches and publicity tours for outstanding novelists such as Frank Moorhouse, Thomas Keneally, Thea Astley, Colin Simpson, Ivan Southall and David Ireland.
She opened her own publicity agency, Maggie G Publicity at Cremorne, and toured with international artists such as Nina Simone, Sara Vaughan, Johnny Mathis, and Harry Secombe. Then followed a two-year contract as publicity director for rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar on its tour of New Zealand and Australia.
After a rewarding career in the fields of journalism, script writing and publicity, she has since retired to concentrate on writing biographies.
She is President of the Old Girls’ Union and has been editor of its newsletter, Old School Ties, for more than 20 years. This affiliation has given her the opportunity to liaise with former students, many of whom told her that their lives were shaped by their high school days. ‘I realised that a commemorative book about the school I loved was out there, waiting to be written’, she said.
Verena Bacchini was the author’s collaborator in this book. Of Swiss origin, she migrated to Australia in 1990. Her background was initially in nursing. She made a career change in 1980 which led to her role as a computer programmer, then systems programmer, with Swissair for a decade.
In Australia she ventured into shiatsu and remedial massage and later gained a diploma in psychotherapy. She has relished her close involvement in the creation of this commemorative book.
For the past seven years Maggie and Verena have put their hearts into this venture. ‘Verena is a skilled researcher and interviewer and has played a significant role in supporting me in the writing of this book. My gratitude for her dedication is beyond words.
She has scanned hundreds of photos, documents and relevant material and insured their safe return to contributors. Her ability to keep everything running smoothly, in the office and on the computer, has been invaluable. This book would not have happened without her.’