EXTRACTS FROM THE FUNERAL SERVICE FOR
BETTY CARISBROOK MUELLER
JOHN ALLISON MONKHOUSE
12TH April 2010
Celebrant: Sylvia Johnson
Today we pay tribute to Betty Carisbrook Mueller who passed away on the 5th April, 2010. On behalf of her husband, Ernie, thank you for your sympathy, thoughts, cards and flowers, and for being with him now. It does mean so much. And also you are here in your own right in remembering your times shared with Betty, and from your emails and calls, there were many.
This is the only ceremony for Betty who will be privately cremated later on, and please join Ernie for Morning Tea and a good catch up and chat afterwards.
This time together is a time of honouring and reflection, and to uphold Ernie who was the devoted and loving husband of Betty for some 37 years, and how he will miss her, for aside from her work as a Civil Marriage Celebrant, (that ceased due to ill health), these two were inseparable, enjoying one another’s company in the everyday functions of life around their home. Content with one another, and with the company of close friends and neighbours; they didn’t go to shows, the pictures, eat out, or take long holidays….a couple of breaks to visit relatives in NSW and a trip to Foster, plus a few weekend drives either into the country or by the sea, was about all.
Betty enjoyed her favourite shows on Television, of course, many comedy and satire…that had to be well written; she was proud of her home, stylishly decorated and she enjoyed cooking, with Ernie saying she was a very good cook. Unusual for a Pom, she was a coffee person, not tea! Betty also enjoyed the Pokies, regularly taking off to the local to see if she could win a few $$’s and even if she loss a little, it was the enjoyment of the venue and fellow players that was equally important to her.. for Betty enjoyed people, and you certainly you had to if you are going to succeed as a Celebrant.
But to understand Betty more, we need to take a step back, right back to when she was born in Harrow, North East of London on the 3rd August 1929 to parents Joseph, known as Jo and Yvette (she was French) Hinden. She was one of 3 girls and two boys, all deceased. Her father Jo, who Betty was very fond of, was a cabinet maker, and obviously successful in being able to adequately provide for his family in those very difficult years pre-war years.
There are a couple of pieces of his work in her home in Carnegie.
Betty went to Harrow on the Hill school – a very bright pupil, with her hand regularly going up in the air in wanting to answer a question…..to the extent her teachers said she didn’t need to for they knew she knew the answers.
Where and for how long she attended High or Secondary School we are not sure, but again, would have been an outstanding pupil having a mind like a sponge balanced by a delicious sense of fun.
Later Betty married and had two sons, Stephen and David….lovely that her daughter in law, Margaret is here with Hew, Guy and Teddy.
How she entered the world of script-writing again, we are not sure, but she must have been very good at it for she became one of a number of brilliant scriptwriters for “The Two Ronnies” – who you well know as one of the most popular comedy shows of all times…….no doubt it was through her brilliant and quick mind, her wht and her rather wicked sense of humour. This was when they were staring within The Frost Report with David Frost.
Later Betty emigrated to Australia with her husband Donald and the two boys, hopeful of a better life, making their home in Sydney and working in various positions, at one stage Ernie thought she may have been teaching as there was little work for scriptwriters in a country that largely bought its TV shows from America and the UK.
Betty and Ernie met on a boat bound for Europe where they were to catch up with family, and after their separate return to Sydney they married, Ernie thinks in 1965/ 66…somewhere around there.
The Mavis Brampton Show was a very brave intrusion into the rather conventional television being watched in Australia in the mid 60’s. It was a show of topical satire, brave enough to send anyone and anything up including Royalty, Prime Ministers, The Pope, religion, politics, whatever they could put a great spin on. Thus is was hugely successful, rating up again the popular Graeme Kennedy and Perry Como Show……. Betty was fortunate or clever or both, to be on the script-writing team. And what delights she would have had working for the many ‘stars’ of the show including the highly naughty Gordon Chater…I wonder if the famous Pie Eater routine was hers!!
And then the move to Melbourne in the late ‘60’s where Ernie developed a new business in his field of printing.
Civil Wedding or Civil Marriage Ceremonies were rare in those days, but Betty liked the sound of them, and of course, knew she would be good at it. With her broad command of the English language, a fine pen, a love of romance, outlandish and making people happy…she was a natural. But it wasn’t easy as the Australian Government had not got their head around such ‘away from the Church’ ceremonies’.
Thank heavens for the then Attorney General, Lionel Murphy who bravely paved the way, and more bravely the first appointed Celebrants such as Dally Messenger, Lyn Knorr, Dawn Dixon, Alma Gino, Rick Barkley, to name a few.
Betty was No. 50. Today there are thousands….but we won’t go into that for Betty certainly did not approved of the current criteria for mass appointments. Some elementary training does not a celebrant make!!
Last Friday I advised through my Celebrants Associations the passing of Betty, and was delighted to receive a number of responses, all via email, and it is right that I share them with you now, in realizing just how much Betty was respected for her tenacity and commitment to celebrancy, her nailing retorts, and her outlandish ways.
From Dally Messenger who operates the International College of Celebrancy …...
Betty was a pioneer celebrant. Of the 99 celebrants appointed personally by Lionel Murphy she was the 50th. What many may not know is that with her former husband, Donald Carisbrooke, she was the author of the young people's Encyclopaedia of Australia (published in 1969). She was quite an academic and intellectual - totally without pretension.
In the 60s she was a scriptwriter for the Mavis Bramston show - a comedy TV show which was the talk of Australia. She wrote some famous skits, the most famous of which was a send up of a group of men in an Anzac Day Reunion -- from the point of view of the women who returned from the war.
She also had a program on 3AW in the 70s by which she popularised civil celebrancy.
She had own sense of humour which some people found hilarious, but others did not understand or appreciate. Consequently, as a celebrant, she was much discussed!
She deeply resented the OPD requirements (this is the current formal training Celebrants must take, and retake), which she felt were a burden to the older celebrants, and a mark of disrespect for the pioneer work she and others had contributed to the celebrant program. She deeply resented the Attorney General's Department for never giving any acknowledgment or recognition to those who established the program.
It was hard watching her struggle with illness in her final years. She was such a personality and character in our midst.
Fondly Dally Messenger
From Lyn Knorr – Civil Celebrant …. I'm so pleased you are doing Betty's funeral. She had a wicked sense of humour and a great sense of style - her own style. She was witty and would be quick with an aside at the very hint of pomposity.
You couldn't miss her - she was always dressed in something that would attract attention and she loved colour. She was, as were many of the early celebrants, one of life's great characters. There was not a hint of beige about her!
Betty Carisbrooke-Mueller, one of the more colourful personalities. Betty put knitted ponchos and long ugg boots into a few wedding albums - and I do recall that her clients needed to have no allergies to cats!
Dawn Dickson, Cranbourne North
I sometimes wonder if she was the celebrant who triggered off Dally's often commented on quote "celebrants wearing pink mocassins".
A couple who were friends of mine, brought me their wedding photo and sure enough Betty had the ugg boots on.
There were some rather unique individuals amongst the oldies.
Thanks for letting us know Sylvia….....
From Lydia Periitore…….
I am deeply saddened by the passing of Betty. I only met her two years ago during one of Dally's OPDs and drove her home that night, and she made me laugh so much that I almost had an accident! I thought she was the wittiest person I had ever met, and I feel so privileged to have known her if only very briefly.
From a celebrant – Susanne Hurst - Please mention our admiration and respect for Betty's persistence and courage in facing undoubted hostility, calumny and blocking tactics. It's still facing us all and it is personally very debilitating to deal with over time.
I didn't know her personally, but feel about it just the same.
And from Alma Gino………
Hi Sylvia, am so glad you are doing Betty’s eulogy - your voice is warm and caring (Alma phoned from Adelaide Sunday morning). Betty and I were two of the oldies appointed back in the early days. We lived close to each other and were friends from the start. She was a truly colourful person much, much larger than life. I loved her anecdotes, her wicked sense of humour and that she had a way with words that made them come alive. She had the gift of vivacity and loved an audience. The private Betty and the public Betty were totally different. Her humour was infectious, bless her, she was as bright and colourful as the kaleidoscope of colours she wore and loved vale betty… Please email me a copy of your service….which of course I will, and to all other contributing celebrants.
Ceremony continued ....... I wonder what Betty thought of much of today’s so called comedy, particularly that shown on Television, I doubt she would approve; for it is more grunge than clever, more obvious than suggestive, and where is the wit and just plain silliness that we desperately need today! ….. and certainly there are not the brilliant character actors of the past.
And of weddings, in many cases lost is the delight of the romance and the magic and joy of the celebration. Replaced by a structured format goaded by the Wedding Magazines and Wedding Venues… often presided over by ‘conventional celebrants’. Such a pity, when as Betty saw it….they can be so much more.
Ernie mentioned that Betty was never ‘really well’, not that you would know it. Going back many years her left kidney had to be removed, and when she went to a Melbourne hospital for an unknown complaint, with the Indian surgeon saying her right kidney was infected and had to be removed…. they fled the place, literally on the next plane to her Sydney specialist who treated her successfully. You might gather Betty’s description of the Melbourne experience would have been highly colourful!!!
As part of the natural transitions of life, ill-health invariably happens, and for Betty in came in the form of a heart attack, leading to surgery, a very difficult by-pass operation from which she never recovered. In the last few days she had a massive stroke, and with the body unable to function on its own, it was Betty’s time to go. Ernie was with her when she died, very peacefully at Cabrini Hospital, Melbourne, Easter Monday the 5th April, 2010. She had lived some 80 years on this earth.
There should indeed be many more Betty Muller’s in this world and even though she was a little lady – Ernie could fit her under his arm-pit….as you have gathered she sure packed a punch and left her mark in more ways than a hundred. As Lyn Knorr said, ‘there was nothing beige about Betty”© Sylvia Johnson
Our sincere thanks Sylvia and to Betty's husband Ernie Mueller's permission for these extracts and photo of Betty.