Literary honour for local centenarian

AUSTRALIA’S longest-running literary society has honoured its oldest member, 100-year-old Jess Castle.

Ms Castle, who lives in Glenorchy, was awarded a life-membership to the Lady Hamilton Literary Society at a special meeting in Hobart.

Lady Teresa Hamilton, wife of the Tasmanian Governor at the time, established the Hamilton Literary Society in 1889 to foster a love of reading and literary discussion among women in the colony.

Membership is strictly limited to a group of 30, who must each present a yearly paper on a chosen theme.

Ms Castle has been an active member since 1985.

Proving that age is no barrier, the sprightly centenarian still attends monthly meetings when she can, and even continues to write literary papers.

“I am grateful for the fact that I can still think clearly at 100 and do the papers I have been doing, in particular the one I have written this year on my life,” Ms Castle said.

“I have always relished the opportunity to develop my writing skills and enjoy doing the research for the Hamilton papers.”

Ms Castle turned 100 on 9 June and marked the milestone with a hand-written paper reflecting on her years, which was presented after she received her life membership.

‘Jessie Rose Castle – A Blessed Life’ recounts the story of a childhood in outback Queensland where her father searched for opals.

There is also mention of a near death experience at nine months old with a “wasting disease” and a miraculous cure by doctors.

“Between them, they decided to test some of this theory about wrapping children in swaddling bands of flannel soaked in the best brand of olive oil,” Ms Castle wrote.

“It didn’t happen overnight, but it did happen.

“To those who watched, it was like heaven’s gates opening on that child and by the time I was two and a half years old I was walking strongly.”

From that time on, Ms Castle did not stop as she pursued a life-long love of learning and literature.

She writes about her first job on a cattle station where she “supervised the daily education which arrived in the mail to three active lads.”

There was also a five-month trip to Tasmania to visit relatives, and a return to Hobart in 1938 where Jess found work looking after the children of Methodist minister Reverend Colin McRae.

“When I worked at the parsonage I went to business college at night and sat for exams,” Ms Castle said.

“I enjoyed shorthand and did especially well at it.”

Ms Castle was later employed for 17 years as a secretary at the Shell Company, where she honed her literary skills writing articles for the Shell Australian Magazine.

“I received photographs from their office to assist. I also wrote notes each month for the workers. They enjoyed it too,” she said.

Alongside fostering her love of the written word, Ms Castle said her 33 years with the Literary Society had produced enduring friendships.

Her life membership certificate was signed by Tasmania’s Governor Professor Kate Warner, president of the Lady Hamilton Literary Society.

Caption: 100-year-old Jess Castle is officially the oldest member of the Lady Hamilton Literary Society.

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About the Author: Glenorchy Gazette

The Glenorchy Gazette is your monthly community newspaper, reaching over 24,000 homes and businesses in the Glenorchy municipality. It is the product of Nicolas Turner, Justine Brazil, Ben Hope, Simon Andrews, Tobias Hinds and guest contributors, with support from advertisers.

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