I first met Margaret and Gough Whitlam in the early 1970’s when Gough was Prime Minister and I was Deputy Mayor of Leichhardt. Over the years Margaret’s and my paths intersected, only occasionally, mainly at functions to do with books. Despite all the thousands of people she must have been constantly meeting she always remembered me and was a staunch advocate of Brays Books. She once ‘reprimanded’ someone who asked if she knew Brays with, “Of course, doesn’t everyone?”.
A few years ago I was at a small morning tea with a group of mostly young publishers and booksellers to mark the publication of Susan Mitchell’s biography of Margaret. Margaret and Susan spoke about the book and questions were invited. I had intended to leave it to the ‘young ones’ but they were silent in the presence of ‘the great lady’ so I decided to break the ice. I told Margaret that one of my favourite ever cartoons came from when she and Gough were visiting China and an earthquake struck. The next day the cartoon appeared with Gough and Margaret in bed together and the caption was ‘Did the earth move for you too darling’. There was a collective drawing in of breath as the ‘young ones’ wondered whether I had been too personal. Margaret however, as I expected, laughed and said it was also one of her favourites and in fact she and Gough had the original cartoon, signed and framed, on a wall at home.
The questions then flowed and Margaret responded to all with her trademark warmth and humour.