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1 April, 2021

Tribute to Mackay's most loved woman

NANA or Noleah Ramsamy was Mackay’s most remarkable woman.

By John Bell

Even at 103, Nana was still an amazing livewire and on the Sunday before she passed, Nana asked to get out of the house and went on a day trip to Finch Hatton.

In her 70’s when her sons’ went crocodile hunting, Nana would be the first in the boat holding the spotlight and directing her sons where to go.

Not letting age define her, her love of fishing and competitive spirit was still strong when she was 100. Nana would go fishing with grandson Michael and wife at Grasstree. Despite her age, Nana always tried to out fish her grandson.

Nana was also the loudest barracker on the sideline at football matches when her grandchildren were playing.

During Nana’s first 100 years, Nan has seen four British and Australian Monarchs, 25 Prime Ministers and the Australian population grow from 5 million to 24.7 million.

Nana has left over 197 family members, including 11 children, 39 grandchildren, 97 great grandchildren, 47 great great grandchildren and at least three great, great, great grandchildren. 

Nana is now at rest with her late husband Ram Chandra, known as Pop Ramsamy.

Her passing is a great loss to the Mackay community and we will all grieve and miss her for many years to come.

The biggest complement and fondest memories anyone could give or share about Nanna was that family meant everything.

She was not a selfish women and family meant so much more than her immediate family. It also meant that she didn’t distinguish between cultures as she believed we are all human beings, no matter what culture you came from be it Aboriginal, Torres Strait or South Sea Islander.

Her death has effected everyone in the greater Mackay community and especially those in her Slade Point Community.

Nanna had a strong connection to her culture and regularly attended community celebrations such as NAIDOC and Flag raising ceremonies at council and taught others about her culture when storytelling and involved in educational projects in the botanic gardens.

If you asked her what was the secret to a long life, she would say eating fish, rice and mangoes which were some of her favorite foods

Many of her grandchildren are very proud to call her their Nan and were very proud to say her age as the matriarch and elder in our community.

One of her many grandson’s Adam Doull and his family have special memories of taking Nanna to her home town in the Torres Strait for family holidays. Her granddaughter Tash Ramsamy has lived and cared for Nanna over the past couple of years has taken her on many a trip in the region and state so that she could enjoy the beach and great outdoors.

Nolear Ramsamy was born in Port Liu, on Prince of Wales Island in the Torres Strait on October 6, 1917.  She was the 4th child of 13 children born to father Siat Bin Baba and mother Mariam Moy.

Siat came from Malacca and when 17, he came to Thursday Island where he met Mariam who was born on Badu Island.

As a young woman, Nana enjoyed life in the Torres Straits going fishing and hunting with her brothers and going to the picture show with her sisters.

Nan’s younger life was full of fun and mischief but she always working hard to support the growing family cleaning or working with her father cutting firewood and on the pearl farms.

Her lifelong enterprising nature was obvious. For example, to get picture show money she would use a broom stick to knock rats from the rafters and get paid a bounty.

Nana became an expert rat catcher but the downside was the holes that were left in the roof of their home.

Japan declared war in 1941 and the majority of the civilian population of TI was evacuated to the mainland in January 1942. 

At age 24 years, Nan and her family were evacuated to Cherbourg. The journey took them by ship and barge from Thursday Island to Townsville then by truck to Cherbourg. 

Whilst in Cherbourg, the family lived on rations issued by the government and Nan and her sisters would walk 7 kms to Murgon to get supplies to put food on the table. 

Nana made friends with the local Aboriginal community and Aunty Rita Huggins becoming one of Nan’s best friends.

The family left Cherbourg in 1943 settling in Mackay. Nan’s mother, father, 4 siblings and her 3 young children lived in the 3 bedroom house on Harbour road, North Mackay. We can only imagine how busy that house was.

To support the family, Nana worked several jobs as a cleaner, laundry hand and as ticket seller at the local show. 

Whilst working at the show, Nan met a handsome showman of Indian descent from Lawrence in NSW, Edward Royce Ramsamy, known as Ram Chandra

Nana and Pop married in 1944 at the Mackay Court House which was followed by a reception at the family home in North Mackay.  The newlyweds soon moved to Thornber Street.

Over the following years, Nan and Pop’s family grew to 11 children - 6 girls and 5 boys. Joining Rhonda, Nami and Salma are Edward Royce Jnr in 1945, Albert 1947, Johno 1948, Nolear 1949, Annette 1951, Brian 1952, Lawrence 1954 and Maree 1956.

The first grandchild, Gail was born in 1956 to Nami and in 1958 the whole family moved to Slade Point. 

Over the next 40 years, the Wren Street property would become not only the local for family Christmas gatherings. Nan created a menagerie of animals which included snakes, chickens, goats, sheep, aviaries of birds and cockatoos and ponds for fish.

Whilst Pop travelled the countryside educating people about the Taipan and snake bites, Nan, with the support of older children took care of her large family.   Although, at times life was hard, Nan had strong faith and family came first.   

Nana also ensured that potential in-laws were able to provide for the family. She made them go into the mangroves to collect uckles or pick oysters and perrywinkles from the rocks.  This became a rite of passage.

As a Torres Strait Islander family, living off the ocean and mangroves, hunting and fishing were always considered important; both a source of food for the family but a celebration of culture.

Cultural celebrations would also be marked by a huge gathering of family members preparing vermicelli and curry chicken, namus, a kap mari, dancing and laughter. 

Everyone gathered here today would know Nan’s fun and adventurous character and she joined her children and grandchildrens’ actrivities.

Nan would always travelled back to the Torres Strait whenever possible and to other far flung places such as Melbourne, Darwin, Canberra and Newcastle to see her growing and extended family.

Shopping trips to town with Nan would take twice as long as planned, as she would meet so many people who would come up to her to say hello to Nan Ramsamy.

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