A special morning tea was recently held at Whiddon Wee Waa to celebrate Nada and David Fry’s 60th wedding anniversary.
“It was great, we really enjoyed it,” said Reverend Fry about the diamond milestone celebration.
The Fry’s love story might have started as a whirlwind romance in a faraway place, but their relationship has stood the test of time.
“I couldn’t catch her, she was the whirlwind,” recalled Rev. Fry.
The couple met in 1959 when they were both working at the Oenpelli Mission in the Northern Territory.
“It was pretty much the middle of Arnhem Land,” said Rev. Fry.
The former mission was situated on the Alligator River and was established by the Church of England Church Missionary Society.
Both young and adventurous spirits: Mrs Fry, then Nada Harris, and Rev. Fry travelled to the tropical, remote and beautiful Top End for short-term work opportunities, but they soon fell in love with the Northern Territory’s stunning landscape, the local people and of course – each other.
Mrs Fry was a nurse from Wee Waa and Rev. Fry was a teacher from the Hunter Valley.
“My uncle Dick Harris, who was the Superintendent of the Oenpelli Mission, wrote to me and asked if I could come and help at the hospital there,” said Mrs Fry who was a qualified nursing sister.
“The sister in charge of the hospital was leaving to have a baby and there was no one else there to do her job.
“I’d finished my training and was working at the Wee Waa hospital at the time,” said Mrs Fry.
“It took me a few days to get there and I had to try and pick-up a few Aboriginal words along the way.”
Mrs Fry said it was “extremely different” to Wee Waa.
“It was in a way a challenge because I missed my parents and family but mum was a good letter writer and we always kept in touch.”
“My mother had also been a nurse, she was also a teacher – she was a clever person. “
Mrs Fry’s compassionate and caring nature meant she was well suited to the role where she was dealing with a range of health issues including leprosy.
“I felt very sorry for them because they lost fingers and limbs.”
Mr Fry said his wife was a ‘people person’.
“She was always about the people and helping people, not just the procedures.”
One day in late 1959, Mrs Fry went out to the airstrip to meet a planeload of passengers arriving at Oenpelli.
“We would always greet the plane with cold drinks,” said Mrs Fry.
On that particular day on of the arriving passengers was a young teacher named David Fry.
“She was a vision of loveliness holding all these coloured drinks,” said Rev. Fry about his first glimpse of his now-wife.
“We didn’t know each other before, but my career had almost paralleled Nada’s because I’d just completed five years teacher training,” said Rev. Fry.
“I was a teacher for students aged five to 13.”
He said he’d initially wanted to be a minister before training to be teacher, being a minister is something he went on to do later in life.
“What I felt call to do was to be a minister but the principal at the theological college in Sydney said: ‘get yourself a profession son’.
“Because I was too young when I saw him about becoming a minister.
“I’d heard about a government recruitment drive encouraging people to travel north and work in schools and hospitals.
“I applied for a scholarship to be a trainee teacher – it was a government position. They recruited you and trained you.
“I was convinced that would be a good thing to do.
“I heard about the opportunity to go and teach Aboriginal children in Arnhem Land so that’s how it played out.”
After meeting at the remote Oenpelli airstrip, the couple enjoyed a blissful few months getting to know each other within the rules and expectations of the time.
“You could have a chat in the company of others and go down to the billabong,” said Rev. Fry, but living together before marriage was not an option.
Unfortunately, duty soon called and Mrs Fry was transferred for work.
“Nada had to go to Groote Eylandt for a nursing position, in the Gulf of Carpentaria,” said Rev. Fry.
He said the pair didn’t see each other for eight months before Rev. Fry was given two weeks holiday and permission to visit his long-distance love at Groote Eylandt.
“And soon after, a head teaching job came up at Groote Eylandt,” said Rev. Fry.
The timing was perfect and prompted the couple’s engagement so they could be together.
“Unless you were married you couldn’t be on the same station,” said Mrs Fry.
“No funny business you see,” added Rev. Fry.
“We ordered a ring from a catalogue,” Mrs Fry recalled.
“A single stone and delicate – like her,” added Rev. Fry.
The Fry’s wedding day happened in a hurry: they were given permission to marry at 6.30 in the morning and their wedding was held less than five hours later at 11 o’clock, on August 17 1960.
“My aunt Nell Harris called out over the two-way radio –‘it’s on’ and that was at 6.30,” said Mrs Fry.
She said they had to get permission from the mission bosses in Sydney and Melbourne.
The wedding was a small but joyous gathering.
Rev. Fry said his favourite memory of the day was seeing Mrs Fry all dressed-up.
“I thought she looked incredible,” he said.
“A lady on Groote Eylandt ran a dress up for me very quickly, someone had a little tiny veil and someone sent me a pair of shoes,” said Mrs Fry who was very bashful when listening to her husband describe how beautiful she looked at their wedding.
“Oh gosh, I think the wedding dress ended up in the dress-up box for the children,” she added.
Mrs Fry, whose family were originally dairy farmers in Narrabri before moving to Wee Waa, said the late Narrabri seamstress Mrs Spraggs had also made her a wedding dress but she didn’t have it in time for her big day.
Instead, she wore that dress at a gathering held sometime later to celebrate their marriage.
Mrs Fry also shared fond memories of their honeymoon camping by the river.
“An older Aboriginal couple camped not far away so that if they’d been a crocodile or anything they could help us,” she said.
“There were things you didn’t want to be in the billabong with!
“They’d catch fish and we’d often sit together and have a cup of tea at the campfire.”
The Frys stayed in the Northern Territory for three-and-a-half years and loved every minute of it.
It’s where they had their two children – twins Helen and Steven who were born at Darwin Hospital in 1961.
“They kept us busy – one would run one way and the other would run the other way,” said Mr Fry.
They later had two more children – Jonathan and Catherine.
The Frys are now also proud grandparents and said that after 60 years of marriage their family is, without a doubt, their proudest achievement.
“I would not have been able to do anything without Nada – it’s been a tandem situation. We’ve both been in it together,” said Rev. Fry.
When asked to share his advice about the secret to a long-lasting relationship, Rev. Fry said marriage can be about “lots of arguments and lots of making up”.
“The first 50 years are the hardest and then after that – it’s all great,” he said with a cheeky smile.
The Frys have family in Wee Waa but up until recently, Mudgee was their main home.
Health issues have resulted in a move to Whiddon Wee Waa but the couple is very happy in the region with frequent family visitors, and very much enjoy each other’s company sixty years after they said ‘I do’.
Mr Fry can often be found playing the piano for residence and has also joined the Wee Waa Community Band.
“If there’s a piano there, you’ll likely find me playing it.
“I’m really a wind player but if you’ve got an appreciative audience – I’ll play.”To order photos from this page click here