Carole’s Early days
Carole was born Carole Ann Tapsell in Kharagpur in India in 1943. She was the daughter of Carl Tapsell the famous hockey player who had received Gold Medals for India in the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles and in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. He is acknowledged as being the world’s first penalty-corner goal-scoring specialist in the game. He was tipped to be the Captain for the Indian team for the London Olympics in 1948. Her mother was Eileen Slaney who had lived all her life in India as part of the British Raj. A forebear had been Lord Mayor of London but many of the family came in very early days to India in the Army and others came to help establish railway systems in India. What led her father to bring his family to Australia in 1947? It was the year of the partition of India into India and Pakistan. There was much unrest at the time. As he followed one of his teammates off the field at the end of a game, a young woman ran up to present this teammate with a bunch of flowers. But among the flowers was a knife which she plunged into his heart. He died in front of Carole’s father. It was time to leave.
Carole’s family came by ship and there was a foretaste of things to come. Twice Carole was found on the outside of the ship’s rails! An adventurous spirit even at four years of age! They eventually flew from Melbourne into the Brisbane airport at Archerfield. Then to Ipswich where Carl worked for and later helped the famous Hancock’s sawmill’s hockey team to unprecedented victories. Carole in the meantime was not well and her mother was advised to let her go to a higher altitude in Toowoomba to board at the Glennie School for girls. She remembered not being bullied as the youngest girl in the school but rather being spoilt! She also remembered vividly her father at a later time, sitting at their kitchen table with young hockey players talking about game strategies. [One of those young players finished up not only playing for Australia but also becoming a successful coach for British and Australian Olympic Hockey teams.]
She returned to schooling at the Ipswich Central School (she was disappointed recently to miss the 62ndanniversary of year 8 leavers.) Then later on to Ipswich Girls Grammar School. It was during this time that I first heard the name Carole Tapsell. Everyone in Ipswich had of course heard of her father Carl. But she had done art of speech and on Saturday mornings on the local radio station 4IP some selected students recited over the radio. I remember hearing this beautiful melodious voice from a girl named Carole Tapsell whom I assumed was Carl’s daughter. She had won numerous Eisteddfods. Later I began to hear and read about her exploits as a Girl Guide and as a sportswoman in swimming, tennis, netball and athletics. I vividly recall seeing a photo in the local Qld Times Newspaper of her as the Sports Captain of the school leading a march past of IGGS athletes at an Athletics Carnival and thinking at the time,” What an attractive girl!” Her school blazer pocket listed some of her achievements. She also became a sprint champion at the Qld GPS Athletic championships in Brisbane.
When Carole left school, she went to Kelvin Grove Teacher’s College where she became the female student rep on the College Council. She also received a scholarship to do a Diploma in Phys Ed at the University of Qld. It was about this time that I entered the Tapsell scene. Her parents had been encouraged by their Rector to go by a bus he hired, to the Billy Graham Crusade. It was packed. So, he hired 2 buses the next night and dozens of parishioners gave their lives to the Lord including Carole’s mother. She became the main parish organist and taught Sunday School. I had just become a believer months before and began to go to the same parish. I finished up teaching at the same Sunday School and began to go to Carole’s parent’s home to talk about Sunday School etc. I was impressed with the daughter! She impressed me as a dedicated sportsperson and for her strong but lovely personality. She told me many years later that I had seen her in her school uniform at that time and had called her “licorice legs” because of the black stockings! She got her own back in the end! Marriage!
Carole became an inspiring leader in GFS [a youth group for girls.] She later joined the CMS League of Youth young people’s group that I had been asked to lead. At a youth camp at Shannon Park in Toowoomba she gave her life fully to the Lord, under the ministry of Lance Shilton of Holy Trinity Adelaide. [So did about 90 plus other young people.] Because many did not have transport I would pick up many young folk to take to the meetings. Because she lived closest to the church she was the last to be picked up and the first one dropped off. But as the months wore on, something changed. She became the last to be dropped off!
Carole’s Teaching career
Carole graduated as a teacher and as a Physical Education specialist. She began to teach swimming in the Summer months at many Primary schools around Ipswich and Brisbane. She would have taught literally hundreds of children to swim over those years. In the winter months she moved into High Schools, again in the same Ipswich-Brisbane circuit. At the [Ipswich] Brassall High as it was then called, she trained a sprint relay team to break the State athletic age group record. At another High School in another very challenging part of Brisbane she was always invited into the Headmaster’s Office on Monday mornings to “discuss her programme”. It was a challenging time for Carole as he always looked her up and down in disturbing ways, so she learned to keep the desk between him and herself. When someone suggested she should complain to the Teachers Union, they discovered he was one of its leaders!
She also taught hockey which came to her naturally [she had not played at school but soon became a member of the University of Queensland A Grade hockey team when she began to play. She later became the coach and also selector for the Queensland Schoolgirls state hockey team. [The last time I saw her play hockey was in Melbourne when she was playing in a lower grade competition in a team that had the barest allowable players on that day. It could have been 8 in her team to 11 in the opposing team. In 20 minutes, the score was 4 to nil. All goals scored by Carole as she weaved her way at high speed through the competition. From that point she was swamped with defenders and the final score was 5 to 4 in favour of the opposing side. [She was always tenacious in the face of opposition.]
Holbeck – Tapsell relationship
I mentioned before that Carole became the last person to be dropped off when I drove people home from our meetings. I realised I was besotted with her. She was very attractive. She was funny, meaning having a great sense of humour. She was fully committed to any task she faced. She loved people and wanted the best for everyone. She was someone whom I admired immensely. She had become a great friend whom I knew I could always trust. But how to tell her that I loved her? I didn’t ever want to hurt or disappoint her in any way. I always only wanted the best for her as she wanted the best for everyone. It happened one night after we had been to evening church together. Plucking up all my reserves of courage I said these passionate words of great love, “Carole, I think I’m beginning to like you!” Hardly the sort of passionate outburst that makes it into romantic novels! But I only wanted the very best for her. I didn’t want to spoil her life by loading her with a second or third best! She told me later that when we first kissed, she saw stars! I think I was shocked to discover that this wonderful person could love someone like me.
I went in 1964 to Ridley College in Melbourne to study theology. It was about 1700 km away from Ipswich, but Carole would visit my parents several times a week to encourage them. She also wrote many letters to me keeping me up to date on my parents as well as adding other local and church news. I returned home in August for a break between terms. We travelled together to Monto to visit my sister and brother in law who was the Rector there. As we returned to Ipswich I pulled up outside a little town called Esk. It was the 22ndAugust. There I proposed! Carole accepted! We drove home to her place where her parents were delighted with the news. Her mother had always had a soft spot for me as a fellow teacher in Sunday school. Her father had known of me over the years from the newspapers as an Ipswich A Grade Rugby League player. He knew I had now come a believer and was pleased that I seemed to be “good” for his beloved daughter.
My father became ill soon after and died within days of a brain tumour. Carole [as well as other members of our family] was a great comfort to me in those very sad days. We eventually married months later on 22nd January 1966 just after she had finished her bond with the Qld Education Department. Then it was immediately off to Melbourne where we moved into a gracious old home which belonged to the College on The Avenue at Parkville. It was an experience in community living as we shared the house with 4 other married couples, two female Indonesian students who barely spoke English and a single fellow who occupied a tiny room that was once a maid’s room. One bathroom. One toilet. One electric stove. One coke [formerly heated coal] heater for heating water which we had to be on a roster to stoke up every day, some fellas being more reliable than others! But it was a great time and it helped prepare us for challenging times ahead. Carole began to teach as Sports Mistress at Lakeside High School at Reservoir on the northern outskirts of Melbourne. Because every child in Victoria becomes addicted to Australian Rules Football [AFL] from an early age, she had to encourage the boys to learn to kick a football which they did in every break. After her school day was over, we would go across the road to a large park where we would practise how to drop punt a football, do torpedo punts, drop kicks and pass AFL style. Then she would teach the boys at school, most of whom did not need much coaching.
It was pleasing that Carole commanded the respect of the almost entirely male student body in the college. She was the most gracious and helpful person you could ever find, but she stood no nonsense from anyone. When the house was eventually pulled down to be replaced by a modern building we moved to the garage at the back of the property. By garage I mean a single car garage. It had been big enough originally for one car, and had a little workbench that became our kitchen and then was cleared to become my study. The garage was enclosed at the front with a door and a window. A wardrobe separated the front of the garage from what became our bedroom at the back. The only water available was to be found in a shared outside bathroom about 15 metres away. For some reason the door had been cut so that the bottom of the door was about 2 feet from the ground and the top of the door was about my shoulder height. Not an ideal setup in a climate like Melbourne’s four seasons in one day climate! Our bed was a door mounted on bricks and a borrowed mattress completed our furniture arrangements. But Carole never complained one iota. She actually saw all this stuff as “fun!”
The Mt Gravatt, Brisbane connection
When I graduated from College we were invited to join the staff at a church in Gunnedah, NSW, and also the famous church at Holy Trinity, Adelaide. But because our surviving parents were aging we returned to Brisbane Diocese where we served at Coorparoo parish for 4 years before I was appointed as Rector of Mt Gravatt parish, where it seemed nobody wanted to go to. This too was a challenge. The Rectory was tiny. It had had only 2 bedrooms and was perched on a high bank on the crest of a hill above the main Brisbane to Sydney highway at that time. Noise and dust became our constant enemies!
The editor of Australia’s largest church newspaper paper came to interview us. He was clearly bothered by the noise and later wrote in the paper that the Rectory was the worst he had seen on the east coast of Australia and that he admired Carole’s tenacity in being willing to live there with 2 young children to care for! There was no church, just a hall that had to be set up every Saturday night! By the Rector and his wife! So, we would wheel our kids over to the hall in their prams, sweep the floor, set up the pews, and clean the toilets. Carole was amazing! She said one night with a smile as we were cleaning the toilets, ”Did we get our degrees just to clean toilets?” Her attitude was that if it was all part of serving the Lord, then no hardship mattered. She was just grateful to be serving the Lord, no matter what! I don’t know if any other woman could have kept on rejoicing and being thankful to the Lord in the challenges she faced. With good humour!
Carole was faithful to the Lord but faithful too was the Lord! In the 6 plus years we were there, we saw the Lord at work in an amazing way. There was a small faithful band of praying women in Mothers Union. They were soon joined with Carole’s encouragement by a Young Members Department of Mothers Union which grew from a few to about 70 young women between the ages roughly 18 to 45. The Sunday School that Carole eventually led, grew to become one of the largest in the diocese. By the grace of God and with the help of believers from other churches, a new brick church was built and following that a brand-new brick Rectory as well.
The Armidale NSW connection
It was a different situation when I accepted the invitation to become the Dean of St Peter’s Cathedral in Armidale. It was sad to leave what God was doing at Mt Gravatt, but we knew there was a wonderful young minister who would be able to replace us. So, we left with sad hearts saying Goodbye to all the friends we had made at Mt Gravatt. Yet Carole believed that we should accept the invitation in spite of the wrench she would personally feel, as she would frequently say, “There is no blessing for anyone in being disobedient to God.”
The Deanery in Armidale was comfortable and ready to be lived in. It was a lovely Horbury Hunt designed building finished in 1891. We formed many wonderful friendships in Armidale which still persist although two of Carole’s closest Armidale friends passed away within the last couple of months. We saw another demonstration of the power of God as many folk were converted to Christ and filled with His Holy Spirit. A women’s luncheon organised by Carole during a John Smith God Squad Mission in Armidale drew over 700 women with others on a waiting list. Armidale was a wonderful city for our family in which to grow up over those 10 years in the parish. It was here in our later days in the parish that Carole began to teach part-time in TAFE in Child Studies.
The Sydney connection
We received an invitation to be interviewed for me to become the Rector of the parish of St Matthew’s Manly in Sydney. We were told later by one nominator that we had been accepted by the parish nominators and that the then Archbishop of Sydney had approved of their decision. But Diocesan Nominators also have a decision. They disapproved for whatever reason. Carole wasn’t disappointed or bitter. We were grateful to be able to remain in Armidale. However, it was not long after that we received a request from the Healing Ministry at St Andrew’s Cathedral in Sydney to consider being a replacement for Canon Jim Glennon after his impending retirement. Carole said she didn’t mind me being approached because having been knocked back for a Sydney parish she thought it would be unlikely for us to be considered for a place on the staff of the Cathedral of the Diocese. To our surprise we were accepted and though Carole did not look forward to any separation from our kids, we felt it right to leave our two oldest kids at Boarding schools in Armidale and move to a Cathedral house at Cheltenham. It was gut wrenching for Carole because not only were our older two separated from us, but we had to find alternate accommodation for Carole’s mother who had been living with us in Armidale. The Cheltenham house on a steep slope could not accommodate Gran’s frailties. Fortunately, we were able to obtain accommodation for her at the Anglican Retirement Mowll Village where she had a real ministry in music and encouraging conversations with other residents.
I saw another depth to Carole’s resilience and patience when we discovered the house was not as prepared for us as it might have been. Mould beneath painted-over wallpaper was a health challenge. A window frame and window fell out because of rot, probably because the house appeared to be built over a water-course. But she coped. She was offered a job in TAFE but only if she worked full-time. On her very first day she went by train and I got a call from her in the late afternoon to say she had dozed off on the train and had woken up some stations further on. It was a challenging time for her, but she was grateful for her job which she thoroughly enjoyed. After some months we were told that the Cathedral needed to sell the house and we needed to move elsewhere quickly. Carole and I both thought that was rather unusual but again she coped, and we decided to move into the upper floor of the Healing Ministry Centre at Newtown. It was not an ideal situation, but it meant that Carole could have a more hands-on ministry among people she loved. It did mean about 39 steps up narrow staircases with the groceries, but so what! For Carole, people mattered more than personal difficulties.
I have mentioned some of the difficulties [not all] that Carole had to face because she never complained about them. I felt it right to mention them because failing to do so diminishes the grace of God she had to draw upon to cope as she did. Carole would work all day and then come home to mingle with the Staff and guests at the Centre before having tea. Many guests who stayed at the Centre have written to say what Carole’s time with them meant to them personally.
Carole moved from serving as an Acting Head Teacher in Child Studies in TAFE NSW to becoming a Senior Head Teacher in the newly formed Health and Recreation unit at Loftus campus near Sutherland in the Sydney Institute of TAFE. During her time there, with the support of gifted teachers, the unit expanded to become the biggest of its kind in the nation and someone once suggested, possibly the biggest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. Whether that is true or not, I don’t know. What I do know is that she received many awards for her leadership of her section and was once a runner-up for the Premier’s Award for all divisions of the Public Service, for her contribution to Vocational Education in New South Wales.
When she retired from TAFE in 2006 the farewell was the biggest they had ever had in the Section, such was the regard people had for her. I found it personally interesting that the boss of that section in NSW personally came to the Farewell and said something like these words, “I have never come across someone who could network so well. She could network with the hierarchy above. She could network with her peers and she could network with her students.“ That was true but there was an answer. It is called Christian [agape] love. She wanted to seek the best interests of everyone, which is what Christian agape love is all about. She wanted her bosses to look good and not make problems for them. She wanted her teachers to be the best by encouraging them to do all the courses they wanted to do and by arranging the best timetable for them personally. She wanted her students to receive the best education they could possibly obtain through her section. That meant going to TAFE to supervise a final examination during a Teachers’ strike. For that she was black-listed by the Union with her name and photo displayed on the main College notice board with adverse comments! But she knew the students would have been severely disadvantaged by not completing their exams on that date. Care for students overrode any concern for criticism she might receive!
Her love for people showed itself in every area. A baker in the busy shopping centre of Newtown was touched that she came back next day to thank her for the beautiful bread rolls they had baked for a BBQ at our Healing Ministry Centre. Whenever she went into that shop from that time on, she was greeted warmly, and was offered free food which she almost always declined to take. Her motto was, “Don’t ever use people for your own benefit!” Across the street was the biggest Hot Chicken vendor in the region. Whenever the owner saw Carole in the busy shop, he would come out from behind the counter to greet her personally and to give her a big hug. I never saw him do it to any of his other customers!
When we both retired in 2006, there was a special farewell to Carole from an unexpected group. It was in Sydney Park, a massive park near Newtown where Carole used to walk our dog Geordie in the late afternoons and at weekends. They knew she was the wife of a minister at the Cathedral, but she had endeared herself to them by taking a genuine interest in them and by getting to know the names of all their dogs. Some 70 folk with numerous more dogs turned up to wish her well. There were people there from all levels of society and their love and admiration for her was tangible. I was amazed that in a very short time she had touched their hearts so deeply. Then I remembered how she had touched my heart so deeply. Suddenly it all made sense. Here was an embodiment of Christlike love that I had enjoyed for decades. In Carole! Through Carole! For them as well!
Well this has been a very emotional time writing this less than 48 hours after Carole departed this life for a better place, to be in the presence of Christ her Saviour and Lord. This is only part of her story. There are so many other things about her I could have written. But I am so grateful to God for having met her and for every remembrance of her. As Job wrote in Job 1:21 ”The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” Or as I might say, “Blessed are You Lord for creating such a woman as Carole and for allowing me to love her and to receive her love for all these 54 plus precious years. Praise and thanksgiving be to You, Oh Lord!”
Blog No. 329 Posted on www.jimholbeck.blog on Sunday 3rd November 2019