More than 300 women and girls (and a few men) gathered for breakfast at Brisbane’s Lourdes Hill College on Friday March 7 in celebration of International Women’s Day.
Guests were inspired by guest speaker and past pupil, Faye McLeod aka ‘Candy Devine’, who shared stories of her childhood as a sugar cane farmer’s daughter and subsequent transition to fame as a cabaret singer, stage and screen actress and radio star.
Faye spoke fondly of her days as a boarder at Lourdes Hill College in the 1950s, where she was heavily involved in music, referring to her former teacher, Sister Michael, as her “musical mentor”.
Faye reminisced about another of the Sisters, Sister Winifred, whom she described as having “the voice of an angel” and said it was a great honour when both she and Sister Edmund went to see her perform at the Sydney Opera House years later.
She spoke proudly of her late mother, Ivy, or Nooks as she was known, who was raised in an orphanage and later became a talented dressmaker and advocate for multiculturalism and anti-discrimination.
“She was the most determined, independent person I’ve ever known – such a wonderful role model,” Faye said.
Faye’s parents, who between them shared a vast range of cultural backgrounds, were co-founders of the Cairns multicultural music group, the “Tropical Troubadours” and would later establish the city’s Coloured Social Club, a vibrant and dynamic part of the community.
“The club had teams in all the local sporting fixtures and were invited to local events and to submit floats for the Mayor’s shows and all this helped to break down the ways of prejudice and discrimination,” said Faye.
Faye’s own career in entertainment spanned five decades and several countries. She hosted television music programs, acted in television, stage and film and presented countless radio programs.
She recently returned to Brisbane after spending most of her adult life in Ireland, where she met and married her late husband Donald and raised four sons, including Brisbane celebrity chef Alastair.
Faye was the first woman to be inducted into the Irish Media Hall of Fame in 2012 and was recently awarded an MBE for her significant contributions to broadcasting and the community.
During her address, Faye thanked her granddaughters, Bailie, 15 and Sasha, 12, for having chosen Lourdes Hill College for their secondary education.
The event’s raffle draw raised $1,325 for the Good Samaritan Sisters’ Transitional Housing project for women and children escaping domestic violence.