Vale Margaret Sinclair – A part of our heritage

It is with great sadness that we report the death of Margaret Sinclair, aged 108, Australia’s 10th oldest citizen and cherished member of the Marrickville Heritage Society. 

Margaret was born in 1914 in the little village of Thurgoona, today an outer suburb of Albury, and lived through two world wars.The first war meant her first memory of her father was a man in uniform returning from France when she was 5 years old. Thurgoona held a homecoming party for him in the District Hall.

Margaret in infancy during WW1.
Photo: Fairfield City Champion.

With her father’s return the family moved to the vineyard of the Frere brothers known as ‘St. Hilaire’ on Georges River. Margaret was related to the Frere’s through her aunt’s marriage to Georges Frere who had been responsible for getting that District Hall built.

Georges Frere and the vineyard have a significant place in the history of Albury. The vineyard’s concrete wine vats are now on the NSW Heritage Register and the old homestead is also heritage listed.

Margaret’s childhood was hard as many were before electricity, telephones, medicines and cars were common. She rode her horse, Blackie, to and from high school in Albury every day – a total of 24 kilometres.  But life on the St Hilaire vineyard was also a happy one for Margaret; following the horse plough, harvesting the grapes and carting grapes and wine, again by horse, to the Ettamogah rail siding for shipping.

Young boy grape pickers at St Hilaire, Thurgoona.
Photo: Albury Library Museum

After finishing school, Margaret worked as a clerical worker and then moved to Sydney and became a school teacher. It was here that the second war led to Margaret meeting Ralph, the man she would marry. 

Ralph Satori had been a prisoner of the Nazis in Buchenwald concentration camp but was released along with 800 political prisoners. He left Europe for Australia, changed his name to Sinclair and married Margaret in 1941. While allowing Ralph entry, the Australian government considered him a ‘subject of a state at war with his Majesty’; he had been born in Austria. As a result, marrying Ralph meant Margaret lost her Australian citizenship, but common sense prevailed and it was restored to her after a short time. 

Margaret and Ralph went on to spend almost all their life together in Petersham, moving there in 1948. Ralph died in 1976 and Margaret remained in her Oxford Street home until she was 99, a total of 65 years. At that time, she moved to a nursing facility in Yennora.

Having joined the Society in 1987, Margaret regularly attended meetings and events, and cut the anniversary cake celebrating our 30 years in the same month she turned 100.

Margaret cuts the cake for MHS 30th anniversary 
with (then President) Geoff Ostling and Robert Hutchinson, Petersham Park.
Photo: Scott MacArthur

For many years Margaret made ‘Heritage Marmalade’ produced from her 100-year-old orange tree in the backyard of her Oxford Street, Petersham home. The marmalade quickly sold out on our stalls at the Newtown and Marrickville festivals. 

We saw a lot less of Margaret in later years but know that she retained a keen interest in the society and its activities.

We wish to acknowledge the great service Margaret gave to the Society over many years and express our sincere condolences to Margaret’s son, Michael and all her extended family.

Rod Aanensen

Thank you to Michael Sinclair for some of the biographical information in this story.