Jean (MacGregor) Bourgault (1954) answers 16 questions for 'Sweet Sixteen'.
Are you happy?
I've always considered myself to be a happy person. Why not? I have had a fortunate life for which I am grateful. However, one can’t be happy about the
state of the world at the moment due to COVID-19, and clashes between the religions and ideologies of the world. To block out these worries, I like nothing better than to wallow in calm waters at a Hopetoun beach.
What do you value the most?
Good health and the love of family and friends, starting in Kindy with Jennifer (McKenzie) Bardsley (1954) and carrying on well past 1954. I value the times I have spent with my family at Hopetoun and it has been a joy to see my grandchildren appreciate all that this seaside town and the Fitzgerald National Park have to offer.
What are your best memories of your time at Perth College?
There are so many! Performances in the ‘Music Club’ in the old ‘Studio’, feeding the hungry boarders at our home some weekends, attending the Youth Concerts with Dorothea Angus, and our end-of-Year-12 celebration at Rottnest with Margaret Button, our vibrant young teacher. I remember those who had a lasting influence on me… Miss Angus, Miss Sainsbury, Mrs Hanrahan and Mrs Button. Last, but not least, I was fortunate to be made Head Girl which, in turn, gave me the honour of being presented to the Queen. Thanks Perth College.
What do you remember about meeting the Queen?
When I was led out on to the red carpet and presented to the Queen, I was quite calm. I curtsied and her Majesty smiled and asked me questions about being Head Girl and my future. I told her I wanted to go to university and she asked “here?” and I said “yes”. She smiled again then moved on. It all seemed quite unreal.
You have enjoyed a long marriage of 63 years! What’s the trick?
Tolerance. Giving each other space to develop one’s own particular interests, but having similar opinions on what really matters helps. Henry and I are both very involved with our families – four married sons and eight very special grandchildren – and we love the same music.
What do you fear?
Being a burden to my family and those around me as I get older.
Aside from your four children, what has been your greatest achievement?
Not having five! But seriously, I hope in my many years of teaching Music, I have influenced some students to value listening to and making music. I still get a thrill when my piano students get excited by playing pieces they particularly enjoy. It makes life worthwhile.
If you could keep only one item in your house, what would it be?
My piano. In 1972, Henry convinced me that we could afford a grand piano and it still gives us both great pleasure.
What is the most adventurous thing you have done?
At 52, I went on a four-month backpacking odyssey with my eldest son, Philip, and two friends which started in Hong Kong and took us through China then on the trans- Siberian to Moscow, and then through much of continental Europe before finishing in Ireland, England and Scotland. It was hard work at times, but so worthwhile.
What era would you most like to live in and why?
I’m happy with my era because life was less complicated when we were younger. However, Henry just reminded me that we now have better access to health care, easier communications, and, for retirees like us who own our homes, we are very fortunate.
What do you think about the young people of today?
If my grandchildren are any guide, I think they are more self-assured, independent and thoroughly addicted to the raft of technologies that abound.
What is your greatest skill?
Conducting. The challenge of being able to direct a group of singers or musicians to make lovely sounds is so uplifting.
Whose music do you like the most?
I love the music of so many composers and so many genres, but my favourites are Beethoven (the greatest intellect), Mozart (joy, pathos and sublime in the Requiem), Schubert (melodies and lieder), Mendelssohn (everything), Bach (everything) and Tchaikovsky (ballets and passion).
What’s your best feature?
I’ll have to ask Henry. He said “no grey hairs at 84!” He also said “a personality that endears me to my friends and family”. I hope he's right.
If I had my time again…
I’d do the same. I always wanted to marry young and have a family, so when I met Henry at a Prefect’s Dance and we started going out, I thought I'd fulfilled my dream and I have. However, I wish I'd been able to have the opportunity to develop my conducting skills further.
What would you tell your 16-year-old self?
Don’t be frightened of pursuing a dream. If you feel strongly enough about something, try to make it happen. Always be positive and, as my mother always said, a smile is your greatest asset.