Ailsa Rolley, writer

We've featured a lot of our artists on this website, but we also have talented witers in the Scenic Rim whose books are featured in our Centre.

Our first writer profile is on Ailsa Rolley.

Ailsa Rolley with husband Stan and three sons arrived in Beaudesert in 1971 when Stan took up the position of Deputy Shire Clerk with the Beaudesert Shire Council. After being born and bred in North Queensland, they were delighted to find that holidays on the Gold Coast and trips to the capital city were now only an hour away.

One of the first things Ailsa did on arrival was to join the Beaudesert Historical Society and she soon developed an interest in the rich history of the town and district. In 1987 she undertook a course in creative writing and journalism, and in 2003 attained an Arts Degree in Literary Studies through Griffith University.

Her first book In 1995, Survival on Ambon, told of local identity Les Hohl's experiences as a prisoner-of-war in WWII. "I love interviewing people and hearing their stories," said Ailsa. "I seem to find other people more interesting than myself."

In 2010 she wrote Thirty Nine Moons at Townsvale Cotton Plantation. Over 150 years ago, this plantation was established by Sydney businessman and Pacific Island trader Robert Towns, at Veresdale. The title Thirty Nine Moons refers to a young Islander notching a cut in the trunk of a blue-gum tree outside his hut at the appearance of each new moon to mark the number of moons left to fulfil his indenture.

Recently she wrote a small article on Bluey Everdell who as a child hated school, but loved history stories. Bluey remembers how his imagination fired when learning about galleons and battles, and Francis Drake calmly finishing his game of bowls before taking to sea to do battle, as the Spanish Armada sailed towards English shores. "I'd love to bring history to life like that," said Ailsa.

When Ailsa teamed with photographer Barry Cheeseman to produce They Gallop at Dawn in 2009, she had no idea how alert to the world around them racing people would be. "They never stop learning and inquiring of others about what might work with their horses, asking things like, 'What tree is that?' because it might make a good shade tree down at the yards." She remembers one trainer telling of his search for a name for his new foal and looking down at his mother-in-law's tablecloth highlighting inn stops on Chaucer's pilgrimage to Canterbury in Canterbury Tales. Tabard Inn took his eye, and became the name of his new foal.

In 2015 the Scenic Rim Regional Council embarked on a year of War Stories of Our Town Program, featuring a feast of local history, memories, exhibitions, war movies, choirs, drama and art work. To assist with the capturing of local experiences, the Council initiated a Writers' Group and provided expert tuition through the Queensland Writers Centre on memoir writing. Ailsa is a member of this group. The final result was an anthology: War Stories and Our Town.
Ailsa's contribution was a memoir of her childhood experience during WWII when the women and children of Cairns evacuated south and west under the threat of Japanese invasion. Just like the Pied Piper leading the children out of the city of Hamelin, almost overnight Cairns lost its children and the town's 15,000 population halved.

"Writing is a lonely hobby and that is why there is something fulfilling about writing as a group for a community project," said Ailsa. "Everyone was so contributive to each other's work as though we wanted the whole collection to blend and be as special as our own. We then had the luxury of a professional editor massaging our work into shape, which saved us the following embarrassment: "This morning I took the hyphen out of Hell-bound and this afternoon I put it back (Edwin Arlington Robinson)."

The Scenic Rim Writers' workshops have continued in 2016 and their next contribution will be a short story on Word on the Street. Ailsa plans to write about Laura Court which was developed in the early 1970s and named after a racehorse, Lady Laura.