Feather – Heart of the Nation

Local identity and long time Byron Healthy Ageing participant, Feather was recently featured by the Australian Newspaper regarding a photo portrait soon to be hung in the National Gallery. The photographer, Natalie Grono originally came across Feather via this website.


MEET Feather. If you’ve ever been to Byron Bay you’ll have seen her dancing.

She starts her mornings with a boogie on the beach, Julio Iglesias turned up loud on her MP3 player. Well, why not? “The young ones are on their surfboards, dancing on the water, and I dance on the sand.” She also gets down at Byron’s drumming circles and pub gigs. Feather cycles everywhere (she never learnt to drive) and is teetotal. “I don’t need a drink, or a man, to go out and have a good time,” she says.

The story of a rich life is written in the lines of her 78-year-old body, a body that produced six kids, who’ve given her 13 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. She’s supremely comfortable in her own skin — and the self-confidence shines through in this photo from the shortlist of the 2015 National Photographic Portrait Prize, to be unveiled next Friday.

Feather was just 16 when she met the love of her life, Merv, on a blind date in Sydney, and they were married for 45 years before cancer took him from her. In a whirlwind of grief she booked a trip to Africa, and on the day of her departure she stepped out of the shower to find a white feather on the floor. She took it as a sign that Merv was still with her as a “spirit guide”. That feather accompanied her on the trip, travelling alone from Zimbabwe to Egypt, and has been in her purse for 16 years now. It spawned her “Byron name”. It’s been years since she was known as Lorraine Thompson.

She still misses Merv terribly, but life’s for living, she says. And as for ageing, well, it’s all in the mind. Young blokes often ask her for a dance. “The first thing they ask is, ‘How old are you?’ I used to say, ‘What does it matter?’ But now I say, ‘Old enough to know better — and too young to give a rat’s arse.’”

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