Val Duignan with her late husband Noel 54th wedding anniversary back in 2010
by Michelle Gilmore
Val Duignan volunteers at Rainbow Beach State School, ?”every Monday morning, unless I’m not feeling well”.
Better known as ‘Granny Val’ – much of her time is given to school every year, but she finishes each year off with a special gift…teddy bears.
And Granny Val’s teddy bears are knitted with special powers.
“That’s because when I presented them to the children, I said ‘what I’m going to give you is a Christmas present – you look after him because if ever you’re sick, he’ll look after you.”
Teacher Lynne Chamberlaine supplies the names and number of boys and girls, and teacher aide Sarah Brantz helped fit each teddy to their new owner. Both say Val is adored.
She knits all the teddies in different colours, “I do so many boys and girls and Sarah comes down and matches them. This year I had 14 – usually it’s 8 or 9 – it was a big preppy class this year.
“It’s the same pattern each year even though some do look different. I only knit at night, instead of just watching TV. I don’t have to look at it, only if you are decreasing or increasing.”
Val first started volunteering at Rainbow Beach State School seven years ago when good friends, the Betteridges, were at the school.
“Madi was in Prep and she’s in Grade 7 now – Kylie asked me if I would like to go down and help and that’s when I started. I’ve seen four headmasters go through.”
Lilly, Dan, Tehya and Kiara were delighted with their Christmas teddies, lovingly made by Val Duignan
Val said all the staff are lovely, and it is not just the preppies who receive teddies. “The headmaster, Micheal’s two kids, and also some of the teachers tell me ‘I’ve got a grandchild coming on’. They let me know if it is a girl or a boy, and I’ll make them one. That’s what I do.”
So why does Granny Val volunteer? “I go just to see the kids. I get bored sitting home here. Once I’ve done my housework, there’s nothing to do.”
And what does she like most about helping at Prep? “I think seeing all the happy little faces – even if Lynne is teaching them, when I arrive they turn around and say ‘good morning Granny Val’ with big smiles on their faces.
“I like it when they’re that age – then they start getting cheeky!
“Sometimes I do the reading, not very often – I mostly paste things that they have done in their books. It is just about full at the end of the year – with a nice photo of them on the front.”
When I met Granny Val, it was not for her knitting, but for her beautiful baking and supplying the school and Kylie’s hairdressing salon with yummy morning teas.
“I used to do a lot of cooking, but now there’s just me.” It didn’t stop her making 16 puddings to give away for Christmas!
Granny Val is also a member of Rainbow Beach Over 60s and plays mah-jong (which Val agrees with me is different to the computer version – and much more interesting).
Val worked as an usherette at Brisbane icon the Tivoli Theatre, “I had to leave the day before I got married because they never used to employ married women.”
“Born and bred in Brisbane,” Val said they moved to Adelaide for her husband Noel’s work when their youngest of five children was two.
“A boy is the eldest and boy is the youngest, with three girls between. My eldest is 59 and youngest 52. There were 13 months between the first two, and the youngest three were babies together.
“It was a lot of work, but I am glad I had them like that.”
So Granny Val is also a Great Grandma with 16 grandchildren and 7 great grandchildren.
Val was a “stay-at-home” mum until her youngest was four, and then went grape picking. Val negotiated a shorter working day around school with her boss. “They said I worked ‘banker hours’ – 9 until 4. I was home when they got home at 3.30pm.”
Val said they retired to Rainbow Beach 18 years ago.
“Noel knew someone who worked with mines up here, and as a seaman he had travelled past here in big cargo ships. He was a bosun on an oil tanker for six years, which was up out of Adelaide.”
Val said Noel passed away two years ago last month. “November and December are always sad for me, the knitting helps me think about something else.
“I’m just glad that I’m still doing something, something different.”
And there is no doubt Granny Val is making a difference year after year, to each little body in Rainbow Beach.
“I was down at the surf club last week and one of the prep boys came up to me and told me, ‘Granny Val, I had my bear in my bed and he hugged me last night’.”
And what did Val get for Christmas? “Lynne and the preppies gave me a teddy bear – all signed with their names. A nice big white one it is!”