August 10, 2011
A Past Visit With Dame Elisabeth Murdoch
A few weeks ago, I was listening to National Public Radio, when I heard an interview with David Leser, who wrote a story called “The Anguish of Murdoch’s Mom” for the Daily Beast. I am referring to Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch’s mother. As you probably have heard, Rupert Murdoch has been under fire for his tabloid, News of the World phone-hacking scandal. It seems that more than four decades ago, Dame Elisabeth, who is now 102-years old, warned Rupert not to buy that publication and he did not take her advice.
I have fond memories of meeting Dame Elisabeth in March of 2000, when I traveled to Australia to meet with members of the Murdoch publishing group. She heard that I would be in Melbourne and extended an invitation to my travelling companions and me to visit her Cruden Farm, the 153-acre Murdoch family estate. Dame Elisabeth was a very gracious hostess and she motored us around her impressive gardens on an electric garden buggy. Knowing that we had a plane to catch later that afternoon, she hurried us along saying, “No time – let’s move on.” She then scooted us inside and fed us a fresh and delicious lunch with produce from her gardens. The photos for this blog were taken with a film camera, because that’s what everyone used in 2000. I found the pictures in my photo archive room and had them digitized. I hope you enjoy looking at them as much as I did recalling this visit with a most amazing and highly revered Dame Elisabeth Murdoch.
1 Here I am with Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, my publicist Susan Magrino, and my sister Laura Plimpton. Dame Elisabeth drove us around on her electric garden buggy.
2 This is the impressive and much photographed curved avenue, lined with aromatic lemon scented gums, leading to Cruden Farm.
3 The drive leads to a large neo-classical house with carved pillars and shady verandas. We were greeted outside the front door by Dame Elisabeth who, at that time, was 91.
4 Cruden Farm was given by 42-year-old Keith Murdoch as a wedding present to his 19-year-old bride in 1928. Elisabeth loved this piece of land and tended the garden from its earliest days.
5 The perennial borders were magnificent when we visited.
6 This is one of two walled gardens designed by Edna Walling in 1931 who, at the time, was Australia's leading garden designer.
7 Dame Elisabeth always wanted a lake on the property and in the late 1980's created this one by forming two dams behind the house. It serves as a water source and also a refuge for wildlife.
8 Only one tree on the property is pre-Dame Elisabeth and she told us that she planted this lemon scented gum more than fifty years ago!
9 Approaching the magnificent stone stable.
10 The stables were the center of action in the 1930s and 40s, when Dame Elisabeth's four children were living at the farm.
11 Concerned with our travel schedule, Dame Elisabeth moved at a brisk pace saying, 'No time! Let's move on!'
12 A wonderful water trough
13 We saw so many lovely garden ornaments.
14 A gate at an entrance to one of the walled gardens
15 Paula Fox, our hostess in Melbourne, drove us to Cruden Farm.
16 Laura and Dame Elisabeth at another entrance
17 Dame Elisabeth declared it was time to eat lunch!
18 The interior of the house was warm and inviting.
19 I loved that there were stacks of books within easy reach.
20 A less formal room with an eclectic mix of furnishings.
21 There were floral arrangements throughout the house - beautiful hydrangeas with unusual colored blooms.
22 A mix of roses and dahlias with chartreuse love-lies-bleeding cascading from the arrangement
23 Another mix of colorful roses and dahlias
24 White roses and dahlias
25 A rather old-fashioned, but perfectly functioning kitchen. Notice the stack of Murdoch daily publications?
26 Assisted by her housekeeper, Dame Elisabeth served us a delicious lunch with lots of colorful vegetables from her garden.
27 Susan at the dining room table