Resthaven resident and Tongan royalty the ‘Pearl of the Pacific’

Resthaven Marion resident Gladys with her late husband Reginald on their wedding day in 1959. He described her as his ‘Pearl of the Pacific’. [Source: Supplied]

With mementos of her life carefully positioned around her room at Resthaven Marion in Adelaide, 82-year-old Gladys Jones is something of an international citizen.

Born in Fiji, the great-granddaughter of a Tongan princess, Gladys displays a Fijian fan made from the fibre of coconut trees, an Irish cross to signify her Irish Catholic upbringing, as well as an English coat of arms bearing the name Barrowdale – her mother’s maiden name. Her ancestors hail from Tonga, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Jamaica, England and Australia.

Family photos show seven siblings standing with Gladys, as well as handsome images of her parents. But it is the photos of her late husband, Reginald Bert Jones, that are the most cherished.

Meeting in Fiji when she was 14, Gladys recalls working as a telephonist and typist in 1956 when an 18-year-old Reg had just arrived from Australia as an employee of the Bank of New South Wales. 

The couple began courting and it wasn’t long before Reg approached Gladys’ father for approval to ask Gladys to be his wife.

Glady’s father, who had relatives in Sydney, made some enquiries to ensure Reg was of “good stock” and the wedding went ahead in 1959.

“He presented me with the whole regalia! An engagement ring, a wedding ring and an eternity ring. He was showing me how serious he was,” Gladys said.

Family tree and royal blood

Gladys’ father, Bobby, was the manager of a grocery store. His parents had moved from Australia to Fiji which was where he was born and the family worked with the Colonial Sugar Refinery. Her grandfather’s job was to attend to the Indian cane farmers who were working there.

Gladys’ mother, Annie-Marie, had royal blood. 

Gladys recently at the Resthaven facility she resides in after a life full of interesting stories. [Source: Supplied]

The gun dealer Robert Dunn sold guns to the king of Tonga for their war against Fiji. As part of the deal to secure the purchase of the weapons, Dunn demanded a wife who would be the eldest daughter of the king and princess of Tonga, Anna Marie Tea Tupou, who was Gladys’ great-great-grandmother.

From Fiji to Australia

Not long after she and Reg were married, Gladys fell pregnant. Eager to start their family in Australia, the couple filled out the paperwork, booked the flights and headed to the airport ready to start a new life.

Mr and Mrs Jones. [Source: Supplied]

“The White Australia Policy was still in place, so there were extra hoops to jump through,” Gladys said. 

Several days passed and word came that Gladys would be allowed to enter Australia but Gladys wanted her Mum and Dad to migrate as well. 

“I remember we had to visit Mr Downer (Sir Alexander Russell ‘Alick’ Downer, Immigration Minister at the time) and plead our case. Reg was very persistent, and eventually, we were able to secure their positions,” she explained. 

After arriving in Australia, Reg began working as an accountant. The couple’s first daughter Kathleen was born, and six years later their second daughter Julie arrived. Reg applied for an accountant role at St Agnes Brandy in Renmark and when he was accepted, the young family moved to South Australia and secured a big home on the vineyard called The Anchorage.

The family then moved back to the city where Reg took up an accountant position at Rupert Murdoch’s News Ltd newspapers.

Gladys worked at a number of jobs in SA, including as a baker at Manningham’s Bakery at Hove, at a towel weaving factory, at Christensen Diamond Products manufacturing parts for oil drilling rigs, and then at Flinders Medical Centre as a pantry hand and kitchenhand. 

Meanwhile, Reg studied to be a lawyer and then used his qualifications to work for a time with the South Australian Government’s fisheries department, and then with the South Australian Ombudsman.

Gladys has been back to Fiji twice in her lifetime, to show her girls the place where she grew up. She now has two grandsons in their 30s and one great-granddaughter.

“It has certainly been a life to live,” Gladys said. 

“I have been truly blessed.”

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