A visit with Marr and Marina Grounds at Myer House, Bithry Inlet
By Elena Delmercato, Four Winds Volunteer
Day One began with a session with Marr and Marina Grounds, son and granddaughter of Roy Grounds, the architect of Myer House, who established the property with Kenneth Myer. The artists gathered around the large wooden table in the impressive dining room of Myer House, the winter morning light streaming through the widows, to listen as Marina and Marr explained their connection to the house and to Bithry Inlet. As the morning unfolded, and Marina and Marr shared their memories with great generosity, the group witnessed the power of storytelling across generations and came to understand how this special place, and its unique natural environment, came to mean so much to their family.
The Grounds and Myer connection to the land began in the 1940’s, when, according to the story handed down in the families, the oysters in the nearby inlets were a big part of why the two friends chose this place – ‘The story goes that Ken and Roy were touring the coast sampling the oysters from all of the inlets when they discovered this land” said Marina.
The families shared a fascination and respect for the natural world. Ken was fascinated by the ecology of the marine environment, and Marina remembered that he could identify every fish, plant, animal, fungi or orchid, ‘In his room here at the house he kept detailed records and charts, including how many oysters he had caught’ recalled Marina. Her father, Marr, son of Roy, lived in the Barn from the mid 1980’s and created art there with his wife, also an artist. Marina would visit her dad, and recalled with joy the experiences of nature and the incredible freedom you get growing up in an environment like this’. Dad had one rule for me when I was growing up, she shared with the group, “If I ever left what we called ‘hearing and seeing distance’, I had to write a note and leave it under a stone”.
The place –both the buildings and the landscapes that are intertwined with them – continue to have great meaning for the descendants of Roy Grounds – “Coming here for me has always been coming home’ says Marina. While for Marr, Bithry Inlet gave him the opportunity to live ‘…the natural existence, a life lived without much infrastructure. A very simple life’. “In their great wisdom, my father and Ken Myer gave this special place to the Parks NSW”, said Marina. Asked about her feelings about the handover of the property to Parks NSW, Marina told the group, “The fact that place was no longer private, was in fact, really important. It is too special to be privately held”.
Over the course of the conversation, the group of artists came to understand how the passion of these two private families for the natural environment had helped to protect the unique and pristine land at Bithry Inlet. As Marina observes, “The ecology of the area is still intact; there are valleys full of ferns; and vines growing up the trees”. As the group was moving to walk out towards the point and the equally distinctive external buildings, Lee Cruise, a visual artist and Yuin community member, addressed Marina and Marr and said ‘On behalf of my people, we owe you a thank you. I come up here often with my father and grandfather; it is still its original environment. Thank you’.
A special thanks to Elena Delmercato and Ben Cunningham, Four Winds Volunteers, for attending the field studies weekend as media/film crew