How Lorraine sought closure by putting pen to paper

Published on 10 July 2023

Lorraine sits on her couch with copies of her novel, Broken Head, next to her.

On the back cover of her debut novel, Broken Head, Lorraine asks the question that’s at the very heart of the book: “Whatever happened to Bob Patterson?”

One morning in 1958, when Lorraine was only 25 years old, her father got into his car, drove to Port Campbell on Victoria’s southwest coast, and was never seen or heard from again.

It wasn’t until years later, after Lorraine had retired, that the trauma of not knowing what had happened all those years ago became too much to bear, and she realised she needed answers.

“When something like this happens, and there’s no body, then there’s no resolution,” says Lorraine.

A copy of Lorraine's book, Broken Head, with the front cover showing an illustration of the Broken Head cliff face.

In the pursuit of this longed-for resolution, she decided it was finally time to visit the place where her father had disappeared.

Theories of course abounded over the years regarding what might have happened to her father. Some people thought he could have hitched a ride from Port Campbell to the airport and flown to Canada to start a new life.

Another even darker theory suggested that her father’s life may have come to an end in that coastal town, with the cliffs of the nearby Broken Head headland a notorious place for people to commit suicide.

“My father was a brilliant man, and had a top job at the Ford Motor company. For some reason though, things weren’t going well for him. He’d had an awful accident, and he’d also told me he had a mistress,” says Lorraine. “Then on one particular morning, he said to my mother, ‘You’ll never see me again’, and drove off.”

The one thing Lorraine knows for sure about what happened next was that her father arrived in Port Campbell that same day.

“There’s evidence he had breakfast at the Karoa café,” says Lorraine. “He was seen by two people: the waitress and the policeman’s wife, who’d gone down there to buy milk.

An old black and white photo of Lorraine's father, where he is standing and smiling at the camera.

“He’d ordered eggs and bacon for breakfast, which was his favourite thing. The waitress said he was sitting in the corner of the café and was looking out the window as if he was expecting someone. One could think he was picked up by someone and driven to the airport. In those days there wasn’t the technology we have today, so you couldn’t have traced him. He could have been picked up by someone and disappeared.”

Finding no answers in Port Campbell, Lorraine returned to Melbourne. However, within her disappointment, Lorraine found fresh inspiration. She decided to enrol in a creative writing course, and turn her pain into her very first novel, Broken Head.

“[My father’s] body was never found, so either he went over that cliff, or he didn’t,” says Lorraine, who even hired a private investigator to help with her search for the truth, but to no avail. “My job with the book was to try to work out which alternative was true.”

The process of completing the book took years, and sadly no resolution was ever found. However, Lorraine, who is now in her 90s, did find something else she’d longed for: closure.

“For years I didn’t think he went over [the cliff]. I guess after all this time, I’m inclined to think he went to Canada.

“It was cathartic,” Lorraine admits of writing the book, then after a pause adds, “The whole thing takes you over.”

A collection of old photos from Lorraine's childhood are shown in a frame.

Lorraine, who has been an AccessCare client since early 2023, is now a member of a community writer’s group, which she credits for helping her to finally finish Broken Head. Now, from her sunlit home office, Lorraine is busy on her second book, Isabelle, which is also inspired by Lorraine’s own life experiences.

“The main character is a clergyman’s wife, and I was a clergyman’s wife, so it’s a bit of a send up,” says Lorraine with a laugh.

With Lorraine’s first short story also recently completed, her pen is showing no signs of slowing down. AccessCare is proud to be able to support Lorraine to remain living in her own home, where she has a lifetime of story inspiration all around her.

Copies of Broken Head are available for purchase at Fairfield Books in Fairfield.

Photos (from top of page to bottom):

  1. Lorraine at home with copies of her debut novel, Broken Head.
  2. Broken Head’s cover art was designed by Lorraine’s grandson and granddaughter.
  3. Lorraine's father.
  4. Photos of Lorraine’s father, mother, family and childhood line the walls of her study.
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