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Community & Business

5 March, 2021

Vale Isla Tibbits

Friends and family paid tribute to a Gilgandra icon on Monday, March 1 as the funeral service for Isla Tibbits was held in St Ambrose Church.

By Lucie Peart

The late Isla Tibbits pictured at her 90th birthday celebrations at the Royal Hotel in 2020. Photo supplied.

The 90-year-old local artist, playwright and one-of-a-kind woman, passed away last week. Mrs Tibbits was well-known for her sense of humour and her ‘sometimes’ tall tales. She was a member of the Gilgandra Entertainers and the later Gilgandra Alive. Her long-time friends have described her as a woman of many gifts and outgoing hospitality.

Judy Shalhoub, a fellow Gilgandra Entertainer and Gilgandra Alive member said Mrs Tibbits wrote many scripts for pantomimes and shows. “Producing the plays and designing the costumes were just some of her roles. People may remember ‘Love Rides the Rails’, ‘Hansel and Gretel’, ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ or ‘Little Red Riding Hood’. She also wrote three shows to raise funds for the building of Cooee Lodge Retirement Village - ‘Camp Cooee’ (1982), ‘Cooee Airways’ (1983) and ‘Cooee, it’s Hollywood’ (1984),” said Mrs Shalhoub.

“As a proficient artist she loved to draw, and paint, and she designed most of the posters for the stage productions. In Cooee, it’s Hollywood’, she dressed as Phyllis Diller, and at the entertainer’s 10th birthday dinner she greeted guests at the door dressed as Queen Elizabeth II, a role she repeated many times over the years,” she said.

“In programmes for some productions she was listed as artistic director, scenery and stage director and script writer. She was one of the people involved in the purchase of the grand piano for the town, with many artists being invited to play it, the first being Roger Woodward.”

As well as being a prolific playwright, Mrs Tibbits also wrote children’s literature. “Her book ‘Mr Bloggs’ was about a puppy she found and befriended. It was first published and launch in 1983 at St Ambrose Church, with many of her friends and family attending,” said Mrs Shalhoub.

Mrs Tibbets most recent contribution to the local dramatical scene was through the reproduction of her play ‘It Mitre Been Moosejaw’ which was put on in November last years to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the laying of the foundation stone for St Ambrose Church. Mrs Tibbits attended a dress rehearsal of the play, giving it the tick of approval, delighted to see her play back on stage after two decades.

Long-time friend and fellow entertainer, doctor Patrick Giltrap said one of Mrs Tibbits’ many gifts was welcoming strangers at church; she would invite them home for a cuppa. “Mrs Tibbits had a deep spiritual and personal faith in God and Jesus, but she showed it in countless practical ways,” said Dr Giltrap. “Many of us are shy and reluctant to approach newcomers but she could spot someone looking a bit lost and not only welcome them to church but generously run an open home with the kindness and gentleness of her late husband Wilfred - with meals and tea.”

Great friend Jan Armstrong also remembers meeting many a stranger at Mrs Tibbits’ home.

“I met many people through afternoon teas at the Tibbits’. There would always be classical music playing and although she didn’t profess to be a great cook, there was always a wonderful spread putout for her visitors,” said Mrs Armstrong.

“One of her other talents was flower arranging. She did many weddings and events at the church or in homes. She was so talented she could make a beautiful arrangement out of sticks.”

Mrs Tibbits only recently moved to a room in Cooee Lodge and will be much missed for her contributions to the town and to her friends and family.

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