In 1957, Brian and Penny Millett were stuck on opposite sides of a flooded Bega river, wondering if the sun would ever come out in time for their wedding day. 

When sunshine broke through the rain, Brian crossed the bridge to find the beautiful Penny at St John’s Anglican Church in Bega, surrounded by pink, white and blue spring flowers and wearing the wedding gown she and her mother, May Moore, had made themselves.

Penelope with parents Barry and May Moore

Two four-year-old flower girls, Penny’s cousin Margaret Williams and Brian’s niece Anne Bartlett; bridesmaid Jenny Hyland; best man Penny’s brother Roger Moore; and many friends and family all watched joyfully as Brian and Penny were married by the Reverend Canon Thomas Whiting.

Penny with flower girls Margaret Wilson, Penny’s cousin and Anne Bartlett, Brian’s niece, both age 4, and Bridesmaid Jenny Hyland

Sixty-five years later, Penny and Brian can be found in their sweet and eclectic cottage home in Yass, still devoted to one another, having shared a lifetime of memories. They have received letters of congratulations on their wedding anniversary from Queen Elizabeth, Prime Minister Albanese, and several other notable figures, including a visit from Yass Valley Mayor Allan McGrath. 

Queen congratulates Brian and Penny Millet- Letter signed by her Majesty

Before marrying, Brian and Penny began their memories together when Brian came to Bega to teach at Stony Creek school, after leaving an isolating one-teacher school in Eden. In Bega, he met Penny, who had returned home from the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital after appendix issues prevented her from continuing nursing. She was working at the local chemist when their paths first crossed.

“I thought, this is a very pretty girl, so I increased the income of that chemist shop by a considerable amount. I used to go and buy something every day,” recalled Brian.

After their sunny wedding day, the rain returned, and the Milletts were soon faced with the first trials of married life— a flat tire, late arrival to the hotel, drenched clothes, and a key locked inside its car.  

Penny’s brother Roger Moore signs marriage certificate with Reverend Thomas Whiting

Brian and Penny persevered and soon found themselves bound for London on the ship ‘Orontes.’ They sailed from Sydney, to Melbourne, to Adelaide, to Perth, and then had a first glimpse of what Brian described as the ‘exotic East’ upon landing in Ceylon, now Sri Lanka. 

Later, in Italy, Penny was mistaken for Audrey Hepburn and chased by the paparazzi. 

“I had this big hat and was ‘dressed to kill,’ I suppose, in a blue dress. A couple of them asked for autographs, so I actually signed my name as Audrey Hepburn! I thought, ‘how fantastic is that!’ Penny laughed. 

In Gibraltar, wearing a string of pearls gifted by her mother and what Brian described as a wonderful white raincoat, Penny again found herself surrounded— this time by Barbary apes. 

“The apes attacked her, they were pulling on the coat, this poor little thing! We saved her from that, from the huge monkeys,” said Brian.

Brian’s sister Sue Bartlett Left, Brian’s mother Doris Millett right, Brian’s niece Anne age four

While in Malaysia, Brian was appointed by the Department of Air to teach at an educational establishment for children of Australian servicemen. While Brian worked, Penny would ride her motorbike to do vital volunteer work at the blind school and orphanage. 

“The orphanage was desperate for help because Malaysia was an R&R for the Vietnam veterans, both Australian and American, and there were lots of little babies being born and they were being literally dumped. It was a Catholic orphanage,” explained Penny. 

Penny and Brian’s first child Simon was born in London and baptised at the famous St James’ Church in Piccadilly. Penny’s father and grandfather had been part of St James’ and were involved in the choir. When Penny wrote to Reverend Brewett and explained her connection to the church, he was delighted. Penny fondly recalled her time in London,

“I used to watch the horse guards come up from Buckingham Palace to Hyde Park and would hold baby Simon up to the window.”

The Milletts had two more sons, then ten years later, were delighted to welcome to the world their youngest child and only daughter, Tara. Penny explained Tara was a miracle baby who was written down in medical history at the time. 

“She redefined our lives,” said Brian. 

Brian’s teaching career took the Millet family to countless other places around the world, 

“We had a defining year at Appleby College in Ontario, Canada, which was a very significant experience in our lives, and our story is incomplete without some reference to them. We also lived in Nauru for a couple of years. A tropical contrast to the frozen wastes of Canada,” said Brian.

They returned to Australia when tragedy struck the family. There had been a flood, and Penny’s mother, May Moore, very sadly had drowned.

The Millett’s also notched up twenty-six years in Sydney with Brian at Trinity Grammar School in Summer Hill, where he taught English and was involved in administration.

Thompsons (ex-student from Class of 1988) visiting the Millett’s in Yass

The family stayed in Australia and bought a home in Yass, where they still live. Penny’s brother Roger had already built a house in Yass as the area suited him as an artist, and when the Millets visited him, they fell in love with the town and moved in 1995. Having spent a lifetime travelling, it was the first home they had owned in 40 years of marriage. The pair immersed themselves in the Yass community, with Brian, a former secretary of the Yass Music Club and a founder of the community radio station.

Penny & Brian Millett inside their Yass home

In Brian and Penny’s home, a beautiful beagle named Baxter greets visitors from behind a dark green door with a lion knocker. The cottage opens into beautiful rooms lined with an astounding collection of artwork and photographs collected over 65 years together. Among the pictures are Brian and Penny on their wedding day, and their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

“My father died when I was just 14, in 1948. I think to myself how much he missed out on, he never saw his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and had that experience of family,” said Brian.

“We feel very fortunate that 65 years later, we’re still talking to each other, we’re still understanding of each other… Love is a many splendid thing, it’s an involving thing.”

“Of course, you grow together. He’s my best friend, what can I say?” Penny added.

Southerly Jones