Gael Shannon moved to Daylesford with her partner, Danny Spooner, in 1991 and they became entrenched in, and loved by, the local community.

Gael worked as a teacher serving a lengthy apprenticeship teaching boys at Footscray Tech. Her final teaching berth was at Morongo, a private school for girls in Geelong.  She was renowned as an energetic teacher whose warmth and encouragement was appreciated by many.

That warmth and charm translated later into the broad hospitality she offered to so many people. She was always ready to welcome newcomers to Daylesford and to offer her personal assistance to enable them to make the most of all the wonderful features of our beautiful area.

Gael was a keen and energetic gardener all her life, having grown up in an extensive and productive garden in Warrandyte. Her parents took both a practical and intellectual interest in what they grew and ate and so did she. But she was also committed to community life and her engagement in various groups was generous, creative and indicative of the energy she also brought to administrative tasks. She was, at one stage, simultaneously, the President, Secretary and Treasurer of the Friends of Wombat Hill Botanic Gardens. Her last project for the Friends was to organise a wonderful celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Gardens.

Gael’s husband Danny Spooner was a world renowned folk musician and historian. Although Danny left school at 12 and worked on the docks in London, he was later appointed as a professor in the Music Department at the University of Melbourne. Gael and Danny toured the world to enormous acclaim. Their year revolved around the folk festival circuit and the strong relationships they built and maintained over many many years in the folk music community. Danny was one of the founders of the Port Fairy Folk Festival and that festival always remained dear to their hearts. Gael often worked with Danny and collaborated with him on scripts for the highly popular historical workshops he penned and illustrated with song. Danny loved performing with Gael – he thought she had the voice of an angel.

Their love of all things folkie spilled over into their daily life with their love of people’s history, traditional crafts and fibres, gardening, story telling, folk dance, song, house concerts and hospitality.

Gael shared Danny’s love of folk music history but was also a student of working class Australia and Australian democracy. She worked at Australian Wool Museum in Geelong and also the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka. She had well developed journalism skills and worked as a part-time producer for ABC Ballarat when it opened in 2002.

In the last 3 years of her life, after Danny’s death, Gael moved to Camperdown to be closer to family and friends from the music community. She renovated a neglected Victorian cottage and created a beautiful garden that was both lovely to look at and bountiful for her table. She had just finished that labour of love when it became apparent that her days ahead were numbered.

She was missed by the Daylesford community and her loss was felt especially by her friends who imagined that she was embarking on another phase of her life. We are saddened by her loss but grateful for the vigour, joy, energy and generosity that she brought to our community.

With contributions from Patrice O’Shea, Beth Quin, Anne E Stewart and Kate Redwood.