Humans of Canungra – Gillian Underwood

Gillian Underwood
Gillian Underwood. Photo by Katie O'Brien

BORN in Northern Ireland, Gillian Underwood’s parents met at the end of World War II.

Two weeks after they met they were married and Gillian’s mother moved to the UK.

“It was a big mistake,” said Gillian, “We didn’t have the happiest childhood.  It was really hard.”

Ray White Canungra

When Gillian was 19 months old the couple returned to Australia and had four more daughters.

Gillian married when she was only 18 year old, to a man she describes today as vicious.

“It got so bad in the last two years I would go into bouts of being completely paralysed and couldn’t speak.  I’d be lying on the bed, terrified of him coming home.”

She tried to leave twice, but David stopped her, threatening to kill her and their son.

Finally she managed to leave and moved out of the area.

She met Jim Coleman through friends in Sydney.  He was 16 years older than Gillian and a gentle man in every sense of the word.

They married 18 months later and moved to the Gold Coast.

In Jim, Gillian found a partner who was kind and supportive.

“I ventured into things I never thought I would.”

Jim worked in real estate and was also a massage therapist.

During their 38 year marriage, Gillian worked in sales, where her ability to connect with people led to many successes, including winning a trip to the United States in  1996.

During this time the woman who had once been frozen into silence, gained the confidence to speak in front of a room full of 5,000 people at a sales conference.

Later she opened a clothing boutique in a vacant shop they had in Burleigh, designing, making and selling her own clothing line.  

Jim was 72 when they built their home in Canungra and he retired.  

He passed away in 2019, just before the covid pandemic struck.

“When Jim died I thought “how am I going to keep going?”  I still managed, but the loneliness really got to me.”

She joined an online grief support group which became very important when Covid hit only three months after Jim died.

Gillian connected with her husband Mike Underwood through a cousin on Facebook who was studying their family tree; she and Mike are actually second cousins.  

Mike’s wife had passed away 18 years before, leaving him with their eight year old son.

“He understood grief when a lot of people don’t understand it.

“When you get together with someone who has become your whole life and all of a sudden they’re gone, it’s devastating. “

“They were your present, you did everything together, they were your future.”  

“You not only lose your present but lose your future.”

The couple chatted online throughout COVID and met face to face in April 2022.  

They were married on 12 June 2022.

Mike is a lively Scotsman, full of jokes and always making Gillian laugh.

“We’ve settled in nicely together,” she says.  

“Honestly, after Jim died I thought I could never be happy again.  I never thought I would find this twice in my life.”

Photo by Katie O’Brien

About Keer Moriarty 277 Articles
Editor, journo, social media manager and tea lady with Canungra Times.