Monday 24 June 2019

Vale - Kathie McMahon-Nolf, 3/7/1943 – 13/6/2019

Click on pictures for full-screen image

Kathie's Memorial Service will be held on her birthday, 3rd July at 11.30am at St Monica's Catholic Church, 1A Bourke St, Richmond

And afterwards at the Richmond Golf Club, 34 Bourke St, Richmond (nearest station is East Richmond)

Please join us in celebrating a life well lived.  Bring along your instruments.

2008 National Folk Festival.
Evan Mathieson singing Dale Marxen's Waltzing with Bears, based on Dr Suess's My Uncle Terwilliger Waltzes with Bears.  Bears designed & made by Sandra. (Sandra Nixon photo)

Kathie at Kiama Festival, 2009 (Beth Cambridge photo)

Kathie @ Zig Zag Ralway, 2011
Kathie @ Zig Zag Ralway, 2011

Kathie at Bush Traditions DanceFest, 2012 (Dave Johnson)

Kathie on her verandah, Kurrajong 2012 (Sandra Nixon photo)

Kathie at Bundanoon DanceFest, 2018  (Sandra Nixon photo)

Memories from Carole Helman, Bellingen, June 2019

Kathie was well-known in the NSW folk world via the Bush Music Club, Bush Traditions, and as a regular participant at many folk sessions, clubs and festival. She was a beautiful person who took lots of people under her wing and into her heart, with a generosity of spirit and enthusiasm for life.

BMC @ Australian PIoneer Village, Wilberforce, 2013 (Sandra Nixon photo)

BMC @ Australian PIoneer Village, Wilberforce, 2013 (Sharyn Mattern photo)

Following a stroke late last year, a move to aged care and a series of health issues, Kathie died peacefully on 13th June but had still been able to play her beloved accordion through much of that challenging journey.

BMC @ Australian PIoneer Village, Wilberforce, 2014 (Sandra Nixon photo)

BMC @ Australian Pioneer Village, Wilberforce, Sharyn Mattern & Kathie, 2014 (Sandra Nixon photo)

Kathleen Anne McMahon learnt piano when growing up at Bellbird Hill in the lower Blue Mountains, where the family had a farm and fruit stall, the Bellbird Echo. She trained in medical technology and worked in labs in Papua New Guinea, Canada and Australia. She married a French Canadian arctic pilot, and they had three children. During her years in Canada Kathie fell in love with Canadian music, especially the dance music from Quebec, and began playing button accordion, on which she could pump out those lively dance tunes, but also keep that sensitive touch for the airs, waltzes and song accompaniment that she was well-known for.

2017 Bush Traditions Gathering, Goulburn (Sandra Nixon photo)

2017 Bush Traditions Gathering, Goulburn (Sandra Nixon photo)
Kathie, Denis McKay, Ray Mulligan, Dave de Hugard, Session @ Bush Traditions visit to Binalong, 2017 (Sandra Nixon photo)

Australia was calling Kathie home, and after moving back to Kurrajong, she took on a cafe and gallery at the Bellbird Echo. Through becoming active in local folk clubs and the Bush Music Club she met zither player Alex Nolf, who became her second husband. The house they built at Kurrajong became host to many a concert, folk night or session, and a stopover for many a travelling musician. Kathie and Alex helped run the Macquarie Towns folk club at Richmond, and worked as volunteers at a lot of festivals. Kathie’s passion for local history led to involvement in a programme for teaching children local history through music and song.

Group photo,
Bush Traditions visit to Binalong, 2017 (Sandra Nixon photo)

After Alex died Kathie continued to take every opportunity to play music with friends and get to festivals, so she bought a camper van. She also downsized from Kurrajong to a small place in Belmont to be near Alex’s sister. Her gregariousness, and inclusive nature led to making new friends easily wherever she went, so it didn’t take long for her to be involved in a new circuit of sessions in the Newcastle area. Family was very important to Kathie, and she began to spend all our winters in Canada’s summers to be near her children and four grandchildren.

Kathie & Alex at first Bundanoon DanceFest, 2009

Her circle of friends was extremely broad and she looked for the best in people, and made them feel valued. She was interested in other people’s stories, and encouraged them to follow their interests and dreams, whether it be music, song (– folk, country or opera), theatre, local history, bush regeneration, arts and crafts. As she brought such diverse people together, and didn’t like conflict, whenever conversations became a bit too political or heated, she had a knack of suddenly bringing out a serving of food, asking someone to sing a song, or getting some tunes going. Kathie did know how to call a spade a spade when
necessary sometimes landing her in a comical moment with the recipient.

Carole & Kathie, Bundanoon 2011 (Sandra Nixon photo)

Kathie, Bundanon 2013 (Sandra Nixon photo)

 At many festivals, and especially the Bundanoon Dance Fest, Kathie will be remembered for regularly being one of the last up at late night sessions, almost asleep around 3am or later, laid back on the lounge, accordion on chest, still playing..…or saying “let’s play just one more”.
Don & Band, Bundanoon 2015 (Sandra Nixon photo)

In the words of her sister Sue, with her quick wit, good humour and wonderful musicality, she will be missed by many. Remember her with a smile and with that button accordion by her side. Remember the laughs and good times and her love of family, friends, music, and local history.    
Photos by Sharyn Mattern, Australian Pioneer Village, Wilberforce, 2013



  1. Kathie's sister Sue here. Thank you Carole for a wonderful tribute that captures the history and essence of Kathie. I have taken the liberty of downloading a few of these pictures for the slide show at the Memorial Service. Let me know if that is not OK

  2. A wonderful thoughtful reflection on the music life our much loved Kathie McMahon
    Suzanne - one of her Kurrajong History Society buffs.

  3. Gidday Sue, you are nelcome to use these photos. If they are too small, Carole ca' contact me directly for higher resolution copies. Ive added an excellent photo from Dave Johnson of Bush Traditions.

  4. Thank you Sandra for weaving through the obituary so many of your wonderful photos, as well as some from Sharyn and now the one from Dave, to celebrate the amazing Australian music journey so many of us have shared with Kathie.


  5. Oh My! a very sad day indeed.I love Kathie and always looked forward to catching up at Macquarie Towns Music club or around the traps. Great loss in my heart and the Music family that Kathie enjoyed. Rest In Peace Kathie

  6. What a wonderful lady and always made us so welcome. Music was in her blood. We missed her when she moved from Sydney. She'll be sadly missed. Linda McConville

  7. Just looking back on my short time with Kath here in Newcastle. A thoroughly amazing person. I'd met Kath before with Alex. Was miffed to find out she'd been living here for about 2 years & we hadn't crossed paths. Her ability to join in and play along with any style of music really impressed me as did Kath herself. With my friend Jeff Lawrie we visited her in the aged care facility & gave a little concert in her honour. Still remember her with a smile.

  8. thanks for your memories, Julie