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A moment in time can change the direction of a life, for better or for worse. It might be an accident, a fluke, a coincidence, or by taking a risk. Is it luck? Chance? Fate? A lottery? Just to be born is said to be lucky. Life then tosses up possibilities, moments to grasp. A chance to live and live again.

Explore some of the stories about chance that featured in the Eternity gallery.

Mary Donaldson, wearing a fitted pale green jacket raises her left arm to wave. - click to view larger image
Mary Donaldson, 2005

Mary Donaldson — chance of becoming a princess

Mary Donaldson's life changed dramatically after a chance meeting in a bar during the Sydney Olympics in 2000. Donaldson (born 1972) initially declined the invitation from her housemate, Andrew Miles, to join a group of friends introducing some European visitors to Sydney's nightlife. At the last minute she changed her mind and early that evening she was introduced to 'Frederik'. She later learned that he was also 'His Royal Highness, The Crown Prince of Denmark, Count of Monpezat' and was the future king of Denmark.

In the year following the Olympics the Crown Prince found several reasons to visit Australia and the couple were in regular contact via email and phone. Mary's relationship with Frederik meant that her life took a very different direction. In Sydney she worked in marketing and property, after graduating from the University of Tasmania with a commerce and law degree in 1994.

By late 2002 Mary had moved permanently to Denmark. The couple was officially engaged on 8 October 2003. Marrying into the Danish royal family meant that Mary had to relinquish her Australian citizenship, convert from the Presbyterian to the Danish Lutheran Church, learn Danish and agree to give up her rights to any children of the marriage, should the couple divorce. Since her marriage on 14 May 2004, Mary has been officially known as Her Royal Highness, The Crown Princess of Denmark.

Friends and family from Australia attended the wedding in Copenhagen, including Andrew Miles, who lent the gift presented to wedding guests for display in Eternity. The white ceramic heart bears the date of the wedding and the couple's official monogram. Designed by Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, the monogram represents the couple's entwined initials with the royal crown above.

The Crown Prince and Princess have four children and perform a wide range of official duties. The Crown Princess is a patron of various Danish and international organisations. Her success in adapting to her new role and embracing the opportunities it brings can be seen with the establishment of 'The Mary Foundation', a charitable body which seeks to 'encourage tolerance of diversity and help those who are socially isolated'.

HRH The Crown Princess' official website

Ben Lee — chance break into the music industry

Ben Lee, 2005:

... real danger is about putting yourself on the line emotionally. It’s about going somewhere you’ve never been before; it’s about trying to say something in a new way, and for me, there’s more risk in that than getting into half a dozen bar room brawls. Everything good comes out of risk. But at least you know your limits.

Australian musician Ben Lee (born 1978) received his 'big break' when he was 14. After seeing Nirvana play in Sydney he started a band, Noise Addict, with three mates. They made demo tapes on their four-track recorder at home and sent them to radio stations and record labels.

Ben recalls:

We got some letters back: everyone hated it. I remember Triple J sent us a letter saying: 'I think your tape sucks.'

Waterfront Records was the only company to have a positive response, and Ben invited them to the band's first gig: the Waverley Library sausage sizzle. Steve from Waterfront and Steven Pavlovic, the promoter, went to the show, and said, 'You guys were great. Do you want to support Sonic Youth?' This was Ben Lee's lucky break.

This story focused on the teenage dream of being discovered actually coming true. It highlighted the fact that Ben and the band took a risk which paid off. It is about making your own chances for things to happen, and grabbing the opportunity when it comes your way. The object on display was Ben's first guitar which he purchased himself and on which he created his early songs.

Harold Wright — chance on the road

The Great Depression caused Harold Wright (1905–1969) to 'take his chances' on the road. He travelled extensively up to North Queensland and back to Sydney.

Wright advertised that he was the 'saw doctor' or 'sharpening king'. He loved being his own boss and travelling from town to town looking for work. An advertising sign Wright made for himself, in the shape of a saw, was on display.

Saw Doctor's wagon collection highlight

In our collection

Saw Doctor's advertising sign painted on a large circular saw bladeA circular metal sign with five metal spikes at the top, painted green on the front and red on the back. There is silver text on the front that reads "TINY INDUSTRIAL AND. LARGE. WOOD CIRCULAR. SAWS. RE. TOOTHED. HAND SAWS. ALL. SAWS. SHARPENED. ALL INDUSTRIAL. HOUSE HOLD. AND. GARDEN TOOLS. GROUND". There is a hole in the cen...

Janet Templeton — chance of bankruptcy

Janet Templeton (1784–1857) migrated to Australia from Scotland as a middle-aged woman with her extended family and nine children after her wealthy husband died in 1829.

She brought with her a flock of fine wool Saxon Merinos, chosen and acquired in Germany by her sister-in-law, Eliza Forlong (later Forlonge), in order to establish herself and her sons as sheep-breeders in the new colony of New South Wales.

After roughly ten years of success, during which time she and her sons owned three properties, Janet was declared insolvent during the drought and depression of the 1840s. She lost all her property except, it is said, the pearls she brought with her from Scotland.

In our collection

Pearl necklace given to Janet Templeton in Edinburgh by her husband on their wedding anniversary in 1826Pearl necklace with small pearls sewn onto a mother of pearl frame and an ornate leaf pattern centrepiece, attached to a metal support.

Steven Bradbury

In 2002 he became the first Australian to win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics.

William Buckley

Escaped from the convict settlement at Port Phillip in 1803, and survived. His life is the probable inspiration for the phrase 'Buckley's chance'.

Fiona Coote

The youngest Australian heart transplant survivor, she received a new chance in life in 1984.

Albert Facey

A chance letter received on Gallipoli led to a long and happy marriage.

Howard Florey

The discovery of penicillin in the 1940s owed a lot to chance.

Development of penicillin Defining Moment

Jenny Kee

The fashion designer's chance survival in the Granville train accident in 1977.

Eternity series 19 Aug 2007

Conversation with Jenny Kee

Fashion designer Jenny Kee, whose story features in the National Museum, explains how her chance survival in the Granville Train Crash in Sydney in 1977 became a catalyst for her art, in a conversation with curator and historian Roslyn Russell.
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Presenters: Jenny Kee with Roslyn Russell

Yoshinori Maeda

A pearl-fisher off Broome in the 1950s who survived terrible diving accidents.

Bernard O'Reilly

Located and helped rescue the survivors of the crash of a Stinson aircraft in southern Queensland in 1937.

John Ross

Was on leave when his ship, HMAS Sydney, was destroyed in November 1941, with the loss of all hands.

Kali Wilde

Established the Thalidomide Network in 1994.

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