I was the only child of elderly parents. My father died a week after my seventh birthday in 1934. Fifteen months later my grandfather died.
My grandmother, mum and I were the surviving family. I was told by everyone that I was a handsome and sensitive child, but it meant nothing. I was known then as Ronald, but would later take the name Trader when I began my acting career.
We belonged to the Church of England in New South Wales and were told at school that boys must be brave and girls must be good, a dictum from the First World War. I seethed with resentment at being adored but controlled by elderly women – Mum in her forties, Granny in her sixties.
My mother had been a ballerina with Diaghilev and toured South America with Anna Pavlova. On Saturday mornings I had to sit and watch her teach ballet classes. I was bored witless. Then one day I caught a glimpse of the girls changing into their ballet clothes. I felt a sudden urge to see more. I remember it was a new urge, an awareness, a curiosity that had suddenly awakened in me.
One day I plucked up enough courage to approach one of my mother’s gorgeous pupils. Eventually desire overcame shyness and I propositioned a blossoming 10-year-old called Gwenda. She blushed and ran away.
Gwenda must have told her mother because at home I was getting suspicious looks from Mum and Granny who were having a heated, whispered conversation that I wasn’t supposed to hear. The outcome was that my frustrated mum, in desperation, approached a downstairs neighbour in our block of flats, Mrs Betty Flook.
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