Discovering Thirroul’s Servicewomen in WW2

We are in the 75th anniversary years of WW2 – remembering those who served in 1939 – 1945.

World War 2 saw so many more women participate – at least 35 women associated with Thirroul in the Army and RAAF – as many women as who served in Nursing in WW1 across the whole Illawarra region and beyond.

These women, who served in WW2, were either born in Thirroul, and/or were living in Thirroul, when they enlisted. But so far no women associated with Thirroul have been identified as serving in the NAVY.

One can only wonder at the stories of these 35 women.

Twenty women associated with Thirroul had enlisted in the Army in WW2 – of whom 4 appeared to have been nurses – and one was a Gunner –  and 15 women enlisted in the RAAF. One woman in the RAAF continued serving into the 1960s – reaching to Flight Sergeant rank – Gwendoline Fitzgerald (1, 2)

Fitzgerald Gwendoline

Gwendoline Fitzgerald

Three of the four nurses in the Army may have served overseas. One nurse who served overseas was Phyllis Vickers from The Esplanade Thirroul. In 1942 – 1943 she served on the Oranje – a Netherlands ship used as the main Australian Hospital Ship in WW2 – in the Middle East, Indian and Pacific WW2 campaigns. It had been the largest ship in the world before WW2 and was used in 1942 to bring wounded soldiers home from the Middle East – and also in September 1945 transporting released 8th Division Prisoners of War from Singapore. During the war Phyllis married Captain K J Eager of 106 Australian General Hospital at Bonegilla.

Vickers Phyllis

Lieutenant Phyllis Vickers

One of the Thirroul born nurses in WW2, Lieutenant Eileen Cecily Mullens who completed her training at the Mater in Waratah in 1933, married Captain Nigel Hubert Bowen after the war in 1947. Nigel, later Sir Nigel Hubert Bowen, became the first Chief Justice of the Australian Federal Court. This was after his departure from the Australian Federal Parliament as a Member for Parramatta, where he had served as Minister for Education and Science, Attorney General and Foreign Affairs Minister. Eileen’s sudden death in 1983, caused a delay in the Lindy Chamberlain trial (Source Senator Robert Hill – Hansard), some years later her widower husband remarried.

Eileen Mullins - later Mrs Bowen and Lady Bowen

Eileen Mullins (wearing glasses) – later Mrs Bowen and Lady Bowen

Photo Title : Australia-Japan Ministerial Meeting, Canberra, 12-13 October, 1972 : Lady Waller and Sir Keith Waller, Secretary, Department of Foreign Affairs, Mrs Bowen and Nigel Bowen, Minister for Foreign Affairs, greet Gough Whitlam, Leader of the Opposition, and Mrs Margaret Whitlam – Date : National Archives of Australia 1972 – sourced via Trove

If you can help with information and photographs of these women – please email me on kcact@tpg.com.au.

SURNAME                    FIRST NAME              2ND/3RD NAMES                SERIAL NO.                   

ACKERMANN GLADYS ISOBEL 106308 RAAF
AIR DOROTHY NF443355 Army
BIEMAN (Kimbrey) VERNA LOUISE NF461794 Army
CARTIE (Atkins) MARY 108443 RAAF
CLARK JOAN NF462215 Army
COOKE BETTY N388901 Army
DIGNAN MARIE ISOBEL VERONICA 98420 RAAF
DOBBINS NENA NF440698 Army
DOBBINS ELAINE NF456296 Army
FIELD LILIAN CONSTANCE NF479608 Army
FITZGERALD

Fitzgerald Gwendoline

Fitzgerald Gwendoline

GWENDOLINE MARY W23816 (92883) RAAF
GALLAGHER CHRISTINA 106106 RAAF
HAMILTON (Cooper)

Lorraine Hamilton

Lorraine Hamilton

LORRAINE NF466856 Army (more)
HAMILTON (Green) EVELYN ALICE NF483011 Army
HILL BETTY JOYCE NF464493 Army
JACKSON MARGARET RUTH NF455445 Army
JONES DORIS MABEL NF392104 Army
KEEGAN (Kelsall) GERTRUDE JANET ESTHER 106422 RAAF
LACEY (Townsend)

Olwyn Lacey

Olwyn Lacey

OLWYN MONICA NF464246 Army
LAY BERYL NF463641 Army
MANN DOROTHY JENNER 98466 RAAF
MARTIN LORNA ENID 92801 RAAF
MAY (Trend) MARGARET NX119272 (N391906) Army (was Sister at Lithgow & Coledale Hospitals)
MEREDITH

(Cheesewright)

GLADYS 106514 RAAF
MULLENS (Bowen) EILEEN CECILY NX138696 (N391918) Army

Lieutenant

NICHOLSON JOAN ELIZABETH 97673 RAAF
PETRIE NELLIE JEAN 109197 RAAF
PIKE IRENE PEARL NF463845 Army
PRIVETT IDA EMMALINE 110114 RAAF
REEVES MARY LOUISE 97786 RAAF
ROBERTS EULA MYRTLE 106942 RAAF
SHEPHERD JEANNETTE CATHERINE NF410482 Army
SPICKLER RUTH YVONNE N440797 Army
TUCKER ALICE ANNIE NF465517 Army
VICKERS (Eager)

Vickers Phyllis

PHYLLIS VX65930 Army

Lieutenant

WALKER JOAN 176995 RAAF

7 Generations of Hicks Family Women in Thirroul

I’d seen another post where a writer reflected on International Womens Day 2014  and seven generations of strong women in her family. It triggered my thinking on the role of seven generations of women in my own Hicks Family in the small NSW seaside town of Thirroul.

We’ve had seven generations of women on Mum’s maternal side (Hicks Family) who’ve lived in Thirroul since the 1880’s, back when it was separated from North Bulli (now Austinmer) and it began to be called Robbinsville. Before that, from the 1830’s, earlier generations of family members had lived from Fairy Meadow to Austinmer.

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For 150 years our family’s women have lived in Thirroul – Austinmer, serving the Northern Illawarra community in many areas.

  • Margaret Hicks nee Daly/Brain spent her last years here in Thirroul, after living in nearby North Bulli (Austinmer) for over 40 years
  • Margaret’s daughter in law Mary Ann Hicks nee McKenzie spent nearly half of her 90 years here
  • Mary Ann’s daughter Edith Florence Joy nee Hicks lived nearly 50 years here
  • Edith’s younger sister Ida McKenzie Webb nee Hicks lived for over 30 years in Thirroul
  • Edith’s daughter Mary Constance “Molly” Callcott nee Joy lived nearly 40 years here
  • Molly’s daughter Joan Lois Adams nee Callcott lived all but 4 of her 80 years in Thirroul
  • Joan’s cousin Margaret Risk nee Joy has lived nearly 70 years in Thirroul
  • Joan’s daughter Kerrie Anne Christian nee Adams (that’s me) – I’ve lived here for over 45 years
  • Margaret Risk’s daughter Julie Risk has been here for 50 years
  • Kerrie’s daughter Katrina Elise Christian grew up  in Thirroul from birth and commenced her adult years here

Margaret Hicks was born in 1819, a daughter of convicts, able to read and write when many could not, including her husband, James Hicks. That she was literate undoubtedly helped their rise from small landholders to Northern Illawarra Pioneers  who supported churches, schools and were active lobbiers in political matters, while she was bearing and rearing 13 children to adulthood. Evidence of her capabilities ? Husband James Hicks appointed her Executor for his will and estate rather than his eldest son, Henry Thomas Hicks,  who was the senior JP of the district, presiding over countless court cases and Executor of others’ wills. Yet Margaret was appointed Executor of the Will and Estate in the early 1890’s, when she did not then enjoy the right to vote.

Mary Ann Hicks in 1839, was the first Australian born child of her McKenzie parents,  after they left the Isle of Skye, Scotland. The wife of a North Illawarra Council Alderman, mother of a North Illawarra Council Mayor and coal miner Union President – but Mary Ann, herself was active in the community life of Thirroul, as well as nearby Austinmer and Thirroul.

Edith Florence Joy, a widowed single mother raising her children in the early 20th Century years, long lived a little in the shadow of her iconic mother, Mary Ann Hicks, and supporting her daughter Molly’s community fundraising activities. Nevertheless she was active in community affairs in the town – in the church, fundraising for causes such as the war effort in WWI.

Ida McKenzie Webb was one of the early 20th Century school teachers in the northern Illawarra. After her marriage she retired from teaching, but remained involved in the Thirroul community fundraising activities for many years.

Molly Callcott, with her orchestra, was involved in many fundraising and community events in the years prior to her marriage and motherhood. Following her marriage breakdown, she was left to bring up her five children singlehandedly, and became a Hardies Rubber Factory Girl.

Joan Lois Adams was involved in many organisations from her late 20’s and generally as Secretary or Treasurer –  including Mother’s Club at Thirroul School, RSL Tennis Club, Stroke Support, War Widows Guild, RSL Laurel Club, Legacy and Red Cross. Joan’s cousin Margaret Risk, as well as daughter Julie Risk, have long been active members of the Kennel Club.

Kerrie Anne Christian followed in the footsteps of her community leader and Northern Illawarra pioneer great great grandfather Captain – Alderman Henry Thomas Hicks JP, and her Great Great Uncle Mayor & Miners Federation President Alex Hicks. She has been a NSW State Union President, an Alderman – Councillor on Wollongong City Council, Steelworks Quality & Engineering Manager, a Council member of the local University, occasional guest lecturing at the University on Women in Non Traditional Roles, and involved in many community activities over the last 40 years.

Katrina Elise Christian, an Engineering University student, is just starting out in life, and has already earned her Queens Girl Guide Award, presented by NSW Governor Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir. The Queens Girl Guide Award requires community service – and Katrina has now worked her way up from being a junior Girl Guide leader to a full leader.

Dr Patricia Paddy Kirton – Born to Wealth and Privilege – Taking the Hard Way – Serving her Community

I grew up near Kirton Road Austinmer and the Kirton’s were widely known to be associated with the old Excelsior Mine that was across on the side of the railway line to Redman Avenue Thirroul, where I lived.

 

However I knew little of the Kirton’s in the later 20th Century decades and my interest was raised when Dr Joe Davis posted a photograph of the June 1940 wedding, of Dr Patricia Kirton to Donald Neil Rankin, to The Thirroul History in Photos Page, on Facebook. Although, I knew that there was a connection, by marriage, between my family and the Kirton’s. One of Mum’s Callcott aunts, Clarice Callcott, had married Victor Farraher, a son of Elizabeth Farraher (nee Kirton), the sister of J S Kirton – to further confuse things, both of J S Kirton’s wives were sisters of  my great uncle Victor’s father, Murty James Farraher.

 

Confusingly interconnected – but basically Victor Farraher, my great uncle by marriage, and Paddy Kirton’s father, Bernard Kirton, were first cousins. And  of course, Mum’s Farraher cousins were also second cousins of Paddy Kirton, and her sister Sheilah.

 

So even though we weren’t blood relations, Paddy Kirton and I were part of an extended Farraher – Cawley – Kirton – Callcott – Hicks – McKenzie family network. There weren’t too many girls from Thirroul who had become doctors by 1940 – I really wanted to know her story, and not just the stories of the men in her family.

 

As I read, I learned of how Mary Patricia Anne Kirton, known throughout her life as Paddy Kirton, had been born to privilege and wealth. After all she was the daughter of Thirroul’s Bernard Kirton, and wife, Mary Dolly Keelan, who had sailed from Greville St in County Mullingar, Ireland with her brother for the wedding. Bernard and Mary had married in St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne in 1914. Bernard was the son of Excelsior Mine Owner and Bulli Shire President, John Stephen Kirton and his first wife Bridget Farraher. Sadly Bernard’s first wife, Mary died in 1921, aged 35 years, after five years of lingering illness. She left the two young children, Patricia (Paddy) and Sheilah. In 1927, Bernard would re-marry, to Alicia Borthwick, at St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney. They lived in Ballinderry, Thirroul.

 

However the Farraher – Kirton family had known some tough and controversial times too. Paddy’s grandmother, Bridget was a daughter of Patrick Francis Farraher and wife Anne Cawley. Patrick was the eldest son of Murty Farraher, and wife Bridget O’Malley. The Farraher’s and Cawley’s are very old Irish Catholic families in the Illawarra. Paddy’s great great grandfather, Murty Farraher, was wrongfully convicted and transported for life from Ireland in 1822 – for swearing a false oath – but subsequently fully pardoned eventually in 1841. Murty’s wife Bridget had brought her four young sons to the other side of the world to be near to her husband in 1822. They initially settled in the southern Illawarra, but later the family moved to the northern suburbs of Wollongong. Ironically, Paddy’s father, Bernard Kirton, himself would be wrongfully named in relation to a murder in Surabaya in 1925, by the Dutch press – and successfully sue the Evening News for libel  later that year. And then there would be a messy 1927 court case over the Excelsior mine property.

 

Nevertheless, Paddy Kirton’s adolescent and young adult early years, in the pre-WWII era, seemed to have been very much that of a young, privileged socialite. But there was also something about her, that had the Australian Women’s Weekly acknowledging her achievements as a Doctor, by the time of her marriage in 1940, and hoping that she would continue to distinguish herself even after her marriage .. in 1940 … a very feminist hope ?

 

And so Paddy Kirton’s adolescent and young adult years  unfolded in the newspaper social pages …

  • Educated in the Dominican College – a fancy Dress Party at Santa Sabina in 1930
  • Making her Debut in 1932 at David Jones – Dominican Ex Students Dance – attended by her step-mother, Mrs Kirton and Miss M Borthwick – and attending St John’s College Dance at Sydney University in 1932.
  • Sancta Sophia Dinner Dance in 1933
  • University of Sydney Faculty of Medicine results – Pass in 1934 and deferred results 1934 & attending Wesley College Ball in 1934 and a friend’s departure for overseas. Sancta Sophia annual dance in 1934, supporting her old college – at a Sherry Party with friends.
  • Part of the Sydney University Social Scene in 1935 
  • Still living at Sancta Sophia College in 1936 – her University of Sydney Faculty of Medicine Results 1936 – and a pre-wedding party for a friend at Sancta Sophia College
  • At the Polo in 1937. Dance Secretary for the Sancta Sophia Annual Students Dance in 1937 but still managing a Credit for her 1937 University results – including Psychiatry results in 1937. An interesting choice to practice in – certainly challenging – she was described as one of the youngest women medical graduates in the Australian Womens Weekly in July 1940.
  • 1938 – A Big Year 
    • Graduation and a Resident Medical Officer position at Lewisham Hospital in 1938 – part of the Lewisham Hospital’s Younger Set – fundraising for the hospital in 1938 – Golden Jubilee Appeal – Lewisham Hospital Ball in 1938. Celebrating a work colleague’s new baby daughter in 1938 – attending Sancta Sophia College annual dinner with old school friend Margaret Rankin in 1938
    • On an official table for a reception for Russian Principal Ballerina Tamara Grigorieva in 1938. Dinner parties and Dance at the Royal Sydney Golf Club in 1938 Final Race Week Finale.
    • Bridesmaid to Suzanne Rankin at her society wedding to Robert Duval of Edgecliff at St Mary’s Cathedral in 1938 – more detail on the wedding – another bridesmaid Morna Mackenzie was Private Secretary to Lady Wakehurst  
  • 1939 – Another Big Year
    • Bridesmaid to old school friend, Margaret Rankin in 1939 in Newcastle. At the ballet in 1939.
    •  Heading off overseas on a working holiday with her sister Sheilah, also a Sydney University Graduate. Patricia was to be the Ship’s Surgeon on a Cargo boatParrakoola – of course there were more farewell parties at the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron and Hotel Australia. 
    • On her return in late 1939, described, with her sister Sheilah, as young women   who have held interesting jobs abroad arrived in Melbourne aboard an oversea liner last night.”  Paddy had done post graduate and medical  Locum Work in London, and in Eire Ireland, while her sister Sheilah did Post Graduate work in Massage at Mullingar County Hospital in Eire Ireland.
  • The 1940’s – Years of  Change
    • Still social – engaged to Donald Neil Rankin of Newcastle in early 1940, after her return from abroad in late 1939 – Don had been admitted as a Solicitor in 1939 and joined his father’s Newcastle law firm
    • Attending the Combined Dominicans Annual Ball in May 1940
    • Becoming a Senior Resident at Lewisham Hospital.
    • Subsequently marrying Don Rankin at St John’s College Sydney University in June 1940 – the Rankins staying at the Canberra Civic Hotel in July 1940, a sentimental wedding ring. She seemed to have lived in Newcastle with her husband Donald Neil Rankin only briefly around December 1940.  By 1942, husband Donald Neal Rankin would be called up by the RAAF, based at Point Cook, and Patricia would move to Melbourne to be closer to him, visiting him at Sale and staying at the Club Hotel. Flying Officer Don Rankin would be part of the attack on Frankfurt in December 1943.
    • Sister Sheilagh’s engagement to Robert Macintosh of Leura was also announced in July 1940 and wedding soon after – a lot of that happened as men headed off to the battlefields of WWII.

However unlike the society weddings of her school mates and her father, Patricia Paddy Kirton’s had been A Quiet Wedding” …. To Marry To-day.The marriage of Dr. Patricia Kirton,elder daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Bernard Kirton, of Ballinderry, Thirroul, to Mr.Donald Neil Rankin, younger son of Mr.and Mrs. A. A. Rankin, of Newcastle, will be celebrated quietly in the chapel of St.John’s College, Sydney University, this morning. Mr. Rankin, who is on the R.A.A.F. Reserve and expects to be called up within the next few weeks, is a graduate in law and a former resident of the college. Dr. Kirton, who graduated in medicine from Sydney University, will be attended by her sister, Miss Sheila Kirton. She will wear a simple frock of chalk-white silk, with a small hat of white heron’s feathers. Mr. Desmond Hollywood will be best man. Afterwards a small reception will be held in the new pent-house of Marton’s Hall Flats, Margaret Street, where Dr. Kirton is staying.”

 

Patricia’s  quiet wedding was nevertheless reported in the July 6 1940 Women’s Weekly (when it was a weekly) – A life’s work -VERSATILE, charming, youthful Mrs. Donald Rankin – until last week Dr.Paddy Kirton – has fitted into less than a quarter of a century more than most people accomplish in a lifetime. During student days at Sancta Sophia, always envy of contemporaries for well-groomed appearance, round of social doings, and success in examinations, yet managed to be one of youngest women graduates in medicine.After that sallied forth to see the world as ship’s surgeon in a cargo boat, did post-graduate work in England and Eire, and returned, unruffled as ever, to take post as senior resident at Lewisham Hospital. Since then has practised for a while. Now, quietly as possible, marries Don Rankin in chapel of St. John’s College, University, where Don studied Law during Paddy’s Med. student days. He’s to be called up for R.A.A.F. soon, so we’re waiting to see whether wife will set out to further distinguish herself in her profession.We hope so . . .

 

Paddy Kirton had married into a distinguished family in the Newcastle area. Her father in law, Mr Archibald Aloysius Rankin, born in Tumut in 1872, married Vera Simpson in 1910. AA Rankin was President of the St Ignatius Riverview Old Boy‘s Union, the son of a Station Manager and grandson of a farmer at Tumut. Archibald became a Solicitor of Rankin & Griffiths Solicitors Newcastle (having served as an articled clerk in Tumut, applied to NSW Supreme Court to be admitted as solicitor in 1897), a legal representative to BHP, having been associated with the Newcastle hospital since 1912, with Newcastle Municipal Council in 1913, appointed President of the Newcastle Hospital Board since 1916.

 

And A A Rankin was being censured by the Newcastle Trades Hall Council in 1926, appointed to NSW Hospitals Commission Board in 1929, awarded a CBE in 1938. In 1940 he was still President of the Newcastle Hospital Board, still a Member of the NSW Hospitals Commission and President of Newcastle Aero Club – but he seems to have retired from the Health scene sometime during the WWII years. He passed away in 1951 – probate notice.

 

Married into a family such as A A Rankins, with a husband as a solicitor, it would have been easy for Paddy Kirton to have stepped back to a more stereotypical female role of the 1930’s and 1940’s. And it seems that as WWII wound on, Paddy, after after having her early life constantly mentioned in the social pages, had then ducked below the radar. Only surfacing in 1954, when giving expert testimony in a murder trial in Newcastle, described as Dr Mary Patricia Ann Kirton, Superintendent of Newcastle Mental Hospital. It was clear that she had decided to follow her own path. Meanwhile her husband who had been good at sport in his university days, was shining in the NSW Amateur Golf Championships in 1954.

 

Dr Kirton was elected to the University of Newcastle Council in 1971 and served on the Board of Trustees of the University’s Edward Hall Residential College – her brief CV in 1972  read :

“Dr. Kirton was Acting Superintendent of the Mental Hospital, Newcastle, from 1954 to 1959 and Specialist Psychiatrist in Charge of the Child Guidance Clinic, Newcastle, from 1960 to 1969. She is Vice-President of Hunter Regional Branch of the National Trust and on Newcastle Advisory Board of the Family Life Movement of Australia.”

 

Paddy Rankin would also be a significant donor to the University of Newcastle. And at the University of Newcastle’s Graduation Ceremony in 1991, Mary Patricia Anne Rankin was presented with an Honorary Doctor of the University Degree – a high accolade indeed, and it was presented by Justice Elizabeth Evatt as well.

 

I had served on the Council of the University of Wollongong from 1996-2007 and I knew that such Honorary degrees are not lightly awarded.

 

From the University of Newcastle Bulletin of May 20, 1991 : 

“Honorary Degree to Outstanding Citizen

The Honorary Degree of Doctor of the University was conferred on Mrs Paddy Rankin, who has played a key role in University affairs, in particular to the establishment of the Faculty of Medicine. 


Mrs Rankin, was well known in Newcastle as Dr Kirton, the Director of the Child Guidance Clinic until her retirement in 1969, having previously been the Superintendent of Stockton and Watt Street Hospitals for a period of five years. 


Mrs Rankin’s aspirations for the establishment of a Medical School in Newcastle were translated into reality, when, in 1971, she was appointed a member of the Council of the University. 


At her first meeting, the Council appointed Mrs Rankin, still as Dr Kirton, as one of the four members charged with preparation of a submission to the Australian Universities Commission for the establishment of a Medical School at Newcastle. Mrs Rankin also played a key role in the extensive and detailed work of the Selection Committees leading to the appointment of the first academic staff of the Faculty. 


One of the chief characteristics of the Faculty of Medicine since its first intake of students in 1978 has been its concern to develop and implement effective processes for student selection. Mrs Rankin became a foundation member of the Faculty of Medicine Admissions Committee and continued to serve as a member until 1984. The creation of this thorough and extensive selection process, which enables criteria more sensitive to personal attributes and attainments to be added to examination statistics, owes much to the input and sustained contributions of Mrs Rankin and continues to the present day. 


She was also active in the establishment of the first residential college on campus, Edwards Hall. As well, she served as the Council’s nominee to the Board of Trustees of the Community Child Care Centre, Kintaiba, in its formative years. 


Mrs Rankin continues to be interested in and active in the University life. She continues to work towards the establishment of a religious centre on the campus and is currently undertaking academic study in History. 


The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Keith Morgan, said it was fitting for the University to recognise the achievements of such an outstanding citizen of Newcastle and valued supporter of the University,and it gave him great pleasure to present Mrs Rankin for admission to the Honorary Degree.”


The hopes expressed by the Australian Womens Weekly in July 1940 that Paddy Kirton (a former Thirroul girl) would continue to distinguish herself were certainly realised.

 

Thirroul and Railway Families – Ashley Hay – Author

Oops. I confess that I hadn’t heard of the writer Ashley Hay, until the Illawarra Mercury (13/4/2013) featured her in an article on artists and writers, who had drawn inspiration from the narrow strip of land between Thirroul and Stanwell Park. But of course as a Thirroul resident, how could I not like the way the article described how her new book opens –  with Thirroul being “the most beautiful place in the world.

“The Railwayman’s Wife” has been only recently published  –see review and from The Australian, as well as an interview.

I was intrigued as my grandmother “Molly” Mary Constance Callcott (nee Joy) had been a Railwayman’s wife in Thirroul during the 1930’s, as also had her sister-in-law, my great aunt Marjorie Louisa Joy (nee Tollner), during the 1930’s-50’s.

The Callcott’s lived in Harbord Street Thirroul very close to the Thirroul beach, and the Joy’s lived in King Street Thirroul. Coincidentally Molly’s in-laws, Alf and Lucy (nee Midson) Callcott, were the Thirroul real estate agents who had let Wyewurk to DH Lawrence, and his wife, Frieda, in the early 1920’s. Hence the use of the name Callcott for one of the main characters in DH Lawrence’s novel “Kangaroo“. Wyewurk was in fact owned by Lucy’s sister, Beatrice Southwell (nee Midson), my great great aunt.

In the Illawarra Mercury article, Ashley Hay described how her grandfather had worked on the railway and was killed in an accident in the early 1950’s – and how her grandmother then worked in the Library that used to be at the Thirroul Railway Institute Hall. And again, coincidentally, my grandfather Russ Callcott, and my great uncle, Ken Joy both worked at the railway at that time. It seems that Ashley and I had both grown up in the Thirroul area in roughly the same era.

In “The Railwayman’s Wife” Ashley apparently describes the train trip to Sydney, also one of my earliest childhood memories. I live at “Southie” aka McCauley’s beach just north of where the Sandon Point jetty used to be – it features in the book too. Other shared memories – the Glass Roundhouse just over the railway line from my parents’ Redman Avenue Thirroul home, the Hardie Rubber Factory where my Grandmother Molly Callcott, worked after the breakdown of her marriage and was a single mother raising her five kids. So the Railwayman’s Wife is in some ways evocative of my Grandmother and Great Aunt…. there is something rather eerie to see memories & feelings of your early life also captured quite independentlyby a writer.

Ashley’s family story intrigues me as it runs in parallel to the stories of my own family in Thirroul. Looks like I am going to have to read a copy of the book “The Railwayman’s Wife” !

Mary Ann Hicks – A Thirroul Pioneering Woman – 1839-1930

Mary Ann Hicks nee McKenzie 1839 – 1930 of Thirroul. 



Born at Fairy Meadow, in 1839, Mary Ann McKenzie was the first Illawarra-born child of Alexander McKenzie and wife Anne. She married Henry Thomas Hicks on November 5 1861, and so would be described on her death as one of the grand old pioneers of the district.  On marrying Henry Thomas Hicks she became a member of the pioneering Hicks family of the northern Illawarra. The family lived in various locations : Russell Vale (from 1842), Austinmer – North Bulli (from 1843), Wollongong, Towradgi  and Thirroul – Robbinsville (circa 1880’s). 



Above – Mary Ann Hicks (with cap) and daughter Edith Florence Joy (nee Hicks) – circa 1920’s

Parents Alexander McKenzie and Anne McLean
Alexander McKenzie, father of Mary Ann McKenzie,  was born on the Isle of Skye in 1803, and had married Anne McLean in 1829 at Armadale,  on the Isle of Skye in the Parish of Sleat. They travelled to Australia, on a bounty ship in 1837  (the William Nicol), with their elder 4 children:  

  • Daniel b 1831 Armadale, Isle of Skye
  • Donald b 1832 Armadale, Isle of Skye
  • Alexander b 1834 Armadale, Isle of Skye
  • John b 1835 Armadale, Isle of Skye

Four more children were born in the Illawarra :
  • Mary Ann b 1839 Fairy Meadow, NSW
  • Catherine b 1842 Berkley, NSW
  • Agnes b 1843 Springhill, NSW d 1844
  • Another child, Anne, died 1846 Berkeley 

Settling in Ellengowan
In Australia, Mary Ann’s father, Alexander McKenzie of Ellengowan became active in the Illawarra Agricultural and Horticultural Society for much of the 1850-60’s. Ellengowan was in the Fairy Meadow – Parameadows area – which was the site of a battle between the Bong Bong tribe and a Wollongong tribe 4/3/1827 – known as the Battle of Parameadows

Following first wife Ann’s death, Alexander had  remarried in 1849 at Parramatta to Elizabeth Hanks, they had eight children :
  • Elizabeth b 1850 Balgownie, NSW
  • Robert b 1851 Balgownie, NSW
  • Hugh b 1853 Balgownie, NSW
  • Thomas b 1854 Bulli, NSW
  • Anne b 1858 Bulli, NSW
  • Flora b 1860 Bulli, NSW
  • Charles b 1861 Bulli, NSW
  • Christina b 1863 Taralga, Goulburn

Marriage of Mary Ann McKenzie to Henry Thomas Hicks
On 5.11.1861, Mary Ann McKenzie married Henry Thomas Hicks,  the eldest son of James and Margaret Hicks of Austinmer, then known as North Bulli.

Mary Ann  and Henry Thomas Hicks lived on Hicks Farm in Thirroul,  with their ten surviving children, four did not survive – 14 children in total! One wonders how much time Mary Ann had for herself in bearing 14 children over the twenty five years of  1862-1887 ?


Above : Mary Ann Hicks (aged 75 years), daughter Edith Florence Joy (nee Hicks), grandson Kenneth Charles, unknown girls  at  her home, “Everest”, Seaview Terrace or Hicks Farm(?) Thirroul 1915. 


Children of Mary Ann Hicks 

As kids we heard that Mary Ann and Henry Thomas Hicks had the orchards, also known as Hicks Farm. There were also stories of Mary Ann Hicks living at “Mount Hope” near the Thirroul Railway Station –  Mary Ann’s Bible  shows her address as “Mount Hope”.

Many of the children of Mary Ann and Henry Thomas Hicks had left Thirroul over the years, moving to Sydney and further north. Daughter Mary Alice Hicks remained at home, caring for Mary Ann for many years at Thirroul, before finally marrying widower Alfred Cook in 1929 when she was in her late 50’s. Alfred was also the brother of Alexander Cook, husband of Mary Alice’s oldest sister, Margaret Minnie. Another daughter, the widow Edith Florence Joy, appears to have returned to care for her mother in her last years.

Death of Mary Ann Hicks
Years ago, I recall seeing a beautiful tribute to Mary Ann, written in an old Church Parish newsletter (St David’s Thirroul). Mary Ann had lived past 90 years of age, until her death in 1930.  And the March 1930 Church Parish newsletter had later been  safely stored away by her great granddaughter, Joan Adams (nee Callcott – who was also my mother).  In working through my late mother’s papers and books, I took some time to find the obituaries. Predictably among the last items to surface, at the bottom of large chest of drawers, finally enabling a window into some of Mary Ann’s personal life. Re-reading them maybe 2 or 3 decades since I last saw them, these tributes now have even more meaning for me. Click to read tributes to Mary Ann Hicks nee McKenzie.

Mary Ann Hicks died at her home, “Everest”, in  Seaview Terrace Thirroul on February 23 1930 – see death notice Sydney Morning Herald February 24 1930.

HICKS -February 23, 1930, at her residence, “Everest”, Seaview Terrace, Thirroul, Mary Ann, relict  of the late H. T. Hicks, in her 90th year.

 Also funeral notice – Sydney Morning Herald February 24 2012.

HICKS- The Relatives and Friends of the FAMILY of the late MARY ANN HICKS are kindly invited to attend the Funeral of their late beloved MOTHER; to leave her late residence,Everest, Seaview-Terrace, Thirroul, on TUESDAY  AFTERNOON at 3 o’clock for St Augustine’s    Church of England Cemetery, Bulli. W J WILLIAMS, Undertaker. (includes corrections)

Husband Henry Thomas Hicks of Thirroul – 1836-1909
Note – Mary Ann’s husband Henry Thomas Hicks is mentioned in the Illawarra  census of 1881, along with William Fry, Henry Stumbles, Michael Shannon, Thomas Francis Lindsay, George Brown and William Osborne. 

Henry Thomas Hicks chaired a public meeting in 1865 for the establishment of  Bulli National School. He was elected as an alderman to North Illawarra Council in 1887 and 1888 – a separate Bulli Shire Council would not be formed until 1905, although lobbying for its formation had occurred in 1889, with Henry Thomas Hicks and Mr Farraher actively involved.  Henry’s son, Alexander Henry  Hicks, elected Mayor of North Illawarra and president of the Illawarra Miners Association in 1905, at the unveiling of the Mount Kembla Mining Disaster Memorial. It is interesting to note in Mary Ann Hicks’ Obituaries, that she could, and would, discuss politics, and was committed to voting. Note – Henry Thomas Hicks’ great granddaughter Kerrie Anne Christian (nee Adams) was narrowly defeated at the city-wide election of Wollongong City Council in 1989 – but was successful at Ward One elections in 1991, 1995 and 1995 – she did not contest the 2004 elections.


He was also actively involved in the early days of Thirroul Public School, where he presided over the opening in 1889; also at St Augustine’s Anglican Church in Park Rd Bulli. He was a Captain in the Bulli Reserve Rifle Club from 1890, and also the Executor of a number of wills for local Northern Illawarra residents, including William Kirton. Also, possibly JP (Peter) Orvad, a member of the Bulli Progress Committee and owner of the Denmark Hotel, according to Rita Roberts one of Orvad’s descendants (as told to Kerrie Anne Christian during the Back to Bulli” celebration of 1989).

Lucy Callcott – a Pioneer in Thirroul Tourism

Lucy Callcott (nee Midson), born in 1875,  was the eldest daughter of William Midson and his wife Charlotte (nee Small).  Father, William Midson was a Wesleyan preacher in the Ryde Circuit.  Grandmother Charlotte was the granddaughter of UK 1st Fleet convicts, John Small, Mary Parker and James BradleyCharlotte’s  father was Samuel Small, who was born in 1804, the youngest of John Small and Mary Parker‘s seven children. He had married Rachel Rebecca Bradley, daughter of fellow First Fleeter James Bradley and Sarah Barnes, a convict on the Third Fleet from the UK. Lucy was the paternal grandmother of my mother, Joan Adams, nee Callcott.
Lucy  married Alfred (Alf) Freeman Callcott, a railway man in 1894. During his time on the railway they seemed to have moved around NSW – Hornsby, Hermidale, Lyndhurst-Lochinvar, and finishing at Forbes. Lucy and Alf had two daughters,  Marjorie Lou and Clarice, in addition to their son, Louis Russell Freeman Callcott, who also became a railway man. They moved to Thirroul, after Alf retired from the railway.

According to “The Small Family in Australia 1788-1988″ p625, Alf and Lucy built a large home in Harbord Street Thirroul, (No.5 ?) and ran it as a guest house. Harbord Street had first been subdivided in 1911 (refer “Greetings from Thirroul” –  a small book which documents many of the holiday guesthouses around the town by local Thirroul Historian,  Dr Joseph (Joe) Davis, and his wife, Inga Lazzarotto). See also an article by Anne Woods on Guesthouses in Thirroul, formerly known as Robbinsville, continued to undergo great change after the completion of the South Coast Railway in the late 1880’s – moving from farming to coal, brickworks and of course tourism. 
Around that time there were many advertisements in the Sydney papers for holiday accommodation in Thirroul. They often featured comments like “1 min to surf,” “close to the railway” and “close to the Bulli Pass. Others offering accommodation in Thirroul back then, were the Cooney’s, and also Hughie Ross, father of Kevin and his sister Ruth, also grandfather of Julie Ross (of The Spicey Apple). There were cinemas (Arcadia and New Kings), dance halls, refreshment rooms and Ryan’s Bulli Pass Hotel.
Lucy and Alf were also estate and insurance agents in the town – and were regular advertisers of Accommodation To Let in Thirroul in the Sydney Morning Herald from 1915-1939.  They often advertised reduced rates for the winter months. Lucy continued the business, as a widow, for about 7 or 8 years after the death of Alf. Amongst their most famous clients, were the sometimes controversial English author, DH Lawrence and his wife, Baroness Frieda Von Richtofen. Frieda was also a cousin of The Bloody Red Baron of WW1 Germany. It seems that they were in tight financial circumstances and took advantages of Thirroul’s reduced winter rates, advertised by the Callcott’s.
In 1922 DH and Frieda Lawrence stayed at the Californian bungalow, Wyewurk, which overlooks McCauley’s Beach, and was then owned by Lucy’s sister, Beatrice Southwell nee MidsonThere are varying thoughts on “Kangaroo” – a total fiction or a semi-autobiographic work by Lawrence?
And like Somers in Kangaroo, did Lawrence really make contact with people from both the political “Right” and “Left” of the era in such a short time frame ? It was quite possible, as there people with strong views, from both sides of the political divide, in the Northern Illawarra during that time period. On the Left, there were the Coal Miners, and on the Right, the Small Business Operators. In 1920 John S Kirton was clearly a senior member of the Nationalist Party.
Lucy and Alf’s  son-in-law was Victor Farraher, husband of younger daughter Clarice. He was also a son of Elizabeth Farraher (nee Kirton), sister of John S Kirton, who had opened the Excelsior Coal Mine on his Thirroul property.  So there would have been potentially a close family tie-up between the Farraher family and the Kirton familyAnd both Kirton‘s wives, Florence and Bridget were also sisters to Murty FarraherVictor‘s father. Incredibly convoluted ?
John S Kirton had been President of the North Bulli Shire Council and was also President of the local Nationalist Committee. He presided over a dinner held at Ryan’s Bulli Pass Hotel in 24 January 1920 to celebrate a Nationalist Victory in Federal Parliamentary elections (Source  – Sydney Morning Herald January 26 1920).
Some years later, Victor Farraher was a staunch supporter of Captain De Groote, who rode in on horseback and cut the ribbon at the opening of Sydney Harbour Bridge in protest, ahead of the NSW ALP Premier Jack Lang in the official party, in 1932 (refer Joe Davis‘ book  “DH Lawrence in Thirroul“.
DH Lawrence used the family name Callcott for one of the main characters in his novel, “Kangaroo“. There have also been suggestions that a woman, and her 11 year old son, commenting on the aeroplane landing incident in the novel, are in fact Lucy Callcott and son Russell. However, in 1922 Russell Callcott was already 19 years of age, and much older than the boy described by Lawrence in “Kangaroo“.
So, it was this short stay, at Wyewurk, that provided some of the inspiration for “Kangaroo“, according to Thirroul historian Dr Joseph (Joe) Davis. Coincidentally, Joe also taught Lucy and Alf’s  great grandson, Mark Callcott, at high school – at the time that he was writing his book “DH Lawrence in Thirroul“. Additionally, Joe is also a distant cousin of my daughter Katrina Christian – great great granddaughter of Lucy and Alf  Callcott. It seems that Thirroul has always been that kind of place, with a strong sense of “connectedness”.
For many years, Lucy also found time to be the organist in St David’s Anglican Church in Roxborough Avenue next to Thirroul Public School – a plaque was placed in her memory on the church wall.
Unfortunately Lucy did not enjoy a warm grandmotherly relationship with most of Russ’s children. However it reminds me of the story of Paul Mercurio on the TV program “Who do you think you are ?” Paul discovered that his grandmother ran a hotel in America which left little time for her children, including Gus Mercurio, father of Paul.

Heading into the WWI years there appeared to be a change in the Guesthouse market in Thirroul. Additionally, there seems to be no evidence of any advertisements in the Sydney Morning Herald by Lucy Callcott in the period from 1940 until her death in 1952 (see death – funeral notices below). Perhaps coastal threats during WWII, and then changing tastes in the post WWII era, coming on the heels of the 1930′s Depression years, had caught up with them ?

Despite these  changes in reduced demand for Guesthouse accommodation, a popular seaside camping ground,  operated in Thirroul, adjacent to the Olympic Pool, until the 1960′s. Also, in the 1960′s, Thirroul Beach was becoming a popular day trip destination, with many people coming down by train or bus.  Since then, day trippers have mainly arrived by car, although buses can still be seen at the beach. In the 1980’s with the electrification of the South Coast Railway, many Sydney siders chose to become residents in Thirroul and commuters up to Sydney. 

A small motel had operated in Thirroul since the 1970′s, a notable customer was the artist Brett Whiteley who died there. Whiteley, and fellow artist Gary Shead, had a fascination with DH Lawrence,Wyewurk and “Kangaroo“. Bed and breakfasts, together with holiday home lettings are also starting to appear in Thirroul and its neighbouring suburbs.

Recently Wollorowong, a property in Thirroul had been placed on the market It was among the holiday cottages that Lucy Callcott managed in 1937,  operating as a guesthouse up until WWII. Wollorowong has been described as the last of the Thirroul Guesthouses by Joe Davis.  
Lucy Callcott died in 1952, before I was born. And when I first stood for election as an Alderman on Wollongong City Council in 1989, I was at the Thirroul Leagues Club and was asked by a local was I “a granddaughter of old Mrs Callcott?” I replied no, her great granddaughter.



Sydney Morning Herald Advertisements – a selection of the many ads placed by the Callcott’sfrom 1915-1939
SMH – 27 Nov 1915
Thirroul – Kaludah, 1 min. surf, Superior Accommodation, 30/- week, 6/- day. Mrs Callcott.
Thirroul Kaludah – 1 min surf. – Supr Accommodation. Mrs Callcott. ‘Phone 53 Bulli.
Thirroul Furn. Cottages To Let, booking now for Xmas. Callcott agt. T. ph 58 Bulli
(notes – ’THIRROUL Lulllngton -Guests House under new-L management double single Rooms minute beach gai age excellent table moderate tariffPho-ie 138_’I HIRROUL BEACH – l*urnl6hed Cottages PlatsJ- L Callcott /gent Phone Thirroul 63_ – 25 SMH 1933 http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/17027102
HALF FURNISHFD COTTAGE, close beach and
halhs every convenience, from October 3 ALLhROY Thirroul PO_lYlHRROUL-1 urnished Cottuf.es to Let close beach1 Callcott At,cnt Stamp reply Tele, Bulli 6*
THIRROUL -Furnished COTTAOES near beach A stamp reply A F Callcott Phone Thlr 53
THIRROUL BEACH. -Furnished Cottages. Flats. Í stamp reply L. Callcott. agent. Phone, Thlt ~”
Furnished Rooms stamp reply.
SMH March 20 1937 Thirroul. ”FURNISHED COTTAGE, close beach, accommodate ‘? six, vacant Easter. 11J4.H0._ ‘THIRROUL, Wollorowong … Flat, J- vacant Easter. L. Callcott. Agent. Thirroul 53.
THIRROUL BEACH -Furnished Cottage to letL Xmas also Flats L Callcott Ph Thlr 53
THIRROUL Beach-Private Home Xmas, adults
only £5/5/ week L Callcott 53 Thirroul
Death Notice – Lucy Callcott SMH 30/12/1952 -CALLCOTT, Lucy.-September 29,1952. of 5 Harbord Street. Thirroul widow of Alfred F. Callcott.and dear mother of Marjorie (Mrs.Tiernan. Sydney). Clarice (Mrs. V.Farraher. Wollongong). Russell (Thirroul). Eldest daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. W. Midson (Epping). ;
Funeral Notice – SMH 30/9/1952
CALLCOTT.-The Relatives and Friends of the Family of the late Mrs. . LUCY CALLCOTT, Of  5 Harbord Street, Thirroul, are Invited to attend the Funeral of their beloved Mother; to leave St. David’s Church, Thirroul, To-morrow. Wednesday, after a service commencing at 3 p.m.. for the General Cemetery. Bulli. Church of England portion.
W. J. WILLIAMS, Funeral-Director.
_ Bulli.

Cate Wilson – A Strong Champion for Thirroul

It seems that Thirroul is losing a few too many strong women lately this November 2012, firstly my own mother Joan Lois Adams (nee Callcott) on November 5 2012, followed by the indomitable Cate Wilson on November 17 2012.

I first heard of Cate in her role in the Thirroul Action Group in the early 1980’s – fighting to save Thirroul from being overcome by a series of 3 storey walk-ups, and higher, of an unending series of unit block after unit block and even what seemed then to be ever encroaching risk of high rise development. I had just moved back to Bulli and my mother, Joan Adams (nee Callcott), showed me some community newsletters put out by the Thirroul Action Group. In the north we were so lucky to have her fighting to preserve the character of the area, when it was under such serious threats.

Around 1984 I encountered Cate when we went to debate the future of South Thirroul when it was destined to be overrun by coal transport facilities including  40 metre high coal storage bins. It was clear that Cate was forthright in her opinions and did not suffer fools at all. I recall being at her home towards the late 1980’s as we battled on for the South Thirroul area. Cate and partner Eric Wilson were actively involved in CANS, Community Alliance for the Northern Suburbs – a Coalition of Community Groups established by then Alderman David Martin.

Also in the late 1980’s, Cate was fighting with Anna Whelan to save the Maternity Ward at Bulli Hospital, whilst partner Eric  was fighting on a different front to achieve better planning outcomes for the northern Illawarra.

Cate and her partner Eric were strong supporters of the Active Community Team that David Martin had initiated with Arthur and Jelly Osborne.

Cate and Eric continued to battle the war of attrition that seems to be inevitable in community politics – you win won round but the issue just keeps bouncing back again and again.

Around 2000 the Sandon Point debate had morphed towards a broad social movement that the local Wollongong City Council totally failed to appreciate. The internet and email facilitated collaboration across so many different community groups. This period saw the establishment of the Sandon Picket Line and the Aboriginal Tent Embassy of which aimed to protect the Sandon Point area from development. Cate Wilson became one of the leading members of the Sandon Point Picket, which unfortunately burned down after a number of years.

In the 1980’s Cate, and partner Eric, had restored a beautiful old home on Cliff Parade on McCauleys Hill in Thirroul. I recall some friends would refer to the house as “the one that had been done up by the two teachers” – Cate was a teacher of the Deaf and a strong member of the Teachers Federation.

Cate also painted beautiful watercolours of the northern suburbs area – I have a small one that is evocative of  the coast from Thirroul up to Coalcliff, looking up from  Norfolk Island Pines towards the cliffs. I also marvelled at the beautiful hand-knitted items that Cate often wore – another indicator of her talents ?

I doubt anyone ever ever intimidated Cate. She was always forthright in her views and you knew where you stood with her. An amazingly strong and inspiring woman.