Thursday, January 5, 2012

Minnie Quinlan (c.1860-1949)

Mary (Minnie) Quinlan was born about 1860 to Patrick Quinlan, quarryman, and Mary Maloney, in County Clare, Ireland. It seems the family left Ireland for personal reasons, perhaps following Patrick's death, as she appears in official records in the 1861 Census in Liverpool, England when she was 3 years old. She is listed with her brother Patrick age 2, a baby of three months and her mother then 22, all of whom lived with her father's brother, Thomas Quinlan, a tailor aged 45.

Mary arrived in Australia as an assisted immigrant in the early 1880s. A shipping arrival record for 1884 shows a Mary Quinlan age 22, arriving in NSW on the S.S. Abergeldie. She travelled in the company of other Irish girls in their teens and twenties, girls with names like Kate and Sarah, Mary and Bridget; all listed as domestics, from the counties of Derry, Kerry, Tyrone, Tipperary, Donegal, Leitrim, Meath and Clare.

How and when Minnie arrived in Katoomba is unknown, she appears on the Katoomba electoral rolls from 1920 to 1949, as a spinster and occupier of a house in Parke Street. During this time she was described as ‘well-loved and well known to many for her work for the Red Cross’. On afternoons after Red Cross stalls were held, Minnie would prepare tea at her home for all of the ladies who had worked on the stalls.

Minnie was widely known as the Town Charlady, but would only do such work for the Congregational Church ministers, although herself of Roman Catholic denomination. Apparently she also cleaned the nearby Children’s Library and Craft Club in Davies Lane, established in 1942 and managed by her close friend Miss Ebbs.

In her latter years Minnie became an old age pensioner and lived on about ₤l.0.0 per week. Although a single woman living alone, she was never lonely; on most days she could be found on a seat outside the Katoomba Post Office where she would chat to passers by, both friends and strangers.

Minnie's death certificate shows she died of heart disease at the age of 88 years, with no known relatives, and was buried at Rookwood Cemetery in the rights of the Roman Catholic Church. Minnie’s will left all her worldly possessions to the Red Cross, whose President paid for her funeral. At the following meeting of the Katoomba Red Cross, a service was conducted by the Church of England Minister and attended by friends and clergy of all denominations.

The undertakers record from Wood Coffill in Katoomba shows that Minnie died on Thursday 24th February 1949 at her residence ‘Mayfair ’in Parke St, Katoomba, the informant was Mrs L.T.A. Hodgson. A requiem mass was held in St Canice’s Church, Katoomba, at 7 o’clock the following Saturday morning, from where the funeral, consisting of a hearse and 2 cars, left for Rookwood Cemetery in Sydney an hour later. Minnie’s headstone is inscribed “My Dear Friend”, probably from her close friend Miss Kathleen Ebbs, who  composed her obituary.

The interesting thing is, that according to the burial record, she was interred in the reopened grave of her brother Michael Quinlan, who died 14th July 1928 aged 66. Michael was unmarried and resided in North Sydney after arriving from Co. Tipperary in Ireland only three years before his death; his occupation is given as watchman. Michael would appear to be the baby listed in the 1861 Liverpool census.

Oral Accounts courtesy of Paul Innes
March 2004.
A guest at the Carrington Hotel mentioned she remembered ‘an old woman who lived in a little hovel behind the Post Office.’ (Katoomba Street). ‘The woman was called Minnie, and there is now a plaque, with her name on it, located on a seat in front of the Post Office.’

The original plaque on the seat outside the former Katoomba Post Office.
It would date from about 1950 and was probably installed due to the efforts of Miss Ebbs.

July 2004
A Katoomba resident called Ian Pattison took me on three walks up and down Katoomba Street, showing what shop was where, who owned what etc, circa 1930s-1950s. On one of the walks, Ian mentioned Minnie Quinlan’s name.

‘She used to clean shop windows, brass plaques on shop fronts etc, between 1920’s and 1950’s. She died around 1950 something. There’s a plaque for her on a wooden seat in Katoomba Street.’

November 2006
In answer to an advert request in the Gazette, seeking any information about Minnie Quinlan,
a Katoomba resident, called Joyce Thompson telephoned me with her memories of Minnie.
“I knew Miss Quinlan when I was eleven years old. She lived in the area around Parke Street, Davies Lane, close to the Children’s Library. In 1941, my mother brought us up to Katoomba. Miss Ebbs ran the Children’s Library. Minnie Quinlan’s place was behind the Library. She was a small lady, white curly hair, dapper, so old. Miss Ebbs kept an eye on Miss Quinlan. She would tell us to be quiet outside the Library – ‘Keep the noise down’”.


Opening of the Katoomba Children's Library and Craft Club by Hon. Clive Evatt 1942, Minnie may appear in this photo. The well dressed woman in the light overcoat and hat, standing centre, may be Miss Kathleen Ebbs, the librarian. 

After the Minister for Education, Mr. Evatt, had opened the Katoomba Boys' and Girls' Library and Crafts Club on Saturday afternoon, children stayed to read books beside the library fire. The club, which is the eighth centre of the Children's Library Movement, is built from six disused garages, which have been converted into one central library, opening into two craft rooms on either side. It features murals designed by Dahl Collings and Elaine Haxton. Those present at the opening included the president of the local auxiliary, Dr. E. Dark, and Mrs. Eleanor Dark; the Mayor of Katoomba, Alderman Freelander, and the organising secretary of the Children's Library Movement, Mrs. Mary Matheson."
SMH Monday 27 July, 1942


We have lost Minnie, our friend - how deep a loss!

Sweetness, graciousness and utter kindness, balanced with sincerity, courage, and an inner strength, lifted Minnie above class and creed: She belonged to everyone.

How intimately she belonged to the Boys and Girls’ Library - such a motherly soul she was to us all! Daily she inquired our needs: always she shared any small luxury that came her way. She had so little, but she gave so much. Ofttimes she said, with a heavenly smile, 'All I’ve got is yours.'

So quick to respond with gratitude for any trifle we did for her; humbly we were always in her debt. When she was not able to make return in material goods, then have we seen her puzzled brow lift in relief, 'I know what I can do: I’ll remember you in my prayers.'

How proud she was of her long record of years of service! To menial work she endowed dignity and honour.

With reverence we bow to so great a soul.

Ah! not learning of books is the ideal of our Boys and Girls’ Library; rather it is the inspiration of that sweet spirit radiated by our beloved friend - the spirit that comes to bless the world with happiness and with peace. (K.E.)" [Miss Kathleen Ebbs]
Blue Mountains Advertiser Friday, March 11, 1949


"A Memorial to Minnie Quinlan
The annual meeting of the Katoomba Boys and Girls’ Library Auxiliary was attended by a large number of interested residents. The Mayoress (Mrs. F. Walford) presided.

Mrs. Gill gave the meeting a resume of the Auxiliary’s activities over the past year, and paid tribute to the amount of work performed by enthusiastic workers. Later in the evening she was elected president.

An interesting address was given by Mr. Parker who stressed the importance of such libraries to the community. He spoke of the happiness that resulted from reading.

A tribute was paid to the late Minnie Quinlan by Miss Ebbs. Miss Quinlan had given her long life to the service of others and had been loved by all with whom she came into contact.

Mrs. McMahon, President of Quota Club presented the Library with a cheque from the Ladies Golf Club."
Blue Mountains Advertiser, March 18th 1949

Image PF 481 from the Local Studies Collection: ‘Mini Quinlan’s House Katoomba, 8th August
1928’. Provenance: Miss M Fawcett, Katoomba. Minnie Quinlan’s house is marked with an X , the building in the foreground is the garage block that later became the Children's Library.

Rookwood Cemetery Record
First Name: Mary
Last Name: Quinlan
Death Date: 24 February 1949
Age: 88
Inscription: My Dear Friend
Plot: Section 9 ROW 27
Plot Number: 3476
Denomination/nationality: Catholic Mortuary 2 & 3

Images from the Local Studies Collection, from top
1. Minnie's seat outside the Katoomba Post Office, the original seat was replaced in 2010. (photo John Merriman)
2. The original plaque mounted on the new seat. (photo John Merriman)
3. Opening of the Katoomba Children's Library and Craft Club 1942, Minnie and Miss Ebbs may appear in this photo.
4. Minnie's house under snow.

Acknowledgement: Paul Innes who collected the oral history accounts.

Note: Kathleen Irene Ebbs was the daughter of Thomas Arthur Rowley Ebbs (b.1870, Kiama; d.1955, Manly) clergyman, and Alice Beryl Ebbs (d.1966, Sydney). She was born in Raywood, Victoria, in 1902 and travelled to the U.K. for a trip in 1955, when she is listed as a passenger from London to Sydney. The 1930 electoral roll for Manly shows her occupation as Teacher, living with her parents at The Rectory, Darley Rd. She lived in Manly until 1937 before moving to Ficus St. Katoomba where she appears in the 1943 roll - occupation Librarian; in 1949 she lived in Beecroft, occupation Librarian, then returned to Ficus St Katoomba, Librarian; in 1954 Beecroft, Librarian; then Wahroonga and Turramurra until 1980; her death notice appeared in January 1989, late of Castle Hill.

John Merriman, Local Studies Librarian 2012

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Katoomba Children’s Library & Crafts Club

The opening ceremony, at the podium from left:
Mary Matheson, Joseph Jackson MLA, Hon. Clive Evatt, Dr Eric Dark,
Eleanor Dark, Michael Dark on chair, Mayor Freelander, B J Milliss

Elsie Rivett, and her sister Mary Matheson, were the founders of the Children’s Library and Craft Movement. In 1922 they opened the first Children’s Library and Crafts Club in Surry Hills, Sydney. The Katoomba branch was apparently the eighth to be established.The following is compiled from contemporary newspaper reports.

“Boys’ and Girls’ Library and Craft Club Nearing Completion
Most mothers have had, at some time, to cope with a complaint from their children that there is nothing to read or nothing to do. This particular problem should be solved by the establishment of the Katoomba Boys’ and Girls’ Library and Crafts Club, which is an offshoot of the Children’s Library Movement, founded many years ago in Sydney, by Mrs. Mary Matheson.

Situated in Davies Lane in what was, until a couple of months ago, an ugly asphalt yard, flanked by a row of ugly dilapidated garages, the new library is growing towards completion. Thanks to much generous voluntary work, the asphalt has given way to a stone crazy pavement; the garages, altered and renovated, wear a fresh coat of paint in cream and pastel colours; shelves of a height suitable for small people, area already well stocked with books; and what was once only a rubbish dump waits only for the Spring to become a garden.

The establishment is thus an accomplished fact – but development must take place slowly, depending at first mainly upon the library; but by degrees with the co-operation of parents and of the children themselves, it is hoped that various crafts such as carpentry, pottery, basket-making, bookbinding, etc. will be taught. Later, when funds permit the purchase of a piano, community singing and dancing will have their place, and children interested in painting, drawing or writing will be encouraged to exercise their talents.

The object of the Children’ Library Movement, however goes beyond the mere lending of books and teaching of crafts, and aims at providing for children a place which is “theirs” – a place pleasing to the eye, friendly and informal in atmosphere, where they can spend their leisure hours in absorbing and creative occupations.

Those interested in the movement feel that in time of war such a place becomes not less, but more necessary for children, as a psychological counter blast to the atmosphere of strife and destruction which prevails, and which children unconsciously absorb.

In Sydney the Phillip Park, Erskineville and Surry Hills centres have functioned with great success. It is hoped that because of the great influx of children which Katoomba has seen in recent months, not only our own residents, but long term visitors also, may recognise the usefulness of the centre and extend it a generous support.”
The Blue Mountains Advertiser, Friday July 3, 1942.


Hon. Clive Evatt Opens Children’s Library Tomorrow
Tomorrow Saturday afternoon at three o’clock, the Minister for Education, the Hon. Clive Evatt, will officially open the Young People’s Library, situated off Davies Lane near Woolworths.

A cordial invitation is extended to all townspeople to be present.

For many weeks past, a band of willing workers has engaged in transforming a row of brick garages into neat and comfortable quarters. The transformation is almost unbelievable.

In addition to the library, provision had been made for instruction is arts and crafts.

The fact of the minister consenting to perform the official opening is proof of the value of the movement and it is hoped to see many parents present.

The appeal to the children goes without saying."
The Blue Mountains Advertiser, Friday July 2, 1942.


Children showing their work in the art class


Minister for Education Commends Children’s Library Movement
“This particular movement the Government wholeheartedly supports. …A Children’s Library should be established in every centre – in every suburb in the State.”

Speaking as above, and in the presence of a representative gathering, the Hon. Clive Evatt, Minister for Education, officially opened the Katoomba Children’s Library in Davies Lane, on Saturday afternoon.

Many people who viewed the premises for the first time were impressed by the transformation, and there was unstinted praise for all those whose voluntary labours had contributed to this result. The Minister, Mr. J. Jackson, M.L.A. , the Mayor, and others associated with children’s educational movements , expressed themselves in such terms.

Dr. E.P. Dark (chairman) in introducing the Minister, referred to this able administration (and the elimination of the cane), his interest, in music and cultural movements generally. “Some people believe that it is wrong to spend money during war time on a movement such as this,” he added, “but that is short sighted viewpoint, the war must not be allowed to interfere with the child’s mental development.”

Ald. Freelander (Mayor) in welcoming the Minister pointed out that it was his first official visit to Katoomba, and Mr. J. Jackson, M.L.A., ably supported his words of welcome.

Mrs. Matheson, (founder of the Children’s Library Movement), traced its development since 1924. There are now eight such centres in N.S.W. and public interest has quickened considerably in the past three years. Springwood is one of the centres where a library has been established. Mrs. Matheson paid a special tribute to the work of Mr. B. J. Milliss, whose vision and courage, she said, was largely responsible for the founding of the movement at Katoomba. She acknowledged the part also played by Dr. E. P. Dark.

Interior of the library, the mural above the fire place
depicts William Caxton with a printing press

The Youthful Enterprise 
Magazine of the Katoomba Boys and Girls Library

Workers Praised
Mr. B. J. Milliss referred to the financial angle, and appealed to well-wishers for subscriptions to enable the supply of library books and materials for arts and crafts to be maintained. He stated that a sum of ₤350 in hand had been augmented by subsequent donations exceeding ₤30. The weekly rental was ₤1 per week, plus an outlay of about ₤4 per week for expenses. He spoke highly of the voluntary work of the following whose names appear on a brass plaque affixed to the building: Charles Smith, Hector Martin, Wally McGown, Harry Hammon, Keith Collins, Wally Weedon, James Ledger, Harvey Clark, George Barker, Frank Spicer, John Tomlin, Tom Butterfield; Dahl Collings and Elaine Haxton (artists) and Evelyn Bowker and Pat Seitz, who assisted them in the decorative work.

The Hon. Clive Evatt, who was warmly received, dealt at some length on the education of the children, and the responsibilities of the young people in helping to shape the better order of things which is to come. It was his view, he said, that the work of education must not be diminished because of the war; but, on the contrary, be greatly increased. This year the Education Department was expending six million pounds (a record); but he could easily spend double that sum.

The Better Tomorrow!
“The war is being fought largely for the children of today,” he continued, “in order to set up a new way of life. We all want to see a wonderful change in conditions, and children of school age will play an important part. The work of education must go on undiminished; we must keep striving for the improvement of the child physically, academically, culturally and spiritually… I want to see children grow up into a world that will be characterised by real equality and justice, economically and socially; where there will be no depression and unemployment and social injustice... this aim can be helped by education in its broadest sense, by leading people out of darkness into light, out of illiteracy into knowledge.”

The Minister drew a comparison between expenditure on cultural affiliations and the millions of pounds a day expended for the destructiveness of war. He referred also to the way Schools of Arts libraries had died out, and suggested that these too should have catered for the child mind.

The yearly grant of ₤250 to the Children’s Library Movement has been doubled by the Minister, and he expressed the hope that he would be able to continue such increases.

The ceremony ended with the unveiling of a commemorative tablet.

Among those present were the Revs. J.R. Le Huray, L.C.H. Barbour and A.E. Putland.”

Blue Mountains Advertiser, Friday 3 July, 1942.

Exterior view of the Library and courtyard
After the Minister for Education, Mr. Evatt, had opened the Katoomba Boys' and Girls' Library and Crafts Club on Saturday afternoon, children stayed to read books beside the library fire. The club, which is the eighth centre of the Children's Library Movement, is built from six disused garages, which have been converted into one central library, opening into two craft rooms on either side. It features murals designed by Dahl Collings and Elaine Haxton. Those present at the opening included the president of the local auxiliary, Dr. E. Dark, and Mrs. Eleanor Dark; the Mayor of Katoomba, Alderman Freelander, and the organising secretary of the Children's Library Movement, Mrs. Mary Matheson."
SMH Monday 27 July, 1942

All images from the Local Studies Collection, Blue Mountains City Library.


 John Merriman, Local Studies Librarian

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