Home > Culture > Mary and Ellen, Mair ac Elen, A Welsh Australian Legacy 1861-1960

Mary and Ellen, Mair ac Elen, A Welsh Australian Legacy 1861-1960

Published by Mastercorp Pty Ltd, Mt Gravatt 2006

Ruth Delbridge’s painstaking research results in a dual biography that also informs the social history of Queensland’s early pioneers.

Clearly this has been a labour of love as articles, stories, letters and photos have been discovered to reveal the lives of two amazing women.

The book describes well the living conditions of the day – not only in the Australian setting but against a world background.

Referencing to parallel activities of such men as Darwin and Dickens, historic events such as the American Civil War, the suffragettes and Queen Victoria’s death, conditions of welsh miners and the potato blight in Scotland, all add interest to the text.

Ruth’s great grandmother, Mary Jones, her husband David and young family arrived in central Queensland from Wales on the Persia in 1861.

During that tough voyage, as was not uncommon, we learn seven adults and 16 children died.

The Jones family threw themselves into the life of the Rockhampton and Mt Morgan community where they became dairy farmers.

Mary was in demand as a midwife and was known throughout the district for her open house and splendid social occasions.

Widowed early, she, with her son, Tom, managed the property for over thirty years.

Her youngest daughter Ellen (later Ellen Lee) is known by many still living, for her hospitality and generous warmth.

The highly respected printing business of Samuel Lee furnished them with means for buying property and travelling.

However it was mostly Samuel who would travel while Ellen and her sons would continue at home conducting the business.

When one of her sons, Wesley, lost his young wife in childbirth, Ellen at 58 and widowed three years later, raised young Brian and Dorothy.

A chapter telling Rev Brian Lee’s story will be of interest to Journey readers.

Quotes from well-known authors and Australian poets, including daughter Helen Hartley’s poetry, bring another style to the simple descriptive prose which is also Ruth’s story.

Commentary, often Ruth’s diary quotes, appears in italics – meant to serve as a stark comparison to Ellen and Mary’s situation.

This chatty style, while interesting at first, tends to pause the flow of the prose, and could have been improved with a tighter editing.

The book will be a treasure to those connected with the family and early days of Rockhampton, and of Methodism in Stanthorpe and Brisbane.

Photos and sketches abound in this 221 page book.

Names of Ellen’s 61 female descendants, pictured, will be known to some of Journey’s readers .

This book is a gentle tribute to women.

Ellen and possibly also Mary were like many of her era, unlabelled suffragettes.

They worked for social justice and equal opportunity in such organisations as the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and so improved the lot of society while championing women’s leadership in particular.

It is as well a proud grand daughter and great grand daughter has taken the time to document this story.

Further information re the book and its characters can be found through emailing Ruth HERE .

Reviewed by Adele Dingle, also a published non fiction author, who attends Indooroopilly Uniting Church