Carlton Community History Group

ABN 89 670 391 357

The Carlton Community History Group (CCHG) was established by a committed group of people interested in the history of Carlton, an inner suburb of Melbourne, Australia. CCHG was incorporated in 2007 and launched at the Carlton Library in 2008.

We invite you to explore this website, find out more about us, read our newsletter, share your recollections and participate in our meetings and activities.


ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING & PRESENTATION
MONDAY 1 AUGUST 2016

Guest Speaker: Susan Young
Topic: The historical work of the activist Carlton Association in the 1970s.
Time & Place: 7.30 pm
First Floor Meeting Room
Carlton Library
667 Rathdowne Street
North Carlton


Saving Carlton

Carlton was a hotbed of activism in the 1960s and 1970s, with Australia at war in Vietnam, aboriginal rights, women's liberation and the fledgling gay rights movement. During this turbulent period, the Carlton Association emerged to protect the inner city suburbs of Carlton and North Carlton from the Housing Commission of Victoria and its master plan to demolish and redevelop what it considered to be slum housing. From its inception in May 1969 through to its winding up in 1990s, the Carlton Association saved many historic buildings from demolition and helped preserve the Victorian streetscapes that are still characteristic of Carlton and North Carlton today.

The Carlton Community History Group (CCHG) acknowledges the legacy of the Carlton Association and is delighted to have Susan Young as a guest speaker at its upcoming Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Monday 1 August. Ms Young was a convenor of the Historical Group of the Carlton Association in the 1970s and 1980s. The Group carried out research on Carlton buildings and streetscapes and worked tirelessly for their preservation.

The AGM will be held in the meeting room at the Carlton Library, 667 Rathdowne Street, North Carlton on Monday 1 August, commencing at 7.30 pm. New members and local residents are welcome to attend what promises to be an interesting presentation on Carlton's recent history


Tree Removal in Canning Street
Photo: CCHG
Tree Removal in Canning Street North Carlton
June 2016


A silent protest
Photo: CCHG
A Silent Protest


Notes and References:
1 Arboricultural Assessment. Location: Canning Street and Drummond Street Carlton North. Ref.: 2145.AA.3, 16 February 2016
2 Gippsland Times, 8 February 1937, p. 3
3 The Age, 24 February 1937, p. 12

The Poplars of Canning Street

Carlton is blessed with many street trees, the most notable plantings being in Canning, Drummond and Rathdowne Streets. The poplar trees in Canning Street, North Carlton, were planted in the median strip over fifty years ago and are now reaching the end of their lifespan. In November 2015, two large trees came down near the North Carlton Primary School and crashed onto parked cars. Fortunately there were no injuries, but there was significant property damage and the risk of future tree incidents. As a result, City of Yarra commissioned a study to assess the condition of all poplar trees in Canning and Drummond Streets. The study recommended removal of selected trees in both streets and works commenced in June 2016. The median strip trees will be replaced with new plantings in spring 2016, thus continuing nature's cycle of growth, decline and renewal.1

Back in 1937, Carlton's attitude towards street trees was very different. The Melbourne City Council proposed a plantation in the centre of Rathdowne Street, as part of a tree planting scheme to commemorate the coronation of King George VI. The Council's ambitious scheme to plant a total of 5,000 trees within the municipality, at a cost of £20,000 over several years, met with strong resistance from the ratepayers of Victoria Ward. A door-to-door survey of shops and businesses in Rathdowne Street revealed 87 against and only 3 in favour of the proposed plantation. Anti-tree sentiment was running high, with some residents stating they would cut down any trees planted. The main reasons for objection were that a tree plantation would detract from the commercial appearance and character of the street, and would be a hindrance to vehicular traffic, which had increased since motor buses replaced the old cable trams in 1936. Business interests and traffic ruled in 1937 and the plantation proposal was abandoned.2,3

Rathdowne Street had to wait another four decades for its plantation, implemented in almost opposite circumstances. The controversial eastern freeway opened in 1977, amidst protests from Council, local businesses and residents alike. Rathdowne Street had become a feeder road for the freeway, via Princes Street, and Council proposed a median strip to slow down traffic and improve local amenity. This proposal was successful and, decades later, the median strip of mature trees contributes to Rathdowne Street's unique character and continues to be an asset, rather than a hindrance, to local businesses and residents.

Related Items:
Rathdowne Street
Where Palm Trees Once Grew


Tony Does Carlton

The Carlton episode of Tony Robinson's Time Walks was broadcast on ABC 1 on Friday 20 May 2016. Naturally he covers the Trades Hall and the Eight Hour Memorial. But if his points of focus are predictable, his treatment of them is not necessarily so.

The Exhibition Building? Check! But instead of dwelling on the architectural wonders, he describes the unpleasant state of the grounds in the early days and recounts a nineteenth century academic scrap over the palaeontology collection housed in the basement. Italians? Of course, but after we see a venerable espresso machine and hear Nino Borsari's son tell his father's story, a visit to Dorrit Street deftly combines the stories of Carlton's early Italian migrants, who arrived about 1890, the Viggianese street musicians, and that of Jean Lee, the last woman to be hanged in Australia. Her story is the only reference to the seamier side of Carlton's history, something of an imbalance perhaps. The program moves on to La Mama and an extended segment explores the flavour and political influence of one production from this long-running and hugely influential Carlton institution.

Inevitably in such a short program there are omissions. There is no coverage of the Jewish presence in Carlton. We see the grand terraces of Drummond Street, but learn nothing of their decline into boarding houses in the early twentieth century or of the gradual gentrification of Carlton as a whole from the 1970s.

Related items:
The Trades Hall : Part of Our History
Murder at Mallow House
Betty Burstall (Founder of La Mama)


Letters from the Great War

There are two poignant letters in the military record of Sergeant John Justin Leichardt Katterns. Correspondence is common in soldiers' files but it almost always comes from, or is addressed to, the military authorities. The Katterns' letters are unusual because one was written by the soldier to his mother while he was serving in Egypt in 1915, the other by his mother to a friend in Carlton.

More information on Sergeant Katterns


Boo the Cat
Photo: CCHG
Boo the Cat
420 Rathdowne Street North Carlton

The Cat in the Window

Rathdowne Street has a long tradition of shop cats, the most famous being "Pam Puss". Pam, a friendly tabby, was the resident cat at The Picture Box (now The Travelling Samovar) at 414 Rathdowne Street, North Carlton, until her death in the mid-1990s. When the comic book 101 Uses for a Dead Cat was published, Pam featured in a window display and the sight of a real cat curled up asleep amongst the books no doubt boosted sales. Her photograph appeared in the magazine New Idea, though unfortunately they got her name wrong - such is the price of celebrity.1

In 2016, Rathdowne Street has a new shop cat named "Boo" at no. 420, just a few doors north of Pam's old home. Boo is often seen basking in the afternoon sun in the display window of Wowowa, an architecture and interiors business. From his vantage point, Boo keeps an eye on the passing pedestrian traffic, both human and animal. He sometimes visits the optometrist Eyes on Rathdowne next door (no. 422) to check out his feline neighbours, "Pusslldo" and "Littlepuss", two lovely Tonkinese cats.

Note:
1 101 uses for a dead cat, by Simon Bond, was first published in 1981.


Carlton Baths
Image source: CCHG
This signage recalls an earlier era, when mixed bathing was a novelty.


Notes and References:
1 Carlton : a history, Melbourne University Press, 2004, p. 316
2 The Age, 21 February 1930, p. 12
3 The Age, 4 February 1930, p. 8
4 Barrier Miner, 7 February 1930, p. 1
5 Properties condemned under section 56 of the Housing Act 1958 (VPRS 1824)

100 Years of Bathing

The Carlton Baths celebrated its 100th birthday with a pool party on Saturday 13 February 2016. The baths were offically opened on 11 February 1916, with the original entrance via Victoria Place, a laneway running off Princes Street. In the early days, the pool water was not filtered or chlorinated, and was changed once a week. The introduction of mixed bathing at Carlton and North Melbourne Baths, approved by Melbourne City Council in October 1929, led to major improvements. Five houses in Rathdowne Street (nos. 240-248) were demolished to build a new entrance and changing facitities for both sexes. A filtration plant was installed, an important public health consideration when many houses in Carlton did not have bathrooms and local residents used the baths for personal bathing.1

The Carlton Baths were re-opened by Councillor H.G. Smith, chairman of the Baths Committee, on 20 February 1930, but had been in operation for several weeks beforehand. The Age of 4 February 1930 reported a spate of thefts at the Carlton Baths and one unfortunate man had his trousers stolen. In the same month, a major incident occurred during a heat wave when a crowd of 200 people - men, women and children - stormed the turnstiles and climbed over the 7 foot high iron gates to gain access to the cooling waters of the pool. The police were called in to restore order, and an estimated 1000 people entered the pool over the next few hours, with barely enough room for swimming.2,3,4

More recent improvements have seen the Carlton Baths transformed from a basic swimming pool into a sporting and recreational complex. In the early 1970s, five more houses (nos. 222-230 Rathdowne Street) were demolished to make way for expansion on the south side, and the site now occupies half the Rathdowne Street frontage between Neill and Princes Streets.5


S.T. Nunquam
Image source: CCHG
Former Confectionery Factory of S.T. Nunquam
413-415 Nicholson Street North Carlton


Notes and References:
1 Australian Architectural Index
2 Building occupancy information sourced from Sands & McDougall directory listings and Melbourne City Council rate books
3 Melbourne City Council building application plans and files, BA 2890, 1920 (VPRS 11200 and VPRS 11201)
4 Building ownership information sourced from land title records
5 Carlton, North Carlton & Princes Hill Conservation Study, 1984
6 Biographical information sourced from birth, death and marriage records
7 City of Yarra, Planning application no. 991221, 1999

The Smell of Peppermint in the Morning

For many decades, residents of North Carlton woke to the smell of peppermint emanating from a confectionery factory in Nicholson Street. The two-storey, red brick building on the corner of Newry Street was built by T.E. Mathews for Stanislav Techitch Nunquam, manufacturing confectioner, 100 years ago in 1916.1

Nunquam's factory was not the first manufacturing facility to operate at the corner site. Russell & Sons, manufacturing confectioners, were there from 1909, and Johnston Brothers, furniture manufacturers, prior to that date. The earlier building was described as "brick factory and stabling" in council rate books. There were two cottages (nos. 417 and 419) on the northern boundary and these were later separately acquired for expansion of the business. In August 1920, a building application was lodged for a multitubular boiler and chimney stack, designed by C.S. Mears, a furnace builder of Tilson Street, Ascot Vale. The work was completed within two months, in the backyard of the cottage at 417 Nicholson Street.2,3

In 1955, when Stanislav Nunquam was 73 years old, ownership of the factory building and adjacent cottage (no. 417) was transferred from S.T. Nunquam Pty Ltd to Nunquam Pty Ltd. The change of business name can be seen in later photographs, with the lettering "S.T." painted out on the Nicholson Street façade. Stanislav died in 1966, aged 84 years, and his remains were cremated at Springvale Cemetery on 25 November 1966. His widow Nellie survived him by four years and died in Queensland in 1970.4,5,6

The confectionery business that bore Nunquam's name continued for another three decades. The second cottage (no. 419) was acquired by Nunquam Pty Ltd in 1978 and the company owned all the land between Newry Street and the laneway to the north. With the downturn in manufacturing in the 1990s, conversion of inner city factory buildings to residential apartments proved to be a lucrative business. The land was sold in 1999 and a planning application for construction of six warehouse dwellings was lodged with City of Yarra in September 1999. The cottages were demolished in 2000 and replaced with modern structures, but the external appearance of the brick factory building remained largely unchanged. The old copper pots have ceased boiling and the fine dusting of powdered sugar that was often seen on the upstairs window ledge has long since gone. The tall chimney, built in 1920, remains as a visual memory of North Carlton's industrial history.

More information on Stanislav Techitch Nunquam, the man whose surname means "never".


Kathleen Syme Library and Community Centre
Photo: CCHG
Kathleen Syme Library and Community Centre
251 Faraday Street Carlton

A Russian Visitor
Aleksandr Leonidovich Yashchenko

It might seem strange to find a story about a travel diary written by a Russian in 1903 on a Carlton local history website. However, it sheds light on a small part of our history. The travel diary of 34 year old Aleksandr Leonidovich Yashchenko records the impressions of a Russian educationist and natural scientist who visited Australia for 3 months in 1903. He landed in Fremantle on the 2nd of July 1903 and sailed for Canada in October of that year. He visited places in Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland and travelled by coach, train and tram, and ferry on the Murray River, as well as on foot.

The main objects of his attention were the provision of education, the native flora and fauna, and the indigenous people with whom he spent some time observing football, spear and boomerang throwing and other aboriginal displays. He met local dignitaries, like Frank Tate, the Director of Education, John Smyth, the Principal of Melbourne Teachers' College, the Russian Consul, Mikhaylovich Ustinov, various Protectors of Aborigines, as well as numbers of people who were born, or had made their home in Australia, as well as local indigenous people and those whose job was to protect them. He was generally very well received.

The whole diary is available in the Special Collections section of the Baillieu Library at Melbourne University and makes interesting reading. This short piece centres on part of Yashchenko's visit to Melbourne, time spent at what appears to be the Faraday Street School (SS 112) in Carlton, the home of the first practising school in 1880 and associated with every branch of teacher training until its closure in December 1972.

More information on Yashchenko's travel diary


The Mystery Man of Dorrit Street

The artist Des Norman, who died on 13 September 2015, grew up in a small street in Carlton, where everyone knew each other by name. But there was one man who remained a mystery to most of the residents of Dorrit Street. As painted by Des Norman, the mystery man appeared well dressed in an overcoat and bowler hat, he was slightly stooped and he walked with a stick. Des recalled that the man lived on the east side of Dorrit Street, towards Grattan Street, and he thought that he was an exile from his homeland.

Des Norman's painting has inspired a line of research to discover the identity of the mystery man. The story begins with his birth in France, followed by migration to New Caledonia, then across the sea to Sydney, overland to the goldfields of Kalgoorlie, by ship again to Launceston in Tasmania and finally to Dorrit Street in Carlton. Along the way, the mystery man works as a cook and café proprietor, he is involved in crime (both as victim and alleged perpetrator), he gets married (at least twice) and divorced, and he ends up buried in an unmarked grave in Melbourne General Cemetery.

Find out more about the Mystery Man of Dorrit Street


The Trades Hall
Part of Our History

At a time when the nation's biggest convenience store chain is being cast as 'rorting wages of its workers' it is worth noting that the history of one of the world's earliest trade union buildings is in Carlton, on the fringe of the central city, originally solely financed and built by the workers to serve as a place for the labour movement. This article centres on the role of the Trades Hall in Carlton and its connection with the fight for regulated working conditions, particularly the Eight Hour Day. It was originally built in timber, after a successful union campaign in 1856, and was largely replaced by a two storey building with an imposing classical façade, bluestone foundations and brick walls with a cement render finish in the 1870s.

More information on Trades Hall and the Eight Hour Day


A Chaplain at War

Often we think of the World War 1 serviceman as young, single and eager for adventure. But many did not fit this stereotype. Read the story of John Lelean Cope, 48 years old, who left behind his wife and adult daughters in "The Manse" in Princes Street, North Carlton when he sailed for Gallipoli late in 1915.


Women and War : Two Case Studies

As we currently commemorate Australia's participation in wars, we need to see what role women played. Women are part of all societies, but when those societies are under stress the roles that women traditionally play can be either reinforced, questioned or even changed, temporarily or forever, and undoubtedly a state of war places a society under stress. So what happens in one town or suburb can be replicated in another. Both of the women cited as case studies in this article had some connection with Carlton and are therefore important to CCHG, but both also made significant contributions to many areas of Victoria.

More information


Des Norman in his studio
Photo: CCHG
Des Norman in his studio in 2012

Vale Des Norman
1930-2015

It is with deep regret that the Carlton Community History Group notes the death of Des Norman, on 13 September 2015, and sends condolences to his thoughtful wife Stella, and other family members, including their daughter Ruth, who brought Des's work to our attention. He will be sadly missed.

CCHG got to know Des in the process of working on his book of paintings, which we published as Through the Eyes of a Child : A Street in Carlton, 1939-45. He was extremely generous and the more contact we had, the more we valued his insights.

His was an unusual approach to our local history and offered a unique glimpse at what it was like to live through the war years in Dorrit Street, Carlton and attend the Faraday Street school, now the Kathleen Syme Centre. That selection of his paintings throws light on his experiences as a boy, living in a small house, whose bedroom was the narrow front verandah, with only a canvas blind between him and the street. A street where he and his friends went to school and played together, or observed the adults of many cultures he knew or saw, going about their lives, in war-time Carlton. It is an extraordinary and extremely valuable record.

This book is only a part of Des Norman's enormous contribution to art, from early works on Daisy Bates, a collection portraying the battlefields of Gallipoli and a resurrection series, to other major exhibitions, restoration work, commissions and illustrations. As a fellow staff member of the Melbourne Church of England Grammar School said, his work 'encapsulates honesty and sensitivity' in presenting images which 'can be sensually poignant and at the same time, disturbingly evocative'.

Des Norman was farewelled by family and friends on Wednesday 23 September 2015 and he now lies resting in Kangaroo Ground Cemetery. The date was specially chosen by Stella, as it would have been their 65th wedding anniversary.


Giacomo and Gina Basso
Photo: CCHG
Giacomo and Gina Basso in their shop in 2012

Gina Basso : A Film Star at 83?

The Carlton Community History Group has previously demonstrated its admiration for the persistence and hard work of Giacomo and Gina Basso and we registered our condolences on the death of Giacomo in September last year. Speaking to Gina just recently it is clear that, despite missing her husband badly, her determination and strength of character remain undiminished.

Gina continues to work in the tailoring business she and Giacomo set up so many years ago but now she works on alterations mainly by herself, although her grand daughter spends a couple of hours a week working with her. She explains, "It's a bit hard", but she has to pay the bills. Work also helps her maintain her English. Her son calls in about three times a week to ensure she is alright and has successfully negotiated the 18 steps she walks up and down every day to reach the rooms on the second floor of the dwelling. She still enjoys cooking for him and other members of the family, like her grand daughter who, when she was only 14, painted a splendid portrait of Giacomo. However, as Gina says "Age makes things difficult. It's as if there is no future. Life is not for you." Nevertheless she keeps going, although living by herself means it is difficult having no one to mull over things which happen every day or sort out problems.

Gina is about to have another birthday and she has just been approached by a film company wanting to make a film about her house and the business. As she continues to maintain her charm and good looks, and knowing the complexity of her history, and how versatile she has proved herself, it seems very likely she could be a film star at 83.

CCHG wishes Gina well, is proud to know her and looks forward to the film adding to our record of local history.

More information on Giacomo and Gina Basso.


From Surrey Hills to Carlton

Recently CCHG received an email asking if we were interested in a centenary souvenir booklet of the Queensberry Street Primary School. The answer was, of course, a resounding "Yes" and we have now taken delivery of the booklet, which charts the history of the school from its opening in 1881 and closure in 1932, through to its later function as the Education Department Physical Education Branch. The former school building at 224 Queensberry Street Carlton is now home to the University of Melbourne Queensberry Children's Centre. The school ( S.S. no. 2365) rates only a passing mention in Peter Yule's book Carlton : a history, so the booklet will be a valuable addition to our small resource collection.

CCHG thanks the Surrey Hills Neighbourhood Centre Heritage Collection for this generous donation and also for thinking of us - for that's what community is all about.


Horses, Prams and Plays

Lygon Court lies in the heart of Carlton's restaurant and shopping precinct - the place to meet for coffee & cake at Brunetti, see a movie at the Nova or do the weekly supermarket shopping at Woolies. The shopping centre, which occupies a block between Lygon and Drummond streets, was built in the 1980s, amidst protests about the loss of heritage buildings and inevitable change to Carlton's character. The Drummond Street frontage was once home to Freeman's Livery Stables and the Paramount Pram Factory, which in turn gave its name "The Pram Factory" to an innovative theatre group that later occupied the site.

Horses, prams and plays make an interesting combination. Read the story here.

Related item:
Magnificent men in Flying Machines


Queen's Coffee Palace
Digital Image: State Library of Victoria
Artist's Impression of Queen's Coffee Palace
Corner of Rathdowne and Victoria Streets Carlton

Otto Jung's Bible

In August 2015 CCHG received a request for help in tracing the provenance of an 1827 French edition of the New Testament. An inscription on the inner cover suggests that it was acquired by Otto Jung in 1852. Inside the book, where presumably it has been for a century, is a used and opened envelope posted from Lorne and sent to Otto Jung at 1 Rathdown Street, Carlton. This was the address of the very grand Queen's Coffee Palace, begun in 1888 but because of the financial collapse never finished as intended. On the back of the envelope is a message in French, dated 1915. Not all of it is legible but the gist is very clear. Jung is making a gift of the book to "my beloved Paggie ... the only one in the Laver families (except her brother Lol) to have studied French" and recommends that she and her brother should read it from time to time.

German-born Otto Jung arrived in Victoria in 1853 as a young man of 23 - presumably his French New Testament, acquired in the previous year, travelled with him. He settled in Castlemaine where he became a close friend of the Laver family, who were farmers at Chinaman's Creek. When Jonas Laver died in 1880 leaving a family of seven sons, Jung, now a wealthy man, took the younger boys under his wing. William Adolphus, the fourth son, was a talented violinist and when a visiting German musician heard him play as a teenager he offered him training in Europe. In 1883 William and his mother Mary Ann travelled to Frankfurt with her two youngest boys. It is thought that Otto Jung accompanied them. In 1885 or 1886 Mary Ann died, but with Jung's support the three young Lavers stayed on. One son, Rudolph, remained permanently in Germany but in 1893 Jung continued his support for this family by helping the youngest boy, Ralph, establish a successful preserving factory in Collingwood.

William returned in 1889 in order to lobby for appointment to the Chair of Music, about to be set up at the University of Melbourne. He was not successful but became a private piano teacher and in 1895 oversaw the establishment of the Melbourne University Conservatorium of Music, initially located in the Queen's Coffee Palace. Otto Jung paid the rent for the first term. William married in 1894 and four children were born over the next five years. Lol (Laurence Otto) was the oldest and Paggie (Violet Agnes) the only daughter. Jung may already have been living at the Coffee Palace in 1895. Certainly it is his address on the electoral rolls from 1903 onwards. When he wrote his note to Paggie in 1915 she was 19 years old, Lol was 20 and their father's long-time supporter was 85. In the same year William Adolphus Laver achieved his ambition and became the third Ormond Professor of Music at the University of Melbourne. Otto Jung died in 1916. An interesting detail is that death notices in the Age and Argus recorded only his name, age and residence in the "Queen's Buildings". There is no reference to the Laver family to whom he had been so good a friend over so many years, or to anyone else.

More information


Verna Lilleyman at Temora
Image: Courtesy Lynn O'Mara
Verna Lilleyman at Temora during World War 2

Verna and Bill Miller
Image: Courtesy Lynn O'Mara
Verna and Bill Miller on their wedding day in 1947

A Stitch in Time

The Australian Defence Force is now an equal opportunity employer and women serve alongside their male colleagues. It was a different situation in World War 2, when women were more likely to serve in nursing and supporting roles, or to backfill the positions of men away on active service. Verna Lilleyman spent her entire war service in Australia, yet the safety of many airmen on active service was literally in her hands.

Verna's father Absolom Ernest "Alfred" James Lilleyman was born in Deep Creek via Narrabri, New South Wales, on 27 November 1871. Her mother Bertha Augusta Drieling, of German origin, was born in Deniliquin, New South Wales, on 23 October 1878. They married in Brunswick, Victoria, on 9 September 1896 and lived initially in a rental property in Gold Street. Newly-married Bertha had an unpleasant experience when a rent collector by the name of Paul Costelloe tried to kiss her. She reported the incident and Costelloe was subsequently charged with assault. He was fined £5, with £1 10s costs, in the Brunswick Police Court.1,2

Alfred and Bertha's first child Myrtle Alma was born in 1897, followed by Vida Alvena (1900), Helena Augusta (1905), Bertha Feodora (1912), James Edgar Norris (1912), Verna Constance (1917) and Dorothy Ida (also 1917). At the time of Verna's birth, the Lilleyman family was living at 121 Park Street, on the Brunswick/Princes Hill boundary, in the row of four Victorian cottages west of Lygon Street. Verna was born prematurely on New Year's Day in 1917 and spent the first few months of her life wrapped in cotton wool in a shoe box. She grew up with small, wrinkled hands, but this was no barrier to her becoming an expert needlewoman. Verna went to school at Princes Hill Primary School, then Coburg High School when the family moved further north. She was a bright student and won a scholarship to University High School. However, her mother decided it was time for Verna to enter the workforce at the age of 14 and contribute to the household income.3,4,5,6

Verna began working at Georges, an upmarket city department store, handsewing garments and accessories for wealthy women. Her work was highly regarded and, at the age of 19, she was sent on a six month assignment to Fiji, where she made the bridal gown and trousseau for the daughter of a high-ranking government official. This would have been an exciting time for a young woman who had never lived outside Australia. When World War 2 broke out, Verna and her sister Dorothy did voluntary work for the Red Cross. Verna joined the Women's Auxiliary Australian Air Force (WAAAF) and was amongst a group of women specially selected for their needlework skills. She was stationed at Temora, New South Wales, and instead of sewing silk garments, she sewed silk into parachutes.7

Verna returned to civilian life after the war and it was not long before she was sewing her own wedding dress. She married Arthur Charles (Bill) Miller on 18 January 1947 in Armadale. Like many women of her era, she gave up work when she married, but maintained a lifetime interest in needlework, beading and other crafts. Arthur and Verna had three daughters. Janis, the eldest, was born in 1948, followed by Lynn in 1950 and Gael in 1953. Bill died on 27 December 1987 and Verna survived him by 17 years. She died on 31 May 2004 at the age of 87, and her ashes were later scattered at Mount Macedon in Victoria.

Verna's family is looking for a permanent home for her wedding dress and other items of her needlework. Contact us if you are able to assist in preserving Verna's needlework legacy.

CCHG thanks Lynn O'Mara for sharing the story of her mother Verna Lilleyman


Notes and References:
1 Biographical information sourced from Lilleyman family records
2 Evening News, 18 December 1896, p. 4
3 Dorothy's birth was registered in 1920, but she was born on 18 October 1917, just nine months after Verna.
4 Residential address information sourced from Sands & McDougall
5 Verna recalled an amusing story about a pony that was kept across the laneway. It was toilet trained to use a bucket, thus saving its owner the job of cleaning up the mess.
6 Verna's father Alfred had an arm injury and was unable to do manual work.
7 NAA: A9301, 91464 (National Archives of Australia)


Lucie Moy Ling
A Woman of Her Times

In Melbourne on 13 April 1874, in the Year of the Dog, a baby girl was born to James and Kim Moy Ling. Little did her parents know that their daughter, Lucie Sophia Kim Oie, would live for more than a hundred years and bear witness to times of great political, economic and social change. Lucie grew up in a loving family and was well respected by the Methodist Church community, yet she was declared an alien in the country of her birth. As a teacher in the Victorian Education Department, she was denied the same employment and retirement entitlements as her male counterparts. On a personal level, she knew the joy of being a wife and mother and also the pain of losing loved ones.

Read her story.


Have you seen our latest publications?

Visit the publications page for more information.


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