ATNA Nurses' Rest Home, 17-19 Mallon St, Bowen Hills
Guest blogger - Dr Madonna Grehan - 2015 John Oxley Library Fellow
In 1924, the Queensland Branch of the Australasian Trained Nurses Association (ATNA) opened a home for retired invalid members. Until that time, the ATNA’s support to members who fell on hard times was limited to one-off or more frequent financial assistance. Miss Florence Chatfield OBE, Matron of the Diamantina Hospital for Chronic Diseases, was inaugural President of the Nurses’ Rest Home. Chatfield and her ATNA colleagues believed that many professional nurses gave their best years to the care of Queenslanders, only to be forced into penury on retirement because they could not save on the meagre wage of a nurse. Providing these nurses with secure housing was expected to alleviate their distress.
The ATNA Executive purchased “Pymore”, a house with substantial grounds at Mallon Street, Bowen Hills at a cost of £1500. This salubrious location, in an isolated and undulating bushland pocket, away from the city, was ideal for a community of retired nurses. Occupying two substantial lots at the dead end of Mallon Street, it had spacious grounds, large trees and a handsome driveway.
Pymore was an imposing two-storey residence, constructed of quarried stone and hand-made bricks. It’s likely the sandstone came from a quarry at Woogaroo (now Goodna), extracted by Joshua Jeays. His quarry held a distinctive pinkish sandstone, used in the construction of many of Brisbane’s early buildings. In 1856 Jeays bought about a hectare of land at Bowen Hills. From the 1890s until 1922, Pymore was home to John Dunham, a spice merchant, and his family.
As soon as Pymore was purchased, the ATNA launched a public appeal to funds, a campaign supported by the Courier Mail. Regular subscriptions were encouraged via collection cards, examples of which are held at SLQ - R 927 Nurses Rest Home and Benevolent Fund Records and R 348 Nurses Rest Home and Benevolent Fund Records 1924-1973
Bridge parties, fetes, bazaars, card evenings with dancing, formal balls, and social dances at Lennon’s Hotel, were just some of the fundraisers held for the Nurses Rest Home. A lawn tennis tournament for doubles was staged, featuring men’s, ladies’ and mixed teams. Matches were played at the Brisbane General Hospital, the Diamantina Hospital, the Blind Institution on Ipswich Rd and Musgrave Park courts. Private courts hosted rounds too, including the Burrell family’s at Old Sandgate Road and Whytecliffe, at Sandgate Road, Albion.
Members of England’s Test cricket team supported the Nurses Rest Home fund when they attended a performance of the Gilbert and Sullivan light opera Trial by Jury in November 1924. And just in time for Christmas, newspaper advertisements in 1924 appealed for donations, as a way of ‘promoting the happiness of others’ during the festive season.
Five nurses moved into the Rest Home in 1924, as soon as the modest rooms were ready. Rules governed the operations of the Home, with a live-in Matron responsible for everyday management. Her payment was free accommodation.
The Rest Home’s first Matron was Mary Jane Waldie. Nurse Waldie had trained at the Brisbane General Hospital. From R 927 Nurses Rest Home and Benevolent Fund Records. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland
A year after the Home opened, Lord Mayor Alderman William Jolly presided at the inaugural Annual General Meeting in 1925. This novel scheme to house Queensland’s elderly nurses was judged a complete success. In practice, the capacity of the Nurses Rest Home was limited, catering for only a tiny percentage of the State’s retired nurses until it closed in the 1970's. The building has survived extensive road construction around it. Today it caters for the budget-conscious international visitor. The ATNA Nurses Rest Home is designated a local heritage place under Section 194 of the Heritage Act 1992 (QLD).
In 1890 Dunham had to relinquish some of his land for the Fortitude Valley railway extension. He was compensated less than half the money he sought. Dunham died in 1900, aged 59. His widow Amelia died in 1922, aged 81.