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Centaur Memorial Fund For Nurses Records - Digitised @SLQ

By JOL Admin | 24 August 2018

Nurse Beryl Lillian Crow from Maryborough, entrant in the "Queen of the Nurses" Quest, 1948. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, OMEG/10

Lynn Meyers (Specialist Librarian, Queensland Memory) and Madonna Grehan (John Oxley Library Fellow 2015) explain how focused research has opened up a substantial and significant collection of original materials at State Library of Queensland.

Readers of the John Oxley Library blog will be excited to know that selected items from the Centaur Memorial Fund for Nurses Records (Accession OMEG) have been digitised and are available through our catalogue.

The Centaur Memorial Fund for Nurses was established in Brisbane in January 1948 as a tribute to the state's nurses who had served on the home and military fronts during the two World Wars.  The fund was named after the 2/3 Australian Hospital Ship Centaur.  The ship was torpedoed and sunk by enemy fire on the 14th May 1943, off the south east Queensland coast, with the loss of 268 lives.  Of the twelve Australian Army nurses on board, only Sister Ellen Savage survived.  Savage was awarded the George Medal for bravery and courage in the aftermath of the ship's sinking.

Hospital ship "Centaur". John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, OMEG/80

Sister Ellen Savage (left), Dame Annabelle Rankin (centre) and Hazel M. Johnson (right) arriving at Brisbane City Hall for a Centaur Commemorative Concert, 12 May 1949. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, OMEG/83

The aim of the Centaur Memorial Fund was to establish an educational and recreational facility for Queensland nurses.  Beginning in March 1948, an Executive Committee developed a state-wide, year-long fundraising campaign which raised money through concerts, functions, and a "Queen of the Nurses Quest" in which entrants were sponsored by hospitals, businesses and community organisations.  Money was also raised on "Red Rose Day", held on the anniversary of the Centaur's sinking, through the sale of paper roses.  Queenslanders overwhelmingly embraced the Fund and, as a result of these efforts,  Exton House at 337 Queen Street, Brisbane, was purchased in October 1948 for £57,000.  Re-named "Centaur House" it was converted into a centre for the nursing profession.

Centaur House. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, OMEG/102

In the 1980s, the Centaur Memorial Fund for Nurses donated its records to State Library.  The collection comprises administrative material, images, ephemera and artefacts.  The collection has been made more accessible following work by the 2015 John Oxley Fellow, Dr. Madonna Grehan, a historian and registered nurse.

Through her research, Dr. Grehan has produced a new and expansive finding aid for this collection.  Previously undescribed material has been dated and placed in context.  People in images have been identified, and ephemera items described.  Images from the "Queen of the Nurses Quest" 1948 and the "Most Typical Australian Woman Quest" 1950, plus others, have been digitised.  State Library of Queensland and the Queensland Library Foundation are proud to have supported this research, on a highly significant and beautiful collection, through the John Oxley Library Fellowship.

Entrants in the Queen of the Nurses Quest: left to right - Sister Jean Marie Cronin, Nurse Norma Mann, and Sister Peggy Taylor, 1948. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, OMEG/64

Sister Emily Broadhurst from Bundaberg, entrant in the Queen of the Nurses Quest 1948. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, OMEG/22

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Nurse Jean Real from Mossman District Hospital, entrant in the Queen of the Nurses Quest, 1948. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, OMEG/37

Miss Maree Loughnan, winner of The Most Typical Australian Woman Quest, 1950. The Daimler car was made available for her use during Centaur Week celebrations. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, OMEG/74

Dr. Grehan's research on the Fund continues.  There are more blog stories to come, oral histories with some of the people whose images appear in this blog, and a book detailing the Fund's history.  We welcome your comments and stories about any of the digitised items.

Dr Madonna Grehan was the recipient of the 2015 John Oxley Library Fellowship. Her research articles on the Centaur Memorial Fund can be found here:


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