Miriam Dunn Collection Digitised @SLQ
The homefront experience of those left behind, particularly the women, is an often forgotten story in the history of the First World War. The friends and families of those who volunteered for military service quickly mobilised to provide support, through the formation of comforts funds and patriotic committees. Money was raised, socks and scarves were knitted, and treats were baked for the boys at the front.
One young woman who worked tirelessly for the war effort was Miss Miriam Dunn of Brisbane. Her collection of letters, ephemera and war memorabilia was recently donated to the John Oxley Library and has now been digitised to provide an insight into the patriotic efforts at home.
Miriam was born in Brisbane in 1888, being the daughter of Robert Dunn, head proof reader at the Courier Mail newspaper, and Miriam Rhoda Pickering. The family lived at Upper Clifton Terrace, Red Hill, in the residence Weeroona. Miriam had two brothers, Robert and Douglas, who were both well-known Queensland journalists, as well as two sisters. All of the children attended the Kelvin Grove State School.
Miriam worked for the Queensland Public Service for most of her life, being appointed to the Audit Office in 1907 before moving to the Chief Secretary's Department. During and after the war she was Honorary Secretary of the Public Service Patriotic Committee and was also an active member of St. Paul's Presbyterian Church.
Throughout the war years she organised balls, dances, concerts, parties and excursions to raise money for the war effort.
The collection also includes some interesting letters from the war years, including one from the Reverend Andrew Gillison, a Presbyterian chaplain, who was killed at Gallipoli. The Reverend Gillison was born in Scotland, ca. 1869, and was minister at St. Paul's Presbyterian Church in Brisbane before moving to Melbourne.
Captain The Reverend Andrew Gillison, Chaplain 4th Class. Source: Australian War Memorial, Image No. P02615.004.
He left for overseas service in December 1914 with the 14th Battalion, and served at Gallipoli until the 22nd August 1915 when he died of gunshot wounds received whilst attending a wounded soldier. The following letter was written in September 1914 when he was serving as a chaplain at the Broadmeadows Military Camp in Melbourne.
Gillison was one of four Presbyterian ministers who had been at Gallipoli since the first landing on the 25th April 1915, and was the first Australian chaplain to lose his life during the war. He was 47 at the time and left a wife, Isobel, and four children. A detailed obituary appears in the The Argus (Melbourne), 28 August 1915.
After the war Miriam continued with her charitable and patriotic efforts and was involved with many Brisbane organisations. In February 1934 she was declared bankrupt through the financial failure of an amateur operatic society in which she was involved and which endeavoured to raise money for charity. In November 1934 she was given an unconditional discharge as the bankruptcy arose from circumstances for which she could not be held responsible.
Miriam never married and lived in the family home at Red Hill until her death in 1969.
The Miriam Dunn Collection may be viewed at the John Oxley Library (Accession 29925) or online at: http://onesearch.slq.qld.gov.au/SLQ:SLQ_PCI_EBSCO:slq_alma21153912450002061
Lynn Meyers, QANZAC100 Content Curator