Kathleen Cudmore: a Memoir

by Rafe de Crespigny

Kathleen Cavenagh née Cudmore was born on 27 June 1908, the second daughter and second child of Arthur Murray Cudmore (1870-1951) and his wife Kathleen Mary née Cavenagh-Mainwaring (1874-1951). Her sister Rosemary had been born in 1904.

Kathleen with her older sister Rosemary about 1910

Arthur Cudmore, second son of James Francis Cudmore (1837-1912) and his wife Margaret née Budge (1845-1912), was born on 11 June 1870 at Paringa Station on the Murray near Renmark in South Australia. Arthur’s grandfather, Daniel Michael Paul Cudmore (1811-1891), had emigrated from Ireland in 1835 and after a period in Tasmania arrived in South Australia early in 1837, a few weeks after its proclamation on 28 December 1836. His wife Mary née Nihill came from Hobart to join him later that year, and James Francis was born at sea on the ship Siren off Kangaroo Island on 11 October 1837.

Daniel Michael Paul first worked as a labourer in South Australia, but then founded a brewery, and from the late 1840s he began to acquire pastoral land and took up a large number of properties. His son James Francis continued the policy, extending his interests into Queensland in partnership with Robert Barr Smith and Thomas Elder, and by the 1870s he was one of the wealthiest men in Australia, controlling hundreds of thousands of sheep and cattle; his great house, “Paringa Hall” near Glenelg, built in the early 1880s, is a monument to his success. In the late 1880s, however, the arrival of rabbits had devastating effect upon the various stations, and James Francis was in serious financial trouble. He transferred some property and arranged to compound his debts, and though he was still in difficulty at the time of his death in 1912 a life insurance policy and the sale of Paringa Hall after Margaret’s death a few months later more than covered his obligations. They were still comparatively wealthy, but James Francis and Margaret left eleven children, and the inheritance was divided.

Though Arthur Cudmore maintained the family connection to the land, his profession was medicine. Graduating from Adelaide University in 1894, he travelled to England for further training and became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1900. His future wife Kathleen Mary née Cavenagh-Mainwaring was also born in Adelaide, and her brother Wentworth (1869-1933) was a friend and colleague, but Kathleen Mary was four years younger than Arthur, and the couple became closely acquainted only while they were in England during the late 1890s. Kathleen Mary had hoped to remain there, but Arthur insisted on returning to Australia, and they were married in Melbourne in 1901.

The Cavenagh-Mainwaring family had a long connection with Whitmore Hall in Staffordshire, which is recorded in the Domesday Book of 1087, and which has passed by inheritance ever since. Kathleen Mary’s mother Ellen Jane née Mainwaring (1845-1920) inherited the estate in 1891, and the family then travelled to England. Ellen Jane’s husband Wentworth Cavenagh (1822-1895) had been a minister in the South Australian government, and in 1892 the couple took the combined surname of Cavenagh-Mainwaring. Whitmore Hall itself was leased out, and it was not until 1928 that their son James Gordon (1865-1938) took up residence, with his son Rafe Gordon Dutton (1906-1995) as manager of the estate.

Kathleen Cudmore’s family was well established in South Australia, with many connections by marriage; she would later claim to have ninety-two cousins, but that her mother quarrelled with all of them; the figure was actually closer to fifty. Besides any inherited money, Arthur Cudmore developed a substantial practice; there were few doctors with such high qualifications, and he became Honorary Surgeon at the Adelaide Hospital in 1904. In 1910, when Kathleen was two years old, he moved into a large house at 64 Pennington Terrace in North Adelaide, directly opposite the parklands. Beside the house itself, there were a number of small cottages on the property, most of them demolished to allow for gardens and a tennis court, while a few were adapted to form a large garage. Arthur had one of the first cars in Adelaide, and when registration was introduced in 1906, he took number SA 4; it was later transferred to Kathleen and remained in the family for a hundred years.

In 1915 Arthur went to the Middle East with the Third Australian Hospital and was stationed on Lemnos, base for Gallipoli. He was invalided home with typhoid in the following year, but went back to serve in France from 1918 to 1919.

Kathleen had limited formal schooling. One of the small buildings at Pennington Terrace was known as the “Schoolroom,” and it appears that her early education was at home. She was a boarder at The Hermitage in Geelong for a few weeks in 1922, but became extremely ill and left. From 1923 to 1924 she was a pupil at Allenswood, a “finishing school” in Wimbledon, England, where students were taught and spoke entirely in French, and in 1926, aged eighteen, she was at Creveen, a small private day-school in North Adelaide. Despite this varied experience Kathleen wrote well, with a strong hand, became a skilled typist, and always enjoyed reading. [There is a small notepad containing a hand-written newsletter from 1919. Entitled Stuffed Notes, it is written by eleven-year-old Kathleen in the persona of a nurse caring for her toy animals and dolls during the influenza epidemic.]

Kathleen about 1914 photographed in Southsea, England

It seems fairly clear that while Kathleen Mary Cavenagh-Mainwaring had been prepared to return to Adelaide with Arthur Cudmore, she did obtain an agreement that they would return frequently to England, which she referred to all her life as “home” – not uncommon among colonials of her generation. The family were in England before the First World War and young Kathleen’s diary of 1924 describes how she was at Beaulieu near Nice in the south of France on 1 January, returning to Allenswood later that month. She stayed there, taking holidays with her parents in London and at Broadstairs in Kent, until the family left to return to Australia in July. This was one of many such visits to England and Europe, and Kathleen remarked in 1960 that she had been through the Suez Canal at least twenty-five times. In addition, there were a number of trips to Ceylon/Sri Lanka: it was an agreeable custom to take passage on a liner bound for England, disembark at Colombo and take the next liner back home; the effect was the same as a modern cruise.

Kathleen was always most attached to her father, who was a considerable sportsman: he played Australian football as a young man at league club level, his family background made him a good horseman and a good shot, and he was a talented golfer. Kathleen played golf from an early age, rode horses in competition, and also learnt fencing and played hockey. She remarked in a later interview that when she was young she would often play golf in the morning and go riding in the afternoon – or riding in the morning and golf in the afternoon. From this alone one may judge she had a privileged life: there were always maids and other servants to keep things tidy at home, she played regularly with the professional, Willie Harvey, at Royal Adelaide Golf Club, and she had her own car to get to her various engagements – her father was President of the Royal Automobile Association of South Australia and she herself got her driving licence at the age of sixteen; she held it until she was over ninety.

Horse-riding was based on the stables owned and run by Miss Roach in Prospect, where there was comparatively open country north of Adelaide; she was a good friend and Kathleen gave lessons for her to those more junior or less experienced. Her favourite horse was Black Opal, and among other events she won a blue ribbon at the Royal Adelaide Show of 1929. Her main achievements, however, were in golf: she won the Associates competition at Royal Adelaide in 1931, and she was Ladies Champion of South Australia in 1934.

The Woman’s Realm (1929, September 14). The Mail (Adelaide, SA : 1912 – 1954), p. 21. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article63432788

Kathleen was a good-looking young woman: blue eyes, brown hair and a fine complexion. A popular satirical newspaper, the Melbourne Truth, described her as “Adelaide’s pastel,” which was somewhat of an exaggeration, but the fashions of the 1920s and the opportunities for outdoor exercise suited her, and she remained active and kept a trim figure all her life.

Despite an air of “flapper” frivolity, Kathleen was a tough competitor in any sport, particularly at golf. She once told her daughter-in-law that you should never concede a putt; there was always a chance your opponent might drop dead. To win her South Australian Championship in 1934 she sank two long putts on the last two holes in wind and driving rain.

The Advertiser TUESDAY. JUNE 19. 1934 (1934, June 19). The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931 – 1954), p. 16. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article35114240

At the same time, Kathleen was very conscientious and always agreeable. She had a charming smile and, although she was shy, that characteristic made her all the more attractive. She never spoke unkindly of her friends, she did not gossip, and if anything she preferred not to discuss or to remember things which had angered or upset her – she did not hold grudges. Loyal and reliable, people trusted her, and she held leading positions in several different institutions.

In December 1930 Kathleen became engaged to Richard Geoffrey Champion de Crespigny (1907-1966), eldest son of Dr Constantine Trent Champion de Crespigny (1882-1952) and his wife Beatrix née Hughes (1885-1943). The de Crespignys were essentially a Victorian family – Constantine Trent’s father had been General Manager of the Bank of Victoria, he himself had taken his degrees at the University of Melbourne, and his son Geoff was born at Glenthompson south of Ararat. Constantine Trent moved to seek better opportunity in Adelaide, and indeed became the leading pathologist there. Geoff was first educated at the Queen’s School, but then went to Geelong Grammar School and also took his medical degrees at Melbourne. While at university he rowed for Trinity College and was in the university eight for three years, being a member of the winning crew for the inter-university Oxford and Cambridge Cup of 1929. Kathleen was amused by the fact that while she was described as a promising young golfer, he was a “veteran oarsman.”

After graduating in 1930, Geoff returned to Adelaide to spend the compulsory year as Resident Medical Officer at the Adelaide Hospital [renamed the Royal Adelaide Hospital in 1939]. Given his time at Geelong and Melbourne, it is uncertain how much he and Kathleen had seen of one another before, but both fathers were leaders of their profession and had worked together on a number of cases. One major contact was between Kathleen and Geoff’s sister Nancy (1910-2003): though they were two years apart, and Nancy had a degree in archaeology – her husband Hallam Movius would become a professor at Harvard – the two were close friends and remained so until Nancy’s death. For his part, Geoff said later that he fell in love with Kathleen from the first, and never thought of anyone else.

In 1932 both Kathleen and Geoff were in England, Kathleen spending time with her sister Rosemary, who was now married to her cousin Rafe Cavenagh-Mainwaring, and Geoff studying in London. Geoff was a frequent visitor to Whitmore, and served as cameraman for the amateur film A Run for his Money, which was set in Whitmore and had Kathleen as the beleaguered heroine with fluttering eyelashes: Rafe played her plutocrat father and Rosemary was a conniving vamp: there were elements of casting to type.

Still from A Run for his Money showing Kathleen as the beleaguered heroine

On 10 June 1933, Kathleen and Geoff were married in Adelaide Cathedral. It was a grand formal wedding: the bride wore a long white gown and a lace veil, the groom was in morning suit, and local newspapers celebrated the union of two distinguished medical families.

Kathleen on her wedding day 10 June 1933

Geoff had joined a partnership in Walkerville as a general practitioner, and he and Kathleen were living there when their son Richard Rafe was born in 1936; they had no other children. In that same year Kathleen’s parents built a house by the sea in the suburb of Tennyson, a mile north of the Grange jetty, and the land and title were later transferred to Kathleen. Soon afterwards, Geoff became a member of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians and established his own practice at 260 Main North Road, on the border of Prospect and Enfield. It was almost frontier territory at that time – the terminus of the Enfield tram was some hundred yards to the north, with fields beyond – but Geoff and Kathleen had a fine two-storey house, with a large garden and a tennis court, consulting rooms and quarters for servants. (The site of the house and all its land is now part of the Northpark Shopping Centre.)

As a young married woman, Kathleen led an active social life in Adelaide. She continued to play golf, and after her success in 1934 she was defeated in the final of the South Australian Championship in 1935. Following Rafe’s birth in 1936 she continued to play in competitions, but did not reach that level again. Otherwise, she was a member of the Queen Adelaide Club, had some overseas travel, and was involved in charities, including her mother’s interest in the Missions to Seamen and her father’s in the Friends of the State Library – which was suffering from a lack of government funding due to the Depression – and the usual concerns of a new household and a new child.

In 1937 Kathleen’s sister Rosemary and her husband Rafe visited Australia for some months, returning to England in January 1938. Their son Guy, born in 1934, had come with them but then stayed behind in the care of his Cudmore grandparents, and early in 1939 Kathleen took Guy back. She was away for several months, returning through Boston in the United States to visit Nancy Movius.

Kathleen and Rafe in 1940. This photo was damaged by a bomb blast in Tobruk.

When the Second World War broke out at the beginning of September 1939, Geoff felt obliged to join the army. While some doctors would stay behind to care for civilians in Australia, both Geoff’s father and his father-in-law had served in the previous war and still held reserve commissions, so family tradition and his position in society made the decision all but inevitable. Geoff enlisted in November, and a few days later he left for Melbourne and was stationed at Puckapunyal near Seymour in Victoria for further training. The practice was contracted out, and as the new incumbent took up residence in the house on Main North Road Kathleen was left without a place of her own. For the time being, she stayed at the beach house near Grange, with visits to her parents’ house in North Adelaide, but the situation was difficult and money was tight. (Handwritten calculations by Geoff at this time indicate that he expected a net income of £725 per annum from the rent of the practice together with his own pay as a Captain in the army, while estimated expenses were £750 “probably reducible to £700”. ) She was able to come with Rafe to join Geoff in Melbourne and for a few weeks in Sydney, so the family had some time together before Geoff sailed for the Middle East on 15 April. He was three years overseas, including nine months under siege in Tobruk from January to October 1941, and Kathleen did not see him again until the beginning of April 1943.

Returning to Adelaide, Kathleen found accommodation in an apartment in the complex at Prospect House in North Adelaide, on the junction of Pennington Terrace and Palmer Place by Montefiore Hill, a short distance up the hill from her parents’ house.

The war brought more charity work, first with the Cheer-Up Hut, a hospitality centre for servicemen near the Adelaide Railway Station: Kathleen’s mother had been involved in the organisation during the First World War, and Kathleen joined her in the revival, while both continued with the Mission to Seamen. In 1942 she took a course in motor mechanics at the School of Mines, explaining that she wanted to be ready for auxiliary service. Always good with her hands, she had a second diploma in carpentry, possibly acquired also about this time. And in that year she had her portrait painted by Ernest Milston – it is still in the possession of her family. (Ernest Milston (1893-1968), born Arnost Mühlstein in Czechoslovakia, was of Jewish background and escaped to Australia in 1939. A distinguished architect in Europe, he later designed the 1939-45 forecourt of the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne. Portrait-painting was presumably one way of establishing himself in the new country.)

Kathleen’s portrait painted in 1942 by Ernest Milston. The portrait is mentioned in SEES ART FUTURE FOR AUSTRALIA (1946, March 30). News (Adelaide, SA : 1923 – 1954), p. 3. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article128344371

After Geoff’s return from the Middle East in 1943, he was stationed for a time in Sydney, where Kathleen and Rafe went to join him for a few weeks, and then in central and Western Australia. Kathleen was able to spend six months with him in Perth, and she joined a program there for the rehabilitation of wounded and disabled soldiers, assisting them to sew toys and stuffed animals; she was later a member of a committee in Adelaide which checked on the suitability of manufactured toys for children, including such problems as lead-based paint and sharp edges. Geoff later served in New Guinea, but was invalided out with malaria and thereafter held appointments in Australia, though not in Adelaide, which he visited only on leave, notably when his mother Beatrix died in November of 1943.

Also in 1943, with encouragement from Beatrix, Kathleen became a member of the committee of the Mothers and Babies Health Association, and began a long association with that organisation. She succeeded her mother-in-law as Honorary Treasurer, and was senior Vice-President from 1955.

The MBHA had been founded by Dr Helen Mayo in 1909 with the object of assisting mothers to care for their infant children, and so reduce the rate of infant mortality. The basic concept was comparatively simple: all new mothers were encouraged to bring their children at regular intervals to MBHA clinics, which were staffed by trained mother-craft nurses. Each child was weighed, its general progress was checked, and the nurse would offer such advice, assistance or referral as might be needed. Visits to the clinics were something of a social event, babies were admired and their weights were compared, while it also meant that the vast majority of children in South Australia were under regular medical inspection.

At the beginning of the century infant mortality in South Australia had been 100 per thousand, but by the late 1930s it was 30 per thousand and it fell below 20 per thousand in the 1960s; it is now less than 5 per thousand. Much of this development was a matter of improved medical technique, inoculating against many infectious diseases, and general advances in hygiene, and while the MBHA took credit, some modern historians claim that its role was marginal at best, arguing that it was a conservative and authoritarian organisation. On the other hand, it seems difficult to suggest that a regular check of babies’ health was actually a disadvantage, and many mothers were certainly glad to have some support and guidance in what was a new and often rather frightening experience. The MBHA is surely best seen as part of a broad program of public health which was effective and well-regarded in its time.

It was a substantial enterprise, with hundreds of branches and buildings all over the state, heavy costs and investment in the local centres and their attending nurses, and a headquarters and training centre in Adelaide. There were also “Baby Health Trains” – carriages set up and transported by South Australian Railways, which took the service to outlying places where it was impracticable to establish permanent offices. Formally a charitable organisation, it was nonetheless heavily subsidised by the state and local governments, so that in 1952, when Kathleen was Honorary Treasurer, almost £20,000 of a total income of £38,000 came from official sources, with the bulk of the balance made up of donations, subscriptions and other fund-raising; total turnover was close to $3 million in 2013 values. In 1978 the MBHA was incorporated into the South Australian Department of Health, and Kathleen’s work is now carried on by a senior civil servant.

In the New Year honours of 1945 Arthur Cudmore was made a knight bachelor, and later that year Geoff came back from the war. As the family returned to 260 Main North Road, Kathleen continued her charity work, and she also became a member of the committee of the Queen Adelaide Club and was President from 1950 to 1952. The Club was formally a registered company, with a board of directors who had hitherto been all men, but when Kathleen retired as President she was appointed to the Board and became its Chairman in 1980. Although an amateur, she was now an experienced administrator, and in later years she held leading positions in many different organisations. Beside the MBHA, she was Chairman of the local Victoria League and – as below – she became strongly involved with the RSPCA.

One part of charity work was the annual badge day, when organisations took it in turn each week to raise money in the city. Basically rather shy in unstructured situations, Kathleen did not particularly enjoy standing on street-corners by the hour seeking support from passers-by on a Friday morning. On one occasion at least a kindly man stopped to purchase one of the most expensive that was for sale, remarking that she looked so woebegone she reminded him of his cocker-spaniel, and he felt he had to encourage her.

Kathleen on button day 1941

Her social life was largely based on such social and charitable activities, and the people she met and worked with were commonly from the same families and background as herself. She did have some special and different friends, notably Hannes and Marlis Thiersch, who came from German background and arrived in Australia during the 1930s. Hannes was a member of the Medical and Veterinary Research Institute, founded by Constantine Trent Champion de Crespigny, and was later involved in development of the contraceptive pill in the United States; Marlis later took a doctorate and became a lecturer in drama at the University of New South Wales. Other friends included the future Chief Justice John Bray and the lawyer Norman Tucker; Jack Smart, who was professor of philosophy at the University of Adelaide and later at the Australian National University; Archer Kyffin “Tiddy” Thomas who was editor of The News in Adelaide and later of the Melbourne Herald, and his wife Judy; and, from the early 1950s, Edith and Eric von Schramek, who had come as migrants from Czechoslovakia: Eric became a noted architect. Neither Kathleen nor Geoff were strongly artistic, but they regularly attended concerts, ballet and films, they were good ballroom dancers, they were early sponsors of the Adelaide Festival of Arts, first held in 1960, and Kathleen was an enthusiast for the theatre all her life.

Kathleen and Rafe with Bernard the Pekinese in 1954

Kathleen’s parents had always had servants in the house, and Kathleen and Geoff also had assistance; at first a cook and housekeeper, later only a housekeeper, and eventually no live-in help. Kathleen’s mother had insisted she should learn to clean and sew and cook, but her cooking was basic: “peas in the pot, potatoes in the pot, meat in the oven.” In an interview about her work at the Cheer-Up Hut during the war, she remarked that

… I’ve never been very fond of food, giving it or eating it myself, so I started making beds in the Cheer-up Hut, and I became an expert bed-maker…

Omelettes were always useful, and she was enthusiastic about stew, being fairly simple – the stew was occasionally enhanced and made exotic by the addition of bay-leaves. Desserts were a little more interesting: she was good on chocolate mousse and on hot chocolate sauce for ice cream, she made excellent short-bread biscuits, and she used her influence at the Queen Adelaide Club to acquire their special recipe for barley-water. There was also a very good Club Cocktail: a quarter gin, a quarter sweet vermouth, half dry vermouth and a splash of lime juice; lime juice concealed the full effect of the other ingredients.

Geoff’s practice in Prospect and Enfield began to develop as new houses were built in the area and settlement expanded to the north. In 1948 Kathleen’s sister Rosemary and her son Guy came from England for a year, and in 1950 she and Geoff made a long visit to Europe, spending time at Whitmore in England, with Geoff’s sister Margaret (1919-1989), now married to Cornelius in’t Veld and living in Holland, and with Nancy and Hallam Movius in Cambridge, Massachusetts. After Rosemary and Guy had visited once more in 1953, there were a series of extensive overseas trips: in 1954 Kathleen accompanied Rafe to England as he entered Cambridge University; in 1956 she went with Geoff to Europe; and in 1957 she went again to Europe, returning with Rafe as he left Cambridge.

Kathleen and Rafe in Munich in 1954

In 1953 Geoff became a Fellow of the College of Physicians. He had an increasing interest in pediatrics and children’s health – presumably in part influenced by the involvement of his mother and of Kathleen in the Mothers and Babies Health Association, and he became a founder of the Pediatrics & Child Health Division in the College. During the visit to Europe in 1956 he attended the International Congress of Pediatrics in Copenhagen, and that was followed by similar meetings in Portugal and Indonesia. In 1965, when he and Kathleen went to the Congress in Japan, the family received letters from each of them, written at the same time on board ship: Geoff wrote with delight about sailing into the Inland Sea with the loudspeaker playing “Colonel Bogey” [theme song of the 1957 film Bridge on the River Kwai]; Kathleen complained that it had been a long and boring voyage.

Between the occasions of overseas travel, there had been major changes to life in Adelaide. Kathleen’s parents both died in early 1951, within a few days of one another, and she and Geoff moved into their former house on Pennington Terrace in North Adelaide. Geoff’s father died in October 1952, and Geoff transferred his practice to rooms in the city. In 1955, however, they left North Adelaide and went to live in the house by the beach at Grange; remodelled and slightly enlarged, it was Kathleen’s home for the next fifty years.

In 1960 Geoff was President of the South Australian Branch of the Australian Medical Association, and he largely retired from private practice to become the Medical Director of the Mothers and Babies Health Association.

Kathleen always had her own car. During the 1950s there was a series of soft-topped Singer roadsters, and then French Simcas, while Geoff drove Jaguars. In the 1960s she too transferred to a Jaguar, initially with less success, for she found it heavy and clumsy, and the automatic gearing system which was just being introduced was not always reliable. As she was stalled at a traffic light on one occasion, the taxi-driver next to her called, “Better get a Holden next time,” to which Kathleen agreed. In fact, in 1964 she transferred to a Daimler sports car, also with difficult gearing; fifty years later the car is maintained by her grandson Mark, while Kathleen eventually had a long-term relationship with a Mazda 323: simple, automatic, and bright-green in colour “so you could find it in any car-park.”

Kathleen with a family car in 1926

Kathleen’s family always had animals, and soon after their marriage she and Geoff had a dachshund, Max, and a Pekingese named Bubbles or Buds. Both died of distemper during the war, and the first replacement, Fritz or Chips, was run over on Pennington Terrace; his sister Antonia – better known as “Mrs Tone,” came to take his place. An elegant but temperamental brown dachshund, she lived into the mid-1950s, and she was joined in 1946 by another Pekingese, called Bernard from the second name of Hannes Thiersch who had given him. Son Rafe was very fond of cats, and the appropriately-named Biffer was an equally long-lived contemporary of Mrs Tone.

When Rafe turned sixteen in 1952 he was allowed to obtain a driving licence, and as Geoff was giving him a lesson on a country road just outside Adelaide he saw trap-pigeon shooting in a field nearby. In this system, pigeons were caught alive, then placed into cages with springs at the base, and on command the spring was released and the bird was thrown into the air as a target for shot-guns. “Clay-pigeons” perform the same function, but it was considered better entertainment if the birds were alive.

Geoff mentioned the incident to Kathleen, who was furious and resolved to do something about it. She joined the RSPCA and embarked on a campaign to have the practice forbidden. It was not easy, for the long-serving government of Thomas Playford had many country supporters who saw trap-shooting as a sport, but at the end of 1954 a private member’s bill introduced by the Labor member for Prospect passed both houses of state parliament.

Kathleen was by that time a member of the general committee of the RSPCA and she continued her involvement with that organisation and others associated to it. Chairman of the RSPCA from 1965 to 1975, she was then President until 1990, and when she retired from that position she became Vice-Patron, second to the Governor of South Australia.

Kathleen and Geoff about 1960

Following Cambridge, Rafe went to study Chinese in Canberra, and in 1959 he married a fellow student Christa Boltz; their first child Anne was born at the end of that year.

Born in Berlin in 1939, Christa spent the war years in Germany and came to Australia at the age of ten. Her father Hans, a geological cartographer, was brought out by the government to assist in the exploration for minerals, and he became chief cartographer in the Bureau of Mineral Resources. Canberra was a very small town, and neither Christa nor her mother Charlotte found it easy to adjust, but after their marriage Christa and Rafe spent university vacations – almost half the year – in Adelaide. Christa speaks of the extraordinary contrast from Canberra to Adelaide, where she was introduced to clubs and parties, played golf and tennis and watched the cricket, and was treated by Kathleen and Geoff as if she were their daughter. It made no difference that Geoff had been engaged in the war with Germany: the two families were always friendly; Christa’s young sister Margaret came to stay in Adelaide; and Christa found a way of life with Kathleen and a role-model to admire.

Rafe and Christa’s second child Mark was born in May of 1963, and when Rafe gained appointment as Lecturer at the Australian National University Kathleen and Geoff bought them a house in Canberra. They continued to visit Adelaide each year, but at Christmas 1965 Geoff was taken ill with the effects of a brain tumour. He died in February 1966 at the age of 58.

In the latter part of 1966 Kathleen travelled with her friends the Thomases, visiting Geoff’s sister Nancy Movius in Boston and Rosemary Cavenagh-Mainwaring at Whitmore. On 30 March 1967, at a small ceremony in Box Hill, Melbourne, she married George Symes.

George Symes in 1941

George William Symes (1896-1980) was a retired Major-General of the British Army. During the First World War he was commissioned as a Captain in the York and Lancashire Regiment, served in the Machine-Gun Corps in France and in Italy, and was awarded the Military Cross and Bar. During the 1920s and 1930s he remained a professional soldier, and at the outbreak of the Second World War he received rapid promotion, being appointed Major-General in command of the 70th Division in Africa and then in India. By very ill luck, however, the 70th Division was transferred to form part of the “Chindit” Special Force under Orde Wingate, designed to operate behind the Japanese lines in Burma. George became deputy, but was stationed at New Delhi, and when Wingate was killed in an air crash in 1944 George was passed over for a closer associate and his active career was at an end. He held command of Lines-of-Communications divisions in France and later in Burma, and after the war he was commander of the South-West District in England, but in 1949 he resigned his commission and came to Australia.

George’s first wife Katherine née Lucas came from an Adelaide family. He had met her on a visit to Australia, and they were married in Bombay in 1939. Katherine died in 1961, and they had no children.

A strong, tall man, George was a skilled yachtsman, a good cricketer, and played excellent golf. He became active in the Royal Adelaide Golf Club, was a founder of the National Trust of South Australia and was heavily involved in Cottage Homes, a charity for the elderly. From 1956 to 1964 he was Private Secretary to the Governor of South Australia. Besides his pension as a retired general, in 1946 George had received a large inheritance from an unmarried friend of his mother, Eva Kennedy, daughter of a British merchant in the far east who had held property in Shanghai, and in 1955 he was a founding Director of Santos Ltd [South Australia and Northern Territory Oil Search], which became one of the largest mining companies in Australia. George left the Board in 1978, but continued to hold a substantial number of shares.

George and Katherine were friends of Kathleen and Geoff: George and Geoff were partners at bridge in the Adelaide Club, and after Katherine died George came often to their house for dinner on Sundays.

Soon after Geoff’s death, Kathleen resigned from the committee of the Mothers and Babies, explaining that she felt it would not be right or fair to be involved with and possibly comment upon the work of his successor as Medical Director. In 1963, however, she had become a member of the Board of Management of the Adelaide Children’s Hospital [now the Women’s and Children’s Hospital], and she held that position until 1979. She was also on the committee of the state branch of the Australian Institute of International Affairs, and was President from 1971 to 1973.

Twelve years the elder, George was a man of traditional style, and while she maintained many of her own interests Kathleen was quite prepared to share his. With his encouragement, she took up golf again, though not at the same level as before, and they were both active members of the Royal Geographical Society of South Australia. Kathleen also shared George’s involvement in the National Trust: in 1964 she had been one of the organisers of an exhibition of “Gold and Glass;” the display included five Melbourne Cups and two Caulfield Cups which had been won by South Australian horses, accompanied by the owners’ colours, and it attracted visitors who might otherwise have had little interest in the work of the Trust.

One concern she did not share, however, was religion. George was a committed member of the Anglican Church and a lay member of Synod, and Geoff had also been a strong Christian; but though Kathleen had been confirmed when she was in England in 1924 she became an atheist and remained so all her life. She was nonetheless tolerant, and would attend Christmas services without complaint; on regular Sundays, however, she would drive George to the church in Adelaide and then go on to visit Geoff’s younger brother Adrian (1919-1993), who had been injured at birth and was permanently in a mental hostel.

Despite differences, the marriage was happy and successful. Kathleen remarked on the importance of mutual tolerance, but it seems clear that she found George to have some attributes of her father, and she was quite prepared to support and assist him, notably in later years by driving him to appointments and then waiting for him in the car. For his part, he was always generous and agreeable to Rafe and Christa, his step-son and daughter-in-law: when the family played golf together he was generally paired with Christa, as it was felt that her presence and his natural courtesy would restrain him from expressing his full indignation when a stroke went astray; he had at one time scored a hole in one, and he was an extremely good putter, though annoyingly less accurate as he grew older. He also became very fond of Rafe and Christa’s son Mark, who would travel to Adelaide by himself to spend holiday time with Kathleen and George.

George and Kathleen made some journeys overseas, notably in 1978 when they went on an extended tour to visit old friends of George in England, some of whom he had not seen since the First World War. After their return, however, George suffered from increasing medical problems, and he died on 26 August 1980; despite his illness, at the time of his death he was preparing a paper for the Geographical Society on the life of Charles Todd, director of the Overland Telegraph in the 1870s– it was presented posthumously.

George left the bulk of his property to Kathleen, with some special bequests to charities and sporting associations with which he had been connected, and a large sum to the Regimental Chapel for the York and Lancashire in Sheffield Cathedral, England. His military orders, decorations and other insignia went to Kathleen’s grandson Mark.

Kathleen did not marry again, but she continued to live at Tennyson for another twenty years. She made a number of trips overseas, once to China in 1981, with Rafe and Christa and their daughter Anne, followed by some months stay with Nancy Movius in Boston. She visited the United States several more times for similar lengthy visits, and was also in France, where Hallam Movius had a major archeological site at Les Eyzies in the Dordogne and where a museum was established in his honour. Kathleen also travelled many times to England to see the theatre in London, and to stay with Rosemary and Rafe at Whitmore.

Kathleen in 1983 with her dog Sam

In Australia, Kathleen played bridge and did crosswords, and she continued to have dogs and a cat – the dogs tended to come from the RSPCA or the Lost Dogs Home, and were rather large and more than she could easily handle: there were several discussions with local Council officers about activities on the beach, but none had long-term effect.

Sunday lunch became important, always at the golf club, where Kathleen was now a life member, and always accompanied by one or more friends from the neighbours at Tennyson. The same honest and generous nature that had encouraged people to give her affection and responsibility in her various organisations now found her close companionship in the small local community of Tennyson, and she gained a great deal of social and practical support.

Kathleen on her 90th birthday with her great grandson Peter and a conflagration of 90 candles
In 1996 Kathleen was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for her public service (click to enlarge)

By 2000, however, as Kathleen was in her nineties, life became increasingly difficult. The house was old and needed repairs, and she was less able to organise it. Worse still, after almost eighty years she no longer held a driving licence, and though many neighbours took her shopping and on other expeditions, and she could travel to Adelaide by train, she was a good deal more restricted than before. In 2004 she asked to come to Batemans Bay to be near to Rafe and Christa, and she took residence in a nursing home, Edgewood Park; at first she was in her own apartment, with her dog Josephine, but later moved to high care. She enjoyed the social life – far more than anyone had expected – she gained many new friends among the other residents, and she was very well treated by the staff.

Kathleen on her 100th birthday with a book we made for her

Kathleen celebrated her hundredth birthday in 2008, with Rafe and Christa, Anne and her husband Greg Young, Mark and his wife Kim, and five great-grandchildren: Peter and Charlotte Young; Nicholas, Alex and Sophia de Crespigny. The following years, however, were for the most part spent asleep, with little memory and increasing physical weakness. She died on 11 June 2013, a few days before her 105th birthday.

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