My mother-in-law Marjorie (Marjorie Winifred Young neé Sullivan, 1920 – 2007) liked to talk about her childhood, her later life, family stories, and the family tree. I enjoyed her reminiscences, and I took notes for my family history database.

Marjorie in Castlemaine in the 1940s. I do not have any photos of her as a child.

Marjorie’s family often moved when she was a child, for her father was badly affected by what in those days was called ‘shellshock’ from his time as a soldier in the trenches and he found it difficult to stay in the same job.

Marjorie was born in Oakleigh, a suburb of Melbourne, the fourth of six children.

When she was about three the family moved to Tatura, near Shepparton, about 160 km north of Melbourne. Marjorie’s brother Roy was born there in 1926. This was the year Marjorie started school. Her father, she said, would not allow any of his children to start school before they were six nor start work before they were sixteen. Marjorie went to school at Tatura for a short time and could not remember much about it.

Tatura School photographed in 1911. From the collection of the State Library of Victoria Image No: a03584

In 1927, the family moved to Castlemaine. She remembered the Castlemaine school as very large. She wasn’t there for long. After only a year or so in Castlemaine, the family moved again, to Chewton, a small settlement about 5 km away.

North Castlemaine state school about 1925. Photograph from Flickr uploaded by user HistoryInPhotos. There are several schools in Castlemaine and I am not sure which one Marjorie attended.

Marjorie, then eight or nine, went to the Chewton village school. She began in the first grade but was quickly promoted to second grade. A visiting Inspector asked the children how to sound ‘again’. Most said “agane”. Marjorie, however, said “agenn”. This was considered to be the correct pronounciation, and she was allowed to go up to a grade. Although Marjorie’s brother Arthur was a year older, in Chewton she caught up to him at school and afterwards they were always in the same class.

Marjorie was pleased to recall the story of the Inspector’s visit. Her confidence, she said, was greatly boosted by her promotion.

Chewton school from the 1968 centenary booklet, photo used with permission of the Old Castlemaine Schoolboys Association
Chewton State School 1054 established : present building opened 1911. Photograph from VIEWS IN AND AROUND CHEWTON (Vic.). (1921, May 21). The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 – 1946), p. 56. Retrieved from

In 1931 the Sullivan family moved to Kyneton, about 40 km south of Castlemaine, where she became a teacher’s assistant in one of the junior classes. Every day she would spend some time in the junior school
helping out.

Kyneton primary school has now been rebuilt on another site and as at March 2022 these buildings are awaiting redevelopment into a community hub. This bluestone section was built in 1855 with 1861 additions.

About 1932 the family moved again, this time to Malmsbury, about 10 km from Kyneton. There, with two other girls, she again became a kindergarten teacher’s assistant. Without being required to sit an examination they were awarded the Merit Certificate and were entitled to leave school at fourteen. Marjorie enjoyed teaching and wanted to be a teacher but the nearest Teachers’ College was too far away to attend and the family was too poor to support her.

Malmsbury Primary School yard and children playing Ring A Rosie about 1930. Photograph in the collection of the Malmsbury Historical Society and used with their permission.

In December 1933 there is a mention of Marjorie Sullivan winning a prize for “Pastel drawing (under 15), scene” in the combined show held by Malmsbury and North Drummond Y.F. clubs. Marjorie was a talented artist. She painted and sketched all her life.

In Malmsbury on 6 January 1933 the Sullivans had their sixth child, Gwendolyn Phyllis, called ‘Gwenny’. When Marjorie left school she helped care for her. In 1935 Gwenny died of meningitis. Marjorie remembers that Gwenny was was sick with stomach cramps on Monday, and died on Wednesday.

The family moved from Malmsbury to Castlemaine about 1937 and Marjorie started work in the woollen mills there as a weaver.

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