Lillian Mackay

Tapestry series no. 1

Contributed by Gaye Brennan (great niece)

Lillian was a nurse in the Australian Army Nursing Service from 30/06/1917–03/07/1919. In those days a nurse had to pay a fee to be trained. She did her training at Beechworth in Victoria. At one time she held every nursing certificate it was possible for a nurse to hold. For many years she ran a private hospital at Cohuna specialising in children. Many cases were sent from Melbourne, and her hospital was always full. She also served, during the war, at a big army hospital in India.

Francis Lillian Mackay was the second child of Finlay Charles and Rebecca Mackay (née Mckinlay). She was born at Warraquil, Baker, Victoria, in 1888, the second eldest of 10 children. While at school she was a top athlete.

At the outbreak of World War 1, she enlisted in The Australian Army nursing Service and served in France, and later in India. She was awarded an Overseas Service medal and a British War medal, a decoration she received at Buckingham Palace.

After the War she established the hospital at Cohuna — for which she was well known amongst the medical profession. Later, she would go on to nurse in Western Australia, and became interested in the Scouting movement, becoming a group leader in the cubs.

At retiring age, she established the Dee Why Nurses’ Club with her sister Maud, which provided private nursing services which became highly regarded in Sydney. Maud Mackay, her sister, was also a nursing sister and was born in 1890 also at Warraquil. Maud did overseas service in Egypt and at a field military hospital, France. After the War she married Lance Redgrave and had one child.

At the age of 75, Lillian became Matron of Kanowna — a private hospital in Leura, NSW. After a car accident which resulted in her sister Maud becoming an invalid, Lillian and her sister, Eileen, nursed Maud for ten years. After a year they sold the hospital and lived in Harbord, nursing Maud at home. Lillian would then do the day shift while her sister Eileen kept watch at night.

Eileen (12.12.1895-14.12.1988) was a school teacher before going into partnership with her brothers and had general stores at Humula Tarcutta, Adelong, NSW. They later ran a property outside Adelong until Maud had the accident. She told me the story of her first teaching job at a place called Upotipotpon, where she was left a horse at the station with a note of instructions and had to ride 12 miles to her destination. Eileen was a brilliant mathematician and coached her great, great-nephew and niece in their schoolwork

Photo of articleAfter her sister Maud’s death, at the age of 85, Lillian decided to retire from active nursing.

Lillian always took a keen interest in health and children’s welfare. She contributed many articles, on these and other topics, to newspapers, magazines and parliamentarians.

She was a quiet person but assertive in her views, especially on the role of women. She died three months short of her 96th birthday as the result of a stroke a week after successfully coming through an operation for a broken hip.