WITHAM: All the way from Australia


An insight into the life of a Nurse who volunteered in World War One

and survived being torpedoed in 1917

Nurse Irene Dunne. Courtesy of Geraldine Rees and Mundaring & Hills Historical Society Inc.

Nurse Irene Dunne. Courtesy of Geraldine Rees and Mundaring & Hills Historical Society Inc.

Irene Dunne was born around 1878.   It is believed she was English or, at least, a British Subject by way of parentage.  It is noted, from Irene’s British Red Cross Service Card, that her nurse training was carried out at Manchester Infirmary from 1896 to 1899.

On the same Red Cross Card, Irene gave an “aunt” as her next to kin: Mrs. Bissill, Caulfield, Victoria, Australia.  Mrs. Bissill was Irish-born “Mrs. Margaret Jane Bissell” nee Brown but no link between the two has yet been found.  Research continues but we may never know.

At some point, Irene arrived in Australia.  By 1905, Irene was a Private Nurse, working for a Dr. Birmingham in Fremantle, Western Australia.

This doctor appears to have been a Dr. W. P. Birmingham – who ran a Private Hospital in Fremantle.  In 1905, Dr. Birmingham, along with a Sydney H. R. Montgomery (a Belfast-born psychiatrist), devised a three year training course for psychiatric nurses. From 1917 to 1926/7, an address for Dr. Birmingham was 62 Queen Victoria Avenue, Fremantle. From 1927, Dr. Birmingham was found living at 61 Ellen Street, Fremantle.

In 1906, it’s noted that Irene’s address is Hotel Australia, Adelaide Street, Fremantle, W.A.  In the March and April, a court case hit the news – because Irene had had some jewellery stolen, whilst she was working for Dr. Birmingham.

The Daily News (Perth, WA) Thursday 15 March 1906 p13 [sic]:


Frederick Roach, who was charged with having stolen two gold rings, a gold brooch, and a gold chain, from Irene Dunn, last year, was remanded for eight days.”

The West Australian (Perth, WA) Monday 26 March 1906 p3 [sic]:


(Before Messrs. R. Fairbairn. R.M.. and G. B. Humble. J.P.) …

A Jewellery Case.-Frederick Roach was charged with having stolen two gold rings, a gold chain, and a gold brooch, valued at £15, the property of Irene Dunn. Mr. J.D. Moss appeared for the accused, and stated that the informant, who was a nurse, and had been employed by Dr. Birmingham, left the jewellery with the accused. When Miss Dunn asked for the jewellery, Roach informed her that he had pawned it, but promised to get it back for her. Counsel asked that the case should be dismissed on the undertaking that the accused would restore the jewellery to the informant. Detective-Sergeant Walsh said he desired the Bench to hear the evidence. Mr. Moss was not quite right in saying that the accused had told Miss Dunn that he had pawned the jewellery. As a matter of fact, the accused had blamed another man, who had taken his place at Dr. Birmingham’s, for having stolen the articles. He (Detective Walsh) also wished to point out that there had been some interference with the witnesses. The accused was remanded to Wednesday next.”

The Daily News (Perth, WA) Saturday 31 March 1906 p6 [sic]:


Mr. R. Fairbairn, R.M., told him that Humble, J.P., sitting in the Fremantle Police Court this morning, heard a case in which Frederick Roach was charged with having stolen two gold rings, a gold chain, arid a gold brooch, valued at £7, the property of Irene Dunna professional nurse. 

Mr. Solomon appeared for the accused.  Miss Dunn told the court that last year she left the jewellery with the accused at Dr. Birmingham’s house, asking him to keep it for her until she wanted it.  Later, he returned her the jewellery box, but certain articles were missing.  She spoke to him about this when she noticed that the jewellery was not there. He said that he thought a boy at Dr. Birmingham’s house might have stolen it.  In November he told her that the boy had acknowledged the theft of the rings, but that if he were not prosecuted he would return them. In March of this year she asked him for the address of this boy, and he promised to give it to her. He did not do so, and so she placed the matter in the hands of the police.  After the accused was arrested, he had asked her to withdraw the case on several occasions.  Once, when Mr. McKenzie, the accused’s bondsman, saw her, he asked her if she could not say that she had given the property to the accused to pawn. 

To Mr, Solomon:  The same night she told Mr. McKenzie and the accused that she had made a further statement to the police, and that they had informed her that she could not withdraw the caso.  She would have done so if she could.  She was sure that Mr. McKenzie did not say—“Didn’t you give the jewellery to the accused to pawn?” He said—“Couldn’t you say, etc.”  (Case Proceeding.)”

The Daily News (Perth, WA) Wednesday 11 April 1906 p 4 [sic]:


Frederick Roach pleaded guilty at the Criminal Court this afternoon to three charges of having stolen certain articles of jewellery from a Miss Dunn.

Mr. Moss made a short statement of the facts of the case, and on behalf of the accused made an application for Roach to be dealt with under the First Offenders’ Act.

His Honor remanded the accused in custody until to-morrow morning, when, if nothing unforeseen occurred, he would probably accede to Mr. Moss’ request on one surety of £25 being forthcoming.”

Northam Courier (WA) Tuesday 28 July 1914 p3 [sic]:

A Tribute to the Northam Hospital. (To the Editor.)

—Sir, As in all probability I will be leaving the State for the other side, before my departure I consider it a sacred duty, imposed on me to convey through the columns of your paper to the people of Northam my hearty thanks and everlasting gratitude for the wonderfui treatment I received at your noble institution, the Northam Hospital.

As many of your readers may remember I lost each leg below the knee through being run over by a train at Doodiakine, and was brought to the Northam Hospital a derelect and a burden to all, and death in sight. From that time and until I left, a period of four months, I experienced nothing but kindness and thoughtfulness, and everything was done with a smiling face to alleviate my sufferings. The treatment was such as to enable me to realise the divinity of Christianity, and the marvellous nobility of true woman hood. The memory of my sojourn in the hospital will always act as a solace in my present afflicted condition. My sorrow is, I have only words to offer, nothing more substantial. To the end Dr Rockett, Matron Benson, Nurses Doyle, Dunne and Preston and all will always be enthroned on the pedestal of memory, wreathed in the homage of deepest respect and earnest gratitude.

Wishing them all long life, wrapped in prosperity, and trusting the Northam Hospital may long continue to be the reservoir containing the healing waters with which to irrigate the lands of suffering humanity. —I am, PHILIP HENRY KIRK.”

Evening News (Sydney, NSW) Thursday 13 August 1914 p4 [sic]:


In the event of the military authorities deciding to send nurses away with the expeditionary forces, there will not be any scarcity of volunteers. Many of the trained nurses at Sydney, St. Vincents, and the Royal Prince Alfred hospitals have already expressed their readiness to join the forces.”

The Daily News (Perth, WA) Friday 14 August 1914 p8 [sic]:


Lady Barron has requested the “Daily News” to announce that she wishes the public to understand that her meeting in the Government House Balroom a few nights ago, was held only to form First Aid and Home Nursing Classes. She finds it necessary to draw particular attention to this, as she is being inundated with letters from nurses volunteering to go on active service, and from other ladies making many different offers to assist the Empire in a multitude of ways.

She has been told that the military authorities do not require nurses at present; what is wanted is that ladies anxious to join the classes for First Aid and Home Nursing should communicate with Lieut.-Colonel J. A. Campbell, 120 Aberdeen-street (‘phone 1206), who is the hon. secretary of the

St. John’s Ambulance Association, and who is kind enough to undertake the work of organising and continuing the classes, referred to.

Ladies anxious to knit socks arid the other garments suggested are asked to send in their completed work for packing at Government House on each Wednesday. The commercial firms in the city have nobly responded to the appeal for cases for packing the goods in.”

The Evening Star (Boulder, WA) Tuesday 15 September 1914 p1 [sic]:



The Minister for Defence is making an appeal to medical men to join the next contingents to Europe. He asks that as many of the profession as possible should volunteer.  

Nursing members required will be drawn from the present members of the Australian Army Nursing Corps, in various districts.         

Medical units consist of two general hospitals of 520 beds each, two stationary hospitals ; 200 beds each one clearing hospital, 200 beds, one field ambulance, 100 beds, and one Light Horse field ambulance, 60 beds, making a total of 1800 beds, which is double the number of beds in the public hospitals in Melbourne and Sydney. The total number of medical officers required to leave with the next contingent will be about 100. Fifty others are away at present or are about to leave for Europe. Many others are being kept for duty in Australia so that it will be seen that the war is putting the patriotism of Australian medical men to a severe test.

The reason why such a large number is required to leave Australia is because for years past there has been a great scarcity of medical men in the British Isles, and the Royal Army Medical corps has contained only 25 per cent of the number required for the army on a war footing.

Units will also require men trained and skilled in nursing and ambulance work. It is hoped that these men will be supplied by the St. John Ambulance Associations in the various Australian States.”

The Evening Star (Boulder, WA) Monday 5 October 1914 p1 [sic]:


Senator Pearce, the Minister for Defence has received offers from a large number of women from all over Australia to go as nurses to the war.”

It is known that Irene’s friend Nurse Helen Doyle had rushed to join the Army Nursing Service in Australia and perhaps Irene had done the same.  However, Helen had been told that there was a long waiting list for acceptance to serve. The result was that the two women decided to go to England at their own expense.  Helen was about ten years younger than Irene. 

The Northam Advertiser (WA) Wednesday 25 November 1914 p2 [sic]:

Farewell to Nurses.

The Matron of the Northam Hospital and Dr. Rockett request the pleasure of the presence of the people of the town and district at afternoon tea at the hospital on Wednesday next, December 2, to bid farewell to Nurses Dunne and Doyle, who are leaving for service at the front. No special invitations are being issued.” 

On 2 December 1914, that afternoon tea took place at Northam Hospital.  It was a get-together to say farewell and present gifts to Irene and Nurse Helen Doyle, before they left for Europe.

The Northam Advertiser (WA) Wednesday 2 December 1914 p2 [sic]:

“At the “Farewell Afternoon Tea” to be tendered Nurses Doyle and Dunn at the Hospital grounds this afternoon, the opportunity will be taken to present the prizes gained by the successful candidates at the recent Ambulance Association examinations.”

Northam Courier (WA) Friday 4 December 1914 p3 [sic]:

Nurses for the Front. NORTHAM VOLUNTEERS.


“We know them, we know their work, and we admire them,” said Mr. James Mitchell, M.L.A., at the Northam Hospital on Wednesday afternoon. Mr. Mitchell was speaking of two nurses of the Hospital staff—Nurse Doyle and Nurse Dunne—who are about to sail for Europe in order to devote their professional knowledge and skill to the healing of the wounded who fall in the war. 

At the invitation of the Matron (Miss Benson), the nursing staff, and Dr. Rockett, many of the leading residents of the town had assembled at the hospital to say good-bye to the departing nurses, and to show their admiration of the spirit of self-sacrifice which has led them not only to volunteer for service, but to travel at their own expense. 

Mr Mitchell, in presenting to each of the two nurses a gold wristlet watch, for which a shilling fund had been raised, said that it was the custom of the British nation to look after her fighting men, and we in Northam were sending two of our best nurses. No; we were not sending them. They had volunteered to goin response to the call of duty. (Applause). They were going home, not on tickets supplied by the British Government, the people of Northam, or anyone else. They were paving their own way. (Applause) Their duties would be particularly arduous and particularly dangerous.

He was sure that Nurses Boyle and Dunne would do good work. We knew them, we knew their work, and we admired them. (Applause.) Nurses often did more work than the men in the trenches. They restored the wounded, as only nurses could, and enabled them to return to the firing line. The people of Northam had asked him to make a presentation on their behalf to the two nurses. He was proud to have the opportunity of making the presentations, and of wishing them good luck and a safe return to Northam. (Cheers.) 

The Mayor (Mr. O. L. Bernard) said that it was a capital idea to give the townspeople an opportunity to say good-bye to the two nurses, of whom, they had every reason to be proud. He was sure that there would be no more efficient nurses at the front. They were going into the firing zone to give their best services to humanity. To realise that they were going must make those who were staying behind feel as little fishes in a pond, who would like also to be moving out into the great ocean, where they might play some part in the momentous affairs of to-day. They were proud and pleased to have in their midst two ladies who were ready to give their services at the front. (Applause.)

Dr. Rockett responded on behalf of the nurses. He thanked Mr Mitchell and Mr Bernard tor their kind addresses, and he personally could say that he was losing two of his best nurses. Wherever a

British soldier might fall, he could not have a better nurse than Nurse Dunne or Nurse Doyle. (Applause.)  Nurses had bled and died under the red flag in Belgium, and in many ways they were exposed to dangers as great as were faced, by the soldiers. He thanked all who had attended to do honor to the nurses. (Applause.)

At this Stage, Mr. J. Sibbald, on behalf of the St. John Ambulance Association, presented the prizes won by the successful candidates at the recent examinations. Dr. Rockett was the lecturer for the classes, and the examinations were conducted by Dr. Frost. The prizes were as under :—Miss Carleton (second year), special prize for highest number of marks (96 per cent.); Miss Hazel Haddrill (first year), prize for highest number of marks in afternoon class ; Miss Dolly Raynes (first year), highest number of marks in evening class.

An enjoyable gathering broke up with cheers for the departing nurses, the Matron, and Dr. Rockett, and the singing of “Auld Lang Syne” and the National Anthem. Nurses Doyle and Dunne intend to sail on the 12th inst.”

Southern Times (Bunbury, WA) Tuesday 15 December 1914 p6 [sic]:

Social Notes.

From our contemporary, the “Northam Advertiser” we cull, the following:- On Wednesday afternoon there was a most representative gathering at the Hospital in order to bid farewell, good luck, and a safe return to two of the most popular nurses it has ever been our good fortune to have in Northam, Nurses Dunn and Doyle, who are leaving for the front on December 19th. The matron, with Mrs Rockett and an enthusiastic party of lady helpers, had decorated the hospital with choice flowers and Union Jacks, whilst the grounds were prettily arranged with Gipsy tables and plenty of chairs. A very delicious afternoon tea had been provided, to which all present did justice. After the tea, fruit of all kinds was handed round, and as the afternoon proved so warm, was much appreciated. An enjoyable musical programme had been arranged. As many patients, as were able, were on the verandah, heartily enjoying the music and watching the fun. After the musical programme was over, Mr. Mitchell in a few well chosen and patriotic words, presented Nurses Dunn and Doyle with a pretty gold wristlet watch each, suitably inscribed, from the townspeople of Northam. Mr. Bernard also had a few words to say on the subject. Dr. Rockett, on behalf of the nurses, thanked everyone, and on his own account remarked that he was losing two of the best and must unselfish nurses he had ever had in the Northam Hospital. Three heart cheers were given for the nurses then for the Matron and the doctor after which “For they are jolly good Fellows,” “Auld Lang Syne,” and “God Save the King.” were sung.”

On 14 December 1914, Irene and Helen Doyle left Northam and began the first leg of their journey to England.

Southern Times (Bunbury, WA) Tuesday 15 December 1914 p6 [sic]:

Departing Nurses.

Nurse Dunne and Nurse Doyle, who are going to render service to the stricken soldiers at the front, intend to leave Northam on Monday morning next. They will sail on the 19th for Adelaide, whence they will leave for London on the24th.”

On 18 December 1914, Helen Doyle left for Perth – she had been staying at her parents’ (Councillor/Mayor Henry Doyle and his wife Elizabeth) home in Collie (110 mls south of Perth) – it is not know whether Irene with her.

Collie Mail (Perth, WA) Friday 18 December 1914 p2 [sic]:

Nurse Doyle, who has been spending a few days with her parents, Mr and Mrs Hy. Doyle, of Collie, left for Perth this morning and will sail from Fremantle for England to-morrow, she, with a sister nurse, having volunteered to go to the front. … “

Southern Times (Bunbury, WA) Thursday 2 September 1915 p3 [sic]:

Cr. Doyle received a most interesting letter from his daughter, Nurse Doyle (now at Coombe Lodge Hospital, Great Warsley, Essex) who, it will be remembered volunteered her services at the beginning of the year, and proceeded to England at her own expense, with Nurse Dunn of Northam. Nurse Doyle has been doing home service for the Red Cross Society since 6th March last, and is now a Sister in charge of the ward. She speaks highly of the courage of the returned wounded soldiers. The nurses apparently, from the tone of the letter, have been having a strenuous time of it, although at the time of writing there, was a lull in the war at Flanders, although great activity was being displayed at the Dardanelles. It would appear from the letter, that not only are the postal arrangements unsatisfactory so far as the men on – active service are concerned, but also for the nurses, as letters have by some means, miscarried.  Nurse Dunn was sent to the Manchester Hospital in March and is engaged in the same laudable work.”   (N.B. “Great Warsley” is Great Warley in Essex).

On 19 December 1914, Irene and Helen Doyle sailed from Freemantle (w of Perth), for Adelaide. On 24 December 1914, Irene and Helen Doyle sailed from Adelaide, Australia to London, England – on the ship SS Commonwealth: to carry out war-nursing in British Home Hospitals.

10 February 1915, Irene and Helen arrived at Port of London, to carry out war-nursing in British Home Hospitals.

Helen’s WW1 nursing service began on 6 March 1915 at Coombe Lodge Aux. Mil. Hospital, Great Warley, Essex.  Helen stayed there until 20 August 1915.  After this British Red Cross service, Helen joined the Q.A.I.M.N.S. and was posted to France.   Helen nursed in Field Hospitals in many theatres of war, including Ypres – she was invalided home in 1919.  These are the links to Helen’s British Red Cross Service Cards:-

http://www.redcross.org.uk/About-us/Who-we-are/History-and-origin/First-World-War/Card?sname=Doyle&page=2&id=63741 and


As already mentioned, Irene gave her next of kin as “(aunt)” “Mrs. Bissill, in Caulfield, Victoria, Australia”. (N.B. Mrs. Margt Jane Bissill or Bissell nee Brown/e – bn c1838 Ireland, ?Belfast – given her age, is she a “great” aunt instead?   Also in Australia, Margaret had a sister Agnes [bn 1830 Scotland]. Agnes, who was Mrs. George Darvill/Darvall Grace, died 6/7/1914 Melbourne – a family notice on Trove showed her address as 10 Crimea St, Caulfield; plus a brother Wm Richard [bn c1834 Ireland] who died 1882 Victoria, Australia).  Any information on this family will be welcome.

Irene’s registered temporary address in Great Britain was the Nurses’ Hostel, Frances Street, S.W.   It appears that Irene “signed in” on 26 February 1915, to begin her First World War British Joint War Committee nursing service:-

1915, 4.3-20.5:      Red Cross Hospital, Town Hall, Henley-on-Thames.

1915, 27.5-30.9:   Aux. Mil. Hospital, Burnage Lane, Levenshulme, Manchester.

1915, 4 Oct:          Irene began working at Witham V.A.D. Auxiliary Hospital, Essex.

1916, 5 Jan:          Irene left the Witham V.A.D. Hospital.

1916, 9.2-29.3:      Red Cross Hospital, Alford, Lincolnshire.

1916, 29.3-27.10:  Red Cross Hospital, Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire.

1916, 17 Nov:        Cawston Manor Red Cross Hospital, Norwich, Norfolk.

British Red Cross card for Irene Agnes Hilda Dunne. Permission given by The British Red Cross©

British Red Cross card for Irene Agnes Hilda Dunne. Permission given by The British Red Cross©

British Red Cross card for Irene Agnes Hilda Dunne. Permission given by The British Red Cross©

British Red Cross card for Irene Agnes Hilda Dunne. Permission given by The British Red Cross©

On 2 January 1917, Irene resigned her volunteering placement at Norwich, to return home to Australia.  Irene was awarded the British War Medal for her nursing services during World War One – it is listed in the name of “Irene Hilda Agnes Dunne”.

Irene sailed from the Port of London on 31 January 1917, on the ship ‘SS Port Adelaide’. The Passenger List notes her as “I.H.A. Dunne”.    En route, the ‘SS Port Adelaide’ was torpedoed by a German submarine.

Along with the crew, there were only 7 passengers: Mr. & Mrs. L. W. Hutchinson; Mrs. M. K. Hollis, with her 3yr old son Hugo & 1yr old daughter Joan; Children’s Nurse Miss A. E. Reffell; and Irene. All passengers were “British Subjects”.  No crew list has been discovered, as yet.  All aboard survived but the captain was taken prisoner by the crew of the submarine.

The SS Port Adelaide or SS Indrapura. Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson.

The SS Port Adelaide or SS Indrapura. Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson.

Once back on Australian soil, Irene was interviewed about her terrible experience when the SS Port Adelaide was torpedoed:

The West Australian (Perth, WA) Monday 16 April 1917 p5 [sic]:


There arrived at Fremantle Sister J. H. Dunn, who before the war was associated with the staff of the Northam Public Hospital. For more than two years Sister Dunn has been participating in war-nursing work, and her experiences during that period have been exciting and varied.

In December, 1914, Sister Dunn left Australia for London, where she joined the staffs of various hospitals, acting as a voluntary worker in a service to which her training tendered her capable of lending much assistance. While in England she experienced all the horrors and nerve shaking effects of Zeppelin raids. But Miss Dunn’s most thrilling experience did not take place until, having completed her two years of service, she was homeward bound for Australia. 

She secured her passage with six others on board the s.s. Port Adelaide, which left London on January 31 last. For three days the voyage was uneventful but when the vessel was about 170 miles off the south coast of Ireland she encountered a German submarine, which fired a torpedo at her at about 4 o’clock in the afternoon. For the time it appeared that the shot had not struck the vessel in a vital spot, and passengers commenced to go below to gather together a few things, as a precautionary measure. While Miss Dunn was in her cabin an hour after the first shock she felt the striking of a second torpedo. ‘The ship listed slightly, but showed no signs of sinking. The passengers were gathered together, the boats manned and lowered, and the crew and passengers waited around in the boats to watch the fate of the steamer. For two hours the vessel remained afloat, and just as it appeared that the ship was safe the Huns launched a third torpedo, and sent her to the bottom. 

The submarine then rose to the surface and approached the ship’s boats. The Germans took the chief officer prisoner, and visited the other boats in search of the captain. That officer, the purser, and others were in the boat to which Sister Dunn had been allotted, and as it was the last boat visited by the submarine and the Hun officers stood on the conning tower with levelled revolvers, the captain thought it better for the welfare of all concerned that he should give himself up. This he did, and the chief officer was released. In perfect English the Germans conversed with those in the boats, and made inquiries as to the name and particulars of the steamer, and her cargo and destination. The chief officer, who had been a prisoner on the submarine for nearly an hour, said that he had been told that the submarine had followed the Port Adelaide since 8 o’clock in the morning, and in the meantime had sunk 16 other steamers. After the enemy had submerged and gone off on another chase, the castaways awaited about for the arrival of the s.s. Samarinda, a Dutch vessel with which they had been in touch by wireless before the steamer sank. Shortly after 9 o’clock the Samarinda appeared and took aboard those in the boats. 

A two days’ journey took them to Vigo, a port on the north coast of Spain, where with the crews of six other vessels of various nationalities they were handed over to the care of the British Consul. The passengers and crew of the Port Adelaide lost all their papers and personal belongings, and it was necessary for them to wait in Vigo for 16 days for new pass-ports and instructions. Thence they travelled overland to Gibraltar through Madrid, and joined an Australian-bound mail steamer at that port. Even then their unpleasant experiences were not finished for in the Mediterranean they were chased by a submarine, and had to put back to the fortress for several days to await the arrival of an escort: and when nearing Port Said they again had signs, that an enemy craft was aware of their whereabouts, although nothing eventuated.  

Sister Dunn pays a high tribute to the attention she and her distressed friends received at the hands of the captain of the Dutch ship which rescued them.  She regrets most of all the loss of those treasures of war which had been given to her by soldiers for whom she had cared in the British hospitals, for beyond a hair comb and the clothes she wore she took nothing from the Port Adelaide. The lot of a mother and two children who were fellow-passengers was particularly hard, especially in Spain, where they found themselves in a strange land without friends. Sister Dunn left on Saturday to resume her position at the Northam Hospital.”   SEE THE PROFILE OF A ‘SS PORT ADELAIDE’ ENGINEER AT THE END OF IRENE’S PROFILE.  

Irene “resumed”  her position as a nurse at the Government Hospital there and she was found in the 1917 electoral roll living at Northam, Western Australia. Irene was still at the Hospital in 1918.

In September 1920, Irene took up the position of Acting-Matron of the Wooroloo Sanatorium, Northam, Swan, Western Australia.  Sister Dunn, late of the Government Hospital, Northam, has taken up her duties as acting matron of the Wooroloo Sanatorium.” (The Daily News, Perth. 28 September 1920); “Sister Dunn; who was the popular matron of Northam Public Hospital, has been appointed acting matron of Wooroloo Sanatorium.” (The Sunday Mirror, Perth. 3 October 1920).

The Sanatorium actually came under the auspices of the Government Hospital in Northam, where Irene had been working. In 1921, there were still military patients at the Sanatorium.  From February 1917, the site had become No. 22 Australian Auxiliary Hospital.

An article mentions that “she has been in charge of the nursing side of the establishment for over 16 years.” in 1937 (‘The West Australian’, 17 December 1937). 

On 26 November 1922, the Sunday Times of Perth noted: PERTH PRATTLE PARS. Matron Dunn, of Wooroloo, who was also a popular member of the A.A.M.C., is contemplating an Eastern States tour during her leave of absence.”

Outgoing Passenger Lists show that Irene obviously returned to England on two occasions after the First World War ended.  She is found arriving in Southampton in July 1924 on the ship ‘Hobsons Bay’, from Brisbane.  She was listed as “Irene Hilda A. Dunne”.

On 12 August 1924, the Perth Daily News noted: Mainly About People (“FRANZISKA.”) … Matron Dunn, of the Wooroloo Sanatorium, who travelled to England recently by the Hobson’s Bay, writes to her friends of her safe arrival in London. During her short sojourn in the great city she had met many Westralians and old friends.”

She departed from the Port of London on 23rd September 1924, on the ship ‘T.S.S. Moreton Bay’ – she arrived in Freemantle on 24 October 1924.  The Incoming Passenger List gave her occupation as “Hospital Nurse”.

In the Australia Electoral Lists of 1925; 1931; 1936; & 1937, Irene was still found at the Wooroloo Sanatorium– as Matron.  Irene was either listed as “Irene Hilda Agnes” or “Irene Hilda”.   Wooroloo, incidentally, means “high place on a high place” in the aboriginal language.  There was a Matron’s House on the site, for Irene to live in.  This give much information about the Sanatorium: http://inherit.stateheritage.wa.gov.au/Public/Inventory/Details/d2e12592-92b0-4fec-b836-f6e2651ebbb9

Westralian Worker (Perth, WA) Friday 16 December 1927 p12 [sic]:

THE WOOROLOO SANATORIUM. From the Viewpoint of a Patient.

The Sanatorium was built some two decades ago at Coolgardie, primarily to meet the growing wants of the occupational sufferers of the goldfields.  But it was discovered, following the lines laid down by Old World authorities, the rarefied air of the higher altitudes was more conducive towards recovery than the dry air of the lower stratas, so in 1914 the Labor Government then in power, commonly known as the Scaddan Government, decided to transfer its activities to a point nearer the coast, and a spot among the hills in the Darling Ranges was chosen.

Since its erection the Sanatorium has filled a long-felt want, to not alone the stricken miners, but to chest sufferers elsewhere. in the State. It has become an obsession among a great number of the sufferers (more particularly those suffering from the occupational disease in the gold mining industry, engendered by imagination, tinged perhaps with a touch of despair) that the Sanatorium is a place which has on its portals the fateful words: “Abandon hope all ye who enter here.”  But that is a wrong obsession, for, figuratively speaking, on every word, carved deep in letters of living gold, are the pregnant words, “Faith and Hope.”

The Institution has been very fortunate in having as its Medical Officer Dr. Mitchell, a man who has devoted the best years of his life to the study of the white plague, and we can say – and feelingly so – he has become the prototype of Father Damien, of Molokai Island. Going through the various wards, as it is our privilege, it is indeed a revelation to realise the confidence the patients have in Dr. Bob, as he is affectionately termed. It is indeed satisfactory to have a man who commands such confidence. It has been said, and truly so, that Dr. Bob looks on the patients as one big family, and he is the father.  Since our sojourn in the institution, Dr. Mitchell has been ably assisted by Dr. Jacobs and Dr. Anderson, the latter gentleman being the present R.M.O., each following in Dr. Mitchell’s footsteps, cheering them and alleviating the sufferings of the afflicted. 

In Matron Dunne the institution has a lady who also commands confidence, as she does her daily rounds, giving a cheerful word to all, and by that cheerfulness doing much to take the patients away from themselves. The body of nurses, who are under Matron Dunne, serving their apprenticeship in the noblest of all professions, are each and all doing their utmost to ease the suffering, and following the lines laid down by the Matron: To nurse the sick and help the weak; As only gentle woman could. The cheering words of comfort speak; And live, and only live for good.

The culinary arrangements of the establishment are excellent. Naturally, in an institution of this kind, where the inroads of the disease play such havoc with the digestive organs of its victims, it would be impossible to satisfy all, but to the best of their power everything is done to make that part of life acceptable. In the dining room, as elsewhere, every attention and kindness is shown. The religious wants of the patients are well catered for by two clergymen—the Rev. Father McBride, R.C., and the Rev. Whitehead, C. of E. During our six months’ sojourn they have been the only clergymen we have noticed here. Once a month two noble combinations, working in the interests of God’s greatest gift to man – Charity – visit the Sanatorium. One the Society of St. Vincent de St. Paul, the other the Church of Christ; the former distributing smoking requisites to the men and female requisites to the lady patient the other, the Church of Christ, distributing parcels of sweet meats, and both giving that which all important—a cheerful word to all.

Some years ago, the Ugly Men’s Association, with that promptitude which is characteristic of them in finding out and assisting suffering humanity, finding that a hall would be of material assistance to the patients, erected one, replete with every convenience for entertainments. Looking at the tablet commemorating the erection, we muse on the amount of good the association has accomplished elsewhere as here, and this we know, when the Great Architect assembles his craftsmen in those great halls of Valhalla, and he reviews the work of each and all, this will be the guerdon given: “Ye have builded greater than ye knew.”

There has been formed from among the patients what is called a “Welfare Club—a club formed to appeal for funds and to distribute those funds to the best advantage. The object of the fund is to provide recreation for the patients, namely, card tournaments and such like, whereby the rivalry engendered by such will assist in fostering that most essential, taking the patients from themselves, also to provide funds for other necessaries. A generous public his provided a comprehensive library, with, we are told, some 5000 volumes, embracing all classes of literature suitable to each individual taste. The Welfare Club has been able, through the liberality of the public, to provide funds, in the first instance, to pay to each patient the sum of 1/3 to enable the men to procure smoking necessaries, and the lady patients any needed toilet requirements. This payment is made every Monday morning. The club also runs a tobacco and stationery business, whereby the patients can purchase goods at cost price.

Through the generosity of the metropolitan picture proprietors, they are in a position to run a picture show every week. On several occasions during our sojourn, Perth, concert parties have visited the place, Miss May Hodman, M.L.A., as ever to the fore in causes of this kind. The Perth City Band and the Bunbury Band have also paid visits, and musical treats of such a high order are very much appreciated. Many of the patients who are in a position, that is from the health point of view, have cultivated gardens, and in the flower season those gardens are, to quote from Keats, “A thing of beauty and a joy for ever.”  As fine a display of the flower kingdom as one could see surrounds the immediate environs of the institution. Wattle and other trees of a like nature have been cultivated, and now in. springtime add considerably to the natural beauties of the place.

Strolling on the hills overlooking the institution, we ponder over things, and the thoughts come, and very forcibly to our minds, at the Litter irony of matters, that in a young country as ours is such an institution should be necessary. Walking through the wards we find men who had followed Bayley to unknown Coolgardie, others ’93, ’94, and ’95 men who had journeyed in that hectic track to the Golconda of the West. Men with whom we had “swamped” to Coolgardie ere the railway era of the fields—that old time road of so many memories:

Old-time road of castle-building, road of weird and wonder dreams;  Days when, hope, our sun, came breaking through the clouds in golden gleams;  Days of youth with life before us, carefree though each rising sun;  Gave a day of toil and hardship ere its westward course was run;  When we bore the White man’s burden, staggered ‘neath its dreary load;  Blistered feet and limbs aweary, down the old Coolgardie-road.

You who live in city comfort, with life’s easy ebb and flow;  “What know you of others’ suffering, you who only comfort know?  You have garnered where you sowed not, trodden paths the weaklings tread;  Only followed at your leisure where the old-time strong men led;  They had braved the tides of fortune, boldly launched their argosies;  On the ocean of endeavor—to provide you lives of ease.

Those men who had journeyed far, in many cases the pioneers of the country’s progress, but to-day, in the evening of their lives, the occupational disease of the gold mining industry having claimed them, are now in the Sanatorium fighting the last great fight, in many instances friendless and alone. We look on those men, and the analogy comes before us of Byron’s Gladiator, “Butchered to make a Roman holiday.”  Looking again at so many victims of miners’ disease, contracted through the deep levels and the machine work of the Boulder mines, knowing the millions of pounds which have been distributed through the toiling of those sufferers and their fellows, and knowing the conditions under which they toiled, and knowing also so much of that money has gone to men “who toil not, neither do they spin,” and as we realise the injustice and the bitterness of it all, those immortal lines of Shelley come ever before us, “Those gilded flies who, basking in the sunshine of a court, fatten on its corruption. They are the drones of the community. They feed on the mechanics’ labor. The starved hind for them compels the stubborn glebe to yield its unshared harvests. And yon squalid form, leaner than fleshless misery, that wastes a sunless life in the unwholesome mine, drags out in labor a protracted death, to glut their grandeur; many faint with toil that few may know the woes and cares of sloth.”

It is night. Lights are out at 8.30, our wards open, facing eastwards, as we lie in bed and watch the moon rise on the Darling Ranges; our thoughts fly ever eastwards, to those far-off days when we had watched the self same moon rise in places, not more beautiful perhaps from a lover of nature outlook, but ones with not such environments as these. As we lie there musing, the silence of the night and the weird expectancy of the bushland takes possession of us, the silence only broken by the coughing of some sufferer or the silent footsteps of the nurses doing their rounds. Morbid, perhaps, are its surroundings, naturally it is so; but, oh! the bitterness of it all, that we in a God-blessed country such, as ours, such should be yet realising that an institution should be needful, one is pleased to know those in power have realised their responsibilities and have done something to repay the debt the country owes the sufferers, who in many in stances were the pioneers of that country’s progress, though only able to make the sunset of their days a bit peaceful. “So much to do, but, alas, so little done.”  We turn away, and as we turn, the words come unbidden: “One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.”  –  “TEMORA.”  The Sanatorium, Wooroloo.

A book called ‘As I Remember Them’ by Noel Stewart (1987) recalled times past on:

“There was an interesting annexe to the hospital in those days for which Dr. Mitchell and the then Matron (I.H.Dunne) were responsible. This was a small leprosarium which I must admit I was surprised to find there.  It comprised four small cottages, a recreation room and a tennis court and was a considerable distance from the main building.  The setting was a delightful one in the midst of tall gum trees and there were four patients in residence:  a 14 -year-old part Aboriginal girl who showed no outward signs of her illness, and three men, one of them a  returned soldier.  They were being cared for by a kindly husband and wife team who joined the patients’ games of tennis or other amusements. The young girl had a nicely decorated bedroom with books, ornaments and baby doll adding a homely touch.” 

Westralian Worker (Perth, WA) Friday 3 August 1928 p7 [sic]:

TO HELP THE SUFFERERS. “Temora” writes from the WooroIoo Sanatorium thus:

“On Saturday, July 14, a bazaar was held at the Wooroloo Sanatorium, its objective being the providing of funds towards a new picture machine, and to clear off the debt on the curtain of the recreation hall stage. Dr. Mitchell opened the function in the afternoon and until a late hour in the evening the fun incidental to bazaar proceedings waxed fast and furious. The whole of the inmates, staff, etc., entered enthusiastically into the affair and with so many willing and earnest workers its success both socially and financially was assured. A dance was held later in the evening and a fair sprinkling of Perth and local visitors tripped the light fantastic.

A Popular Nurse Competition was also held, the competitors being Nurses Boxshali, Roe, and Lockheed, the successful claimant to the honor being Nurse Boxshali, who secured an easy victory over her rivals. Great credit is due to the ladies for their untiring efforts in making the bazaar the success it was, the lady patients in particular being very earnest in their endeavor. The thanks of the Welfare Club are due to those ladies who worked so energetically in organising the bazaar and particularly to Matron Dunne, who organised, and with her staff of nurses and the other ladies of the staff contributed so much towards making the objective a social and financial success.

We also take this opportunity of thanking Mr. Pat Hanna and his company for the entertainment they recently provided, and also the picture company who produced the picture “Ben Hur” at the Sanatorium on a recent date. It is to the kindness and forethought of such friends that the greatest of good comes from, providing that essential in cases of sickness, taking the subject for a while from their sufferings, and showing them though disease has claimed them they are not forgotten, and proving once again “One touch of pity makes the whole world kin.”

Sunday Times (Perth, WA) Sunday 6 October 1929 p50 [sic]:

WOOROLOO WELFARE FUND. Excellent Work Performed.

At the annual meeting of the Wooroloo Welfare Fund Committee held In the Overseas Girls’ Room, Murray-street, Perth, the balance sheet, which had been prepared by the fund’s hon. auditors, Messrs. W. A. Carcary, Halvorsen and Co., showed that donations for comforts and certain necessities for patients amounted to £120, and disbursements together with the balance in hand, to £114. 

The president of the fund (Mr. R. S. Sampson, M.L. A.) explained the position in respect to provision of X-ray equipment for the sanatorium. Wooroloo, it was explained, is the only institution of its kind in Australia which is not so equipped. The need of an X-ray plant had often been stressed by medical experts and towards the provision of this the committee had worked. The work of the Chief Resident Medical Officer (Dr. Mitchell) and his associate (Dr. Stevens), together with that of the matron (Miss Irene Dunne) was acknowledged. It was largely due to the efforts of the resident staff that an amount of £700 had already been raised. The committee has set out to raise £750.

In the report of the year’s activities, the hon. secretary, Mrs. H. Dean, said that through the courtesy of the Minister for Health, Mr. Munsie, a car had been available, and the committee had been able to visit the sanatorium.  In addition to various gifts in the form of clothing, water hose to enable the patients to carry out pleasure gardening, and special help in necessitous cases, arrangements were made last Christmas whereby each patient was supplied with a parcel of his own choosing, to the value of 10/, while fruit, sweets, almonds and other gifts, including, decorations for the wards, had been forwarded. Mrs. Dean mentioned that many expressions of thanks were received. It was decided to issue the customary appeal for the forthcoming Christmas.

The officers for the ensuing year were:-Patron. Mr. P. A. Connolly; president, Mr. R. S. Sampson, M.L.A.; vice-presidents, Mesdames T. Coombe, R. Ardagh, H. I. Kirke, and Judges. Committee: Mesdames E. Frape, H. E. Parker. R. W. Birch, J. P. Maxwell, C. M. Engleston, and Councillor Harry Baker: hon. treasurer, Mrs. Bourne, and Hrs. Harold Dean, Bruce-street, Nedlands, was re-elected secretary.”

The West Australian (Perth, WA) Friday 8 November 1929 p21 [sic]:

SOCIAL EVENTS. … Mounts Bay Sailing Club Dance.

The ladies’ committee of the Mount’s Bay Sailing Club, with Mrs. Harold Dean, honorary secretary of the Wooroloo Welfare Fund, organised a dance to raise funds for an X-ray plant for the Sanatorium, and this took place at the Temple Court Cabaret last evening. The committee included Mrs. L. Joubert (president). Mrs. J. Herman and Mrs. Dawson (vice-presidents), Misses Freda Wilson and Myrtle Webster (joint honorary secretaries), and Mesdames Anderson, Sadlier and Bishop and Misses Tess Smalpage, Mollie Holmes and Topsy Copeland. The matron of the Wooroloo Sanatorium (Miss Dunne) and Dr. Stephens of Wooroloo, were among those present. Miss Dunne wore black satin; … …”

On 2 March 1930, the Perth publication ‘Truth’ printed the following: “Sailing on the Moreton Bay on March G will be Matron Dunneof the Wooroloo Sanatorium, who intends to visit America after “doing” England and the Continent.”

After travelling to England, on 5 July 1930, Irene left Southampton for New York on the ship Carmania.  Her occupation was “Hospital Matron”.  A visa to travel to the U.S.A. was issued in London on 3 July 1930.  Her “last permanent residence” was Wooroloo.   New York was a ‘stop-over’ because she was en route to her final destination, which was “Friend, Dr. Mitchell, Sanatorium, Wooroloo, N.S.W.”  [N.B. Wooroloo is in Western Australia, not New South Wales).

The Swan Express (Midland Junction, W.A) Thursday 25 Sept. 1930 p6 [sic]:

Wooroloo Welfare Fund. ANNUAL MEETING.

The annual meeting of the Wooroloo Welfare Fund was held on Friday afternoon, the president Mr. R. S. Sampson, M.L.A.) being in the chair. The balance’ sheet, as presented by the hon. auditors (Messrs. W. A. Carcary, Halvorsen and Co.), showed that donations during the year amounted to £131/11/-, and that comforts, etc., supplied to the patients, amounted to £103/17/-. The balance at the bank amounts to £27. 

In the course of the report submitted by the secretary (Mrs. Harold Dean), it was mentioned that the year just closed completed the eighth year of operation of the Fund. Special reference was made to the activities of the Fund in connection with the Christmas period. At that season of the year, members of a sub-committee visit the Sanatorium and interview the different patients, following which, parcels to meet individual suggestions are made up, the value in each case being not less than 10/-.  Further, additions to the Christmas dinner table of fresh fruit, sweets, almonds and raisins, and decorations for the wards, is each year much appreciated. In the report the secretary states that “We are confident that, although hard times are with -us, our friends will continue to give, thus permitting the bringing of cheer and a little brightness into the lives of some of our less fortunate brothers and sisters.” In addition to the special gifts referred to, many requests for warm clothing and boots, and woo! for the making of garments, were met, in connection with which a number of letters expressing thanks were received.

During the meeting reference was made to the success which attended the efforts of patients,     Matron Dunne, Dr. Mitchell and Dr. Stevens, and the Wooroloo Welfare Fund, in connection with the amount required for the purchase of X-ray equipment.  Gratitude was expressed that the Government has agreed to subsidise the amount collected.  Portion of the X-ray plant has already been landed. The installation of the apparatus is expected to take place at an early date.  In connection with the plant, the efforts of Messrs. Curtin and Nairn, M’s.H.R., in their successful efforts to secure remission of Federal duty, and the efforts being put forth by Mr. Curtin to secure remission of the Sales Tax, are gratefully refered to, and it was decided to write the members concerned, thanking them for their efforts.

Great satisfaction was expressed that in the near future the long needed X-ray plant will be available for the treatment of patients’.  The election of officers resulted as follows: Patron, Mr. P. A. Connolly; president, Mr. R. S. Sampson, M.L.A.; senior vice-president, Mrs. T. Coombe vice-presidents, Mrs. R. Ardagh, Mrs. H. Judges. Mrs. J. P. Maxwell; life member, Mrs. Haynes; hon. treasurer, Mrs. F. W. Bourne; committee, Mrs. H. L. Kirke, Mrs. R. W. Birch, Mrs. C. M. Eggleston, Mrs. E. Frape, Mrs. H. E. Parker and Councillor H. Baker; hon. secretary, Mrs. Harold Dean, Bruce street, Nedlands.

Arrangements were finalised regarding the issue of the annual appeal. A vote of thanks to the present and past Ministers for Health (Messrs. Latham and Munsie), to the president, secretary, treasurer, committee and hon. auditors (Messrs. W. A. Carcary, Halvorsen and Co.) brought (he proceedings to a close.”

The West Australian (Perth, WA) Saturday 28 December 1935 p17 [sic]:


The annual Christmas visit of the Churches of Christ visitation committee was made to the Wooroloo Sanatorium on Wednesday. During the afternoon the visitors were entertained by the patients at afternoon tea. Mr. Chas. Cooper, as the oldest resident patient, presided and expressed the gratitude of the inmates for the work done by the visitors during the year. A beautifully- decorated illuminated address, prepared by one of the patients, was handed to Mr. C. H. Hunt, as representative of the committee. The address is an artistic piece of work, decorated with pictures of Australian wild flowers and scenes representative of the humility and mercy of Christ. Miss C. Bedford supported Mr. Cooper’s remarks. Mrs. C. H. Hunt (superintendent of the committee) moved a vote of thanks to the lady patients of the institution for the afternoon tea and acknowledged the practical help of the medical officer (Dr. Mitchell), Matron Dunne and her staff.”

Again, in 1937, Irene visited England.  The purpose of the trip was a visit to London to attend an International Congress of Nurses. She was given a small medal/clip as a memento of her attendance, which is shown below.

Irene Dunne: ‘International Congress of Nurses’, London 1937. Courtesy/© Geraldine Rees.

Irene Dunne: ‘International Congress of Nurses’, London 1937. Courtesy/© Geraldine Rees.

On 06th October 1937, Irene left Southampton on the ship ‘Esperance Bay’ – bound for Australia.    Irene docked in Freemantle on 5 November 1937- the Incoming Passenger List gave her occupation as “Matron (Nurse)”.

The West Australian (Perth, WA) Friday 17 December 1937 p5 [sic]:

AT THE WOOROLOO SANATORIUM. Aiding & Comforting the Sick By “Halsted.”

It was in 1906 that a move was first made for the establishment of a sanatorium for the treatment of tuberculosis in Western Australia, Doctors Henry Augustus Ellis and Alfred Webster being most concerned in the work. The warm dry climate of the goldfields was at that time considered most suitable for the nursing of the patients and a few wards at the Goolgardie Hospital were adapted for the purpose. Later they were altered again to permit of open air treatment.

The opening of the Coolgardie Sanatorhum coincided with the arrival in Western Australia of Dr. R. M. Mitchell, who was appointed to take charge of the newly-instituted work. This he has continued until the present time, when he is in charge of the sanatorium at its new location in Wooroloo.

With the passing of years it became apparent that Coolgardie was hardly central enough to serve the whole State, and also that it possessed no particular climatic advantage for the treatment of

tuberculosis. Those concerned, therefore, turned their eyes westwards in the hope of finding a site nearer the capital which would be easily accessible from all parts of the State, and eventually Wooroloo was selected. That the transfer was a wise move has been amply proved during the intervening years, and interstate and overseas visitors have been enthusiastic in their praise of the site. It is considered, too, that the hills atmosphere is ideal for the nursing of patients affected with tuberculosis.

War Service.

The erection of the existing buildings at Wooroloo was practically completed by 1915 and during the war the rear section was used as an auxiliary military hospital, known as No. 22 A.G.H. At the present time negotiations are proceeding to establish this section as a preliminary training school for nurses, and if this eventuates, a special training sister will be appointed and nurses will be required to spend only eight or nine months at Wooroloo instead of the 12 months at present prescribed. The training now given at Wooroloo is claimed by Dr. Mitchell to teach nurses the true elements of nursing. The patients with whom they have to deal require special and sympathetic attention of a kind that does not usually enter into the more scientific routine of a general hospital.  Many of the patients must

necessarily remain in bed for years at a time, but notwithstanding this, bed sores are practically unknown in the institution–an achievement which reflects considerable credit on the nursing staff.

While the population at Wooroloo is more or less a moving one, some entering the institution for only a few months to be built up in the hope of arresting the trouble from which they are suffering, others must remain for years as, for example, a woman who was a patient at the Coolgardie Sanatorium over 20 years ago and who is still a patient at Wooroloo.

The average number of patients in the sanatorium varies between 150 and 180, although at present it is down to about 122. Invariably the male patients outnumber the female by two to one, the explanation offered by the doctor for this being that women refuse to leave their homes and families until it becomes imperative for them to do so. This, he added, was a great pity as the disease could be arrested if taken in time. If left too long there was far less likelihood of successful treatment. In this connection the doctor stressed a slogan now being given prominence in New South Wales “Early T.B. is seen, not heard.”

Valuable X-ray Plant.

Every opportunity for “seeing” the trouble is offered at Wooroloo by an up-to-date X-ray plant introduced to the sanatorium five years ago following a strenuous money-raising campaign in augurated by the institution itself, assisted by the Wooroloo Welfare Fund committee. The sum of £850 was raised and this was subsidised £1 for £1 by the Government. Thus a plant valued at £1,700 was acquired and the work of the sanatorium has since been greatly facilitated. The X-ray serves many useful purposes, not only in establishing the progress of the patients, but also in ascertaining whether would-be probationers possess a physical fitness adequate for the job they wish to undertake. Whilst the risk of infection, as a result of severe precautions taken inside the sanatorium, is small, any predisposition to respiratory affections would immediately disqualify a candidate for a probationer’s post.

A visit to the Wooroloo Sanatorium is a revealing experience to those previously uninitiated in the workings of such an institution. The buildings, which cover a large area, are situated half a mile or so from the main road and are designed primarily for the comfort of the patients. The sleeping quarters, dining rooms and recreation rooms are large and airy, the dormitories and dining rooms being completely open on one side. Thus the patients are never indoors. Those who are able to leave their beds spend about two hours a day attending to individual garden plots; others while away long hours with knitting and fancy work (both of which are enjoyed by men as well as women) and reading. In between whiles nourishing foods are dispensed by the nurses. As one patient remarked to the writer this week: “No wonder we get fat up here; they seem to be bringing us egg flips and things all the time.”

Getting Fat Process.

Get fat the patients certainly do. One boasted proudly that she had gained 2½ stone in a few months; another 81b. in the three weeks she had been in the sanatorium. “It’s a great place,” declared another delicate looking girl who had entered to be “built up.” “I didn’t want to come here, but I love it now and am quite glad I’m going to be in for Christmas.”

There is no lack of cheerfulness among the patients, and bright conversation is exchanged from bed to bed, while those who are up help to encourage their less well companions by periodical visits for a chat or to collect their mail.  Letter writing, of course, is a constant pastime and so great is the volume of correspondence handled that the institution has its own post office; also a bank, and administrative office (presided over by the acting-secretary, Mr. Knox Peden), well-equipped store, a large library containing the latest books and a recreation hall where pictures are shown five times a month. Wireless and gramophones also provide entertainment. Gifts of books and gramophone records for the patients would be deeply appreciated by the doctor and by Matron I. H. Dunne, who has been in charge of the nursing side of the establishment for over 16 years.

The nursing and domestic quarters for the staff (which numbers over 60) are completely separate from the wards and patients’ dining rooms and no crockery or cutlery used by the patients is allowed to leave the sculleries attached to their dining rooms. Meals for the entire institution are cooked in a well-equipped kitchen in giant stoves and boilers. Two large refrigerators help to provide summer comfort.

The Welfare Committee.

Many of the comforts enjoyed by patients at Wooroloo are due to the efforts of the Wooroloo Welfare Fund Committee, a few members of which, including Mr. R. S. Sampson, M.L.A. (president), Mesdames H. Dean (hon. secretary), W. Bourne (hon. treasurer), H. G. Judges, J. Ardagh, L. L.  Kirke, C. M. Eggleston and A. J. Case, and Mr. L. Thorn, M.L.A., motored up to the sanatorium last Monday to ascertain the Christmas requirements of the patients, each of whom may choose a gift to the value of 10/. In addition to these gifts, the committee (which is supported by voluntary contributions) provides nuts, raisins, drinks and other fare appropriate to the occasion and any decorations requested for the wards, the best decorated ward being given a prize of 10/. Thus the Christmas season is made as happy as possible for those compelled to spend it under such circumstances, while, throughout the year, the committee distributes other comforts, such as wool for knitting, to those whom it has under taken to help and cheer. It also keeps the library supplied with new books.

The Wooroloo Welfare Fund Committee came into being 16 years ago, and was the descendant of the Soldiers’ Sick Children Committee which had operated in conjunction with the War Patriotic Fund. When the Soldiers’ Sick Children Committee disbanded, its officers continued to work together on behalf of Wooroloo patients, the president and secretary (Mr. Sampson and Mrs. Dean, respectively) having carried on in their present offces ever since. Donations for the work are always gratefully acknowledged by either Mr. Sampson, Mrs. Dean or Mrs. Bourne (hon. treasurer).

The Lepresarlum.

No description of the work being done at Wooroloo under the direction of Dr. Mitchell and Matron Dunne would be complete without a reference to the leprosarium, which is also under their jurisdiction. It must be confessed that this much discussed establishment, which is about three-quarters of a mile from the sanatorium, was approached one afternoon this week with no small feeling of apprehension, but this was soon to be dispelled.

The buildings of which the leprosarium is composed are beautifully situated in a typical hills setting. Kindly gum trees provide a natural screen and the surrounding bush is such as anyone, wishing to escape from the cares of the troublesome outside world, would choose as a setting for his home. Portion has been cleared to make a tennis court, which is used from time to time by several of the five residents and their attendants (a trained nurse and her husband), while each cottage is surrounded by well-stocked flower beds. Four brick buildings comprise the settlement, including three cottages, comfortably appointed, for the men and women residents and the attendants, and a recreation hall.

A peep into one of the bedrooms (whose occupant is a pretty 14-years-old quarter-caste girl from the North) disclosed comfortable furnishings, pleasing decorations, books and a large baby doll sitting happily on a bedside table. Outside on the verandah was a tennis racquet carelessly dropped after a recent game. This, in common with the other racquets in the settlement, had seen better days and it was learnt that the gift of several racquets in better condition, also balls, would be greatly appreciated.

At present one woman, Florrie (the quarter-caste girl) and three men (including a returned soldier) are resident in the leprosarium. Theirs is a lonely life, but the doctor and matron, with the loyal and unselfish co-operation of the attendants, do all in their power to make their isolation as little tedious and distressing as possible, while members of the Wooroloo Welfare Fund Committee always include them when dispensing comforts at the neighbouring sanatorium. It might be suggested that members of the general public should also remember these people whom Fate has dealt one of her hardest blows. Occasional gifts of books and papers, sweets, tennis equipment or anything likely to lessen the burden which they have to bear would do much to brighten their lonely existence.

Gifts for either the sanatorium or the leprosarium may be left at any railway station, addressed to “The Secretary, Wooroloo Sanatorium, Wooroloo.” If marked “Donation,” they will be carried freight free.”

Additionally, in 1939 & 1941, Irene is found within a list headed ‘Nurses – Midwives (uncertificated), at Wooroloo.

Toodyay Herald (WA) Friday 25 October 1940 p3 [sic]:


The above fund has been in existence since 1923. Its operations provide for the collection of funds for boots, shoes, warm clothing and other necessities, wool for knitting, seedlings to encourage gardening by the patients, and various little luxuries. The work of the Fund has the approval of, and has received commendation from the C.R.M.O. of the Sanatorium, Dr. Mitchell, and the Matron, Miss Dunn.

The committee, of which Mrs. Harold Dean, 24 Bruce-street, Nedlands, is Hon. Secretary, is desirous of securing help from those in different towns and districts who are prepared to conduct entertainments, card parties, or other functions, whereby assistance in money or kind would be forthcoming. Every penny contributed counts in full. There are no paid “workers. Help given would be gratefully received and faithfully dispensed. Those who are prepared to assist in the way of holding functions are respectfully asked to communicate with the Hon. Secretary.

Contributions to the Fund may he sent to the Hon. Treasurer. Mrs. F. W. Bourne, 796 Beaufort-street, Mt. Lawley. or to the Hon. Secretary.”

Irene retired from her job as the Wooroloo Sanatorium Matron at the end of December 1940:

The West Australian (Perth, WA) Thursday 2 January 1941 p8 [sic]:

WOOROLOO. Dec. 30.-

A farewell party was tendered .to Dr. R. M. Mitchell and Matron I. H. Dunne by patients and members of the Sanatorium staff on December 22.”  

The West Australian (Perth, WA) Tuesday 14 October 1941 p6 [sic]:


Indications of some of the good work done by the Wooroloo Relief Fund for Inmates of the Wooroloo Sanatorium are modestly contained in the 20th annual report of the fund, released recently. During the year the fund provided “Christmas Cheer” parcels for the patients to a value of 10/ each and for the festival season provided fresh fruit, cordials and sweets. In June, wool was purchased at a cost of £16/16/9 and circulated among the patients so that they might knit garments for themselves. Requests for clothing were attended to, and garden hoses, fittings and electric Irons supplied. Arrangements for the treatment of three eye cases were made and spectacles were purchased. The report pays tribute to Dr. Mitchell, who has retired from the service, and Matron Dunn, who has been associated with the Institution for many years. A welcome to Matron Rochfort and the new medical superintendent was extended.”

The West Australian (Perth, WA) Friday 2 May 1947 p18 [sic]:


Mrs. V. R. Abbott, Mrs. Robert Mitchell and Miss I. Dunne, who was matron at the Wooroloo Sanatorium for many years, were the principal guests at Tintern Lodge on Wednesday night when the ex-trainees of the Kalgoorlie Government Hospital held a cheery reunion dinner.”

Irene spent her retirement living at ‘Trees’, Old York Road, Greenmount, Western Australia.

'Trees', Old York Road, Greenmount, WA. 1946. Courtesy/© Geraldine Rees.

‘Trees’, Old York Road, Greenmount, WA. 1946. Courtesy/© Geraldine Rees.

Irene shared ‘Trees’ with her good friend and fellow-retiree Matron Edith Anne Frazer, aforementioned.   The two friends often had another friend visit/to stay – she was Nurse Catherine Gardner.

'Trees', Old York Road, Greenmount, WA. Present Day. Courtesy/© Geraldine Rees.

‘Trees’, Old York Road, Greenmount, WA. Present Day. Courtesy/© Geraldine Rees.

Irene died on 28 October 1950 “aged 75 years”.  Her ashes were scattered in the gardens at Karrakatta Cemetery in Perth, Western Australia.  Irene never married.

For Western Australia’s Metropolitan Cemeteries Board entry for “Irene Hilda Agnes Dunne”, see:  http://www2.mcb.wa.gov.au/NameSearch/details.php?id=KC00005347

Acknowledgements and grateful thanks to Geraldine Rees; Vicki  Owens; Faithe Jones (http://ww1nurses.gravesecrets.net/); and Mundaring & Hills Historical Society Inc.

Articles courtesy of The National Library of Australia … http://trove.nla.gov.au/



The postcard of the ship ‘SS Indrapura’ and ‘SS Port Adelaide’, shown with Irene above, belonged to one George Newton.   George was 5th Engineer on the ship which was originally called ‘SS Indrapura’ but which had, in 1916, been renamed ‘SS Port Adelaide’.  It is deduced that George was on the ship when it was torpedoed.

Of course, to write a piece about George here is a complete digression from the subject of Great War Home Hospitals but it is considered fate that some of George’s possessions were acquired by the author, whilst carrying out research on Irene Dunne.

George Liddell Newton. 27 November 1917. Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson.

George Liddell Newton. 27 November 1917. Courtesy of Heather A. Johnson.

George was born on 14 November 1890 in Newcastle Upon Tyne, Northumberland.  He was the son of Durham-born Locomotive Fireman Richard Hepple Newton and his Newcastle-born wife Jessie (nee Liddell).   As a younger man, father Richard had been a “Waterman”.

George’s paternal grandparents were Durham-born Lancelot Newton and Mary (nee Shepherd).  Lancelot had the occupations of Waterman; Steamboat Owner; and Boiler Smith “under his belt”.

When George’s birth was registered in the fourth quarter of 1890, his entry was “George Heriot Newton” – the name Heriot being inherited from his maternal grandmother Margaret nee Heriot/t.  George’s maternal grandfather was Seaman Andrew Liddell. Both George’s maternal grandparents were born in Dunkeld, Perthshire, Scotland.  Both George’s maternal grandparents were born in Dunkeld, Perthshire, Scotland.

Sadly, in that same quarter of 1890, the death of George’s mother Jessie was registered.  It appears, from that moment on, George’s middle name became known as “Liddel/l” – to honour Jessie, it is surmised.

In the 1891 Census, which took place on 5 April, George would have been less than 5 months old.  George was found at 79 Mowbray Street, Heaton, Newcastle, with his “Waterman” father Richard (who is “Head” of the household) and his widowed grandmother Margaret Liddell.  Obviously, Margaret was living there to help care for her late daughter’s baby, George.

In the 1901 Census, George was with father Richard; step-mother Jane; and step-sister Suzy Garratt (who has, mistakenly been given the surname of Newton).  They are living at number 49 Stratford Road, Heaton, Newcastle.  Father Richard had married Jane Garratt (?widow) in the 3Q of 1899.

In the 1911 Census, George was living at 99 Mowbray Street, Heaton, with his father Richard; step-mother Jane; and Susie Garratt, who is noted as a “Boarder”.  Father Richard is a “Stationary engineman” at a wood saw mill and George’s occupation is an “Apprentice millwright”, at an Engineer’s business.  The helpful words “1st Marriage” are written against George’s name.

At some point in time, George became a Merchant Seaman.  The earliest we can put George down as a Merchant Seaman has to be the end April/early May 1915.    He was a 5th Engineer on the ‘SS Indrapura’, when it docked in Sydney, NSW, Australia (via Melbourne) on 1 July 1915 – having left London end April/early May, probably (?).   In 1916, the ‘SS Indrapura’ was re-named ‘SS Port Adelaide’.

On 28 August 1916, the ‘SS Port Adelaide’ arrived in Sydney, NSW – from New York – before visiting various other Australian ports.  On 29 September 1916, George Newton had his Autograph Book written in – which was ‘signed off’ as “T.S.S. Port Adelaide at Sea”.  This proves George was a crew member on that voyage.

Thus, on 18 October 1916, George would have been on the ‘SS Port Adelaide’ as it left Sydney, Australia – heading for its final destination of London.

The ‘SS Port Adelaide’ was George’s ship (although he may have always thought of it as the ‘SS Indrapura’), when it left the Port of London on 31 January 1917.  t is deduced that George was an Engineer on it.  See Irene Dunne’s experiences above) about the ‘SS Port Adelaide’ being torpedoed, within the article in 16 April 1917 edition of The West Australian “TORPEDOED BY HUNS”.

George Liddell Newton. 27 November 1917. Seaman’s ID card. Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson.

George Liddell Newton. 27 November 1917. Seaman’s ID card. Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson.

As a consequence of the sinking of the ‘SS Port Adelaide’, George is found on other ships: Port Kembla; Port Alma; and Port Albany:

1918 Electoral Register:    Absent Voters List: 23 Eversley Place, Newcastle Upon Tyne.  S.S. “Port Albany,” Mer. Ser. 3948.

1919 Electoral Register:  23 Eversley Place, Newcastle Upon Tyne.  1919 Spring.

1920 Electoral Register:  Absent Voters List: 23 Eversley Place, Newcastle Upon Tyne.  S.S. “Port Albany,” Mer. Ser. 1920 Spring.

George married Doris Courtenay Tucker in 1920, probably in the first quarter of 1920 – in the Barnet District, Middlesex.  Certainly, one Doris C. Tucker married one George L. Newton then.

1922, 18 December:  Mercantile Marine Ribbon and British Medal Ribbon issued – to “Hull”. “George Liddell Newton”.

1926, 8 April:  Mercantile Marine Medal and British Medal issued – to “8 Adam’s Avenue, Liverpool” (maybe Adam Close now?).  “George Liddell Newton”.

In the 1939 Electoral Register, George and Doris were living at ‘Indrapura’ [Glenville off the Kettering Road] in Northampton.  A third person at the property has been redacted on the form (on Ancestry), suggesting a person still living.

Doris Courtenay Newton, “of 4 Glenville Kettering Road Northampton”, died on 12 October 1977. [N.B. the postcode for 4 Glenville, Northampton is NN3 6LZ.  It is deduced that no. 4 Glenville was ‘Indrapura’).

Doris Courtenay Tucker was born 4 August 1892, Hackney in London.  She was the daughter of Cornish-born parents: Wesleyan Minister William John Tucker and Bessie Rowe (nee Jose).

George’s death had been registered seven years earlier – in June 1970, in the Daventry District of Northampton.  There was no probate entry, as would be the case with widow Doris.   Interestingly, there were two entries: “George Heriot Newton” AND “George Liddell Newton”. Both entries have same date; and same volume & page: 3b 1246.

This, in its simple way, is meant as a tribute to George Newton and all the First World War Merchant Seamen, who sailed the high seas during dangerous times.


George Newton’s Autograph Book : WW1 dates

Like so many people of that era, George Newton kept an autograph book.  Here are the 21 autographed pages, which are displayed in the order they appear in the book, not by date:

Front cover of George Newton’s Autograph Book. Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson.

Front cover of George Newton’s Autograph Book. Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson.

Inside cover of George Newton’s Autograph Book. Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson.

Inside cover of George Newton’s Autograph Book. Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson.

George signed his Autograph Book: “Geo. L. Newton S.S. “Indrapura” 20/1/16”.

George Newton’s Autograph Book, 6 March 1916. Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson.

George Newton’s Autograph Book, 6 March 1916. Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson.

George Newton’s Autograph Book, 2/2/16. Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson.

George Newton’s Autograph Book, 2/2/16. Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson.

George Newton’s Autograph Book, 12/11/18. Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson.

George Newton’s Autograph Book, 12/11/18. Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson.

George Newton’s Autograph Book, 28 January 1916. Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson.

George Newton’s Autograph Book, 28 January 1916. Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson.

The above autograph was written by Doris C. Tucker – George’s future wife!

George Newton’s Autograph Book, 12/11/18. Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson.

George Newton’s Autograph Book, 12/11/18. Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson.

George Newton’s Autograph Book, 10/4/16. Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson.

George Newton’s Autograph Book, 10/4/16. Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson.

George Newton’s Autograph Book, 9 February 1916. Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson.

George Newton’s Autograph Book, 9 February 1916. Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson.

George Newton’s Autograph Book, 13 June 1916. Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson.

George Newton’s Autograph Book, 13 June 1916. Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson.

George Newton’s Autograph Book. Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson.

George Newton’s Autograph Book. Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson.

George Newton’s Autograph Book, 19/2/16. Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson.

George Newton’s Autograph Book, 19/2/16. Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson.

George Newton’s Autograph Book, 23/2/16. Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson.

George Newton’s Autograph Book, 23/2/16. Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson.

George Newton’s Autograph Book, 17 November 1917. Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson.

George Newton’s Autograph Book, 17 November 1917. Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson.

The above page is a mystery – it is dated “Nov 17th 1917, with “S.S. Port Adelaide”, but the ship sunk in February 1917.  It must have referred to a past connection (?).

George Newton’s Autograph Book. Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson.

George Newton’s Autograph Book. Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson.

The page above/below were written by George’s future sister-in-law Amy C. Tucker.

George Newton’s Autograph Book. Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson.

George Newton’s Autograph Book. Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson.

George Newton’s Autograph Book. 16/4/10. Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson

George Newton’s Autograph Book. 16/4/10. Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson.

George Newton’s Autograph Book. 5 December 1914. Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson.

George Newton’s Autograph Book. 5 December 1914. Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson.

Although George Newton dated his Autograph Book “20/1/16”, on the inside front cover, the page above is definitely dated “December 5th 1914”.

George Newton’s Autograph Book. 29/9/1916. Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson.

George Newton’s Autograph Book. 29/9/1916. Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson.

George Newton’s Autograph Book. Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson.

George Newton’s Autograph Book. Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson.


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