Friday, December 22, 2017

Janet Howatson YOUNG, spouse of Dr Peter GORRIE.

My grandmother, Janet Howatson YOUNG, emigrated to South Australia in 1912, where she married my grandfather, Peter GORRIE, of Edinburgh, M.D.

[Last known photograph of Janet Howatson GORRIE (left), taken in the weeks leading up to her death in 1936.
She is with her sister Mrs Janey MACKIE.]

Janet died well before I was born, so I have no knowledge of her other than what I learned of her from my late mother, and from more recent research I have conducted into her life.

But I have a great deal of admiration for the way she dealt with the difficulties that life presented her - from her mother's death when Janet was just 5 years of age, and the consequent dose of the "wicked step-mother" syndrome, and with a degree of alienation from her father (she had to put her age up to circumvent him from stopping her from doing nursing, and he disapproved of her going to Australia) - to the rigours of bearing children in relatively "remote" outback locations thousands of miles away from her remaining close female relations (including her sister Janey MACKIE in India, and her maternal grandmother Janet Burns Howatson THOMSON then living in Essex ) - to the final indignity of having to see her marriage end in a welter of whisky and wallopings, and packing her pickled and estranged Peter off, back to Scotland, not once, but twice, the second time just months before she died, aged 53, and understandably well nigh exhausted.

This article I dedicate to her memory.

An earlier post in memory of her husband, Peter GORRIE, may be seen at this link:

The story of her YOUNG and THOMSON family origins in Ayrshire may be seen at this link:



Janet Howatson YOUNG was born at Winton Place, Beith, on 14 February 1883, the first-born child of Robert YOUNG, Railway Station Master at Beith Town Terminus, by his first wife Elizabeth THOMSON.

[The earliest known photograph of Janet, far left, aged about 5.

Was this a typical family photo, or was this a token "isolation" from their consumptive mother?]

Janet was aged 8, Scholar, with her widowered father, 1891 Census.

Janet was educated at Beith Academy, where in May 1896, she was awarded 5th prize for an essay on "Kindness to Animals", a copy of "The Lamplighter," by Miss CUMMINS (with an inscribed book-plate of the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty for Animals); in the following year, 1897, she was awarded 13th prize, a volume of SHAKESPEARE's "Hamlet" (with an inscribed book-plate of the Ayrshire Shakespearean Society) for "Excellence in an Examination" on the same play.

[A family portrait, taken about 1898. Janet is standing to the left, behind her brother Robert Junior, with sister Janey standing right, their father Robert YOUNG seated right, and step-mother Eliza YOUNG (otherwise ANDERSON otherwise THOMSON) seated left.
This portrait is remarkable for its lack of any distracting background - clearly, I think, a deliberate choice of either the photographer or the sitters.
Image courtesy of David CRAIG, a great-grandson of Eliza's sister Margaret ANDERSON.]

Janet was living with her father and step-mother in the 1901 Census, aged 18, a Dressmaker's Apprentice.
And judging by the above family portrait, it appears that her step-mother probably had much higher standards of dressmaking than her late mother - especially in the "sleeves" department!

Janet joined the staff at the Davidshill Hospital for Infectious Diseases, near Dalry, in late 1901, as a probationary Nurse. She would tell her family later that she raised her age to 21, evidently so that she would not be required to have parental approval - it appears that her father had intended her to acquire only those skills that suited her becoming some good Ayrshireman's wife.
And given that her mother had died of Tuberculosis, perhaps Janet was inspired to do nursing as a tribute to her memory - although this "remote" institution was undoubtedly the closest hospital to Beith anyway, being just 2 miles from her father's home.
She remained at Davidshill until 22 December 1904.


Janet removed to Edinburgh, and on 2 January 1905, entered the School of Nursing in the Royal Infirmary, the teaching hospital to the renowned Medical Faculty of Edinburgh University.

[Janet Howatson YOUNG, on the nursing staff of the Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh.
This was part of a group photo, and I am not sure whether any further attempts to reprocess it will produce a better result.]

There she met her future husband Peter GORRIE; and on his 25th birthday, she gave him a volume of R.L. STEVENSON's "Virginibus Puerisque" inscribed "J.H.Y., P.G., August 7th 1906.
Janet Howatson YOUNG was certificated on 2 January 1908, as Number 879, Register of Nurses, Royal Infirmary. On 31 December 1908, she received a testimonial to twelve months as Assistant Staff Nurse in Surgical Wards of the Royal Infirmary.

[Janet's Nursing Registration Certificate.]

In January 1909, Janet visited Peter GORRIE in Corbridge, Northumberland, where he was gaining his six months experience in General Practice (towards his qualifying for the additional degree of M.D.); she stayed overnight of 5 January with Peter's family in Edinburgh on her return.
Janet, then residing at Lyndoch Place, Glasgow, received a letter dated 29 January 1909, accepting her into the Nursing Service of the Territorial Force. It is not clear whether she took up active duty, but she must have made some sort of a living up until she departed for South Australia three years later.
Peter GORRIE visited Janet in Glasgow on 6 September 1909, and they travelled together to Edinburgh, where she stayed with his family for three days before farewelling Peter to Colchester, where he was gaining his six months experience as a House Surgeon in a major County Hospital.
Janet sailed from Glasgow on the Blue Funnel Line Steamer "Aeneas" bound for Adelaide via the Cape of Good Hope. She was ticketed on 1 February for a "Cabin Passage" in Cabin 31, Berth B, at a cost of £40.
Janet appears to have got on the wrong side of her father yet again - she would relate later to her family that he had disapproved of her choice of destination, preferring that she had chosen America, where he had a number of relatives. It is not clear whether he might also have disapproved of her choice of marriage partner. It is evident that she did not see him again.


Janet arrived in Adelaide on 13 April 1912, and appears to have gone to reside at 104 Barton Terrace, North Adelaide, the residence of Rev Dr George DAVIDSON, a Presbyterian Minister.
It was he who married her there, just two days later, to Peter GORRIE, with the witnesses being Jessie DAVIDSON (probably the Rev Dr's wife) and P. H. WIDMER (of no known relationship to either Janet or Peter).

The newly married Janet went to Port Elliston, on the west coast of the Eyre Peninsula, whence Peter had only recently removed from Cummins, which was then a bit of a "frontier" settlement, without a hospital, and perhaps not a suitable place for a respectable man to take his newly wedded wife.

Janet was soon "put to work" some four months after arrival, as acknowledged at a meeting of  the Elliston Board of Health, on 4 September 1912, where several motions were put and carried:
"... that £10 10s be donated to Mrs GORRIE for her unremitting services in attending at the hospital during the crisis of an overflow of patients, and at the same time being without a nurse...
"... that the Secretary write a letter to Mrs GORRIE conveying the Board's thanks for undertaking charge of the Hospital and attending the patients, and that the Board appreciated the services which she so cheerfully rendered."
All when she was four months pregnant with her first child, and 16,000 miles away from close family support.

For, on 21 January 1913, Janet gave birth to that first child, a son Robert Maclagan GORRIE, and named for Peter's maternal grandfather.

On 1 May 1913, Janet enjoyed her first taste of electoral enfranchisement, when a Federal Election was held - the Roll for the Port Elliston Polling Place, in the Division of Grey, South Australia,  recorded her as Janet Howatson GORRIE, Home Duties.
This was a privilege her female relations in Scotland would not achieve at a National level for another five years, but with a bit of help from her Suffragist GORRIE sister's in-law in Edinburgh, with whom Janet had spent some time with during her visits to Priestfield Road.


Six months later, the GORRIE family removed to Petersburg in July 1913. The reasons for this removal are unclear, but it would not surprise me if both Peter and Janet wanted to be involved with a larger community than the remote Port Elliston.

It was not until February 1914 that electric power was first generated in Petersburg, and not until the end of that year that private customers were connected to the supply, so it appears likely that Janet had to cope with an infant child, and a new confinement, without what we deem today as being a necessity.

For, on 26 June 1914, Janet gave birth to her second child, a daughter Elizabeth Nancy GORRIE, named for Janet's deceased mother (Elizabeth THOMSON) and for Nancy BROWN, who appears to have been a friend of Peter's.

And in that year, another Electoral Roll, for the same Division, recorded Peter and Janet Howatson GORRIE at Railway Terrace, Petersburg.

Two months after Betty's birth, the war broke out in Europe, and the GORRIE family was, like many others were, eventually affected by it.
Peter volunteered for temporary service with the Royal Army Medical Corps, and sailed for England on 14 May 1915. But of the eleven other R.A.M.C. enlistees on the boat, Peter alone travelled without his family.

[Janet, with young Bob, and Peter, with younger Betty, at Petersburg, 
shortly before his departure for service in the Great War.]

Janet may have decided that two very young children were too much of a handful on a long sea voyage, or she may simply not have wanted to revisit the disliked step-mother in Beith.

Three months after Peter sailed, Janet was still in Petersburg, and participated in Australia Day celebrations, which were scheduled to be held on 6 August, to involve a procession, a "Theatregraph" display, and an Afternoon Tea, where the sweets stall was "... in the hands of Mrs GORRIE.[Petersburg Times, 30 July].


On 2 December 1915, Janet embarked on the S.S. Malwa, bound for Colombo, on the first leg of a voyage to India, with young Bob and Betty, to stay with her sister Janey and her husband Jim MACKIE at Bihar in Uttar Pradesh.

There is a tale that Betty later reported, but clearly not from her own memory, that her mother, waving to those who farewelled her as the boat left the dock, noticed with horror that the trunk with the children's clothing had not been loaded. But as her departure from Adelaide was from the outer harbour, this is more likely to have occurred in Colombo (perhaps she observed that from the lighter taking them to the ship, and if so, the trunk was quickly recovered).

[Janet GORRIE and Janey MACKIE with the two infant GORRIE children (Bob and Betty) in India, 1915-16.
Despite my mother Betty being aged 35 when I was born, her image here, sitting in the wheelbarrow, is unmistakably her.]

The sojourn is chronicled by some picturesque photographs in Janet's surviving photo album (lots of small box-brownie style prints), including some larger prints showing majestic views of Himalayan foothills scenery, British-Raj architecture (Government residences) at Bhoura, Yatung and in Tibet, several of her brother-in-law Jim on his different polo ponies, and of the infant GORRIE children wearing their pith helmets!

After his stint in the Mediterranean on H.M.'s Hospital Ship Panama, Peter met up with Janet and the children in Colombo (the first words he heard his daughter Betty speak were in Hindustani), and there, they embarked on the R.M.S. Kaiser-I-Hind for their return voyage to Australia, arriving in Port Adelaide on 29 July 1916.


They almost immediately went to Peterborough (now renamed due to anti-German sentiment), and stayed briefly as the guests of Mr and Mrs S. KEALLY - Samuel KEALLY was the Town Clerk of Peterborough.
Peter spent some time in Broken Hill, prior to re-establishing his practice in Peterborough, but it is not known whether Janet and the children went there, or were getting their old house back in order, or a new one ready.
Peter was recorded on 22 October 1916 as having resumed practice at the house of Dr CLARKE in Bismarck Street; in November 1916, after his locum, Dr DUNSTON, and Mrs DUNSTAN, had departed, he "... resumed practice at Victoria Street this week" [Petersburg Times, 10 November].

While Janet was in Peterborough, she "learnt" to drive a car - as her daughter Betty would later recount, Janet was with him when he drove out to attend a call, and when it was time to return home, pleading exhaustion, he climbed in the back seat, requesting Janet to drive him home. This was in one of a series of cars Peter had, and was almost certain the Model-T Ford they knew as the "Tin Lizzie." Some license test that must have been!
Peter did register a 22.5 Ford in December 1916 (Regisration Number 7610); in April 1917 he advertised for sale a pair of ponies, a buggy and harness, so I am guessing that this Ford was their first car; and, after managing to set the Ford on fire in October 1917, he then registered a 22.5 Hupmobile in November 1917 (Registration Number 9577).
So Janet now had electricity AND a family car, just to make life a little easier.

On 6 Jun 1918, Janet gave birth to her third child, a second son Peter Creighton GORRIE, named for Peter's grandfather Peter GORRIE, and his maternal grandmother Isabella CRICHTON, Robert MACLAGAN's wife - although when Janet registered the birth, she appears to have been unaware of the correct spelling!

Janet was evidently finding the going tough with the new arrival, and on 27 September 1918, the Petersburg Times carried this notice for household help:
"Oct 10, a capable woman as Housekeeper, and a single man... Mrs GORRIE, Victoria Street."

But after this interrupted spell in Petersburg/Peterborough, their next move was imminent.

On 5 October 1918, a "..thoroughly representative gathering of citizens of the town and district met in the Parish Hall to say au revoir to Dr GORRIE, whom some of the speakers described as being the best medical man the town has ever had" [Petersburg Times, 11 Oct - it looks like the newspaper was too mean to change it's banner to the anglicised spelling].
And Janet was not overlooked - the report went on to note that "... his efforts had been nobly supported by his wife. A handsome presentation was made the doctor and Mrs GORRIE, and it is hoped that when the hospital, which has been talked of for a long time, becomes an accomplished fact, Dr GORRIE will return..."
This was the one sore point in any country doctor's life - the necessity of referring one's patients on to another, for want of handy hospital under their watchful eye.


The GORRIE family then moved to Port Augusta, where Peter settled in very well, but where Janet may just have started to become a bit jaded with "remote" country life.

Janet was once again recorded in the Electoral Roll, still in the vast electorate that still is Grey, and still on Home Duties.

On 22 August 1919, the Times and Northern Advertiser carried this notice:
"Wanted. Mother's help, must be fond of children, other help kept. Apply Mrs GORRIE, Port Augusta."
And in September 1920, she advertised yet another "Wanted. At once - General or Domestic help for about a month. Apply Mrs GORRIE" [Transcontinental, 10 September].

Mentions of her in the local newspaper are scant, and limited to references to her attire at the occasional social function - at the Annual Race Ball in July 1921, it was "... Black satin netted" - at the Ladies Night at the Town Hall in August it was "... Black charmeuse" - and I wonder if the colour may have been her metaphor for her mood?

But she was also mentioned, without any reference to her attire, as working on the Work Stall at the Montessori Fair at St Augustine's Schoolroom in December 1921.

And it was here, on 1 May 1922, that Janet gave birth to her fourth and last child, a second daughter Janet Howatson GORRIE, named in honour of herself and of her own maternal grandmother Janet Burns THOMSON formerly HOWATSON, who had recently died, in December 1918, at the advanced age of 88.

In December, 1922, Janet performed the opening ceremony at the Stirling Church Fair, and:
"... wished the function every success, and hoped the results would exceed even the most optimistic expectations. Little Nell MICHAEL presented Mrs GORRIE with a bouquet, and Mr MICHAEL moved, and Mr E. PROSSER seconded, a hearty vote of thanks to Mrs GORRIE."
[Transcontinental, 8 December].

But there is a sense of things beginning to unravel, and it was not long before Janet appears to have been the reason for the family's next move, to Mount Lofty, in the Adelaide Hills.

At a Meeting of the Port Augusta Hospital Board, on 17 June 1923, Peter mentioned that "... his resignation was in consequence of the indifferent health of Mrs GORRIE" - and that "... he had no desire to leave the practice but was compelled for family reasons to resign his position."

The several public farewells on 23 July 1923 were well attended, and further mention was made of Janet's contributions. Mr J. HOLDSWORTH, chairman of the Hospital Board, paid "... a high compliment to Mrs GORRIE who had loyally supported the doctor in his activities. He could only, with the other speakers, wish the Doctor, Mrs GORRIE and family every prosperity in their new home."


In December 1932, Peter's youngest sister Beth GORRIE stayed with them at Mount Lofty, after travels in America and India.

[Janet packs Peter up for one of his jaunts -  perhaps giving her some quiet time to herself?]

[Janet at St Anne's, Mount Lofty. Ever the woman in black.]

Janet also enjoyed an occasional game of golf.
At the Mount Lofty Club's Annual Easter Tournament, in April 1930, which ended with ties in both Men's and Women's four-ball best-ball bogey handicap events. Mrs P. GORRIE won the award for Women's "... approaching and putting" [Adelaide Observer, Thursday 24 April].

[The  fourth or fifth hole at Mount Lofty Golf Course in the early days.
This photo is in Janet's photograph album.]

But for Janet, things do not appear to have improved after the move to Mount Lofty.


Old Mount Loftians remembered the GORRIEs, and some of this oral history was collected by the Mount Lofty District Historical Society - transcriptions of which can be found in the Stirling Library.
David ROBERTSON observed:
"...they separated, Dr and Mrs GORRIE. And there were two factions - split the town down the middle - those that were for the Doctor and those that were for Janet. It got to a point, as kids, when you'd go over to play with - well to see kids - that I'd be glared at, at home, because it happened to be the son of somebody who was supporting the Doctor instead of... It got really quite tense."

In January 1933, perhaps leaving Peter to look after the children, Janet motored to Melbourne, with Mrs BRAILESFORD-ROBERTSON, to embark on an "autumn cruise" to Noumea; arriving back in Melbourne, she set out for Adelaide on 11 May, with her daughter Betty and Mrs Hampden CARR. I presume that Janet probably did the driving in both directions.

By October 1933, Peter had sold St Anne's to his successor, Dr Arthur REID, and had left his family in Mt Lofty. He sailed from Adelaide, 28 October 1933, on the S.S. Ballarat (Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company), bound for London; arriving there on 4 December, intending to stay at 7 Priestfield Road, Edinburgh.


Janet moved briefly to Bel Air, and then found a house in Glenunga, where she took in occasional patients who needed nursing care. One of these was Daisy BATES.
In the "shed" up the back of the yard, budding "artist" and family friend Gilbert ROACH set up a studio.

And then Peter came back to Adelaide, to attempt a reconciliation.

Janet's response to his desire to get his life back in order was telling, as she confided in a letter to her sister Janey MACKIE in India, dated 18 March 1935:
"I tried to get him to go back to Scotland again, or in fact anywhere away from Adelaide, but he decided to make another start in Adelaide... he would ruin this venture. Now he is NOT supposed to come here, there is nothing he wants more. He takes me and Janet out for runs on Saturday afternoons. He knows that this is the last opportunity and chance of coming back to his family..."

Janet had been advised to seek a legal separation so that she would not be liable for Peter's debts; on his ability to sort out his problems, including his professional disabilities due to an increasing dependence on alcohol, she wrote:
"...he may be able to overcome the weakness, but I hae ma doots."

Janet was correct - shortly after, Peter collapsed, and was hospitalised.

Peter made his final departure from Adelaide on 22 February 1936, sailing on the S.S. Barrabool (P. and O. S.N. Coy); arrived London 28 March, destination again 7 Priestfield Road, Edinburgh.

The "venture" referred to by Janet was her attempt to establish a Nursing or Convalescent Home at Lower Mitcham. On 5 May 1936, she purchased the 3.75 acre property known at St George's, with a frontage to Unley Road measuring 215 feet, with a depth of 788 feet to Durdin Road, on which stood an 11 room house, with out-buildings, on a well wooded property, which had recently been use as a slightly up-market Guest House.

Janet's somewhat precarious financial situation was evident from the fact that she immediately mortgaged the property back to the vendor, Dr Henry Carew NOTT (jointly with Mary Jane BOWMAN).

[The house Janet purchased in Unley and was converting into a Nursing Home at the time of her death. Photo taken in 2015.]

The property at Lower Mitcham survives - it was eventually purchased in 1950 by Mitcham Corporation, and was ear-marked as a site for a new Town Hall and Civic Centre. That plan never eventuated, but the old house (evidently built ca 1860) is now in use as a Child-care Centre, not far from the neighbouring old GAULT family residence, now better known as the Lenzerheide Restaurant.


Janet did not long live to "enjoy" her new venture - after a brief stay on the South Coast with her sister Janey MACKIE, out from India, she died at a Private Hospital in Adelaide on 2 June 1936.
Her remains were buried in a single plot in Mitcham Cemetery.

[Janet Howatson GORRIE's last resting place, Mitcham Cemetery, near Adelaide.]


In 2005, I received a beautiful letter from Margaret CRAWFORD.
She had been delivered by Dr GORRIE at Mount Lofty in 1927, but weighing in at 3.5 lbs, her survival was not guaranteed. Her parents, Agnes and Bill CRAWFORD, both Scots who lived in Mabel Street, had been childless for ten years of marriage, during which time Agnes had suffered from a bout of Rheumatic Fever - so the pregnancy itself had been very unexpected anyway.
However, in the Doctor's capable hands, Margaret had survived.
She wrote that her mother Agnes and Janet became very close friends.
Her mother would later tell her that when the GORRIE's were expecting visitors at St Anne's, Mrs GORRIE would call Agnes over to help with the cleaning, and the Doctor would declare to the Cook - "God help us all, they're at it again!"
She herself remembered her mother and Mrs GORRIE making jam in "... the big kitchen at St Anne's, reminiscing over places in Scotland they both knew."
She recalled Mrs GORRIE as being a little brusque at times, but attributed that to "... her Scots ways" - and that Mrs GORRIE was a regular at the church in Orley Road (the Congs).
Her summarising remarks about the Doctor and Mrs GORRIE was that they served the community "... above and beyond the call of duty."
She also recalled the deep effect Janet's death in 1936 had on her mother Agnes.

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