A Bush Nurse

Sister Mary Walsh was a woman whose diminutive physique belied her great strength, her selflessness, and her compassion towards those who were sick, injured or in need.

On call 24-hours-a-day, she would turn out on the bleakest night, and even had on occasions driven maternity cases to Launceston while still wearing her pyjamas and dressing gown!

Twin to Frank, she and her brother were born on 13th August, 1914. After three years nursing training in Adelaide (general, midwifery, and child welfare), Mary eventually arrived in Tasmania, taking up a post initially at Waratah then at the Lilydale Bush Nursing Centre in 1940.

Here her name was added to the list of nurses who had served the community since the founding of the Bush Nursing Centre in 1923:

Sr. M.L. Gillis (01/1923-11/1923);
Sr. E. Lanser 11/1923-09/1924);
Sr. O. G. Wallace (09/1924-09/1925);
Sr. A Philp (09/1925-01/1926);
Sr. C. A. Stammer (01/1926-12/1926);
Sr. L. Quigley (12/1926-02/1927);
Sr. J. Forsyth (02/1927-10/1927);
Sr. D. M. Stuart (10/1927-05/1932);
Sr. D. Hetherington (06/1932-06/1935);
Sr. R. Pitt (06/1935-01/1940);
Sr. C. M. Hurford (01/1940-02/1940);
Mrs. D. M. Arnold (02/1940-08/1940).

A little over seven years after Mary began her work in the community, a new Bush Nursing Centre was opened, in January 1948.

At the Annual Bush Nursing Ball held in August 1960, Mary was the guest of honour, having excelled her previous record and had by now served in the one location for twenty years - a State record. Her reward was a clock and a cheque for seventy-four pounds.

Then in 1966 came the Queen's Birthday Honours. Mary received an M.B.E. in recognition of her untiring service to the residents of Lilydale, not only as a nurse but in many community activities.
The young woman who'd arrived in Lilydale all those years before, went on to give thirty-four years of her life to the community she adopted and who embraced her.

She retired on 24th August 1974, returning to South Australia, where she lived out her remaining years until she died in 1998.

Article contributed by The Lilydale History Group

Note: As a mark of the respect the Lilydale Community have always held for Sister Mary Walsh the Lilydale Day Care Centre was renamed the Mary Walsh Centre on June 15th 2002.

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