Finding Winnie


Winifred McQuilkan
aka Clare Mallory

Why Find Winnie?

In the post-war years of the 1940's, author Clare Mallory wrote a series of novels. The novels were predominantly about schoolgirls at a boarding school in Dunedin, written for schoolgirls at a boarding school in Dunedin. The novels were partly intended to provide fresh material to what was otherwise a well-thumbed collection of books in the school library. However, another reason for creating the stories was so they could be read aloud to distract the attention of the schoolgirls when they were occupied with the tedious task of sewing up food care packages. These packages were for sending to the aid of Great Britain as her families struggled through the recovery phase which followed World War II.

I had no interest in Clare Mallory or her books, with one exception. During an Internet search for a family name, I found that Clare Mallory was a pen-name used by Miss Winifred McQuilkan. The McQuilkan name runs through my personal family tree and our branch of that line is associated with Invercargill and the early development of Southland. The early Southland McQuilkan's were not 'movers and shakers' of society, rather they were 'salt of the earth' Scottish country folk more comfortable out on lonely hilltops shepherding sheep.

That was pretty much where things sat for some years, until the day my friend Wendy Adlam expound on her interest in collecting schoolgirl novels. My ears pricked up when she mentioned Clare Mallory's books and that Clare's real name was Mc-something. She was surprised when a grey-bearded gent (me) was able to remind her of the McQuilkan name. Female authors of girls' novels were supposed to be in her specialist area. Wendy was suitably intrigued by this name connection and asked if I was interested in reading Winifred's biography. I was, and she loaned me a copy of Mallory's first book Merry Begins which had her biograpy and some background notes included.

That was how I found out that Winifred had been born in my home town of Invercargill. It also explained how one Sunday afternoon I could have been found engrossed in the perils of being a lowly new day-girl at a boarding school in Dunedin. Having read the McQuilkan biography I became interested to see if our ancestral lines met and, if so, how I might be related to Winnie.

Rex's McQuilkan's

To understand how my search for a McQuilkan connection progressed and how the clues I found resonated with me, a potted version of my own family history will help show the interconnection of our family trees.

My father was Percy Johnson of Invercargill, born 1915. He was a keen rugby player and started life as a greengrocer. He joined up for Military Service in 1939, did initial overseas training in Fiji, came back to New Zealand on leave and proposed to his girlfriend – Tui Ferns – then left for the Middle East for three and a half years. He served as a stretcher bearer in the Field Ambulance Corp of the 2NZEF in North Africa and Italy. In between battles, Pte. Percy was known as 'the Sports Dictator' and the person other soldiers would come to when organising sporting events between Units. Percy also helped write and present stage shows in competition to the official Concert Party. On his return from the war he and Tui married and Percy became a builder. They had a daughter then three sons, the third child being me.

Tui Ferns was born in 1919, the seventh child of thirteen born to Hubert Ferns and Isabella McQuilkan. Tui's brothers and sisters were all born in Invercargill between 1908 and 1932 and some of them attended Middle School. In those pre-television days news came out of valve radios, music came off 78 rpm bakelite records played on a phonogram, and live bands would lead their teenage dancing at church halls on a Saturday evening. Family members commonly wrote and staged their own in-house concerts – The Poor Little Mill Girl being a particular favourite. Cousin Betty was a regular column in the Southland Times of those days. Many Southland children mailed their poems and stories to Cousin Betty and they would see them published in the newspaper with their names as Cousin Johny or Cousin Annie, etc.

Hubert Ferns was of Irish Catholic descent, his family being in Melbourne Australia and originating in Birr, Kings County (Offally), Ireland. Isabella McQuilkan came from Scottish Protestant stock. Despite this potential clash of spiritual interest, they brought their children up to choose whatever religion they were comfortable with and that seems to have suited everybody.

Isabella McQuilkan was born at Dipton in 1885, fifth of six children to Donald McQuilkan and Catherine Robertson. Catherine was a widow to William Wallace and had three children from that marriage. She brought the children out from Perthshire, Scotland after William's death and the Wallace and McQuilkan children attended Dipton school, some of them being first-day pupils there. According to the local history book Moonlight Ranges by David Milligan, the McQuilkan family lived at Bridgepoint in a small house overlooking the Dipton bridge. Donald was born in Argyle, Scotland to Donald McQuilkan and Catherine Stivenson (sic).

Winnie and Frank's Grave

Efforts to identify someone's ancestry is easiest when done in reverse chronological order. Consequently, I started by searching for Winnie's grave, but I also ordered copies of her birth and marriage certificates from the Registrar General for Births, Deaths and Marriages. The Registrar General was to receive a small flurry of fax's from me during this period of research activity.

Winnie's biography in Merry Begins advised that she married a Frank Hall in 1949, that he died in 1979 and that Winnie died on 20 April 1991.

A key research source for me was the National Library Family History centre and it was there that I found nothing about Winnie's burial. From her biography I knew that she had been living in Wellington, but none of the finding aids recorded her burial. A notible gap in the cemetery records was that there were no details about the main Wellington cemeteries at Karori and Makara. Winnie's marriage certificate arrived and confirmed that she had married Graham Francis Hall and so presumably they would be buried together. One Saturday I rang the Sexton at the Karori Cemetery, found the office was open during the morning, so drove over there to grill him. I had barely been one minute in the office when I was on my way out the door again with two sheets of paper. The Sexton had asked me who I was looking for, had keyed in Winnie's name on his desktop PC, found her and Frank together and had printed off their details. He told me they were buried in the Roman Catholic section at Makara Cemetery and showed me where to find them on a map. Great service! Later that day I went searching for Winnie and Frank.

If you approach Makara from the Karori direction you reach the main cemetery entrance on the Makara Road just before reaching Makara village. Turn left into the cemetery and left again at the top of the hill into the macrocarpa drive. All the burial sections are clearly marked. Locate the first 'Inter-denominational' area signposted on the right and turn down the hill. The Roman Catholic section is on the right of this access road. Drive around the turning loop at the bottom and park. All rows are marked with letters – look for Row K, the sixth plot in from the road edge.

 Winnie and Frank Hall Makara

Frank and Winifred Hall
Makara Cemetery


Winne and Frank – Married Years

Winnie and Frank were married at St. Joseph's Cathedral, Dunedin on 23 February 1949. Frank was described as a medical practitioner, bachelor of Dunedin, and Winnie was a spinster of Invercargill. Frank's parents were Arthur James Hall, a medical practitioner and Gertrude nee' Meenan. Winnie's bridesmaid and witness was Marjory Taverner, her friend and secretary and the person who had prompted her to send Merry Begins to a publisher, then had typed up the manuscript for her.
Winnie's biography records that she and Frank then moved to England where they lived for three and a half years. Their only child Francis died at birth in 1951.

Another biographer, Betty Gilderdale, records in A sea change, 145 years of New Zealand junior fiction (Auckland: Longman Paul, 1982) “Our years in London were very full and very rich” said Mrs Hall on her return to New Zealand with her husband Dr GF Hall, after three and a half years abroad. Headquarters in London was a flat in Ealing. “We were within 5 minutes walk of Ealing Studios and it was not uncommon while out shopping to find oneself in the middle of a shooting of a film.”

In September 1952 the couple returned to New Zealand and settled in Wellington. Winnie returned to teaching and at different times was at Samuel Marsden Collegiate, Wellington Girls College, she tutored at Victoria University part-time and was eventually appointed to the permanent staff at Victoria University.

One evening with a group of friends in a restaurant, I reported the status of my 'Winnie research' to Wendy Adlam across the table. She responded with a 'Wellington Girls College, eh' and plucked a book from her handbag. It was not only my jaw that dropped when she was able to identify from her College history book the years that 'Mrs WC Hall, BA' had taught at that school.

To be fair to Frank, he was no slouch in his own field. Professor Graham Francis (Frank) Hall, CBE 1973, MA(NZ), MBChB(NZ) 1941, FRACP (Lond), FRCP(Ed) was a respected Wellington physician renowned for his devoted care of patients. He was appointed Foundation Dean of the Wellington Clinical School of the University of Otago at a time when it existed only on paper. He established successfully a close relationship between the Wellington Hospital Board and the University of Otago in his important roles in planning and developing the facilities and the making of the early professional appointments.

Frank's ill-health led to his being on sick leave for the latter part of 1975 and for much of 1976. He relinquished the administrative duties as Dean in September 1975 and retired following the recurrence of a stroke in 1978. He died on 18 March 1979 and was buried on 21 March at Makara.

Winnie's own health had begun to deteriorate and she retired from Victoria University at the end of 1978. Alzheimer's disease was diagnosed and by 1986 she was permanently hospitalised. She was aged 77 when she died on 19 April 1991 at the Aotea Private Hospital in Johnsonville. She was buried at Makara with Frank on 24 April.

Frank's War Years

It was with some interest that I read Frank's occupation on their marriage certificate. I thought that if he was a doctor and had gone to war, then there was a possibility he might have fought in a similar medical unit to my father. Swiveling in my chair, I brought down from the bookshelf my Official History of New Zealand in the Second World War 1939 – 1945, Medical Units of 2 NZEF in Middle East and Italy and flipped it open at the name index looking for Doctor Hall. Instead I found Major Hall and a writeup of his service. It reads as follows:

Major G.F. Hall, m.i.d; born Dunedin, 19 Jan 1914; House Surgeon, Dunedin Hospital; Medical Officer Maadi Camp Feb-Apr 1942, Dec 1942-Jun 1943; 4 Fd Amb Jun-Dec 1943; RMO 5 Fd Regt Dec 1943-Dec 1944; 6 Fd Amb Dec 1944-Oct 1945. To clarify some of these terms, m.i.d. Means he was mentioned in dispatches, Maadi Camp was the 2NZEF base outside Cairo, Egypt; the 2NZEF had three medical companies, the 4th, 5th and 6th Field Ambulance; RMO is Regimental Medical Officer; and 5 Fd Regt is the 5th Field Regiment - the gunners.

It is probable that Pte Percy Johnson, stretcher bearer of 5 Fd Amb, knew of Major Hall of 4 Fd Amb. However, unless he played rugby it is less likely that Major Hall was aware of Pte Johnson. Same time, same place in the world, same international events happening, but their respective roles may have not coincided.

Winnie in Invercargill

Winnie was born at 32 Yarrow St. in Invercargill on 4 September 1913 according to her birth certificate. Her biographers give other birthdates for some reason. Her parents were Donald Anstay McQuilkan, a grocer of Invercargill and Catherine Argent McQuilkan, nee' Beer born in Riverton.

A biographer advises that she and Winnie were at Middle School together. My mother, Tui Ferns, and some of her sisters also attended Middle School and some of these girls would have been Winnie's contemporaries. They certainly would have known the McQuilkan name and associated it with their mother's name. Along with Winnie, it is likely that the Ferns children added to the pile of mail that flowed into Cousin Betty's mailbox from around Southland.

Winnie's mother died on 20 May 1927 and she was buried at Riverton, presumably to be with her family. One Beer name is well associated with early Southand history. A Jack Beer was a runholder near Te Anau and he was responsible for cutting a track through the beech forest up onto Mt Luxmore to give summer grazing access for his stock. Mt Luxmore is famous as hosting a part of the Kepler Track, one of the Great Walks of New Zealand.

The Invercargill Electoral Rolls for 1914 and 1919 show that a Mary McQuilkan was also living with Donald and Catherine at that time. Mary could either have been Donald's mother or his sister. If it was his mother, she too died in 1927 and was buried at Balfour. It may have been at about this time that Donald chose to retire and move back to Balfour, the town of his birth.

Donald Anstay McQuilkin – Winnie's Father

Donald was born in Balfour about 1878, the second child and eldest boy of six children. His father was Alexander McQuilkan a shepherd and his mother was Mary Ann nee Durrant. Following Donald's Invercargill years he remained in Balfour until his death of TB on 20 November 1941.

Winnie's Aunts and Uncles

Winnie's McQuilkan father, aunts and uncles were: Catherine (Kate) 1875-1958 never married; Donald Anstay McQuilkin 1878-1941 father; Alexander Roy McQuilkan 1880-1918 never married; Isabella McQuilkan 1883-1918 married Archibald McLean McKechnie and they had one daughter; Mary McQuilkan 1888-; and Charles McQuilkan 1897-1960 never married. It is likely that Winnie visited her Balfour relatives when on holiday, and it may have been Isabella McKechnie's daughter she played with as cousins.

Uncle Charles in the Great War

When writing this article in the early weeks of October 2007, the 90th Anniversary of the Great War battle of Passchendale was being remembered. Those events were particularly relevant as I had just found the grave of Winnie's Uncle Charles in the Balfour cemetery. The memorial inscription read 'In loving memory of Pte Charles McQuilkan, 46772, died 12/7/1960, aged 62 years.' With some curiosity I moved down the road 100 meters from the National Library and entered National Archives where I sought Charles' military records. His war story reads like this.

Charles attested for military service on 6 January 1917 and spent 1 year and 229 days in the Armed Services. Of that time 206 days were in New Zealand and 1 year and 23 days were overseas.

His attestation form shows that he was currently a serving member of the 8th Otago Regiment, and had previously registered in Balfour for compulsory military training under the Defence Act, 1909. He wished to volunteer for the 26th Reinforcements draft.

At his attestation Charles apparent age was 20 years, he was 5 ft 5 3/4 inches tall and weighed 10st 5lb. He had minimum and maximum chest measurements, was of dark complexion, had brown eyes and black hair, and had a religious profession of Presbyterian.

He had normal sight in his right and left eyes, normal hearing in his right and left ears and had normal colour vision. His limbs were well formed, the movement of his joints were full and perfect, his chest was well formed and his heart and lungs were normal. No comment was made about the condition of his teeth, but he had not had any previous illness. He was free from hernia, variocele, varicose veins, hemorrhoids and any inveterate or contagious skin diseases. He had a distinct mark of vaccination. In fact, he was healthy, had no slight defects and had never had an epileptic fit. The Medical Officer summed him up like this: Fit.

Following his attestation, Charles went home again for a month as the Army was on holiday - err - he was disposed of as no military duties 6.1.17 to 6.2.17. Consequently, his service started from 7 February when he was given number 46772 and the rank of Private in D Company of the 25th Reinforcements, 1NZEF. He completed his training on 27 March, then embarked on SS Turakina, HMNZT 84 from Wellington on 26 April 1917 with other soldiers of the 25th Reinforcements.

Charles disembarked at Devonport, UK on 20 July and marched in to Sling Camp on the same day to join C Coy of the 4 Otago Regiment. On 3 September Charles left for France and on 9 September was attached to the strength of 2nd Battalion, Otago Infantry Regiment at Etaples. Four weeks later he was admitted to 7 General Hospital at St Omer for a month with mild German measles. On his recovery he rejoined the Battalion and was posted to 8th Coy, 2nd Btn, 4 Otago Regiment on 11 November.

Three weeks later, on New Years Day 1918 and 3 days shy of his 21st birthday, Charles war ended. He was admitted to 4th NZ Fld Ambulance on 1 January (with a bad cold), then on 3 January was transferred to No 3 Canadian Casualty Clearing Station (who found he had pleurisy). On 27 January he was admitted to 24 General Hospital in Etaples (with marked pneumonia) and on 12 February was embarked per AT Brighton for England, being admitted to 2 NZ General Hospital, the Mt Felix manor house at Walton-on-Thames on 16 February. On 27 March they determined he had Broncho-pneumonia with a finding that he be returned to New Zealand as unfit for 6 months. On 6 April Charles boarded the Hospital Ship Marama at Avonmouth and was classified unfit by a medical board on 30 April as a result of illness incurred on his active service. He was placed on the New Zealand roll and disembarked in New Zealand on 18 May 1918.

His file then lists a trail of Sick-Leave and Gore Hospital Out-patient certificates until on 2 September 1918 RSM Richards of the Invercargill Sick & Wounded Department advised that Charles had been Medically Boarded from Balfour to Invercargill. Charles was discharged from the Army as a Private on 23 September 1918 as being 'no longer physically fit for war service on account of illness contracted on active service.'

Charles record shows he was inadvertently noted as having died on 17 November 1918, when in fact it was his brother Alexander Roy McQuilkan who died that day. The record was appropriately corrected. On 28 July 1921 Charles signed for receipt of two medals - the British War Medal and the Victory Medal for his service in the Western European theater of operations.

For Charles to have left New Zealand as a hale and hearty young man, to arrive back in New Zealand a year later with a hacking cough and bubbling noises in his lungs must speak volumes about the mid-winter conditions in the trenches of France over that Christmas period of 1917. Charles was one of the lucky ones, in that he did come back home. His luck began with the German measles illness which put him into hospital on the same day as an abortive attack ordered on Bellevue Spur, a part of the main Passchendale ridge. That attack was a disaster more significant to New Zealand in terms of losses than were the losses suffered at Gallipoli. Charles subsequent pneumonia removed him from the firing line completely.

Alexander McQuilkan – Winnie's Grandfather

The Births, Deaths and Marriages records list two McQuilkan families in Southland. These were Donald, my great grandfather who was a shepherd in Dipton and his descendants, and Alexander, Winnie's grandfather who was a shepherd at Balfour about 11 km from Dipton and his descendants.

Moonlight Ranges refers to these McQuilkans by quoting a 1936 article by Herries Beattie writing in the Southland Times. James Robertson, a nephew of Donald McQuilkin of Dipton, wrote of another McQuilkan. “His name was Alexander, or as I knew him 'Sandy'. I remember seeing him when I stayed with my Uncle Donald. The McQuilkan brothers both worked at Caroline (Okaiterua) Station.”

As noted under 'Rex's McQuilkans' Donald's parents were Donald McQuilkan and Catherine Stivenson of Argyle, Scotland and he was christened at Skipness. Alexander's death certificate records his father as Donald McQuilkan, his mother as unknown and his birthplace as Campbelltown, Scotland. Skipness is at the top end of the Mull of Kintyre and Campbelltown at the bottom end. From Herries Beattie's writings and the official records I have reviewed, I am comfortable that Donald and Alexander are brothers, and that consequently Winnie and I are second cousins – once removed.

The Poor, Fatherless Girl

A further reference in Moonlight Ranges is worth exploring. It is again a 1936 reference by Herries Beattie, though one which sounds as if it could have come from the same pen that wrote the tale of 'The Poor Little Mill Girl'.

“Of the hands who worked on the (Okaiterua - Caroline) run during Cowan's time the writer has only two names, the first being that of Robert Cuffles who was driving bullocks in the late sixties, and the other D. (Donald) McQuilkan. The latter met his helpmate when working on the run. She had lost her father in the big snow storm on the Nokomai Ranges in September 1866 and the fatherless girl had gone to work for Mrs Cowan at Okaiterua. Here she became Mrs McQuilkan, the wedding taking place at the station in the year 1864.”

I believe I can do better than Herries with some of these details. As noted in the 'Rex's McQuilkans' section, Donald married Catherine Wallace, a widow from Scotland. It was not he who gained this helpmate. Also, I think the marriage date given, 1864, is probably in error, being two years before her father died.

Considering there was only one other McQuilkan family in the area, I looked more closely at Winnie's grandparents, Alexander and Mary Ann nee' Durrant. They were married in Invercargill (Harrisville) on 12 September 1874 (10 years after Herries wedding date) at the house of Mr Kemp, their witnesses being Joseph Small, a builder of Invercargill and MaryAnn Kemp (who signed with an X) of Harrisville. Their 'Intentions to Marry' (ITM) record expands on this, showing that both Alexander and Mary Ann had lived in Invercargill for one week and that Mary Ann Kemp, the girl's mother, was also giving consent for the marriage of a minor (at age 17).

So what were mother Mary Ann Kemp's marriage details? Had she lost a husband in a snow storm? Looking at her Kemp 'Intentions to Marry' record shows that Edward Thomas Kemp, a bachelor carpenter of Invercargill aged 43, and Mary Ann Durant (with one 'R') a widow dairy keeper aged 33, were married in the Invercargill English church on 4 January 1868.

So to whom was Mary Ann Durant (the mother) a widow? A further ITM search was required. This search revealed that Mary Ann Hellyer, a spinster aged 25 who had lived in Christchurch for 3 months, married Thomas Durrant (with two R's) a bachelor mariner who had lived in Christchurch for 7 days, at Mr Hillicker's house in Christchurch on 29 October 1866.

I found no record of great snows in Nokomai in 1866, but from Herries Beatties writings it would seem that mariner Thomas was not a landlubber and was caught out by snow while chasing the illusion of 'fools gold' in the hills of Nokomai at the start of the Central Otago gold rush. They can only have been married for two months at the most.

And of Mary Ann Durrant the daughter and helpmate to Alexander? To be aged 17 in 1874 makes her birth year about 1857. She was about 9 years old when her step-father Thomas Durrant died at Nokomai. Charles McQuilkan's military file records that Mary Ann was born in Australia.

Scotland, Argyle and McQuilkans

I had the opportunity to visit Scotland chasing ancestors and one part of my travels took me down into Knapdale and the Mull of Kintyre. Knapdale (the northern part of the Argyle peninsular) is now a name used in the Balfour area of Southland, while Kintyre (the southern part of the peninsular) is divided from it at Tarbert – a narrow neck of land joining the two pieces of land.

The focus of my trip was to record any and every McQuilkan grave and memorial inscription I could find, though along the way I encountered some great experiences. And a dog. The dog was a bit of a surprise, because I had just returned from exploring across a farmer's paddock to an isolated cemetery. I had checked out the stones and had sheltered from a rain squall underneath a precipitously leaning stone that offered me some cover. On my return to my rental car I was writing up my notes when I glanced down out of the open car door and saw a small dog. 'Hullo' I said being sociable.

'Can I help you?' said a gruff voice which was definitely not coming from the dog. I looked up and found I was being surveyed by a staunch woman with a walking (read potential whacking) stick. I explained my mission to this lady, then was promptly ordered out of my car and told to come in for a cup of tea. Inside the largish house I explained my errand and my hostess promptly got to her feet and went into the next room to telephone the local historian and grill him on my behalf about McQuilkans.

Thus idly chewing on my jam sandwich and sipping on my cup of tea I accidently espied a letter on the table which gave me pause for thought. It was addressed to a Lord and Lady and I then understood that I was taking tea with the nobility. Darn, I had not prepared myself for such an occasion.

M'lady finished her conversation with the historian and offered me the advice that Tarbert had been a hotbed of McQuilkan's. When I offered to pay for the phone call cost I was told that 'No, my daughter is a student in Auckland – just offer a lift to student hitchhikers you see along the roads in New Zealand'.

On our way out the door a gardener clad only in shorts and who was tossing old rose bushes over the fence onto the road edge was summoned to M'lady's presence. “Henry, this is Rex from New Zealand”. Greetings M'lord.

In nearby Tarbert I was directed to the local bookshop which housed another keen historian. From him I was able to obtain a map of the local cemetery and to readily identify many McQuilkan headstones for my records.

McQuilkan Name

The McQuilkan name is commonly associated with 'son of Wilkie' or 'Wilkinson'. This is certainly applicable to many McQuilkan's who emmigrated to America and became Wilkinson's. Within Scotland the name is considered to be a Sept of the Clan MacDonald.

Clare Mallory

This author who wrote of 'tall, authoritative Head Girls, forceful Games Captains, respected albeit distant Head Mistresses and a cast of likeable juniors of assorted ages' expressed a recurring theme in her stories – one of the importance of belonging. This certainly was relevant to the early life of Winnifred McQuilkan. And the pen-name she chose for herself? A speculation on an Internet web site put this query.

“Does anyone know how Winifred McQuilkan came to choose this pseudonym? With Enid Blyton having published her St Clare stories in the early 1940's, then moved on to 'Malory Towers' in 1940 (I think) it seems quite a coincidence. Is there anything in it??

An interesting note to conclude on.

Rex Johnson
October 2007