Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Mary Isabella McEwen Banks

Mary Isabella McEwen was born 3 February 1895 to William McKidd McEwen and Catherine McNicol as the 3rd of their 4 children in Kenmore, Perthshire, Scotland.

The 1901 Scotland census is the first census record where she is listed with her family. Her father, William, is listed as a Wood Forester and they lived at Comrie Bridge Cottage, Dull, Perthshire, Scotland. Dull is a village located in Perth and Kinross in the highlands. By the 1911 census the family had moved to Oakhouse in Kenmore where he is now a gardner and is most likely the area she grew up in.

On 16 August 1916, at the age of 21, she married Alexander Crombie Banks in Dunblane, Perthshire, Scotland. Together they had two children, William Alexander and James Watt Robertson Banks. Her husband, Alexander, was a painter by trade.

When James, their youngest, was one and half years old, they emigrated to New South Wales, Australia where they settled to raise their family. Here they are listed as passengers on the ship called the "S.S. Ballarat" on the 6th August 1925.

The first location we find this family is in the 1930 voting record which shows the family living at Colinton Dell, Oatland in Seven Hills as shown below.

They stayed in this area and for awhile and were connected with the Burnside Homes where her husband was a painter while Mary did some mending and knitting for the occupants as services provided through St. Andrews' church. Mary was a keen knitter and crocheter and would make clothing for the children.

The Burnside Home was an orphanage for young migrants and those needing a home according to their website. They eventually settled on Rosehill St., Parramatta in the early 1940s according to their voting records.

During World War 2, Mary participated along with other women, through St. Andrews Church, in making camouflage netting to cover the weapons on the ground so they would not be seen from the airplanes above. This required the use of a special oblong tool which I'm told was very difficult for the women to use. These women did many different tasks to assist their men in the battle fields.

Together they belonged to the Highland Society in the area and participated in all their celebrations. She was well known for her 'Haggis' which the two of them would make for 'Burns Night' celebrations. In fact all who knew her and her family would say she was a wonderful cook, no matter what it was; fancy foods, vegies, scones, cakes, etc. they were the best and she so loved her gas stove. The highland dancing was always delightful as she was from the highlands herself. She would dress her very best at these functions and included a hat and gloves to match.

She enjoyed her grandchildren immensely and had many a family gathering at her home. Mary and Alexander would go to Manly during their summer holidays and stay in a granny flat of their friends. Their children and grandchildren would come to visit by ferry and have a grand time.

They never owned a vehicle and traveled everywhere by bus, train or simply walking. Over a period of time her feet were giving her problems and she would go to a foot doctor to take care of them. On the 25th Sept 1964 she wasn't feeling well after returning from her visit to the foot doctor so she took the bus to the hospital and passed away later that evening at the age of 69.

She was definitely one who shared her talents with many and served others so willingly whenever needed. Her legacy of service to others lives on through her children and grandchildren along with her love of cooking, highland games and dancing and all things Scottish!

Mary Isabella McEwen Banks: 1875-1964