Tuesday, 10 April 2018

#52Ancestors - Week 14 - Maiden Aunt

My great aunt, Eleanora Ruby Hutton (Nora) played a dominant role in the lives of members of our family. 
Nora 1941

Nora was was born at Parkes in New South Wales on 28 May 1892 where her parents, George Hutton and Annie Wilson Hardwick Weston, and her two and a half year old brother, William Clifton Weston Hutton, lived on a sheep station named The Troffs. 

Tragedy struck the family on 13 January 1893. When travelling to Sydney, the family stopped at a property at Nelungaloo and while they were there young William wandered from the house. His body was discovered shortly afterwards in the creek. Family stories recount that William was a very active little boy and had a habit of disappearing despite all attempts to restrict such activity. This incident was a great shock to his family. Nora remained the only child until her sister, Nancy Hazel Hutton, was born on 1 September 1899. By this time Nora was seven years old.

The Hutton family continued to live at The Troffs until 1903 when Annie returned to Sydney with the two girls. Nora was now eleven and Nancy was four. There had been a severe drought, known as the Federation Drought, in the region around Parkes from 1895 to 1902. George tried to keep the property for as long as he could but finally had to sell The Troffs. He decided to remain in Parkes and took on the role of a Rabbit Inspector for the local council.

Meanwhile, in Sydney, family members allowed Annie the use of a house which she ran as a boarding house until 1916. The girls now had the opportunity to attend school and Nancy developed an interest in art. They no doubt helped their mother to some extent with the boarding house. When Nora left school she may have worked in an office for a time.

The year 1916 was a momentous year as Annie decided that she and Nora (now 24) should journey to the 'home country' to help with the war effort. Much to her disgust Nancy was left in Sydney to stay with family. Nora and her mother were in England for three years. Initially Annie worked in a munitions factory supervising other women. She was later in charge of a canteen but we do not know where. Apparently Nora worked in a government department but I have no information as to where this was or what she did. The information about their time in England is very sketchy and, according to my mother, was rarely discussed. Nora and Annie returned to Australia in 1919.

Nora, like many women during World War I, never married. My mother mentioned that Nora may have been engaged to an older man during her time in England but  it was broken off. Once again the information is sketchy.

There are so many gaps in this story. Unfortunately when I knew enough to ask questions, those who could have provided the answers were no longer around.

However we do know that in the 1930s Nora was living in Sydney and working part-time in an office (possibly from 10 am to 4 pm).  The electoral rolls show that she was living in a flat at Coonong Flats, Ocean Street Darlinghurst in 1930. In 1930 she had moved to Edgecliff  while in 1936 she a flat at Darling Point. The next move was to a flat, part of a property named Kooyong at Rose Bay.

Around 1936 Nora and Nancy inherited money from a relative and decided to go on a cruise to Japan and to Singapore. Apparently Nora had already been to Japan on another occasion. They returned with many Japanese items including camphor chests, kimonos and some china.
Rosemary Lord with Nora Hutton 1941
As my grandparents lived on their property in south west Queensland, my mother, in 1939, moved to Sydney to attend school and lived with Nora for the next seven years. She was not the only young person that Nora looked after. From the end of the 1920s Nora became guardian of David Guy Lord when his parents died. David's mother was Nora's cousin while his father was my grandfather's brother. David and my mother's brother, Michael, attended boarding school in Sydney but at weekends they sometimes stayed with Nora. Consequently it was not unusual to have three young people about the house.

In 1947 my grandparents sold their property, Metavale, in south west Queensland and purchased Berily, near Toogoolawah. Nora, now 55, relocated to live with them and my uncle. In 1954 she moved with the family to their new property, Rosemount, near Kilcoy. By the mid 1960s my grandparents and Nora had retired and were living at Nandina, a house at Buderim Gardens Village. She was now 75. Nora lived at Buderim for many years before spending her final years in a nursing home at Nambour where she died in August 1990, aged 98 years.

During the Christmas holidays each year my family would travel to Queensland to visit my grandparents and great aunt. So what are my memories of  Nora? To start with she was never Aunt Nora to me or my sister and brother. Apparently I had trouble pronouncing 'Aunt Nora' so I named her Lortie which was the name that stuck among my side of the family.

At Rosemount my bed was on the verandah near Lortie's bedroom. I used to enjoy going into her bedroom which had a special charm. A special feature was the beautiful wooden dressing table and mirror. Lace doilies were on the dressing table as was a collection of items which we are now used to seeing on television programs such as 'Antiques Roadshow' or 'Bargain Hunt'. There was a set of hairbrush, mirror and clothes brush, all with elaborately patterned silver handles and / or backs. There were also glass perfume bottles with silver lids and an atomiser. As a young girl I was most impressed.
Lortie at Rosemount in early 1960s
Lortie was in charge of ensuring that there were always fresh cut flowers from the garden in the lounge and dining area. In the morning she would often check the flowers in the garden to find new flowers for the arrangements.

She was also involved with many of the chores to be done around the farm including feeding the poultry and gathering eggs. Each afternoon we would go for a walk with Gran and Lortie to ensure that the sheep returned to the safety of the barn for the night. Lortie played an important part in my memories of holidays at Rosemount.

As a girl whose early life was spent on a sheep station, Lortie adjusted to the busy lifestyle of Sydney where she lived for more than forty years before returning to live on smaller properties in south east Queensland. As well as working in Sydney, Lortie also looked after my mother for many years as well as being on call for Michael and David. She also experienced life in England during the First World War as well as life in Sydney during the Second World War, including the shelling of Rose Bay. Lortie also managed to take time for a cruise around part of Asia in the 1930s. 

This quiet and dignified lady had obviously led an active and eventful life.


  1. What an amazing lady! Thanks for sharing.

  2. I only knew Lortie when she was an older lady. It was therefore fascinating putting together the small amounts of information available to reveal the eventful and undoutedly at times challenging life she had had led.