Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Sister Hollins and Sister Lewis and the Pakenham Infant Welfare Centre

There is a  new Childrens Centre in Pakenham, called the Hollins Children Centre.  It has two kindergarten rooms, a toy Library, a meeting room and rooms for the Infant Health nurse.  When Councils and developers are looking for appropriate names for new buildings, parks, streets or other infrastructure, they sometimes contact Local History Societies or me, the Local History Librarian for ideas. At times, they decide that the  name we suggest is a suitable name and this was the case with the Hollins Children Centre. I was reading through the Souvenir Booklet from the Back to Pakenham celebrations held in March 1951 which has the history of various institutions in Pakenham, including the Infant Welfare Centre. The article mentioned that Sister Hollins and Sister Lewis were the first nurses involved with infant welfare in the area, so I suggested  that the new Centre could honour the nurses and in the end it was decided to call  the centre after Sister Hollins. I was very excited and thrilled that the Cardinia Shire Council selected one of 'my names' and I attended the official opening on November 20, 2012.

I have posted the section on the Infant Welfare Centre, below. As you can see the only information we had was that the nurses were called Sister Hollins and Sister Lewis, so my first task was to find out some other information about them.

The first place I looked was on the electoral rolls, available on the Ancestry family history database, available free, at all our Libraries. I found Lillian Ada Hollins  in 1936 Electoral rolls at the Pakenham Bush Nursing Hospital and Muriel Mary Lewis in the 1937 Electoral rolls also at the Hospital. (Electoral roll entries reproduced below)  - so now at least I had some given names and could look for other information.

Muriel Lewis first appeared in the Electoral rolls in 1924 when she was a nurse at the Royal Children's Hospital. She was listed at Pakenham from 1937 until 1942. In the book Somebody’s baby: a history of the Pakenham and District Hospital 1926-1992* by Heather Shallard it says Sister Lewis resigned in 1945 and according to the Electoral Rolls from 1949 through to 1968 she was living in the Camberwell/Balwyn area.  I found the death of a Muriel Mary Lewis  (I cannot confirm 100% that it is our Sister Lewis, but I feel pretty confident that it is)  in the Victorian Death Indexes in 1970. Her parents are listed as Thomas Lewis and Hannah Eliza Dinning.  I also found  Muriel's birth record  in North Carlton in 1901  and that of her sister, Bessie Isabel, born 1904 in Beechworth. Sister Lewis is buried at the Necropolis (or the Springvale Botanical cemetery as it is now called).

Lillian Ada Hollins was listed at Pakenham in the  1936 to 1942 Electoral rolls. Heather Shallard writes in her book that  Sister Hollins left in 1944 to get married and I found a report of the wedding in the Pakenham Gazette of Friday, September 29, 1944 (reproduced below). The wedding took place at the Presbyterian Church in Pakenham and Sister Lewis was the bridesmaid. The groom, Sydney Banbrook,  was employed by the Shire of Berwick in the Engineering Department.

Pakenham Gazette of Friday, September 29, 1944. page 1

The last paragraph mentions a 'social' to be held in their honour at the Mechanics' Institute. According to a report on the 'social'  in the Pakenham Gazette of October 13, Mrs P.F Thwaites paid a high tribute to Sister Hollins and praised her  for the good work she had done for the Hospital, always ready to help and she was not only capable but a good business woman and the good position of the hospital was largely due to her efforts. Cr Houilhan  told the gathering that Sisters Hollins and Lewis had done marvellous work for the Hospital and there was not one patient who had been there but would, if sick again, go there instead of to a metropolitan hospital (sic). The President of the Hospital, Mr J.J. Ahern, also recognised the outstanding service that Sisters Hollins and Lewis had the Hospital was one of the best managed and equipped Bush Nursing hospitals in the State due chiefly to the Sisters. Mr & Mrs Banbrook were then  presented with a wallet containing 44 pounds.

The Banbrooks left Pakenham and in the 1949 Electoral rolls they are listed in Darwin, where Sydney is a Surveyor in the Department of Works and Housing. He died in South Australia in October 1963 and Lillian died there in June 1965. I haven't yet found a Birth Record for Sister Hollins, so I don't know who her parents were or when she was born.

*Somebody’s baby: a history of the Pakenham and District Hospital 1926-1992* by Heather Shallard. Published by the Pakenham & District Hospital, 1992.

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