News & Events

Anne Jeffery lived to the beat of her own drum

May 24, 2019

Anne Jeffery loved Rushall Park. She worked in the village as secretary to the superintendent starting in 1942 and donated money to build and live in her own cottage until failing health saw her move to the village’s Residential care where she died in 1994.

Anne worked at Rushall Park for 27 years. She came to the position after time in London, where she studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. She left to join a Shakespearian company, travelling to Cairo for an extended season before returning to Melbourne to work in a wool-broking firm before coming to the village.

While working with the Old Colonists’ Association of Victoria, Anne convinced the Council of the day to make land available for her to build a home which she would donate to the Association upon her death. Her determination to get her cottage eventually wore the Council down.

In her memoirs, I Remember, written from her home in Coppin Avenue, Anne provides a fascinating account of Rushall Park and life within the village. She describes her first sighting as:

“ was a great surprise. The kind of toy a giant might play with. All those little cottages of multi-coloured bricks with ornamental gables, a forest of tall chimneys, slate roofs, narrow verandahs trimmed with lacelike cast iron work.”

She recounts tales of the various residents and their foibles with great humour. We learn that Stella Parker, a former kindergarten teacher, for example was losing her sight and was prone to dropping heavy bottles into her hand basin, breaking two in quick succession. Understandably the Superintendent was not happy and said she would have to pay for further breakages. “No more hand basins were broken,” Anne reports.

Anne loved reading and watching shows on SBS. Her love of drama was evident in her memoir where her descriptions of life in the village are fun and wry. We learn that in the village during her time, there were weddings, suicides, deaths, dementia, kleptomania, kinky eccentrics and those in reduced circumstances.

The residents were pious and self-righteous, haughty and naughty…”

Rules and regulations were many, according to Anne Jeffery. For instance, ‘no separated or divorcees were admitted to the homes for fear of disturbances from injured partners. Surviving spouses could stay on in the village but not receive the free doctor service. Ice was delivered until the 1950s, there were no fridges in those days. Free firewood was donated until the 1970s, Christmas concerts were dreadful, and until the introduction of bingo in the 1960s, community meetings were poorly attended.

We learn from her memoirs that there was a vicious horse called Tommy living in the village, and that Miss Smith and Mina Lowe lived together with their black cat, Mr Boffin. Otto Strauss had a regimental sword while Myrtle Kerr turned to drink after her husband Frederick died. She was expelled from the village.

Anne Jeffery loved her home, despite the din from possums jumping from the Chinese cedar tree onto her roof. By the time she retired, she was not as fond of people as perhaps she had once been. She had a policy of dissuading ‘drop in’ visitors by keeping her wire door snibbed.

In an obituary about Anne, we learn that she was ‘a lady of the old school, kindly, considerate for others at all times, charitable to the extreme, courteous and loyal with a highly-developed sense of humour’.

She died in 1994 in the Residential care at Rushall Park.

Leith Park is a wonderful place for single older women because of the community and the age-friendly accommodation. I don’t think I have ever felt as safe as I have here.

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