Sunday, May 25, 2014

Sepia Saturday: Mary Leed the MLC scholar

The theme photo for Sepia Saturday this week is of girls in a school dorm. I've decided to write about my husband's grandmother who was at boarding school In Melbourne, Victoria.

In the early 1900s David and Mary Ann Leed lived near Pyramid Hill in central Victoria where they had a farm. There were five sons (including two from David's previous marriage) and two daughters, Nell and Mary.

Nell Leed (left) and Mary Leed
Nell and Mary attended local rural schools like everyone else in the district but when they were late teenagers it was decided that they should go down to the prestigious Methodist Ladies' College (MLC)  in Kew for a year (more-or-less as a 'finishing' experience). Mary had singing lessons while she was there - she had a fine voice.

Students at Methodist Ladies College, Melbourne (1919).
Mary Leed bottom right.
Mary already had a 'boyfriend', a dairy farmer from Mologa, not far from home. Throughout her time in Melbourne they corresponded regularly and we are lucky to have a few of Ralph's letters to Mary. He was an amusing correspondent and filled Mary in on what was happening in the family, church activities and sport in the district and gossiped about the people they knew.
[Extract 1] Talking of looks.  Do you know that I got the prize for best looking gent. on the ground on Monday.  Needless to say my conceit has risen almost to bursting point. Scobie reckoned the judging was crook.  Some of the old married women were judges, so that accounts for me winning, I’m pretty well in with one or two of them.  It’s more than I can say of the young girls.   
[Extract 2] I had plenty of spare time to think things over.  I’ve come to the conclusion that Mologa isn’t much of a place, especially of a Sunday now that your not here.  Eight o’clock, Sunday night, nothing to do, nowhere to go, its too rough.  Once you come home again I’ll never let you go away any more (as if I could stop you).  I’m selfish aren’t I.  But truly its ever so lonesome up here now & I can’t help longing for the time when I can see you again.  November seems a long way off.  Think of me while you are enjoying yourself at the show tomorrow. 
[Extract 3] It is with deep sorrow in my heart that I record the demise of Clara. Yesterday she stole our meat that was to do us for dinner.  She was arrested, tried & sentenced to death.  But in our tenderness of heart, she was granted a reprieve.  However, last night she entered the house with felonious intent & knocked a pack of plates off the shelf breaking three.  Today, the reprieve was annulled & at half past four  the sentence was carried out.  Clara (in a bag) went to her last long home accompanied by two half bricks. (RIP). With this touching episode, I draw to a close, So long sweetheart. From you ever loving                                                                                                Ralph
Mary and Ralph married in 1922 and remained in the district and raised a family of five daughters. MLC is still a very prestigious school, now run by the Uniting Church.


  1. They killed off Clara the dog or perhaps she was a cat? How sad, but nice to have his letters.

  2. I think she was a cat. Maybe they could have just kept the kitchen door closed:)

  3. Poor Clara, anyway. Impressive ladies.

  4. Poor Clara. I heard of kittens being drowned but not older animals.

  5. Clara was most probably a dog. I don't think a cat would steal a piece of meat? At least none of our cats would have. Now pudding . . . One of our cats loved pudding and would not have thought twice about stealing licks from the pudding bowl.

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  7. Now I have never fully understood "finishing school". What was the goal? As for "Normal School" it is an odd term taken from the old French words "├ęcole normale" for teaching school.
    And even poor Clara deserves a memorial too.

  8. At first I thought Clara was a person, but whew!
    Nice letters to have for sure.

  9. What a funny letter for us to read - not knowing who/what Clara is

    1. We have no idea either - we're only guessing Clara was a cat.

  10. A prize for being best looking?

  11. Hello Lorraine, thank you for the information. I also have a heritage based in this area & the surname Leed. I am hopeful that you be willing to share anything further that you have discovered. Maybe the gret grandmother was Neil? I know that there were six sons & a daughter. Alan, Wesley, were two as far as I recall, daughter was Evelyn. It is my understanding that Evelyn was my grandmother - My father Gary was illegitimate - if you have any insight - I would be sincerely appreciative. Regards Di Leed


I love to read your comments. Thankyou for your interest.



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