Scribblers Presentation of Papers for The Bedford Journal 2022
President of Scribblers, Professor Emeritus Marilyn McMeniman AM, our hostess this morning and immediate past Secretary of Scribblers, Mrs Sandra Muir; Scribblers Executive and Members; Editor of The Bedford Journal Ms Jan Noble; thank you ladies for the warm welcome.
I begin by acknowledging the original custodians of the lands of Brisbane, the Turrbul and Jagera people and pay my respects to Elders, past, present and emerging.
I am very pleased to be with you for this annual event in the Scribblers calendar, and to share with you my recent discovery of a delightful connection to the lives of the Scribblers’ founder, Mary Elkington, and especially to her husband Dr J.S.C. Elkington.
Like my husband, Graeme, Dr Elkington was a medical scientist. He was engaged by the Tasmanian government in 1903 to advise them on the best means of dealing with the smallpox outbreak which was then threatening Launceston. His report and recommendations were so well received that, by the of that year, he was appointed Tasmania’s Chief Medical Officer– a role with which I am very familiar!
Newspaper reports of the time reveal that the Elkingtons quickly became prominent in Hobart society.
In particular, Mary became an energetic member of the Hamilton Literary Society which had been established in the late 19th century by Lady Hamilton, the wife of the then Governor of Tasmania.
(As an aside, I note that Lady Hamilton must have been a formidable woman because she originally named the group the Nil Desperandum Society!)
When Lady Hamilton returned to England, the society was renamed in her honour and it was at meetings of this group that Mary Elkington regularly presented well-received papers, often drawing on her experiences in India where she and her husband had lived for 18 months when he was appointed as a plague expert.
With such a positive experience of the literary society in Hobart, it is not at all surprising that, when Dr Elkington accepted the position of Commissioner for Health in Queensland in early 1910, Mary put her considerable energies into forming a similar group in Brisbane.
First called the Theta Literary Society, the concept was warmly welcomed, and today it continues to thrive, thanks to the remarkable group of women who have carried forward that original ethos for 111 years, never accepting the need for any of the strictures of a formal entity – no constitution, no office bearers, no website… and definitely no Strategic Plan or Key Performance Indicators.
I find this both refreshing and heartening at a time in our history when even creative enterprises can find themselves restricted by regulations and statutory requirements, and I congratulate the Scribblers on their continued success and, particularly, on this year’s edition of The Bedford Journal.
I am delighted to now present a certificate of Vice-Regal patronage to your President, Professor Emeritus Marilyn McMeniman AM.