Thursday, 1 March 2018

Sister Bannan and her Strathnaver Private Hospital, Merlynston

After the death of Donald Stuart Bain in January 1937, Ellen Sharp Bannan and her husband William set up home at 21 Orvieto Street, Merlynston.

The couple had arrived in Australia in late 1913 from Scotland where William Bannan had worked as a coal miner. They and their 5 year old son James settled in  Korumburra. In February 1914, just four months after their arrival, James died in devastating circumstances: he was bitten by a snake and not realising the seriousness of the situation, they did not seek medical attention until it was too late.

Great Southern Advocate, 26 Feb 1914

Argus, 27 Feb 1914   

In September 1915 William Bannan enlisted at Wonthaggi. 482 Pte William Bannan, 2nd Tunnelling Company embarked on 20 February 1916, two years after the death of his son, his only child. He was wounded in France on 29 September 1918 and invalided to the UK. He returned to Australia on 12 December 1918 with a shell wound to the back.

In late October 1916, some months after William’s departure for the war, Ellen Bannan (known as 502 Nellie Sharp Bannan in the nursing registers) returned to her occupation as a registered nurse. From this point until her death in 1972 she is referred to as a nurse in the electoral rolls. At first she worked as a midwife in the Foster area of Gippsland. In mid-1917 she was nursing at the Base Hospital in St Kilda Road (No. 5 AGH) until its closure in September 1918.

Argus, 18 September 1918

On his return, William Bannan applied successfully for a Soldier’s Settlement block at Numurkah. There Nellie continued her work as a midwife while William farmed their block ‘Penman’ at Mundoona.

Views of Numurkah, c1907. Image H90.140/848. Courtesy State Library of Victoria. 

Like so many other soldier settlers, the Bannans did not remain on the land. By the end of 1926 they were back in Melbourne where they settled in Whitelaw Street, Reservoir and Nellie Bannan resumed work as a registered nurse.

High Street, Reservoir, c1920-1954. Image H32492/1757. Courtesy State Library of Victoria.

In the 1930s the Bannans moved to 30 Mary Street, Preston where Nellie, now Sister Bannan, conducted her Willhellar Private Hospital. As well as midwifery, she looked after dying patients, at least one of whom was the widow of returned Anzac hero 46 Sergeant James S. Hopkins DCM MM, a Preston resident.

In 1937, not long after the death of Donald Stuart Bain, Nellie and William Bannan moved into 21 Orvieto Street, Merlynston and it was from there that Sister Bannan ran her small private hospital ‘Strathaven’, named after William Bannan’s birthplace in Lanarkshire, Scotland.

William Bannan died on 14 October 1942 aged 55 years. In July the following year Nellie sold the business and returned to the Preston/Reservoir area where she continued to nurse. Between 1954 and her death in 1972, she lived in Plenty Road, Reservoir. She died aged 84 and in electoral rolls and on her death certificate her occupation is given as nursing sister, so presumably she never gave up working.

The Bannans are buried together in the Baptist section of Fawkner Memorial Park. Their only child James is buried in Korumburra. Until the very end of my research I assumed they had no other family in Australia. However, in William Bannan’s death notice there is a son Jack listed and when Ellen Bannan died in 1972 her foster son John Ball, of Munro Street, Brunswick was the informant. 

Nothing else is known of John Ball or how he came to be part of the Bannan household. One can only hope that theirs was a happy home.

Scottish Census records (accessed via Ancestry)
Victorian electoral rolls (accessed via Ancestry)
Sands and MacDougall Street Directories
Victorian Birth, Death, Marriage Indexes
Victorian Death Certificates for James and William Bannan
Victorian Shipping Records (accessed via PROV website)
WW1 records of William Bannan and James Stanley Hopkins (accessed via the NAA website)
State Library of Victoria Picture Collection
Great Southern Advocate, 26 February 1914
Argus, 27 February 1914
South Gippsland Shire Echo, 1, 8, 15, 22 December 1916
Argus, 18 September 1918
Argus, 25 November 1918
Victorian Government Gazette, December 1920, December 1926, December 1929, March 1938
Age, 18 May 1927
Age, 2 May 1930
Age, 25 April 1936
Age, 25 January 1937
Age, 5 March 1938
Coburg Courier, 6 July 1938
Shepparton Advertiser, 5 May 1941
Argus, 15 October 1942
Argus, 17 July 1943
Numurkah Leader, 16 May 1944
Age, 14 July 1945
Age, 13 June, 1946

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