Adela Wade – a School Matron

Adela, the second eldest daughter of Frederick Wentworth Wade and Adela Macloskey, was born in Invercargill in 1868. She never married. Like her elder sister Annie Theresa she may have been taught at home initially, but then went to Southland Girls’ High. She left Invercargill in 1885 when she was only 17 to go to Melbourne, the same year as her brother Robert and approximately two years after her brother Frederick. Was this because the elder children didn’t get on with their father or stepmother, or was it simply because there were better nurse training facilities in Melbourne for Adela and she would have been surrounded there by her mother’s family the Macoskeys. Adela’s mother had  been one of 15 children and her stepmother (her mother’s niece) one of ten children. 

Adela graduated from the Alfred Hospital School of Nursing, Melbourne in 1891. Below are some photographs of nurses from the book by Helen Paterson ‘5.30 Nurse!’ The Story of the Alfred Nurses, History Books, 1996 Page 226. 

It is not known where Adela went after completing her nursing training, but in about 1910 she became the much-loved Matron of Manifold House at Geelong Grammar Boys’ School. She retired in 1932 aged 64, at which time she was presented with a silver teaset which is still in the author’s possession.

Unfortunately, the school was such a masculine community in those days that Matrons didn’t appear in House photographs, nor were they listed in the school magazine. At the suggestion of the school archivist I wrote to some Old Boys who would have been at the school during her time. Almost all of them replied with wonderful tributes, including a 94-year old living in Kenya who wrote “she was one of the ‘old school’, whose loyalty and understanding of the boys was greatly appreciated.” Another said “She was always kind – a much appreciated quality in a boarding school in those days (where) life tended to be rugged – gentleness was not common.”  

They told me she had the nickname ‘Pie Crust’ or simply ‘Pie’, a term of endearment, and was in many ways the ideal Matron, firm but compassionate, helpful and comforting, ‘and a real institution’. One sent me a photo of four of her ‘boys’ and told me a delightful story, about how three of them took it in turns to play Auction Bridge with the Matron every Saturday evening in front of her cosy fire. The boys discovered that if they stacked her bridge hand so that she always won, she kept asking them back “with the suppers getting better and better as each Saturday passed” (personal communication, Dick Glass).  Another wrote that over the years he learned that under the ‘Piecrust’ image was the real person, kind, sympathetic, helpful and extremely observant and adroit. 

Adela died in East Malvern, Victoria in 1946, some years after her retirement, of carcinoma of the colon. Sadly, nothing is known of her last years, but she would certainly have been in contact with her younger sister Bertha who lived in Sydney.  

Here are some of the letters from her “boys””

1 thought on “Adela Wade – a School Matron

  1. Love and enjoy all your emails….you are amazing with your research…. thank you. Easter Blessings Susan

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