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Crommelin, Minard Fannie (1881–1972)

by Ruth Teale

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

Minard Fannie Crommelin (1881-1972), postmistress and conservationist, was born on 29 June 1881 at Aston station, near Bombala, New South Wales, eldest daughter of George Whiting Crommelin, station manager, and his wife Frances Emily, née Dawson. At 12 Minard left Pipe Clay Creek Public School to help the postmistress at Burrawong who, to compensate for her tyranny, later sent her for a year to the Sydney Church of England Grammar School for Girls. After assisting in the post office at Moss Vale in 1906, Minard became acting postmistress at Woy Woy, where she remained five years. She then took public service examinations and over the next twenty years was relieving postmistress at over 150 towns. She was described in 1916 as 'tall and thin, with very thin features and very black hair'.

In 1936 on long service leave, Miss Crommelin visited England, Ireland and Europe, began buying antique furniture and rare books on Australia and its natural history and joined the International Society for the Protection of Nature, other conservation groups and the Royal Empire Society. In 1937 she inherited two legacies and retired from the public service. On a visit to Pearl Beach that year she saw for the first time a lyre bird displaying and determined to retire there. Unable to lease 2000 acres (809 ha) of crown reserve on the northern bank of the Hawkesbury River, she canvassed support from various societies to which she belonged, including the Royal Zoological and Naturalists' societies of New South Wales, for the proclamation of the Warrah Sanctuary, of which she was a founding trustee in 1938. In 1937 she had bought seven acres (2.8 ha) adjoining the sanctuary at Pearl Beach where she lived after 1939.

As a ranger, she constantly protested against thefts of wild flowers, shooting of native fauna, careless back-burning by local residents and 'improvements' such as a sewerage disposal plant and a rifle range on her 'waratah patch'. She tried beekeeping and cultivating native plants, but was hampered by floods and fires. Dispirited by loneliness and the hostility of local residents, she offered her property to the Commonwealth Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, which declined. In December 1946 the Senate of the University of Sydney accepted it as a biological and natural field station for research and named it after her. In return she received an annuity and 'undisturbed enjoyment' of her residence for life.

From 1948 Minard Crommelin unsuccessfully lobbied Federal and State politicians, government departments and newspaper editors with plans for a 'national botanic garden, fauna park and arboretum' and for a national ecological conservation authority. She was appointed M.B.E. in January 1959. Disturbed by the university's supposed non-fulfilment of the intent of her gift, between 1960 and 1966 she gave £3500 to the Australian Academy of Science, Canberra, to establish the Crommelin Ecological Conservation Fund, to which she bequeathed £10,768. An ardent bibliophile and litterateur, Minard Crommelin possessed much genealogical material about her family's Huguenot descent; unpublished manuscripts including 'Twinkle's Diary', an account of her pet sugar glider (possum), and privately printed pamphlets; she was a member of the Society of Australian Genealogists and the Huguenot Society, London. She helped to form local branches of the Australian Red Cross Society, the Country Women's Association of New South Wales and the Business and Professional Women's Club of Sydney.

Content with her simple life, yet single-minded in purpose, Minard Crommelin died at her home at Pearl Beach on 14 February 1972 and was cremated. Her estate was valued for probate at $12,605.

Select Bibliography

  • Business and Professional Women in Australia, Dec 1964
  • Descent, 6 (1972) pt 1
  • Crommelin papers (University of Sydney Archives).

Citation details

Ruth Teale, 'Crommelin, Minard Fannie (1881–1972)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/crommelin-minard-fannie-5825/text9689, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 25 July 2016.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

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