Australian Dictionary of Biography

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McMorran, Dorothy Victoria (1897–1974)

by John Atchison

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

Dorothy Victoria McMorran (1897-1974), Canadian community leader, was born on 2 November 1897 at Vancouver, Canada, daughter of William McCusker and his wife Kathryn, née Cooke. Dorothy attended Magee High School and the University of British Columbia before qualifying as an elementary teacher at Vancouver Normal School. Musically inclined, she studied singing part time and had a lovely contralto voice. On 1 March 1923 she married Norman Roy McMorran (d.1982). Coming from a close-knit family, Dorothy resented her husband's posting to Australia as a representative of the Canadian Pacific Railway Co. When she learned that the posting was expected to last only three years, she followed Roy to Sydney, arriving early in 1924. A daughter was born in June, and the family continued to live in New South Wales.

The interest of Canadian companies in Australian markets led the Canadian government to establish trade commissions in Sydney and Melbourne in 1936. Roy McMorran and Roy Miller were prominent in the growing Canadian community; the 'two Roys' and their wives became close friends and remained proudly Canadian. That year Dorothy McMorran (honorary secretary) and Wanda Miller founded the Canadian Women's Association of New South Wales. They established a supportive social and financial network of fifty members, and also helped to care for Canadian ex-servicemen. Following the outbreak of World War II, the Women's Association began its successful 'Canadian Day' (held on Wednesdays) in the Church Hut at St Andrew's Cathedral, Sydney. Australian friends were called on to help. Aided by money from Canada, the association established a therapy hut at the 113th Australian General Hospital, and presented a utility truck, with maple-leaf emblem, to the Sydney Mission to Seamen.

The problems associated with the arrival in Australia of Canadian 'war brides' (wives, fiancées and widows of Royal Australian Air Force personnel from the Empire Air Training Scheme) prompted the Commonwealth government to ask the association for help. Many war brides encountered difficulties that stemmed from the suddenness of their marriages, perceived differences in living standards, and family and cultural adjustments. Under Mrs McMorran's leadership, the association assisted with welcoming arrangements and filled an important social function by giving women the opportunity to hear a familiar accent; it also facilitated assimilation by showing Australian documentary films and providing speakers on topics ranging from literature to home-cooking. Greater prosperity and dispersal to spreading suburbs decreased the need for the association which was disbanded in the 1960s.

Mrs McMorran was dynamic in nature. About 5 ft 6 ins (168 cm) tall, and slender in build, she had brown hair, grey eyes and olive skin. She cooked well, enjoyed entertaining and filled her home with people, particularly during the war. Gifted with 'a rollicking sense of humour', she made a good story out of any misadventure. Her skills included dressmaking, knitting, crocheting, and making Christmas decorations (which she sold) and patchwork quilts. Two of her quilts are held by the Pioneer Women's Hut, Tumbarumba. Survived by her husband and daughter, Dorothy McMorran died on 23 August 1974 at Hunters Hill and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Bennett and I. Fry, Canadians in Australia (Canb, 1995)
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 3 Mar 1935, 3 Oct 1936, 16 Oct 1942
  • Montreal Star, 21 June 1947
  • N. McMorran, Canadian Women's Association of N.S.W. (manuscript, copy held in ADB file)
  • private information.

Citation details

John Atchison, 'McMorran, Dorothy Victoria (1897–1974)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 20 April 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

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