Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Wesché, Phoebe Ellen (1871–1950)

by Martha Rutledge

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

This is a shared entry with Awdry Gordon Wesché

Awdry Gordon Wesché (1865-1938), shipping manager, and Phoebe Ellen Wesché (1871-1950), charity worker, were husband and wife. Gordon was born on 7 July 1865 at Bombay, India, son of William Francis Wesché, stockbroker, and his wife Helen, née Venn. Reared and educated in England, in 1881 he entered the London office of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. Ltd. After working for the company in Bombay from 1886, he joined the Sydney office as passenger clerk in 1889 and was promoted chief clerk (1900) and assistant superintendent (1906). He belonged to the Union Club from 1903.

At St Nicholas's Anglican Church, Goulburn, on 14 February 1901 Wesché married Phoebe Ellen Twynam. She was born on 10 June 1871 at Goulburn, second of eight children of Edward Twynam, a district surveyor from England, and his native-born wife Emily Rose, née Bolton, who was a sister of Mary Windeyer. Brought up at Riversdale, Goulburn, Phoebe was widely read and extremely practical, with 'the brownest, black-fringed eyes'; she loved horses and racing, and trout fishing in the mountains with her husband.

In Sydney Mrs Wesché was a council-member of the Australian Bush Nursing Association, a vice-president of the Bush Book Club, a committee-member of the Rawson Institute for Seamen, the Twilight League and the immigrant home at Dawes Point, and a founder (1912) and a vice-president of the Queen's Club. She became a close friend of Lady Poore who in 1909 published verses in the Spectator about her:

There's nothing Phoebe cannot do.
She'll break a horse, or patch a shoe,
A page of Browning she'll construe …

The Weschés visited England in 1912. Appointed superintendent of the P. & O. Co. in Australia that year, Gordon was founding chairman (1912-15) of the Oversea Shipping Representatives Association, vice-president (1912-13) of the Sydney Chamber of Commerce and a member (1914-19) of the Commonwealth Shipping Board. When the management of the P. & O. in Australia was taken over by Macdonald Hamilton & Co. in 1917, he became resident managing partner in Sydney. In 1925 he took temporary charge of the Brisbane branch.

On the outbreak of World War I, Mrs Wesché had been a founding member of the executive of the New South Wales division of the British Red Cross Society; as honorary secretary of the Voluntary Aid Detachment, she worked long hours at the George Street depot. In October 1915 her remarks about the execution of Edith Cavell were misrepresented in the Sunday Times and led to questions in the Legislative Assembly. In November she visited England where she remained for several years. Returning in 1918, she became State director of the Voluntary Aid Detachment.

In December 1926 Wesché sailed for England on retirement leave, accompanied by his wife. With little money, Phoebe soon became the companion of Louisa, wife of Sir Kenneth Anderson, at The Yair, Galashiels, Selkirkshire, Scotland. Troubled by a drink problem, Wesché died on 29 December 1938 at South Kensington, London. By 1943 Phoebe had returned to New South Wales to live with two of her sisters. Survived by her son, she died at Riversdale on 21 August 1950 and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • Lady Poore, Recollections of an Admiral's Wife 1903-1916 (Lond, 1916)
  • Australasian, 9 Jan 1915
  • Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 1 Sept 1915
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 28, 29 Oct 1915, 8 Mar 1917, 27 July 1920, 2 Dec 1926.

Citation details

Martha Rutledge, 'Wesché, Phoebe Ellen (1871–1950)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/wesche-phoebe-ellen-9283/text15943, published in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 27 August 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2014

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Twynam, Phoebe Ellen
Birth

10 June 1871
Goulburn, New South Wales, Australia

Death

21 August 1950
Riversdale, New South Wales, Australia

Cultural Heritage
Occupation