Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Ruby Constance Ethel Blackall (1880–1951)

by Emma Grahame

This article was published:

Ruby Constance Ethel Blackall (1880-1951), charity organizer, was born on 7 May 1880 at Gympie, Queensland, fourth of six children of English-born parents Edwin Thomas, banker, and his wife Emmeline Sarah Jane, née Brett. Moving to New South Wales by 1903, Ruby trained as a nurse at (Royal) Newcastle Hospital and received her certificate in June 1905. At St Andrew's Anglican Church, Waratah, on 5 June 1907 she married Thomas Blackall, a dentist and pharmacist who had served in the Boer War from 1899 and joined his father's city dental practice upon his return from South Africa. His family was well known around Newcastle and the Lake Macquarie district where Blackalls Park is named after them.

In June 1916 their daughter Lynette was born deaf, which was to be the catalyst for Ruby's dedicated charity work. Thomas was an alderman (1925-41) on Newcastle Municipal Council and in December 1929 was elected mayor. In February 1930 he and his wife convened a public meeting in the town hall to form a Newcastle branch of the Adult Deaf and Dumb Society of New South Wales. Mrs Blackall was appointed president of the women's auxiliary and her husband, as mayor, was patron of the committee. In March that year rooms for the society were opened. She worked tirelessly at fund-raising, and at social and related activities. Building started on permanent premises for the society in 1935 and Blackall House, named in Ruby's honour, was opened next year by Sir Frederick Stewart. In her speech at the function Mrs Blackall acknowledged that she and her husband knew the tragedy of deafness in their own lives. By this time she was the branch's honorary secretary and later served as secretary-superintendant until 1951. She oversaw many of the society's developments. In 1950, after much fund-raising, a holiday and rest home for the deaf at Lake Macquarie was begun; she marched around the building site with gusto, but did not live to see the home opened.

Despite her personal grief, Ruby Blackall possessed great energy, and was an accomplished public speaker and administrator. She was associated with other charitable causes: as mayoress, with Thomas's assistance she had formed a Sunshine Club for needy children and she helped to establish a Newcastle branch of the New South Wales Society for Crippled Children. Photographs of her reveal a determined, capable woman, with small, round glasses and bobbed hair. Thomas died in 1941. Next year Lynette married William Frederick Harvey who died in 1946. Predeceased by two sons and survived by her daughter, Ruby Blackall died on 23 August 1951 in Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney; after a service at Christ Church Cathedral, Newcastle, she was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • Newcastle Morning Herald, 24 Oct 1899, 24 Dec 1929, 14 Feb, 8, 10 Mar 1930, 22 Aug 1936, 10 Dec 1941, 24 Aug 1951
  • Newcastle Branch, Deaf Society of New South Wales, History of the Branch (manuscript, copy held on ADB file)
  • Newcastle City Library files
  • private information.

Citation details

Emma Grahame, 'Blackall, Ruby Constance Ethel (1880–1951)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 25 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (Melbourne University Press), 1993

View the front pages for Volume 13

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Harvey, Ruby
  • Thomas, Ruby

7 May, 1880
Gympie, Queensland, Australia


23 August, 1951 (aged 71)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cultural Heritage

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