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Mary Emelia Mayne (1858–1940)

by Betty Crouchley

This article was published:

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This is a shared entry with James O'Neil Mayne

James O'Neil Mayne (1861-1939) and Mary Emelia Mayne (1858-1940), philanthropists, were born on 21 January 1861 and 31 December 1858 in Brisbane, youngest of five children of Irish parents Patrick Mayne, butcher and grazier, and his wife Mary, née McIntosh. Inherited real estate gave them independent means: neither they nor their siblings married. Mary was a pupil of All Hallows' Convent School until 1877 and thereafter hostessed many functions at Moorlands, the family home at Auchenflower. James attended Brisbane Grammar School, graduated B.A. (Syd.) in 1884, and studied medicine at University College, London (L.R.C.P., Lond, M.R.C.S., Eng, 1890).

Resident medical officer at Brisbane General Hospital in 1891-98, then medical superintendent, Mayne worked with 'unremitting personal effort and self-denial', paid for the hospital's first X-ray plant, and donated his salary to the building and grounds committee. He resigned in 1904 after his brother Isaac was committed to an asylum where he later suicided.

After this tragedy, and worried by his own health, Mayne lived very quietly at Moorlands. He relinquished vice-presidencies of the National Cricket Union and Brisbane Bicycle Club; however he later accepted office in the Amateur Fisherman's Association and Toowong Rowing Club. He eschewed telephone and motor car, but travelled widely abroad with his sister. In memory of their brothers they commissioned, from Harry Clarke of Dublin, a stained-glass triptych for St Stephen's Cathedral, where they were regular worshippers. Exceedingly patriotic, they helped to alleviate sectarian bitterness by making Moorlands available to Red Cross working parties during World War I, and gave liberally to the Anglican St Martin's War Memorial Hospital.

Courteous, gentle and shy, Mayne shunned publicity but became renowned for philanthropy. The principal benefactors of the University of Queensland, he and Miss Mayne gave it 693 acres (280 ha) of Moggill land for agricultural education in 1923, and after negotiations beginning in 1926 paid £63,000 to resume over 200 acres (81 ha) at St Lucia. Mayne was attracted to this extensive river site by memories of Sydney University's small ground space and lack of water frontage.

Mayne died at Moorlands on 31 January 1939. Miss Mayne, softly spoken, gracious, slender and taller than her brother, died in the Mater Misericordiae Private Hospital on 12 August 1940. They were buried in Toowong cemetery in the family tomb which the university was requested to maintain. Mayne's estate was valued for probate at £113,334, Miss Mayne's at £83,375. Chief assets were the Brisbane Arcade, Regent building and Moorlands. Identical wills provided that the estates be applied in perpetuity for the university's medical school.

They are commemorated by the Mayne chairs of medicine and surgery, the Mayne String Trio and Mayne Hall (now James and Mary Emelia Mayne Centre) where there is a bronze plaque of them by Kathleen Shillam. A portrait of Mayne by Melville Haysom hangs in the University Art Museum. Moorlands, listed by the National Trust, now houses the Blue Nursing Service State Council and in its grounds is the Wesley Hospital.

Select Bibliography

  • Courier Mail (Brisbane), 1, 2 Feb 1939
  • Brisbane Grammar School Magazine, June 1939, p 123
  • University of Queensland Gazette, Dec 1954, p 4
  • Alumni News, 8 (1976), no 1, p 15
  • Queenslander, 30 Oct 1926
  • HOS 1/D14 (Queensland State Archives)
  • Mayne material (University of Queensland Archives).

Citation details

Betty Crouchley, 'Mayne, Mary Emelia (1858–1940)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 21 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (Melbourne University Press), 1986

View the front pages for Volume 10

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Emilia Mayne, n.d.

Emilia Mayne, n.d.

State Library of Queensland, 131643

Life Summary [details]


31 December, 1858
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia


12 August, 1940 (aged 81)
Queensland, Australia

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