Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Grace Perrier (1875–1979)

by Carol Gistitin

This article was published:

Grace Perrier (1875-1979), librarian, was born on 18 November 1875 at Rockhampton, Queensland, third of eleven children of Henry Perrier, a Sydney-born railway porter, and his wife Ellen, née Brenan, who came from Ireland. Grace was educated locally at St Brigid's Convent of Mercy school. On 6 November 1889 she commenced work as a junior library assistant at the Rockhampton School of Arts, the main cultural institution in the town. She was trained and deeply influenced by its scholarly librarian N. M. M. Davidson who built up a fine collection of early Australiana.

In 1926 Perrier was promoted to assistant-librarian. With no formal training, but a love of books and a commitment to providing a high standard of service to subscribers, she proved to be an outstanding librarian. She was well informed, knew the tastes of her borrowers and selected their books unerringly. An avid reader of British newspapers and reviews, she provided ready advice and worked long hours. She arrived at work by 7.30 a.m. and called in on Saturday nights with overseas newspapers to ensure that they were available for the readers. In addition to training her staff to be meticulous in their duties, she personally cared for and repaired the library's collection of old and valuable books.

When the Rockhampton City Council took over the School of Arts on 1 July 1947, Miss Perrier became head of the municipal library, a post she held until a formally qualified librarian was appointed in 1950. She retired, reluctantly, on 11 September 1952. A public meeting was held, at which she was made an honorary life member of the library, and presented with a bedroom clock and a cheque for six months salary. W. A. Woolcock, chairman of the library committee, told those present that his most difficult task had been 'to stop her working so hard'. A plaque commemorating her loyal and conscientious service was placed in the School of Arts.

Gifted with an extensive knowledge of the history of Central Queensland, Perrier was a foundation member (1948), honorary librarian (1955-68) and a life member of the Rockhampton and District Historical Society. For many years she was the only wage-earner in her household, which included two of her sisters, two of her brothers and two nephews. She took responsibility for their welfare and helped to raise her nephews.

Perrier enjoyed excellent health, and was known as a woman of physical strength and some elegance. At Canome, the family home in King Street, she enjoyed gardening: she had a sound knowledge of plants, especially natives, and established a notable garden of trees, shrubs, ferns and orchids in the stony soil. Aged 103, she died on 30 August 1979 in a local nursing home and was buried in North Rockhampton cemetery with Catholic rites. The municipal library's special collection of books on early Australian literature, exploration and travel was named after her.

Select Bibliography

  • L. McDonald, Rockhampton (Brisb, 1981)
  • L. McDonald, Delving into the Past (Rockhampton, 1998)
  • Rockhampton and District Historical Society, Annual Report, 1962-77
  • Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton), 14 Aug, 21 Oct 1952, 19 Nov 1975, 3 Sept 1979
  • Rockhampton City Council, employees' cards
  • private information.

Citation details

Carol Gistitin, 'Perrier, Grace (1875–1979)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 29 November 2023.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (Melbourne University Press), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2023

Life Summary [details]


18 November, 1875
Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia


30 August, 1979 (aged 103)
Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia

Cultural Heritage

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