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Beryl Randall Trigellis-Smith (1892–1985)

by Janette Bomford

This article was published:

Beryl Randall Trigellis-Smith (1892-1985), probation officer, was born on 30 October 1892 at Birchip, Victoria, elder daughter of Sydney Sampson, rabbit inspector (later conservative member of the House of Representatives for Wimmera, 1906-19), and his wife Matilda, née Brewer, both Victorian born. Beryl’s aunt, Kate Sampson, was the mother of (Sir) Robert Menzies. Educated at Warracknabeal and Methodist Ladies’ colleges, Beryl trained as a kindergarten and sub-primary teacher and gained a diploma from the Musical Society of Victoria. In 1916 she was awarded the Sister Madge memorial prize after qualifying as a nurse at the Alfred Hospital.

On 25 May 1917 Sampson enrolled as a staff nurse in the Australian Army Nursing Service, Australian Imperial Force, and the following month embarked for the Middle East. She arrived at Salonika (Thessaloniki), Greece, in July and saw service with the 42nd British General Hospital before returning to Australia in February 1919. Her AIF appointment terminated in April. She joined the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force on 12 August 1920 with the rank of sister. Later that month she was sent to Rabaul, New Britain, where on 9 May 1921 she transferred to the civil administration.

While in Rabaul, Sampson met John Augustus Smith, a World War I veteran serving in the AN&MEF. They married on 16 July 1921. ‘Trigellis’ was added to the family’s surname by deed poll in 1924 as Beryl wished to avoid being ‘plain Mrs Smith’. They lived on a plantation in the Mandated Territory of New Guinea for a short time then moved to Melbourne. They divorced in 1941.

From 1925 to 1928 Trigellis-Smith had nursed privately. She studied physiology and psychology at the University of Melbourne under the Royal Victorian Trained Nurses Association scheme in 1930 and also gained a certificate in institutional management from the Emily McPherson College of Domestic Economy. She was a full-time psychologist for ten years, specialising in adolescent work, before being appointed the first stipendiary probation officer of the Children’s Court in Melbourne in 1939. She retired from the court in 1960, later stating that she was privileged to have worked with such special and interesting cases.

Trigellis-Smith was an energetic committee member for a range of community organisations, including the Melbourne Orphanage (subsequently the Melbourne Family Care Organisation) in 1939–73, the Edith Cavell Trust Fund in 1965-74, the Prisoners’ Aid Society and the Returned Nurses’ Club. She supervised the Red Cross Emergency Housekeeper Service in 1960–65, and served on the Young Women’s Christian Association’s migration committee. She was appointed MBE in 1976.

Five ft 2 ins (158 cm) tall, Trigellis-Smith was sprightly and alert with a ready sense of humour; she inherited her mother’s stature and her father's forceful personality. Affectionately known as ‘Auntie’ by her family and friends, she especially enjoyed musical evenings at her home. Other interests included reading, philosophy and politics. Although a member of the Church of England, Trigellis-Smith did not practise religion, having lost her faith during the war. Survived by her son Sydney, a military historian who researched army records for the Australian Dictionary of Biography, she died on 1 July 1985 at Camberwell and, at her request, there was no funeral service. Her body was donated to the department of anatomy at the University of Melbourne.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Lofthouse, Who’s Who of Australian Women (1982), pp 439-41
  • M. Kennedy (ed), Servicewomen of Warracknabeal and District (1999)
  • Argus (Melbourne), 21 Dec 1916, p 6, 8 July 1939, p 8
  • Age (Melbourne), 3 Jan 1976, p 13
  • Warracknabeal Herald, 9 July 1985, p 4
  • B2455, item SAMPSON BERYL RANDALL (National Archives of Australia)
  • private information.

Citation details

Janette Bomford, 'Trigellis-Smith, Beryl Randall (1892–1985)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 16 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (Melbourne University Press), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Sampson, Beryl Randall
  • Smith, Beryl Randall

30 October, 1892
Birchip, Victoria, Australia


1 July, 1985 (aged 92)
Camberwell, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.