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Leonard Reay (Len) Young (1897–1988)

by Helen Digan and Barbara Dawson

This article was published:

This is a shared entry with Constance Louise Young

Constance Louise Young (1900–1987), local history enthusiast, was born on 5 September 1900 at Coolamon, New South Wales, eldest of five children of New South Wales-born George Arthur William Nest, labourer, and his wife Eva Grace, née Barnes, born at Yarranjerry station, Coolamon. Connie was educated at Elmwood Public School, near Moss Vale, and in Sydney. The family lived at Manly and Connie later worked as a script typist for J. C. Williamson Ltd, Sydney.

On 1 February 1923 at St Philip’s Church of England, Sydney, Connie married Leonard Reay Young (1897-1988), eldest of four children of Irish-born Isaac Arthur William Young, commercial traveller, and his wife Beatrice Mary, née Reay, born in New South Wales. Len had been born on 7 July 1897 at West Maitland. His father had forbidden him to go to sea as Len had hoped and, because of his poor eyesight, he was unable to join the Australian Imperial Force. Instead, he went to Queensland to work as a jackeroo. At the time of his marriage he was a farmer.

Unsuccessful on a small property at Wyong, bought by Len’s father, Connie and Len then moved to Grenfell, where Len was a sharefarmer. He was briefly the overseer at Collaroy station, Merriwa. Seeking work in Sydney, he drove cars for Yellow Cabs of Australia Ltd. In 1927 the couple went to Thuddungra, near Young, where Len did government relief work. They moved in 1929 to Kambah station, owned by Connie’s brother-in-law, Robert Turtle, in the Federal Capital Territory. After the property was sold in 1934, Len worked first for Frank Snow on Cuppacumbalong, then at Yarralumla station—at the dairy leased by Robert Corkhill—and Hill station. In 1939 they rented, and were later to buy, a house in Donaldson Street, Braddon. Len drove government cars until his retirement in 1962.

A foundation member (1953) of the Canberra & District Historical Society, Connie was on its council in 1954-72 (honorary vice-president 1973-87). In 1963 the society became the caretaker of Blundells Cottage, a workman’s house that had survived intact since the 1860s and gained significance given its central location in the capital’s evolving parliamentary triangle. The cottage opened to the public the following year. The Youngs were closely involved with its management: Len was the odd-jobs man, money manager and instructor in country trades; Connie took the role of hostess, interior designer and needlewoman. They shared their experience and knowledge of country life and its hardships with visitors: some assumed that the Youngs lived there. Travelling to property auctions and clearing sales around southern New South Wales, Connie and Len brought back ‘bits and pieces’ to furnish the cottage. In 1966 the couple became the society’s first honorary life members.

Connie died on 19 April 1987 and Len on 20 July 1988; both died in Canberra and were cremated with Catholic rites. Their two sons survived them. Pat Wardle described them as a ‘pair of inseparable battlers’, who were ‘rarely discouraged, ready for the next spin of the wheel [and] hard workers’.

Select Bibliography

  • Public History Review, vol 12, 2006, p 44
  • Courier (Canberra), 23 Feb 1967, p 21, 8 June 1972, p 6
  • Canberra & District Historical Society Newsletter, June/July 1987, p 6, Sept 1988, p 9.

Citation details

Helen Digan and Barbara Dawson, 'Young, Leonard Reay (Len) (1897–1988)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 20 May 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]


7 July, 1897
Maitland, New South Wales, Australia


20 July, 1988 (aged 91)
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia

Cultural Heritage

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