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The eight names around the beehive in the Central square can all be identified as women in the Scots Church community when the quilt was made.
It is likely that they were the key members of the Busy Bee group, responsible for publicity for the project, fund-raising, design and needlework. The group included both mature and younger women: mothers, daughters, aunts and cousins. We don’t know whether the group had a leader or chief designer or organiser.
The Busy Bees’ use of initials rather than full names makes it hard to identify conclusively each person. However we are confident about the identity of four of them.
AE Fraser is Mrs Anna Elizabeth Fraser, aged about 50, wife of Reverend Fraser. This was a tumultuous year in her life. In January 1895 her daughter Alexandra had died at the age of 22. Later that year the family moved from a manse at Northcote to premises in Heidelberg and commenced building their own home in Banksia Street.
L Fraser is Charlotte (known as Lottie), daughter of Anna Elizabeth and Reverend Duncan Fraser. She was aged about 21 when the quilt was finished. Lottie also contributed square [E15].
Further information about Rev. Duncan Fraser and his family is in preparation.
M McCracken is Margaret, aged about 37 and wife of Adam McCracken who leased and managed Banyule House from 1891 until the late 1890s. For more information click here (opens a PDF).
C Smith is Christine, the daughter of David and Ann, dairy farmers from Templestowe. Aged 26, Christine was unmarried and teaching in the Scots Church Sunday School. Her eldest sister Annie, Mrs G R Cumming [K13], may have organised the contribution of squares from Williamstown. For further information about their immediate family click here (opens a PDF).
For information about the extended Smith family, their settlement in Bulleen/Templestowe, and a list of all the Smith family squares on the quilt, click here (opens a PDF).
We are not so certain about the identities of the other two Busy Bee Smiths.
I Smith could be Christine’s aunt, Isabella Ramsay Smith (Mrs George Smith), matriarch, aged mid 50s, or her eldest daughter, Isabella Ramsay Duncan Smith, unmarried, aged 28 years.
J Smith could be Jessie Duncan Smith, second daughter of George and Isabella Smith, unmarried, aged 23 years.
The Donaldsons are pivotal to the whole story of the Busy Bee quilt, not only because two members of the family were Busy Bees, but also because members of the Donaldson family acquired the quilt and took it with them to New Zealand in the early 20th century. It was returned by the family in 1990, gifted back to the church and subsequently donated to the Heidelberg Historical Society.
For a summary of the Donaldson family history click here (opens a PDF).
There are several possible identities of Busy Bees I and M Donaldson.
I Donaldson could be Isabella Leslie Donaldson (née Cantlay, 1843-1931), second wife of John Donaldson, OR their daughter, Isabella Ann (1869-1900). Given the close involvement of their family with the Scots Church Heidelberg, it is probable that both women were involved but it is not obvious which one was the Busy Bee named in the Central square.
See also [F17] (Isa Donaldson).
M Donaldson could be Margaret Alexander Davidson Donaldson (1860-1940), eldest child of John Donaldson and his first wife Anstruther Davidson.
My Great Aunt was Anna Elizabeth Fraser. Anna was the sister of my Great Grandfather.
I also have a Interest in Family research, and have visited the Church several times.
I am so delighted to have come across this treasure.
Submitted on 5th August 2019 at 07:34 PM
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