Updated: Aug 6, 2020
Clare's Finest Citizen -- Mrs. J. Christison, M.B.E.
Clare - Marriage - Notable Women - Recent Welcome Home - Thanks - Achievements - Zonta Memorial - Death
Mrs. (Frances) Diana Christison, M.B.E., of "Weroona", Clare, was the widow of the late Mr. John Christison, who was looked up to and respected by all classes.
A Clare citizen all her life, Diana Hope was born in Clare at "Wolta Wolta", the Hope family residence in the beautiful wooded country on the West boundary of the town, a spot selected by her father, pioneer John Hope, where her girlhood was spent amid scenic beauty and the quiet of Nature.
She was married to Mr. John Christison, then aged 47 years, at St. Peter's Anglican Church, Glenelg in 1896. Their family home was "Weroona", in Clare.
Bluff, but genial, John always expressed his mind freely, his word was his bond and he was also of a very generous and kindly nature. John Christison was a partner and later sole proprietor of the Clare Brewery. Under his able control the business continued to expand and at various times owned at least 13 hotels throughout the Mid North.
Mr. Christison died in 1911 after 29 years of business as a brewer in Clare and after a period of ill health. Mrs Christison was proud to be able to launch a new plant at the Clare Brewery on November 20, 1913. All the the various operations of bottling, corking, labelling, and bottle washing, were now done by machinery. SA legislative changes to restrict trading hours greatly affected profits, particularly in draught beer sales and the brewery was forced to close in 1917.
Her late mother held open house at "Wolta Wolta", and on many Sundays there were Sunday School Classes. As part of Mrs. Christison's education she paid a visit to Vienna and to Venice, on the Continent.
She continued her musical studies, and combined with a flair for Art, she took a wide and varied interest in cultural works. Imbued with a love of the Country, her interests later in life found many expressions. The field of education was dear to her heart, and she was frequently a visitor to schools of all denominations.
Notable Women -- Clare Literary & Debating Society.
Monday evening, July 3 1922, was the occasion on which a Ladies' evening upon 'Notable Women of the British Empire' was carried out by the above society at the Institute Hall, when there was a large attendance.
In the absence of the president and vice-president, Mr A J Bowley occupied the chair.
Mrs Christison had charge of the evening, and a comprehensive programme was arranged.
The subject really resolved itself into 'Notable Women of the world,' and this aspect was explained by Mrs Christison.
Criticism was freely indulged in, creating a good deal of interest.
The papers which were presented were as follows : — Introductory, Mrs Christison ;
paper on George Elliott, Mr R E Hunter ;
paper on Harriett Beecher Stowe, written by Miss Lily Pink and read by Mr G Tilbrook ;
paper on Florence Nightingale, written by Mrs A J Bowley and read by Mr E J Scott ;
paper on Madame Melba, Miss. M F Tilbrook;
paper on Queen Victoria, Mrs Christison;
reading 'Notable Women of India', Miss Kathleen Tilbrook ;
paper on Madame Curie, Mr E H Tilbrook.
On the proposition of Mr H A French, seconded by the Rev A E Jones, a hearty vote of thanks was accorded Mrs Christison for the capable manner in which the evening had been arranged.
Recent Welcome Home
Upon her arrival back in Clare in January 1935, after a lengthy holiday spent in Great Britain, Mrs. Christison was welcomed by members of several societies with which she had always been associated:
Miss Winifred Wien-Smith (secretary of the Clare and District Hospital Aid presided.
In the absence of Mrs. Hawker, Mrs. P. Stacy, spoke on behalf of the Clare Red Cross Society.
Mrs. J. C. Dux spoke for the Clare Women's branch of the Agricultural Bureau,
and Mrs. A. J. Bowley for the Clare and District Hospital Aid.
Miss Mary Bowley presented their guest with a beautiful bouquet of flowers.
Mrs. Frank Pink was the convenor of the decorations for the occasion, and a wonderful array of flowers were on view, chiefly gladioli and agapanthi.
The afternoon tea arrangements were in the hands of Mrs C. Pink, Mrs. J. Miller, Mrs. R. Michael and Miss L. Davey.
Songs were rendered by Mrs. T. G. Gillen and Mrs. Potts; a duet by Mrs. J. D. Gilchrist and Mrs. H. Stacy; and solos by Misses Doreen Hunter and Page. The pianists for the afternoon were Misses V. Gillen and U. Scott.
Mrs. Christison, in a graceful reply thanked them all for the welcome home and expressions of good-will.
In the course of her remarks she said that on this visit to the Mother country she was impressed by the fact of how near Australia seemed to the old country on account of the fast air services and the wonderful advantages of radio.
"The wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Kent was a marvellous sight and a fitting climax to her holiday. It seemed that people in all parts of the British Empire heard the relay of the wedding ceremony just as clearly and distinctly as if they had been an eyewitness in the streets of London.
Even on her way out to Australia by steamer —in mid-ocean—Australia seemed very near, for she received on Christmas morning a radiogram from friends in Australia wishing her a happy Christmas.
Her friends in England, before she left, laughingly said that now there were such fast and up-to-date air services she would probably often pay them a visit, in fact, suggested that she would make a solo flight like Mr. James Melrose, in a 'plane of her own".
She assured them that this was hardly likely, as she preferred the less strenuous existence and the luxury of a modern liner and the exhilaration of the sea voyage.
England was a delightful country, and the greater part of her visit was spent in Gloucestershire and Sussex with friends and relatives.
It was nice to be back in Australia once more, but living in the old land had many compensations because of its historical associations, its wealth of interest in the world of art and literature, and for the delights of its delightful scenic beauties.
Mrs Christison regretted that many fine trees and avenues were being cut down on the outskirts of the metropolis to make way for modern tenements.
Many of the grand old homes scattered throughout the countryside had to be given over, due to the world depression and the high incidence of taxation, but taking it all in all she had had a most refreshing holiday."
'Hope' and 'Faith':
“At St. Barnabas's Church yesterday morning two stained glass windows were unveiled. . . The windows, which represent Hope and Faith, are the gift of Mrs. J. Christison, one in memory of her father and mother, and the other of her husband.” [Observer 28 Mar 1914]
"Di Christison was 51 when her husband died, and she lived for another 37 years. Her husband owned the Clare brewery when he died, and she tried to sell it, but when she couldn’t she became actively involved in the company that was formed and ran it until 1916. Harriet Filgate (Paddy Gleeson’s daughter) had run the brewery earlier with John Christison – and I would have thought running a brewery was quite unusual for women at any time so both of these women must have been pretty gutsy."
"All that would have been open to her was volunteer work, and the money that those Clare women raised by their fetes and garden parties was particularly important during the wars. Clare women raised enough money to buy an ambulance in the First World War." - Millie Nicholls
"Di Christison gave the land for the Pioneer Park, for Neagles Rock Reserve, and for what is now the Caravan Park, which sadly was meant to be kept in its native state but is now a purely commercial venture with hardly a native plant in sight. "
"They were not inconsequential gifts to the town, and she should be given credit for her generosity."- Millie Nicholls
Mrs Christison gave lectures on Animal and bird life and for a lifetime she worked unceasingly as local Secretary to foster the movement for the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
The Red Cross Society was her greatest work. As Secretary in World War One and supporting many relief funds such as the Belgian Relief, Australian Comforts Funds and Australia Days, she achieved outstanding work for her country.
In World War II she was elevated to President of Clare Red Cross and only retired as the result of advancing years.
Her interest in the life of the people was of outstanding merit. Visits to the sick in homes or in hospital were frequent. An untold number of kindly acts and deeds marked her life and interest for the poor and needy, and for many years she was a member of the Clare Victoria Relief Society.
Agricultural shows at Clare, Blyth and Auburn, Race meetings, Fairs and functions at her own home in aid of patriotic funds and all chic affairs for the advancement of the town and district had her active support.
A connoisseur in the field of literature, she was a member of the Clare Institute Library.
Historically minded, and a member of the S.A. Branch Royal Geographical Society, there was nothing she would not do to help develop the pioneer spirit.
Her interests were legion. Her mail bag to all parts of Australia and the world at large was very big. No man or woman in the long history of Clare in its 106 years, devoted such time and tireless energy to the Town she loved so well.
The outstanding benefaction of Christison Park, a lovely flora and fauna reserve near Clare Showgrounds, in memory of her late husband, was one of her finest achievements.
Then only last year, in 1947, the fulfillment of plans to hand over the deeds of a property near the Bowling greens and Swimming Club, plus a bronze plaque in memory of the first explorers and settlers, plus memorial gates and fencing, set the seal upon her magnificent benefaction to posterity.
A staunch member of St. Barnabas Anglican Church, Mrs. Christison's aids to her church were full of substance and character. One important item was the installing of a memorial stone to "Old Martha" in the churchyard, commemorating a well known crippled identity who regularly walked up the hill every Sunday in earlier days.
In final tribute to the finest citizen Clare has ever had, due recognition was accorded by His Majesty the King when in the New Year Honors of 1948, Mrs. Christison was honored by being made -- "A member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, 5th Class."
The Zonta Club of Clare & Districts unveiled their 2016 plaque on the Zonta Women's Honour Roll on February 22 2017, announcing the late (Frances) Diana Christison MBE as the recipient.
Mr Christison helped shape Clare, and it’s districts during her lifetime of 88 years, as she generously donated massive amounts of land, money and time to support community events, spaces and preserving local history.
Former Clare & Gilbert Valleys Council Mayor Patricia Jacka OAM and inaugural inductee on the Zonta Women's Honour Roll in 2010 said she was thrilled to have Mrs Christison on the roll.
“She was one of the pioneers of the Clare community,” Mrs Jacka said.
“Her commitment was just outstanding.”
Mrs Christison was born in Clare in 1860 to John and Isabella Hope, and got married in 1896 to John Christison. She is best known for her benefaction of Christison Park - now known as the Clare Caravan Park. - Story: Scott Murphy
Mrs. John Christison, M.B.E.
During a long life time many movements in which Mrs. Christison was actively concerned have more or less lapsed into obscurity.
ADDITIONAL particulars, when referring to the New Year Honor award of the M.B.E. to Mrs. John Christison, in our last edition, show she was associated with the following:—
Do many now "remember the "Home Reading Circle" that worldwide organisation, a branch of which was carried on by Mrs. Christison for ten (10) years
The "League of Loyal Women," the Clare branch of which inaugurated by Miss Jeffs in World War I. was run by Mrs. Christison in conjunction with the Red Cross ?
The "Chats about the Red Cross" contributed by her to the "Northern Argus".
The "Young Liberal League," which she started with the endeavor to interest a younger generation in Politics, to mention some by-gone interests which "had their day and ceased to be."
The Clare Citizens' League of which Mrs Christison became President in 1932.
In the Northern Argus of Thursday 19 Aug 1948 it was noted that the illness of Mrs. John Christison, M.B.E., one of the Town's finest citizens, and who was in Clare Hospital, was still causing anxiety to her relatives and friends. During the week her condition had not improved.
ON Thursday, August 26 1948, in the early hours of the morning Mrs. Frances Diana Christison, M.B.E., of "Weroona," Clare, widow of the late Mr. John Christison, died at the Clare and District Hospital at the age of 88 years.
By instructions under Mrs. Christison's will she was cremated at the South Australian
Crematorium, West Terrace, Adelaide, on Monday August 30 1948, when the Rector, Rev. John L. Bond, attended. So far as we can gather this is the first cremation of a Clare born citizen.
The Urn and ashes were brought to Clare and the full funeral service in St. Barnabas' Church was held on Thursday Sept. 2, at 10.30 a.m.1948. Afterwards the funeral left for the Clare cemetery at 11 o'clock. Messrs. F. W. Forsaith, Clare, funeral directors, were in charge of all arrangements. It was fully expected there would be a large and representative attendance at the funeral to witness the last rites and pay honor to, what one telegram we received a few days ago from Western Australia fittingly said:—she was "Clare's grand old Lady."
Ending on a personal note may we say that Mrs. Christison's demise will leave a blank in our lives. For three generations her encouragement, help and progressive thought have always been thoughtful and encouraging, and the loss we feel certain is shared eaually by all walks of life in Clare and district.
The Hope family of "Wolta Wolta" at Clare Museum of the National Trust
Pioneers of Snowtown, Pastoral pioneer John Hope
ENTERPRISE BREWERY, Pioneer Avenue, Clare, Clare Regional History Group
Death of Clare's Finest Citizen - Mrs.Frances Diana Christison, M.B.E.
Trove articles in date order: