12 November 2013

Trove Tuesday: Miss Mary Merrick

I've been researching some of the Merrick relatives recently, particularly James William Merrick, whom I will write about in a future post. Today I've been trawling through Trove, finding out what I can about James William Merrick, and then I sort of strayed onto other Merricks as well. Including Miss Mary Merrick.

Mary Merrick's birth is not recorded in the NSW BDM, although there is nothing to suggest she wasn't born in New South Wales. Her parents were John Thomas Merrick and his wife Margaret (maiden name unknown). Mary Merrick is my first cousin, three times removed.

My great uncle told me ages ago that she worked for the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney, and he thought she was on the board. My research says that she was a librarian and stenographer, so it is unlikely that she was on the board! However, as I myself am a botanist, I was absolutely delighted to find that in 1925 J.H. Maiden (a big name in NSW botanical circles) and W.F. Blakely named a eucalypt in her honour.

Sydney Morning Herald, 6 Aug 1925

The plant was named Eucalyptus merrickiae, a name which is still current. It is native to Western Australia, in the Esperance region, and is considered vulnerable because it is rare. Take it from me, having a plant named after you is a very special honour. She must have been well liked and good at her job. According to the paper in the Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New South Wales (1925, issue 59) in which the name was formally published, "This species is named in honour of Miss Mary Merrick, who, in her capacity as librarian and stenographer, Botanic Gardens, Sydney, has been of very great help to us in our Eucalyptus work".

And then I happened upon another one as well! Acacia merrickiae, known as Merrick's wattle, was also named in Mary's honour in 1927.

Mary's biography on the Australian National Herbarium website sheds a little further light on Mary's life - she was born 8 April 1897, and early staff records for the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney indicate she commenced work there in July 1921 as a librarian and stenographer, and then became a clerk in July 1922. According to records she was still working there in late 1925, and Hall (1978) says she still there in 1927. The National Herbarium of NSW records indicate that they have two plant specimens she collected in their collections, both from the Central Coast of NSW.

In 1933 Mary married Charles Harborough Thomas Taylor and her working career apparently came to an end. In December of the same year she gave birth prematurely to their first child, John Charles Harborough Taylor. They had at least one other child, Alan William Taylor.

Mary died on 10 August 1981 in a nursing home in Belrose, after spending her married life in Forbes, Avoca Beach and Chatswood. Did she continue with botanical interests throughout her life? I'd love to hear from anyone who is more closely related to her than me.

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