b. 4 April 1903, d. 17 July 1987
|Father||Donald Glenorchy McDonald1 b. 6 Mar 1878, d. 12 May 1953|
|Mother||Alice Euphemia Steer1 b. 17 Aug 1880, d. 18 Sep 1957|
Birth, Death, Marriage
|Irene Gladys 'Sis' McDonald was born on 4 April 1903 in 91 Sutherland St, Brunswick, Victoria; younger of twins.1,2|
|She married Thomas James Phillips, son of John Phillips and Ellen O'Loughlin, on 9 September 1922 in St Monica's, Essendon, Victoria.3|
|She died on 17 July 1987 in Shepparton, Victoria, at age 84.|
|Thomas James Phillips b. 2 May 1897, d. 8 Dec 1980|
|Charts||Campbell, John, descendant chart|
McDonald, Archibald, descendant chart
McDonald, Irene, pedigree chart
O'Loughlin, Michael, descendant chart
Phillips, James, descendant chart
Steer, Edward, descendant chart
|Irene was known as Sis throughout her life. Sis and her older identical twin sister Nene (Doris), spent their first decade in Swan Hill and their second in Nyah. Sis married Tom Phillips and the couple set up home in Shepparton where they raised a family of six. She supported Tom in their many business ventures, mostly pubs. They ran, and lived in, the Hotel Australia in Shepparton for 35 years. Despite having one lung removed in her mid-30s, Sis had fairly good health up to her death at age 84.|
|Doris May and Irene Gladys were born at 91 Sutherland St in Brunswick on 4 April 1903. They were the second and third children of Alice, the oldest two children of Donald and the oldest to reach adulthood. Doris was the elder of the identical twins. Doris was known as Nene and Irene was known as Sis.4,5,2,6|
|Alice Steer was expecting twins and moved from Echuca back to her parents' family home in Lake Boga. For the birth, she went to a lying-in home in Brunswick. Perhaps this was the most prudent course of action for a young mum who was about to have twins. Certainly in the early 1900s, Melbourne would have offered better medical facilities than Lake Boga or Swan Hill, if needed.|
A lying-in home was a private home or hospital where mothers could give birth with the help of a midwife. They were then encouraged to stay for a couple of weeks before returning home or moving on to their next destination.
In this case, the lying-in home was at 91 Sutherland St in Brunswick. It was run by Mrs Mary Morris, a qualified and certified midwife who welcomed unmarried mothers.7,8,9
|Upon returning to the family home in Lake Boga, Alice's sisters helped with their new twin nieces. Beatrice recalls rocking them in an old rocking chair.10|
|What's in a name?|
She was born Irene Gladys, but was known throughout her life as Sis, and her sister as Nene. Identical twins, Nene and Sis were called by their auntie, Lucy Bell, the 'twinnies'.11
It seems the twinnies weren't too fussed about birthdays. According to the official records, Nene was the elder of the twins, though in early 1996 she said she always thought that Sis was the elder. And in April 2012, Sis's daughter, Irene Barnes, posted a picture of Nene on Facebook with the note 'Aunty Nene celebrated her birthday on the 2nd but mama (Sis) celebrated on the 4th ... The twins!'1,11,12
|Donald and Alice took the twins and set up home on Pental Island near Swan Hill. The couple were share dairy farming there, and Alice helped milk 70 cows by hand. She used to take the twins to the shed with her and put them in a big box; they could stand but not yet walk.10|
|Late Marriage and Name Chaos|
It wasn't until 1910 when their twins were seven that Donald McDonald and Alice Steer were married. The marriage was conducted by John Stewart Drummond, a presbyterian minister in Swan Hill. Notably, neither of the two witnesses, Ernest Gerald Gray and Donald Urquhart, were family.
Because of the delayed marriage, the twins were originally registered under the name Steer, though they were always referred to as McDonalds. No father's name was provided for the original registration of twins Doris and Irene, but Donald's name was added as the father when these two births were re-registered in June 1943.
Donald McDonald is shown as the father for Donald (jnr) and Violet.
It says something about the Australian treatment of names that the four children, Doris, Irene, Donald and Violet were always known as Nene, Sis, Dougal and Bub.
While we don't have any photos of the wedding, we do have a photo of the three eldest children that could have been taken at the time.13,14,6,2,1
|Swan Hill to Nyah by Ballast Train|
According to Nene, the family travelled on the ballast train when they moved house from Swan Hill to Nyah. The line was being built from Swan Hill to Piangil, through Nyah West (or Nyah Rail as it was then known) around 1914. It must have been quite a sight and adventure for the four young children to have all the family's belongings piled onto a railway wagon.15,16
Sis spent her early childhood in Swan Hill before moving to Nyah at the age of about 10.
Her father's family lived in Swan Hill and her mother's family lived about 10 km to the South in Lake Boga, so she would have had regular contact with both sides of her family. Sis and Nene once walked across Lake Boga with their 'auntie Beat' (her mum's sister Beatrice), who was just 10 years older than them.
Sis was fairly active. She was known to have horse races with Nene, and she probably did with Dougal and Bub as well. She had a three-quarter mile walk to school each day and was occasionally chased by snakes. Maybe this is where she developed her running skills. Nyah held an annual New Year's Day sports carnival which and Sis & Nene entered and did very well in. Nene reported that one year she won a book, next year another book, then a hat. When asked how Sis went, Nene replied 'she came second'.
It was in Nyah that Sis met Thomas James Phillips.17,11
|Nyah Picnic Sports|
A highlight on the family's social calendar must surely have been the annual Nyah picnic sports day. Held on New Years Day, the social gathering drew people from all around the region, including a large contingent from Swan Hill. A popular location was the Nyah recreation reserve on the bank of the Murray. At night, dances would be held in any available hall.
During the war, the day was used as a fundraiser directly for the war effort, but also to help returned wounded Nyah soldiers.
The 1916 event featured athletics and swimming. In the girls' under 14 race, the McDonald twins came first and second. Their father, Donald, was one of two judges on the day.18
|Marriage and Family|
Irene Gladys McDonald and Thomas James Phillips were married at St Monica's Roman Catholic church in Essendon on 9 September 1922. Tom was 25 and Sis was 19 (the registration shows 20) and she was married 'with the written consent of Donald Glenorchy McDonald, father of the bride'. They had six children.
Sis stayed for a time at the home of Tom's sister, Teresa (Tess) O'Loughlin at 5 Glen St, Essendon as they prepared for the marriage, and this is her 'usual address' on the marriage registration. Tom was Catholic, but Sis was not, so Tess and her family helped with her conversion to Catholicism. Witnesses to the marriage were John and Mary Phillips, Tom's brother and sister.19,3
|Around the time of the marriage, Tom took Sis and Nene to visit his parents in Bacchus Marsh. According to Nene, Ellen was nice, but John was 'a bit grumpy'.20|
|Maude St Home|
|First child Jack was born in Shepparton in March 1923. The 1924 electoral roll shows Tom Phillips at 46 Maude St, but does not show Sis; she may not have reached the voting age of 21. It is probable this is where they lived when Jack was born.21|
|Nixon St and Swallow St Homes|
|In July 1924, 62 Nixon St was offered for sale and Tom bought it. |
Second son Reg was born in Ascot Vale in Melbourne in August 1924. While it is not known why Reg was born in Melbourne, a possible reason he wasn't born in Shepparton is that the new house wasn't ready.
Third son, Laurence Lloyd arrived in 1925. At this time, according to the birth registration and electoral roll, the family was living at 7 Swallow St. As the rate books still show Tom as owner of the Nixon St house, perhaps it was being renovated for the new arrival, or expanded to accomodate the growing family at the time.22,23,24,25
Milk Arrowroot biscuits: Auntie Nene reckons Jack, Reg & Laurie were brought up on milk arrowroot biscuits and milk. The Simply Australia website says 'At the turn of the last century arrowroot was a common source of starch, so this biscuit was seen as a good food for young, growing children. Milk Arrowroot soon became the food of choice for Australian mothers and their children as it was easily digestible. It was often crushed and served with milk as a way to start babies on solids. Then as kids grew up, it was packed as a sandwich in school lunch boxes'.20,26
|Nixon St Home Revisited|
|In March 1928, Tom put the Nixon St house up for sale. It was advertised as having six rooms (one more than when purchased in 1924), bathroom, washhouse and electric light. Terms were half cash, £100 in six months, balance in 30 months and 6½ per cent interest. It wasn't sold.|
Between 1924 and 1931, the address (in the Shepparton rates or electoral roll) is 62 Nixon St. From 1933 to 1937, it is 16 Nixon St. They didn't move, this was due to streets being renumbered.
The youngest three children, Rene, Don and Brian, were born while the family was in the Nixon St home. All six children spent some of their time growing up in Nixon St, though for the youngest Brian, not very long.27,28,24,29,30,31
|Children's Catholic Education|
The five oldest children went to St Brendan's primary school in Shepparton. Around 1936, Jack and Reg went to Assumption College in Kilmore where they boarded. Laurie followed a couple of years later. Jack and Laurie also spent a year or two at Sacred Heart College in Shepparton.
|During the war, Tom bought a 1938 Studebaker 'President' from Hank the Yank. This became the family car and was used on holidays.32|
Sis Phillips in the 1938 Studebaker 'President', possibly Brian & Don at the rear window, possibly Jack & Reg on the running board
Image: Laurie & Lorraine Phillips
Margaret Sellwood (Lee) remembers Tom & Sis Phillips visiting Beatrice and the family in a big flash American car (the Studebaker) when they lived in Lake Boga. She was about five years old and commented that 'It was like they were from another world'.33
|Pine Lodge Hotel|
|The family had their first taste of what life could be like while living in a pub, when they moved into the Pine Lodge Hotel in Shepparton East in 1938.|
The three older boys were boarding at Assumption College in Kilmore, returning three times a year during school holidays. At home they lived in an old cable car under the peppercorn tree. In summer the mosquitoes were so bad they burned cow pats to keep them away.34,35,36
|While at the hotel, Rene and Don went to the nearby Shepparton East school. Brian had not yet started school.|
While Tom was busy running the business, it was also a very busy time for Sis. As well as looking after the children and the usual domestic duties, she also worked the bar and kitchen. There was also a lot of night trading, which hotelkeepers had to do to survive in the days of six o'clock closing. Despite all this, Sis found time to be involved with the Shepparton East branch of the Country Women's Association.35,34
|Major Lung Operation|
|Around 1940, Sis had a major operation in which one lung was removed. It came about suddenly following a haemorrhage. Sis was taken from Shepparton to a hospital in East Melbourne, possibly St Vincents or St Ives, where the operation took place.|
The three eldest boys, Jack, Reg and Laurie were at Assumption College in Kilmore at the time. One day at morning rosary the Brothers announced to everyone that the boys' mother was about to have a serious operation and that they should all say a few prayers for them.
The family rallied around to help. Sis's mum came up from Melbourne to help look after Rene, Don & Brian. Sis spent time recovering at the home of her sister-in-law Tess in Essendon. And her sister Bub helped out with the kids and housework when Sis returned home.37,38,39
Newly-painted old tin bath: Sis Phillips had a major operation and recouperated for a while at Tess's place in Essendon. Unfortunately for Sis, the old tin bath had just had a coat of white paint, so when she got out, sensitive parts of her were also painted white. She commented that having a lung removed was nothing compared to having paint removed from her backside!40
|Orr Street Home|
Tom bought the weatherboard residence at 77 Orr St from Mr Ben Seth in July 1941, though the family likely lived there earlier.41
|Between moving out of the Pine Lodge Hotel in early 1940 and into the Orr St home, the family lived in a house in Nixon St, near Harold St.|
Tom was then involved in a number of business ventures including the Court House Hotel, where Sis also worked for a while.
When they bought the Hotel Australia, they kept the Orr St house which the whole family called home for several more months. And years later, two sons lived there after they married.37,42,35
Back: Sis Phillips, Val Irwin; front: Brian, Don & Rene Phillips;, 77 Orr St, Shepparton, c. 1942
Image: Laurie & Lorraine Phillips
|Hotel Australia Home|
For a more comprehensive account of the Phillips family's time at the Hotel Australia, see House of Phillips.
Although the family's official commencement at the Hotel Australia was November 1944, Tom and Sis still lived at Orr St for several months before moving. Sis was keen to move in but Tom insisted that her sister Bub would need to help out first.
At the time, Jack, Reg and Laurie were about 21, 20 and 19. Jack and Reg were serving in the Second World War and Laurie was about to do the same. Rene was about 15, Don 13 and Brian 8, and so were still at school.
Jack, Reg and Laurie moved into the hotel as they returned from the war, so Jack around February 1946, Reg March 1946 and Laurie January 1948.42,43
|The 'Cupboard' was a small room under the stairwell where after hours drinking would occur, often well into the night. Unfortunately for Sis, the stairwell was near their bedroom causing many a disrupted sleep.|
Time Gentlemen, Please!: At about 6:10 pm the head barman in the main bar would shout 'Time gentlemen, please!', meaning it was time to drink up as the bar was about to close. After everyone shuffled out, there would be a tap-tap-tap on the front door with a coin, and the hardier ones would sneak in again and meet in the 'Cupboard' to continue drinking. The drinkers would be from all walks of life, including cops. Tom recalls times when it seemed like there were a hundred blokes in there - it was packed and noisy.44
|The family's living arrangements changed as the children married. Reg was first to wed, marrying Madge in March 1948, and they lived in the Orr St home. In 1952 they returned to the hotel with baby Michael and stayed until soon after Susan was born in 1953, when they moved into their newly constructed home in Maude St.|
Rene was second to marry, and in 1952 moved to Warrnambool with new husband Keith Barnes. The couple's friendship developed when Keith was staying at the hotel while he was an announcer at nearby 3SR radio station.
Laurie closely followed Rene, when later in 1951 he married Lorraine and they moved into a home in Maude St.
Jack married Cass in 1952 and they moved into the Orr St home, prompting Reg and Madge to return to the hotel.43
|Don and Marion married in 1958 and initiially moved out. They made the hotel their home around 1964 and remained there with sons Trevor and Paul until around 1973.|
Brian and Maureen married in 1968 and daughter Peta was born when they lived in the hotel. The three moved out around 1972.
|When Don and his family moved out around 1973, it marked the first time Tom, now in his early seventies and Sis, in her late sixties, had no immediate family living with them.|
Alex Plant, Marion Phillips (Plant), Don, Sis & Tom Phillips, Mar 1958
Image: Trevor Phillips Photographics
When Doc Kennedy visited Tom when he was crook, he'd take a bottle of Scotch upstairs with him. When asked on his return a few hours later how Tom was, Doc would say 'he was in good spirits when I saw him'.43
|In at least the last ten years at the hotel, Tom and Sis would head up north in winter to the Broadbeach Hotel in Queensland for a holiday and to escape the cold.|
In 1979, the Phillips family sold any interest in the Hotel Australia, and Tom and Sis moved out. Tom was 82 and Sis was 76.43,46
|Hotel Australia Work|
|All six children worked at the Hotel Australia, though probably only the five boys were paid. Jack, Reg and Laurie began working as they returned from the war, so Jack around February 1946, Reg March 1946 and Laurie January 1948. Tom had developed heart problems when serving in the war and so had limited physical abiliy. And Sis was limited having had a lung removed a few years earlier.|
|TJ Phillips & Sons|
When Tom leased the Hotel Australia from Dunnes in November 1944 for £25 a week, there were no partners in the business.
Tom Phillips and his family purchased the Hotel Australia in mid-1948. The lease had included an option to purchase and by 1948 Dunnes were finally persuaded to sell. In August 1948, Tom's licence was transferred to the new partnership of TJ Phillips & Sons. This partnership consisted of Tom and the three eldest sons, Jack, Reg and Laurie.
All five boys have held shares in the business, but never all at the same time. The first half of 1955 saw major changes in the company structure. In April 1955, they formed a proprietary limited company consisting of Tom, Sis, Jack, Laurie, Don and 19 year old Brian. Reg took his share from the earlier partnership to persue other business ventures. Sis was now part of the company structure for the first time, as were Don and Brian. Between them, Tom and Sis had a small majority share holding. Tom was nominee in the new company and Jack was company secretary.
TJ Phillips & Sons was liquidated in November 1981.47
|Interests and Accolades|
When Sis wasn't looking after the children or working in one of the pubs, she was known to occasionally dance or play bowls. She was also involved in the Shepparton East Country Women's Association.
In later years, like Tom, she was keen on the horses. She was part owner with Tom and son Laurie in their thoroughbred venture. And she always had her 'trannie' nearby, and whenever it was switched on, you could hear a race being run.
Sis also travelled to Nauru and Tasmania with her mother.
This is what was said about Sis Phillips on the occasion of the couple's 50th wedding anniversary:
'There's not a great deal you can say about mum', Reg Phillips said yesterday, 'except she's been a great mother and wife'. 'The Phillips family is a credit to Shepparton and largely responsible for this is the wonderful guidance given by their parents', Cr Kevin Riordan. 'Tom Phillips is one of the best loved men this city has and Mrs Phillips has been a wonderful backstop for her husband and a magnificent mother', Cr Kevin Riordan.37,48
|Tom and Sis had 31 grandchildren, though one died as an infant.|
Catherine Phillips & Irene 'Sis' Phillips (McDonald), rear Hotel Australia, c. 1954
Image: Catherine Wayman
Back: Sis Phillips, Rene Barnes, Catherine Phillips, Warren, Maree & Kevin Barnes, John Phillips, Lesley Barnes with Ellen Barnes; front: Tony Barnes?, Paul Phillips, Tom Phillips?, Trevor Phillips, Adrian Barnes, Brendan Phillips?; Reg & Madge's pool, Maude St, Shepparton, c. 1966
Image: Lesley Blythman
Sis & Tom Phillips (50th wedding anniversary), Nene Courtie, Jack Phillips, Ellen Barnes (front), 1972
Image: Lesley Blythman
Tom & Sis Phillips at their 50th wedding anniversary with great-granddaughter Tania Blythman, 1972
Image: Lesley Blythman
Sis Phillips, possibly with Nicole Wayman, Karen Phillips (back), Tom Phillips with Keith Blythman, Tania Blythman (standing), Nov 1973
Image: Nene Courtie
|When twins Nene and Sis turned 80 in 1983, the family gathered to mark the occasion.|
|After moving out of the Hotel Australia in 1979, Tom and Sis moved into a unit in Corio St. Tom died in 1980.|
Irene Gladys Phillips had atherosclerosis and emphysema, and died of heart failure in Shepparton on 17 December 1987, aged 84. She had lived for over forty years with only one lung. She was buried next to Tom at Pine Lodge cemetery in Shepparton East on 20 July 1987.49
- [S5] Irene Gladys McDonald, birth registration no. 9877/1943, 4 April 1903.
- [S374] Irene Gladys Steer, birth registration no. 8482, 4 April 1903.
- [S11] Thomas James Phillips and Irene Gladys McDonald, marriage registration no. 7536, 9 September 1922.
- [S270] Victorian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, registry and index, Doris May McDonald entry, birth registration no. 9876, 1943.
- [S270] Victorian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, registry and index, Irene Gladys McDonald entry, birth registration no. 9877, 1943.
- [S375] Doris May Steer, birth registration no. 8481, 4 April 1903.
- [S2] 'Lying-in', Wikipedia, online, Wikimedia Foundation, viewed 9 August 2014. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lying-in
- [S2] 'Lying-in home', Find & Connect, online, 2011, viewed 15 August 2014 http://www.findandconnect.gov.au/ref/wa/objects/…
- [S2] 'Board and lodging', The Argus, Melbourne, 19 June 1909, p. 10, viewed 9 August 2014 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page364655
- [S376] From the Memories of the Life of Beatrice Lee, unpublished, 1987, p. 2.
- [S52] Doris 'Nene' Courtie, personal communication, 10 November 2001.
- [S281] 'Phillips Family', Facebook, webpage, Facebook Inc., group created 25 June 2011, 3 April 2012 post by Irene Barnes.
- [S146] Edwardian Index Victoria 1902-1913: Indexes to births deaths and marriages in Victoria, CD-ROM, Macbeth Genealogical Services, 1997.
- [S53] Donald Glenorchy McDonald and Alice Euphemia Steer, marriage registration no. 4052, 12 May 1910.
- [S52] Doris 'Nene' Courtie, personal communication.
- [S188] On 'This Bend' of the River, Nyah district centenary committee, 1993, p. 110. This was probably around 1913-1915 because at the time railway workers camped in the Nyah area as the rail line was being built from Swan Hill to Piangil, through Nyah West (or Nyah Rail as it was then known).
- [S58] Violet 'Bub' Williams, personal communication.
- [S39] 'Nyah picnic sports', Swan Hill Guardian and Lake Boga Advocate, 1892-1937, newspaper, A Knox Chapman, 6 January 1916, p. 2, viewed 7 June 2013, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article92121872
- [S108] Pauline Wilson, personal communication, 30 December 1996.
- [S52] Doris 'Nene' Courtie, personal communication, 30 December 1996.
- [S392] Australia, Electoral Rolls 1903-1980, online, Commonwealth division of Echuca, state division of Goulburn Valley, subdivision of Shepparton, 1924.
- [S392] Australia, Electoral Rolls 1903-1980, online, Commonwealth division of Echuca, Victorian division of Goulburn Valley, subdivision of Shepparton, 1925.
- [S104] Laurence Lloyd Phillips, birth registration no. 35021, unknown date.
- [S233] Shepparton Shire & Town Rates Index, 1885-1939/1941, computer file, Shepparton Family History Group, Phillips entries.
- [S260] 'The greatest real estate sale ever held in Shepparton', Goulburn Valley Stock and Property Journal, 1910-1963, newspaper, Horan & Simpson, 9 July 1924, p. 2, viewed 31 July 2019, https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/215110804
- [S2] 'Arnotts Milk Arrowroot', Simply Australian, online, Cincinnati, Ohio, viewed 13 July 2014 https://www.simplyoz.com/products/australian_foods/…
- [S201] 'Watch this: Shepparton town land sale', Shepparton Advertiser, 1914-1953, newspaper, Thomas Pettit and William Callender, 1 March 1928, p. 5, viewed 5 May 2019, https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/179172549
- [S392] Australia, Electoral Rolls 1903-1980, online, Commonwealth division of Echuca, state division of Goulburn Valley, subdivision of Shepparton, 1931 & 1936.
- [S392] Australia, Electoral Rolls 1903-1980, online, division of Echuca, subdivision of Shepparton, 1934.
- [S392] Australia, Electoral Rolls 1903-1980, online, Commonwealth division of Indi, Victorian division of Goulburn Valley, subdivision of Shepparton, 1937.
- [S550] 'stage II: Heritage place datasheets, vol. 4 datasheets Murchison -Z, 2004', Greater Shepparton Heritage Studies, online, GSCC, 2001-, viewed September 2019, http://greatershepparton.com.au/bpi/planning/…
- [S102] Jack Phillips, personal communication, 30 November 1996.
- [S51] Margaret Sellwood, personal communication, 3 March 2012.
- [S15] Irene Barnes, personal communication, 5 December 2012.
- [S32] Laurie Phillips, personal communication, 31 August 2019.
- [S32] Laurie Phillips, personal communication, 27 July 2019.
- [S15] Irene Barnes, personal communication, 5 October 2012.
- [S58] Violet 'Bub' Williams, personal communication, 1 September and 30 December 1996.
- [S32] Laurie Phillips, personal communication, 10 December 2012.
- [S37] Margaret Deveney, personal communication, 14 April 1996.
- [S260] 'J McNamara & Co: Houses', Goulburn Valley Stock and Property Journal, 1910-1963, newspaper, Horan & Simpson, 23 July 1941, p. 4, viewed 4 May 2019, https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/217932986
- [S58] Violet 'Bub' Williams, personal communication, 28 September 1996.
- [S15] Irene Barnes, personal communication, 4 December 2013.
- [S214] Tom Carey, personal communication, May 2001.
- [S16] Catherine Wayman, personal communication, 2 March 2013.
- [S247] 'Mine host pulls his last glass', Shepparton News, 27 September 1979, p. 9.
- [S400] 'TJ Phillips & Sons', 1955-1981, company documents.
- [S259] '50 years of memories', Shepparton News, September 1972.
- [S385] Irene Gladys Phillips, death registration no. 16864/87, 17 July 1987.
- [S7] Irene Alice Phillips, birth registration no. 32713, unknown date.