Sarah Wilsie CUNLIFFE
- Born: 11 Aug 1890, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
- Died: 19 Mar 1980, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia at age 89
Sarah Wilmott Cunliffe was born on 11 August 1890, the fifth child of Margaret and John Robert Cunliffe. She was known throughout her life as 'Wils'.
She attended Cleveland Street Public School where she showed a great aptitude for mathematics. However, her great passion was music and she was taught piano, her ambition being to become a concert pianist. When the time came to gain employment, she wanted to continue with her musical studies but her father, who could see no future in a musical career, drily suggested she should 'do something she was good at' namely figure work, so she entered the business world. She worked for various companies including Moffat Virtue and Berlei Ltd.
She became the accountant at Berlei, no mean feat for a woman in pre-war days. It is said that when she retired in 1945, the firm had to hire three people to replace her! She was granted a superannuation upon retirement, a most unusual thing in those days and a great compliment to her ability, and was given the choice of a 'lump sum' or a weekly gratuity. She chose the latter and drew it for nearly 40 years!
She always continued her music and after retirement started giving piano lessons with excellent results for her many pupils.
Like her father, she was a staunch labor supporter, in fact the family feared for her life when Gough Whitlam was sacked in 1975, so enraged she became at what she considered the unforgivably shabby treatment of the Prime Minister. She was a member of the World Government Organization from its inception, and, with her sister Clarice and her brother Roy, very involved with the Douglas Social Credit Movement, an economic theory evolved by Major C.H. Douglas, a British consulting engineer, which became popular in Australia, New Zealand and Canada during the 1920's.
She was very supportive of her brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews all her life and was cared for in her latter years by her niece, Wilsie Leigh, until Wilsie with husband, Drewe, moved to Alstonville shortly after Drewe's retirement in 1974.
She stayed on at the Collaroy home for a short time but decided to move into a nursing home at Dee Why about three years before her death in 1980.
During a visit to England with her sister Gert in 1961 to visit her great niece Janet Syme, she became a 'cricket fanatic' after being taken to Lords to watch an England v Australia test match by Janet's husband Michael. She was very fond of horse racing, was constantly working out systems and continued to 'have a bet' until her death, much to the amusement of the nursing staff at the home.
She died peacefully on 19 March 1890 in her ninetieth year.
Notes thanks to Mike Syme