Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Former GG Funeral

As The Age reported the funeral of the former and now late Governor General of Australia, Sir Ninian Stephen. I expect he was quite conservative in his views. Quite a life. His childhood was was both charmed yet extraordinary. I am now curious about who this Australian woman Nina Mylne is, or was.

You can read the full article here.

Ninian is a name not heard much these days, but for a child who would become Australian governor-general Sir Ninian Stephen, it was a word that meant salvation.
He was born in England of Scottish parents in 1923 but within days of his birth his father, a poultry farmer who had fought in World War I, abandoned the family and disappeared.
The deserted new mother, Barbara, had the great good fortune to be taken on as a paid companion to the wealthy heiress of an Australian pastoral empire, a single woman named Nina Mylne who was drifting around Europe.
Soon after, in Geneva Barbara Stephen's baby boy was christened. He was given the name Ninian to honour the woman who had, in effect, saved the little family.
They travelled on to Paris, Cannes and the beachside commune of Saint-Cast-le-Guildo in north-west France, and to Wiesbaden in Germany, before settling in Edinburgh, where Nina Mylne paid for Ninian's early schooling.
His education continued in London and Montreux, Miss Mylne travelling with the boy while his mother ran a boarding house in Edinburgh.
With war descending upon Europe, the three of them moved in 1940 to Australia, where the teenaged Ninian spent two terms at Scotch College in Melbourne, before enrolling in Melbourne University to study law.
All the while, Ninian Stephen had no idea he'd been abandoned. He was told his father had died from the lingering effects of having been gassed in the war.
He would not discover the truth for 70 years. In 2003, he finally learned that his father had run away to Canada, where he had started a new family.

19 comments:

  1. I had never heard of Nina Mylne (or this story) before either.
    I am going to have to investigate further. Thanks Andrew.

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    1. EC, we are both on a learning journey.....assuming we remember.

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  2. I think it is not nice to not tell the truth to a child ! One never know if he doesn't hear it from somewhere else !

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    1. Quite so, Gattina. Children will absorb the information but not always process it at the time, but they will as adults.

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    2. Gattina

      Joe and I are with you. If a man wants to leave his wife and run away to Canada, that his business. But if he deserts his children and lies to them, then that is very sneaky.

      Hels and Joseph

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    3. Hels, my father and his brothers were seriously screwed up by their mother deserting them when she ran away with one of her music students to Sydney. Move out of the family home, ok, but never desert your children. She tried to rapport with them when she was older, but it never quite worked.

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  3. Anonymous7:28 pm

    I posted about this just after Stephen's death. Philip Ayres' biography tells the tale and most of the details can be read on Google Books. Tony Stephens has still squibbed the full details that hint pretty strongly to a stronger connection between Nina and Barbara (Ninian's mother) than between Barbara and Fred (Ninian's father). Nina and Barbara were same-sex-parents! (Nina is credited as adoptive mother in his death notice.) I suppose a spirit of delicacy stopped anyone making anything of it before opinion taking closed on the you-know-what.

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    1. Wow Marcellous. I did not even guess that, but it makes sense. While I was off blog while we were in Sydney, I still read everyone's blogs and I remember reading your brief post, but I did not click on the link contained within. It has excited my interest.

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  4. That's sad that he learned about his Father so late in life and sadder still that his father abandoned him and his Mother.

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    1. Sami, it is quite a sad tale.

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  5. Such humble beginnings. Fascinating story.

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    1. Victor, made extra interesting by the comment by Marcellous.

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  6. I was older when my mum left us, taking both my siblings but not me, she tried to be "mum" in later years, but it was too late. Also, she died without ever telling my brother who his father is/was and he never forgave her, although he did love her.
    So the GG had dual citizenship?

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    1. River, yours seems to be a sad story too. I hope you good memories of childhood are strong. Sir Ninian may well have been dual nationality. There was no such thing as being an Australian until about 1947. After that, you automatically became a citizen if your father was born here. There may not be the same rules about being a GG compared to Federal Politician.

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    2. So River, how is your citizenship status?
      I wouldn't mind, perhaps even vote for you, but could you run for Federal Parliament?

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  7. Anonymous7:05 pm

    Andrew - quite a few of our earlier G-Gs were British, so obviously no problem there - they represent another well known British person after all.

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    1. Marcellous, yes, of course they were. Charlie was once mooted as our GG.

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  8. What a strange and delightful history was his! I too wonder about the woman who paid his mom as a companion.

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    1. Strayer, it seems certain now that they were not just good friends.

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Democracy is all very well, but why give it to the people? - Audrey Forbes-Hamilton.