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Mrs Grace Ada Gaylor JP – Everybody’s Friend

The Record, 21 May 1932, p5

The title for this article comes from a report in The Record on 21 May 1932 marking Mrs Grace Ada Gaylor’s 65th birthday two days earlier. The story concludes by saying Mrs Grace Gaylor “is beloved by all, and is everybody’s friend irrespective of class or creed”.[1]

We could just as easily used “a friend of the poor” as she was described in The Record on 30 Jun 1928.[2]

Or “the greatest social worker in Port Melbourne” which is how The Record referred to her in their resume of 1932.[3]

Or, indeed, the “Mother of Port Melbourne” which was given as her “living title” at a Port Melbourne Council meeting in September 1933.[4]

Grace Ada Maine (or Main) was born on-board ship enroute to Port Phillip. The family settled at Williamstown before moving to Port Melbourne.[5]  She married Arthur Henry Gaylor on 20 Oct 1890 at the manse, Rathdown Street, Carlton where she was identified as the second daughter of R Main, a worker for Victorian Railways.[6]

Arthur Gaylor was the town lamplighter for fourteen years until 1912 and also held other positions within the council.[7] On his death in September 1934 it was noted that he “was a life-long citizen of Port Melbourne and as well-known as the Town clock”. He took great interest in Masonic matters and was involved in several lodges. He was a member of the committee and a trustee of the UFS Dispensary. He was universally respected and always an active helper of his wife in her many charitable activities.[8]

Besides his widow, Arthur was survived by a son, a foster son and a foster daughter painting a picture of Christian, charitable family so it is surprising that one of the first times Grace is mentioned in the press is when she took over the licence of the Yacht Club Hotel in Princes Street in 1896.[9]

Perhaps the plan was to close the hotel or convert it to a Coffee Palace. In April 1905 Grace was involved in a meeting in the Mayor’s room to inaugurate a White Ribbon Band (WRB), a new branch of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) specifically for young women. A Mrs Main was also involved in the meeting. Perhaps Grace’s mother or a sister-in-law.[10] At the meeting of the WTCU in November that year, Grace was elected President of the White Ribbon Band.[11]

Grace remained involved in the Temperance movement for many years to come. In 1910 she was WTCU Treasurer, while Mrs Main was Secretary.[12] Two years later Grace became Secretary.[13]

Whatever her motivation for acquiring the licence for the Yacht Club Hotel it seems that Grace did not hold it for long and it continued as a pub under several female publicans until it was delicensed by the Licence Reduction Board in 1909 becoming a boarding house[14] and eventually a private residence which coincidentally is for sale in March 2024 as this piece is being prepared.

In the decade or so before the First World War, Grace took up social work in the local area on behalf of the Salvation Army. In 1905 she was unsuccessful in assisting a young woman who attended the local court on having insufficient means of support. The Salvation Army home in Brunswick were unable to look after her “on account of her taking the fits so frequently[15] but was more successful when three young women faced the same charge in 1908.[16]

At the annual social held by the Salvation Army in their hall in Spring Street in June 1908, all speakers made reference to the social work done by the organisation and Mrs Gaylor in particular.[17]

A few months later, in October, the Salvation Army presided over a week of music and song including the sale of gifts where Grace operated the ice cream stall.[18]

In March 1909, at the local court Constable Dally gave evidence that he had found the accused man “asleep at the town pier on two occasions, and that he said he had no home, no money, no friends, and nowhere to go”. In the watch house the man had eaten ravenously as he had been without food for a week. The bench did not want to send the man to goal and with the help of Grace Gaylor it was arranged for him to go to the Salvation Army home.[19]

Grace Gaylor’s work was starting to be recognised more widely. In the lead up to the annual meeting of the social branch of the Salvation Army in July 1909 it was stated that social work was “controlled by Mrs Gaylor, who spends most of her time in looking after the wants of those who require her assistance[20]. At the meeting itself, the Rev J S Buntine “spoke highly of the work done by Mrs Gaylor”.[21]

We have seen that through this time, Grace was associated with the local Temperance movement but she was also involved with other local organisations. She was Treasurer of the local City Mission[22] and acted as Auditor for the Port Melbourne branch of the Australian Women’s Association.[23]

In 1911 she was appointed Secretary of a local committee to raise funds to assist the Convalescent Home for the Blind at Brighton. Grace continued to be involved with efforts to assist blind people for the remainder of her life. In 1927, she was recognised as “the leader of the coterie that is helping to keep Port Melbourne’s end up”.[24] More formally, that coterie was the Port Melbourne Blind Auxiliary and Grace Gaylor was their Honourable Secretary for several years through the early 1930s. At the meeting of the Council of Auxiliaries of the Royal Victorian Institute for the Blind in March 1934, “a special model of a lighthouse (the symbol of the institute) was presented to Mrs Grace Gaylor JP on behalf of her Port Melbourne auxiliary”.[25]

The Standard reported in July 1916 that both Grace and her husband, Arthur, were among the five probation officers of the Children’s Court at Port Melbourne.[26] Eleven years later, Grace was appointed a Justice of the Peace.[27] She sat on the bench of the Port Melbourne court for the first time on Monday, 22 Aug 1927 wearing her Salvation Army uniform.[28] The Record described “Our New JP” as “one of the best known and most respected citizens of her city” concluding that “the bench is enriched by the admission of Mrs Gaylor”.[29]

When the influenza epidemic came to our shores in 1919, Grace Gaylor was key to local efforts to assist those affected. At a meeting of the Council Health Committee, the Town Clerk, A V Heath reported that “Mrs Gaylor was rendering the municipality very valuable assistance in visiting the sick and doing other services at the request of the council” with Cr Sinclair saying, “She is one woman in ten thousand”.[30] Grace was among a small number of speakers who addressed a meeting of around 200 people in the Mayor’s room on 5 May 1919 to form a volunteer corps to help combat the disease. Grace was appointed in the role of “Special Service”.[31] A report at the end of the month referred to her as the Honourable Distributor emphasising her role making sure that food and other relief was distributed to those who most needed it.[32]

In October 1919, Council, describing her attention to many patients as “positively heroic” voted Grace an honorarium of £10/10/- noting that she had refused to accept weekly wages for her services “as her efforts were inspired by her Christian love for her fellow human beings”.[33]

When the local Baby Health Centre opened at the end of August 1927, The Record reported that “Mrs Grace Gaylor JP is the chief inspirer of the movement”.[34]

Baby Health Centre, Port Melbourne. The Record, 27 Aug 1927, p7

The following quote from The Record gives an insight in to the modesty of Grace Gaylor (and perhaps other charitable people) in Port Melbourne around this time.

“Mrs Grace Gaylor JP has been successful in raising funds for the relief of the families suffering from the recent fire in Bay Street. Mrs Gaylor says that all the credit is due to the Mayor (Cr Tucker), who just as emphatically insists that Mrs Gaylor is responsible. Anyone would think that charity is a crime, to hear how each of these generous souls disclaim responsibility for a kindly act. We firmly believe that they aided and abetted each other, and find each guilty of goodness of heart.”[35]

As well as her official involvement in the committees of so many local organisations and events, Grace Gaylor seems to have taken charge of catering for so many events in Port Melbourne ranging from the 50thanniversary celebrations of the Bowling Club in 1931[36] to a coming of age celebration the following year[37] and a gala for junior footballers the year after that.[38]

Grace served on the Nott Street School Committee[39] for many years and was closely involved in the annual picnic.[40] So much so that following her death in 1935 the annual review of the year in The Record noted that “The Port Melbourne Picnic was a great success, but somewhat saddened by the absence of that great citizen, Mrs Grace Gaylor, who has passed to her reward”.[41]

Grace Gaylor presented a Dux medal during Nott Street School speech days [42] and this tradition was continued in her honour by Mrs J P Crichton following her death.[43]

The Argus, 22 May 1931, p5

When Grace attended a meeting of the Blind Auxiliary in May 1931 in the supper room at the Port Melbourne Town Hall she was unaware that the decorations were actually to celebrate her 65th birthday. She received several gifts including a salad bowl and “returned thanks in a happy little speech”.[44]

Arthur Henry Gaylor passed away at their Dow Street home at the age of 68 on Tuesday, 18 Sep 1934 [45] but as we have seen, Grace continued her charitable efforts.

At a meeting of the Blind Auxiliary in May 1935, Grace was “heartily congratulated” on receiving the King’s Medal but by September she was unable to attend the usual meeting of the Auxiliary due to illness.[46]

Grace Ada Gaylor JP died at home on Saturday,14 September 1935, aged 69.[47] [48]

The funeral possession on Monday, 16 September, left her Dow Street home for Melbourne General Cemetery with pupils from Nott Street School lining the route. The Sun News-Pictorial put the number at 500[49] while the Age put it at over 600.[50]

The Record said the funeral was one of the most impressive ever seen in Port Melbourne. Colonel T W Driscoll conducted a Salvation Army service at her home and then the Salvation Army band led the heavily leaden floral car through the lines of pupils from Nott Street as well as guards of honour formed by the ladies of the organisations with which Grace was associated. Crowds lined the streets and the shops and hotels were closed while the funeral passed. A large crowd attended the graveside where Colonel Driscoll conducted another service with appropriate arrangements played by the band.[51]

The article in The Record provides a wonderful summary of Grace Gaylor’s character.

Mrs Gaylor lost her husband just 12 months ago, and grieved over the lost of her mate of many years. She had not been really ill, but seemed to grow weaker, though she refused to give up work, and was attending to some of her many self-imposed duties when the end came.

A son and daughter have been bereaved by the loss of a mother, of whom a friend and admirer said, her heart and door were always open to the cry of distress, which she hastened to succour.

Mrs Gaylor had nothing but love in her heart. When others would rail at erring sisters, Mrs Gaylor gave them her hand, and led them back to the right road; and those little lives, that caused so much trouble to their mothers, became her special care. Babies, no matter what their origin, found a dear guardian in this good woman – a good samaritan, who was ever willing to bind up wounds, and watch carefully through a convalescence, whether it were physical, mental, or moral.[52]

[1] 1932 ‘MRS. GRACE ADA GAYLOR. J.P.’, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 21 May, p. 5. , viewed 04 Mar 2024,

[2] 1928 ‘PORT MELBOURNE.’, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 30 June, p. 8. , viewed 04 Mar 2024,

[3] 1933 ‘RESUME OF THE YEAR’S WORK’, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 14 January, p. 5. , viewed 04 Mar 2024,

[4] 1933 ‘Port Melbourne Council’, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 30 September, p. 7. , viewed 04 Mar 2024,

[5] 1935 ‘THE FINAL CALL’, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 21 September, p. 6. , viewed 04 Mar 2024,

[6] 1891 ‘Family Notices’, The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 14 August, p. 1. , viewed 04 Mar 2024,

[7] 1912 ‘ELECTRIC SPARKS.’, Standard (Port Melbourne, Vic. : 1884 – 1914), 13 January, p. 3. , viewed 04 Mar 2024,

[8] 1934 ‘MR. A. H. GAYLOR.’, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 22 September, p. 3. , viewed 04 Mar 2024,

[9] 1896 ‘METROPOLITAN LICENSING COURT.’, The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 21 February, p. 3. , viewed 04 Mar 2024,

[10] 1905 ‘YOUNG WOMEN’S MEETING.’, Standard (Port Melbourne, Vic. : 1884 – 1914), 22 April, p. 3. , viewed 04 Mar 2024,

[11] 1905 ‘TEMPERANCE NOTES.’, Standard (Port Melbourne, Vic. : 1884 – 1914), 25 November, p. 3. , viewed 04 Mar 2024,

[12] 1910 ‘ITEMS OF NEWS.’, Standard (Port Melbourne, Vic. : 1884 – 1914), 17 September, p. 2. , viewed 04 Mar 2024,

[13] 1912 ‘W.C.T.U. ANNUAL MEETING’, Standard (Port Melbourne, Vic. : 1884 – 1914), 19 October, p. 2. , viewed 04 Mar 2024,

[14] Grainger, P. 2007 Chartered Scoundrels: A brief history of Port Melbourne hotels. p. 63., 1st edn. Port Melbourne, Vic: Port Melbourne Historical and Preservation Society. 

[15] 1905 ‘A PITIABLE CASE.’, The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 3 June, p. 6. , viewed 04 Mar 2024,

[16] 1908 ‘THREE GIRLS ASTRAY.’, Standard (Port Melbourne, Vic. : 1884 – 1914), 7 March, p. 3. , viewed 04 Mar 2024,

[17] 1908 ‘SALVATION ARMY.’, Standard (Port Melbourne, Vic. : 1884 – 1914), 13 June, p. 2. , viewed 07 Mar 2024,

[18] 1908 ‘MUSIC AND SONG.’, Standard (Port Melbourne, Vic. : 1884 – 1914), 31 October, p. 2. , viewed 07 Mar 2024,

[19] 1909 ‘HOMELESS AND FRIENDLESS’, Standard (Port Melbourne, Vic. : 1884 – 1914), 20 March, p. 4. , viewed 07 Mar 2024,

[20] 1909 ‘SOCIAL WORK.’, Standard (Port Melbourne, Vic. : 1884 – 1914), 3 July, p. 3. , viewed 07 Mar 2024,

[21] 1909 ‘SOCIAL AND RESCUE WORK.’, Standard (Port Melbourne, Vic. : 1884 – 1914), 10 July, p. 4. , viewed 07 Mar 2024,

[22] 1909 ‘CITY MISSION.’, Standard (Port Melbourne, Vic. : 1884 – 1914), 2 October, p. 2. , viewed 07 Mar 2024,

[23] 1910 ‘AUSTRALIAN WOMEN’S ASSOCIATION.’, The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 22 June, p. 2. , viewed 07 Mar 2024,

[24] 1927 ‘PORT MELBOURNE BLIND AUXILIARY.’, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 17 December, p. 3. , viewed 07 Mar 2024,

[25] 1934 ‘R.V.I.B. MEETING’, Table Talk (Melbourne, Vic. : 1885 – 1939), 29 March, p. 43. , viewed 07 Mar 2024,

[26] 1916 ‘ELECTRIC SPARKS’, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 8 July, p. 3. , viewed 07 Mar 2024,

[27] 1927 ‘JUSTICES OF THE PEACE.’, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 10 August, p. 17. , viewed 07 Mar 2024,

[28] 1927 ‘SALVATION ARMY LASS ON THE BENCH’, The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 22 August, p. 1. , viewed 07 Mar 2024,

[29] 1927 ‘OUR NEW J. P.’, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 27 August, p. 4. , viewed 07 Mar 2024,

[30] 1919 ‘FIGHTING THE INFLUENZA.’, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 12 April, p. 3. , viewed 07 Mar 2024,

[31] 1919 ‘COMBATING INFLUENZA.’, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 10 May, p. 3. , viewed 07 Mar 2024,

[32] 1919 ‘INFLUENZA.’, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 31 May, p. 4. , viewed 07 Mar 2024,

[33] 1919 ‘Honorarium for Heroic Service.’, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 4 October, p. 2. , viewed 07 Mar 2024,

[34] 1927 ‘No title’, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 27 August, p. 7. , viewed 07 Mar 2024,

[35] 1927 ‘JUMBLE SALE’, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 19 November, p. 7. , viewed 07 Mar 2024,

[36] 1932 ‘PORT MELBOURNE BOWLING CLUB.’, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 1 October, p. 5. , viewed 07 Mar 2024,

[37] 1932 ‘KEY OF THE FRONT DOOR’, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 27 August, p. 4. , viewed 07 Mar 2024,

[38] 1933 ‘Treat to Junior Footballers’, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 24 June, p. 3. , viewed 07 Mar 2024,

[39] 1931 ‘PERSONAL PARS.’, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 28 March, p. 1. , viewed 07 Mar 2024,

[40] 1932 ‘PORT MELBOURNE’S BIG PICNIC’, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 19 November, p. 4. , viewed 07 Mar 2024,

[41] 1936 ‘The Review of the Past Year’, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 11 January, p. 6. , viewed 07 Mar 2024,

[42] 1932 ‘SCHOOL SPEECH DAYS’, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 17 December, p. 8. , viewed 07 Mar 2024,

[43] 1938 ‘NOTT STREET STATE SCHOOL’, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 24 December, p. 3. , viewed 07 Mar 2024,

[44] 1931 ‘SURPRISE FOR MRS. GAYLOR.’, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 23 May, p. 4. , viewed 07 Mar 2024,

[45] 1934 ‘MR. A. H. GAYLOR.’, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 22 September, p. 3. , viewed 07 Mar 2024,

[46] 1935 ‘Port Melbourne Auxiliary for the Blind’, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 14 September, p. 3. , viewed 07 Mar 2024,

[47] 1935 ‘Family Notices’, The Sun News-Pictorial (Melbourne, Vic. : 1922 – 1954; 1956), 16 September, p. 34. , viewed 07 Mar 2024,

[48] 1935 ‘OBITUARY.’, The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 16 September, p. 8. , viewed 07 Mar 2024,

[49] 1935 ‘MRS. GAYLOR, J.P., BURIED’, The Sun News-Pictorial (Melbourne, Vic. : 1922 – 1954; 1956), 17 September, p. 5. , viewed 07 Mar 2024,

[50] 1935 ‘Mrs. Grace Gaylor, J.P.’, The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 17 September, p. 9. , viewed 07 Mar 2024,

[51] 1935 ‘THE FUNERAL’, Record (Emerald Hill, Vic. : 1881 – 1954), 21 September, p. 6. , viewed 07 Mar 2024,

[52] Ibid

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