Georgiana Molloy

Georgiana Molloy (1803-1843), amateur botanist and seed collector, was born on 23 May 1803 near Carlisle, England, daughter of Mary and David Kennedy, gentleman. At 24 years of age, although a strict Presbyterian, she married by Anglican rites Captain John Molloy, a 48 year old veteran of the Napoleonic Wars. She was genteel, well educated in the English classics and passionately fond of flowers.

The Molloys sailed for the newly founded Swan River colony, arriving on 12 March 1830, and selected land over 300 km south of Perth at Augusta, where he was appointed resident magistrate of a small, very isolated settlement. There Georgiana promptly planted seeds of her favourite flowers. Their first child was born and died soon after their arrival. Their daughter Sabina was born in 1831, Mary Dorothea in 1834 and John in 1836.

When most of the Augusta settlers moved to the Vasse district Molloy contemplated joining them, but the transfer was delayed, firstly by the tragic drowning of toddler John in 1837, and then by the birth of Amelia in 1838. Georgiana dreaded the move from Augusta, for she had established a beautiful garden and grown to love the wild grandeur of her primitive surroundings. Moreover, since the end of l836, after she received letters and botanical gifts from Captain Mangles, RN, a wealthy patron of floriculture in England, she had been engrossed in the collection for him of seeds and plant specimens of Western Australian wildflowers. He distributed these prized packets of seeds and pressed plants among favoured nurserymen and botanists. Their appreciation of her skill and dedication were related to her in the lengthy correspondence which ensued between her and Mangles. But in scientific journals it was Mangles, the patron, who was cited as the donor of these novelties.

In 1839 they moved to the Vasse. Despite her lack of house servants, her need to be instructress and seamstress to her children, and her own failing strength, Georgiana created yet another garden, which was famous throughout the colony. Among her visitors were James Drummond and Ludwig Preiss, both professional botanists who delighted in the fragrance and beauty of her garden at 'Fair Lawn', as well as the charm of their gentle hostess.

Georgiana's health was seriously impaired after the birth of Flora in 1840. Following the birth of her seventh child, Georgiana, in December 1842, she was bedridden until her lamented death in April 1843. Several botanists endeavoured without success to commemorate her in names of plants she discovered. None was more poignant than that proposed by Drummond for the 'Black Kangaroo Paw', which he described as 'a true mourning plant' and named in her honour Anigozanthus Molloyeae, known today as Macropidia fuliginosa.

Rica Erickson

Alexandra Hasluck Portrait with Background 1955.