Ida Lee

Ida Louisa Lee (1865-1943), historical geographer, was born on 11 February 1865 at Kelso, near Bathurst, New South Wales, third of eight children of Emily Louisa (born Kite) and George Lee, grazier. With her five sisters she grew up at Leeholme, Kelso, and rode to school; she became a keen horsewoman.

On a visit to England, Ida Lee married Charles John Bruce Marriott (1861-1936) on 14 October 1891 at Felixstowe, Suffolk. In 1892-1903 he taught and was housemaster at Highgate School, Hampstead, where Ida's only child was born in October 1892. She took part in school life and in 1897 published a slender volume, The Bush Fire and Other Verses. Marriott was secretary of the Rugby Football Union in 1907-24; they divided their time between London and Suffolk, where he was a small landowner. Her sister Edith married J. J. W. Power and lived in the Channel Islands.

Mrs Marriott spent her spare time delving in British libraries, notably at the Admiralty, and discovered log-books, journals and lost charts. In 1906 The Coming of the British to Australia, 1788 to 1829 appeared under her maiden name. Articles in the Tasmanian Mail, Empire Review and Geographical Journal followed. She turned her attention to the forgotten navigator (Sir) John Hayes, and from 'letters, family records, official notices and newspapers of the period' compiled Commodore Sir John Hayes, his Voyage and Life (1912). She published The Logbooks of the 'Lady Nelson' (1915) and Captain Bligh's Second Voyage to the South Sea (1920).

In Early Explorers in Australia (1925), despite some errors in transcribing Allan Cunningham's journal, she displayed considerable knowledge of 'systematic botany and botanical taxonomy' and updated Cunningham's nomenclature. Her last book, The Voyage of the Caroline, appeared in 1927, but she continued to correspond with museums and libraries. In the Geographical Journal (April 1934), she argued that the British first sighted Australia in 1682 when the 'Trial' was wrecked on the Tryal rocks off the West Australian coast; she had found the original letter from the ship's captain in the India Office.

Contemporary reviewers warmly welcomed her books: C. H. Bertie wrote that 'Mrs Marriott's books are distinguished for the amount of original research work she has put into them'. Later scholars indicated she occasionally failed to make it clear where she made omissions. Ida Lee's scholarly output was unusual for a woman of her time and background. She was elected a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society of London in 1913 and second honorary fellow of the Royal Australian Historical Society in 1918. She died at Norwich on 3 October 1943.

Martha Rutledge