Mary Ellen Aloysius (‘Mollie’) Arthur was born to John Murray Arthur and Mary Ellen Walsh of Wagga Wagga. She completed her nurse’s training at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney, and was working at the Military Hospital there in 1915 when she volunteered for war service Mollie embarked in December 1915 at the age of 35 to enlist in Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service in England.
Nurse Arthur was posted to hospitals in France and Britain, gaining experience in acute surgical and officers’ wards and anaesthetic work. She was highly regarded by her nursing and medical colleagues, who described her as intelligent, hardworking, conscientious and ‘beyond the average’. She returned to Australia in July 1919.
Arthur was appointed matron of Narrabri Hospital, and undertook a course at the Women’s Hospital in Crown Street, Sydney. In 1922 she was appointed matron at Orange District Hospital. Dr Gordon Taylor, senior assistant surgeon at Middlesex Hospital in London had worked with Arthur in the resuscitation ward in the officers’ block of a casualty clearing station in France. In her reference for the position at Orange he claimed Arthur was a nurse of exceptional ability and a most competent anaesthetist. “She is undoubtedly the cleverest sister with whom it was my lot to work in France,” he wrote. “I wish her every success and should consider any hospital most fortunate to have her as the head of its nursing affairs.” Her salary when she started work at Orange District Hospital was £175 a year.
In August 1927 Matron Arthur resigned her position to marry Nesbitt Seeley Heffernan, the former Deputy-Commissioner of Ysabel and Santa Cruze, Solomon Island group. The couple settled at Roseville in Sydney. Mollie died in Bega in 1958.
Leader, 25 May 1917, p. 5.
From the front
* Edwards, Elisabeth 2011, In sickness and in health: how medicine helped shape Orange’s history, Orange City Council, Orange, NSW