Sydney, New South Wales
My aunt Helen Leslie nee Martin was married to the headmaster W. Stan Leslie of Barker College, 1933 – 1957. Helen Leslie was Stan Leslie’s first wife. From 1933 to her early death in 1950, aged 50, she played a very pivotal role in the college. There were two children from the marriage: Helen Margaret and Michael (John Martin), named after his mother’s father and grandfather.
Helen was close to my mother Marjorie, and also the nearest in age of the five daughters, sharing a bedroom, childhood games and work. There were three years difference between them. However the two sisters were very different characters. Helen was always neat and tidy, a careful dresser. Marjorie was more of a tomboy.
Helen is often mentioned by her brother Fred, in his letters home from Gallipoli and the Western Front.. He congratulated her in 1916 on qualifying for and entering the University of Queensland. There was no discrimination against women in my family! See Lieutenant Martin’s Letters, an Anzac in the Great War by Anne McCosker.
It is interesting to note that one of the early and very informative letters that appears in Chapter 4 of Masked Eden [link]was written by Marjorie from Ningau in the Witu Islands (New Guinea) to her sister Helen. There is a photograph of Helen taken with her family at Charters Towers, Queensland, 1915. It appears in both Lieutenant Martin’s Letters, and Masked Eden.
I can well remember how upset my mother was when Aunty Helen died. I remember too our visits to Barker when in Sydney on holiday in the late 1940s. Helen was a fine painter. I particularly like her pre-marriage paintings. An example is shown below .
Helen Leslie’s life throughout WWII would have been filled with sadness and loss. I think this was perhaps the cause of her early death. For having in WWI aged 18, experienced the death of her only brother, Lt Fred Martin, she was then to experience, throughout the war years, many of the young men she had known and helped during the previous years at Barker killed in action or badly wounded. She would also have been aware of Marjorie’ evacuation from New Guinea, her concern for Stan McCosker and the tragic aftermath of the Fall of Rabaul.
After Helen’s death, Stan Leslie married Mardie Doyle (nee McDouall). She and her first husband Harry, ( “Tiki”) had possibly been introduced to the Leslies by my mother. They were “Beforers”, (pre-WWII European New Guinea residents). Tiki Doyle was lost after the Japanese invasion of New Guinea in 1942. He was probably shot by the Japanese on New Ireland – was not on the Montevideo Maru [link]. Tiki was the uncle of Dick and Dennis Doyle. Dick was born in Namanula Hospital the year before me, and later owned Langu plantation on Witu. There is a photo of Dick’s father Cyril in Masked Eden.
Barker College had in the past and still has links through it’s Old Boys, members of staff, and me and my book Masked Eden, with New Guinea.
Painted by Helen Leslie in the mid - 1920s
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