It is with great fondness and respect that we consider the legacy of Benjamin Glennie that is The Glennie School. His vision for the education of girls was ahead of its time and although he was quiet and shy, he was able to achieve his dream through sheer determination and hard work.
However, it is likely that he was also influenced and supported by his wife, Mary. When asked questions about her, people tended to look vague and say “I didn’t know Benjamin Glennie was even married”. The details about her life are sketchy but form an impression of “a good church woman, congenial, ladylike with a quiet, retiring nature“.
Mary Cranshaw was born in Liverpool in 1826 and appears to have been well educated. She came to Australia, at the age of 35, as a chaperone to her friend Kate Fowler. She was a very bad sailor and was sea sick the entire voyage (103 days).
In Australia, Mary lived with the Heathcote family in the Warwick clergyman’s district, where it is likely she met Benjamin. They were married by Bishop Tufnell in the Church of St John, Brisbane on 14 October 1968. Mary Glennie settled down to being a good clergyman’s wife in Warwick until their relocation to Drayton. Benjamin Glennie presented a carpet for the chancel of St. Mark’s, Warwick prior to its initial service. It is described as ”This had been beautifully worked by Mrs. Glennie and added not a little to the finished appearance of that part of the Church”.
The Glennies were at St Matthew’s, Drayton from 1872-1876. Mrs Glennie is not mentioned in any Church records. This is not to say she took no part but the problem was that although women were considered “fully abreast of the men in all the feminine attributes of refinement, gentleness, affection, solicitude, devotion and kindly hospitality, the role of women in the Church was that of handmaidens to the men who established, maintained and directed its affairs”.
Both Mary and her husband were interested in the teaching of children and it is very likely she was involved in that area. On their relocation to St Thomas’, Toowong, Mary assisted in the inauguration of The Governesses’ Home and Young Women’s Institute which “filled a passing need of women who were forced through no fault of their own to seek employment to maintain themselves”. Mary Glennie had the foresight to see the need existed and it was more than a passing need - the home operated until late in 1927. In 1882 she formed the first contingent of the Girls Friendly Society in Queensland.
It is interesting that two organisations designed specifically to give support to lonely girls should have had their beginnings with Mary Glennie. She may have known that feeling of loneliness when she stepped ashore some 16 years before. That Mary Glennie should have had the strength and tenacity to look at the needs of other people in the community at this stage in her life is an indication of the strength of character of this seemingly unremarkable, quiet woman. She died on 7 May 1890. Part of the tribute of the Synod to her in 1890 reads “one who ever strove to set a high example of Christian life consecrated in a very real sense to the service of the Church, of which she was a member. We are desirous, with many others, to give expression of the respect in which her memory is held, as well as to the universal sympathy felt by all classes of the community, with Canon Glennie, in his bereavement”.
(Adapted from a lecture to the Queensland Women’s Historical Association 8 October 1981 by Lorraine Cazalar)
Mrs Noeleen Fleming