Women of the North

Celebrating the fascinating lives of women in the history of North Queensland

Matron Margaret Monaghan

Margaret Monaghan set up and ran Bay View Private Hospital, one of the most successful and longest-running private hospitals in Townsville in the first half of the twentieth century. Margaret was a popular and well-respected woman, who deservedly enjoyed a revered position within the Townsville community.

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The staff of Bay View Private Hospital, c.1930. Matron Monaghan is seated in the centre. Photo courtesy of Townsville Museum and Historical Society.

Margaret Jane Lewis Monaghan was born in Durham, England, in 1883 and later migrated to Australia with her family – arriving in early 1890. In May 1912, Margaret qualified for a certificate in midwifery from the Lady Bowen Hospital, in Brisbane. In December that year, she paid the required fee of 10 shillings to register with the State as a midwife. For some years after this, Margaret appears to have been a private midwife, possibly operating from her home in Wills Street, as well as attending women in their own homes.

By the early 1920s, she had set up “Tauntonia” Private Hospital, in Walker Street, near the Technical College. This hospital catered for both general and maternity patients, who were attended by local doctors, including Dr Mason and Dr O’Neill. Tauntonia’s professional staff consisted of two day-nurses plus a Sister, and Matron Monaghan herself. She may have also employed domestic staff, such as a cook and a kitchen maid.

In late 1925, Matron Monaghan re-located Tauntonia to Hale Street, on Stanton Hill. This site, opposite the Christian Brothers’ School, had commanding views over Cleveland Bay. In March 1927, after completing “extensive and up-to-date alterations”, she renamed her private hospital “Bay View”, in keeping with its location. At this time, Margaret would have been in direct competition with several local doctors who also ran their own private hospitals, but in spite of the competition, together Tauntonia and Bay View ran for almost two decades. The longevity of Matron Monaghan’s establishments is testament to her skill as a businesswoman, as well as a nurse and midwife.

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Bay View Private Hospital, Stanton Hill, Townsville. Photo: City Libraries Townsville Local History Collection.

In 1941, with a view to retiring, Matron placed Bay View up for sale. An advertisement for the sale of the property notes that the private hospital was registered with the Health Department and contained two operating theatres. Included in the sale of equipment and fittings were 17 surgical beds and 4 eye beds. The property had accommodation for 8 nursing staff and 4 domestic staff as well as adjoining quarters for the matron. It is clear from this advertisement that Bay View Private Hospital was a sizeable, professionally-run hospital that provided employment for at least 12 people.

Sometime in the early 1940s, Margaret retired to her Magnetic Island home – “Rookery Nook” – situated on the eastern heights of Alma Bay. She was frequently visited by mainland friends, where she was well-known for her superb hospitality. An article in the Townsville Daily Bulletin in late 1945 described a party at Rookery Nook to celebrate the end of the war, and to honour an old friend’s birthday:

“Culinary delights which the matron just knows how to conjure loaded the table, and bowls of pink and white frangipani clusters added fragrance and rich artistry to the large, two-tiered square birthday cake.”

Taking into consideration her years as a private midwife, as well as her time as matron of Tauntonia and Bay View, Margaret Monaghan served the Townsville community for at least thirty years. Around 1953 she moved to Eventide, at Charters Towers, where she lived out the remaining six years of her life.

Categories: Midwives

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