FOOTT, Mary Hannay (1846-1918)

FOOTT, Mary Hannay (1846-1918)
was born at Glasgow on 26 September 1846. Her father, James Black, was a merchant who had married a Miss Grant, and came to Australia in 1853. Miss Black lived for some years with her parents near Melbourne and went to Miss Harper's school. She was afterwards one of the first students at the Melbourne national gallery schools, and also studied painting under Louis Buvelot (q.v.). In 1874 she married Thomas Wade Foott and lived for three years at Bourke, New South Wales. In 1877 her husband took up country in south-west Queensland. One of her poems, "New Country", is descriptive of her own experience, and the next seven years in this country had a great influence on her writings. Her husband died in 1884 from over-work and exposure during the drought of that year, and the losses of stock were so great that Mrs Foott was obliged to sell her interest in the property and move to Toowoomba. In July 1885 she went to Rocklea, near Brisbane, and opened a private school which supported her family. In the same year she published her first volume Where the Pelican Builds and Other Poems, and began to do journalistic work for the Queenslander and Brisbane Courier. In 1887 she joined the staff of the Queenslander and wrote under the pen-name of "La Quenouille", but several stories also appeared in her own name. These have never been collected. Morna Lee and Other Poems, largely a reprint of her first volume, was published in 1890. Mrs Foott continued her literary work for many years at Brisbane, and from 1907 at Bundaberg, where she died in September 1918. Her younger son was killed in action at Passchendaele in September 1917, and she was survived by her other son, Brigadier-General Cecil Henry Foott, C.B., C.M.G., who was born on 16 January 1876, educated as an engineer, and serving with distinction through the great war was six times mentioned in dispatches. He commanded the 4th Division A.M.F. 1929-31, and died on 27 June 1942.
Mrs Foott's published verse was small in quantity but usually of good quality. One of her poems "Where the Pelican Builds" is included in most Australian anthologies.
Information supplied by Brigadier-General Foott; The Argus, 29 June 1942; W. Morris Miller, Australian Literature.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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