By Kate Shacklock
Updated: 25 November 2022
Frances Eileen Boyd was the daughter of Dr John Craig Boyd and Phyllis Constance (nee Sutcliffe). She was born on 9 July 1896 in Lifford, County Donegal, Ireland. She died on 10 October 1974, Perth, Western Australia.
She married Leslie Craig (23 November 1892 – 9 February 1966) on 22 September 1917 at the parish church, Clonleigh, Donegal, with the rites of the Church of Ireland.
Frances was the seventh child born to her parents, but before she was born, three brothers had died very soon after birth or in infancy. She was the oldest of the youngest three daughters, known as the ‘second family’, born almost nine years after the youngest in the ‘first family’. Only one of her four brothers lived to adulthood, William Gaston but always known as Tony. However, he was killed in World War I in France just after his 30th birthday. Fanny was the boss of the second family, a trait that was to prove useful in her later life.
Frances had always wanted to be a doctor like her father, however it was very difficult for females to enter that profession at that time. As a young child, she would follow her father around the hospitals when he was seeing his patients. The matron at the infirmary where her father conducted his surgery made Frances a nurse’s uniform, complete with a bunch of jangling, rattling keys. In those days, hospital Matrons carried the keys to the drugs cupboards and other areas, and permission had to be obtained from Matron to administer any drugs or gain entry to particular things. Frances was very proud of herself! Later, Frances attended Calder Girls School, Seascale, Cumberland, England, before joining a Voluntary Aid Detachment, providing nursing care for military personnel in the United Kingdom and other countries in the British Empire.
During World War I, on 7 August 1915 at the Nek at Gallipoli, Turkey, a tall, handsome Western Australian, Captain Leslie Craig, was shot in the left ankle and had to have the bottom part of that leg amputated. He was evacuated out to a London hospital, which is where he met Frances Boyd, a nurse there, in 1915. Frances and Leslie married in September 1917 in Ireland before leaving Lifford very soon afterwards on 4 October 1917. They set sail for Fremantle, Western Australia, arriving on 30 December 1917 (as notated in Frances’s own ‘Message for the Day’ book) to begin a new life in WA. She and Leslie first lived in Perth, WA, but then Les bought a farm near Bunbury called Prinsep Park in Dardanup. They lived on the farm between 1923 – 1955, then bought a house at 18 Ord Street, West Perth and lived there between 1950 – 1964 while Les was working with the WA Parliament. Then they moved to live in 56 Leake Street, Peppermint Grove between 1964-1974.
One family story is that, as the ship they were travelling on from Ireland approached Fremantle harbour, Les had been informing Frances about life in Western Australia: life on a station, life on a farm, about his family, and so on. He told Frances that she must try a new fruit delicacy, the passionfruit. He was a well-known practical joker and he cut the fruit in half and gave her a spoon to scoop it out it with, but warned her that she should not swallow the pips!
Frances left Northern Ireland at age 21 and never saw her father again; he died in 1920. With no males in that Boyd family line from the 9 children born to her parents, there was no one to carry on the Boyd name. This may have influenced her to include Boyd in each of her four children’s names. Her eldest child, John named his first-born Leslie Boyd (known as Boyd) Craig, and John’s younger daughter, Kate named their son Arthur Boyd Craig Shacklock (also known as Boyd). Frances was the matriarch of the Craig family for many years, surviving Leslie by more than eight years. She was a strong influence upon her four children throughout their lives.
Although at times the climate must have seemed extremely hot to a girl recently arrived from Ireland, Frances adapted quickly to country life in WA. Like those on neighbouring farms, she would rise early, make and bake the bread, cook cakes and scones for the family and hired help, and use fresh cows’ milk. Her grandchildren remember Christmases at Prinsep Park with all the baked and roasted food, hot plum pudding and custard, even on a ridiculously hot day! But she insisted that’s the way it had always been for her in Ireland and being in WA would not change that. Many years later, however, when living in Perth, she softened her insistence on a hot Christmas lunch.
In 1928, she joined the WA branch of the Country Women’s Association, and rose to be president of the southern division (1936-39) and State president (1939-44). In 1938, she was appointed M.B.E. (Member of the Order of the British Empire) ‘for services in connection with social welfare and charitable organisations in the Commonwealth of Australia’. The next year, she was a delegate to the fourth triennial conference of the Associated Country Women of the World, held in London. While there, she had the award conferred by his majesty King George V himself. In 1947, in Amsterdam, she was elected a vice-president of the international World CWA.
Inspired by the CWA’s sponsorship of refugee children, in 1945 Frances supported and co-founded the introduction to WA of the Save the Children Fund (SCF). She was its State chairman (1953-57) and national president (1968-69). An attractive, tall and strongly-built woman, she had a flair for leadership and administration. She established the Travellers’ Aid Society to assist country people travelling to Perth, often for the first time, as she understood the difficulties of being in a new and strange environment. She also served on such community bodies as the Friends of Royal Perth Hospital, the State Advisory Committee of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and the board of St Mary’s Anglican Girls School (1954-58), which named Craig House after her.
She was a member from 1929 of the Karrakatta Club and president 1952-59 and 1962-64, and played bridge and golf. In 1975, a plaque in her honour was placed at the SCF memorial wishing well in King’s Park, Perth. That wishing well is now located at St Mary’s Girls School, Perth.