Updated: 17 January 2022
Mary Coonan was born at Dardanup on 15 August 1890, daughter to Ellen and Micheal Coonan. Her father died when Mary was five years old.
When Mary turned 18 she became the Postmistress of the Dardanup Post Office. During World War I, four of her brothers were sent off to join the war effort at Gallipoli, Belgium and France. Michael and Marcus returned, while William (Gallipoli) and Joseph (Belgium) were killed in action.
Mary married Maurice Patrick Holland, who had also returned from the War, on 19 September 1919 in Dardanup. She raised eight children while still working and running the Post Office. Mary was liked and respected by the Irish and Italian community at Dardanup, in particular by those who were illiterate, as she would help them write letters.
Her husband Maurice and three of her sons, Michael, Tony and Vin, went off to serve in the second World War. Tony was in the navy, Michael served in the 2/2 Commandos, and Vin was a pilot officer flying bombers.
Mary was a strong woman and loved to discuss politics. When she finally retired, after 46 years as Postmistress, Mary took up cake decorating and oil painting. She and Maurice lived in their son Michael’s war service home at 24 Roberts Road Carlisle. In her later years, she lived with Patricia and Bill before eventually moving to a nursing home. She died there on 14 September 1982 at the age of 92.
The article below was published in the South Western Times on 21 August 1954, on her retirement.
“Dardanup Farewell: Post-mistress for 48* (sic) years
Mrs Holland, postmistress of the Dardanup post office for 48 years, was given a farewell evening in the Dardanup Hall on Saturday night on the eve of her departure to make her home in Perth, on the conclusion of her duties at the Dardanup post office. The hall was crowded with many people from Dardanup and surrounding districts who had come to bid Mrs. Holland farewell, and best wishes for the future.
Present for the occasion were all the members of Mrs Holland’s family, except her eldest son, Tony, living in Tasmania. Those present were Josie, Pat, Vin, Mick, Bill, George and Hilary. Mr J P Depiazzi, chairman for the evening, called upon Mr Frank Venn to speak on behalf of Dardanup residents. Mr Venn spoke of the good work Mrs. Holland had done in the district, the service she had given, working day and night, and the manner in which she had reared her family.
Mrs Hardie spoke on behalf of the women of Dardanup and the C.W.A., thanking Mrs Holland and Pat for what they had done. Mr Depiazzi then made the presentation on behalf of the citizens of Dardanup to Mrs Holland, of a gold wrist watch and a substantial sum of money. Pat was then presented with a crystal dressing table set, and Bill with a cigarette lighter, in appreciation of what they had done. Suitable responses were made.
Supper was served during the evening and games and dancing were the order of the evening. Items were given by Mrs. Dowding Mrs Depiazzi and Len Harris. Party games were won by Mrs Eddie Harris, Mrs Hilary Holland, Marie Murphy and Grace Dowding. Miss Connie Wells and Mr Len Harris provided the music for the evening. The evening was brought to a close with the singing of “Auld Lang Syne.” Flowers in the hall were given to Mrs. Holland.
It is understood that Mrs Holland came very close to a State record in length of time as a post-mistress with her 48 (sic) years’ service. Miss Clifton, of Australind, holds the State record of 50 years.”
*Advertisements for the position of Postmistress show Mary Holland commenced in this position in 1908, making her length of service in the role 46 years. It is possible that she worked in the Post Office prior to this, hence the reference to 48 years.
- Dardanup Farewell : POST-MISTRESS FOR 48 YEARS, South Western Times (Bunbury, WA : 1932 – 1954), Thursday 26 August 1954, page 14.
- The Dardanup Post Office, Western Mail (Perth, WA : 1885 – 1954), Saturday 6 June 1908, page 15
- All photographs provided by Gwen Wells