The Hemingways of Morella Road

Posted by
Ian Campbell

Dorothy May Hemingway

Dorothy May Hemingway lived in large house at 18 Morella Road, Clifton Gardens. She was involved in theatre, latterly children’s theatre, during the years of the Depression and World War II and in the following decade. She was born in New Zealand in 1907 and died in Sydney in 1955.

The first public record of her involvement in public performance was on 3 March 1930 when a Miss Dorothy Hemingway contributed to a musical production arranged by Mrs W H Hemingway at Beaumont House for the Sydney Grammar School Women’s Association (SMH 4 March 1930). She was also mentioned a number of times in the social pages of the Sydney Morning Herald, attending pre-wedding parties in Mosman (SMH 9 January 1935) and hosting a party on 20 November 1939 (SMH 26 October 1939).

The first public record of Dorothy’s role as a theatrical producer was in the World War II years, when she produced two plays at Bryant’s Playhouse (so named after its founder, Betty Annear Bryant, a well-known Sydney and Melbourne theatre actress) which theatre was located near Circular Quay in Phillip Street, Sydney. These plays were, “Arms and the Man” staged on 5 September 1942 and “The Millionairess” staged to “mixed reviews” on 17 February 1943.

Dorothy’s name was mentioned in two entries in the Sydney Morning Herald in 28 November 1946 and again in 15 October 1949, as being the producer of plays staged by the Mosman Theatre Guild, which appears to have been an amateur theatrical group, but it was not reported what these productions were or where they were staged. She had apparently ceased producing for the Guild before 1951. Reviews of their productions in that year received poor reviews ( SMH 12 November 1951). Papers of the Guild between 1930 and 1949 are listed as held in the Mitchell Library in Sydney.
In the early 1950s Dorothy gave elocution lessons in her home. I was one of her pupils. The memory of those lessons still sticks with me more than 60 years later. I will forever be able to recite the incantation “Har nar brarn car?” to remove my Aussie twang when I asked “How now brown cow?” Dorothy produced small plays for her pupils. I recall performing as Smee in a production of Peter Pan in the hall of the (then) Congregational Church at the corner of Belmont and Cowles Roads.

The last record I have been able to find of Dorothy as producer of a children’s theatre was as the producer of “Pirates in the Barn” at the Independent Theatre, North Sydney, staged on 20 December 1958. This may be suspect. Ancestry records state that Dorothy May Hemingway died in Sydney on 13 September 1955. If this is correct, the report of her having produced “Pirates in the Barn” at the Independent Theatre in 1958 could not be correct.

Dorothy May Hemingway married Robin Henry Jansen, a musician, in 1941 and had two children (whose names are not mentioned in Ancestry records). Robin Henry Jansen’s name appears in the records of the Northern Suburbs Crematorium to have died on 20 August 2002 aged 85. This would suggest that he was born in 1917, which would make him 10 years younger than Dorothy. This may not be an impossible age difference but, if it is correct, it would signify that he outlived her by 47 years!

Wilfred Hubert Hemingway

Dorothy was the daughter of Wilfred Hubert and Elizabeth Hemingway. There is a reference to a solicitor, W H Hemingway (1879-1943) and his wife Elizabeth, who lived in Clifton Gardens in Sydney after migrating from New Zealand in 1920 in a note written by Diane Hodge on 13 June 2012 on the Mosman Memories website under the title of “Military Road”, in which she referred to Elizabeth as her father’s much loved aunt.

Wilfred was both a qualified solicitor and an accountant in New Zealand. He was a co-founder with Charles Victor Robertson (1882-1951) of the accounting practice, publishing house and a leading provider of correspondence tuition in accountancy and business named after the founders, Hemingway and Robertson and which later was known as Hemingway Robertson Pty Ltd and Hemingway Robertson Ltd as well as the Hemingway Robertson Institute. In these various guises the business began in Auckland and operated throughout New Zealand.

However, it appears that Hemingway and Robertson had begun to look for wider horizons across the Tasman quite early on. The partners investigated setting up in Australia as early as 1911, arriving in Sydney from Auckland on 26 December 1911 aboard the R M S Mooltan (SMH 28 December 1911).

It seems that Charles Robertson migrated to Australia and settled in Melbourne. He established Hemingway and Robertson in Collins Street in Melbourne. It was not long before he became quite a prominent figure in that city. He was a president (indeed the last president) of the Melbourne Stock Exchange and the first chairman of the Melbourne branch of the Liberal Party of Australia. An interesting sidenote is that Keith Yorston (later Sir Keith) worked for Hemingway and Robertson in Melbourne until 1927, when he moved to Sydney to work for the college, and resigned in 1932. Edward Fortescue (of Yorston and Fortescue fame) ran the Brisbane branch of the business for a time.

Meanwhile Wilfred operated the Hemingway and Robertson business in New Zealand until migrating to Australia in 1920. From then on, he ran the Sydney branch at 16 Barrack Street, Sydney. Although there is mention that the founders split the business, it appears to have been an amicable parting. For example, Robertson sponsored Hemingway’s lecture tour around Australia in 1933. The report of two of his lectures, in Sydney and Brisbane, which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald of 18 October 1933 included photographs of packed houses attending these lectures.
When he was 56, Wilfred left Australia permanently. He returned to Auckland aboard the Monterrey on 4 April 1936, where he died seven years later aged 63.

Elizabeth Hemingway

In her note in “Mosman Memories” Diane Hodge remembered her father’s aunt was named Elizabeth. New Zealand Ancestry records disclose that Dorothy May Hemingway was born in 1907 to Wilfred Hubert Hemingway and Elsie Bonar Calder in New Zealand. The apparent discrepancy between the New Zealand record and the memory of her nephew is possibly explained by the fact that Elsie is a known variant of Elizabeth, and it may be that she simply used a less formal variant of her name early in life and reverted to the more formal Elizabeth later in her life.

Presumably, Wilfred and Elizabeth Hemingway were divorced some time prior to 1936 when he emigrated. Indeed, they may have been divorced prior to 1931. It was recorded that Mrs W H Hemingway (her first name was not recorded) attended a Sydney Grammar School dance in 1931 and, although members of the Sydney Grammar School Womens’ Association attended with their husbands, Mrs W H Hemingway was one member recorded as having attended alone (SMH 6 July 1931).
Elizabeth Hemingway’s association with Sydney Grammar School appears to have arisen because her son attended the school. William Hubert Hemingway, Dorothy’s younger brother, was born in Auckland on 22 September 1908.

William (Bill) Hubert Hemingway

After the family migrated to Australia, Bill attended Sydney Grammar School. He was 17 years old when he ran second in the open 100 yards sprint in the Sydney Grammar School’s athletics carnival on 19 September 1925 (SMH 21 September 1925), presumably in his last year of high school.

After attending Sydney Grammar School he read Law at Sydney University and played rugby on the wing for the Sydney University Football Club and later for the Northern Suburbs Rugby Club (the archives refer to him as an “ex-Kiwi”). He also played rugby for the NSW Waratahs (Waratah number 103) and for Australia. His debut test for the Wallabies was on 8 September 1928 against New Zealand and his last test was on 23 July 1932. He was Australia’s 254th Wallaby.

Bill Hemingway was admitted as a solicitor in 1933 and practised law in Dubbo, New South Wales, where he died aged 72 on 12 April 1981.

Ian Campbell · 31 July 2015

Your comment

Hi Ian,

Thank you for this wonderful, very thoroughly researched essay. I am adding Dorothy’s details to the Dictionary of Sydney at the moment and just wanted to let you know I found a reference in the Ryerson index that Dorothy died on 13 September 1965, transcribed from a Sydney Morning Herald notice published on 15 September 1965.

You can search by surname ‘Jansen’ here:

Also, I’m not sure if you’ve seen this database which is quite useful for all things Australian theatre:


Nicole · 6 January 2016, 16:22 · #