KEDDIE, Alexandra Gunn
(Service number 22/279)
|First Rank||Sister||Last Rank||Sister|
|Date||11 August 1878||Place of Birth||Dunedin|
|Address at Enlistment||Hospital Oamaru, North Otago|
|Occupation||Matron (Trentham Camp Hospital)|
|Previous Military Experience|
|Next of Kin||James H. KEDDIE (brother), Tainui Street, Greymouth|
|Served with||NZ Armed Forces||Served in||Army|
|Body on Embarkation||New Zealand Expeditionary Force|
|Unit, Squadron, or Ship||New Zealand Hospital Ship No 1, Maheno (Second Charter) New Zealand Army Nursing Corps Ship's Staff; New Zealand Hospital Ship No. 1, Maheno (Third departure from New Zealand); New Zealand Army Nursing Service|
|Date||25 January 1916; 6 May 1916|
|Other Units Served With|
|Last Unit Served With||New Zealand Army Nursing Corps|
|Campaigns||Hospital Ship Maheno, 1916. at sea|
|Service Medals||British War Medal; Victory Medal|
Award Circumstances and Date
Prisoner of War Information
|Date of Capture|
|Where Captured and by Whom|
|Actions Prior to Capture|
|PoW Serial Number|
|Date||8 February 1917||Reason|
Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses
|Date||17 August 1976||Age||98 years|
|Place of Death||Hamilton|
|Memorial or Cemetery||Cremated Hamilton Park; ashes interred Timaru Cemetery|
|Memorial Reference||General Section, Row 35, Plot 508|
|New Zealand Memorials|
Alexandra Gunn Keddie was born 11 August 1878 at Dunedin, the daughter of Peter Keddie and Helen née Gunn. Her parents, both from the Highlands of Scotland, had married in New Zealand in 1876, and Alexandra was the middle of their three children. Along with her older brother, she was educated at Arthur Street Dunedin, Balclutha and St Andrews (South Canterbury) schools. At Balclutha they were joined by their sister Elizabeth (Lizzie). Alexandra left St Andrews School in 1892 as she was wanted at home. At Arthur Street she earned mention for reading in 1885 in the Infant Department. She took a part in the Balclutha annual concert in 1887 Also at Balclutha she was placed first in Standard IV Girls in 1888. She also won a good attendance certificate. At the annual concert Alexandra played the rôle of Annie Laurie and earned special praise for her sweet singing. Peter Keddie was elected to the Balclutha School Committee, while at St Andrews he was nominated for the Education Board.
The family had moved to St Andrews about 1890/91. There they soon immersed themselves in the life of the community. Alexandra and her sister were talented musicians. They played a piano duet at the St Andrews Caledonian Society annual social in August 1893, and both gave pianoforte solos, Alexandra’s being the ‘ably executed’ “Etude Mazurka”. In July 1894 Alexandra accompanied several songs at the St Andrews Mutual Improvements Society meeting; and at the September meeting of the St Andrews Literary Society she was part of a pianoforte and violin duet and a pianoforte duet. At the St Andrews Debating Society in June 1895 she played a pianoforte solo and was part of a vocal duet, both items being very well received; and at the following month’s meeting both Alexandra and her sister played solos. A concert was held in aid of the Presbyterian Manse building fund in August – one of the best ever in the district, the items being “maistly Scotch”. Miss Keddie gave valuable assistance in accompanying the songs, and supper was enjoyed at Mrs Keddie’s.
Alexandra Keddie was successful in the Junior Canterbury College musical examinations held in late 1895. At the 1896 meeting of the St Andrews Mutual Improvement Society, Alexandra read a paper – “A Holiday Trip to Lake Wakatipu”, and her sister also read. Alexandra and Elizabeth were among the ladies in charge of the stalls at the sale of work held in aid of the St Andrews Presbyterian Manse fund in May 1898. They also contributed a musical item as did their brother James. Alexandra was also into tennis, reaching the finals of the tournament conducted in February 1899 by the newly forms St Andrews Tennis Club. In April following she played most of the accompaniments at the opening meeting of the St Andrews Band of Hope. It was said, moreover, that she deserved “great credit for having tutored most of the youthful performers.” At the September concert held in connection with the Debating Society, the Misses Keddie again took part. As well, at the St Andrews concert in October she very efficiently accompanied all the singers and played for the dances. A patriotic concert in February 1900 saw her again providing the accompaniments. In 1900 she was elected to the committee of the St Andrews Literary and Debating Society. There she was a singer at the early July fortnightly meeting, her songs being much appreciated. Just a fews days later, at the opening and dedication of the new Presbyterian Church at St Andrews, Miss Keddie presided at the organ, and played “three voluntaries very acceptably”. Before the month was over, Alexandra had been a bridesmaid in the same church. At the August meeting of the Debating Society she “read a capital paper descriptive of her trip to Dunedin to see the Fourth Contingent off.” 1901 brought more accompany and organ playing. Her services to the church were acknowledged in August 1902, with the presentation of a dressing-case. She also accepted a gift for her sister who was unable to be present.
The talents and characteristics displayed by Alexandra Keddie in her community involvement surely stood her in good stead in her chosen profession. Miss Keddie and Miss Moody (who also served in World War I), of the Timaru Hospital staff, passed their final examination for registration under the Nurses Registration Act on 6 December 1904 and in January 1905 were appointed charges nurses. They received their instruction for practical, viva voce and written examinations at the Timaru Hospital. Her organ playing continued at Trinity Church, Timaru. In late 1908 her application for the position of Matron at the Waimate Hospital appears to have been unsuccessful. In October 1909, however, Miss A. G. Keddie, assistant matron of Timaru Hospital, was appointed matron of Oamaru Hospital. She had been nine years at the Timaru Hospital and held “the highest credentials”. Under her supervision at Oamaru, the staff carried out their work in a manner which earned the confidence of the Trustees and the public. Miss Keddie and the nursing staff worked consistently well. The success of trainee nurses was largely due to the excellent instruction given by Nurse Keddie. She also gave every care to a nurse who had broken her leg in the course of her work.
Not long after Miss Keddie’s appointment to Oamaru Hospital, her father died suddenly at home in Timaru. Mrs Keddie died in May 1915 at Oamaru, probably having gone there to be cared for by her daughter. In North Otago, Miss Keddie took up golf, playing regularly for the Ladies Club, including in trophy matches. She also kept up her musical contributions, accompanying the singers at a patriotic meeting at Livingstone in October 1914. In January 1915 she would have been a familiar figure when she judged a baby show at the Timaru Friendly Societies’ picnic at Oamaru.
June 1915 brought a change. Miss Keddie, the matron of Oamaru Hospital and 37 years old, was granted leave of absence as she had offered her services to the New Zealand Army Nursing Service Corps. “It is a fine spirit that prompts the unquestioning acceptance of these offers in a desire to make the fullest use of one’s talents for the country’s benefit, ” recorded the Oamaru Mail of 6 July 1915, “and Miss Keddie’s ready response to the call will be applauded.” When she arrived in Wellington she was asked to equip and take charge of the Oriental Bay Tea Kiosk which had been offered as a hospital for the wounded soldiers brought from Gallipoli by the Willochra. She immediately acknowledged many contributions for the comfort of the sick and wounded soldiers – food supplies, easy chairs and cushions. Having prepared for a large number of patients in three days, she was then asked to proceed to Trentham military hospital for duty. She had been too late in her application to go to the front in the hospital ship. In November Matron Keddie, Camp Hospital, Trentham, thanked those who had kindly sent gifts of flowers, etc.
In December 1915, Alexandra Keddie was to be a sister in the NZ Army Nursing Service Corps. She had received a very responsible appointment under the Defence Department and was to leave in January 1916 for hospital work abroad. She spent a few days leave visiting friends in Oamaru in mid December. Presbyterian and single, she gave her address as Hospital Oamaru, North Otago, and nominated as next-of-kin her brother, James H. Keddie, Tainui Street, Greymouth. Matron A. G. Keddie was second-in-charge on the second voyage of the Hospital Ship Maheno. On 23 January the Hospital Ship Maheno, in her new livery – white walls with green band and large red crosses, sailed up Wellington Harbour ready for her second voyage. She had been much improved and the matron and Miss Keddie had nice single cabins which opened into a little private lounge. The nursing staff of the Maheno were entertained in the Parliamentary dining-room on 21 January. Her Excellency Lady Liverpool presented the badges of the Army Nursing Service, and she and several dignitaries made kind speeches of farewell. Among the nursing staff with a South Canterbury connection who embarked at Wellington on 26 January 1916 were Alexandra Gunn Keddie, Leonora Flight Kelly, Myrtle Galloway, Annie Moody and Isabella Young Scott. Miss Keddie’s service was to be at sea on the hospital Ship Maheno.
Alexandra Gunn Keddie embarked again on the third voyage of the Maheno on 6 May 1916 probably at Port Chalmers, resuming her former position of responsibility. Prior to her second departure she spent part of her leave in Christchurch and Oamaru. She was said to be looking very well, despite the hard work in the heat in the Mediterranean and across the Line. “Speaking of her experiences, she says the heat was the worst thing that they had to contend with. The coaling of the ship by natives at way ports was also a trial, by reason of the dirt and noise, the chattering annoying the patients a great deal. At Colombo a welcome relief was afforded the staff, as all the convalescents were taken to the barracks, and all the wounded, with the exception of 12, to the hospital, where they were well cared for. As the vessel stayed two days, the staff had 24 hours’ leave in batches. Most of them employed the time in sight-seeing, Kandy, the Gardens, and other points of interest being visited. The lot of nurses out of work in Cairo, said Nurse Keddie was not so unfortunate, as their pay was continued and they were found quarters at good hotels. A batch of 54 New Zealand nurses who went over by the Maheno were landed at Alexandria, but almost at once received orders to proceed to London. Since then they had crossed to France.” (Oamaru Mail. 19 April 1916). On her second voyage Miss Keddie again displayed the fine attributes which she had developed as a young woman in the St Andrews community. “Matron Alexandra Keddie, whose great services in organising the military hospitals and nursing depots in New Zealand for wounded soldiers, has been mentioned in Parliament and commended by Lord Liverpool, the Governor, and also referred to in terms of the highest praise by the New Zealand press, is at present on a visit to relatives in Helmsdale (states the ‘Northern Ensign,’ Wick). Miss Keddie is now attached to the New Zealand Hospital Ship Mahcno, which is conveying the wounded from France to England. . . . . . . . . . This is Matron Kcddie's first visit to the Highlands where her parents were born.” (Mataura Ensign. 6 October 1916). Prior to her return to New Zealand in late December 1916, Alexandra also spent leave from the Maheno in London. After doing notably good work in the English Channel the Maheno arrived in Auckland on 21 December 1916 and progressively made her way south, reaching Port Chalmers on 23 December. On her second charter, the Maheno steamed 52.229 miles, and carried 15,822 patients of all ranks including 12,065 Imperials, BS6 Canadians, 1,079 New Zealanders, and, in her runs across the English Channel, 936 German prisoners. The return voyage left Dublin on October 19 and Southampton on October 29, calling at Port Said, Suez, Colombo, and Albany, thence on to Auckland. She was bringing home about 400 wounded and sick soldiers, many of them greatly improved. Twelve cot cases arrived at Port Chalmers, one of them an Oamaru man suffering from spinal trouble, who travelled on the express to Oamaru under the charge of Nurse Keddie. Nurse Keddie was to remain at Oamaru on furlough. Discharged on 8 February 1917, she was awarded the British War Medal and the Victoru Medal. Her brother James, a chemist at Greymouth, was listed on the reserve roll.
And so, after an absence of twenty months on active service, Miss Alexandra G. Keddie resumed her duties as matron of the Oamaru Hospital on 13 February 1917. She also returned to golf. At the North Otago Golf Club in April 1917, the club’s roll of honour was unveiled. “The women who were serving, the men who were fighting, and the men who had fallen, needed no eulogy,” said Dr Orbell, president of the club. “Their deeds spoke for them, and while the recording of their names on the club's roll of honour was not needed to keep their memory green amongst the present members of the club, the club felt that it was fitting that future generations of golf players should have constantly before them the names of those who kept Otago Golf Club in its fit and proper place as an honourable body of sportsmen and women doing its duty in the great war.” The roll of honour was then unveiled by Mrs Orbell. In the list of members of the club who had given their services to the Empire was Keddie. The board bears the following, inscription: “North Otago Golf Club; Roll of Honour. War Declared August 4, 1914; Declaration of Peace -.” In 1920 she was elected to the North Otago Ladies’ Golf Club committee. Alexandra Keddie was also honoured by the Otago Lawn Tennis Association. At the annual meeting in September 1917 the president suggested that two members of the next year's committee be appointed to prepare for the association a roll of members who had joined the colours, with their rank and club membership. “Where so splendid a response had been made it would be invidious to make special mention of names of the men, he said, but he would incur the ill-will of none in naming Sister E. M’Mullin, of Kaitangata, Sister Keddie, of Oamaru, and Sisters F. I. Gray and F. Cook, of Port Chalmers, amongst those who represent Otago tennis players at the front.”
When the Public Hospital was inspected in May 1917, the matron conducted the tour of the wards and various departments. The Hon. Mr Russell congratulated the Matron on the excellent management. Dr Valentine, Inspector-General of Hospitals, expressed his pleasure at the visit. “If the hospital suffered from constructional disadvantages, it certainly had administrative advantages. Nurse Keddie was one of the few nurses who studied hospital economics,” he remarked to applause. He thanked them for their kind reception and congratulatedl the Matron. In July 1918 it was recommended that Nurse Keddie should receive a fortnight’s instruction at the Dunedin Hospital Medical School in taking diphtheria swabs and cultures. The instruction would be of great service to the Oamaru Hospital and the Health Department. In October 1918 nurse Keddie was part of a “Parcels Committee” which was to assemble as many parcels or lucky bags as possible for sale at the concert to raise funds to provide a piano for the Oamaru Returned Soldiers’ Club. Matron A. G. Keddie’s style was ever so evident in an advertisement placed in the Otago Daily Times of 23 August 1919 – Oamaru Hospital Wanted (at once), good PLAIN COOK.
February 1924 brought further change in Miss Keddie’s career, when, from 14 applicants, she was selected as matron of the Southland Hospital. In November 1925 Miss Keddie was elected vice-president of the newly formed Southland Branch of the New Zealand Trained Nurses’ Association. At the first annual meeting she was elected president for the ensuing year. At a function in December 1926 she spoke highly of the long-serving assistant matron on bidding her farewell before her marriage. Miss Keddie, lady superintendent of the Southland Hospital, visited the Lake County hospital and inspected the whole hospital, plant, linen, and equipment. As matron at Southland she had under her control the nursing staffs of Gore Hospital, the Lorne Chronic Hospital, Frankton Hospital, and the Kew Sanatorium. Miss Keddie was welcomed at Kew Sanatorium Christmas Eve festivities in December 1926. But, after two and a half years, she was again on the move, having been selected from 17 applicants as matron of the Waikato Hospital from the end of January 1927. The position at Waikato was one of rapidly growing responsibility and importance. A large wing was being built at Hamilton, and the cottage hospitals at Huntly, Matamata and Te Kuiti were largely equipped, staffed and administered from Hamilton. She was there for the opening of the new hospital wing at Waikato Hospital in December 1927. She was present, too, at the opening in January 1928 of a memorial “sunshine verandah” at the Kawhia Cottage Hospital. Matron Keddie and the staff entertained a number of their friends at a jolly dance at the Hamilton Nurses’ Home in September 1928.
Miss Keddie represented Waikato at the 1927 conference. She also maintained her ties with Southland, being their deputy delegate at the 1929 annual conference of the NZ Trained Nurses Association. It was in 1929 that A. G. Keddie wrote from Hamilton asking that Hamilton be accepted as a branch of the New Zealand Trained Nurses’ Association. They were duly accepted, and Miss Keddie was elected the first president. The ambulance carrying the matron of the Waikato Hospital, Miss A. G. Keddie, made a record journey to the scene of a level crossing tragedy near Horotiu, on 1 January 1929, and conveyed the injured to hospital. Three were killed and others in a serious condition. In April 1929 a protest by two nurses against the action of the matron, Miss A. G. Keddie, and the medical superintendent, saw their action endorsed and the nurses were required to resign. When a nurse at Waikato was presented with a gold medal for scoring in the top three in the State examinations in 1929, the chairman of the hospital board said that her success reflected credit on herself, the matron, Miss A. G. Keddie, and the suoerintendent. When Sir Charles Fergusson and Lady Alice Fergusson visited the hospital in December 1929, Miss Keddie escorted them through the ten hospital wards. The new matron who took charge of the Norfolk Island hospital in May 1932 had done her training in her home town, Oamaru, under Miss A. G. Keddie. Later in 1932 the medical superintendent, on returning from a seven-month trip abroad, paid tribute to the excellent way in which the hospital had been conducted by Dr Graham and Miss Keddie.
Miss Keddie also took up bridge at Hamilton, and a successful player she was. In April 1929 she stayed at the Hermitage. In August 1933 St Luke’s Church, Oamaru, held their annual gift afternoon. Who should call in? Mrs D. Scott and Miss Keddie who had motored from Timaru and received a warm welcome from many former friends. Alexandra’s sister lived in South Canterbury. Alexandra visited Timaru again in April 1935.
After seven years as the lady superintendent of the Waikato Hospital, Miss A. G. Keddie handed in her resignation, as she would soon reach retiring age in January 1934 and would retire on superannuation. The board passed the following resolution: “That the board accepts the resignation of Miss A. G. Keddie with regret and places on record its high appreciation of the very efficient and faithful services rendered during her period of office since January, 1927; that Miss Keddie’s resignation take effect on April 30, 1934, and that she he granted three months’ leave of absence on full pay.” “Miss Keddie has taken a real, live interest in the welfare of our institution,” said the chairman of the hospital board. “She is a good disciplinarian and there has been very little friction during her term. She has been an efficient officer and has carried out her work faithfully and well. I feel sure she carries away with her the best wishes of all members of the board.” Dr Hockin said that he considered the outstanding characteristic of Miss Keddie was her loyalty, to the board and to him. He was sorry to lose her. For six years she had managed affairs at the hospital very efficiently.
The nurses of the Waikato Hospital gave a dance in the Nurses’ Home as a farewell to Miss Keddie. The reception hall and dance rooms were beautifully decorated and the supper tables, arranged on the lawn, were lit by Japanese lanterns. Miss Keddie who was presented with a bouquet of sweet peas from the nurses, received guests in a frock of green and grey patterned crepe georgette. In January 1934 Miss Keddie had the honour of presenting gold medals at Waikato Hospital to three successful nurses in the NZ examinations. A photo of Miss Keddie on her retirement was printed in the New Zealand Herald of 1 February 1934. The Coronation Medal was issued to Miss A. G. Keddie in May 1937. This was a silver medal approved by King George VI in commemoration of his coronation. Struck for issue as a personal souvenir to persons in the services, and others in the United Kingdom and in other parts of the Empire, it was classified as an official medal.
Miss Keddie continued to be active and involved. She was present at the November 1937 half-yearly reunion and social afternoon of the Returned Army Nursing Sisters’ Association. In 1940 she represented the Trained Nurses’ Association on the Tauranga Emergency Medical Committee. She was also president of Tauranga Branch of the NZ Registered Nurses’ Association. She played croquet, helped at the patriotic shop, and belonged to the women’s Branch of the National Party. In 1945 she was a member of the Tauranga committee to raise funds for a Chair of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Otago University. Her passenger was admitted to hospital suffering from shock and bruises when Miss Keddie’s car and another collided at an intersection in September 1944. Her car was extensively damaged and finished up on its hood.
Alexander Gunn Keddie was awarded life membership of the Hamilton Returned Services Association for meritorious service. She died on 17 August 1976 at Hamilton, aged 98. She was cremated at Hamilton Park, and her ashes were interred on 11 October with her sister’s in their parents’ plot at Timaru. Her character is summed up in the following tribute. Patricia Priscott recalled: “45 years ago I was a poor student so I worked weekends at a rest home in Hamilton. Despite an age gap of 70 years, I developed a friendship with one of the patients, who was always referred to as Miss Keddie. She was an amazing woman, over 90, and almost blind. She had remained a nurse, retiring as Matron of Waikato Hospital, in the early 30's I think. Her mind was as sharp as could be, she was a stickler for order but she was very gracious. I took to visiting her several times a week, to read the newspaper to her. Her stories of her military service were fascinating to a student of history like me. After I graduated, I continued to visit her and attended her funeral in 1976. I regret I can provide no more information nor photos but she was a person who enriched my life.” (24 April 2015)
Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database (photo attached) [09 January 2014]; NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ ref. AABK 18805 W5541 0062890) [28 April 2015]; Headstone image Timaru Cemetery (Timaru District Council) [05 February 2014];NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs) [05 October 2015]; NZ Electoral Rolls (ancestry.com.au) [05 October 2015]; School Admission records (Dunedin & South Canterbury branches NZSG) [05 October 2015]; SCRoll web submission from P Priscott, 26 April 2015; Otago Daily Times, 31 December 1885, 24 July 1915, 16 & 18 December 1915, 15 September 1917, 23 August 1919, 2 April 1929, 22 August 1933, Clutha Leader, 28 & 30 December 1888, Timaru Herald, 1 August 1893, 23 July 1894, 25 September 1894, 29 June 1895, 13 July 1895, 31 August 1895, 9 November 1895, 11 July 1896, 28 May 1898, 26 April 1899, 15 September 1899, 9 February 1900, 11 May 1900, 6, 9 & 20 July1900, 3 August 1900, 13 September 1901, 18 August 1902, 20 & 25 January 1905, 25 July 1907, 21 January 1910 [x 2], 29 January 1915, 24 May 1915, 21 July 1915, South Canterbury Times, 9 February 1899, 19 October 1899, Grey River Argus, 24 January 1905, 25 May 1915, 21 June 1915, 6 July 1916, Waimate Daily Advertiser, 23 December 1908, Oamaru Mail, 6 October 1909, 12 January 1910, 2 April 1913, 8 April 1914, 16 October 1914, 6 & 22 July 1915, 18 December 1915, 19 & 25 April 1916, 20 December 1916, 16 May 1917, 17 July 1918, 9 October 1918, 7 April 1920, Kai Tiaki: the journal of the nurses of New Zealand, 1 January 1910, 1 July 1914, 1 July 1915, 1 January 1916, 1 April 1916 (group photo), 1 April 1924, 1 January 1926 [x 2], 1 January 1927 [x 2], 1 July 1927, 1 November 1929 [x 2], North Otago Times, 8 August 1912, 18 June 1915, 26 December 1916, 21 February 1917, 20 April 1917, Greymouth Evening Star, 6 July 1915, 6 & 23 December 1916, Dominion, 20 & 21 July 1915, 16 December 1915, Evening Post, 17 November 1915, Star, 10 January 1916, Free Lance, 28 January 1916, Mataura Ensign, 6 October 1916, Auckland Star, 4 December 1916, 31 January 1928, 25 September 1928, 2 January 1929, 20 January 1934, Sun, 13 October 1917, Press, 9 February 1924, Ladies Mirror, 1 April 1924, Lake County Press, 20 May 1926, New Zealand Herald, 2 December 1926, 8 February 1927, 12 April 1929, 9 August 1929, 3 December 1929, 27 June 1932, 11 November 1932, 14 & 15 December 1933, 1 February 1934, 12 May 1937, 1 November 1937, Waikato Independent, 9 June 1927, 16 December 1933, Stratford Evening Post, 16 September 1933, Bay of Plenty Times, 25 May 1944, 9 December 1944 (Papers Past) [05 October 2015; 21 November 2015; 04 December 2015; 15 & 17 April 2017; 06 & 07 December 2018]; Hamilton Park cemetery records (Hamilton City Council); Timaru Cemetery headstone image (Timaru District Council)
Researched and Written by
Teresa Scott, SC brnach NZSG
Currently Assigned to
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