A very special lady

Sept 2015 Jean McNeill

A very special lady

SEPTEMBER 2015 | Marguerite McNeill

OLIVE JEAN McNeill (nee Bowman) 10th May, 1916 – 26th May, 2015.

Jean McNeill was fun loving, generous and caring. She found pleasure in the simple things and had an amazing capacity to adapt.

They were traits that gave her great strength and allowed her to embrace life with enthusiasm.

With a keen interest in everyone and everything, Jean liked to keep track of her
observations and writing a diary became a lifetime habit.

Jean’s diaries and a massive photographic collection paint an impressive picture of her life that spanned ninetynine years.

Jean grew up at ‘Cheshunt’ in Meander where she is portrayed on her horse in front of the house in the Yarns silk display at the Deloraine Visitor Centre.

Her early schooling was as a weekly boarder at St Hilda’s in Deloraine.

After further studies at Collegiate in Hobart, she enrolled in a 4-year nursing course at Launceston General Hospital, followed by a year of midwifery.

 In 1940 she enlisted into the 2/5 AGH and in October that year boarded the Mauretania bound for the Middle East.

Stationed at Gaza Ridge, the Australian nurses lived and worked under very cramped and difficult conditions as indicated by extracts from Jean’s diary and photos (many of which are documented in ‘Veils and Tin Hats’, Tasmanian Nurses in the Second World War by Peter Henning).

In 1941 Jean suffered personal loss whenher only sibling, her brother, Alan Bowman, a commanding officer of RAF Squadron 39, was shot down and killed. It was a loss that tormented her for many years and was only put to rest in 2005 when she was invited by the Government as the only woman representative in an Australian contingent that went on a 50- year commemorative visit to WWII memorials overseas.

A captain in her unit, Jean’s nursing also took her to Greece and finally to New Guinea where she met her future husband John McNeill.

In 1944 the couple married and lived on the outskirts of Deloraine for the rest of their lives.

Life in Deloraine must have seemed tame after the frantic pace of the preceding war years, but with six children in the family, it was never dull.

Jean enjoyed a wide range of hobbies and activities including camping, bush walking, golf, reading, knitting and sewing and had a grand passion for gardening.

She was also in the local Red Cross, marched on Anzac Day and played Mahjong with the local group, where her skill at the game is legendary.

Over the last 3 years Jean lived alone, welcoming friends and family with a smile and keeping in touch with her grand children’s travels on her iPad.

Friends are invited to join the family of Olive Jean Bowman to celebrate her life at service to be held at St. Marks Church in Deloraine on Sunday 22nd November 2015 at 2.00pm.

 Mike Moores