A Celtic Cross


China Painter and Potter
1881 - 1961

Jeannie Mabel Lesslie, 1881 - 1961, was a second generation Australian. Her maternal grandmother was Hepzibah Gordon, daughter of Charles Molston Gordon who arrived as a young boy in Australia in 1804 from London with his family. Charles father received a grant of 100 acres on the river flats at Richmond N.S.W. and it was only natural that he was brought up with an agricultural background.

With this background he was selected by the Rev Samuel Marsden, who had purchased the Brig ACTIVE in 1814 to go to the first missionary settlement at Rangihoua, Bay of Islands, New Zealand, to promote agriculture in that colony. He was accompanied by his first wife, Maria Lees, his sister Mary and his brother in law, William Carlile. On his return to Sydney his first wife died and he then married a friend of the family, Mary Brown. Hepzibah was his second daughter.

Charles Gordon set up a windmill at Paddington, a horse mill at the corner of Pitt and Bathurst St's Sydney and he purchased two blocks of land at Double Bay in the first sale of land by the government there. On one of the blocks he built a home, later to be occupied by his daughter who married Captain William Lesslie.The other was rented to the well known botanical garden designers, the Guilfoyles who conducted a nursery there.

Mabel's paternal grandfather was Captain William Lesslie who arrived in Australia as master of the sloop / cutter VANSITTART a ship of 80 tons in time to celebrate his 24th birthday on the 30th January 1836. He was a Scotsman who had travelled out from London. He came from a long line of master mariners. His uncle Robert, a whaler, had been master of the Brig ACTIVE in 1812.

Mabel's grandfather, Captain William carried goods and passengers between Hobart, Spencer Gulf and Nepean Bay, now Kangaroo Island, South Australia's first settlement, prior to the founding of Adelaide in January 1837. He travelled to Port Phillip [now Melbourne] then only one year old and on two voyages he carried J. Gellibrand an associate of John Batman who founded Melbourne. Captain William Lesslie died at the early age of 43, leaving his wife to bring up three young children including William Charles, Mabel Lesslie's father.

William Charles attended St Marks School, Darling Point, and entered employment as a mercantile clerk. He married Jeannie Gillespie of Woollahra and in the late 1800's the family moved to Burwood, which was then regarded as the country.

It was at Lindsay St., Burwood N.S.W, that Mabel the eldest daughter showed talent in design and studied pottery and china painting at Sydney Technical College in 1910 - 1911. Mabel accepted the traditional classical design but more particularly recognised the beauty of Australian flora and fauna and used these in her work. Her interests ranged from the painting of ceramic tiles and imported china to the production and decoration of her own pottery. She imported her own glazes and had an arrangement with R.Fowler & Sons to fire her work. She was prepared to experiment and even used clay from the home property at Burwood N.S.W.

Mabel's work was highly regarded and exhibited widely in N.S.W, often with the Arts and Craft Society of N.S.W. and at Anthony Hordern's Fine Art Gallery of N.S.W. Her work won prizes and her style varied according to her love of the craft. Mabel identified most of her work, with her initials, JML. Mabel sold very few pieces. Most of her pottery and china painting has been retained and handed down within her family. Public distribution was rare. However, examples of her work are held by the Art Gallery of N.S.W, Sydney, and the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.

Mabel otherwise successfully supported herself through the judicious management of investments in shares and real estate. Her other self supporting interests, natural to a country house in those times, included, gardening, fruit preserving and egg and chicken production. Mabel travelled widely both in Australia and overseas.

She was an early visitor to Ayers Rock and after travelling by sea to Britain, viewed the Coronation of King George V1 and Queen Elizabeth. She was a regular attendant at St James Presbyterian Church, Burwood, where she supported its community activities particularly the annual flower show and the churches local and overseas missions, including Sholingur, in India.

Jeannie Mabel Lesslie died at Burwood on the 15th May 1961 and was buried at Rookwood Necropolis Sydney N.S.W.

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