Marjorie's life & times.


















Little has been uncovered of Marjorie’s life, her medical history or her personal circumstances prior to the age of sixteen.


It was then she joined the Queensland public service in Brisbane. All members of her immediate family have since died. There are some historical records on her father’s side of family connections in the Bundaberg region of Queensland.


Marjorie Rose Norval was born on 30th March 1908 (one of six children – one of whom sadly died in infancy) at the family home in Bristol Street West End Brisbane Queensland Australia.


Marjorie’s mother Rose Norval (nee Keegan) was born to Irish stock. Rose’s Irish born father died when Rose was around six months of age, and not uncommon in that era it would appear (perhaps due to her father’s untimely death) that Rose’s birth was never officially recorded.


Marjorie’s eldest sister Gladys was born prior to her mother’s marriage to James Stewart Norval who was not the natural father to Gladys.  To Rose’s credit she managed on her own to bring Gladys up until she was about five years of age when she met James Stewart Norval. They married and thereafter Rose gave birth to Arthur, Roy, Marjorie and Grace.


Marjorie’s recorded association with her siblings was mostly with her eldest sister Grace however she was apparently present during one of her brothers’ weddings.


Either by choice or circumstances Marjorie lost contact with her mother and most of her siblings from 1935, around the time Marjorie’s mother Rose was admitted to Parkview private hospital in Brisbane.


Rose was admitted for several weeks of treatment for a “nervous breakdown”.  At about the same time three of her children, Marjorie Grace and Roy parted company from their mother (Arthur already having been married and not living with the rest of the family).

In Rose’s testimony she confirmed at the Coronial Inquest in 1943 that she had no contact with Marjorie since 1935 after having had a family dispute.


Marjorie’s father James Stewart Norval, was born in Dundee Scotland. Little else has been revealed of him. He was employed in Brisbane as a waterside worker.


He died in 1933 when Marjorie was about 25 years old, and although Rose recalled her husband had died as a result of heart trouble, it was indicated by a family record that his primary cause of death to be stomach cancer.


Marjorie’s uncle David Scott NORVAL (born in Dundee Scotland) who was the brother of Marjorie’s father settled in Bundaberg. David Norval became a well known member of Bundaberg business community and owned a successful butchery business.  


Subsequently several locations locally were named after him in his honour including Norval Park, Norval Beach, and the suburb west of the railway line in Bundaberg of Norville.  He gave evidence at the Coronial Inquiry into Marjorie’s disappearance.



Marjorie appeared to have been career minded, independent, ambitious, well read, intelligent, have a friendly disposition and socially well connected as a result of her work as a personal assistant to the then Premier’s wife.


Marjorie  began her career aged 16 years,  in the Department of Public Instruction Education Dept) 1925-1931, then in 1933 spent time in the Department of Public Lands and the Premier’s Office Chief Secretary’s Department until 1938.


The Premier’s Office Chief Secretary’s Department was where one of her roles was as a personal assistant to Mrs Forgan-Smith, the wife of the then Premier William Forgan-Smith.


It would appear her ultimate career goal was to take up a job within the Agent General’s office in London, a position that was unfortunately ever achieved.


However, in 1934 Marjorie achieved a career highlight by being selected to assist at the government Loans Council as detailed in the press at the time:

“A woman was included in Queensland’s personnel for the Loans Council".


GIRL AT LOAN COUNCIL! ‘Thrilled to Bits'

“Miss M. Norval, assistant secretary to the Acting Premier (Mr. Pease), has made history. She was the first girl who ever attended a meeting of the Council and the youngest person to enter the assembly of Premiers and Treasurers. Asked for her Impressions of the Loan Council, Miss Norval declared she was 'thrilled to bits!' It was all very solemn and important, she said, and everyone, including herself, was working far too hard to get much fun out of it. The Premier (Mr.Forgan-Smith) created a precedent when he first took his secretary (Mr. T. G. Hope) to a Loan Council meeting with him. Other Premiers quickly followed his example. Mr. Pease went one better by taking the first woman into the august assembly. Will the other Premiers follow?”             25th June 1934 Brisbane Courier Mail



She was also by accounts an avid racegoer and would sometimes be mentioned in the social race going articles, as was her close friend Miss Doran, at the races in Brisbane.


She owned a car (until early 1938), which was perhaps not common amongst young ladies of the time, was a tennis player, social card player, Social golfer, smoker and social drinker.


She had many social friends and male companions but did not seem to be keen to marry.


Marjorie it would appear had no will. Two years after the date of Marjorie’s disappearance her mother engaged a solicitor John Patrick Kelly to make application to the Supreme Court to swear the death of Marjorie in order to settle her estate.


On 24th April 1941 in the Supreme Court Brisbane letters of administration were granted. In support of the application Marjorie’s mother along with other witnesses including family members (some of whom also gave evidence at the subsequent Coronial hearing in 1943) swore affidavits in support of the claim that Marjorie was considered to be dead.


Marjorie’s estate was recorded as approx gross £440.00 sterling – although a reasonable sum (and presumably before costs were taken out)  it was  made up primarily of owed wages, insurance payout on her superannuation and a quantity of money in her personal bank account.


Marjorie’s estate was subsequently divided amongst the remaining members of her family.



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Copyright R Burton 2015

marj photo 1 DFTT marjorie marjorie on hols norval front cover book