Resilient grandma Marj Dyson celebrates 100th birthday at Stawell

The phrase ‘seen it all’ is thrown around a lot.

But when you were born at the end of World War I, have grown up on a fruit orchard without electricity, survived the Great Depression and reached the milestone of 100 years old then it is fair to say, you have seen it all. 

Stawell resident Marj Dyson celebrated her 100th birthday on January 28. 

But she did not wish to make too much of a fuss about the situation. 

“I just got there I suppose, nothing special,” she said.  

Ms Dyson was born in Ivanhoe in 1918 and grew up on a fruit orchard in Templestowe. 

“Back then Templestowe was all bush, it was 12 miles up the river,” she said. 

“The government was opening up the country because more people were moving to Melbourne, but there was nowhere for them to live.”

And while Melbourne expanded, electricity was introduced into Ms Dyson’s world

“I was five years old and at last my family was freed from the chore of priming and topping up the lamps with kerosine in readiness for the evening,” she said. 

Ms Dyson walked one mile to Templestowe Primary school each day and after eight years of education in the area she then caught the bus to Flinders Street and walked to Government House where she attended Melbourne Girls’ High School, now known as McRobertson Girls’ High School.

“The government built a beautiful new school for the boys on the Yarra and a man got up in parliament and said it was a waste of time educating girls,” Ms Dyson said.

But that changed when a survey distributed around Melbourne found 500 girls were not being treated to secondary education because their parents could not afford it.

“Another man got up in parliament and said ‘i’m in charge of one of the big offices in Melbourne, the war is over, the men are coming back and this is going to be a wonderful city so we need those 500 girls’,” Ms Dyson said.  

“They couldn’t find a hall in Melbourne that would seat 500 girls, so one man had a bright idea – Government House was empty so we used their ballroom.

“There was an uproar about it because that is where the society girls of Melbourne were going to have their dances and balls, but then $1000 was spent to alter part of Government House and make it suitable for those 500 girls to be schooled in.” 

Ms Dyson’s first job after completing year 10 was at the Note Issue branch of the Commonwealth Bank in Victoria Street, Fitzroy. 

She counted out notes and recorded the old ones to be removed from circulation for 11 years, starting from the age of 16. 

Her salary enabled her to go to Templestowe dances, to galleries and concerts in the CBD. 

Ms Dyson moved to Stawell in 2009, but her husband died three months into the move. 

She became an active member of the Stawell Uniting Church and donated many of her knitted creations to members of the community.

The centenarian would also travel to Ararat to be involved with the city’s Country Women’s Association branch.

She is also a member of the Stawell Laurel Club.