The Friends of the Launceston Mechanics' Institute have just commenced a major reorganisation of the Institute's records. Our first task is to sort out the correspondence files for the years 1842-1945. One letter from 1939 raises a question for readers of the blog – do you remember browsing in the Mary Fisher Bookshop, or even remember Mary Fisher herself? We would love to hear your stories.
|Mary Fisher Bookplate|
Here is a transcription of the letter (itself a reminder of a perennial question for libraries – do they purchase locally or rely on larger volume interstate and international suppliers?)
September 19 1939.From Mary Fisher Book Club.Referring to my recent conversation with you, I have given much consideration to your Board’s decision to purchase books direct from London and elsewhere through a mainland firm. If this is not your final decision, I would esteem it a favour if my firm could be given an opportunity to quote to you for your requirements. …. I am prepared to supply books at present on an equal basis of cost as those mentioned by you in our talk, i.e. 7/6 fiction at 5/10 less 3¾% discount on a monthly settlement ….Mary Fisher
We know a little about Mary Fisher from an interview with her adopted son, David, conducted by Dorothy Rosemann and Julie Miller;
Mary Fisher was born 19th September 1899. Her sister Joan was born in 1897, then there were twins who died at three months of age. Her brother Jack was 18 months younger than Mary. Her father was a steamship company manager at Strahan, then an accountant at McKinlays just after Mary was born. She went to school at Broadland House – was captain of the hockey team.
She opened her first shop in 1932. For the first six years it was a circulating library. Her close friends, Nancy Gilbert, a mothercraft nurse, with whom she lived, and Helen Miller, another Guiding person, helped look after the shop, particularly when she was Girl Guides State Commissioner (1949-1951). Registration of Mary Fisher Book Club and Cheap Book Company, both 14 The Quadrant. Shop was sold in 1973.
Mary loved fishing, fossil hunting and photography. She was taught fly fishing by Max Oldaker’s father. Mary rode horses until she was 75 years. At 82 she did a University course in German – she loved German music.
Lived at 14 Lanoma Street until 1950-51 when she moved to Westbury.
Close friend of Mrs Margaret McIntyre.
Mary died 10th January 1985, the day after visiting her sister-in-law. Her ashes were scattered at Mother Cummings Peak.
|Mary Fisher bookplate, c1938.|
We also have a brief but fascinating memoir of Mary Fisher from the biography of composer Peter Sculthorpe;
By 1945, Peter was a regular browser at Mary Fisher's Bookshop, in those days in Brisbane Street, one of the best-stocked bookshops outside the capitals. Fisher herself was a classic blue-stocking, who habitually sported a suit coat and tie.... Another school-boy in those years, C. A. Lamp, remembers Fisher's generosity in allowing him to borrow books he could not afford. When the notorious 'Ern Malley' issue of Angry Penguins was unmasked as a hoax in 1944, Fisher ensured that Peter had a copy. In 1945, she sold him the first edition of Eliot's Four Quartets, and for his birthday she suggested his Lutwyche cousins might buy him a new Faber anthology of verse by Auden, Sassoon, Spender, and Lawrence. (1)
We believe later owners of the Bookshop were Michael and Pauline Brewer and that they continued to trade under the Mary Fisher name.
1. Skinner, Graeme, Peter Sculthorpe: The Making of an Australian Composer (2007), pp 87-88