The streets of Ginninderry’s first suburb, Strathnairn, honour some of the incredible people who have contributed to the fabric of Canberra, and they don’t come much more fascinating than Wyn Gilmour.
Born in the United Kingdom in 1908, Wyn left her family behind for a better life in Australia—a move which encouraged her siblings and parents to eventually follow suit. In Australia she met and married Jack Gilmour and they soon moved to Canberra where Jack worked as a telegraphist for the Postmaster-General’s Department. Later he became a morse coder at Parliament House during World War II.
Wyn went about embracing her new life in Canberra while raising their three sons with Jack. She started a library in the Cusack Centre in Manuka, a place for the ladies of the area to meet. Sadly, high rent forced her to eventually close.
Not one to keep idle, in 1938 she took an opportunity to break into broadcasting at the radio station 2CA. She was an immediate success thanks to her fresh style and bright personality. She started the first women’s radio program in the region, and it became one of the best of its kind in Australia at the time.
During World War II, Wyn became well-known for her broadcasts, bringing comfort to listeners at a time of great stress. She also mobilised thousands of women to raise funds and make items like knitwear and cakes to help needy families in the Canberra region and support the war efforts. As a radio broadcaster, she was also very popular with the children, and was well-known as ‘Auntie Wyn’.
In 1942, Wyn left 2CA and went to Sydney to learn hairdressing, bringing her newfound skills back to Canberra where she opened a hair salon, which led to her training and employing many local women. She also helped to organise women’s clubs in Yass, Queanbeyan, Ainslie and Manuka, continuing to work for charitable organisations for the rest of her life.
Wyn’s granddaughter Colette has long campaigned for her grandmother to be recognised in Canberra, and she says she is chuffed to finally see Wyn’s name on the brand new street sign for Wyn Gilmour Court.
“When I was advised that a street would be named after my grandmother, I was extremely emotional and overwhelmed,” says Colette.
“The love I had for my grandmother cannot be measured, the love she showed me I feel to this day. Wyn was a strong woman and such a role model for her era. I miss her every day and I feel it was a small way to honour my beloved ‘Granny’.”
Colette says she is constantly learning new things about her grandmother, especially how she touched the lives of others.
She has been helped in her endeavour to have Wyn recognised in the Canberra annuls by Sharon, on the ACT Placename’s Committee, who had her own connection to Wyn Gilmour, just showing how wide her reach was in the local community.
“Her mother said that as a little girl she bought a homemade doll from my grandmother at one of the fundraising events. It was a lovely story to the finale of our shared commitment to find a name place for Wyn.”