Merlyn Myer

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Merlyn Myer
Born Margery Merlyn Baillieu
(1900-01-08)8 January 1900
Queenscliff, Victoria
Died 3 September 1982(1982-09-03) (aged 82)
Spouse(s) Sidney Myer (1920-1935) (deceased)
Gravesite, Box Hill Public Cemetery

Dame Margery Merlyn Baillieu Myer DBE (8 January 1900 – 3 September 1982), best known as Merlyn Myer, was an Australian philanthropist, who was knighted in recognition of her charitable work.[1]

Born as Margery Merlyn Baillieu in Queenscliff, Victoria, Australia, to George Francis Baillieu and Agnes Sheehan, a well-to-do couple, she attended Cromarty Girls' School, and the University of Melbourne.[2]

On her 20th birthday, on 8 January 1920, she became the second wife of Melbourne retail businessman Sidney Myer, who was originally named Simcha Baevski who arrived in Australia as a penniless Russian immigrant in 1899. He was a businessman and entrepreneur, who founded the Myer retail company.

Merlyn had four children with Sidney: Kenneth (Ken) born on 1 March 1921, Neilma born on 7 November 1922, Sidney Baillieu (Bails) born on 11 January 1926, and Marigold Merlyn Baillieu Myer (Marigold) born on 2 May 1928. All the children were born in San Francisco, California, United States. The family returned to settle in Australia in 1929. Sidney Myer died in 1934, leaving Merlyn a widow of 34 with four young children.

At the time of his death Sidney was a member of the Board of Management for the Royal Melbourne Hospital and after his death Merlyn was asked to join the Board, on which she continued until 1976. She gave a lot of her time to the hospital.[3] For 10 years from 1937, she was a member of the National Council of the Australian Red Cross Society. Merlyn was a generous benefactor of the Red Cross. She was the motivation for the establishment of the Sidney Myer Music Bowl, in 1959, as a gift to the people of Victoria. The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra was founded with a grant given by the Myers to the University of Melbourne.

In 1948, she was awarded an OBE and on 11 June 1960, Merlyn Myer was awarded the Order of the British Empire - Dames Commander in recognition of her charitable work.[1] Her title name became Dame Merlyn.

The Merlyn Theatre at the Malthouse Theatre complex in Melbourne was named in her honour to mark the generosity of the Sidney Myer Fund, The Myer Foundation and the individual members of the Myer family who supported the conversion of the Malthouse Theatre. The Myers' four children, including Ken Myer, have continued their parents' philanthropic work.

Myer Family[edit]

Kenneth (Ken) was born on 1 March 1921. In 1947 Ken married Prudence Boyd and they had five children: Joanna,[4] Michael, Philip, Martyn and Andrew. Together with his brother, Bails, he co-founded the Myer Foundation. On Australia Day 1976 he was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC).[5] Ken and Prudence were divorced in 1976, and in 1979 he married Yasuko Hiraoka (16 March 1945 - 30 July 1992). He and Yasuko were killed in a light aircraft crash in Alaska on 30 July 1992.[6] One of Ken's sons, Martyn, has been a Coles Myer director since 1996.

Neilma (later Neilma Gantner) was born on 7 November 1922. In 8 August 1941, she married Vallejo Gantner in Toorak, Melbourne [7] (1911–1996) (later divorced) [8] and they had two sons: Carrillo Gantner and Vallejo.[9] Vallejo jnr died in a shooting accident in 1962 [2] at the age of 19. Along with her son Carillo and brother Baillieu Myer, she established The Gantner Myer Collection of Australian Aboriginal Art, which was assembled over a four-year period by curator Jennifer Isaacs. The collection was unveiled in San Francisco in September 1999. Neilma Gantner was a member of the Executive of International Social Service, and of the Myer Foundation and the Sidney Myer Fund. She worked as a novelist, poet and short story writer under the pseudonym of Neilma Sidney, and founded the Four Winds Cultural Festival (Bermagui, New South Wales).[10]

Sidney Baillieu (Bails) was born on 11 January 1926. He married Sarah Horden, of the retailing Hordern family, and they have three children — Sidney, Samantha and Rupert. Baillieu Myer is a co-founder and past president of the Myer Foundation. He was a Trustee of the Sidney Myer Fund from 1958 to 2001 and Chairman from 1992-2001. He was chairman of The Myer Emporium Ltd, president of the Howard Florey Institute and Executive Member of the CSIRO. His career has spanned the fields of business, medical research, aged care, Australia-Asian relations, the arts, conservation, education and rural communities. His commitments and appointments, past and present, include: Patron of Asialink, Patron of the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal, Trustee Emeritus, National Gallery of Victoria, Director of the Howard Florey Institute, 1971–2002, and President, 1988–1992, Chairman, The Myer Emporium Ltd, 1978–1986, Executive Member, CSIRO, 1981-1985. On Australia Day 1990, Sidney Baillieu was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) for service to business and commerce, to government and to the community.[11] He was made an Honorary Doctor of Law, University of Melbourne, in 1993.[12] His son, Rupert is deputy chairman of the Myer Family Company and a leading figure in the local arts community.

Marigold Merlyn Baillieu Myer (Lady Southey AC) - Their youngest child was born on 2 May 1928. In 1950, Marigold Myer married Ross Shelmerdine and they had four children. Ross Shelmerdine died in 1979. On 22 July 1982, she married the widowed Sir Robert Southey, who died in 1998. On 7 June 1999, she became a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for her service to the community in the support of health care, medical research and the arts. Lady Southey was Lieutenant-Governor of Victoria 2001-2006.[13] She was president of Philanthropy Australia 2000-2006[14] and the St Catherine's School Foundation. She resigned as president of the Myer Foundation in 2004. Lady Southey is a supporter and Honorary Life Member of the Australian Ballet, Life Member of the Nuffield Farming Scholars Association, and a supporter of Birds Australia.[15] She was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia in 2006. One of her children, Stephen Shelmerdine AM, is a winemaker.

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