(AMY) IDA MARGARET SOLE 1900 - 1967
Paving the Way for Future Generations
By Linda Butler
This article was originally published in the December 2012 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society
Goody Sole, as Ida was known to family and friends, was born in 190, the daughter of a gold miner, granddaughter of an agricultural labourer, and great-granddaughter of an Irish convict. Unusually for the times, Goody went to university and graduated with a Master of Arts degree.
Goody was the niece of the three Sole brothers who founded the Sole Brothers Circus and while much has been written about them, I believe Goody’s story is just as interesting. More importantly for me, it relates to my direct family line, and is about someone I knew quite well.
It has been a fascinating journey trying to understand the path that led Goody to university and the more I delved into it, the more I realised the important role in her story played by teachers and also, to some extent, by the happenstance of being born at the right time.
Amy Ida Margaret SOLE was born on 21 February 1900, the daughter of Augusta Catherine (Kate) HEITMANN and Edward Goodman SOLE (the brother who did not join the circus). We’re not entirely sure how Goody came by her nickname, but family folklore puts it down to her being such a good baby that she required little attention. She had two older sisters and three younger brothers. Goody’s two older sisters, Mabel, and Hilda (my grandmother), were both very talented musicians. Not surprisingly, given their father’s love of music, they were encouraged to make the most of their talents. Mabel was an extremely gifted pianist, and Hilda sang on the radio and in recitals around Brisbane in addition to playing the violin in the Queensland Symphony Orchestra.
While Goody was also a capable musician, her real talents lay in academic pursuits, and she was fortunate to enter the Queensland education system at a time of great change. In 1875, the fledgling Queensland government had introduced compulsory schooling for children aged 6 to 12, and all primary education was free. It took a while to implement, and some of the schools were fairly rudimentary, but by 1900 the department had succeeded in bringing basic literacy to all children in the State. So there was never any doubt that Goody would receive a full primary education. Goody went to at least two different primary schools in the goldfields of central Queensland, finishing her final year at the newly opened Mundubbera School.
Goody stood out as an extremely gifted student; in the Scholarship examination held at the end of her primary schooling in 1913, she finished second of all the girls sitting the test in Queensland. Her achievements were noted in the main Brisbane newspaper of the time, accompanied by a photo of the young Goody (which was sadly not of sufficient quality to reproduce here).
Goody was fortunate that the following year saw the introduction of a new system of support that provided any child who passed the examination at the end of primary school with a scholarship to attend secondary school. If the student needed to live away from home, as was the case for Goody, they were also eligible for living expenses.
However, winning a scholarship did not automatically guarantee that Goody would continue at school. Family legend has it that her mother, Kate, was strongly opposed to the idea because she feared that she would ‘lose’ her daughter if she went away to school and mingled with the children of wealthy families. It was Goody’s dedicated teachers who persuaded her otherwise. They visited the family’s home to talk to her parents and managed to persuade them to allow Goody to take up a scholarship at Ipswich Girls Grammar School (IGGS) in southern Queensland. Not long afterwards, the whole family moved to Brisbane, perhaps to be closer to their daughter. Goody encountered Kathleen Lilley at IGGS, a newly qualified and inspiring teacher, who had a strong influence on Goody’s future teaching career, and who became a lifelong friend and mentor.
Students normally took two years to complete their ‘Junior’ schooling, at the end of which there was an external examination. However, due to all the changes occurring at this time, most students in Goody’s cohort took an extra year while their schools came to grips with the new system. In order to receive a Junior Certificate students had to study at least five subjects across a variety of discipline groupings, and were given either a pass or a (relatively rare) merit mark. Goody received merits in English, Geometry and Music, and passes in French, Latin, Greek, Arithmetic, Algebra and English History.
Successful students then went on to study for a further two years before undertaking their ‘Senior’, or matriculation, exam. In 1918 Goody gained passes in five subjects – English, French, Latin, Greek and Mathematics. She was not listed as gaining a Matriculation Certificate direct from this examination, but in March 1919 she appears in the list of those granted a Supplementary Matriculation to the Faculty of Arts at Queensland University.
Goody Sole graduating from High School, 1919
It is unclear what the difference was between these two paths to university admission – 85 candidates received them direct from the examination, and a further 93 appeared in the supplementary list. Goody had already been awarded one of 14 three year Teacher Scholarships to the University of Queensland, contingent on her matriculation.
Goody graduated in 1922 with a Bachelor of Arts degree with second class honours. She married Arthur Todd the following year and their first son, Peter, was born in May 1925. She enrolled in a Master of Arts degree course, though we are not sure of the exact chronology. Her degree, based on a thesis written in Greek, was conferred in April 1927.
Goody then embarked on a four decade long career as a classics teacher. It is likely she worked out the bond from her university scholarship by teaching in a government school for three years after her graduation in 1922. In 1925 Miss Lilley took over as headmistress of Brisbane Girls Grammar School (BGGS), and sometime after the birth of her second son David in 1929, recruited Goody to the staff. David remembers being taken to lunch in the boarders’ dining room at the school. She taught at a two other private schools in Brisbane during the 1940s (including the one her sons attended), before returning to BGGS in 1951. As chance would have it, it was at this time that she taught Latin to one of her future daughters-in-law.
Goody continued teaching at BGGS until her retirement from full-time work at the end of 1960. However she returned to the school as a part-time teacher in 1962 and was on the staff when her two granddaughters and I were at the school. Goody’s teaching career of over 40 years ended when her health started to decline at the end of 1966. Her obituary, appearing in the school magazine a few months after her death in 1967, paid tribute to her as a teacher of Latin ...
‘... of a very high standard. Her pupils were indeed fortunate to have as a teacher, a scholar of such calibre …’
She was also remembered by fellow staff ...
‘… as a loyal and co-operative colleague, and a happy companion. Going back still further, there will be those who will remember Goody Sole as one of the best hockey players the University of Queensland has ever had.’
Goody was not the only one in the family to be gifted academically. Two of her three nieces, the daughters of Hilda the middle Sole daughter, also exhibited exceptional scholastic aptitude. Her oldest and youngest daughters, Hilda and Felicity (known as Ann in the family), both followed in their aunt’s footsteps by finishing in the top 10 in the Scholarship exam at the end of primary school. Like their aunt, both were the second girl in the State for their year. Hilda and Ann also won open scholarships to university, finishing in the top 25 in the State.
Goody Sole at the wedding of her elder son Peter, 1948
The three Sole sisters all lived within a few kilometres of each other, and regularly saw each other’s granddaughters. Their influence on our lives, particularly Aunty Goody’s, was not the result of constant homilies about what we should do with our lives. But the example she and her high-achieving nieces set for us imparted a much stronger, implicit message and they provided strong role models for their extended family. I am sure that is why, by the time I finished my secondary schooling in the 1960s, it was automatically assumed I would go to university. Even at that time, the (quite well-off) parents of some classmates in my girls’ school still did not support further education for their daughters. Those that did go were very often the first females in their family to attend university. I was from the third generation in mine!
Academic talent continued to appear in the
following generations of women – among Goody’s granddaughters,
great-granddaughters, and great-great-nieces, university degrees are the norm.
The latest generation includes two medical specialists, a PhD in medical
laboratory technology, an army captain who topped her year in science, a
university medallist in optometry, teachers, librarians, economists, and many
more. There is also a very strong vein of musical talent to be found in their
ranks. Some of these young women are now the fourth generation in their family
to attend university. I would hazard a guess that this is very unusual for any
family, let alone one with a
working-class background such as ours.