The gate at 39 St George's Road in Toorak was always open. Anybody looking in might have seen a handsome woman mowing the grass in what looked like a country garden or small park, if they had not already met her outside pushing a mower up a sloping verge. They would soon have been engaged in a friendly, country-style conversation, charmed by her warm smile, blue eyes, quick intelligence, and sheer naturalness.
This was Diana Baillieu, who has died, aged 93, essentially a countrywoman; somebody with an inexhaustible capacity for friendship. Chance acquaintances would see this, but not the depth of her courage. The suffering caused by the deaths of close kin was endured inwardly. Outwardly, but from the heart, she gave joy to people of all ages and backgrounds — as the presence of nearly 900 at her memorial service, spanning a century in ages, reflected.
Diana Margaret Knox was the only child of Captain William Johnstone Knox, MC, (1887-1917), and his wife, Mildred, known as Mim, daughter of Sir Stewart McArthur (1861-1935), judge and grazier, of Meningoort, Camperdown, and his wife, Margaret Rutherford, daughter of Ewen Macpherson, a pioneer grazier. Macpherson's sister Christina's playing of an old tune while visiting Dagworth station near Winton in Queensland in 1895 inspired Banjo Paterson to write Waltzing Matilda. Christina wrote down the music in a manuscript, which her great-niece inherited; in turn, Baillieu, pictured with the manuscript in 1995, gave it to the National Library of Australia, where it is preserved among the great national treasures.
Baillieu's paternal grandfather, William Knox (1850-1913), who refused a knighthood, was member for Kooyong in the first Commonwealth parliament and father of seven, including Sir George and Sir Robert. His son William (Bill) was school captain and athletics champion at Scotch College, and later a member of the Melbourne Stock Exchange. By 1915, he was an officer in the Australian Field Artillery; he survived Gallipoli and served in France and Belgium.
Baillieu had only a shadowy memory of her father, who was killed in action before she was three. A recent ABC Stateline program showed her son Ted reading to her from letters written by her father to his beloved wife during their times of enforced wartime separation.
Mother and daughter stayed in England after the war, near friends such as the (Rupert) Clarkes and the (John) Manifolds, whose son John, the future left-wing poet, was the young girl's age and became her lifelong friend. In England, Switzerland, and back in Australia, she went to various schools briefly but was taught mainly by governesses until, from 1930-32, she attended Clyde School, Woodend, where she was dux. At Meningoort, her mother's home, she had the companionship of cousins such as Ian McIntosh, later Vice-Admiral Sir Ian, a famous submariner in the Royal Navy.
'Baillieu, Diana Margaret (1915–2008)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/baillieu-diana-margaret-15139/text26331, accessed 27 April 2017.