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Devine, Matilda Mary (Tilly) (1900–1970)

from Daily Mirror (Sydney)

Tilly Devine, the Queen of Woolloomooloo, is dead.

She died in Concord Repatriation Hospital last night.

Times changed Tilly as they changed the 'Loo.

In her heyday she admitted wearing more diamonds than the Queen of England ("And better ones, too").

But she died, as Tilly would have put it, broke.

Tilly’s married name was Mrs Matilda Parsons.

With her first husband, underworld identity Big Jim Devine, she came to Australia from London in 1919.

She made a fortune during the war from sly grog.

She did her bit for the war effort by reducing the sly grog price of a bottle of beer by threepence to the men in uniform.

She had lived in later years in a cottage at Maroubra.

The same cottage outside which Big Jim shot dead a gunman and where gangsters Guido Colletti and Frankie Green once shot it out.

Tilly was noted for her lavish wartime parties.

For one, her own "ball-of-the-year," she hired the Maccabean Hall at Darlinghurst.

She told the hall management the function was for charity.

It was, too — to raise bail for a man named Kelly charged with attempted murder.

Big Jim and East Sydney identity Cliffie Thomas stood at the door.

A girl known in Kings Cross as Carbine Lottie worked in the cloakroom.

The ticket auctioneer was Bandages Cosgrove, so-called because he usually showed the effects of his profession of a bouncer.

Tilly announced to the patrons — "I don’t want you turning this into a rort. If anyone does I’ll hoist him myself."

Tilly Devine always claimed the best man she had ever known was her late husband, ex-navy man Eric Parsons.

She married him a month after being charged with trying to murder him by shooting him in the leg.

In her later years she was even known to shed a tear for the late Eric.

She wrote her own obituary in a letter she once sent to Truth newspaper.

She wote: "Give a dog a bad name and it sticks.

"I wasn’t as bad as I was painted.

"There’s lots in Sydney who will miss me — even coppers."

Original publication

  • Daily Mirror (Sydney), 24 November 1970, p 9

Other Obituaries for Matilda Mary (Tilly) Devine

Additional Resources

Citation details

'Devine, Matilda Mary (Tilly) (1900–1970)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/devine-matilda-mary-tilly-5970/text24399, accessed 24 October 2014.

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