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Lady Margaret Miller Bell (1841–1914)

from Brisbane Courier

The announcement of the passing away of Lady Bell will be heard with feelings of regret. She was at one time one of the most prominent figures in the history of the women of the State–as noted for the beauty of her face as for the commanding stateliness of her figure, and this allied to her strong, clear brain and retentive memory made her a remarkable, and charming personality. Fortune on the one hand seemed to endow Lady Bell with the wonderful gifts, with beauty, high position and wealth, and at the same time to overwhelm her with a more than the average share of woman's sorrow.

The daughter of Dr. D'Orsey, of Ipswich, she married the Hon. Joshua Peter Bell, who subsequently became Sir Joshua Peter Bell, President of the Legislative Council and Acting Governor. It was while holding this exalted position, that her husband was suddenly visited by the grim reaper. The story is told that Lady Bell was in a local store, purchasing some trifle, when an assistant said to the one serving her–"News has just come that Sir Joshua Peter Bell dropped dead opposite the Post Office." The news was only too true. Misfortunes followed in quick succession. Her husband was lost; Jimbour, the family home, was subsequently lost; her fortune was lost; and–perhaps the greatest blow of all–the brilliant son of whom Queensland was so proud (the late Hon. Joshua T. Bell) died after a mournful period of hope and fear in which the mother's heart was wrung to the limit of her endurance. There were other and absorbing sorrows surrounding the poor lady, that almost seemed to set her apart in their magnitude, and to make her lifelong and best friends wish for her the peace and rest she has obtained.

From the "Jubilee Queenslander," in which Lady Bell related many of her early experiences to the writer of "The Woman's Part." Lady Bell, recalling the Government House festivities of her girlhood, said–"These were the days of tarlatan frocks, and natural flowers for girls, so that the preparations for dances were of the simplest character. Then the girls seemed not to know the meaning of fatigue, and many of them rode 25 miles, danced till 3 in the morning, and then rode back again. They walked and rode a great deal, and seemed to be able to stand more exertion than the girls of the present day." She also laughingly drew comparisons between the ballroom of then and now. Then the saucy girl looked slyly over her fan to see who was coming, and chose her partners as she pleased. Lady Bell told a story of how, when she was a girl, she and her sister were anxious to attend a big ball at Government House. The distance was 25 miles, and as it rained for days, and the roads became heavy, their mother was afraid to venture, and no vehicle could get through. Their hopes began to dwindle and dwindle, when one of their brothers returned just the day before, and said that if it were possible for horses to travel they would ride to Brisbane. This they accomplished, arriving at half-past 6 o'clock; the young people of their hostess's party rode out to meet them, and their reception was tremendous. The girls danced till 3 in the morning, and rode back then 25 miles without even imagining they were tired, or that they had accomplished any unusual exploit. The simple life was the rule everywhere, and few thought it necessary to groan under little inconveniences." These few pictures show the pathos in contrast with her later years of sadness, and emphasise the part taken by this remarkable lady in the pioneer history of the State.

Lady Bell was the mother of the late Hon. J. T. Bell, Messrs. W. A. D. Bell, C. B. P. Bell (Westland station. Longreach), O. M. D. Bell (England), and Miss Maida Bell.

The funeral of Lady Bell will leave her residence, Myora, Banks-street, West End. at 10 o'clock this morning.

Original publication

Other Obituaries for Lady Margaret Miller Bell

Additional Resources

  • funeral, Telegraph (Brisbane), 20 January 1914, p 3

Citation details

'Bell, Lady Margaret Miller (1841–1914)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 18 May 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Dorsey, Margaret Miller

Clare, Ireland


17 January, 1914 (aged ~ 73)
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Cause of Death


Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.