From Dublin to Canberra
Ruth Johnstone Pollexfen was born in Ireland in 1885. She was trained as an artist and embroiderer by her cousins and uncle in the Yeats family. One of her cousins was the Irish playwright and poet William Butler Yeats.
Charles Lane Poole was born the same year into an academic English family. He spent his youth studying in Dublin and France, then worked as a forester in Africa.
Ruth Pollexfen and Charles Lane Poole were married in Dublin in July 1911. She remained there while he took up a post as Sierra Leone's Conservator of Forests. Their first child, Charlotte, was born in England in 1913. In 1916 they moved into their first home together, in the Perth suburb of Cottesloe, after Charles was appointed Conservator of Forests for Western Australia. Their second child, Mary, was born in Perth in 1918.
When Charles resigned the Western Australia post in 1921, Ruth returned to Ireland with their two daughters. She lived there for the next three years while he was employed on a survey of the forests of Papua (then a Commonwealth territory) and then New Guinea (then the responsibility of Australia as a territory under the mandate of the League of Nations). Their youngest child, Phyllis, was born in Ireland in 1922.
Ruth Lane Poole with her first daughter, Charlotte, 1913
Courtesy of Phyllis Hamilton
The Lane Pooles set up their second home together in the Melbourne suburb of South Yarra in 1925, after Charles was appointed as the Commonwealth's Forestry Adviser. Both Charles and Ruth turned 40 that year. They had been married 14 years, though they had shared a home for only five.
The move to Melbourne was the start of a very busy period in their lives. Charles Lane Poole was developing a national forest policy and setting up the Australian Forestry School and the Commonwealth Forestry Bureau in Canberra. Ruth Lane Poole worked with Victoria's Arts & Crafts Society and published articles on interior design.
Early in 1926, she was commissioned 'Furniture Specialist' responsible for furnishing the new Canberra residences for the Prime Minister and the Governor-General.
Smith's Weekly, 26 June 1926
NAA: A1, 1926/9335, p.56
The Lane Pooles moved to Canberra at the end of 1927 and early in 1928 moved into Westridge House in Banks Street, Yarralumla. Charles continued his forestry work as principal of the Forestry School and Head of the Forestry Bureau. For the next 17 years both Ruth and Charles Lane Poole were active in developing the social and cultural life of the national capital.
Their eldest daughter, Charlotte (nicknamed 'Charles'), finished her secondary schooling at St Gabriel's, later Canberra Girls' Grammar School. The two younger daughters, Mary and Phyllis (nicknamed 'Cookie'), also attended St Gabriel's. Charlotte followed her father's interests and established a plant nursery at Yarralumla in the 1930s, while Mary started a florist business in the Manuka shopping centre.
Ruth Lane Poole's bonds with the Yeats family were maintained by her daughters' lengthy visits to England and Ireland. Mary was in Dublin when World War II started and went to England, serving in an ambulance crew in 1940 and 1941, during the German blitz on London. Charlotte joined the Women's Auxiliary Australian Air Force (WAAAF) in 1942 and Phyllis joined the Women's Royal Australian Naval Service (WRANS) the next year, both serving until the war ended.
Women's Auxiliary Australian Air Force (WAAAF) record sheet for Flight Officer Charlotte Lane Poole, 1942
NAA: A9300, LANE-POOLE C R, p. 29
When the war ended in 1945, Charles and Ruth Lane Poole moved to Sydney. By then Charles had retired and they lived in Manly until his death in 1970. Ruth Lane Poole died four years later.