The First Lady of Camden, the Queen of Camden or simply Miss Camden. Receiving any one of these titles is no mean feat, but Llewella Davies achieved them all.
Born in 1901 and moving to Camden when she was three. Llewella stayed in the area for the rest of her life, spanning almost a century until her passing in 2000. The daughter of a dairy farmer, she was educated at SCEGGS boarding school in Darlinghurst, although her life remained in Camden. Her schooling was complemented by her experiences of the Camden cattle farm. From the herding through the main street every Tuesday to the sale yard, to the floods that would periodically plague the area. Her time after her school years was filled with activities that helped Camden grow as a community.
Although all the titles bestowed in honour of her contribution and commitment to the community capture some element of her involvement with Camden, one reveals the full extent of her relationship with Camden.
John Wrigley tells us that she gained the title of ‘Queen of Camden’ from Dr. Liz Kernohan, MLA, at a civic dinner held in her honour. The title reveals the admiration and stately presence she possessed in the town. But she was more than just a figurehead, appearing ceremonially like a mascot. Much of her involvement was on a grass-roots level. She was active in the Red Cross, the Camden Historical Society, and Meals on Wheels, to name but a few. Even in her 90s she was still a freeman of the town, an honorary ranger of the council and an honorary prefect at the high school.
The title of First Lady was bestowed upon her, once again with great affection, by ‘This Country Life Magazine’ supplement in The Land. Also revealing the strong connection between Llewella and Camden, it reminds one of her strong activity within the community. First ladies are again traditionally seen as figureheads, supportive of their husbands, the heads of state, occupying themselves with pet projects for the duration of their partner’s office. Her interest in the community was far more substantial than that, and not being in such a secondary position allowed her more freedom but also a great deal more honesty.
Llewella made regular visits to Bruce Cunningham, the Camden Council General Manager, and would strongly express her views of the development of Camden while emphasizing the importance of and pride in its history. The frequency of these visits was so great Cunningham had a bowl permanently placed in his office specifically for her pet dog.
Her frankness was not only reserved for local authorities but extended to Federal members. Wrigley tells us that she met two NSW Premiers, Neville Wran and John Fahey, as well as NSW Govenors Peter Sinclair. She also attended a dinner in honour of Prime Minister Maclom Fraser, when he visited Camden.
Although both the Queen and First Lady titles capture her importance to Camden, the full extent of Llewella’s connection with Camden is reveled by the third title bestowed on her. Her connection with the town was a relationship, and the relatively simple ‘Miss Camden’ is the perhaps most appropriate title. It reveals Llewella more as a faithful daughter of the town with a deep admiration for all that it is and an unwavering commitment to safeguarding and respecting its past. It also retains her youthful zeal for the town and life. The childlike excitement that saw her hijack the tardy Pansy Tram with her friends when in secondary school, or the creative shrewdness when removing a group of inebriated revelers from her garden by donning a sheet and wailing like a ghost.
It may not have the majesty of the Queen or the official stamp of the First Lady, but Llewella Davies is Miss Camden.
All sources used available through Camden Library:
Middlebrook, Todd. 14 January 1995. First Lady of Camden. This Country Life Magazine.
Wrigley, John. 17 February 2000. Obituaries: Llewella Davies. Sydney Morning Herald
Wrigley John. 19 September 2005. Brushes with Fame with Llewella Davies. District Reporter.