Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Isabella McGill

Isabella McGill (nee Russell) was one of the first generation of local girls born at Shellharbour.

Her parents were Ebenezer and Janet Russell (nee Meek) who came to Shellharbour from Linlithgow Scotland in 1840, when Isabella and her twin sister Janet were seven years old.

In 1869, Isabella married James McGill (son of Andrew and Jane) at her parents' home at Croom. Isabella and James farmed 'The Meadows' at Albion Park before moving to Stoney Creek in 1883.

Isabella became renowned in the area as a good nurse and midwife, and used bush methods to assist her patients. In the 1880s she treated many who had contracted diphtheria in an epidemic that affected many people in Shellharbour, especially children.

Diphtheria weakened the body and claimed up to a third of its victims, with patients ultimately dying from suffocation. Archibald and Margaret McGill lost four of their children to the epidemic within four days in 1883.

Isabella developed a treatment using the quill section of a feather to allow patients to breath throughout their illness, and by this method saved many young lives.

On Arbor Day in 1895, Isabella planted one of the Norfolk Island Pines which adorn the waterfront at Shellharbour Village. 350 residents of the municipality gathered on 14 August and 45 trees were planted.

Isabella was at that time the oldest female resident of Shellharbour, aged just 62.

James and Isabella McGill c.1870-1880
Shellharbour Images Shellharbour City libraries.


  1. I came across the Albion Park Library and Cemetery today.
    The plaque dedicated to Archibald & Margaret McGill Children caught my eye. It stats here that they lost four of their children within days back in 1883. But on the plaque it has another year where another child passed away. My thoughts are sent to those sweet children, and their parents. May they all be resting in peace xxx

  2. Yes :( very sad indeed for the McGill family. The grave you came across is the one for the McGill children mentioned in the post who all died within a few days of each other from diphtheria. Very hard times indeed.


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