Vernon, Mary

Adeline Mary Gordon (‘Mary’) Vernon was born in Beecroft on 4 February 1923 the eldest child of Harry Gordon Vernon and Millie (nee Rogers). Her father was a dentist and a stalwart of the Pennant Hills Golf Club. Her grandfather was John Vernon an Auditor-General of NSW. The family lived with the grandparents in ‘Cranbrook’ on the corner of Malton and Sutherland Roads. The house was designed to allow Harry to have a dental surgery on the property in addition to one in the City. [1]

Mary remembered Sutherland Road when it was not a through road as it was severed by a creek and the end of the road was covered in nasturtiums. She remembered the end of Copeland Road East as being called “China Town” as a number of Chinese market gardeners lived there. [2]

Of Mary’s younger siblings, John died when he was an infant and Kearney when she was 7 years old. The only surviving sister was Margaret (Marg) who had a significant disability and lived in an institution most of her life. Marg died in 2011 and was greatly missed by Mary who used to visit her weekly. They were very close and Mary always took account of Marg’s views in making personal decisions.

Mary attended Hornsby Girl’s High School but was forced to leave when 14 years old because her father had died leaving the family destitute. She went to Miss Hales Secretarial College before obtaining work at Rydges Business Journal.

In 1941 she joined the stockbroking firm of J&J North (now Norths) – her aunt (being her mother’s sister) being married to John Alfred North (grandson of John Britty North founder of the family stock broking firm. The North family lived during her childhood in Malton Road and the rear of their property extended through to what is now Wandeen Avenue. The two families were very close.

“Vernon was utterly committed to her work and was much respected and admired by her clients and colleagues. In 1976 she was named Stockbroker of the Year – a first for a woman and a demonstration of the high regard she was held in by her industry peers.” [3]

In the 1930s Mary became engaged to Kingsley Poulton, a jeweller in Beecroft however he developed cancer and died before they were wed. The Poulton family lived at 24 Sutherland Road during the 1930s and 1940s and subsequently at 110 Sutherland Road (“Beveren”) in the 1950s and 1960s. Their jewellery store was initially at 45 Market Street Sydney but subsequently moved to Top Ryde. [4]

In the 1970s Mary purchased a home in Wandeen Avenue Beecroft – just near to the rear of the former North property.

By 1985 she was the last member of Norths with a family connection to the founders. By that time she was one of 7 partners “with a large number of old moneyed clients” and had just won the 1984-85 Economic Society Share Price Forecasting Competition conducted by Macquarie University. [5] In 1990 Mary left Norths after 41 years and joined Potter Warburg (now UBS) and continued to work there until she retired in 2000 aged 77 years.

Following her retirement Mary established a private charitable foundation – many focussed on working with children, people with a disability and the disadvantaged. One particular act was the endowment of scholarships for Aboriginal students at St Phillips College Alice Springs. At the end of the financial year 202 the Vernon Foundation had assets in excess of $15 million and distributed grants and donations in excess of $800,000 in that year alone. [6]

After the death of her sister she started to travel more widely throughout Australia, New Zealand and the United States. For most of her life she had regularly attended St Stephen’s Presbyterian (and then Uniting) Church in Macquarie Street Sydney but in her last years returned to worship at Beecroft Presbyterian which she attended as a child.

She was a very convivial conversationalist and dinner companion. She was thoroughly immersed in the maintenance of her beautiful garden.

She died in an aged care facility in Killara in 2014.

  1.  For more information on the grandfather see the article on John Vernon under people and on the house ‘Cranbrook’ see under Houses in Malton Road.

2.  Conversations with Roderick Best during 2010.

3.    A Ripley “Mary Vernon: Fruits of a life of hard work live on” Sydney Morning Herald 23 January 2015.

4.     NSW Electoral Rolls 1937-1968; Australian Women’s Weekly 11 May 1977 p 43; Sydney Morning Herald 22 November 1941

5.     P Gemmell-Smith, “Pi-Con-Ops: yells Graeme, and its just another moment in the world of Norths” Good Weekend 11 August 1985 p38.

6.     See the records held on for the Vernon Foundation accessed 12 January 2021