Saturday, 18 April 2015

O is for Olive (#AtoZChallenge)

O is for Olive (#AtoZChallenge)

O is for Olive - Olive McCann - Aunty Ol. Catherine Olive Annie McCann was born on the 23rd September 1895 in Ballina, New South Wales. She was my great aunt.

Olive was a great businesswoman and entrepreneur. She started a fashion business shortly after the family moved to Brisbane in 1922, working at a shop in Fortitude Valley and running a salon in Queen Street Brisbane called Davids. Ol would catch the tram up from the Valley with her pay to pay the girls in Davids. The salon soon became successful and Olive left her Valley job and concentrated on her salon. Olive involved other members of her family and soon had another salon at the Adelaide Street end of the Brisbane Arcade, called Pauls Frocks. This morphed into a shop in Ruthven Street Toowoomba and one in Elizabeth Street Sydney. By then they had established a factory in Burnett Lane Brisbane called Model Manufacturers of Queensland. My grandfather, Olive's brother, was the Managing Director of the businesses. 

Olive was a woman before her time. She travelled overseas in 1937 with her sister Gladys, attended the Coronation and spent some time in Europe, particularly Paris. Apparently she purchased model gowns in London & Paris, removed the labels, sewed her labels on to avoid customs duty and returned with the garments to Brisbane where they were copied.

Olive also bought and sold racehorses and was not averse to large wagers on the same. It was reported in The Sydney Morning Herald that - Miss Olive McCann was successful in betting £10,000 at 3 to 1 on Babillard. The largest bet by a woman on the Sydney racecourse - this was in 1941.

Sadly Olive died in a car crash near Glen Innes on the 22nd July 1952, her sister, Aunty Pat,  was driving and never got over the trauma of causing Olive's death. I remember Aunty Ol as smelling lovely and always having a special suprise for me.

This post is part of the 2015 Blogging from A to Z Challenge. My theme is Names: First Names from My Family File. Stay tuned for the rest of the alphabet, and if you'd like to check out the other A to Z participants, simply click here.


  1. Hello Helen, my mum Norma Hunt worked at Paul's Frocks in Sydney in the late 1940s. She adored "Miss McCann" and often talked about her. She kept a letter, written by her in 1950, All her life. I found it recently, after mum's death at 92, in her box of treasured possessions. I decided to google Olive McCann and your reference was the only one I found. Thank you for posting it, it was so interesting to find out a little more about her.
    Regards, Susan Sawyer

    1. Thanks for your comment Susan - Aunty Ol was a favourite of my mother and a great loss to the family when she passed away. If possible I would love a copy of the letter. My email is