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CONSTANCE ENID RADCLIFFE, THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY, SOUTH AUSTRALIA

After researching this unusual postcard for a year, I realised that the postcard was not addressed to Constance but to her mother, Emily for it was addressed to Mrs. Radcliffe, Theosophical Society, Victoria Square, Adelaide, S.A., whereas Constance never married. However both parents and their 3 children were greatly involved with Theosophy, particularly Constance over her long lifespan. The postcard is inscribed vertically along its left border ‘Copyright: The Colombo Apothecaries Co. Ltd’ and top centre it is printed with ‘Ceylon (Ceylan). It has a printed red 1d New South Wales ‘Shield’ stamp with a ‘PAQUEBOT’ handstamp. The sender wrote that it was posted May 1st at Suez, and it bears a SUEZ/ 2 - V. 09 4.30 PM postmark of the next day. The message is inconsequential considering what appears on the reverse, for it talks of "unsuitable food. One can’t thrive very long on boiled potatoes & cabbage." (Figure 1).

The photograph on the reverse is inscribed as ‘THE PERAHERA/ AN ANNUAL/ BUDDHIST PROCESSION’ which occurs annually in July or August, the date depending on the new moon and as decreed by the Chief Lay Head of the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic of Buddha in Kandy, Ceylon (Sri Lanka). As one writer in Ceylon describes it’s origin, it is "lost in the mists of centuries." (Figure 2).

Mr. C. Radcliffe had been the Vice-President of the Adelaide Theosophical Society, in 1889. The Advertiser (Adelaide, S.A.) on Friday 31 December 1909 (page 10) had a paragraph that a Mr. William Daniel Smith, one of the trustees of the Adelaide Theosophical Society was applying to the Supreme Court for the incorporation of the Society, setting out 5 points about the institution. He gave the names of the trustees, hisself of Adelaide, a civil servant; Edwin Robert Chettle Lucy of Hindmarsh, postmaster; and Charles Radcliffe, of Klemzig, commercial traveller, and more importantly, Constance Redcliffe’s father (Figure 3).

Charles Radcliffe came to South Australia from Bexley Heath in England in the late 1870s. In 1881, at the age of 27, he married Emily Ann Ware. He was a homeopathic chemist with a shop in Adelaide’s busiest shopping street and two others in the suburbs. People in the district said that as children, they were sent running to Mr. Radcliffe for advice and remedies whenever there were ailments in their families. Charles and Emily, and their 3 children Constance (1882-1977), Douglas (1887-1963) and Phyllis (1891-1983) lived in a large house named ‘Ou-rata’ which is aboriginal for "a place of white stone" which alluded to the preponderance of lime in the soil. As well as being dedicated theosophists, all the family took their social and civic responsibilities very conscientiously.

Douglas was for some years an energetic and respected member of the city council. He was also a scout commissioner, and took a large contingent of scouts to England in 1924. He was an engineer and he worked on the Kalgoorlie to Perth railway line. Phyllis was a Montessori teacher and she filled the Adelaide Town Hall when she presented a demonstration of Montessori teaching methods. She conducted one of Adelaide’s free kindergartens, helped to start the Natural History of S.A., was an expert photographer of flora and fauna, and worked hard to support the Flying Doctor Service.

Constance worked for a while with the Theosophical Society in Sydney, was a pillar of the Adelaide Lodge, was a founding member of the Adelaide Co-Masonic Lodge as well as a founding member of the Liberal Catholic Church. For several years she and her sister held meetings of the Round Table and the Lotus Circle. Constance worked hard for the Red Cross during the two World Wars. The family home was a place where many well-known theosophists stayed over the many years. In 1977 Constance bequeathed the home and a half-acre of land to the Radcliffe Theosophical Centre and her will expressed an ardent desire for it to be "a centre for peace and refreshment for Theosophists and like-minded people."

On 17 November 1953 Miss Constance Enid Radcliffe filled out a form for inclusion in the International Theosophical Year Book which gives additional information about her: She was born on September 26th , 1882 at Norwood, S.A. and was educated mostly at Hardwicke College (Adelaide). She left ‘Married (name, date)’ blank, and she joined the Theosophical Society’s Lodge in Adelaide on 24. 8.02. Her Service to the society was as Secretary, President & Classes Lectures, with other details of interest as on the enclosed type notes. Publications were quoted as "A few odd things in Magazines" and her full address was given as Oura-ta (sic), 25 Fourth Avenue, Klemzig, South Australia (Figure 4).

I received a copy of Constance Radcliffe’s four paged typed ‘Memories’ dated 30/11/53 (the same month and year of her submission of the above form), and the ‘Memories’ may have been appended to the form). A few quotations were extracted, as follows:

"At thirteen I decided not to eat any more meat, and after a very short time my parents followed, so the whole family became vegetarian; We used to have at our home regular meetings of friends interested in advanced and unorthodox thought; The first theosophical book I studied during school holidays was "The Growth of the Soul"; The Occult World and Esoteric Buddhism were, it seems, in the house years earlier, but I had not found them; My father and mother joined T.S. and my application was sent forward in July 1902; Before that I had acted as Secretary to the "Branch" (as a locum); In 1915 my brother, sister and I went to Sydney Convention...there I stayed for two and a half years (where she assisted at a Star Depot, similar to the one in London); The Conventions of 1922 and 1925 – when I was also in Sydney – were perhaps the most wonderful in the history of T.S. in Australia". A photo of Constance Radcliffe in 1977, signing a book at the age of 94, is seen in Figure 5.

A comparison of the occupation of Mr. C. Radcliffe (Klemzig, S.A., commercial traveller) in the third paragraph, and of Charles Radcliffe (homeopathic chemist) could suggest that they were not the same man, the father of Constance Radcliffe. This may be explained by the information I received from Rose Wilson, Research Team, State Library of South Australia: The Sands and MacDougall’s Directory for 1924 describes Charles Radcliffe, as a commercial traveller of Gaza, the least glamorous of suburbs, being near Port Adelaide. This career suggests that he may have been separated from the family, and that he was in less fortunate circumstances.

I acknowledge the great assistance I received from Jennifer Hissey, Librarian, Campbell Theosophical Library, Sydney, Australia, for this history of the Radcliffe family could never have been written without the research information she supplied from this remarkable resource.

 

 

 
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