Monthly Archives: February 2016

What Elise Wrote-An Inspirational Woman

Daphne Dunne

WW2 stories are many but this one is extra special.

Red roses have always had a special significance for Daphne Dunne. The flowers her husband, Lieutenant Albert Chowne VC, had arranged to have sent to her for her birthday on March 29, 1945, arrived just before the news he had been killed fighting the Japanese in New Guinea.


‘I was a corporal in the district finance office of the Australian Women’s Army Service in Sydney,’ she said. ‘Albert and I had married on March 15, 1944, and my birthday was on March 29.
‘Just after the flowers he had arranged to have sent arrived my lieutenant came over and told me I was “wanted at home”. My heart sank, you were rarely sent home and it was never good news.’

When she arrived her mother and sister were there and a telegram was waiting. It informed her Albert, a ”Rat of Tobruk” who had previously been awarded the Military Medal for his service in Europe, had been killed on March 25.
Her world was shattered; on being told later that year Albert had been awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross for leading the charge that opened the way for the Allies to drive the Japanese out of Wewak her grief was still palpable.

‘I am proud for him but it doesn’t make up for everything,’ she told the Sydney Morning Herald in September 1945. ‘I would rather he had remained just ordinary and was alive. He was a wonderful man and a grand husband. I have no plans for the future. It is all dead to me now.’

Fast forward nearly 70 years and the love and the grief remain. But, and it is a big but, Mrs Dunne has gone on to enjoy a fulfilling life as a wife, a mother and a grandmother. ‘You survive; you’ve got no choice,’ she told Fairfax Media during a rare visit to the Australian War Memorial with her daughter, Michelle Haywood, from her Turramurra home. ‘You have got to pick yourself up and start over again. I wanted Albert to be as proud of me as I am of him. I still love him.’

It was over a decade before Mrs Dunne remarried. Her second husband, Corporal John Dunne, also possessed uncommon reserves of courage and endurance. A member of the 2/29 Australian Infantry Battalion, he was captured in Malaya in 1942 and endured the horrors of Changi.
As with Albert, Mrs Dunne met John through her work at David Jones. ‘That store has been good to me,’ she said.

Mrs Dunne and Albert had worked together at the Sydney store until he enlisted on May 27, 1940. They had not been romantically involved but agreed to write to each other when he went to Europe. ‘It was through our letters that we fell in love,’ she said. ‘He was very romantic, very sincere and very loving. He was just a very good person.’

Spotted laying a wreath at a Last Post ceremony by war memorial director Brendan Nelson, she was engaged in conversation by her former local member. ‘When Daphne said she wanted to view Albert’s VC in the Hall of Valour, I asked if I could come too,’ Dr Nelson said. ‘It is an honour to meet her.’

Mrs Dunne visited Canberra for the opening of the Hall of Valour. ‘Mum likes to come as often as she can,’ Michelle Haywood said. ‘She doesn’t always look at the Victoria Cross; it makes her so sad. Mum is remarkable; she is so positive and always has faith in you. What I love about her is that she never sees the bad, only the good. She is a beautiful soul.’

Medals awarded to Lieutenant Albert Chowne.


A love that has never been forgotten.









Filed under Elise McCune, What Elise Wrote

What Elise Wrote-Colleen Moore

The third in my series of forgotten women and this post has two videos: one a tribute to Colleen Moore and the other further down a video of her  dollhouse size fairytale castle.It is not like the castle that inspired my novel Castle of Dreams but it is beautiful and as I have an affinity with castles I decided to include it in this post.


Colleen Moore, born Kathleen Morrison on  January 25, 1988 in Port Huron, Michigan, U.S. was an American film actress who began her career during the silent film era and popularised the bobbed haircut.After her film career she became a partner in the investment firm Merrill Lynch.

At age 15 she was setting her first step in Hollywood. Her uncle arranged a screen test with director D.W. Griffith. She wanted to be a second Lillian Gish but instead she found herself playing heroines in Westerns with stars such as Tom Mix.


Two great passions of Colleen’s life were dolls and movies; each would play a great role in her later life. Her aunts, who doted on her, indulged her and often bought her miniature furniture on their many trips, with which she furnished the first of a succession of doll houses.


Through family contacts she was offered a  contract to Griffith’s Triangle-Fine Arts conditional on passing a film test to ensure that her heterochromia (she had one brown eye, one blue eye) would not be a distraction in close-up shots. Her eyes passed the test, so she left for Hollywood with her grandmother and her mother as chaperones. Colleen made her first credited film appearance in 1917 in The Bad Boy.

By the late 1920s, she had accomplished dramatic roles in films such as So Big, where she aged through a stretch of decades and was also well received in light comedies such as Irene. Promotional portraits of Colleen at the height of her fame, c. 1927, show the Dutchboy bobbed haircut that she made famous, and which she kept until she died.

With the advent of talking pictures in 1929, Colleen took a hiatus from acting. In 1934, she returned to work in Hollywood. At the height of her fame, she was earning $12,500 per week. She was an astute investor, and through her investments remained wealthy for the rest of her life.

Colleen married four times and was happily married to her last husband when she passed away.She never had children of her own, although she had wanted them,  but was close to her step-children.
On January 25, 1988, Colleen died from cancer in Paso Robles, California, aged 88.For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Colleen has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1551 Vine Street.
F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote of her: “I was the spark that lit up Flaming Youth, Colleen Moore was the torch. What little things we are to have caused all that trouble.”

I have saved the best for last: images of Colleen’s fairytale castle.

In 1928, inspired by her father and with help from her former set designer, a dollhouse was constructed by her father, which was 9 feet square with the tallest tower 12 feet high. The interior of The Colleen Moore Dollhouse, designed by Harold Grieve, features miniature bear skin rugs and detailed furniture and art. Colleen’s dollhouse has been a featured exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, Illinois since the early 1950s, where, according to the museum it is seen by 1.5 million people each year and would be worth $7 million. Colleen continued working on it, and contributing artifacts to it, until her death.

I hope you enjoy Colleen’s magical castle.

Have a wonderful week full of magic and dreams,










Filed under A Writer’s Notebook, Elise McCune, What Elise Wrote

A Writer’s Notebook – Castle of Dreams

In April of this year, Allen & Unwin will publish my novel Castle of Dreams. I thought I’d share a small excerpt.

Castillo de Sueños, 1935

Vivien and Rose Blake rushed out through the heavy front doors of Castillo de Sueños, yelling to their mother they’d be home before dark. Too late Vivien remembered she’d promised to help Ma in the propagating shed with the orchids and lacy maidenhair ferns, but all day the rich scent of wild honey-suckle climbing over the loggia had drifted through the open windows, and now that lessons were over, outdoors beckoned irresistibly. Feet barely touching the mosaic tiles, the girls ran across the loggia, down the wide stone steps, and across the lawn towards the rainforest.

I visited the castle ruins at Paronella Park some years ago, a magical place set in the far north Queensland rainforest. Paronella Park has a website that you can visit to see pictures of the castle ruins and read about its rich history.  I’m sure lots of WW2 romances must have started there when the Australian and American servicemen came out to the Saturday night dances with their Cairns and Innisfail girlfriends. All of which I have written about in Castle of Dreams.

Castle of Dreams has two narratives, one set in WW2 Australia and the other in contemporary times. It’s full of all the things I love in a novel: romance, mystery and betrayal, everything to keep you turning the pages to find out what happened next.

Have a wonderful day and I hope it is full of magic and enchantment,






Filed under A Writer’s Notebook, Allen & Unwin, Castle of Dreams, Elise McCune, Paronella Park, What Elise Wrote

A Writer’s Notebook – Ellen Terry

This is the second in a series of forgotten women.

Ellen Terry was the Queen of Britain’s stage at the beginning of the twentieth century.

And, while not forgotten in the true sense of the word, unless one has an interest in the history of the theatre it is likely she is not known to you. My introduction to Ellen was many years ago when I found a nineteenth century edition of Shakespeare in a second hand bookshop for a few dollars. Inside I discovered wonderful photographs of Ellen and Henry Irving and other actors as they appeared in various stage roles. The Shakespeare now resides on my daughter’s bookshelf.


  1. Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth
  2. Choosing a painting of Ellen Terry by George Frederick Watts
  3. A photograph (1864) of Ellen Terry by Julia Margaret Cameron

Alice Ellen Terry (she reversed her given names) was born in Coventry, England, the third surviving child born into a theatrical family. Her parents, Benjamin of Irish descent, and Sarah (née Ballard,) of Scottish ancestry, were comic actors in a Portsmouth-based touring company,and had 11 children. With two actors as parents who had already made a reputation for the name Terry and an older sister Kate also on the stage it was ineveritable Ellen became an actress. At least five of her siblings became actors: Kate, Ellen, Marion, Florence, and Fred.Two other children, George and Charles, were connected with theatre management. Kate (the grandmother of John Gielgud) and Marion were particularly successful on stage.  Ellen made her first stage appearance at age nine, as Mamillius, opposite Charles Kean as Leontes, in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale at London’s Princess’s Theatre in 1856.

Between 1861 and 1862, Ellen was engaged by the Royalty Theatre in London, managed by Madame Albina de Rhona, where she acted with W. H. Kendal, Charles Wyndham and other famous actors. In 1863  15-year-old Ellen appeared at the opening of the Theatre Royal, Bath, as Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, then returned to London to join J. B. Buckstone’s company at the Haymarket Theatre in Shakespearean roles as well as in  modern comedies.

n 1878 she joined Henry Irving’s company as his leading lady, and for more than the next two decades she was considered the leading Shakespearean and comic actress in Britain. Two of her most famous roles were Portia in The Merchant of Venice and Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing. She and Irving also toured with great success in America and Britain.

Ellen Terry is the most beautiful name in the world; it rings like a chime through the last quarter of the nineteenth century, George Bernard Shaw wrote of the Dame Ellen when she was at the height of her career. Their correspondence was a love affair in words.

On Ellen’s death, through her nephew, the famed actor Sir John Gielgud, the family tradition of connection to the theatre continued.

Good writing and have a wonderful week,



Filed under A Writer’s Notebook, Elise McCune, What Elise Wrote

A Writer’s Notebook – Social Media

I have been thinking lately about my online presence and while I enjoy writing a blog post each week (and will continue to do so) when I’m online for too long I find my creative energy is stalled. I am not sure how many other writers feel this way but it must be quite a lot for many well known authors are not online presences. Some writers have two computers one for writing and one for internet searches and social media which is a great idea. Now that I am starting a new novel it is simply more important to me to concentrate on my outline which will save me many hours of unnecessary detours along the way. I realise that social media is a way of promoting my work but I have to weigh that up against the time I spend and the value I get from it. I’d rather be reading for research, plotting my story, and getting to know my characters. As an artist I want my story to be the very best it can be.

Good writing,







Filed under A Writer’s Notebook, Elise McCune, What Elise Wrote

A Writer’s Notebook-Rochelle Hudson

This is the first post on a series about forgotten women.


I have found the perfect person in Rochelle Hudson to be my inspiration for the protagonist in my next novel. Once again, as in Castle of Dreams,  my novel will be a duel narrative story and I can see Rochelle in the earlier narrative. And she was a family friend of Edgar Rice Burroughs the creator of Tarzan. I love Tarzan stories!

Rochelle Hudson (born Rochelle Elizabeth Hudson, March 6, 1916 – January 17, 1972) was an American film actress from the 1930s through the 1960s.

The Oklahoma City-born actress may be best remembered today for costarring in Wild Boys of the Road (1933), playing Cosette in Les Misérables (1935), playing Mary Blair, the older sister of Shirley Temple’s character in Curly Top, and for playing Natalie Wood’s mother in Rebel Without a Cause (1955).

During her peak years in the 1930s, notable roles for Hudson included: Richard Cromwell’s love interest in the Will Rogers showcase Life Begins at Forty (1935), the daughter of carnival barker W.C. Fields in Poppy (1936) and Claudette Colbert’s adult daughter in Imitation of Life (1934).

She also played Sally Glynn, the fallen ingenue to whom Mae West imparts the immortal wisdom, ‘When a girl goes wrong, men go right after her!’ in the 1933 Paramount film, She Done Him Wrong.

Rochelle was married four times. Her first husband was Charles Brust. Little is known of the marriage other than it ended in divorce.

Espionage work during World War Two.

Rochelle remarried in 1939 to Harold Thompson, who was the head of the Storyline Department at Disney Studios. She assisted Thompson, who was doing espionage work in Mexico as a civilian during World War II. They posed as a vacationing couple to various parts of Mexico, to detect if there was any German activity in these areas. One of their more successful vacations uncovered a supply of high test aviation gas hidden by German agents in Baja California. There is a story in this! 

After their divorce in 1947, Rochelle married a third time the following year to Los Angeles Times sportswriter, Dick Irving Hyland. The marriage lasted two years before the couple divorced. Her final marriage was to Robert Mindell, a hotel executive. The two remained together for eight years before they divorced in 1971.

Rochelle died in 1972 of a heart attack.

A beautiful tribute to Rochelle

youtube tribute: sebasj1978


Filed under A Writer’s Notebook, Castle of Dreams, Elise McCune, What Elise Wrote