Ruby Catherine STEVENS was born in 1909 and is the oldest of five children. Her father enlisted in the Australian Army in 1915 and was sent overseas to Egypt, leaving her mother to rear four children under the age of six years by herself. Her father returned from active service to Australia in 1916. Following his return, two of Ruby’s brothers died (one aged six years and one at birth). Ruby’s father passed away in 1920 and her mother remarried in 1921. Sometime during this period Ruby and two remaining siblings were placed into care. In November 1925, Ruby passed her Junior Public Certificate through the University of Queensland. She then attended lectures at the Queensland College of Pharmacy and Chemistry, passing her examinations in November 1930 at 21 years of age.
Ruby married Gus in 1937 in Herberton, where she was working as a Chemist. Gus was born in 1903 in Herberton. His father, one of 14 children, emigrated from Southern Ireland in 1881 along with three of his sisters. His father married a girl from Northern Ireland in 1892; she had arrived in Australia in 1889. They settled on the Atherton Tablelands. Gus’ father was illiterate and worked as a miner in the Herberton area.
After their marriage, Ruby assisted her husband Gus in furthering his education. He became an engineer on the boats plying the Cairns to Thursday Island route. Their four children (three boys and a girl) were born in the Atherton Tablelands and Mossman area.
Ruby continued working full time as a Chemist whilst raising their four children. She worked in pharmacies throughout Herberton, Cairns, Mosman, and Townsville. Ruby ensured each of their children received a high school education, with two of them receiving a more advanced education. Donald, the eldest, registered as a Pharmacist in 1964, and Lynette completed studies towards a Speech and Drama Licentiate (1965); an Associate Diploma in Rehabilitation Counselling (1977); a Bachelor of Arts (from James Cook University, 1982); and later studied towards a Graduate Diploma in Psychology (uncompleted).
Gus and Ruby’s life together was not without tragedy. Their second-born son, Daniel, passed away at age 27. Gus passed in 1968 at 64 years. Their first-born son, Donald, who worked as a Pharmacist in Gladstone, died accidentally in 1972 at age 34, whilst the youngest Leahy son, Michael, died in 1978 due to mental health issues at age 33 years. Being the only two remaining family members, Ruby and her daughter Lynette drew much strength from each other and had a wonderful relationship up until Ruby’s death in 1987, at 78 years old.
Lynette had been a Senior Vocational Counsellor prior to her mother’s death and returned to this work in Tamworth and Darwin, returning to Townsville in 1989. Working in Townsville, Lynette met Dorothy Vardy and the two became firm friends. Lynette and Dorothy travelled extensively together in their later years, they were both interested in culture and the arts. Lynette passed away in 2019, at age 76 years.
This scholarship has been established from the estate of Ruby Stevens' daughter Lynette. It is a legacy to Ruby and her family and is testament to the importance of good education, a lesson that Ruby Stevens learnt early in her life and ensured was passed on to her husband and children.