G4 1 Gertrude Ida Painter (nee Sullivan)

This article is about Gertrude Ida Sullivan, grand-daughter of Timothy Sullivan, and daughter of Richard Wearne Sullivan, born in Long Gully Sandhurst (Bendigo) in 1875.

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Gertrude was the first child of Richard Wearne Sullivan and wife Susan (nee Harris). Gertrude's father Richard died from tuberculosis in 1879

Gertrude attended the Kadina school where Samuel Grose Sullivan her uncle was headmaster. She was there in 1882 as pupil No 693, (1) now as the stepdaughter of John Berryman Williams who had married Gertrude’s widowed mother Susan in 1881. Them mother Susan also died from tuberculosis in 1887, leaving Gertrude and young brother Arthur as orphans.

In 1891 when Gertrude would have been 16 stepfather John Williams was relocated in his employment as a railway guard to Wallaroo, then Moonta in 1894, and Adelaide in 1897 or 1898, (2) and the stepchildren Gertrude and younger brother Arthur Rowland may have been with him for part of this time, together with a half sister Edith Muriel Berryman .

Gertrude Ida Sullivan was appointed as a provisional (and the only) teacher at the Pooginagoric school (near Bordertown) at the age of 26 in November 1901 at a salary of ₤72 per annum. (3) In December 1904 Gertrude was transferred to the Agery school about 10kms south east of Moonta, at the same salary. She resigned from this position in June 1906.

During this time teaching Gertrude trained in visual arts (presumably by correspondence) at the Kensington and Norwood Art School under James Keane, a master and fairly well known artist at the school headed by James Ashton (who was also a master at Prince Alfred College). Whilst not embarking on a professional career Gertrude displayed her artistic abilities throughout her life. Her cousin, Eric Wilfred Sullivan (father Samuel), also studied at this school in 1903.

Some three months after leaving teaching Gertrude aged 31 married John Edward Painter aged 28 in St Andrews Church Walkerville on 06/10/1906.(4)

The Painters only son, Rowland George, was born on 23/12/1907.(4)

The Painters lived initially at 32 George St Norwood, close to the extended Painter family, and John worked as a clerk with the taxation office. John Painter enlisted in WW1 at the fairly late age of 37. Typical of so many young women of the time, Gertrude had resisted John’s enlistment. And, like so many men, John had been subjected to the taunts of others before he determined to go to war. He was verbally abused and given white feathers by people who did not know him. A white feather, concealed in a match box and given to him in the city, sealed his decision to enlist in August 1915, and his fate. He was killed in action in the Battle of Pozieres, France, on 16 August 1916.

Following John’s death, Gertrude was both resourceful and industrious in securing income to raise her son. She washed and ironed for others, worked in shops, and took in boarders. At one stage her family recalls she operated tea rooms, at the Maid & Magpie corner, Fullarton, just east of the city, and later with a friend started a babyware shop in the Adelaide Arcade. She even rented out her home in Norwood and she and son Rowland went elsewhere to live, working on the house for the owners. In 1923 they relocated to 122 Beulah Rd where they remained until around 1937.

In 1939 they relocated from Beulah Rd to 14 North Terrace Highgate, with Roland Painter the owner. Also for the next few years Gertrude and Ida moved around the country including Kimba in South Australia, and Kempsey and Willcania in NSW where the now Doctor Rowland Painter was employed as a locum doctor.

Jack (John Rundle) Sullivan’s daughter Dorothy recalled “aunty” Gertrude and Rowland coming to stay at “Kurrajong” at Firle to look after the declining Hannah Maria Sullivan around 1943, and they remained in the house for some time after her death. Jack had fought in the same battalion as John Painter and possibly knew him, and Rowland had also taught at Prince Alfred College where Jack had previously been a pupil.


Around 1950 Gertude was able to afford to fly to Perth to visit her brother Arthur, with son Rowland also visting a short time later.


The photo shows Gertrude Ida White standing next to her father Arthur Rowland, and behind her mother Edith Alice. Gertrude Ida Painter is seated in front of her brother. The picture was taken at 173 Perth Rd, Bassendean,WA around 1950.

(Picture courtesy of Barry White)


Around 1953 Gertrude (now almost 80) and Rowland relocated from North Terrace Highgate to 1 Winchester St Highgate (a very short move) where they remained after Rowland’s marriage until Gertrude’s death on 16/05/1962. Gertude Ida Painter was cremated and her ashes interred at Centennial Park Cemetery. 


(1)   Kadina School attendance records, microfiche copies held by SA Genealogy & Heraldry Society.

(2)   South Australian Railways employment records, copy held by SA Genealogy & Heraldry Society.

(3)   Central Board of Education Reports, copies held by South Australian Genealogy & Heraldry Society.

(4)   Copies of DSouth Australian district Birth Death and Marriage Certificates held by SA Genealogy & heraldry Society