Amie Pyke Taylor (1894-1958) was born at ‘Lesleigh’ in Malvern, Victoria, on 17 June 1894 to Oliver Harry Taylor (1860-1900) and Charlotte Winter (1872-1940). Her mother was the adopted daughter of William Irving Winter-Irving who commissioned the grand Melbourne mansion ‘Noorilim’ in 1879. Amie’s busy pre-war life was thus privileged and she devoted it to her son and daughter, to running the large house that was also a medical practice at 5 Errard Street, and to enjoying Ballarat society. Then, in January 1945 her husband, Norman Anderson Longden, died at the Windsor Hotel in Melbourne in extraordinary and scandalous circumstances. Newspapers around Australia covered the story until the coroner’s verdict was given.
As Norman’s 1st cousin 2-times removed, I have thought long about the circumstances surrounding Norman’s death. I imagine Amie in her black crepe frock, her sad eyes disguised by a black veiled hat, standing beside Norman’s grave at Ballarat Cemetery, conflicted, broken, and still wondering at the coroner’s verdict. She stands grave-side, surely aware Norman left the world a victim of the rigors of excessive hours of surgery at the 2/1st Australian General Hospital near Port Moresby. Morphine played its part, as did a suicide note, but the evidence according to the coroner, was not conclusive enough for a definite finding.
Unprepared for the abrupt end of Norman’s life, Amie is wracked with questions about the unsolved tragedy that she knows should never have happened.
As the minister tells of Norman’s life of achievement, first at Geelong College as the all-rounder and winner of prestigious awards to his enlistment in both world wars, first as a medical student in 1915 serving alongside his father at 1 AGH Heliopolis, then in 1943 in the Australian Army Medical Corps, Amie recalls their marriage in Kew in 1922 and thinks of the last time she saw him in December when she refused him a divorce after his vindication of his affair with the liberated and willing 30-year-old nurse, an affair that continued after they were both discharged in 1944.
She knows he perceived himself a failure towards both his wife and the young woman who reacted predictably; the possible consequences of not having Norman unbearable and an ultimatum inevitable. Of course, she too died in this tragedy making it a shocking and sad double tragedy.
The vacuum created in Amie’s life by Norman’s death remained as she lived, quiet and reserved, suffering from hypertension for many years, until she died in Ballarat 36 hours after suffering a stroke on 12 January 1958.
Longden, James Norman. A Taylor History self-published 1996.
Brand, Lorraine (nee Longden). Dip Fam. Hist. from University of Tasmania. Longden Family History and Tree. 2012
Newspaper Articles 1945.