Mary Ann Bown was born on May 17, 1869 at Narrapumelap station in Wickliffe, Victoria. Mary married William (Bill) Trew whose father, Samuel Trew, was a brickmaker at Sawpit Swamp from 1878.
Bill and Mary married at the Bible Christian Church, Warracknabeal, on 25 August, 1891, Rev. Alexander McKay officiating. This was the same year that the Bowns are believed to have moved to Warracknabeal, and the same year as Mary’s sister Alice married Roderick McQueen. Both Bill and Mary are recorded on their marriage certificate as living at Warracknabeal, with their “usual” addresses being Murtoa. It is possible that Mary followed Bill to Warracknabeal to find work, and that she also encouraged the rest of the Bown family to move there too. It is understood that Mary worked as a domestic at the Warracknabeal District Hospital, a position later taken by her sister Nellie.
Like her sisters, Mary was wirey, energetic and very hard working. She rarely spent more than a day in bed after delivering her children, and the doctor was only called once, when her last child was born and Mary was in danger of dying.
In later life Bill and Mary lived in 4 Beggs Street, beside a small lane which ran between Beggs and Campbell Streets. Bill suffered from a chest complaint, and always wore a scarf, but not a collar. In his retirement he was content to lean against the fence of the Catholic Church, near the corner of Anderson and Lyle Streets, watching the world go by. To add to their income Mary took in washing, and was renowned for her cleanliness. She also cleaned public buildings in Scott Street, including the Post Office and several banks, and is remembered striding to work wearing a brilliant white apron over her long skirt, with a small leather hat on her head.
Mary is remembered to this day for her great devotion to the Warracknabeal Football Club. Even when the club history was written in 1986, 34 years after her death, she was the only supporter singled out for particular comment. Mary followed the fortunes of the club from as early as the 1890’s, and many of her descendants – Trew, Bloomer, Jaensch and Hinch – became players. Regardless of the weather, Mary rarely missed a match, and had the programs from many years to prove it. She referred to the Warracknabeal players as the “Maroons” and was one of very few women ever allowed to travel on the footballers’ train or bus.
It is said that Mary stood behind the Warracknabeal goals and changed ends each quarter, walking inside the fence and shaking her umbrella at anyone who dared deride “her boys”. On one occasion she so disagreed with an umpire’s decision that she hooked the unfortunate official around the neck with her umbrella handle! Mary always declared that if she ever won the football pools she would buy all the players a drink, a promise she kept when she finally won some money.
Sprightly to the end, Mary was carrying soil from the bottom of her yard to her front garden the day she died at her home on 12 August, 1952. An outpouring of regret from the football community followed her death, and local obituaries focussed on her great interest in football. The Warracknabeal News published an obituary under the heading “Mrs Trew Was A Football Identity”:
“Warracknabeal football will not be the same now that Mrs Trew has passed on. This grand old lady of football died suddenly yesterday midday at the age of 83 years. Warracknabeal footballers will act as pall bearers and casket bearers at the funeral tomorrow.
Mrs Mary Ann Trew, was affectionately known to all the footballers and supporters as “Granny”, suffered all the hardships of the pioneers and went through all the difficulties suffered by the early settlers in the Wimmera, but she suffered it bravely and worked side by side with the men. Ploughing, clearing and the slaughtering of a sheep was all part of a day’s work for ‘Gran’ in the olden days of which she loved to reminisce with her old friends.
Football and the Warracknabeal Football Club were the dearest things in the life of ‘Granny’ of later years and we have not been able to ascertain just how long she followed the fortunes of the club.
Wet or fine and through success and defeat, ‘Granny’ was always at the Warracknabeal forward end of the ground and she became a personality who will be missed by all followers of Wimmera football, but especially the Warrack. players.
‘Granny’s’ dearest treasure was a rocking chair which the Warracknabeal players presented for her 83rd birthday.
‘Granny’ saw her last match on Saturday week when she was thrilled with the Warracknabeal win over Horsham. She badly wanted to go to Stawell last Saturday, but medical advice kept her at home.
The President of the Warracknabeal Football Club, Mr Eric B. Amor, paid this tribute last night: “It was with profound regret that we learned of the death of ‘Granny’ Trew. ‘Granny’, as she loved to be known by, was one of the oldest and best known supporters of the club. Her death will leave a gap in the club which nobody can fill.”
The funeral will leave Gardiner’s parlors at 11 am tomorrow (Thursday), for the Warracknabeal Cemetery following a service to be conducted by the Rev. Gordon Coad”
A similar obituary appeared in the Warracknabeal Herald two days later, this time under the heading “‘Granny’ Trew Will Barrack No More”:
Warracknabeal Footballers yesterday helped in the burial service of one of their oldest, and certainly their staunchest, supporter (sic) Mrs. Mary Ann (Granny) Trew.
Mrs. Trew died suddenly on Tuesday. She was aged 83. Mrs. Trew had followed the fortunes of Warracknabeal teams longer than most people care to remember.
She became a legendary figure not only at Warracknabeal, but on all Wimmera grounds. It had been the habit of Granny to sit behind the goal that Warracknabeal were kicking to.
There were many momentos of her years of support for the club in her home. Players who have hung up their boots for ever were represented by pictures and other little tokens which from time to time were presented to Granny.
When this grand old lady of Wimmera football reached her 83rd birthday the Warracknabeal players presented her with a rocking chair to make comfortable her declining years.
She probably valued this simple gift above price. It is sad that she was only spared one more year to enjoy it.
Right to the last Granny barracked for the maroons. She was present and sprightly at the Warracknabeal victory over Horsham. It is some comfort to know that the last time the old lady saw them in action was a day of victory.
She had wanted to attend the game at Stawell but the sands were running out and medical advice persuaded her to stay at home.
Footballers and supporters were in force at her funeral. Casket bearers are all playing this years. They were Sid Dyer, Reg. Jaensch, Mick Glennister, Paddy Smith, Keith Fyffe and R. Thewlis.
President of the club Mr. Eric Amor headed the pall-bearers. Others were H. Fyffe, H. Malthouse, P. Arnold, W. Smale, A. Scott, A. Symes and Max Currie.
The funeral service was read by the Rev. G. Coad.
A week later, the following moving report appeared in the Warracknabeal News:
One of the most impressive ceremonies performed at a football match in Anzac Park, was seen on Saturday prior to the Warracknabeal v. Nhill match.
Players and umpires formed a V in front of the grandstand and observed a minute of silence to respect the memory of the late Mrs Trew, one of the longest and best known supporters of the club.
The large crowd stood bare-headed in reverend silence. Old supporters cannot recall such silence at the ground and many of the spectators and players had a mental picture of a grand old lady who will never see her beloved gold and maroon clad footballers again.
Mary was predeceased by her husband, an infant son, her daughter Nellie Oehm (the year before Mary’s own death), a son-in-law, and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren. A tombstone marks Mary’s grave in the Warracknabeal Cemetery.
* Many thanks to John Schubert for providing most of the above information.