Emily Brouard

Emily Elvina Brouard

“she dusted but did not read them”

Emily was housekeeper to Alexander Turnbull.

Born about 1874 in Guernsey, Channel Islands to Nicholas (a sailmaker) and Selina his wife (nee Heaume). In 1891 Emily was working as the only servant of a stone merchant in Guernsey and his large family.

In 1900 she arrived on a third class ticket in New Zealand. On the same ship was her sister Alice Dorgan, Alice’s husband Theo Dorgan and two nieces Edith & Beatrice. Emily was described as being “short in stature, active and efficient, and with a lively disposition”.

By 1911 she was working for Alexander Turnbull as his maid, first in his parents’ former house on the corner of Bowen Street and The Terrace (later Bowen Hospital) and then in his new house at 27 Bowen Street from 1916. Alexander died in 1918 and in his Will he left Emily and his other maid Hannah Grierson £150 each. Emily and Hannah remained living in the house, responsible for it after hours and for its cleaning. In 1920 the house was opened as the Turnbull Library.

“Their domain … comprised the kitchen, bathroom, pantry and the two maid’s rooms. A carefully drafted eight clause schedule defined their duties. As well as cleaning the building, they were responsible for moving the books and answering the door. For many years the visitor’s first impression of the Library after ringing the bell was of the front door being opened by the tiny bird-like figure of Miss Brouard who was well capable of making a  quick assessment of the credentials of the caller before permitting entrance”. (Turnbull Library Record, Volume 3, Issue 2, 1 August 1970, Page 92)

Emily retired her post in 1944 and was the last resident housekeeper of Turnbull House. On her retirement she was interviewed by the NZ Listener and written up under the caption “She dusted but did not read them”. Emily then moved to Yule Street, Kilbirnie and lived there until she died in 1951. Emily was cremated at Karori Cemetery.

Her sister Alice died in 1955 and their family plot is ROM CATH/S/183.

Emily Brouard, courtesy of the Alexander Turnbull Library
Alexander Turnbull Library, 1930s. Courtesy of the Alexander Turnbull Library.