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Mary Love Tulloch – Waverley Herbalist and Wise Woman

By Dan Hutton on March 14, 2012 in

Flood Street, Bondi c.1930

One of Waverley’s earliest healers was a Scottish woman known to locals as ‘Scotch Mary’ but whose real name was Mary Love Tulloch. Mary was born in either 1828 or 1829 and immigrated to Australia at an unknown date. One report of her life claims she was born in the Falkirk council area, probably in Larbert, a small town that lies in the Forth Valley above the River Carron in the central lowlands of Scotland.

Mary first appears in Waverley records in 1864, which document her living on the corner of Bondi Road (then called Waverley Street) and Flood Street. By 1869 she is listed in local directories under her profession, ‘herbalist’. In 1880 her address changes to Flood Street and her house on the eastern side of the street is called ‘Larbert Cottage’. By this time she was actively dispensing herbal medicines and is described as enjoying “a great reputation as a healer”. Mary last appears in Waverley records in 1883 and it is after this date that she probably left the area, certainly by 1886 anyway, when a new resident, Mrs Elizabeth Shawe, is documented residing in Larbert Cottage.

One of Mary’s famous remedies was her goat’s milk, which she sourced from the goats that she kept on the property. We now know goat’s milk has effective anti-allergy and anti-inflammatory properties, with the topical application of goat’s milk recommended as a soothing remedy for eczema and other skin conditions. It is also a good dairy alternative for those unable to digest cow’s milk.

No doubt Mary’s wisdom came from her Scots Celtic heritage with her cures emulating those typically passed down from mother to daughter in the traditional manner. Scotland is known for its long tradition of recognising the efficacy of herbs, even in Western medical treatment.

At some stage ‘Scotch Mary’ moved west to Blacktown, to a large parcel of land on Blacktown Road that she named ‘Larbert Manes’, giving further weight to the claim that she came from the Scottish town of Larbert.

Mary passed away at her Western Sydney property on the May 23, 1887, aged 58 years. After her death the Sydney Morning Herald advertised the auctioning of nine blocks of land surrounding the “late residence of Miss Tulloch (‘Scotch Mary’)”.

Mary’s fame as a healer continued to spread even after her death, with The Brisbane Courier reporting shortly after:

‘By many people she was regarded as being phenomenally clever. Perhaps this belief was due to the fact that the medicines which she administered to her patients exceeded in nauseousness those of the regular fraternity. Amongst the persons who went to Scotch Mary were several doctors and a number of other professional men… According to her Will proved last week she died worth ?600; the greater part of this money the testatrix left to charitable institutions.’

There are no records of Mary ever marrying, however there is one record that claims she had a daughter, although there is no other evidence existing to support this claim, so it is assumed that her herbal cures died with her.

In one of the greatest compliments that could be made by sports mad Australians, a racehorse was named ‘Scotch Mary’ in her honour. This horse produced a foal, ‘Iolaire’, which went on to win several races including the 1908 Williamstown Cup at Flemington.