The Avonlea Traditions Chronicle.Winter 1998-99, Issue No.26.
As a fan of L.M.Montgomery, 1998 was a special
year for me. Not only was it the 90th anniversary of the publication of
_Anne of Green Gables_, but it was the year in which my exceptional friend
celebrated her 90th birthday. Her name is Dr. Mollie Gillen, and she is
the author of what remains to this day the most complete biography of
LMM, _The Wheel of Things_ (1975). Mollie's birthday is in November, which
is also the month of LMM's birthday. I was fortunate to be invited to
join Mollie's birthday party held on November 1, 1998 at the home of retired
_Chatelaine_ editor Doris Anderson.
Born in Sydney, Australia, Mollie first came to Canada in the 1940s as a war bride, and in the 1950s she began writing articles for Canadian magazine _Chatelaine_ where she later became an associate editor and staff writer. Along the way Mollie published several biographical books, including _The Masseys: Founding Family_(1965), _The Prince and his Lady _(1970) about Queen Victoria's father.
In 1973 Mollie was given an assignment to
write an article about LMM for the centennial celebration of her birth
for _Chatelaine_ by then editor Doris Anderson. "If Doris hadn't
ask me to write about Maud, I wouldn't have had a chance to read her books
nor write about her at all," Mollie told me once when I asked her
about her how she had come to know about LMM.
This assignment led Mollie to serious research on LMM, reading all of her published works and interviewing many of her friends and relatives who were alive at the time. Putting her sleuthing capabilities to good use (Mollie also has a detective novel to her credit) as well as her experience as a biographer, Mollie was able to locate letters written by LMM to one of her long-term correspondents--George Boyd MacMillan in Scotland. The existence of these letters was unknown at the time.
Looking back through her life at her accomplishments,
one of the things Mollie is most proud of is the fact that she was able
to disciver the MacMillan letters, thereby saving these Canadian literary
treasures from destruction, repatriating them to the National Archives
Mollie's work has been well recognized by
her home country, as in 1995 she not only received a Doctorate of Letters
Honoris Causa from University of Sydney but was also inducted into the
Order of Australia in honour of her work on the first European settlers
in Australia published as _The Founders of Australia: A biographical Dictionary
of the First Fleet_ (1989), and a book on her own 'first fleet' ancestor
_The Search For John Small _(1985).
Now in her 91st year, Mollie is hard at
work writing a book about a Canadian sailor who served for the famous
Captain Bligh in the 18th century. But we will have to wait for the book
publication to find out just who this person is. Mollie still never misses
an opportunity to combine an element of mystery with her history.
On this bright November day, Mollie happily blew out nine tiny candles on her birthday cake. Surrounded by her friends, Mollie enjoyed reading e-mail greetings from members of "Kindred Spirit" E-mail discussion group.
More than two decades after the publication of The _Wheel of Things_, readers still appreciate Mollie's work on LMM, a fact that continually fills her with amazement and joy.