Background and family
It was in September 1934, when my parents discovered Caloundra and immediately set about building a seaside residence, that my life first linked with its destiny.2
Kathleen McArthur was born Kathleen Evans in 1915. She was the third of five children to Daniel and Kathleen Evans, who named their children Barbara, Florine, Daniel and Joan (later known as Judy).
Coincidentally, Kathleen was born the same year as her future friend and colleague Judith Wright.
The Evans family were among Brisbane’s prominent families. The family home ‘Cardington’ sat on six acres at Cavendish Road Coorparoo. It was on the site of what is now ‘Our Lady of Mount Carmel’ primary school.
Kathleen’s father was Daniel Evans, one of the founders of Queensland engineering company Evans Deakin. The company was in the shipbuilding, rail and engineering business. Prominent projects included steel forged for the Story Bridge and the Kangaroo Point Docks in Brisbane. Daniel Evans was a major supporter of the engineering profession including the Engineering Faculty of The University of Queensland.
Kathleen's mother was Kathleen (Kit) Durack, a woman of note, of the Irish pastoralist Durack family made famous via Kings in Grass Castles the book written by cousin Mary Durack.
The family built a holiday house at Caloundra in the 1930s named ‘Restorer’. Kathleen notes that there were wildflowers everywhere and her interest in them was sparked by the curiosity to find out what the plants were.
… Truly, wildflowers were everywhere! Wherever one walked, and it was where walking came naturally, one walked amongst wildflowers.
At first it was enough to look and enjoy, with names for only a few better known plants, until gradually an interest developed … The time would come. Before that time, there was a lot of living to do…3
Married life and beyond
Kathleen married Malcolm McArthur in 1938. They moved several times, including to India, Perth, and Duntroon. Once she began to have children she wanted a home base. She chose Caloundra and a modest home she later named ‘Midyim’. Kathleen and Malcolm were divorced in 1947 and Kathleen never remarried.
Kathleen and her children travelled for a time and lived at Mt. Pleasant near Dayboro.
From this time on she found the focus for her life’s work, devoting herself to writing, painting and protecting Queensland wildflowers and unique coastal environments.
2. Kathleen McArthur, Living on the Coast (Sydney: Kangaroo Press, 1989), 11.
3. McArthur, Living on the Coast, 11.