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Heidelberg’s Busy Bee Signature Quilt, 1895-96


Quilt square CENTRAL


Scot's Church Heidelberg Busy Bee


The Central square identifies the quilt-making Busy Bee group and its eight core members, plus the focus of their fund-raising work (the Scots Church, Heidelberg, and its minister, Reverend Duncan Fraser.

Further information

The eight names around the beehive in the Central square can all be identified as women in the Scots Church community when the quilt was made.

It is likely that they were the key members of the Busy Bee group, responsible for publicity for the project, fund-raising, design and needlework. The group included both mature and younger women: mothers, daughters, aunts and cousins. We don’t know whether the group had a leader or chief designer or organiser.

The Busy Bees’ use of initials rather than full names makes it hard to identify conclusively each person. However we are confident about the identity of four of them.

Further information about Rev. Duncan Fraser and his family is in preparation.

We are not so certain about the identities of the other two Busy Bee Smiths.

   For information on this branch of the Smith family click here (opens a PDF).
   Alternatively, J Smith could be Jessie Smith, unmarried, aged 18 years, daughter of George’s younger brother Joseph and and his wife Ellen Smith. For information on that branch of the Smith family click here (opens a PDF). Both of these Jessies were cousins of Busy Bee Christine Smith.

The Donaldsons are pivotal to the whole story of the Busy Bee quilt, not only because two members of the family were Busy Bees, but also because members of the Donaldson family acquired the quilt and took it with them to New Zealand in the early 20th century. It was returned by the family in 1990, gifted back to the church and subsequently donated to the Heidelberg Historical Society.

For a summary of the Donaldson family history click here (opens a PDF).

There are several possible identities of Busy Bees I and M Donaldson.

   Alternatively it may be Mary May Davidson Donaldson (1874-1924), half-sister of Margaret; daughter of the same John Donaldson and his second wife Isabella.
   Another possibility is Mary Ann Donaldson (née Bennell, 1864-1934) wife of John Anstruther Davidson Donaldson and therefore sister-in-law of both Margaret and Mary.

Comments by visitors:

My Great Aunt was Anna Elizabeth Fraser. Anna was the sister of my Great Grandfather.

I also have a Interest in Family research, and have visited the Church several times.

I am so delighted to have come across this treasure.

Kind regards
Sue S

Submitted on 5th August 2019 at 07:34 PM

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