A cherished painting

10 April 1920. Knowing that her health is fading, Eileen O’Connor commissions a portrait of herself to present to her nurse companions. Norman Carter, a prominent portrait and stained-glass artist in Sydney, depicts Eileen sitting serenely on her couch: her head is erect, with her eyes looking directly at the viewer; her long auburn hair covers each shoulder and reaches almost to her waist; her hands are resting easily on her lap. The portrait captures something of her fragility. At 3 o’clock on Saturday afternoon, the Hon Thomas J. Lavelle MP, addresses a small gathering at Our Lady’s Home, Coogee. “An honour, greater than any I have ever had conferred upon me before or ever shall have again, is mine now,” he says. “I trust that in the dark days of sorrow, which we will hope are still far distant, when your ‘Little Mother’ has gone to her reward and you miss her guiding hand and her comforting and inspiring presence, may you find comfort and happiness in this beautiful picture and in your cherished recollection of your dear ‘Little Mother’ herself.” Other attendees include Rev. James Gilbert msc from St Brigid’s Church, Coogee; benefactors, including Amy Taaffe; and relatives of the nurses. After the presentation, Mr Lavelle and the nurses sign a trust prepared by Eileen’s solicitor, Leonard Stephen of Stephen, Jaques and Stephen, to ensure the portrait remains with them in perpetuity.