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Moglia, Agnes Ellen (1888–1987)

by Helen McIntyre, Peter Moglia and Elisabeth Moglia

Agnes Moglia, c.1917

Agnes Moglia, c.1917

photo supplied by her family

Agnes Ellen Moglia (1888-1987), nurse, was born in Stanley in north east Victoria on 30 March 1888. Daughter of miner James O’Neill and his wife Frances, she was the third youngest of eleven children. O’Neill left school at the age of eleven to help on the family farm at Stanley, but soon decided that her vocation lay in nursing. She completed her training at the Ovens and District Hospital in Beechworth between 1912 and 1915 under Matron Winning, obtaining her certificate in February 1915.

During the Great War, O’Neill applied several times to join the Australian Army Nursing Service before she finally enlisted in July 1917. The Stanley community farewelled her with a ‘handsome toilet dressing case’ which featured a beautiful silver handled hairbrush. O’Neill left Australia for Egypt in August 1917 and after some time in Alexandria, she sailed on the ‘Gorgon’ for Greek Salonika where she served with distinction as a staff nurse in Egypt and Salonika. ‘Her care of the patients was untiring, and she gave all her energies to the well-being of the ward’, wrote Matron Pritchard of the 42nd BGH Salonika. While in Alexandria, O’Neill wrote observant and entertaining postcards home to her family.

In March 1919, after assisting in the transfer of patients to England, O’Neill travelled to London for two months of paid leave. During this period she also attended a motoring school in Kensington for which the army paid her tuition fee—a nurse with driving abilities was useful for driving ambulances. In late 1919, O’Neill returned to Australia on the ship Indarra and was discharged on 14 February 1920.

O’Neill married Peppino Moglia in 1923. Tragically, Moglia’s husband was killed the same year in a train accident; they had one son, Peter. Agnes Moglia returned to Melbourne to live with her husband’s sister, Florence Turner. When Peter was aged about two, Moglia returned to nursing (Peter was sent to live with Moglia’s sister, Alice Rosengren in Stanley). She worked at Saint Mary’s Hospital, Wangaratta, and in the late 1930s was appointed matron of the Ovens District Hospital in Beechworth. Peter returned to live with her there.

In 1941, Moglia moved to Melbourne and worked as a nurse at the Maribyrnong Munitions Factory during World War II. She finally retired in 1953, but continued to be active in the community, delivering Meals on Wheels in North Balwyn until her late seventies. She spent the rest of her life in Melbourne before she died on 3 July 1987 at the age of ninety-nine. She was buried in the same grave as her husband in Box Hill Cemetery, Melbourne.

O’Neill’s Road in Stanley commemorates Moglia and her family. She is also listed on the Stanley WWI Honour Board, along with Nurse Britomarte James who had lived in Stanley as a young girl. They are the only women honoured on the board.

Additional Resources

Citation details

Helen McIntyre, Peter Moglia and Elisabeth Moglia, 'Moglia, Agnes Ellen (1888–1987)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://peopleaustralia.anu.edu.au/biography/moglia-agnes-ellen-31349/text38790, accessed 28 July 2021.

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