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Description - 'This beautiful book is a gift to Australia' (Prof the Hon Dame Marie Bashir)


This is a book partly about memories, and about omissions from the historic record. It's a book partly about the 'squeaky wheel' principle, the cult of celebrity and the disregard of science. It's a book partly about the power of perseverance and the notion of duty. It's a book partly about becoming an Australian. It's a book largely about the illusion of a spinster's life having little meaning as the Victorian era merged into the turmoil of the first half of the twentieth century. At its core, it's the story of a very interesting woman and the family surrounding her.


The artist Margaret Lilian Flockton was born in England in 1861. Arriving in Australia in 1888, she worked first as a skilled lithographer and in the 1890s achieved recognition in Sydney's 'fine art' world. At the age of 40 she finally found her dream job, with an ideal boss (Joseph Maiden). She became well-known amongst the scientific community of her day, but after her death in Sydney in 1953 she was then largely forgotten for half a century.


She was rediscovered by two botanical artists at Sydney's Royal Botanic Garden, Catherine Wardrop & Lesley Elkan, who championed her cause at an International Women's Day lunch in 2003. Their speech led to the establishment in 2004 of an award for scientific botanical illustration, honouring Margaret. Within a couple of years, the Margaret Flockton award became something of a phenomenon, attracting entries from around the world. Margaret herself remained a shadowy figure.


Coincidentally, around the same time as that speech in 2003, research had begun into the fascinating life of the esteemed woman known to all her family as 'Aunt Mog'. Speech makers and event organisers were completely unaware in 2003-2004 that Margaret Flockton had any living relatives and that this book was already underway. It's been a long time coming, but a beautiful book has emerged. 

Readers' Comments


To whet your appetite, here is some feedback about a cameo of Margaret's life which appeared in The Gardens magazine in Autumn 2013:

  • Louise, I wanted to thank you for such a wonderful story. It was an absolute joy to read and to work on, and I wish all the stories I get were like yours. The hardest part was making it fit into our layout as every word was so considered and important! I can't wait to see the book when it comes out. Debbie McDonald, Horticultural editor, 'ABC Gardening Australia' magazine; Editor, 'The Gardens', magazine of Foundation and Friends of the Botanic Gardens 

And here is some feedback on the book itself: 

  • I've just read a draft of Louise's latest venture, on the life and work of botanical artist Margaret Flockton. I know that this project has been close to Louise's heart for many years, and this passion is evident throughout the book. Margaret Flockton's achievements have been undeservedly neglected for far too long, and A Fragrant Memory does them full justice. Louise's care for detail, and the extent of her research and referencing, will satisfy the most demanding academic, yet any reader will be engaged by the book's easy narrative flow. Lavishly illustrated, it will be of particular interest to those interested in botanical illustration, but it also exemplifies and highlights the difficulties faced by women working in the area of science in the early twentieth century to have their achievements recognized and appreciated. Dr Roger Dedman, author of Australian Art Market Movements Handbook
  • Botanical artists Catherine Wardrop and Lesley Elkan, both enthusiastic supporters of Margaret Flockton and part of her artistic legacy in Australia, noted that Margaret's life 'has barely been noted in any way'. That omission has now been addressed. In A Fragrant Memory experienced biographer Louise Wilson has catalogued, chronologed and celebrated the life of a reclusive and overlooked Australian. From fragments of her life, Louise has been able to paint an engaging portrait of a woman ahead of her times and someone of great ability and humility. It was clearly a tough job. It seems there is almost nothing of substance written by Margaret herself and in places her life remains sketchy and unfinished. That said, Louise Wilson has done her best with conjecture, inference and hearsay to put together this narrative. I'm sure A Fragrant Memory will become a much loved and cited compendium of Margaret Flockton's life, one that shines a light on a life until now almost completely obscure. Prof Tim Entwisle, Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne.
  • The book was launched by Prof the Hon Dame Marie Bashir AD CVO at the Maiden Theatre, Royal Botanic Garden in Sydney at 4pm on 17 November 2016. She said 'this beautiful book is a gift to Australia'.
  • This 'well-paced biography' was No 1 Pick for the Book Club, Country Style Magazine, 15 Nov 2016
  • Your book arrived just in time for Christmas, and it is beautiful. I am so thrilled to have it. I have only read a very small part as yet but what comes to mind is the saying "make sure you choose your genes carefully" - such a strong line of finance and business, literature, and art. Congratulations, your research and detail is amazing. I'm sure it will be greatly valued, along with the painting, long after I am gone. Lyn Bateman, QLD, 29 Dec 2016

News and Updates

  • In October 2012 Louise Wilson gave an illustrated talk about Margaret Flockton's life as part of the highly successful Capturing Flora exhibition at the Ballarat Art Gallery. In 2013 the Capturing Flora exhibition showed at the S H Ervin Gallery in Sydney from 15 February to 17 March.
  • The Margaret Flockton talk was repeated at the Royal Botanic Garden in Sydney on Monday, 15 April 2013 and again on Thursday 15 August, 2013.
  • Bombala Garden Club members were introduced to Margaret on 16 July 2016.
  • A talk on Margaret Flockton was given at North Sydney's Stanton Library on 8 September 2016 as part of NSW's History Week.
  • Radio interview with Sylvia Rosenblum on Sydney's Eastside Radio on 7 December 2016.  Listen to the podcast here:
  • Radio interview with Angie Rehe on Melbourne's Triple R  on 19 January 2017. Listen via this link - Drag the cursor along the timeline to 2 hrs 17mins 32 secs to reach the start of the interview.
  • Radio interview with Ann Creber on 3MDR's 'The Good Life' on 13 February 2017. Listen via this link - Warning, it's a long interview and it starts 10 minutes in!
  • Another talk is scheduled at the Randwick & District Historical Society at 1pm on 17 June 2017.


For ongoing news about the book, also see the Flockton family history Blog 

Publication Details


17 November 2016
Jacketed hardback

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