Constance Mackness was a teacher at various schools and then Headmistress and Principal of both the Presbyterian Ladies College in Pymble New South Wales and the Presbyterian Girls College in Warwick, Queensland. Needless to say therefore, Mackness' stories concerned schoolgirls and school life, of which she knew a great deal about! The various relationships that existed between schoolgirls and their teachers became a great source of ideas for her numerous books.
Characters were realastic and lively and quite believable, though they are typical of the school stories at that time. Miss Pickle: The Story of an Australian Boarding School (1924), is obviously written from first hand experience and is dedicated to the girls of The Presbyterian Ladies College, Croyden. Saxby describes it as a pleasant schoolgirl story (1969, p. 161), and seems to be not much more! But Mackness' ability to capture the humour of various schoolgirl situations is really very funny, especially now the girl's slang is so outdated.
Gem of the Flat (1914), is the story of a one teacher school in New South Wales. The cover is by May Gibbs, but the content as Saxby says, is too romantic, incredible and stereotyped. Although one does expect it from those times and so with that in mind, I still enjoyed the story.
The following extract is from the Cassowary Conservation website about Mission Beach where Mackness was obviously a resident:
Constance Mackness O.B.E. sister of Leonard Owen Mackness of Narragon Beach Clump Point, was for thirty one years, till the end of 1949, Principal of the Presbyterian Girls College at Warwick. In the early years when she flew home with the infamous pilot, Tommy MacDonald, he would fly low over Narragon Beach and drop a bottle on to the sand. If it bounced he knew the sand was hard enough for him to land, if not he would go to Mission Beach and try again. In those days there was no road across the Point just a trail so it was a long walk for Miss Mackness with her luggage. On her retirement in 1949 she returned to Narragon to look after her ailing brother. She and her brother were both very keen shell collectors and had an extensive shell collection, which was available for public viewing. Constance, an author of renown, compiled "CLUMP POINT AND DISTRICT AN HISTORICAL RECORD" in conjunction with the Clump Point - Mission Beach Progress Association.
Mackness received her Order of the British Empire in 1959. She had ten book published in all, but I can only find nine!.
List of Works
1914, Gem of the Flat, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, NSW.
1924, Miss Pickle: The Story of an Australian Boarding School, Open University Press, London, UK.
1926, Growing Up, Ward Lock, London.
c.1927, The Blossom Children, Ward Lock, London.
1929, Di-Double-Di, Cornstalk, Sydney, NSW.
1934, The Young Beachcombers, Ward Lock, London.
1935, Clown of the School, Ward Lock, London.
1970, Clump Point and District: An Historical Record, The Johnstone Shire COuncil, North Wueensland.
(Date unknown), The Glad School