Jenny Kee and Me

On the weekend I finally got around to watching the brilliant television program “Friends Of Dorothy” by William Yang. William is a really important Australian photographer whose work documents, in particular, Sydney’s gay and lesbian scene in the last forty years.

I have met William on a few occasions and have concluded he’s a very lovely man. He also has a really interesting life story, having grown up in country Queensland, but also having made a life in (and important contribution to) Sydney’s gay, lesbian and queer, and photography and arts communities.

The program told me a lot more about William’s life than I’d previously known, including mention of his friendship with the Australian designer, Jenny Kee who is famous for her very colourful outfits.

When Jenny Kee’s name and photograph were featured in the program I had a sudden flashback, remembering that a distant family member had once remarked “you know Jenny Kee is part of our family”. At the time it was one of those stories where I thought “how interesting” but never thought much further of it. But on hearing her name again, I decided I would dig a little deeper, to see if there really was a connection or if it was just “one of those stories”.

It didn’t take long for me to find out Jenny Kee’s parents were William Ah Kee and Enid Olive Marchionni. From there, it was fairly simple to establish – thanks to Google – Enid’s parents were Olive Annie Victoria Love and Cesare Giovanni Marchionni. A further generation back and it was also easy to establish Olive Annie Victoria Love’s parents were Joseph Francis Love and Margaret Rebecca Denny. Joseph was the son of John Love and Ellen Sullivan. John was a son of Joseph Lester Love.

And so it goes… back to our common ancestors John and Martha Love, who came to Australia in 1791.

For all of the effort involved, it would have been much simpler if I’d simply emailed Lyle and Margaret Cooper who organised the Love Family Reunion of 2011, and who published their wonderful book about the Love Family in Australia. A quick email to them and I was able to establish and confirm the connection

The book contains the information I had been seeking with a couple of notable quotes…

  • Olive Annie Victoria Love fourth child of Joseph and Margaret Love (nee Denny) born Wyndham on 12/3/1884 and died Sydney on 7/9/1955. She married Cesare Giovanni Marchionni in Sydney on 18/5/1911. Cesare was a cook and died Sydney in 1959, son of Giovanni Maria and Elizabeth Marchionni. (some of the offspring go under the name Marchioni). Cesare came from Sondrio, Italy near the Swiss Alps. Jenny Kee his granddaughter recalls in her book ‘A Big Life’ and an interview recorded for the National Museum of Australia in 2007 the following: ‘He left home when he was 13 and went to Paris and worked as a chef . . . He worked on boats around the world and sailed into Sydney Harbour in November 1910 where he met Olive Love. Then their daughter, my mum, married a Chinaman! Growing up Enid Olive used to be called a ‘dago’ and when she complained to her mother she would say ‘Go and tell them their Pope is a dago too’.
  • Enid Olive Marchionni a hairdresser born c.1917 and died Sydney on 28/12/2001. She married William Ah Kee in Sydney in 1945 and had three children. Mixed marriages were frowned upon in those days and her parents were very unhappy with the union.
  • Jennifer (Jenny) Margaret Kee born Sydney in 1947 and known for her famous designer clothes and knitwear. She and Michael Ramsden had one daughter. Jenny and Grace survived the Granville train disaster in 1977.

  • For more information, there’s a book called “A Family began with Love”. For more details, contact Lyle & Margaret Cooper, 11 Kernel Street, The Gap Qld 4061 Ph: 07 33122365 0427 122440 landmdcooper@optusnet.com.au

    Despite our common ancestry, Jenny has become a great Australian fashion designer, and I (obviously) have absolutely no fashion sense at all…

    1. I can only use old persons language to comment, but how cool to have Jenny Kee as a not too distant relative.

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      1. Agreed :)

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