North Otago Museum 2017.108

Liza Minnelli’s Oamaru connection

One of the projects we are working on behind the scenes at the North Otago Museum is processing items that have been offered to the museum to include in our collection. Recently we accepted this jacket (North Otago Museum 2017/108) as well as a bonnet (not pictured). These items were worn by an Oamaru woman during the early 20th century. So what is the Liza Minnelli connection?

These garments originally belonged to Marion Anderson Bruce nee Hepburn (1838-1920). Marion was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. In 1857 she married John Bruce. Together they had 11 children. The family left Scotland and immigrated to New Zealand in 1876.

In 1878 Marion and John’s eldest daughter, Elizabeth Anderson Bruce (1858 -1929) married Thomas Brydon Davidson (1855-1928) at St Paul’s church, Oamaru. They had four children, three sons and one daughter. Their son George Bruce Davidson (1883-1962) was born in Oamaru but by the time of his marriage in 1914 he was living in Armidale, New South Wales, Australia.

George and his wife Edith Marion Newman had four children, two sons and two daughters. Their daughter Marion Brydon Davidson (1916-2009) was 4 years old when her great grandmother, who owned the jacket and bonnet, died in Oamaru.

Marion Davidson married Richard Woolnough and they had two children. One of those children was Peter Richard Woolnough (1944-1992); better known as Peter Allen the famous Australian singer-songwriter and entertainer. In 1967 he married Liza Minnelli. Peter was gay and they divorced in 1974. He died from an AIDS-related throat cancer in 1992. The musical The Boy from Oz is based on his life.

My thanks to the donor of the jacket and hat for providing this family history information.

Chloe Searle