Winifred Daphne Booth lived in Launceston for nearly 60 years and left a legacy that has so far provided nearly $6 million for charitable causes in Tasmania.
Mrs Booth died in 2000, at the age of 85, and the Trustees of her estate Jill Dearing, Kevin Preece and Amber Cohen administer the W. D. Booth Charitable Trust that benefits a wide range of community and not-for-profit organisations every year.
Mrs Dearing has also been the custodian of the many personal letters, documents and photographs in the W. D. Booth Estate and last year the Trustees decided that the story of Mrs Booth’s quite remarkable life should be told.
The result is the book A Woman of Charity: The Winifred Daphne Booth Story, a biography based on hundreds of personal letters and documents, some dating from the 1920s, kept by Mrs Booth.
Born in wartime, on Thursday 22 October 1914, into a wealthy London family, Winifred Daphne Denny was known to family members as Daphne and had a privileged upbringing.
Daphne’s father Bernard was 32 years old when she was born and a partner in a growing stockbroking firm on the London Stock Exchange. Her mother, the former Winifred Daisy Sheppard, was the same age as her husband and according to family records came from the town of Ilminster, in Somerset.
The Dennys were very proud of their ancestry and able to trace their family back to the 15th Century. A well used and notated copy of the book Genealogy of the Denny family in England and America was among the personal papers and effects in the W. D. Booth estate.
In the 18th Century some members of the Denny clan left England to make their fortunes in America and Dennys also found their way to Australia.
London perfumer Charles Denny, although from a different branch of the family, had established the Bridestowe Lavender farm in Northern Tasmania in 1921 and his family had made its home there.
Bernard Denny earned the title of Father of the London Stock Exchange for his many years of service and both Daphne’s brothers, Moreland and Neville, followed their father with careers as stockbrokers.
Daphne was educated at an exclusive English boarding school and spent a year in Switzerland at a finishing school.
As a young woman she liked to socialise at the Ritz Hotel in Piccadilly and for recreation played tennis and followed the family’s love of golf.
She was 23 when she accepted an invitation to go on a joy flight with a tall, handsome amateur pilot from Australia at the Brooklands Airfield in rural England.
Her pilot on that spring day in 1937 was Robert Philip (Pip) Booth, a 28-year-old surgeon undertaking post-graduate studies in Britain. She quickly became a regular passenger on many of Dr Booth’s flights.
Although born in England, Pip Booth had emigrated with his family to Tasmania in 1923 when his father Norman Booth took up the position of managing director of the Cadbury Fry Pascal factory in Hobart.
By the time Dr Booth left England at the end of 1937 he and Miss Denny, who he called Kim, were in love and would probably have been married in England had not another war engulfed the world.
Miss Denny joined the Motorised Transport Corp and drove an ambulance during the London Blitz and although holding a pilot’s licence Dr Booth joined the Royal Australian Navy and served on HMAS Canberra.
Despite not having seen each other for four years, Daphne Denny and Pip Booth decided in 1941 they wanted to get married.
Miss Denny travelled to Australia by passenger liner at a time when German U-boats were taking a heavy toll on Allied shipping and they were married in Sydney.
At the beginning of 1942 Lieutenant Surgeon Booth was given a discharge from the RAN to become resident surgeon at the Launceston General Hospital.
The couple lived in Launceston for the rest of their lives with Dr Booth having a successful medical practice. Both became champion golfers and they were regular and generous donors to local charities.
A proud woman with a keen sense of humour, Mrs Booth was greatly loved by her family and friends but was a person who seems to have made a distinct impression on people she met.
It is said she could be aloof, expected respect and was dismissive of people who didn’t know their place.
Her health deteriorated following her husband’s death in 1974 and she spent periods in hospital.
Towards the end of her life she rarely ventured out of her house in Wentworth Street but maintained a keen interest in her investments in England and Australia.
With no heirs and as the last surviving member of her family, she left a considerable estate when she died in 2000.
Her lifelong desire to help people less fortunate than herself and community organisations has continued since her death through the W. D. Booth Charitable Trust.
A Woman of Charity is available through this website or at the QVMAG Shops at Inveresk and Wellington Street and local bookshops. It sells for $25 with all profits going to the WD Booth Charitable Trust.
(This article was first published in The Sunday Examiner on 2 July 2017)