Amelia 'Lily' Dance (1891-1959)





(Parents of Peter Byrnes):






Lily Dance, mother of Peter Byrnes




William Henry DANCE (1867, Devon -Dec 16 1924, Marburg, Queensland)
Mother Amalia Christina RETCHSLAG (Oct 5 1871, Haigslea, Qld-Sep 15 1903, Marburg)
Birth  Jul 27 (17?) 1891 in Haigslea, Queensland[1]
Lived at Marburg,  Boonah; 19 Kendall Street,East Ipswich (bet 1924 and 1950); Balmoral Brisbane, (1950-1973)
Death  Jul 30 1959 in Brisbane, Queensland (age 68)[2]
Marriage Thomas Arthur BYRNES (1913 in St. Mary's Church, Ipswich)


Mary BYRNES (1913 - 2004)

Grace  BYRNES (1915 - 2004)

Thomas  BYRNES  (1916-2010)

Joan  BYRNES (1917- 1986)

Francis  BYRNES (1919 - 1995)

Peter BYRNES (2922-2016) , married Joan Gaffey, 1943 Sydney.

Kathleen BYRNES (1923-2010)

Margaret BYRNES

Eileen BYRNES (1927-2011)

Teresa BYRNES  (1932-2016)


Lily was the third child of an English farmer, William Dance, who after his arrival in Australia in the 1880s, married 16-year-old Amalia Retschlag.  Amalia was the daughter of a German couple who had migrated in 1864 to settle in the Marburg area of south-east Queensland.

Lily's real name of Amelia came to light when she married, and her birth certificate was called for.  One story circulating in the family has it that her father, going to register her birth, forgot what name his wife had wanted for their daughter, and put down his wife's name instead.  His wife, however, had decided on Lily, and that is how she became known.

The Marburg State School where Lily was enrolled as a 5 year old in 1896.  Lily and all her brothers and sisters attended the Marburg school for their basic education.  The school was established in 1879, and extensions and a tennis court were added 10 years later.  Lily’s father, Bill Dance, was active on the parents’ committee of the school, and at one stage was Treasurer.

Much of the household responsibility would have fallen on Lily as she grew up as the eldest daughter of a widowed father.  Her mother had had 12 children in 15 years, dying aged only 31, soon after giving birth to a son.  Lily was only 12 when her mother died, leaving the young girl with seven younger surviving brothers and sisters to care for, on her father’s farm outside Marburg.

The family responsibility continued until Lily was 19, when her father remarried, and two and a half years later, Lily herself married a young train guard. Lily and Thomas Byrnes, from Toowoomba, were married in St. Mary’s Church in Ipswich, in March 1913.

The opening of the railway line to Marburg in 1912 was a special occasion, particularly so for 19-year-old Lily Dance.  The young guard on this first train was Tom Byrnes, who went on to court and wed Lily within a year.

Her farming background came to the fore when she was raising a family of her own - Lily always kept a Jersey cow in the back yard at 19 Kendall street, East Ipswich to provide fresh milk for her growing family.  She was an expert milker, doing the daily task even within a short time of giving birth herself.

The house at 19 Kendall Street, East Ipswich, home to Lily and her family for many years.

(above)  Lily and Tom’s six eldest children in 1923: (from left) Tom, Grace, Frank, Mary, Peter and Joan

Lily's son Peter described his mother as "the traditional mother of that era”.

"She gave her whole life for the rearing of the children and we all have only fond memories of her.  She was always ready to listen to all our problems even though she had little time to spare. A competent dressmaker, she made many dresses for all my eight sisters.

"How she managed financially, I don't know, but she had to be very careful with every penny she spent. This was especially so during the years of the Great Depression....."

Her granddaughter Mary Boddy (née Byrnes) remembers her as always being “very tolerant of the grandchildren’s banging away discordantly on the piano, a noise which would have tested the patience of a saint”. 

(left)  A still frame of Lily, taken from a home movie shot in the 1950s by her son-in-law, Jim Boyle 

 (right) Lily, with her grandson Peter Byrnes, at Ipswich, 1946


Lily died only a few years after she and Tom moved to the Brisbane suburb of Balmoral in the 1950s. 

She is buried in the Hemmant cemetery in East Brisbane

[1] Lily’s birth certificate shows a birth date of July 17; however family members say it was always celebrated on July 27 – it’s not known which date is actually correct.

2] Queensland death certificate (Lily’s)