Lorna Moore (nee Woolcock)

In 1940 Lorna Moore, an artist, decided to train to be a nurse as part of the war effort.  In the Royal Adelaide Hospital, she found a completely absorbing community almost detached from the turmoil raging in the rest of the world.

Here the pageant of life oscillated between the comic and the tragic, presented subjects for sketching that she found ‘irresistible’.  Her artistic impressions ended up on the back of ward and patient reports and survived the next 50 years. 

Her book, Six Hundred Unmarried Women brings this hospital back to life through a wonderful collection of skilful and beautiful drawings, together with her evocative descriptions of hospital life.

Her original artwork featured in South Australia’s History Festival during May 2024 at the Creative Health Gallery, Hampstead Rehabilitation Centre, Northfield.  This is Lorna’s story. 

Lorna Woolcock photographed by fellow nurse Mary Cudmore, 1940. Source: Health Museum of South Australia.


Lorna Mary Moore (nee Woolcock) was born on the 5th April 1913 in Unley, South Australia. Her parents were John Milton Woolcock and Eva Maud Adulphine Field.  Lorna had a brother, Bruce, who was two years her senior. 


Lorna grew up in Parkside until she was about four or five years old.  The family then moved to Woodville, and she described her early childhood as a happy one, surrounded by trees and living a free life: at that time, Woodville was just like a village.  The family built a new home and moved to Millswood when Lorna was in Grade 7.


Primary & Secondary: Lorna Woolcock attended the Woodville Public School, followed by St Peter’s Girls High School. Lorna described herself as

excelling in dreaming at school and not really listening to what the teachers said”.

Lorna Moore

Tertiary: In her taped interview in 2003, Lorna describes how she then went on to university: “I must say, there is far too much fun in university because I only managed a year.  I think there were six females and about a hundred men.  Very fascinating!”

Her next step was to take subjects at the School of Fine Arts, and the South Australian School of Arts, including private lessons with Nora Godlee in China Painting.

Extract from ‘Ceramics in SA 1836-1986’ by Noris Ioannou, p. 293. Source: Wakefield Press


Lorna Mary Woolcock married Alexander Thomas Moore (known as Tom) on the 27th January 1945, at St Peter’s Cathedral.

In her book, Six Hundred Unmarried Women, Lorna wrote that ”nursing duties in a government hospital had to end with marriage.”  The Department of Labour and National Service issued her with a Certificate of Release from staff nurse to home duties, in November 1944. 

I was leaving the RAH, with a glowing personal reference, my General Nursing Certificate, Nurse’s Registration Certificate, and gold medal.  Matron wished me happiness and added, “You have done well, considering.

I never did know what she meant by that!

Lorna Moore, 1944.

After marrying, Tom & Lorna Moore rented a home in Glenelg.  They had two daughters, Jane (born in January 1946) and Elizabeth, 20 months later.

The family built a new home in St George’s in the 1950’s, and this was the home that Lorna remained in for the rest of her life.  Her husband Tom died on the 30th April 1977 at the age of 68, following years of illness (hypertension and insulin dependent diabetes).

Lorna (Liz) on her wedding day, 27 January 1945.
Certificate of Release. Releasing Lorna from staff nurse duties to home duties.


Lorna’s first published artwork, for which she was paid, was in the 1930’s, a ‘little sketch’ done for the John Martin’s basement sale, which appeared in the Advertiser.  Over time she increased her work in fashion illustrations, working from a studio in Flinders Street, Adelaide, in the AMA building.  She also had regular part-time work illustrating for the Harris Scarfe catalogues. 

She held her first art exhibition, featuring her China Painting work, in 1931.

Source: News (Adelaide, SA), 24 November 1931, page 7

‘LONDON LIFE’ (1938 – 1940)

While living at home to support her mother (who had a long convalescence after surgery), Lorna saved enough money from her work as an illustrator to purchase a ‘round the world’ ticket for ninety Pounds.  But her goal was primarily to go to London. 

Once there, Lorna soon found work through another Australian friend, as a fashion illustrator at Helen Jardine’s art studio in Soho, London. 

“In the days before the war I was enjoying the world of fantasy and fashion.  Life was free and happy.”

Lorna Moore

Lorna was still living in London at the outbreak of war in September 1939.  She described the changes in the city in her book, Six Hundred Unmarried Women:

“London changed.  Tents appeared in Hyde Park.  Trenches were dug, sandbags filled, and windows taped up and boarded.  Barrage balloons, suspended from long cables, floated over this stunned and subdued city.”  “Everything was uncanny, unreal, silent.  It was so early in the war.  We didn’t know what was ahead.” 

Gradually, after the outbreak of war, her work as a fashion illustrator in the Soho studio dwindled to a halt, and she made the decision to return to Australia in 1940, using her pre-purchased Ninety Pound ’Round the World’ ticket.

“We sailed at night in a convoy of merchant and passenger ships which were shepherded into international waters by the navy.  Our blacked-out ship zig-zagged down the Atlantic towards Panama armed with one ack-ack gun and one marine.  I was deeply sorry to be leaving London.  I was leaving London, but to what?”

On her return to Adelaide, she decided that her wartime role would be to undertake the three-year General Nursing training at the Royal Adelaide Hospital. 

However, she was not able to pursue her new career straight away and so she took the opportunity to design ballet costumes for Joanne Priest, of the South Australian Ballet Club.

An example of Lorna’s published work as a fashion illustrator in London.


In 1992, the Royal South Australian Society of Arts presented a large exhibition featuring over 500 works of South Australian visual artists involved with the stage from 1930 – 1991.  Lorna Woolcock featured in this exhibition for her costume design in the South Australian Ballet Club’s ‘The Marriage of Columbine’ in 1940, and ‘Ballerina’ in 1941.

Rest At Reherasal, 1940. Sketched at Joanne Priest’s studio.


The time arrived for Lorna to undertake the three-year General Nursing training at the Royal Adelaide Hospital.  After her initial interview with Matron and her retinue, Lorna reminisces in her book, Six Hundred Unmarried Women:

“The click of my high-heeled shoes echoed within the long shiny corridor.  I knew I would never again enter this building wearing silk stockings, smart shoes, and a short black dress.  I was about to discover that the nursing community combined religious vocation with military discipline.  London fashions would quickly become just a memory.”

Lorna described the hospital as running like clockwork, organised like a military camp.  The Matron had served during World War 1. 

“There were no male nurses or orderlies.  Six hundred unmarried women, dressed in quaint uniforms, were cogs in the ever-turning hospital wheel.  We were addressed as ‘Nurse’ or ‘Sister’.  Between ourselves we used surnames.”

Once the 3-month probationary period was over, the new ‘pupil nurse’ was “fully equipped to record hundreds and hundreds of temperatures, heart beats and bowel actions, and all kinds of other previously unheard-of intimate details!”

After completing her General Nursing training and graduating from the Royal Adelaide Hospital, Lorna accepted the option of three months training at the Adelaide Children’s Hospital.  

She sketched the uniform worn by nurses during this training period:

“our pink dress was accepted, but the odd little pointed cap was replaced by an organdie veil arranged in a quaint butterfly bow.”

Lorna recounted on her experience working at the Children’s Hospital:

Any joy at being with children was completely negated by my dismay that they could not express their needs in words, and also sadness at seeing their suffering.”

Lorna returned to the Royal Adelaide Hospital as a ‘staff nurse’ (Sister) after finishing her training at the Children’s Hospital.   However, as she planned to marry in January 1944, she had to give up her nursing career, and was relegated to ‘home duties’.


During her years of home duties, raising her two daughters, and looking after her husband in his later years, she continued to sketch, but it was after her husband Toms’ death in 1977 when she returned to her artistic career, partly inspired by her extensive overseas travels. 

She travelled to Bali and Java for a study tour with a group from Marleston Technical School (with a focus on fabric printing and weaving) and later she travelled to London, France, Canada, and America, which helped to reignite her interest in art; she chose to focus in particular on watercolours. 

She was invited to tutor at the Adelaide Art Society, teaching “Painting Flowers in Watercolour” from 1986 to 1990.  Lorna also taught the same subject at the Workers Education Association (WEA) in 1986 and 1987.

Still Life Flowers in Vase Watercolour, Lorna Moore, FRSASA. Source: RSASA.
Watercolours by Lorna Moore, date unknown. Source: Scammell Fine Art Auctions

She was a member of the Adelaide Art Society and a Fellow of the Royal South Australian Society of Arts (RSASA).

Lorna Moore held her first solo exhibition of paintings at the RSASA Kintore Gallery in October 1989, showcasing her favourite subjects: flowers & people.  Sixty-two works were presented in the show, with a particular focus on her sketchbook illustrations, drawn from life and reflecting her sense of humour.

At the age of 79, Lorna travelled to Italy for a painting trip, visiting Perugia, Paja, Venice, Florence and Rome, despite knowing that her eyesight was beginning to fade.

This photo is from an article entitled “A bowl of flowers is like a miniature landscape” by Lorna Moore.  The photo was taken in her garden, where she liked to relax with future painting subjects. 

Lorna’s book, ‘Six Hundred Unmarried Women, A Nurse’s Sketchbook, 1940-44’, is dedicated to her daughter, Jane Moore.

her skill and infinite care in designing and editing made the publication possible”

Lorna Moore, 1996


Lorna Mary Moore died on the 30th March 2007, at the age of 93.  A plaque has been placed in Centennial Park Cemetery, Pasadena, South Australia for Lorna and her husband Tom.

Plot site: Weeping Rose, Granite Tree Bed 1, Position 6

During her taped interview in 2003, Lorna quoted from a poem by Eleanor Trevis, part of which has been inscribed on her memorial stone by her family:

“In the autumn leaves the green of past spring is new life.

So, in my age is my youth, unlost, transmitted to golden light.

The leaves will soon fall.

The sun of hope will soon rise.

How close are death and birth”

Biography written by Karyn Baker, CALHN Health Museum Volunteer, May 2024

Information for this biography has been sourced from:

  • Six Hundred Unmarried Women, A Nurse’s Sketchbook, 1940-44.  Written and illustrated by Lorna Moore, published by Environmental Media, 1996.
  • Royal South Australian Society of Arts (RSASA), with particular thanks to Dr. Adam Dutkiewicz, RSASA Historian, for his invaluable help in sourcing material for this biography.
  • An interview with Mrs Lorna Moore, (formerly Lorna Woolcock): transcript of interviews conducted by Joan Durdin with Mrs Lorna Moore, at Lorna’s home in St George’s, Adelaide in March 2003.
  • Ancestry & Trove (Lorna Mary Woolcock/Moore)