Lexie Rhoda Griffiths (1880-1954)

Lexie Rhoda Griffiths (1880-1954), Children’s author

Lexie Rhoda Heales was born at Hamilton in Victoria’s Western District in 1880. She was the first of five children of Christopher Henry Heales, bank manager, and his wife Mary Cameron.

Little is known of Lexie’s early life in Hamilton, except that her father died in 1894 when she was 14 and that she and her two younger sisters attended Loreto College, Mary’s Mount in Ballarat in 1897. (Her sister Laura later became a Loreto sister, based in New South Wales.)

On 6 June 1903 at Caulfield, Lexie Heales married Frederick Harley Griffiths (known as Harley), an accountant and aspiring artist. Their son, Harley Cameron Griffiths was born at Mosman, New South Wales in 1908. The family returned to Melbourne where Harley senior began to show his work at the Society of Artists. In 1914 he spent six months in the Collins Street studio of Max Meldrum and is considered one of Meldrum’s earliest students.

By this time, however, the marriage had failed. Lexie remained in Toorak. Harley relocated to Wellington, New Zealand, where he worked as an accountant and joined the New Zealand Army Reserve during World War One. In 1924 the couple divorced and Harley married again, to Jessie McLeay, in 1925.

Just after her divorce, Melbourne newspapers began to publish some of Lexie’s children’s verse. A short story appeared around the same time. These offerings, based on the verse she composed for her son when he was a child, provided some financial support to a woman, who was now alone and without family close by to support her. (Her mother had died in 1908, the year her son was born. Her sisters lived some distance away.)

By the end of the 1920s her former husband Harley had returned to Melbourne and was painting ‘in his spare time’ with Max Meldrum. In the early 1930s her son Harley was farming at Neerim in Gippsland, but he, too, had aspirations to work as an artist and in 1932 he first came to public attention when he exhibited a painting of the carcase of a sheep at the Fine Arts Society’s Galleries in Melbourne. A foundation member of the Australian Academy of Art, he worked as conservator of pictures for the then Melbourne Art Gallery (now the National Gallery of Victoria), but continued to paint and exhibit. In 1954, the year of his mother’s death, he was was the joint winner of the Dunlop Art Competition with Lloyd Rees.

His mother continued to write and publish in a range of genre. An occasional short story appeared in newspapers, but her main published output was centred on children’s literature – children’s storybooks, short stories, books of verse and songs. Pixie O’Harris illustrated her 1945 book of verse Between Ourselves. The song books featured the music of local composers Arthur S. Loam, Edith Harrhy and Anthony Hall.


When Lexie Griffiths joined the Historical Society of Victoria in July 1933 she would have been aware of her influential grandparents, although they had died before her time. Her paternal grandfather, Richard Heales, after whom Healesville was named, was a coach builder, politician and temperance advocate. He had been a respected Premier of Victoria and was still a serving Member of Parliament when he died in 1864. Her maternal grandfather, Alexander Cameron, was a wealthy Western District grazier who died at his Coburg home ‘Moreland Hall’ in 1881. Her maternal grandmother, Margaret McKillop, the aunt of Saint Mary McKillop, died at Penola, South Australia in 1863.

Lexie’s interest in history led to a series of monthly columns on Melbourne’s early history published in the Herald newspaper in the mid-1940s. It is known also that she spoke once on Richmond’s early history to the Victoria Centenary Club.

Lexie Griffiths was living at ‘Lyndoch’, a recently opened 12 bedroom hostel for older people in Warrnambool when she died of heart disease on 3 July 1954 aged 73. She was buried in the Catholic section of Warrnambool Cemetery.

Cheryl Griffin, September 2021

‘Memories of old Melbourne’, by Lexie Griffiths, Age, 13 April 1940.


Victorian Birth, Death and Marriage indexes.

Victorian electoral rolls.

New South Wales birth index.

New Zealand marriage index.

New Zealand electoral rolls.

RHSV Archives, early membership records.

Loreto, School Annual of the IBVM in Australia, Vol 10, December 1954, p90.

Argus, 25 August 1899, 1 June 1940, 5 December 1944, 2 January 1945, 26 February 1946, 9 March 1946, 23 March 1946, 13 April 1946.

Daily News (Perth), 9 July 1903.

Evening Post, Vol CVIII, issue 101, 25 October 1924, p.10.

Herald, 20 February 1937, 21 December 1951.

Mercury, 9 August 1929.

Sydney Morning Herald, 20 November 1914.

Works by Lexie Griffiths:

1926-1929. Children’s poetry published in various newspapers.
1926 ‘Blessings’, short story in The Triad, 1 September 1926, p.32.
1937 Herald, 20 Feb 1937. Short story (for adults) – ‘Five O’Clock in the morning’.
1944 Argus, 5 Dec 1944. Fashion column.
1945 Argus, 2 Jan 1945. ‘Melbourne was then a leisurely place.’
1945 “Between Ourselves” (book of verse). Pixie O’Harris, illustrator. Sydney, Angus and Robertson Snelling Printing Works.
1946 Argus, 26 Feb 1946. Column – ‘The time is approaching when the customer
1946 Argus, 9 March 1946. Column – ‘Melbourne used to get its laughs easily …’ (on the early days of Melbourne)
1946 Argus, 23 March 1946. Column – ‘Our first artists’ colony’.
1946 Argus, 13 April 1946. Column – ‘Memories of old Melbourne’
1946 “A Little Bird Told Me”, a book of verse. Josselyn Hughes, illustrator. Melbourne, The Book Depot.
1947 ‘Old Tales and their Tellers’. 1947 column appearing in The Australasian Book News and Library Journal, vol. 1, no. 7, January 1947, p.318.
1949-1951 Children’s short stories and verse published in various Melbourne newspapers.
1949 “Along The Track: Little Tunes for Young Pianists, “ With Arthur S. Loam, composer. Allan & Co., Melbourne.
1950 “The Leaf and the Bud and Other Songs for Children”. With Edith Harrhy, composer. Allan & Co., Melbourne.
1952 “Merry Rhymes for Childhood Times”. With Anthony Hall, composer. (Allan & Co., Melbourne)
1952 “Richard The Rat”, Robertson & Mullens, Melbourne. (children’s story book)
1952 “The Cat Walk”, Robertson & Mullens, Melbourne. (children’s story book)
1952 “William Wombat Finds a Home”, Robertson & Mullens, Melbourne. (children’s story book)