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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Moriarty, Barbara Ierne (Biddy) (1902–1979)

by A. J. Hill

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

Barbara Ierne Moriarty (1902-1979), by Lawrence C. LeGuay

Barbara Ierne Moriarty (1902-1979), by Lawrence C. LeGuay

Australian War Memorial

Barbara Ierne (Biddy) Moriarty (1902-1979), Red Cross field representative, was born on 13 April 1902 at Ipswich, Queensland, second daughter of Travers Robert Goff, an English-born bank manager, and his wife Margaret Agnes, née Morehead, who came from Sydney. 'Biddy' was educated at the Bowral branch of Sydney Church of England Grammar School for Girls before being employed as a secretary. At St James's Anglican Church, Sydney, on 26 December 1927 she married Orpen Boyd Moriarty, a 21-year-old clerk; they were to remain childless.

Commissioned in the Australian Imperial Force in October 1939, Boyd Moriarty sailed for the Middle East with the 6th Division in 1940. His wife followed him as a representative of the Australian Comforts Fund and worked in camps in Palestine. She held the post of cipher officer with the Royal Navy for six months at Alexandria, Egypt. Her husband was killed in action on Crete in May 1941. Two months later Mrs Moriarty joined the Australian Red Cross Society's field force attached to the 2nd/2nd Australian General Hospital at Kantara, Egypt. Returning to Australia in February 1942, she performed Red Cross duties in New South Wales, Victoria, the Northern Territory and North Queensland, and was promoted superintendent in December.

Moriarty was sent back to the Middle East in 1943 to deal with recovered prisoners of war. In August she was made senior superintendent. Promoted commandant in April 1944, she joined the Australian Army Staff in London to prepare for the reception of Australian prisoners of war expected to be liberated when the Allies invaded Western Europe. She was attached to the A.I.F. Reception Group which repatriated large numbers of men after Germany surrendered in May 1945. One of her thoughtful gestures was to distribute sprigs of 'wattle' (mimosa) to the freed Australians.

Having arrived in Sydney with a shipload of liberated men in August 1945, Moriarty went on leave. She was recalled to take charge of women in the Australian Red Cross contingent which reached Singapore in September to assist the 2nd P.O.W. Reception Group. With the last of the released troops, she came home in November. For her distinguished work with the Red Cross she was awarded the Florence Nightingale medal in July 1947. According to one of her colleagues, she was 'full of energy and charm. She had beautiful, shining golden hair and eyes like aquamarines. Even in uniform she dressed with flair . . . She was very good at achieving the impossible . . . The day after we arrived in Singapore . . . she acquired a jeep . . . Biddy was a wonderful boss . . . dignified and serene when necessary but full of fun and extremely popular with all ranks'.

On 30 July 1946 Moriarty was discharged from the Red Cross. In September she was elected to the council of the War Widows' Craft Guild of New South Wales. Joining the staff of David Jones Ltd, Sydney, in July 1947, she worked first as a copy-writer in the advertising department and then as a clerical assistant (until February 1965). She died on 11 January 1979 at the Wybenia Nursing Home, Neutral Bay, and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • Australian Women's Weekly, 24 Feb, 8 Sept 1945
  • Sun News-Pictorial (Melbourne), 10 May 1947
  • David Jones Ltd, Sydney, Archives
  • copy of Red Cross record of service and typescript description by Mrs J. A. Rutherford, Claremont, Perth (privately held).

Citation details

A. J. Hill, 'Moriarty, Barbara Ierne (Biddy) (1902–1979)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 26 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2020

Barbara Ierne Moriarty (1902-1979), by Lawrence C. LeGuay

Barbara Ierne Moriarty (1902-1979), by Lawrence C. LeGuay

Australian War Memorial

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Boyd Moriarty, Barbara

13 April 1902
Ipswich, Queensland, Australia


11 January 1979
Neutral Bay, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cultural Heritage