May Gibbs MBE

Cecilia May Gibbs MBE (1877 - 1969)

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Cecilia May (May) Gibbs MBE
Born in Sydenham, Kent, United Kingdommap
Ancestors ancestors
Wife of — married 17 Apr 1919 in Perth, Western Australiamap
[children unknown]
Died in Sydney, New South Wales, Australiamap
Profile last modified 21 Jul 2019 | Created 12 Apr 2014
This page has been accessed 4,329 times.

Australian 1788
May Gibbs MBE is managed by the Australia Project.
Join: Australia Project
Discuss: australia


Cecilia May Gibbs??
Mother of the Gumnut Babies


May Gibbs MBE is Notable.

Cecilia May Gibbs MBE used the name May Gibbs to publish her works. She was an illustrator, cartoonist and children's author, her gumnut babies also known as bush babies or bush fairies, and the book Snugglepot and Cuddlepie are the images and books she is best known for. May Gibbs brought the Australian bush to life for so many Australian children when she based her characters and scenery on the plants,flowers and gumnuts found in the bushland of Bunbury Western Australia where she played as a child.


From Snugglepot and Cuddlepie whose hair, hats and skirts are modelled on Eucalyptus flowers, she used the yellow flowers of the Australian Golden Wattle as the skirts and hats for her Wattle Babies, to the Banksia Men who are the villains of the story and are modelled on the appearance of aged Banksia cones.May also illustrated and produced 33 patriotic postcards dressing her gumnut babies in uniform to support Australian troops in World War One. 3 of May Gibbs post cards were Are we downhearted ? , The Girls I left behind me and We are the Gumnut Corps we are going to the war (we'll make things hum , by gum) this is the best known of the 33 patriotic postcard designs produced by May Gibbs during World War One

Cecilia May Gibbs was born in Sydenham Kent United Kingdom.[1] Her parents were Herbert William Gibbs and Cecilia Rogers, May had two brothers Herbert and Ivan (Ivan was born at sea on the way to Australia). Because she was named after her mother her parents called her Mamie.

The family had plans to move to South Australia to set up a farm in 1879, but May had caught the measles so her father and uncle went to Australia leaving her mother in England to care for the children. Herbert Gibbs and his brother George arrived in South Australia in the Chimborazo. And was followed in October by his wife and three children. Herbert and George tried farming at Franklin River, but when this failed because of drought he moved to Norwood and worked as a surveyor.


Herbert and the family moved to a farm property in Harvey in 1885,in Western Australia May started exploring the bush while riding her pony Brownie, and began to paint and write about all the things she saw in the bush. When May was 10 the family moved to Perth. In 1889, when May was only 12 years old, she was published for the first time in the Christmas edition of the W.A. Bulletin. Herbert was working a newspaper cartoonist in 1889 and in 1890 was drawing master at Perth High School.


Post card by May Gibbs Gumnut Babies playing cricket 1905

May travelled to England a number of times and when she returned to Australia in 1905 she started working for the Western Mail. After she finished school May Gibbs spent seven years studying art in the UK and while she was studying there she published her first book "Mimie and Wog" which was retitled About Us. She returned to Australia in 1913.

The first time we saw the gumnut babies was on the front cover of The Missing Button, by Ethel Turner which May Gibbs had illustrated. She also produced patriotic postcards, dressing her gumnut babies in uniform to support Australia's troops in World War One. May Gibbs' first book about the gumnut babies titled Gumnut Babies, was published in 1916. May's most famous work Snugglepot and Cuddlepie was published in 1918.May wrote a lot of books about her Gumnut Babies.

Trove Digitised Newspapers

The World's News Sydney Saturday 16 November 1918


??While May was visiting her parents in Perth she met Bertram James Ossoli Kelly, a mining agent. [2]They were married in Perth on 17 April 1919. In 1925, when they returned to Sydney Bertram and May moved into Nutcote in Neutral Bay Sydney , New South Wales on the shores of Sydney Harbour. The house was designed by architect BJ Waterhouse.

Nutcote home of May Gibbs ??


??A newspaper article on a bid to save May Gibbs home , Nutcote was saved and is now considered a national treasure and has been beautifully preserved as a National Museum.

Trove Digitised Newspapers

Sunday Times Sydney Sunday 12 October 1919 Gum nut Babies [3]



May Gibbs published Little Ragged Blossom in 1920 and Little Obelia in 1921. She also had her two comic strips Bib and Bub 1924-1967 and Tiggy Touchwood 1925-1931 in different newspapers. Tiggy Touchwood appeared in the Sunday Sun under the name Stan Cottman. These comic strips were published in both Australia and New Zealand. In 1923 she published Nuttybub and Nittersing and in 1929 Two Little Gum-Nuts and five cartoon books of Bib and Bub. All the books May Gibbs wrote have been reprinted a number of times.

May Gibbs comic strip Bib and Bub [4]



In the late 1920's May also wrote a weekly column Gumnut Gossip. [5] Despite her publishing success May Gibbs had financial struggles during the Great Depression. She became a virtual recluse at Nutcote although she continued to produce an astounding number of illustrations and comic strips [6] , as well as another eight books. Finally, in 1955, May Gibbs was awarded an MBE for her services to Australian literature. She lived and worked at Nutcote until her death. May Gibbs died in Sydney on 27 November 1969, and was cremated at Northern Suburbs Crematorium, Sydney. Sadly, May and Bertram had no children of their own so she bequeathed the copyright from the designs of her bush characters and her stories to Northcott Disability Services and Cerebral Palsy Alliance. The residue of her estate was left to the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund. A postage stamp honouring May Gibbs' bush babies was issued in 1985 by Australia Post as part of a set of five commemorating children's books.


A list of May Gibbs Works

This does not include magazine or newspaper articles and stories

  • 1916 - Gum Blossom Babies, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, NSW.

  • 1916 - Gumnut Babies, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, NSW.

  • 1917 - Boronia Babies, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, NSW.

  • 1917 - Flannel Flowers and Other Bush Babies, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, NSW.

  • 1918 - Wattle Babies, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, NSW.

  • 1918 - Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, NSW.

  • 1920 - Little Ragged Blossom, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, NSW.

  • 1921 - Little Obelia, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, NSW.

  • 1923 - Nuttybub and Nittersing, Osboldstone, Melbourne, Vic.

  • 1924 - Chucklebud and Wunkydoo, Osboldstone, Melbourne, Vic.

  • 1925 - Bib and Bub; Their Adventures, Cornstalk, Sydney, NSW.

  • 1927 - The Further Adventures of Bib and Bub, Cornstalk, Sydney, NSW.

  • 1928 - More Funny Stories About Old Friends Bib and Bub, Cornstalk, Sydney, NSW.

  • 1928- Bib and Bub in Gumnut Town, Halstead Printing Co., Sydney, NSW.

  • 1940 - Gumnuts, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, NSW.

  • 1941 - Scotty in Gumnut Land, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, NSW.

  • 1943 - Mr. & Mrs. Bear and Friends, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, NSW.

  • 1953 - Prince Dande Lion; a garden whim-wham, Ure Smith, Sydney, NSW


?? Snugglepot and Cuddlepie [7]


The First edition cover for Tales of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie

??A bronze sculpture showing Mr lizard and the Banksia man dropping a baby down a hole at Nutcote May Gibbs home


Image of the nasty Banksia Man from A tribute to May Gibbs by boeufblogginon



  1. Family Search Citing this Record England and Wales Census, 1881," index, Family Search Cecilia M Gibbs in household of Herbert W Gibbs, Sutton, Surrey, England
  2. Marriage Cecilia May Gibbs and Bertram J O Kelly Marriage
  3. Trove Digitised Newspapers - The Mail Adelaide Saturday 26 July 1924
  4. Trove Digitised Newspapers - The Mail Adelaide Saturday 3 April 1926
  5. Trove Digitised Newspapers - Gumnut Gossip May Gibbs weekly column The Mail Adelaide Saturday 10 November 1928
  6. Trove Digitsted Newspapers May Gibbs comic strip Bill and Bub 18 May 1940
  7. Trove Digitised Newspapers - A tribute to the Mother of the Gumnuts The Canberra Times Saturday 11 February 1989

See Also

More Genealogy Tools

Sponsored Search

Sponsored Search by

No known carriers of May's ancestors' DNA have taken a DNA test.

Have you taken a DNA test? If so, login to add it. If not, see our friends at Ancestry DNA.

Login to post a comment.

On 17 Oct 2017 at 17:13 GMT John Andrewartha wrote:

morning Terry - - Thank you for the fantastic Profile - well done - - - - -

Cecilia May Gibbs MBE (17 January 1877 – 27 November 1969), publishing under the name May Gibbs, May I suggest you 'gong' her with the "MBE" - - - cheers - john.a

On 10 Feb 2017 at 06:40 GMT Darlene (Scott) Kerr wrote:

Gosh, Terry, I'm left speechless! The way you put this together makes one want to return again and again just for a pleasant little visit!!

I haven't heard of her before. Thank you.

On 3 Sep 2016 at 18:42 GMT Susan (Goldmark) Laursen wrote:

This is so special a page, I just love the side with all the interesting thing you have put here.

What and amazing style you have. Your page here make you go back and look for more Well done

On 19 Apr 2014 at 06:54 GMT Gloria Lange wrote:

Very nice profile. I love the artwork and the message.

On 12 Apr 2014 at 11:40 GMT Eric Daly wrote:

Terry you have managed to move a True Blue Aussie male, i learned to read and write with the books by this Author. I really like the use of the text fonts and media. Quite an artist in your own Wright:)