I was saddened to learn of the recent passing of an 88-year-old Somerville resident, historian, author and extraordinary human being, Leila Shaw, after a short illness. Mrs Shaw was a member of the famous Brunning family — a family of pioneers and fruitgrowers on the peninsula who first planted apple trees in Somerville in 1866. Mrs Shaw founded the Somerville, Tyabb and District Heritage Society in 1996 after meeting with local pioneer families to hear their stories, look at their photos and discuss the rich history of the area.
In the same year and with the assistance of the society, Mrs Shaw published her first book, She's Apples — A History of Fruit Tree Nurseries, Orchards & Cool Stores 1853–1994, a book dedicated to the memory of those wonderful Mornington Peninsula pioneers. In the introduction to this book, Mrs Shaw stated:
In the early days, the fruitgrowers of Somerville and Tyabb had a finger in the pie in almost every facet of our community projects, taking responsibility on behalf of the people for the smooth running of the district. They were instrumental in bringing electricity and water to Somerville and Tyabb and influenced the train timetables, mail times and telephone connections.
Two years later and with the assistance once again of the society, Mrs Shaw released her second book, The Way We Were — Adventures, Feats and Experiences of Pioneering Families of the Mornington Peninsula.
On 31 October 2009 the society proudly opened the Leila Shaw Gallery, and it was full of memorabilia provided by Mrs Shaw. Mrs Shaw had a lovely and generous spirit, and those attributes were for all to see in her enthusiasm for sharing Somerville's glorious past history with others.