Mary Hannay Foott (pen name, La Quenouille; 26 September 1846 – 12 October 1918), was a Scottish-born Australian poet and editor. She is well remembered for a bush-ballad poem,”Where the Pelican Builds”.
Mary Hannay Foott was born in Glasgow to a merchant, James Black, and his wife, née Grant. The family moved to Australia in 1853. Mary and her parents lived for some years at Mordialloc, near Melbourne, and she went to Miss Harper’s school there. She was then one of the first students at the Melbourne National Gallery of Victoria Art School. She also studied painting under Louis Buvelot.
In 1874, Mary married Thomas Wade Foott, with whom she lived for three years in Bourke, New South Wales. In 1877, her husband took her up-country, to the Paroo River in South West Queensland. Her experiences there are described in one of her poems, “New Country”, and her next seven years in that country had a great influence on her writings. Her husband died in 1884 through over-work and exposure during a drought of that year, when their losses of stock were so great that Mrs Foott was faced with selling her interest in the property and moving to Toowoomba, Queensland.
In July 1885, Foott went to Rocklea, near Brisbane, where she opened a private school, which supported her family. In the same year she published a first volume, Where the Pelican Builds and Other Poems, and began to do journalistic work for The Queenslander and the Brisbane Courier. In 1887, she joined the staff of The Queenslander, where she wrote under the pseudonym “La Quenouille”, but several stories also appeared in her own name. These have never been collected. Morna Lee and Other Poems, largely a reprint of her first volume, was published in 1890. Foott continued her literary work for many years at Brisbane, and from 1907 at Bundaberg, Queensland, where she died in October 1918.
Foott’s published verse was small in quantity but usually of good quality. One of several bush ballads she wrote, entitled “Where the Pelican Builds”, appears in most Australian anthologies.