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Reid, Mary Walker (1911–1963)

by Martha Rutledge

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

Mary Walker Reid (1911-1963), grazier and benefactor, was born on 6 November 1911 at Winnipeg, Canada, second of three children of John Geddes, a Scottish-born grain-broker, and his wife Helen Lee, née Tillie, who came from Ireland. Her father served as a captain with the Canadian Expeditionary Force and was killed in action in 1915 at Ypres, Belgium. From early that year Helen and the children lived in London. Like her mother, Mary was educated at Queen's Gate School, South Kensington. She represented England in international fencing matches, including the Championships of Europe, held in Budapest (1933) and Warsaw (1934). At the parish church, Tewin, Hertfordshire, on 31 October 1936 she married George Thyne, youngest brother of Andrew Thyne Reid. George brought his bride to his property, Narrangullen, near Yass, New South Wales, where he and his father had founded (1934) an Aberdeen Angus stud with cattle imported from Scotland.

On 13 May 1940 George was commissioned lieutenant, Australian Imperial Force. He served with the 2nd/17th Battalion in the Middle East and was twice mentioned in dispatches. Captain Reid was killed in action on 14 September 1943 in the advance on Lae, New Guinea. Mary's fourth child was born posthumously. Left a life interest in her husband's estate, she faced the future with fortitude, managing Narrangullen almost single-handed until after the war. She became an accomplished horsewoman and shared her love of the outdoors with her children, taking them riding and camping.

Trading as the Estate of the late G. T. Reid, she developed Narrangullen into one of the foremost studs and regularly visited Scotland to buy stock. Among her many prizes at the Sydney Royal Show, Mary Reid won outright (1953) the Andrew Reid trophy for a sire's progeny with Black Sailor of Broomhall. In 1958 N. Geranium III was senior grand champion female and 'supreme champion Aberdeen Angus exhibit'. That year N. Edensor was grand champion Angus bull at the Melbourne Royal Show. Mrs Reid sat on the panel of Royal Show judges, adjudicated at the Perth and Adelaide shows, and was a member of the State executive of the Angus Society of Australia.

There were few Yass organizations to which Mrs Reid did not give her time, talent and money. She established (1950) and presided over the Yass & District Nursery Kindergarten, helped to re-form (1960) the local Girl Guides' Association, and regularly attended musicales organized by the Yass Music Club. A committee-member of the Yass Pastoral and Agricultural Association, she supported its annual show by competing as a rider and by exhibiting the Narrangullen stud cattle. She was a generous benefactor of the Legacy Club of Canberra and of St Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Forrest. As patron of the local sub-branch of the Returned Servicemen's League of Australia, she gave an annual Christmas party for the war veterans from Linton, Yass.

Between 1956 and 1959 Mrs Reid donated £40,000 to Women's College, University of Sydney, for a new wing which was named after her. An 'active and vital member' of the college council from 1955, she was deeply interested in the welfare and comfort of students. She also contributed funds for research in the university's faculty of veterinary science and towards the establishment of a radio-telescope at Parkes.

'Enthusiastic and energetic', Mary Reid sparkled with fun. She played her piano for hours at night. In Sydney, she maintained a flat in the Astor, Macquarie Street, and belonged to Royal Sydney Golf Club. She died suddenly of heart disease on 9 March 1963 at Narrangullen and was buried with Presbyterian forms in Yass cemetery. Her two sons and two daughters survived her. Keith Henderson's portrait of Mary is held by the family.

Select Bibliography

  • C-L. de Beaumont, Modern British Fencing (Lond, 1949)
  • Pastoral Review, 15 Mar 1947, p 208, 16 May 1951, p 595, 16 Mar 1953, p 315, 16 Apr 1953, p 439, 16 Mar 1957, p 351, 18 Apr 1958, p 378, 17 Oct 1958, p 1153, 18 Apr 1963, p 359
  • Women's College, University of Sydney, Calendar, 1959, p 11, 1963, p 4
  • Yass Tribune, 11 Mar 1963
  • private information.

Citation details

Martha Rutledge, 'Reid, Mary Walker (1911–1963)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/reid-mary-walker-11504/text20521, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 26 November 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

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