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Lady Margaret Rymill was Lady Mayoress, Married to the Lord Mayor, from 1950-1953. 

Early Life

Lady Margaret Rymill was born Margaret Earle Cudmore on the 8th of August in 1913 to Rowland and Annie Isabella Cudmore nee Porter of Mildura, Victoria.

Her father was an orchardist who had taken up land in the area only eight years previously after serving with distinction during the Boer war.

He and Annie were married in 1907 and welcomed their first child, Daniel, in 1908 then Colleen in 1912 and Margaret in August 1913 but a few months later tragedy struck on the 21st of October when, at the age of 34, Rowland Cudmore was killed when his car overturned near Mannum while returning home from visiting his father in Victor Harbor. 

Margaret’s mother, now a widow, was unable to maintain the orchard and tend her family of three small children, all under the age of five. She engaged the services of Kenneth Milne, one of Adelaide’s leading architects, to design and build a home at Dutton Terrace, Medindie. 

After leaving school, Margaret and her sister Colleen joined the smart set, attending dances, parties and weddings with other young ladies from prominent families.

Margaret was Colleen’s bridesmaid when she married Geoffrey Bonython Angas-Parsons, the son of Justice  Angas Parsons in March of 1934 and in June she attended a dance at the Embassy Ballroom, which was located where Regent Arcade is today. The dance was attended by 450 guests and was hosted by fourteen of Adelaide’s most eligible bachelors.

We can be certain that Margaret, pretty in pastel pink ribbed velvet, made a lasting impression on the young Arthur Rymill, one of the fourteen bachelors who lined the entrance to formally welcome their guests.

Marriage and Family

Arthur or ‘Lum’ as he was known, at the age of 27, was a lawyer, company director, city alderman, jazz musician and sportsman, representing the state on the South Australian polo team. He was also a keen golfer and yachtsman however he was perhaps most famous for his exploits as the daredevil speedboat racer who, in February that year, had survived an accident when his craft flipped at 70mph or 113kmp at an interstate race meet.

Arthur and Margaret were married in a small ceremony at Saint Peter’s College chapel on the 27th of December 1934 and took their honeymoon in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) before returning to make their home at 39 Brougham Place North Adelaide. Their home was built in 1907 for his father, Arthur Graham Rymill and named ‘Whitehead.’ It now serves as the residence of the principal of Lincoln College.

The couple welcomed their first daughter, Rosemary, in 1937. 

With the outbreak of war in 1939, Arthur volunteered for the Royal Australian Navy but was told that the only suitable position available was for a stoker (engineer.) He enlisted as a private in the 2/14th Field Regiment (artillery) of the 2nd Australian Imperial Force and was commissioned as a Lieutenant in January 1941 but sustained a knee injury during training in New South Wales and was discharged in April.

Arthur returned to his Adelaide law practice and the couple’s second daughter, Annabel, was born in 1942.

Public Life

Arthur was re-elected to the Adelaide City Council in December 1945 and was elected Lord Mayor in July 1950.

Margaret Rymill was a somewhat reluctant Lady Mayoress with ‘Lady Kitty,’ the one time ‘social editress’ of the Advertiser writing in a 1953 article that Margaret was ‘diffident’ about taking the role of Lady Mayoress but that:

 ‘Charm has won the day, and with tact and dignity she has attained a happy popularity.’

1951 marked the Jubilee of Australian Federation and the Lord and Lady Mayoress  hosted various receptions and teas however a hilight of that year was the Children’s Jubilee Ball - a fancy dress ball for one thousand children between 7 and 13 years old  and held on 14 April. It was the first of it’s kind since Lady Bonython’s Red Cross Children’s Ball in 1928.

In July 1951 Adelaide received a widespread and heavy snowfall and the Lady Mayoress was photographed driving the Lord Mayor’s vehicle at Mount Lofty

The coronation of Queen Elizabeth II on 2 June 1953 was the cause of much celebration with a Coronation Young People’s Ball on 6 June at the Adelaide Town Hall. Hosted by the Lord and Lady Mayoress and attended by one thousand guests including the Governor, the acting Premier and Chief Justice, Town Hall was decorated by the Lady Mayoress with the assistance of her sister, Colleen Angas Parsons and others.

Later in 1953, perhaps inspired by the coronation of another young Queen, the Lady Mayoress’ room in Town Hall was renamed the ‘Queen Adelaide Room’ and a council committee authorised the expenditure of 300 pounds for cabinets to display relics of Queen Adelaide. The centrepiece of the decorations was a portrait of Queen Adelaide which had been loaned to council by Queen Elizabeth. 

In December the Lady Mayoress opened a popular Christmas tree festival. The festival featured large trees decorated by national groups and 41 smaller trees decorated by prominent Adelaide hostesses and entered into a competition which was judged by Lady Bonython.

The undoubted hilight of Margaret’s tenure as Lady Mayoress was the 1954 royal visit of Queen Elizabeth and  Prince Phillip, the Duke of Edinburgh, the first visit of a reigning monarch to Adelaide and Australia.

Two years before, in 1952, Princess Elizabeth had planned an official tour of Australia after her private visit to Kenya, however news of the death of her father had forced her to return to England. A year long period of mourning and her subsequent coronation meant that the tour was delayed until 1954.

The Lord and Lady Mayoress hosted a garden party at the Elder Gardens; 

‘... enabling Her Majesty and the Duke to mingle freely among the several thousand guests. She engaged in animated conversation with many South Australians from all walks of life.’

The Royal visit was Margaret’s last great reception as Lady Mayoress with Arthur not contesting the June mayoral election  but remaining as a councillor, a position he held until 1964 when Rymill Park was named in his honour.

Sir Arthur received a knighthood in 1954 and was elected to the Legislative Council in 1956, serving until 1975.

Personal Note

Lady Margaret Rymill who had been feted for her floral arrangements during her time at Town Hall, turned her hand to painting and published a book of her floral paintings in 1984.

Sir Arthur Rymill died in 1989.

Lady Margaret Rymill died in 2004.

By Lincoln Schulz, HerStory Project

The HerStory project came about to recognise and celebrate the lives and the achievements of Women’s work in South Australia and was initiated in 2015 on the 175th anniversary of the City of Adelaide, by Genevieve Theseira-Haese, Lady Mayoress of Adelaide. The stories collected offer a unique perspective of Adelaide and South Australia that form a different history to what is often heard. This community built initiative is supported by the City of Adelaide and the History Trust of South Australia.

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