Mrs Elizabeth Bridgland was Lady Mayoress of the City of Adelaide (married to the Lord Mayor) between 1966 and1968.
Elizabeth Bridgland, who was always called Betty or Bet, was the wife of Walter Bridgland. Wally, as he was usually called, was a member of the Adelaide City Council for 26 years. Both Wally and Betty’s families had been actively involved in the Adelaide City Council for many years. Wally’s maternal grandfather, Sir Lewis Cohen, was a member of the Adelaide City Council for 27 years. He was Mayor for seven years and Lord Mayor for two years. Betty’s maternal grandfather, Alfred Myers, was a member of Council for 19 years. His youngest son, Albert, was a member of Council for 23 years.
Betty was a daughter of Ray and Sol Saunders. She had an older sister Rebecca (Rebie), and a brother Alfred. They were the children of parents who were in comfortable financial circumstances. When Alfred was born they were living at 129 King William Road, Hyde Park. Later they moved to a large home at 133 King William Road, Hyde Park. Sol had this house built to resemble one Ray had admired in nearby Northgate Street. Both of these houses are still standing.
With her sister and brother Betty attended a nearby small private school. When they reached secondary level, Rebie and Betty went by tram to North Adelaide to St. Peter’s Collegiate Girls’ School, which was then in Kermode Street where the Women’s and Children’s Hospital is now situated.
Social Life and Early Adulthood
Social life for Betty as a child and early teenager centred round her home, the homes of her relatives (Ray was one of five children and Sol one of eight), the homes of her friends and the Synagogue. They had musical evenings, plays and picnics. Her greatest friend from early childhood until her death was Francie, the eldest daughter of Ray and Sol’s friends Miriam and Nathan Solomon. Betty was a loyal friend. During World War II the husband of one of her friends was convicted and sent to prison for the misuse of Government material. Betty gave moral support to her friend.
After leaving school Betty studied the piano at the University of Adelaide’s Elder Conservatorium of Music. Like most of her friends Betty did no paid work. She played bridge, attended musical functions, visited family and friends and helped her Mother entertain. Although she played tennis, Betty was not an athletic girl. We lived only 6 houses from the beach and I never remember her going swimming with us.
The Saunders family often spent enjoyable summer holidays at Glenelg, so they decided that they would live there. While looking for a suitable house to purchase they lived first in a block of large flats on the corner of South Esplanade and Kent Street, then on the corner of Kent Street and St. John’s Row. In 1930 they purchased a villa at 31 South Esplanade. In early 1939 this house was demolished and in its place they built a block of flats which are still there.
Betty never lived at 31 South Esplanade. One Sunday, walking on the Glenelg Jetty, Ray, Sol and Betty met Hannah, Harrie and Wally Bridgland. The two couples knew each other but Betty and Wally had never met, so as was the custom of the day, they were formerly introduced to each other. They were both in their teens.
Marriage and Family
On the 9th of April, 1929 Betty, then aged 23, and Wally, who was 21, were married in the Synagogue, Synagogue Place, Adelaide. There were 200 guests at the wedding and at the Reception which followed.
For the first four years of their married life Betty and Wally lived in a small house at 3 Augusta Street, Glenelg, a few minutes’ walk to the beach. On 24th February 1930, Betty gave birth to a daughter, Margot Elizabeth, and on 3rd May, 1933, to a son, Michael Walter. The house in Augusta Street was now too small for their growing family. They moved to a much larger one at 8 Pier Street, Glenelg. After Wally died in 1987, Betty stayed in their family home until her death in 1994.
Interests and Hobbies
Betty had many interests and hobbies – playing the piano, bridge, reading, knitting, fine hand sewing. She enjoyed cooking and was an excellent cook.
Another of her activities was with the Junior Section of the National Council of Jewish Women. Prior to World War II the members provided assistance to young Jewish women refugees from Europe, helping them find accommodation and work.
For many years Betty played a card game called Solo with a group of women friends in the Glenelg area. During World War II they held a raffle in aid of a war charity every time they met.
Like many other women during World War II, Betty learnt to efficiently look after the family’s business affairs.
Betty the Authoress
From Betty herself:
From “Saints Girls Community” published on behalf of St. Peter’s Collegiate Girls’ School Vol. 1, No. 17, April 1991:- “I wrote my first book “Poems for Children” in 1939 and gave all the proceeds to the Red Cross. The second edition was on the market all over Australia. This was used in several schools. I had to have a manager to look after every detail and it was really a trial, so from then on I published the books myself and gave them to special friends. I have written many poems for Royal and other occasions, all of which have been graciously accepted. A copy of “Memories of Yesterday” was sent to the Queen Mother, and I received a lovely letter from Her Majesty saying it brought back happy memories. All my Royal letters and copies of my writings are in the Mortlock Library with the speeches I have given. After my two years as Lady Mayoress of Adelaide I wrote about some of the exciting and wonderful experiences. That book is in the Archives (of the Adelaide City Council) to be used by Social Historians.
For the last nine years I have been nominated as one of the “Australian Women of the Year”. My classification is: Authoress, and former Honorary Magistrate.
Copies of many of Betty’s published works are in the Mitchell Library in Sydney and the State Library of South Australia.
During the War Betty wrote a poem titled “Enlist Now”. This was used by the Deputy Director of Recruiting, the late Col. W.C.N. Waite, during an Enlistment Drive. Betty and Wally had seven grandchildren and Betty wrote many poems to celebrate family occasions. Just prior to Betty’s death in October, 1994, two of Betty’s poems were selected for inclusion in a book called “Hope and Fear – An Anthology of SA Women’s Writing, 1894 – 1994". Unfortunately Betty did not live to see the book published.
Betty was an Executive Committee member of the Glenelg Cottage Homes Inc. For fifteen years, from 1969 to 1984, having passed the necessary exams, she was a Justice of the Peace. She sat on approximately fifteen thousand five hundred cases, many as Chairman of the Court. There were no appeals against any of her decisions. She was a Life Governor of the Adelaide Children’s Hospital, a Life Member of the Royal Overseas League, an inaugural member of the Australian Branch of the Society of Women Writers and Patroness of several organisations. She was an accomplished public speaker.
Betty was an excellent hostess and of great assistance to Wally in his Public Life.
Betty travelled extensively. With me she flew to London via the US in 1953 and saw the Coronation Procession of Queen Elizabeth II. Walter met us in London and we travelled round the UK and Europe.
In 1960 Betty and Walter again visited the US, UK and Europe. They visited Fiji several times, and other Pacific Islands. They made twelve visits to Singapore and several to Malaysia. It was on one of their visits to Malaysia, to Georgetown, the capital of the island State of Penang, that Walter initiated the setting up of the Sister City relationship between Adelaide and Georgetown.
From Nomination Day to Assuming of Office, Betty and Wally had two months to re-organise their lives so that they could give almost all of their time to Civic duties for the next two years. Whenever possible they kept their weekends free to see their family and friends, and for Wally to watch cricket or football, and to swim summer and winter.
During Betty’s time as Lady Mayoress any entertaining she did was in the Queen Adelaide Room. In those days the Lady Mayoress’ Room was a small room with a door connecting it to the Queen Adelaide Room. It was just large enough for the Lady Mayoress and her Secretary. She had no private bathroom as Lady Mayoresses have today. However, she did have a Secretary who was either full time or nearly full time. Her knowledge was of great assistance to the Lady Mayoresses.
Bailey, M, Interview, Oral History told to Margot Bailey by her parents Elizabeth and Walter Bridgland and Margot Bailey's own recollections.
St. Peter's Collegiate Girls' School, Saints Girls Community, St. Peter’s Collegiate Girls’ School, Vol. 1, No. 17, April 1991.