Mabel Lorna Hayes was Lady Mayoress of the City of Adelaide (married to the Lord Mayor) between 1971-1973.
Mabel, the youngest daughter of Mr Albert Ernest and Hilda Evelyn Allen, was born on the 19th of March 1918 at Bute in the state’s mid North. Her family moved to Myrtle Bank in the 1920s. She married William (Bill) Hubert Hayes, the only son of Mr and Mrs John N. Hayes at the Rosefield Methodist Church on the 28th of March 1942 and not long after, in April, Bill enlisted in the Army.
Bill served in the army for a year before being discharged on medical grounds and after the war, he began his career in the automotive industry, buying army surplus trucks and spare parts in the Northern Territory and bringing them to South Australia for reconditioning and resale. During this time, Bill devoted his time to the automobile industry, working six or seven days a week however he did find time to compete in the 1953, ’54 and ’55 Redex trials and two Australian Grand Prix.
Bill was able to purchase two acres of land at 260 Gouger Street which is currently the site of the Australia Post Distribution Centre and a family home in Victoria Avenue Unley Park, in the early 1950s, where the couple raised three children. In the late 1960s Bill bought shares in United Motors Holdings Limited, eventually owning 40 percent of it’s equity and becoming Chairman.
In his younger years, Bill had considered entering public life but his business interests had taken precedence. The seed was sown in 1952 whilst he and Mabel were travelling in England. The couple were invited to the country residence of Major Morrison (the ‘whip’ in the conservative conservative government). Also present were Robert and Juliet Clampett - another South Australian couple and another future Lord and Lady Mayoress. The couple discussed home and Robert Clampett expressed his intention to run for council on their return.
Life as Lady Mayoress
Opportunities came and went until 1962 when Bill Hayes stood as an independent councillor and was elected. Bill Hayes served council for the next nine years and was elected Lord Mayor, unopposed, in 1971. Bill Hayes’ term as Lord Mayor marked a shift in the way council operated and it would be fair to say that some of the reforms he introduced are still in place today. Bill advocated for a city wide strategic plan (only the second such plan in the city’s history) and that this plan should be developed by external consultants, something which put him at odds with the Town Clerk and Chief Engineer but signalled to the government and particularly to the Premier, Don Dunstan, that the council under Lord Mayor Hayes was serious about change.
Another change that occurred at this time was the cancellation of the Lord Mayor’s ball. This event had previously been held every two years with a garden party in the intervening years. However, the new Lord Mayor felt that the Lord Mayor’s Ball had become too exclusive with the same attendees every year. Hayes opted instead for a large garden party in Rymill Park with Sir Mark Oliphant as the guest of honour and a wider cross section of people from different professions, institutions and organisations attended.
It was during Hayes’ term as Lord Mayor that Adelaide’s sister city agreement with Christchurch, New Zealand, was formed. After a discussion with the New Zealand High Commissioner at the Melbourne Cup in 1972, Bill and Mabel travelled to Christchurch to attend the opening of their new city hall and formalised the arrangement.
The Lord and Lady Mayoress were present at the opening of the Adelaide Festival Theatre in June of 1973. Opened by Gough Whitlam and attended by Don Dunstan, the Lord Mayor and Premier gave short speeches which were followed by a lengthier one from Gough Whitlam. As they left the stage, the Prime Minister gently admonished the other two for not letting him know they intended to speak without notes.
Despite cancelling the Lord Mayor’s Ball, Hayes strongly supported the Town Hall’s New Year’s Eve celebrations. These celebrations consisted of a dinner party for invited guests with an appearance on the Town Hall balcony at 11:55pm. The Town Clerk had concerns about the ‘rowdy crowds’ and counselled the Lord Mayor to not appear on the balcony. Bill could not see any reason not to continue with this tradition; however, he asked his guests to stay inside. He and Mabel stepped onto the balcony where he made a short speech and waited for a moment before turning to go back inside but just as they were about to leave, a reveller threw a bag of flour at the Lord Mayor which hit him in the chest and burst ‘so I looked almost like a snowman when I went back to meet my guests again’. The Lord Mayoral New Year’s Eve dinner party and appearance on the balcony were cancelled after this.
Bill Hughes retired from the Lord Mayoralty in 1973 and served as an Alderman until 1978 when he became the Chairman of the Electricity Trust of South Australia.
As Lady Mayoress, Mabel had a practice of inviting the partners of Mayors and Members of Council from different areas, as well as the partners of State and Federal Parliaments to the Town Hall each year.
Bill Hayes was made awarded a Member of the Order of Australia for his services to Local Government in 1975. He died on the 4th of January 2002. Mabel Passed away on the 22nd of February 2017, aged 98 years.
City of Adelaide Oral History Project, 1984.
South Australian Births-Index of Registrations 1907-1928
The Advertiser, 'Family Notices,' 25 March 1942, p10.