Margaret Shaw was Mayoress of Adelaide between 1888 and 1889.

Early Life

Margaret Shaw (also her maiden name) was born in Tasmania in about 1855. Her parents, Margaret née Byers and John Shaw, were from Scotland. In 1854, two years after they wed, Margaret’s parents migrated to Tasmania – or Van Diemen’s Land as it was then known – with their baby son, George. Soon after Margaret’s birth, the family moved to Kyneton in the Macedon Ranges region of Victoria. Six more siblings were to follow – and all survived well into adulthood.

Margaret’s husband, James, was born in 1846 in County Down, Ireland. He had left Ireland for New Zealand in 1864, but soon moved to Melbourne where he began working for the government railways and public works departments.

Margaret and James wed at Kyneton in 1875. After the birth of their first child, Hugh, in 1876, the couple moved to Adelaide. James soon became prominent as a builder and contractor while at the same time taking an active part in civic affairs. Margaret gave birth to another son, James, in 1878; a daughter, Margaret, was born two years later.


Margaret was Mayoress for one year.

James was Mayor of Adelaide from 1888 to 1889, before returning to the building trade. James then took the family to Coolgardie in Western Australia, and in 1894 James was elected the first Mayor of Coolgardie. Margaret was, therefore, that town’s inaugural Mayoress.

Personal Note

Sadly, in that same year, the couple’s eldest son Hugh died after contracting typhoid fever. He was buried in Coolgardie Cemetery.

Eventually Margaret and James moved to Auckland, New Zealand, where their daughter Margaret now lived. After James became ill with gout, his medical advisor suggested a long sea voyage to facilitate recovery. The couple embarked on a trip to England, but James died in London in September 1910.

Margaret returned to New Zealand to live with her daughter. Here she died, only eighteen months later, in March 1912. She was 59.

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Ancestry, accessed 30 August 2015.

Observer, 'Obituary: Mr. James Shaw', 24 September 1910, p45.

Observer, 'Obituary: Mrs. James Shaw', 23 March 1912, p41.

Outback Family History, 'Mayors of Coolgardie', accessed online 30 August 2015.

Wikipedia, 'James Shaw (mayor)', accessed 30 August 2015.