Mollie McWilliam

From Waler Data Base @FaceBook. Image: Mollie McWilliam, Sydney Mail, 10th April, 1929.

Mollie McWilliam – equestrienne and athlete extraordinaire! Her name was Alice Mary McWilliam but she was always known as Mollie.

She rode from age six, and doted on horses so much her Dad, Fred McWilliam, got her a taffy pony named Dolly when she turned seven. Mollie competed from 10 years old at the Sydney Royal – where she won that year and all other years – and countless other shows. Hundreds if not thousands of ribbons and trophies. Didn’t miss a Royal from 1920 until 1941 (when it shut for the war years).

Mollie also helped others – keenly encouraging girls and women to ride – even doing regular talks on the wireless about it.

As well as winning at jumps, hacking, dressage, in hand classes with ponies, and mounted games including tilting the ring, Mollie played polocrosse – and coached young women to encourage their participation – and was instrumental in setting up all female teams.

There became keen competition to get on women’s polocrosse teams such as the first to compete at Sydney Royal in 1949 – yes Mollie made it onto the team! As well as riding in many other classes there. Oh yes, and won the polocrosse comp. She’d captained Ingleburn in previous years and travelled to NZ with them to compete, and won the Redburn Cup against Burradoo in 1950, and, and…

Mollie McWilliam and Polocrosse team
Pix, 13th July 1936

Ingleburn team for Sydney Royal, The Land, 25th February 1949

Mollie somehow found time to also become the Champion Speed Skater of Australia!

…and a champion skier – spending winters at Kosciusko

…and an ice hockey player

…and a top class surfer

…and a great mountaineer – being the first female to ascend Mt Kosciusko – the NSW Skiing Association gave her a gold medal for that!

…and found time to be the Secretary of NSW Ladies Ice Hockey Association… to organise and host gymkhanas on the family property Sunnyside at Kogarah, Sydney… to start a riding club in 1929 for girls, the Ingleburn Horse and Pony Club of which she was President for many years and for which she organised a tremendous annual show… and to write for magazines and newspapers about riding, to help others

… and do wireless (radio) shows for the ABC’s Women’s Association about riding including polocrosse including Question Time when listeners phoned in with horse and riding queries, specialising some nights in Beginner Riders talk and questions, and hosted the Girl’s Radio Club… and covered Women’s Winter Sports for ABC radio…

…and organised hunt meets at Camden with Marie Lysaght… bred and raced a couple of handy horses… organised children’s days at the Glaciarium (skate rink) to teach them skating… yes of course she was on the Glaciarium Committee and organised teas and tremendous children’s days with fun and prizes and displays… and ran many fundraisers over the war years of WW2. As a little child she’d helped her family run many fund raisers over the WW1 years… and more.

Mollie McWilliam champion horsewoman

Image: Sunday Times, 1st Dec 1929

In 1920, in the girls under 13 class, she showed Dolly and Molly and did well. Mollie herself was only 10 years old.

After that she usually took four ponies to shows, as well as her hacks.

Gus, the grey in the photo, was a pony bred by a cattle man and gifted to her – she won several hundred ribbons on him – he was superb games pony.

The article accompanying the two images right below discussed correct riding technique by Mollie, to help encourage awareness of correct technique she introduced Equitation to this show as a class.

Mollie on her hack Esk, taking a brush jump on her husband’s property Box Hill Minto, during the Legacy Club’s Easter Horse Show. The Sun, 7th April, 1946

Images top to bottom:

Miss Mollie McWilliam, the noted NSW equestrienne, snapped at Collaroy with the Misses E. and M. Greenland of Strathfield NSW. The Home (magazine) 1st March 1932

Daily Telegraph, 18th January 1930. Mollie on the right, on Victor and Nancy Mann on the left on Gus. Both mounts belonged to Mollie, Gus was station bred from cattle horses.

Several of the family and extended family had joined up in WW1, including the Light Horse. Mollie was the fifth of seven children, one brother was in the Navy in WW1.

Mollie McWilliam and her pony Cadger

Image: Mollie and her pony Cadger, Labor Daily, 17th March 1928

At a show in 1930 where she’d taken several ponies, Mollie was asked her hobbies outside horses – she said housework and flirting! Where did she find the time?!

Mollie rode good horses of country breeding (Walers) and kept, bred and showed ponies all her life too. As she played polocrosse she usually referred to her mounts as ponies – although some were galloway and some horse sized, she did have pony sized ponies too. She had three ex-racehorses, stayers, which became top show jumpers – Curtius, Glen Syce and Forward.

In 1933 Mollie married Tom (Thomas Henry) Kelly, another keen show rider. They lived in Sydney and spent a lot of time on their property of 250 acres at Bowral where they kept eleven horses between them. They didn’t have children however had a happy marriage.

Mollie passed away in 1978. A simply incredible Australian – what’s more she’s the Great Aunty of Angela, our busy elf who helps with the FaceBook page and who does the website – keeping it fresh, constantly loading photos and stories – she too generously finds time for good deeds when not looking after her many Walers and setting up great Waler information displays for the public … wow, what an absolutely tremendous relative!

There’s a famous lady drover in the family too… for another time! Angela casually mentioned Grandpa’s sister Mollie had won some riding prizes, so I (Janet) looked her up. Lordy lordy! yes she did indeed! The female rider who probably competed at the most Sydney Royals (at least 30) – someone may know how many please?

Probably lots of good photos in archives but the Royal Show photos don’t name the people so used newspaper photos here – plenty more to be found in archives.

Image: The Land, 25th February 1949

Mollie McWilliam, winning pair of hacks

Image: Sydney Morning Herald, 2nd February 1935

Posted by Enoch Waler

Waler gelding purpose bred to help educate and advocate for Walers, in person and via Facebook and Instagram.