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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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McIntosh, Hilda Hayward (1886–1958)

by Jill Waterhouse

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

Hilda Hayward McIntosh (1886-1958), schoolteacher and postmistress, was born on 4 December 1886 at Yarrunga, near Berrima, New South Wales, fourth child of native-born parents Samuel Hayter, sawyer, and his wife Ann Matilda, née Webb. The family later lived at Burrawang, where Hilda attended school. On 17 March 1908 she was appointed to teach at Queanbeyan Public School; her salary was £84 a year. At St John's Anglican Church, Moss Vale, on 30 December 1912 she married Hector Gordon McIntosh. A 23-year-old carpenter and joiner who was engaged in the building trade in Canberra, he belonged to a pioneering family which had settled at Majura in 1838. Hector and Hilda moved into the house attached to the Canberra Post Office, on the Yass-Canberra road, Federal Capital Territory. Established in 1863, the post office was one of the oldest in the district and was called Canberra long before the city was so named.

After resigning from her teaching post, Hilda McIntosh replaced Mrs Priscilla Murty as Canberra postmistress on 15 March 1913. She was paid only £30 5s. a year, and took in a lodger to make extra money. With the city's growth and the opening of a new Canberra Post Office at Acton, the McIntoshes renamed their post office Ainslie, after the nearby mountain. The name was officially used from 2 June. In 1913 the postmistress and one assistant handled 33,800 letters (carried by Royal Mail coaches) and 297 telegrams—a telling example of an old form of transport coexisting with modern technology. Revenue for the year totalled £59: postal £44, telegraph £7, telephone £5 and postal notes £3. Hilda also relayed crucial messages about bushfires and accidents.

Although the land was dry and exposed, she and her husband were keen gardeners. They built a windmill, sank a well and installed a pump; and they cooked gooseberry jam in their detached slab-kitchen. Hector enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in August 1918, but was demobilized because of the Armistice. Between 1920 and 1923 the McIntoshes took up soldier-settlement blocks at Callum Brae, Symonston. Hilda left the postal service in 1925. Believing—incorrectly as it turned out—that the city would soon absorb their holding, they sold it and in 1934 moved to Glendon, a sheep-property near Murrumbateman, New South Wales.

Well known for her good singing voice and hearty laugh, Mrs McIntosh was active in the Murrumbateman branch of the Agricultural Bureau of New South Wales, of which her husband was founding president (1936). She devoted time to the Junior Farmers' Club and to the Presbyterian church, and taught sewing at the primary school. In 1948 Hector served as president of the Goodradigbee Shire Council. After his death in 1957, Hilda moved to Yass. Survived by her son and daughter, she died on 8 April 1958 in the district hospital, Yass, and was buried with Presbyterian forms in the local cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • Yass Tribune, 10 Apr 1958
  • Commonwelth of Australia, Post Master General's Dept, General Post Office, Sydney, letter to Mrs H. H. McIntosh, 12 Mar 1913 (privately held)
  • private information.

Citation details

Jill Waterhouse, 'McIntosh, Hilda Hayward (1886–1958)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 28 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

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