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Lady Hay, 1887

Freeman Brothers

albumen silver photograph on cabinet card (mount: 16.4 cm x 10.5 cm, image: 14.9 cm x 10.0 cm)

Lady Hay, née Chalmers (c.1806-1892) was reported at the time of her death to have been about ten years older than Hay. Her obituary stated that having come to the colony very soon after her marriage in 1838 she had ‘suffered all the inconveniences of pioneer life’ with Hay for sixteen years. When John and Mary Hay moved to Sydney in the mid-1850s, they lived at Buckhurst in Rose Bay, then Mount Adelaide in Darling Point (owned by Thomas Sutcliffe Mort). In about 1865 the couple moved into the John Verge-designed Rose Bay Cottage, in fact a commodious home on Salisbury Road occupying some seven acres of land. There, they were surrounded by a notable garden laid out by the nurseryman John Gelding and appear to have entertained in a low-key, hospitable way. The Hays adopted a Sydney boy named John Hay Fowler, who had been orphaned at twelve; he worked first in the Mercantile Bank, and then as overseer and manager at Bringagee Station, Hay, for seventeen years until his death in 1911. According to the website of the Woollahra Municipal Council, the couple also adopted an orphan named Jane Brennan. As her husband was dying in his room in January 1892, Lady Hay made her farewell to him and retired to her room. Hours later, she sank into paralysis, occasioning the poignant headline in the Telegraph, ‘Sir John Hay Dead. Lady Hay Insensible.’ Without regaining any vigour, she died in the room ten days later. Most of Hay’s estate of almost £59 000 was left to the children of his brother James.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2015

Accession number: 2015.54

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Freeman Brothers

Lady Mary Hay (age 81 in 1887)

Subject professions

Agriculture and farming

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