May Hardcastle
May Hardcastle

Legend in the tennis world

MARGARET May Hardcastle was born in Brisbane on May 6, 1913, the only daughter of Mr and Mrs G Hardcastle of Northgate.

May, as she became known, received her primary education at Northgate State School where she passed the state scholarship exam in 1927. May attended Brisbane Girl's Grammar School up to 1929. On February 4, 1930, May's parents decided on a boarding school education and enrolled May at the Presbyterian Girls' College in Warwick.

It was while at PGC May quickly established herself as a sportswoman of note. She became very involved in many aspects of college life as a counsellor for school house in her first year at the school. She was a member of the college A tennis team where she soon asserted herself as the best schoolgirl tennis player in the state by winning the Queensland championship in 1930.

The December edition of Miss Thistle, stated: “The tennis team has done good work this year in all matches, except the first, won by a good margin. Most of the team entered in the local tournaments. May Hardcastle won the school girls' championships, an honour won by Jean Allen last year.”

At the 1931 annual speech night, May was awarded a special prize for tennis, as well as winning an academic award for Elementary Shorthand. May was also an exceptional swimmer and member of the college swimming team. In the 1930 Inter-School Championships, May won the 66 yards (60m) freestyle event and broke the five-year-old record by one-fifth of a second. May left PGC in 1931 after a distinguished two years at the school.

May then returned home to Northgate to work as a clerical assistant. She embarked on a tennis career that would make her a household name in Queensland in the years leading up to the Second World War.

At the age of 18 in 1932, May was the Queensland Junior Tennis Champion, and up to 1942, her career highlights included:

Four-times winner of the Queensland Open Grass Court Championship in 1934,1937,1939 and 1940.

In 1939 she won the Australian Hardcourt Championship and the New Zealand Singles, Doubles and Mixed Doubles championships.

In 1937, while ranked ninth in an exhibition tournament. She defeated the top three tennis players in Australia; Thelma Coyne, Emily Westacott and Nancy Wynne.

Teamed with Emily Westacott to defeat Hopman and Stevenson in doubles in 1937.

Created Queensland sports history by becoming the first female sport person to win the coveted Telegraph Blue of Blues, the equivalent to the present Queensland Sports Star of the Year Award.

May's ambition to represent Australia at Wimbledon was prevented by the outbreak of war in 1939, but she did go on tour with the Australian team to New Zealand in 1939 and 1940.

With the Second World War now on Australia's doorstep in New Guinea and the Pacific, May turned her energies to the war effort by enlisting in the Australian Army Medical Women's Services on February 4,1942, at Brisbane as a nursing aide.

She was immediately posted to the new military hospital at Greenslopes which was opened to accommodate the casualties coming home from the Middle East campaigns. Keen to do more, May joined the AIF and awaited posting to a war zone where she felt she was really needed.

In 1943, May got her wish when she was posted to the 2/5th Australian General Hospital at Morotai where she served for nine months nursing prisoners of war back to health.

When the war ended on August 15, 1945, May was posted back to Australia where she worked at Greenslopes until her discharge on April 2, 1946.

After the war, May played tennis again in the 1946 Australian Tennis Championships but the four-year absence from the game had its effect and May's last recorded tennis match was in November 1947 when she partnered another old PGC girl Miss Peters in a doubles match in Warwick.

May never forgot her old school and was a frequent visitor to the college over the years and a prominent Past Students' Association member.

She attended all reunions and kept in touch with all her old friends. A very modest letter was received at the school when Miss Lorelle Corey asked her to write a brief profile on her achievements and May's last paragraph said: “Sorry I can't be more interesting”. What an understatement.

May's latter years saw her as a very committed and devoted member of the Returned Servicemen's League in which she proudly received a Service Award for 50-years continuous service. She also maintained a long association with the Red Cross and the Victoria League.

May Hardcastle, legendary old girl of Presbyterian Girls' College Warwick, passed away on August 22, 2002, at the age of 89.

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