Mary de Crespigny (nee Bartram) grew up with a long family connection to the Royal Melbourne Show. Her grandfather was one of the earliest judges at the Melbourne Show before it was at the current showgrounds, her uncle was President of the Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria (RASV) Council, her cousin was a councillor and also ringmaster, and her father became a councillor too.
Growing up she remembers her mother saying, ‘you don’t do anything in September because it’s the Melbourne Show’. In 1929, Mary competed for the first time in a horse competition at the Royal Melbourne Show. She was three and a half years old. For Mary and her family, horses were the main activity at the Show. ‘Anything you could do with horses we did’, she recalls. However, her mother also showed dogs, chickens and needlework at various times.
Getting to the Show from Heidelberg each year was quite an adventure. As Mary remembers, her family would catch the train, loaded up with animals and gear, which would take all day to get to the showgrounds. ‘We would leave home at about two o'clock in the morning to get to the Heidelberg railway station to get the fast goods train.’ After settling all the animals, her family would commute back and forth each day for the next two weeks.
Mary spent years competing at the Show, as a junior and an adult. She won the inaugural Junior Garryowen in 1940, the same year her mother won the Garryowen Trophy. ‘Garryowen is the thing’, she remembers, ‘all young ladies who learn to ride, or want to learn to ride, want to win the Garryowen’. Competition at the Royal Melbourne Show was the pinnacle each year.
… if you won at the Melbourne Show that was the ultimate. You went to other shows to get yourself into shape and so forth, and practising, and experience for the horses, and the Melbourne Show was the culmination of it.
Mary continued to be involved with the Show, even after she stopped competing, working as a steward for 30 years and as a judge. She was awarded the President’s Medal in 1998 in recognition of her long-standing service to the Show. Mary passed away in March 2021.