Passages: Swimming Australia’s First Female President Evelyn Dill-Macky Passes Away Aged 94

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LEADING LADY WITH HER SEOUL MEN: In the middle of four good coaches (Seoul '88) stands "The Leading Lady" Evelyn Dill-Macky with Seoul Olympic coaches (L-R) Ralph Richards, Bernie Mulroy, Laurie Lawrence and Paul Hardman. Photo Courtesy Dill-Macky Family Collection.

Obituary

Australia’s “First Leading Lady” of swimming, Evelyn Dill-Macky AM is being remembered today as a sporting trailblazer and a “second Mum to many” after passing away peacefully in Sydney earlier this week at the ripe old age of 94.

The popular three-time Olympic Swim Team Manageress who was affectionately known around Australian pool decks and in the boardrooms as “Mrs D.”

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Photos Courtesy: Dill-Macky Collection.

In 1992 this deeply experienced technical official from Sydney’s northern suburbs, celebrated a milestone in Australian sport when she was elected as the first ever female and 14th president of Swimming Australia.

It followed decades of male domination in the corridors of the Australian Swimming Union and it wasn’t until the 80s and then the 90s that Dill-Macky and the sport’s first female Executive Director Vena Murray formed a successful female leadership team.

But she was never one to get carried way with any fuss – she just got on with the job.

It followed her four-year term as Swimming Australia Vice President in 1988 after making her mark with the Ryde/Carlile organisation.

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Sally Lockyer and Jenny Turrall with Ursula and Forbes Carlile. Photo Courtesy: Carlile Swimming.

Australian “Mrs D” had served as a Vice-President of Ryde Swimming Club – with dynamic coaching duo Forbes and Ursula Carlile at the helm – during its golden years in the 70s where the likes of Shane Gould, Gail Neall, Jenny Turrall and Sally Lockyer ruled the pool, later becoming the Foundation President of Carlile Swimming Club.

In 1997 she was elected as the first female Life Member of Swimming Australia and also awarded Member of the Order of Australia (AM), for services to swimming as an Olympic team administrator and as president of Swimming Australia.

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Shane Gould with Forbes and Ursula Carlile. Photo Courtesy: Carlile Swimming.

Mrs D wasn’t out of the high flying corporate board member mould or a political appointment, she was a hard-working swimming volunteer official who became “Mum” to Australia’s swimmers for decades.

A lady with a heart of gold and an engaging smile, who had time for everyone, who became manager of the Australian Olympic Swim Teams in Montreal (1976), Los Angeles (1984) and Seoul (1988) as well as the 1986 Commonwealth Games team in Edinburgh and many teams in between.

Mrs D had “looked after” many of those team members as they swam their way through the ranks from club races and district carnivals, to NSW State and National level and onto the Australian teams.

Everyone loved Mrs D and Mrs D loved everyone back twice as much – she knew when the boys on her team were up to mischief before they did – and if they did get into mischief then she’d be the first one to bail them out!

Mrs D ‘s son Richard or “Digby” to all who know him in swimming circles, was a National level backstroke swimmer who also just one of the boys.

His mum just happened to be Mrs D.

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Flying The Flag: Patriotic Aussie Evelyn Dill-Macky Photo Courtesy: Dill-Macky Family Collection

Commonwealth Games silver medallist from Brisbane in 1982 and Carlile stalwart Tim Ford described Evelyn Dill-Macky as …

“a much loved member of the swimming community; talented, courageous, unafraid to speak her mind, but always balanced with a wonderful sense of warmth and compassion for those around her…..and who could forget her wickedly dry sense of humour.”

And this week tributes from Olympians, coaches, managers, swimmers, officials and families came flooding into “Digby’s” Facebook post with the loss of his mum, born in Sydney on March 10,1926, who passed away peacefully in Ashburn House, Gladesville where she had resided since 2009.

“Hello friends,” wrote Rich, “ It is with much sadness that I let you know that we lost my Mum, Evelyn Dill-Macky, yesterday aged 94. Although having had dementia for the past 15 years, we will all remember the strong and caring Mrs D. We will be holding a memorial service for Evelyn later in the year.” A private family service will be held on Tuesday.

Rich recalls their early swimming days when with sister Suanne the Dill-Macky kids started swimming with Carlile Swimming and at the Ryde Swimming Club in 1965 and his Mum’s rise to the top of Swimming Australia.

“Evelyn put her hand up to be a timekeeper from the start – always keen to help a community Club,” said Rich.

“Then she headed down the path of being a NSW accredited technical official, first a timekeeper, judge, chief judge  … referee including refereeing at National and International meets.”

There were no short cuts to the top for Evelyn and Members of her Olympic teams have remembered her fondly.

“What a great innings. She will be sadly missed as she had such a great influence on many people. I was very pleased to have known her and been managed by her. A wonderful lady with a very warm heart…a true icon,” Judy Hudson (1972-1976).

“I loved Mrs D, my Mum away from home. Such an amazing woman,” Dimity Douglas (1984).

“Sad to here. look after yourself and family time like this, you all must stick together,” David “Dick” Orbell (1984):

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“Lots of fun times to remember,” Susie Baumer Photo Courtesy: News Limited (Anthony Weate)

“I had many swimming trips with Mrs D as manager. A wonderful lady and very respected. Certainly will never be forgotten. Lots of fun times to remember,” Suzie Baumer (1984, 1988).

“Sorry to hear, our thoughts are with you and your family. Mrs D was wonderful. I have some great memories with her looking after us at the ‘88 Olympics,” Karin Van Wirdum (1988).

“What a wonderful, wonderful lady she was. I know the last few years haven’t been great for her so I know it’s a blessing also,” Julie McDonald (1988).

“A great woman, thinking of you guys,” Carl Wilson (1988).

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“Thanks Mrs D,” From Tracey Wickham. Photo Courtesy: Hanson Media Collection (Russ McPhedran)

And a passage following the 1976 Montreal Olympics, from Tracey Wickham’s book “Treading Water” describing Mrs D to a tee.

A 14-year-old Wickham, returning from Canada, left her handbag, wallet and passport inside Bahrain airport for the final leg to Sydney.

Wickham wrote: “I panicked and started to cry. I ran over to the women’s swim team manager Evelyn Dill-Macky, who was like my second mum on the trip. She informed the flight attendants and a bus came to take us from the plane to the terminal. I thought for sure my handbag would have been stolen but when I raced to where I had been sitting there it was alongside all my previous items. I was so lucky, but also so embarrassed as Mrs Dill-Macky and I reboarded the plane….I sunk in my seat and was very quiet on the way back to Australia.” But forever grateful to a caring Mrs D.

Australian Olympic Committee officials President John Coates and CEO Matt Carroll were quick to acknowledge the family’s request today for the Olympic flag to be draped at a memorial service later in the year, where the swimming and Olympic community will gather to remember and pay their respects to swimming’s “first leading lady.”

FOOTNOTE: Interestingly to note that, in 1984, a member of the Olympic team was Suzie Landells (silver medallist in 400 IM) who was later to become Evelyn’s daughter-in-law after marrying her Richard after they both met at the AIS.

 

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3 comments

  1. avatar
    Judy Macourt OAM Ku-Ring-Gai

    Deepest sympathy to the Dill -Macky family on the sad loss of your Mum and a swimming legend.
    Ku-Ring-Gai Swimming Club
    Judy Macourt OAM

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