Margaret Boyce

Mrs Margaret Boyce, who created at 6 Range Street, Toowoomba one of Australia's great gardens an who provided for its care as a public gardening asset in perpetuity in the trust of the University of Queensland, died in Toowoomba on August 24, 1984.

Early Life

Harriet Rose Margaret Hall was born at 'Winsted', Stanthorpe, the home of her maternal grandmother, on December 3, 1906. Her father, Edgar Hall, was a mining engineer and part owner of the mine at Silverspur, a village with a purely mining population of about 800, situated near Texas. Her mother, Rose Helen Hall, nee Cullen, was the daughter of Archibald Kennedy Cullen of Undercliffe Station, N.S.W. Margaret was the youngest of six children.

Education

Margaret's early education was gained both at home, where her mother gave her a grounding in music and French, and at the Silverspur State School. In July 1920 she went to the Glennie Memorial School, Toowoomba, as a boarder holding a State Government Extension Scholarship. For a time she shared a cubicle with Margery Isabel (Nancy) Boyce, sister of her future husband, and they formed a lifelong friendship.

She left the Glennie in December 1922 after the then Queensland University Junior Public Exam. The school gazette records her Junior Pass: English P, French P, Algebra P, Geometry M, English History M, Geography P and Geology M. In her final year she was awarded the 5A Form Prizes for Geology and Geography and the School Prize for Music.

Margaret when youngMargaret had a deep love of music which stayed with her all her life. She learned to play on the family piano at home, a piano her mother gave her on her marriage. She studied and practised continuously, even spending an hour at the piano practising the Bagtelles of Beethoven on the eve of her death. She was a great concert-goer, an active member of the Chamber Music Society in Toowoomba and a subscriber to ABC Concerts in Toowoomba as well as Musica Viva, the Elizabethan Trust Opera and the Lyric Opera in Brisbane. It was principally the music which attracted her to several Adelaide Festivals.

A Country Girl

After passing the Junior examination Margaret returned home to Silverspur. The mine was now "in mothballs" but being maintained in working order in the hope of a revival. It had been badly disadvantaged during the 1914-18 War by a Government confiscation of its output and more lately the 1920 slump in silver.

Her life from 1922 until her marriage in 1930 (apart from her office work and reading) was that of a typical country girl of her background at that time. She helped her mother in the house, scoured the hills in the morning to bring in the horses and the house cow (which she milked) and fed the calf. She made most of her own clothes. Having taught herself to sew she studied fashion magazines and developed a flair for design and a personal style that combined current fashion with considerable individuality.

Marriage

Harriet Rose Margaret Hall and Leslie Atherton Boyce were married at Silverspur on April 29, 1930, and spent the first night of their honeymoon at 6 Range Street. The house had been built for them during the year of their engagement on a piece of virgin bush and rainforest land on the north eastern outskirts of Toowoomba.

The Gardens

It remained her home for the next fifty four years- and both the house and garden were very much her personal creation. She chose the site and aspect of the house and decided the preliminary layout and design of the garden. From then on the garden extended step by step to include a tennis court (in 1937) and a swimming pool terraced out into the rainforest (in 1947).

Margaret BoyceMargaret either originated, or after consideration, approved every detail of development. Her first response to any suggestion tended to be "I'll think about that." She was a perfectionist in the garden. Giving just two instances: she insisted that the 10ft (hedge running north and south between the cutting garden (originally the vegetable garden) and the main front garden be moved back three feet because the line was unpleasing and wrong. The hedge is some 50 ft long - but it was dug out and replanted 3 ft to the west -- and she was right. It looks much better where it stands today. When the pool was being built the wood formwork for the corners was completed in very tight corners. Again the line was less than pleasing, and Margaret undeterred by frowns and reluctance from the builder, was pleasantly but persistently determined that only a wider and gentler curve would be good enough.

The whole garden stands today as a monument to her conception of tranquillity and beauty. From the earliest days her ideal was to preserve the natural beauty of the bushland site and its setting on the mountainside. She was before her time in 'seeing' the beauty of native Australian trees, and because of it the garden is unusual among its contemporaries. Almost all the big old trees here are natives, where the canopy in most other big Australian gardens of the same vintage is almost exclusively provided by exotics. With her husband, she was also responsible for the preservation of a corner of the local rainforest, elsewhere completely extinct. It is a tribute to her perception that so many visitors instinctively react to the garden with such words as "tranquillity", "peacefulness" , "beauty".

In 1969, fulfilling plans dating back to 1956, Dr and Mrs Boyce gave the whole estate of approximately 15 acres in Range Street, Mackenzie Street, Wendy Court and Jellicoe Street in Trust in Perpetuity to the University of Queensland.

Community Involvement

In the early 1950's Mrs Percy, president of the Red Cross Society in Toowoomba, asked Mrs Boyce to convene a local Red Cross "Chelsea" Flower Show. She was the inaugural convenor of a show that became a city attraction annually as well as a major fund-raising event for the Red Cross. Continuing as convenor foe some five or six years, she put a great deal of thought, artistry and plain hard work into "Chelseas" in the Soldiers' Memorial Hall each spring , enlisting a large and talented band of assistants.

Abroad, Mrs Boyce was a member of the National Trust and the Royal Horticultural Society. During a number of visits to the United Kingdom, she was an interested and observant visitor to many of the great National Trust homes and gardens, to other famous gardens both in the U.K. and in other countries she visited, and to the Royal Horticultural society's headquarters at Wisley.

Mrs Boyce spent a happy last year in her home and garden, with the cats which were always a part of her life, still enjoying a full and useful social and community life, driving herself to do the weekly shopping, still adding to her extraordinary knowledge of flowering plants, still creating the beautiful bowls of flowers for which she was famous in Toowoomba (she made a magnificent "bank" of daffodils on a mantelpiece to decorate the venue for Daryl and Glennis Mears' wedding reception in the last week of her life.

Her Death

Harriet Rose Margaret Boyce died on August 24, 1984, peacefully, and as far as we know and hope painlessly, after only one day's illness, unconscious after a very severe cerebral stroke on the morning of August 23.

After a funeral service in St Luke's Church, followed by a private cremation as she had requested in a letter attached to her Will, her ashes were scattered over one of her favourite spots in the garden and a simple tablet erected to her memory.