Mary-Annette Hay (nee Burgess) – Inducted 2020
Friday, 30 October 2020
Marsden Years: 1935 – 1942 (Year 6 – Year 12)
This award recognises Mary-Annette Hay’s contribution to the artistic heritage of New Zealand as a painter, high profile promoter of wool and its industry and this has continued all her life. See the Te Papa entry

On leaving school during the Second World War Mary-Annette went to the Wellington Art School attached to Wellington Technical College. Here she was introduced to the theatrical world by top teaching theatre producers who then gave her leading roles in several major local productions. With this combination of skills, artistic and theatrical, she became the Wool Board’s Director of Wool Promotion. Her mandate, personal and official, was to take the wonder of wool to the nation and the world turning it from a commodity to a fashion fabric. She became involved in all parts of the wool industry – from the sheep on the hills to the shearing sheds; from the designers to the retailers and finally to the wearers of this beautiful product, whilst acknowledging that wool promotion was part of the country’s history and wealth.

To do this, Mary-Annette dramatized wool’s story as theatre and brought it alive dressing her performers in fashions created by international fashion designers including; Balmain, Worth and Hartnell. As Mary-Annette spoke, the performers mimed the story of the versatility and potential of wool in a colourful setting set to music, with such titles as Wool After Dark, Wool the Versatile, The Inspiration of Wool and The Miracle of Wool. In this process, performed in a theatre or in a huge wool store (for example the Wright Stephenson’s Store in Wanganui) and in the Wellington Town Hall, numerous producers of NZ clothes gained prominence and prosperity here and overseas. Retail stores welcomed her lectures and sales promotions and the Wool Board pleased the wool growers they were representing. During this period both here and in London she met and spoke to the Incorporated Society of Fashion Designers and attended their shows. In Paris Pierre Balmain complimented her by having her photo hanging on his office wall and dressed in his favourite pale pink wool mousseline ball gown which afterwards became famous in New Zealand.

The International Wool Secretariat (IWS) took her to Yorkshire, at the request of the Wool Board, to be in the heart of the wool textile industry. Broadcasting from the BBC and sitting in on Harrods’ Board Meetings, promoting wool, were all part of the London experience and made fascinating telling back in New Zealand.

In 2007, Te Papa, Museum of New Zealand held an exhibition titled, Mary-Annette Hay, Queen of Wool with a poster image of Mary-Annette dressed in Balmain’s wonderful pale pink evening gown. The Exhibition on her life featured for a year at Te Papa.

Mary-Annette Hay’s contribution to an international Exhibition of Fashion featured a wedding dress by Carosa of Rome, remarkable in its design, lined with wool hopsack under cream wool gabardine and embroidered with two circled panels of pearls and semi-precious stones on its train. After hoping it could be seen in New Zealand, where better to wear it in Old St Paul’s on her wedding day,5 December 1953 and again 25 years later in Old St Pauls with her daughter walking down the aisle? As a painter Mary Annette was an elected and founding member of the NZ Academy of Fine Arts and a featured artist in Water Colour New Zealand.

On the Board of the Wellington Civic Trust for 25 years, Mary-Annette participated in further broadcasts and interviews, as a requested speaker, telling the story of a remarkable career.