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Lady Muriel Naomi Heydon (1909–1995)

Undoubtedly, the skills acquired by Lady Naomi Heydon as an international skater, in the sport's heyday during the 1930s, held her in good stead over the 21 years she later spent on overseas missions as the wife of leading Australian diplomat Sir Peter Heydon.

Intelligent, gracious and with great strength of character, Lady Heydon, who was 86 when she died last Friday, was highly respected in government and diplomatic circles for the personal contribution she made to the success of Sir Peter's missions to Russia, England, Brazil, New Zealand and India from 1942 to 1961.

A linguist with an honours degree in French and Spanish from the University of Toronto, Lady Heydon was born Muriel Naomi Slater in Ottowa, Canada, on October 13, 1909.

Always a keen and talented sportswoman, she declined offers to become a professional skater but represented Canada with distinction in amateur world skating tournaments, and was a champion golfer.

In skating, she won the Canadian waltz championship and she and her partners gained second place in the North America fours championships in 1936. In 1937, she took part in an extensive skating exhibition tour throughout North America.

In golf, her lowest handicap was 13 but her record in leadership was possibly unique. She was captain of the Royal Ottowa Golf Club Associates in the 1930s and of the Delhi Golf Club Associates in the 1950s.

On Sir Peter's appointment as Secretary to the Department of Immigration in 1961, the family was domiciled in Canberra and Lady Heydon became an active member of the Royal Canberra Golf Club Associates. She was president in 1962-63 and was later made a life member.

Lady Heydon led an active community life and was particularly well known for the work she carried out for the YWCA.

While Sir Peter was High Commissioner to India, she served as vice-president and finance-committee chairman of the Delhi YWCA. This work included making weekly visits to a leper colony.

In Canberra, she became the association's vice-president and president and was made a life member in the 1970s.

On posts abroad, Lady Heydon developed her linguistic skills, becoming fluent in Russia, Portuguese and Hindi.

She was regarded as an excellent hostess and became a role model for the partners of other Australian diplomats serving over seas.

In a eulogy to her husband (who died in 1971), historian L .F. Crisp spoke of "a tempo, a temper and a tone" in the Heydons' relationship which had made working with them not only a happy but also a fruitful experience for "younger External Affairs men [and their wives]".

Lady Heydon was an enthusiastic exponent of the arts and was a member of the board of Australia's first festival of creative arts and sciences, Australia 1975.

Her main interest in later life was researching the details of her Canadian family, who had been pioneers in the Ottawa Valley in 1816. She published a family history, titled Looking Back, in 1980.

In 1986, she had a severe stroke and was left without speech and with her right side paralysed. She had been in very poor health over the past nine years.

Lady Heydon is survived by her three children, Dyson Heydon, JuliaHoffman and Pam Crichton, and her eight grand children.

Original publication

Additional Resources

Citation details

'Heydon, Lady Muriel Naomi (1909–1995)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 18 June 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Slater, Muriel Naomi

13 October, 1909
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada


29 December, 1995 (aged 86)
Curtin, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia

Cause of Death


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