A news article on her from 2002
From princes to politicians, ace tenant Esther's seen it all
BY IAN WARDEN
09 Jan, 2002 06:38 AM
When you've sat and nattered with and been asked to play tennis for someone as regal as the Prince of Wales, (the one who went on to become Edward VIII before his abdication in 1936), a visit from the self-effacing ACT Minister for Urban Services is not going to unnerve you.
Mrs Esther Miller, 92, of Mawson, was very grateful but not at all awed yesterday when Urban Services Minister Bill Wood presented her with an award as the ACT Housing Tenant of the Month for January.
The hands that accepted yesterday's award have accepted a treasure trove of trophies down the years because in the 1920s and 1930s Mrs Miller, for some of that time Miss Esther "Bobbie" Heine, was one of the world's best tennis players.
She was the singles, doubles and mixed doubles champion of South Africa many times (she migrated to Australia 24 years ago) and a French Open doubles champion and she played at Wimbledon several times. At Wimbledon in 1927, just 17, she and her partner were losing finalists in the women's doubles.
"I got a voucher for 10, and a medal. That was my prize!" Mrs Miller laughed yesterday, marvelling at the millions given in prize money today.
Then in 1929 and in England for that summer's Wimbledon she did far, far better than the wistful girl in the famous hit song of the time who sings "I danced with a man who danced with a girl who danced with the Prince of Wales" and who goes on to report third hand what banalities the remote HRH had to say.
Mrs Miller, then "Bobbie" Heine, met the Prince and sat and socialised with him, finding she had to explain lawn tennis to him.
"Every year," Mrs Miller explained yesterday, "Lady Wavertree, who was a great London socialite, gave charity matches for some charity or other and I got an invitation to play at her courts for her charity. Oh there were film stars and royalty galore!"
There is certainly royalty galore in the photograph taken at the occasion. As well as the Prince of Wales there is, seated on Mrs Miller's immediate left and in a helmet-like hat, the Queen of Romania.
Mrs Miller remembers that she didn't find the heir to the British throne, later to leave the throne to marry Mrs Simpson, especially awe-inspiring.
"I remember him as not knowing anything at all about tennis. I even had to explain to him what a 'net cord' is [it's when a served ball hits the net cord but still falls in and so has to be served again] and that was amusing to me," Mrs Miller chortled yesterday.
"But then he actually asked me to play for his own charity two weeks afterwards, for the Prince of Wales hospital, and I did."
Mrs Miller won her tenant of the month award in part for what the minister called yesterday her "meticulous" garden and in part for being so helpful with the gardens of other retirees in her complex. The good genes and the habits of fitness that made her such an athlete when she was younger now enable her to go on gardening.
As well as all the matches she won, there was the great occasion on the centre court at Wimbledon in 1929 ("My best match I've ever played", she reminisced yesterday) when she played the greatest female tennis player of all time, Helen Wills, and led 4-1 and 30-15 in the first set. But Helen Wills (later Helen Wills Moody) was winning every match she played in those days and wriggled back into the match to win it 8-6, 6-4 and to go on to win one of her eight Wimbledon singles titles.
Mrs Miller, who was en route to Wimbledon for a comeback in 1947 when her plane crashed in Egypt, has two children, six grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren.