Celebrating life

image13 women had a lot more in common than the fact that they recently turned 70 or would do soon. If you say seventy slowly it does sound old, but we all choose to say 70 quickly and skip the thought from our minds. We are, I think, fortunate that the 55 years since we first met at boarding school  seems like yesterday.
Columba College is a private Presbyterian girls school in Maori Hill, a fashionable suburb of Dunedin. The grey stone Bishops Court building sat formidably on the rise overlooking the city and overlooked the girls strict education. It housed the principals office and a number of dormitories such as Melrose, Selwyn, Ross, Solway and Girton. Austere and very strict we all settled in to boarding school life. In those days we were allowed ‘out’ twice a term to see our families but soon we opted to share holidays with each other staying on farms for our term holidays. We actually spent more days over an average of 3.6 years with each other than we spent with our parents, we brought each up really. We laughed and cried together, shared our success and our disappointments, admired the boys from a distance, shared our innermost thoughts and then we departed. Many didn’t see each other again for years, some were  recently reunited 50 years later and yet it seemed like we all really still knew each other. 55 years later we could share our lives – the good the bad and the ugly!!

The majority of the boarders were from Otago and Southland farming families. The majority of them still live in Otago and Southland. Only one of these ladies came from a city family and guess what? she  married a farmer !
I will briefly introduce you to a bunch of vibrant New Zealand women who claim 65 grandchildren between them and a lifetime of loving, living and adventure.


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Kathryn grew up on the Maniototo, left school and became a kindergarten teacher – but soon married a chap from the same small town of Oturehua and returned ‘home’. Her parents lived there their entire lives as has Kathryn in this small community. Until they retired to Alexandra recently Kathryn cut out her life amongst the rocky outcrops, hot dry summers and snow covered winters on the Maniototo. There isn’t a road on the Maniototo Kathryn doesn’t know as they established a successful transport company and Kathryn drove rural mail runs on miles and miles of gravel dusty roads! Kathryn has travelled the world extensively with her husband and enjoys 5 grandchildren and lots of golf.



Anne’s parents farmed in Opio, near Nightcaps in Western Southland. Anne loved the farm life. In Dunedin she  graduated from General Nurse Training Jan.1968. Then worked at Auckland’s Middlemore Hospital. ICU.at the Clyde Hospital followed by a stint at the Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital in Perth. Anne was married in Alexandra and went to Perth and before settling in Dunedin with her two sons and husband. Since those early days Anne changed husbands but remained in Dunedin. In 1982  married Pete Hodgson. Along with the kids they  travelled to Durham in the Nth East of England. There Anne trained as a Midwife, Pete worked as a Vet and the kids went to school there and spoke like true Geordies. Returned to Dunedin end of 1984. Pete became the Labour MP for Dunedin North Electorate and was a Cabinet Minister in Helen Clark’s Govt. for 9 years. Anne has travelled to many exotic locations around the world. They  have an “African Connection” which came about in 1997 when Pete rescued 2 Africans of a ship in Port Chalmers.They were “political refugees” and we welcomed them into our home, our own young sons having not long moved on! The African Connection is very much alive and well! We will write the book one day soon – before memories fade. Now days Anne can often be seen riding her bike on the roads between her home in Sawyer’s Bay and Port Chalmers. She might be in her seventieth year,  but trust me she is fit.image

Helen grew up on the outer edges of the Maniototo on Linnburn Station. On leaving school she went to work at the dental school in Dunedin. About this time Helen represented Otago at hockey, a sport most of us played while at Columba.
Helen then married a dentist who whisked her off to Wellington where she has spent all of her married life. Helen and her sisters still own the property they grew up on and her love of the Maniototo has not diminished. Helen is an avid bridge player following years of golf and tennis. Helen and her husband travel to Europe every year to visit their daughters one based in Holland and one in the UK.



Sylvia grew up in Oamaru daughter of an accountant – After school Sylvia trained as a school dental nurse. She married a North Otago farmer of dog trial fame and they still live near Omarama on their sheep property. They raised three children. Sylvia is a keen bridge player and helps her husband on the farm. They have four grand daughters boarding at Columba College currently.image

Margaret grew up on Mt Pisa Station near Cromwell. On leaving Columba she worked in a legal office and then the dental school. Margaret met her husband at the famous Joe Brown Dance in St Kilda. Many of us socialized there as teenagers! Margaret married a farmer and settled in Lawrence for approx. 23 years. She played hockey for the Tuapeka Ladies rep team  as did I a few years earlier! They have 3 children and they have 7 grandchildren. Now days they farm at Winchmore in Mid Canterbury where they train and own 3 pacers… one with the gorgeous name ‘Handsome Hero’. Her other loves are choir singing, gardening, quilting and golf. She was reluctant to tell me her handicap but I know she won a prize at the Eagles Tournament recently, so she is pretty good. Margaret has served on numerous committees and is one very busy rural woman.image

Nola grew up in The Ida Valley and married the farmer from a few miles down the road. Nola worked for Wright Stephenson’s in Alexandra in their office on leaving school. After their three children started school Nola did book-keeping from home. Family is of the utmost importance and seeing her children and 6 grandchildren happy and successful ticks all her boxes. Recently widowed Nola travelled to Ireland with a friend to visit grandchildren in Cork. She is about to move into Alexandra, completing a circle from her early days.

Shona lived in Balclutha as a child and now lives in Adelaide. She also did Karitane nursing. Married in Invercargill they had 3 children and she soon chose to become a solo mother. Shona took her young family to  Adelaide in Australia. Shona carried on Karitane Nursing ( nannying) until her retirement. Shona is involved in a very social craft group these days. She is also is a member of the local dart club. Her five grandchildren live in Australia so we were fortunate Shona travelled to join us in Wanaka for the weekend.


Joy hailed from South Otago and went to teachers college in Dunedin. She met her husband when aged 16 and still at boarding school, he was 18 and had left school. Both were from Southland. They Lived at Five River and raised 5 children. Joy played a lot of netball and also coached for 25 years. She taught at the Mossman Primary School. These days she dabbles in water colours and follows sport. They have 13 grand children and reside in Cromwell.IMG_1229

Gaynor grew up on an orchard outside of Roxburgh bordering the beautiful Clutha River. After school Gaynor went to Teachers College in Dunedin. Following a few years teaching she found her way to Canada and married a Canadian. The marriage didn’t survive however Gaynor did survive and settled with her two children in Vancouver. Gaynor is an experienced ‘runner’ and has a few marathons to her credit making her one of the fittest ladies for her age! Gaynor spends the Canadian winters in Wanaka, an ideal solution for an ex pat Kiwi girl. Gaynor is our “Summer” girl having not experienced a winter for many years.

Helen lived at Balfour trained in Invercargill as a nurse. She also married the boy next door, a farmer and raised 3 children. She has 6 grand children. Helen worked for Plexi Craft Studios in Invercargill and hand tinted photos of landscapes mainly, but also of people. She taught leather craft at Invercargill poly tech for 18 years.
She and her husband have travelled the world however India and Mexico are still on Helen’s bucket list. image

Glenis grew up in the Waikaka Valley on a farm with 5 siblings. After Columba she trained at Dunedin Hospital with her twin sister Gail. Glenis did a four-year OE to Europe private nursing. She met a Kiwi boy overseas and they were married for ten years – however five children later the wheels fell off. Glenis had a stint in Hanmer and is grateful for the opportunity to recover her life. This led to her becoming a Drug and Alcohol counselor  for 20 years. Glenis now resides in Ashburton and regularly sees her 6 grandchildren. She was able to laugh and cry with us as she shared her dramatic life journey.image

Joan grew up at Waipahi, then went to board at Columba. Apart from her OE in 1968 farming has been her whole  life. In 1970  married Ross Cockburn, ‘yes an old boy from John McGlashan’ boys boarding school a few streets away – She and John lived on Mt Prospect Station Te Anau. It was a hard life but a good life and they  had three children.  In the eighties Joan started in the hospitality world running a very busy four bedroom Farm Stay. In 2007 they lost the homestead in a midnight fire, everything, but fortunately no lives were lost. 2011 saw them move   into their  new home overlooking Lake Te Anau and now they run Prospect Lodge www.prospectlodge.co.nz , each season is getting busier. We both love cycling and in March will try the new Hokitika trail. They have a trip planned to take all the family to Disney World, Florida in April. Joans’ Motto ‘Do it now’ They  have 3 lovely Grand-Daughters 8,10 and 11.

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 Lynn grew up on a farm on the foothills of the Dunstan Range called Disputed Spur.    After her three plus years at Columba she became a Karitane Nurse and travelled throughout NZ and Australia before going to San Francisco as a nanny. Eventually Lynn returned to Dunedin and worked for The Otago Daily Times and Radio New Zealand. She married  a business man and was transferred to Christchurch, back to Dunedin and then to Auckland. Lynn raised her family in Auckland where they enjoyed years of sailing before she was made a youngish widow. She became a photographer and has a website. www.lynnclaytonphotgraphy.com (Kiwigrannz  also writes blogs ) Lynn was  recently a guest of the Chinese Photo Assoc., all expenses paid to co-judge  the 16th Chinese Salon of Photography, a mere 50,000 images!! Lynn still resides in Auckland and travels to visit her two sons and 5 grandchildren overseas quite regularly. image

None of us were academics, none of us have illustrious careers, but we have all become happy senior people, content with our lives. We have all done charity work and hopefully made a difference in people’s lives, we have  raised successful families, none of our children are in prison and we are not taking drugs. All in all we are typical of the women of New Zealand who are from farming stock. My father didn’t see the point in spending money on education so I could marry the farmer next door!! Funny I had other ideas and left New Zealand aged about 19. Columba College was a school for young ladies; don’t eat on the street, always wear your hat and gloves, hemlines below the knee, hair above the collar and so on… Sunday afternoons we sat around in bottle green velvet dresses* with crochet lace collars! Seriously.

Below:Two photos from our 100th reunion showing we can laugh at those times now.     * see velvet dress hanging up below.image image

Today it is an academic establishment with wonderful scholastic results. One girl from our year is a Professor and a couple did medicine , their parents were academics. How education has changed for rural girls, they are encouraged to pursue all sorts of wonderful careers. Our education was seriously lacking. Our principal back then threw books at us and called us stupid…hardly conducive to learning!

Below, fun in the pool at Mercure Oakridge in Wanaka. This poor unsuspecting chap was having a swim when we all arrived!





18 thoughts on “Celebrating life

  1. This is fantastic Lynn, well done on getting it together, it makes great reading. Wonder how my life would have been had I been a boarder!!

    All the very best


    Dinah Reddihough
    Royal Children’s Hospital
    Developmental Disability & Rehabilitation Research
    The University of Melbourne
    Phone: 03 9345 5898
    Fax: 03 9345 5871
    Email: dinah.reddihough@rch.org.au
    [CRE signature_1]

  2. Spot on, Lynn! Well done, well written! Even though I really enjoyed our boarding school years, it was an austere environment! Isn’t it amazing that we can meet 50 years later, and still know each other very well!

  3. Wonderful to read the account of your fellow school mates Lynn.
    Well done – made interesting reading. I hope I can do something similar with some of my former school friends when I hit the big 7-0!!!

  4. OK Lynn here’s some revisions just for fun .. colour my picture please.. In your blog , about me you say….. I SURVIVE “marriage/kids”, ESCAPE “winter”, & RUN “marathons.. as an ex pat.. HMM

    Here’s my version ( after you colour the pic). It’s probably Columba Girls College I SURVIVED, ESCAPED & RAN around(Speedy).

    My 10 year marriage to Canadian Businessman.. Great stuff. My two Canadian kids.. lots of fun & success. Three Grandchildren. Much more than SURVIVAL.
    I leave the beautiful Canadian Winter to join the New Zealanders in your gorgeous summer.. Much less than ESCAPE.
    I am fit yes, but I don’t RUN, I Racewalk 1/2 Marathons..Much less than a Marathon..

  5. Great read Lynn. It was such a great thing to do catching up after a few years. Hope we do it again soon. Because it went so quick, it is nice to read this blog.
    Cheers Lynn.

  6. Have just married off the youngest -male 37yrs,3 kids – oh how the long dead parents would have been so horrified to have grandchildren out of wedlock!!! Times have changed. Do hope that the next reunion wont coincide with the marriage of the eldest — he’s determined to never marry the wonderful mother of their 2 children! We do have a daughter in the middle/plus spouse and 2 grandkids tho’. Spent the first few years out of school at Lincoln University, worked in forestry research in between travelling, married the chap in the next door office, produced 3 pretty good kids,have spent abit of time trekking in China and Pakistan, travelling here and there and always have a spare bed or two for anyone.
    Great blog Lynn — take care everyone
    Biddy Ledgard x Wilson

  7. What a blessing to have friendships that can span so many years and life experience. You ladies are an encouragement to us coming behind to hang onto the sweet friends God has given us. They are the ones that get us through the crazy!

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