Farewell to friends

Central Leader - - News - By Scott Mor­gan

PO­LIT­I­CAL be­liefs were left at the Pt Che­va­lier RSA’s door last week when for­mer prime min­is­ter He­len Clark bid farewell to lo­cals from her Mt Al­bert elec­torate.

It was clear from con­ver­sa­tions go­ing on around the room that club mem­bers spread their votes across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum in Novem­ber’s elec­tion.

But the ova­tion Miss Clark re­ceived af­ter walk­ing in the door high­lighted their ap­pre­ci­a­tion of her work as the RSA’s pa­tron and lo­cal MP dur­ing the past 27 years.

The 59-year-old made her way around the room for at least half an hour, greet­ing peo­ple and pos­ing for pho­tos.

She goes to New York on Mon­day to head up the United Na­tions de­vel­op­ment pro­gramme.

Pt Che­va­lier RSA pres­i­dent James McArthur told the crowd of his ap­pre­ci­a­tion for Miss Clark’s ded­i­ca­tion to at­tend­ing lo­cal events de­spite her heavy work­load as prime min­is­ter.

“She’s al­ways been here re­li­giously ev­ery An­zac Day. She al­ways made time.”

For­mer pres­i­dent An­gus McKel­lar re­called the first time he met Miss Clark at a trade union meet­ing be­fore she be­came the Labour can­di­date for Mt Al­bert.

“I hadn’t re­alised how her life and my life would cross paths over 27 years.

“It’s been an hon­our to see you again. We have al­ways been friends and it will stay that way.”

Mr McKel­lar says the club was de­ter­mined not to ditch Miss Clark as pa­tron when Pt Che­va­lier was trans­ferred to the Auck­land Cen­tral elec­torate for the 2005 elec­tion.

“I thought, we can’t do that to He­len. She’s been here all th­ese years. We made Ju­dith Tizard a co-pa­tron.”

Pt Che­va­lier re­turned to the Mt Al­bert elec­torate af­ter last year’s elec­tion, but the new MP might have to share the hon­our of be­ing pa­tron, with the club ask­ing Miss Clark to stay on de­spite her new role.

“I’m very proud to stay as pa­tron of the club. There’s been so many in­cred­i­ble peo­ple here,” she told the crowd.

Miss Clark also rem­i­nisced about the first time she walked into the club as the Labour Party can­di­date for Mt Al­bert in 1980.

“I re­mem­ber when I was se­lected some peo­ple said a woman will never win that seat. She won’t get on with the peo­ple at the RSA and the bowl­ing club.

“I thought bug­ger that, I will.”

She also re­called hav­ing her skills tested on var­i­ous bowl­ing greens around the elec­torate.

“There’s been so many good times at the bowl­ing clubs. I’m of­ten asked to roll out the first ball. Some­times I got it right and some­times I didn’t.”

As Miss Clark wrapped up her speech with a prom­ise to pop in when­ever she’s back in Auck­land, the en­tire room erupted into a ren­di­tion of For She’s a Jolly Good Fel­low.

Photo: SCOTT MOR­GAN

Fond farewell: For­mer prime min­is­ter He­len Clark says good­bye to friends at the Pt Che­va­lier RSA, in­clud­ing for­mer pres­i­dent An­gus McKel­lar, left, and cur­rent pres­i­dent James McArthur.

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