Farewell to friends
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.
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.