Labour’s old­est sup­porter


This year marks a cen­tury since two sig­nif­i­cant events - the Labour Party was formed and Mary Farmer was born.

In July 1916, the Labour Party was es­tab­lished. The fol­low­ing month, an Auck­land gro­cer’s wife gave birth to baby girl, Mary, who would be­come the Labour Party’s long­est sur­viv­ing mem­ber.

Mary Farmer has lived through two world wars and the Great De­pres­sion. She still re­mem­bers the open­ing of the har­bour bridge and at­tend­ing the funeral of for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Michael Joseph Sav­age.

Yet in her 100 years, it’s the me­mory of the night she met Lewis Farmer that is etched into Mary’s mind.

‘‘The men stood at the door of the dance and they looked the girls over like a meat mar­ket,’’ she says. ’’I came across this won­der­ful look­ing man... but he went out­side with some­one else.’’

Mary says she ‘‘man­aged to get him even­tu­ally’’ and the postal of­fi­cer worker be­came the 20-yearold’s hus­band. To­gether they went on to have eight chil­dren be­fore Lewis died in 1994.

It was Lewis who Mary says per­suaded her to join the Labour Party.

‘‘He al­ways said, ‘ a work­ing class per­son is bet­ter off with Labour’,’’ Mary says.

‘‘Later I learnt the truth of what he said... I’ve had a good life and a lot of it is due to the Labour Party.’’

Mary was made a life mem­ber the party three years ago and was pre­sented with a gold badge by Labour MP Phil Goff.

Goff was also on hand to cel­e­brate Mary’s 100th birth­day at Sel­wyn Vil­lage in Pt Che­va­lier on Au­gust 6. Most of Mary’s chil­dren, 16 grand­chil­dren and seven great-grand­chil­dren were able to at­tend the morn­ing tea cel­e­bra­tions. The self-de­scribed roy­al­ist was also thrilled to re­ceive a let­ter from Queen El­iz­a­beth.

Mary’s daugh­ter Cather­ine Farmer de­scribes her as very in­de­pen­dent, hav­ing lived on her own un­til six months ago.

It was the gru­elling 19 steps up to the doorstep of her home which per­suaded Mary to move into a re­tire­ment vil­lage.

Mary says she doesn’t have any se­crets as to why she made it to a cen­tury.

‘‘You know what I hon­estly be­lieve is that the Lord de­cides and when the time comes it hap­pens.’’

Labour MP Phil Goff made an ap­pear­ance at Mary Farmer’s 100th birth­day cel­e­bra­tions at Sel­wyn Vil­lage.

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