For Alexandra woman Esther McKay, entering the royal fold has caused her to reflect on her roots and give thanks for the life she has forged.
Mrs McKay was last week crowned Alexandra Blossom Festival Senior Queen and said the honour had prompted a trip down memory lane.
“Thinking about how to answer the question about community involvement has taken me back to scenes that I had long ago forgotten – where I came from, what my roots are, what I’ve done in my life and who I’ve done it with.”
Mrs McKay said she felt “blessed” to have had the upbringing and family she did and be part of such a “wonderful” community.
“I give thanks to my parents for encouraging me to take opportunities, to [my school] Otago Girls’ High School for my education and to the Alexandra and district community for my ongoing love of life.”
Mrs McKay (76) was the eldest of nine children and a “war baby” who grew up in times of rationing and “living off the smell of an oily rag”, playing on the street with “the kids from down the road”.
She was “my mum’s helper”, taught to “care and share” and formed by a generation and society that held family values dear, worked hard and had fun.
As was often the case in her generation, Mrs McKay’s mother had been unable to do secondary schooling and she always encouraged her children, especially her daughters, to take any opportunities they could, Mrs McKay said.
So Mrs McKay embraced her schooling at Otago Girls’ High School, becoming involved with endless activities and pursuits and making life-long friendships.
“I just loved my school, and I’m so proud to have represented them at the senior queen contest.”
Now the president of the OGHS ex-girls Central Otago branch, Mrs McKay enjoyed the regular gatherings she had with her old school friends, and loved her home community, too.
A teacher by profession, Mrs McKay and her teacher-army husband Colin McKay had taught at various southern schools, including in Romahapa, Poolburn and Dunedin, before settling in Alexandra with their children in 1976.
The entire family was musical, and school concerts, choral festivals, musical productions and choirs were always centre stage, with time for other community involvement, too.
Mrs McKay still does Meals on Wheels, volunteers as a “Granny” at Clyde Primary School and is a member of the Alexandra Dunstan Lions, and lived by the adages “take a turn” and “lend a hand”. She encouraged others to be confident and involved and tell themselves “you’re good enough, and to give things a go”.
“I just do a task if there’s something to be done, really. Often it’s a spur-of-the-moment thing and I think ‘yeah, I can do that’.”
Entering the Senior Queen event was a “double win” as she got to represent both the OGHS ex-girls and honour the women of her generation who had done so much in their communities.
“This event is about our ladies, and everything they have done. It’s good because it makes our community think about the women and what they have contributed.”
She hoped others would continue to support the event (entrants must be aged 70 or over) but said, in the meantime, she was “delighted to take the reins for a year”.
“I’ve got a great life. I just think I’m blessed.”