Margaret Reid hits 100! - An OE with a difference…

4 minutes read
Posted 14 February, 2024
Margaret right with daughter Marnie. 1 copy

Margaret with daughter Marnie

Turning 100 this month, Yorkshire-raised Margaret Reid has lived in Queenstown for almost 70 years after 10 years of post-war OE landed the gutsy little Brit here, where she fell in love while housemaiding at Eichardt’s Hotel.

Raised in a village in North Riding, Margaret lived in a large home, her Irish father one of 18 children.

“Every Sunday we had roast dinner and Mum used to make little Yorkshire puddings for us kids in muffin trays,” recalls Margaret, still pretty sharp, 100 years on. “My name was Maggie Shore and the kids at school called me ‘Shaggy More’,” she grins. She was bright at school and eventually learned numerous languages during her travels.

Excelling at sport she was a strong tennis player, however, the beginnings of her university studies to become a physical training teacher were interrupted by World War II. “Hitler came and ruined all that. I was called up for the Women’s Land Army, initially inspecting large boxes of aircraft parts, measuring them down to one thousandth of an inch and documenting them.”

It all became a bit overwhelming at 19, air raid sirens constantly going off, and Margaret was moved to the fields where she was driving an excavator and filling in bomb holes. “I only had a couple of days training. The German POW’s (Prisoners of War) were working in the fields too and I could understand German and heard them talking about me. One said, ‘She’s got a good pair of legs.’ Other more inappropriate suggestions were made, which didn’t faze Margaret who spent three or four years serving in the Land Army.

Once the war ended, she went to Norway to stay with her friend, Alma, who’d married a Norwegian, learning to ski and speak Norwegian, Danish and Swedish before visiting Holland and working with friends. It was then off by ship to America, working all over the US, mostly illegally as an au pair and teacher for wealthy families.

She and her friends lived in Beverly Hills and her friend was working for famous actress Kay Starr, so Margaret saw some big stars. “We were in the car at the lights when Elvis Presley pulled up beside us. He was in the back seat. He seemed shy and modest.”

Fred Astaire also lived around the corner and Margaret met him. “I knew where he lived,” she says.

“I rang my mother and said, while I’m here I might as well go all the way around to New Zealand and Australia.” She worked in the Waitomo Caves, on the remote Molesworth Station, then in the late 1950s was a housemaid at Eichardt’s with Alexa Herron, a fellow Brit who married farmer Lin Herron and settled on the remote Branches Station then Ben Lomond Station.

“One day I was working and looked out the window from Eichardt’s to see a lovely man with wavy, grey/blonde hair at the Mount Cook office (Patagonia site).” She and Ivan married in a registry office with Coronet Peak manager ‘Sugar’ Robinson and his first wife Lorraine in attendance.

“Mrs Lewis had the shop in the Mall – a general store (Madam Woo site), where you could buy bread, milk, ice creams, socks, T-shirts and cake.” Ivan boarded with Mrs Lewis and when they married, they bought a two-storeyed house in Brecon Street for £2500, eventually selling it for $350,000 in 1999. “Ivan thought it was a quiet area, but then Hylton Hensman built the gondola.” About 850 people lived in town then and Margaret penned letters home every Sunday. Winters were harsh. Towels froze on the line.

After their kids, Marnie and Danny born in the early 1960s, grew a little, Margaret worked at Queenstown Library. “Every day I collected the two newspapers to put in the library.”

A keen craftswoman and embroiderer, in the 1970s Margaret then opened a craft shop downtown – The Spider Web, with Jan Spary. “It really took off. We sold knitting, and embroidery cottons. It was never empty.”

Much hilarity was had when the family stayed at Moonlight Lodge with the Herron family, Lin bringing his horse inside the bar.

Margaret’s lived through much heartbreak. Sadly, Ivan died of a heart attack at 52 and Margaret took the kids back to England for six months, returning every year on holiday, then Danny died tragically in an accident, aged only 32.

She took in homestays to help boost her income and later lived next door to Marnie, fully independent and only moving into the rest home 18 months ago, where her Land Army service medal from former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown hangs proudly in her room.

So, what’s the secret to such a long life, Margaret? “Not being greedy and eating too much.”

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Margaret served with the Women’s Land Army in England during World War II


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