Queen's message cause for alarm

Anne Dickinson celebrates her 100th birthday at Wanaka's Elmslie House rest-home yesterday. Photo by Lucy Ibbotson.
Anne Dickinson celebrates her 100th birthday at Wanaka's Elmslie House rest-home yesterday. Photo by Lucy Ibbotson.

Anne Dickinson's method of preserving her birthday message from the Queen caused some excitement at the Wanaka centenarian's rest-home this week.

Enlisting the help of her son and daughter-in-law and a kettle, Mrs Dickinson - a keen royalist who turned 100 yesterday - had the Queen's birthday greetings carefully steamed open to keep the regal envelope intact.

However, their efforts triggered the fire alarm and brought staff members running at Elmslie House rest-home, where Mrs Dickinson has lived for five and a-half years.

There was much relief the opening of the monarch's message, not a fire, was the cause of the commotion, son Chris said.

The eldest and sole surviving sibling of four children, Mrs Dickinson (nee Anstiss) spent a large part of her life in Canterbury.

She lived initially in Glentunnel, then at the Isleworth settlement near Ashburton, where her father was among the returned servicemen awarded balloted farm land after the war.

The family later moved to Christchurch, where Mrs Dickinson met husband Clifford.

Three weeks after the couple married in 1941, Mr Dickinson went to serve in the war and the newlyweds did not see each other for four and a-half years, during which time Mrs Dickinson worked as a nurse in Christchurch and Kaikoura.

After the war, the couple had two children and eventually moved to Nelson, where Mrs Dickinson was secretary at Tahunanui School for 17 years.

''They were 17 great years. They even keep in touch with me still.''

In 1989, the couple moved to Balclutha, where Mrs Dickinson's ''wonderful husband'' died in 2000.

Eight years later, she shifted to Wanaka, where daughter Julien Bissett and her family live.

A big rugby and cricket fan, Mrs Dickinson also enjoys the odd flutter on the horses, a passion she shared with her father and brother and which stemmed from her farm days at Isleworth, when her ''greatest thrill'' was having her own pony.

Key to her long life was having a ''happy family'', many of whom came from ''far and near'' to celebrate at an afternoon tea in her honour yesterday, including most of her four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

She was thankful for her good health and the staff at Elmslie House who gave the place a ''lovely family feeling''.

Of the many flowers and birthday messages received, pride of place went to Mrs Dickinson's perfectly-preserved correspondence from the Queen.

''I think she's amazing,'' she said.

lucy.ibbotson@odt.co.nz