South Otago celebrates con woman

Lynne Johnson, the great-niece of conwoman Amy Bock (pictured behind) inspects a wedding jacket...
Lynne Johnson, the great-niece of conwoman Amy Bock (pictured behind) inspects a wedding jacket worn by a Mr Bates at the controversial wedding ceremony, which will be re-enacted on Easter Saturday. Mrs Johnson, from Canberra, and Taranaki artist Fiona Clark are the special guests at the Bock centennial arts exhibition, which opens this weekend at the Creative Arts Centre in Balclutha. Photo by Glenn Conway.
Amy Bock became infamous 100 years ago after disguising herself as a man and wooing a Kaka Point woman.

South Otago is marking the centenary with a variety of events, Glenn Conway reports.

As far as scandals go, it was pretty big.

Amy Bock became infamous throughout New Zealand early last century after disguising herself as a man - wealthy sheep farmer Percy Redwood - and marrying Kaka Point woman Agnes Ottaway on April 21, 1909.

It is the kind of incident that many communities would try to forget. Not South Otago.

The exploits of the conwoman Bock are being "celebrated" this month as the 100th anniversary of her dastardly manipulations is marked.

Everywhere you turn in Balclutha during April, she will be there.

Speakers will dissect her motives, a multimedia exhibition will celebrate her life and actors will re-create the infamous "wedding" in an event complete with large wedding marquee and period costumes.

An Edwardian afternoon tea will be served after the re-enactment, as a brass band plays.

Even descendants of the families involved have been invited.

South Otago Museum curator Gary Ross, the driving force behind the Bock centennial celebrations, is excited to see momentum growing for the occasion.

The wedding re-enactment will be the focal point and take centre stage, but the celebrations have developed and taken on a life on their own, he says.

Among the descendants of the Bock family attending are great-niece Lynne Johnson, who joins writers, artists and others fascinated by the deceptions that have become folklore.

On Saturday, April 11, the museum staff and others will gather at the Willsher Bay domain to see the wedding vows re-enacted in the form of an original theatrical script written and directed by Ron Neilson, of Lovells Flat.

Papatowai woman Carol Geissler has been chosen to play Bock.

Mr Neilson says the cast are a "great group of people" and are working very hard in the final stages of rehearsals.

You are invited . . .

South Otago Museum is marking the 100th anniversary of Amy Bock's wedding.

April 4: Otago Polytechnic head of art Bridie Lonie will officially open the Bock multimedia exhibition at 7pm.

April 5-14: Multimedia exhibition, Creative Arts Centre, open daily 10am-5pm except on April 11 (Easter Saturday, when hours will be between 10am and noon).

April 8: Massey University senior lecturer and women's studies programme co-ordinator Dr Jenny Coleman, who is writing a book on Amy Bock, will speak at the Balclutha Library from 7.30pm.

April 11: Re-creation of the Bock wedding, Willsher Bay, Kaka Point, 2pm.


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