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October 18, 2012

RIP Florence Akins

I would have loved to meet Flo Akins: New Zealand's - possibly the World's - oldest Morris Dancer: until today that is.  She celebrated her 105th birthday in March this year, with Nelson Morris in attendance. Their Squire, Steve Rule, rang me to let me know that she died this morning.

A quick dip into the annals of the NZ publication English Folklore Dance and Song*, reveals her interest in the crafting of instruments as well as her musical and dancing ability during the years that she was an active member of the New Zealand Society for English Folk Dancing.



Another dip - this time into Google (the link above is to the Christchurch Art Gallery blog) - placed Flo soundly in the Christchurch and Nelson artistic scene alongside fellow dancers and musicians such as Francis Shurrock, Leo Bensemann, William Allen and Caroline Oliver.

This artistic trail lead me back to my own book shelf, and The Arts and Crafts Movement in New Zealand where Florence's accomplishments as student, teacher and artist/craftwoman are detailed.  Her writing conveys a sense of interest in people as much as her observation of her surroundings, though I haven't come across her own words in the EFDS magazines. But there are regular references to her talent.



From Rangiora Morris man, Courtney Archer, comes an account of her playing the pipe and tabor. For me that sums up her approach to life, because for those of you who are unfamiliar with pipe and tabor - it's like rubbing your head and patting your tummy at the same time. Flo strikes me as a woman who was always up to a challenge.

*English Folklore Dance and Song was edited between 1938 and 1944 by John Oliver. It not  only provides an account of New Zealand's English Folk Dance scene but a poignant record of the effect that War in Europe was having on NZ. 





6 comments:

Cro Magnon said...

105!!! Looks like music and dancing had the right effect.

Jeneane said...

Yes indeed!

John Gray said...

she sounds like the NZ version of Auntie Glad!

Jeneane said...

That suggests Aunty Glad might outlive you!

The Sagittarian said...

105 is a pretty good innings! I do often wonder if there is something in the older people that us 'young 'uns' are missing...

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden said...

From what I can make out she remained single and lead a very active and productive life. Gee the Sparkling Pinot Gris is good isn't it. Probably wiping years off my life...