Chart-topping siblings farewell eldest of trio

By Vaimoana Tapaleao

Adele Paris (left) and Pauline Prictor say Mary Yandall was the smallest in their trio but had the biggest, strongest voice. Photo / Richard Robinson
Adele Paris (left) and Pauline Prictor say Mary Yandall was the smallest in their trio but had the biggest, strongest voice. Photo / Richard Robinson

One of the sweet-singing divas of the popular 70s Kiwi group The Yandall Sisters has died.

Mary Yandall died on Monday at Auckland City Hospital after a short illness. She was 62.

Ms Yandall and younger sisters Pauline and Adele made up the singing group that became widely popular in 1970s New Zealand.

Their catchy song Sweet Inspiration was an instant hit and was on the NZ Top 20 singles chart for eight weeks in 1974. The tune is still a favourite both here and in the Islands.

They also often appeared on television and as back-up singers for top musos of the day, including John Rowles and the late Sir Howard Morrison and Prince Tui Teka.

Their soulful voices - as well as the big hair-dos and glittery gowns - had people comparing them to American divas The Supremes.

Raised by Samoan parents in Auckland's Grey Lynn, Ms Yandall grew up singing in Sunday school and in the choir at the nearby Pacific Islanders Presbyterian Church in Newton.

An older sister - Caroline, who died a few years ago - originally had them as a quartet, but after she married and moved to Australia, the younger siblings continued as a trio.

At the family home in Grey Lynn, a tapa cloth has been laid out for the singer's coffin.

She is surrounded by dozens of family photos and awards she and her sisters - now Pauline Prictor and Adele Paris - picked up over the years.

A nephew pops his head around the corner and at seeing his late aunt - dressed in a beautiful dress - he looks at his mum and aunt Adele and says: "I knew you'd put her in sequins."

The sisters roar with laughter.

Ms Paris smiles and says they wanted to "take her back to the 70s".

Ms Paris said Mary was the shortest and the tiniest, but had the biggest and strongest voice of all of them.

Within the extended family and close friends, she was known for her love of music but also for her love of God.

Asked to describe what she was like as a youngster, Mrs Prictor laughs.

"She was a ratbag. Mum would send her down the road to get butter and milk. Back then they had an account at the local dairy and at the end of the month you'd pay off the account.

"Mum would get an account that said butter, milk ... and lollies."

Ms Yandall will be farewelled at the Pacific Islanders Presbyterian Church in Newton tomorrow at 10am.

- NZ Herald

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