Jet-setting at 90 no trouble for Otago woman

By John Lewis

Photo / Peter McIntosh / Otago Daily Times
Photo / Peter McIntosh / Otago Daily Times

Ninetieth birthdays are worth celebrating in anyone's book. But what do you do if you have no family in Dunedin to celebrate it with?

Former Dunedin Public Library city librarian Mary Ronnie decided to mark the occasion by dipping into her savings, and shouting herself a trip around the world, flying business class, no less.

"There's no point in having it in a bank account at my age.

"One of my cousins had been over here staying with me, and he thought it would be a good thing if I went and celebrated my birthday over there with them. So I went.

"I never travel economy class. I think it would be too tiring and too difficult. I've got to the stage where I really prefer to be looked after.''

She celebrated her 90th birthday in Manchester, with extended family and a large number of friends she made during her career as a librarian.

Dr Ronnie was the city librarian from 1968 to 1976, during the time the Dunedin City Library in Moray Pl was approved and designed.

She also served as national librarian from 1976 to 1981 and Auckland city librarian from 1982 to 1985, before lecturing at the department of librarianism at Monash University in Australia.

In addition to her illustrious library management career, she also had many books and articles published.

It should be no surprise that her birthday cake was shaped like a book, with a single candle in the middle.

While on her three-month adventure, she also visited London and spent three weeks "on the loose'' in Glasgow where she grew up, "just going wherever my heart took me''.

"I really enjoyed myself a lot.''

She also visited friends in Germany and India.

"One of the friends was in Delhi. He was 99 and I wanted to visit him because I might not get another chance.''

On her way home, she stopped in Canada, where she took a cruise up the Labrador coast and across to Greenland.

"We went ashore every day in Zodiacs (motorised inflatable dinghies) which I wasn't sure I would manage at my age. But it was no problem at all.

"It was great fun, very enjoyable.

"A sad part of the trip was seeing the Inuit on the coast of Labrador, moving away from their original settlements, partly because of the lack of health services, but also because of the new rules about the killing of seals and polar bears.

"It was nice to visit these places [Labrador and Greenland] because I've only ever read about them.''

Dr Ronnie then went to Vancouver to visit more family before returning to New Zealand last week.

Would she do it again?

"Who knows?" she replied.

- Otago Daily Times

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