Julie Bethridge Topp and Lynda Bethridge Topp

Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to entertainment

Two of New Zealand's newest Dames could perhaps have as easily been made Knights for their services to Kiwi culture.

Jools and Lynda Topp - known lovingly around the world as the Topp Twins - were made Dame Companions of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queen's Birthday Honours list which was released today; 14 years after being made Order members.

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"We thought maybe Sir Kenneth might have to have a moment," Lynda told the Herald.

It was a joking reference to one of the Topp Twins' best known comedy acts, where they dress as real Southern men, Ken and Ken.

"It was confusing for them who they were going to give it to - [but] the Topp Twins are going to accept the damehood."

Nevertheless, they had already amused themselves imagining sneaking a "sir" in front of their classic characters' names.

If they did, Ken would be joining Sir John Rowles, another iconic performer honoured today with a knighthood for services to entertainment.

Rowles is an internationally renowned singer and was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1979 for his services to the music industry.

The Topp Twins had briefly debated whether to accept the title, Dame.

After all, they made their name writing protest songs and subversive comedy - was a Queen's honour really the right fit?

Jools lives up in Northland, while Lynda is down in Staveley, in Mid Canterbury, and as soon as they heard the news they were on the phone discussing what to do.

"I said Jools, what do you reckon? 'The rebels are getting their medals', she said," Lynda recalled, laughing.

"It's not just for Jools and me, it's for all the people who have supported us over the years.

"It feels right to be acknowledged for all the fights we've fought.

"We're being acknowledged as entertainers but we've had a voice over all these years."

The twins have been involved in plenty of "good fights" over the years, including supporting both homosexual law reform and the nuclear free movement, while opposing the 1981 Springbok tour.

Protesting was part and parcel to the twins' presence in Kiwi culture, and for every new cause the pair would write and perform a song.

"In some ways it's very political for us to accept it because we're standing up for all the people who have joined us in the fight - and we've had a lot of good fights," Jools said.

"We're accepting this honour on behalf of all the people in New Zealand who have thought 'I'm with the Topp Twins'."

She and Lynda have always been and remain deeply Kiwi, and the sisters are proud of their country.

"I think there's been a lot of social change in New Zealand. We're always wanting to be the first in the world," Jools said.

"There's a lot of strong women in this country. There's always a fight, there's always something to stand up for."

Jools counted herself lucky to be brave enough to stand up and speak her mind - and to always have had someone else standing beside her.

"There's always two of us - and we had the microphone."

The siblings had let slip to only a few people their impending damehood, and Jools said she still didn't know who had nominated them.

"It was the Queen, Jools," Lynda shouted from across the room, and the pair cracked up laughing.

They said their parents would find out along with everyone else today and they imagined they'd feel very proud of the pair of them.

Their father was always quick with a witty one liner, Lynda said, and she was looking forward to hearing his reaction.

As for celebrations?

The Topp Twins have been working flat tack on various projects which means they're apart today, but each planned to take a little time to herself with a nice cup of tea and reflect on the achievement.

Since their appointments as Members of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to entertainment in 2004, the Topp Twins produced the albums Flowergirls and Cowgirls (2005) and Honky Tonk Angel (2009), released five best-selling children's audio books, and have regularly toured Australia and New Zealand to sold-out venues.

In 2008 the twins were inducted into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame.

The documentary feature film The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls was released in 2009 and won several awards at international film festivals. It also amassed more than $1 million at the box office within its first month of release.

From 2014 to 2017 they filmed three series of the television show Topp Country, in which they travelled around New Zealand meeting food producers and home cooks.

The twins have also actively raised awareness of breast cancer, which Jools was diagnosed with in 2006. A percentage of ticket sales for their 2007 Recovery Tour were donated to the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation.