An honours list that is really meaningful
NOT so long ago the honours-list system was under siege. It was being seen as an anachronism that preserved some of the worst of our traditions; a reminder of times past when titles could be bought or conferred by political patronage; an admission ticket to a rich man’s club separated by privilege from the reality of everyday life.
Fortunately, the system survived and the processes of change endowed it with a new and respected acceptability.
We are reminded of this with the announcement of the Queen’s New Year honours. We are also reminded that the very nature of our society applauds effort and dedication and believes in public recognition of services rendered. It is more than that. It is also a measure of the state of the community in which ordinary people, without thought of gain or reward, discover that their community activities have not passed unnoticed.
The latest list provides as good an example as any. Heading the list as new knights are people who have undoubtedly made major contributions to the New Zealand way of life.
Sir Leonard Southward, the affable octogenerian who has given the country a vintage car museum of international standing, who provided his community with a theatre, and, much more than these things, gave generously of his skills and of his wealth to make life better for the disabled, has surely earned his place in knightly ranks.
So, too, has Dr Neil Begg through his services to children, and sometimes to worried mothers, through the Plunket Society, and who has given practical support to preserving the country’s heritage through his work for the Historic Places Trust. And that almost forgotten New Zealander, Garfield Todd, who held aloft a torch that brought light and vision to Rhodesia in its darkest days, has earned his honour, belated though recognition may be.
WE CAN all applaud the efforts and the work of these outstanding New Zealanders, but we feel more comfortably at home when we come to the lesser honours. Miss Melva Mildenhall, Hastings, who for 40 years has been a dedicated and tireless worker for the Girls’ Brigade, and who in that time has upheld and passed on to thousands of youngsters the principles and the values of clean and honest community living, brings into perspective what the honours system really means. Her award of the Queen’s Service Medal is thoroughly deserved, and the same criteria apply to Miss Mary Alice Hopkirk, Christchurch, who has been awarded the CBE for a lifetime of service to the Girl Guide movement.
Throughout this country’s brief history, the need has never been greater for persons such as these two community-minded women to guide and direct young people toward responsibility, resourcefulness and an acceptable level of social values.
THE HONOURS list has reached through the whole spectrum of New Zealand life. In the nature of things, not everyone who has made a contribution can be recognised, but the list, incomplete though it may be, does something to express the community’s admiration and appreciation of those who have made life for us all just that much better.