Wanaka’s delightful Barbara Cruickshank turned 103 last Friday and celebrated the day surrounded by friends and family at Elmslie House. Barbara was born in 1916 in Liverpool — a war baby of a Kiwi father who was deployed in the navy during World War One. After the war, at five years old, Barbara and her family came to New Zealand and settled in Queenstown where her father managed a sheep station with his brother. From her father, to her great grandchildren, there are five generations who have lived in the Queenstown Lakes district.
Barbara is one of ten siblings — eight of whom have passed, but she lives with her remaining sister Agnes who turned a sprightly 97 on Thursday. Longevity is in their genes but when asked the secret to her long life, Barbara said “I don’t know? Do you?”
“Vegetables” said Agnes. “Just vegetables.”
Life was tougher for generations back then — Barbara tells a story of her younger brother who at 15, cut a tree down in Glenorchy, and towed the log behind a dinghy as he rowed it to Queenstown on his own. He then had to row the boat back to Glenorchy and run home to Queenstown. These days that would qualify for a professional multi-sport event with sponsors and prize money. Back then it was “just the way things were,” said Barbara.
At 16, Barbara left school and took off to Invercargill with a sixpence in her pocket. “I got a job in a hotel laundry folding sheets,” she said. “Lots of folding folding folding. But then I got bored and got a job in the Kingsland Biscuit Factory.” Eventually a career as a hospital technician beckoned before she married Cyril Cruickshank who died almost 40 years ago — Barbara has been on her own since his death. The couple have two children, four grandchildren and four great grandchildren.
The family celebrated with cake at Elmslie house — with a few nips of whiskey to toast a fabulous 103 years.