80 years and still going strong


At 80 years old, Manukau District Court judge’s assistant Lorna McIntosh is the PSA’s oldest delegate – and she shows no signs of slowing down.

Lorna McIntosh with her great granddaughter and dog

Lorna McIntosh with her great granddaughter and dog

It’s hard to find a time to talk with McIntosh because she fills her life to the brim. She has a son, a daughter, five grandchildren and two great grandchildren. When she’s not working – specifically dealing with pacific and rangatahi youth court procedures – she’s a full-time caregiver for her husband of 62 years, Eric.

McIntosh is the definition of high achiever, her roll call of honours includes: former national president for the United Nations Development Fund for Women (now NZ Women), area director for international business women’s organisation, Zonta, and a member of the Māori Women’s Welfare League. In 2000, she was awarded the Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for Services to the Community and Services to Business.

The first afternoon I try to call McIntosh, she was coordinating a pōwhiri with kaumātua for the swearing in of a new judge. The second time, her colleague tells me she’s at the doctor. Third time lucky: she’s waiting for “the ultimate chocolate cake” – it has raspberries – to rise, but I can call again in 20.

McIntosh says she stepped up to be a delegate because she believes passionately in unions and comes from a strong background of unionism.

“Even when I was an employer for 33 years, I was probably the strongest supporter of unions in the company.

“Union delegates are never the most popular people,” she says.

“You get blamed for everything. If you don’t get a rise, you didn’t work hard enough. It’s certainly different from the days of compulsory unionism.”

During the 1951 wharf lockout, McIntosh was a young girl living in a state housing area in Auckland. She says the atmosphere at the time was all-consuming.

“I could see all the effects. I saw everybody get together...that sense of community.

People would go and collect vegetables and help each other.

“I grew up with a strong sense of social responsibility and that’s why I like being with people who are really fighting to survive. My family and children seem to have inherited it.”

When she’s not flat-out with family and work duties – luckily, McIntosh thrives off organisation – you can find her sewing or baking.

“I’m making marmalade late at night these days. The Māori Women’s Welfare Conference is later this month and my branch is filling up the bags for people. We’re making little pots of jam and preserves to put in each one.”

Recently, the wind had been shaking her lemon and orange tree, leaving a carpet of fruit outside and McIntosh can’t stand to see food go to waste.

“I like craft and concentrating on something different,” she says. “It’s probably what keeps me going.” 

By Jess McAllen

Correction:

In the initial version of this story, we mistakenly said that Lorna's husband was 62 years old. This should have read (and has now been edited to say) that she has been married to her husband for 62 years. Our apologies to Lorna and her husband for this error! Lorna also asked us to note that she is Ngāi Tūhoe, a core part of her identity.