Arrowtown’s dame

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Arrowtown’s eldest daughter Constance Anzac Courtney puts her long life down to two things – hard work and good genes. 

The feisty and sprightly 96-year-old returned to her home town last month from Auckland to visit her beloved St John’s Presbyterian Church. 

Her father was a farmer on the Crown Range and while her healthy rural upbringing might account for her long lifespan – a healthy lifestyle does not. 

Connie, as she likes to be known, still smokes cigarettes and drinks “at least a can” of Speight’s every day. 

“Everybody else says they’ve given up – but they’ll still smoke mine,” she says. 

“I believe in people doing what they want. I still smoke and also enjoy a Speight’s. 

Connie was born on Buckingham Street on April 1, 1916, the youngest daughter of well-known Arrowtown pioneers the Stevensons. 

They lived in Pittaway Cottage, and owned Arrowtown Pharmacy on her mother’s side, and a Crown Range farm. 

“We were a great Presbyterian family and were all christened in St John’s, five girls and one boy – my brother William died in Italy during the war.” 

Connie has pushed for years to have a family plaque erected in the church but says it can’t be finalised until she’s passed away. 

The family’s antique Bible is on display in Lakes District Museum, along with family photos and other artefacts. 

“I remember quite a lot about growing up here. It has changed but what hasn’t changed over the years? 

“Everything changes. Arrowtown was just a great big hunk of land before the gold rush arrived here. I’ve been all over the world but I still call Arrowtown home. I left 69 years ago. When I was young we went to Queenstown all the time but we had to walk or you went in a horse and cart.” 

Connie attended Otago Girls’ High School in Dunedin before leaving to help with the war effort. 

Married twice, but with no children, she managed hotels during her working life – including the prestigious Esplanade 
Hotel in Devonport, Auckland.