Barbara Kent: 30 years at Johnsonville Club

Friends and fellow dancers heard the sad news that Barbara Kent passed away on Friday 25 February in her 89th year. She will be missed by many in the Wellington Region, and farther afield.

Barbara was part of the Wellington Scottish Country dance community dating from the 1960s. She loved her dancing and contributed a great deal to the community, while preferring to keep a low profile.

Barbara danced at (the now dis-established) Wellington Club, and at Lower Hutt Club before coming to Johnsonville, where she was a member for around 30 years. Her earliest recorded membership is in 1973, and she was still recorded as a member in 2002. In later years she was a long-standing member of Tawa Club.

Barbara at the right with (from left) Peter Beaumont, Peter Elmes, Loralee Hyde and Kath Ledingham in 2002.
Barbara enjoying dancing in 2002. In the set at the rear, Johnsonville Life Members Isla and Eric Norris are dancing. Tutor Rod Downey is at the front right. Photo: Loralee Hyde

I don’t have much information on Barbara’s earlier years, but in 2017, Désirée Patterson, interviewed Barbara for her Tawa Club Life Membership award. You can read about Barbara’s fascinating life, in the June 2017 issue of Wellington Region newsletter Harbour City Happenings

Barbara second from the right with Tawa tutors at the Tawa Club 60th Anniversary in 2018. Photo: John Patterson

As part of Barbara’s job with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, she was posted overseas on multiple occasions, and danced wherever she went. In the 1972 NZ Scottish Country Dancer magazine Barbara wrote an article News from Paris, where she described dancing with the Le Chardon d’Ecosse (the thistle of Scotland) group.

However, her trips weren’t only for work. In 1979 she joined a group of 36 dancers on a trip to Canada (described in full in the 1980 NZ Scottish Country Dancer magazine).

NZ dancers including Barbara on a trip to Canada. Photo: 1980 NZ Scottish Country Dancer p5

Barbara was part of a Māori performance item at the 1979 Oktoberfest at Kitchener/ Waterloo. As Scottish Country dancers, they ‘found a compromise (with Māori approval) by wearing a Māori type sash and headband with white frocks and shirts’, and were well received.

Photo: 1980 NZ Scottish Country Dancer p7

In amongst all her travel, Barbara found time to support Johnsonville Club both as a tutor and a member of the committee. She was club tutor in 1985 and part of 1986, took beginners’ classes in 1991, 93, 94 and 1996, and was a relieving tutor through the late 1980s and early 1990s.

In 1976 her role as president was cut short, when she was posted to Moscow, but she returned as a committee member from 1978-79, and then served a part year as president again in 1980, and was back on the committee in 1991.

1991 was the year Rod and I started dancing, and we really enjoyed our time in Barbara’s beginners’ class. In those days beginners were initially taught in a separate room in Johnsonville School until supper time, then joined experienced dancers in the hall for the rest of the night.

As beginning dancers, Barbara prepared us well. Her encouraging manner and graceful style paired well with her strong technique and clarity of instruction. For some reason my abiding memory is of her teaching hands across, getting us to understand the elegance and precision of the formation as opposed to muddling through with hands everywhere and anywhere.

1991 Johnsonville Bad Taste Evening – Kath Ledingham & David Holland at the front with Kristin & Rod Downey behind. Barbara is standing at the right. Photo: Loralee Hyde

When Johnsonville held its 50 Golden Years celebration in 2016, Barbara’s health did not permit her to dance, but we were very pleased she accepted the club’s invitation to be part of our celebration of those past members who contributed so much to the club.

Barbara at the right with Ian Simmonds at Rod Downey’s 40th in 1997, where Peter Elmes and John Smith played for some Scottish Country Dancing. Photo: Loralee Hyde
2016 Johnsonville 50th Celebration Grand March. Barbara is at the left with former Club President Catherine MacAulay. Photo: Loralee Hyde
2016 Johnsonville 50th Celebration – John Munro, club secretary at the time, presents a golden polyanthus to Barbara Kent for her contribution as a former club tutor. Photo: John Patterson
2016 Johnsonville 50th Celebration – Barbara third from the right with club members from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Photo: Loralee Hyde
In her 86th year, Barbara looks on as Maureen Robson receives a Wellington Region Award at the Maureen Robson Tribute Dance in 2019. Photo: Loralee Hyde

Johnsonville Club remembers Barbara for her commitment to dancing, her support of the club and its members, and her many achievements. As her family expressed it in the Family Notices in the DomPost on Wednesday 2 March – A full life well lived and enjoyed.

Barbara’s family also thanked Malvina Major Village (among others) for their care of Barbara. Unit #9 was Barbara’s home over the last few years, and she told me she was quite tickled to have followed in the footsteps of Ngaio dancers Frieda and Murray Allardice who themselves followed Johnsonville Life Members Isla and Eric Norris in making #9 their home.

Kristin Downey
3 March 2022

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