Marching honours matriarch

Audrey Rogers and her band of leisure marchers. Photo: Nikki South.

She’s a mother of five, but she’s also a mother to another thousand or so.

Audrey Rogers, who’s just turned 90, is the mother of leisure marching - the sport was her idea, her baby. It will be her legacy.

To honour the matriarch of leisure marching, and to mark her 90th, around 25 proteges turned out in full dress kit at her home - the Bernadette Home and Hospital in Mount Maunganui - last Sunday.

“It was a lovely and exciting,” she says, “and they were very kind, because they won’t let me forget what I did.”

This all started about 30 years ago. “I was watching people jogging round the streets, and I thought ‘wouldn’t it be good to start a marching team down on Ferguson Park?’ You know, something different.”

When she mentioned it to her husband, he said it wouldn’t take off, so the idea was shelved for a year.

“I thought I would talk to some old friends. I visualised meeting once a week, marching round and having fun. If it didn’t happen, it didn’t happen, no harm done.” But it did happen.

A crowd turned out when Audrey called a public meeting at the old cricket club at Ferguson Park. “I thought ‘what am I going to do with them all?’” They formed five or six teams there and then. Over the years, five or six teams became 100 teams and a thousand marchers around the country.

“It’s hard to believe,” she says. “Did that really happen?” Audrey believes it just happened to be the right time. “Women my age were looking for something to do, something sporty.”

And 90-year-old Audrey Rogers delivered for them. “I look back and I am very proud.”