BIOGRAPHY - Lady Fletcher

Sir James Fletcher

Margery Vaughan, Lady Fletcher

Margery Vaughan, Lady Fletcher was born on 9 February 1912 at Balclutha. As a child she lived with her parents in Taumarunui where her father was a dentist. Later her mother brought the family to Auckland where Vaughan worked in a law office and studied bookkeeping at night school at Auckland University College, completing her qualifications at the age of nineteen. At the age of 30, in June 1942, she married James Fletcher after a short engagement. She had met him while she was working at Fletcher Holdings, becoming his personal assistant, a role in which she subsequently acted for many years both officially and unofficially.

After their marriage the couple lived with Sir James and Lady Fletcher Senior in the magnificent house designed for them by R.A Lippincott in Upland Road. In 1943 they moved to Mission Bay and in 1944 they bought Penrose House, on the hill overlooking the Fletcher plant at Penrose. At that time Jim Fletcher walked to work over paddocks and Vaughan kept steers and a cow which she had bought herself. 

After the birth of her three sons, Jim, Hugh and Angus, Vaughan Fletcher’s skills as a bookkeeper were still frequently called upon. She always maintained that she was far better at it then her more commercially eminent husband. Around her family dinner table business was never ‘left at the office’ but brought home and discussed passionately. “The Firm”, as she called it, was always of great interest to her and she demonstrated a ready recall of people and events over many years.

Never a woman to exploit the connection between social status and charitable work, she accepted the position of honorary accountant of  the Mental Health Foundation in 1976 on the invitation of Dr Ruth Black. For twenty years she did hours of unpaid work keeping her records in impeccable copper plate well into the computer age. From 1977 she also served on the board. Regarded as something of a mother figure, Lady Fletcher was recalled by former director Dr Max Abbot as “extending her matriarchal presence from the Fletcher dynasty to the Foundation offices.”  She also taught herself to type Braille.

In 1988 she was awarded the MBE.

Like her husband who founded it, she was from its beginnings in 1962 vitally interested in the Fletcher art collection. She kept both its books and an intently focused eye on  auction prices which she carefully recorded in the encyclopedic scrap books she assembled well into her 90s. In the early years of their collecting the fearless bidding of this wealthy but unspectacularly dressed and unknown lady caused shock. Later she and Sir James were familiar figures at art auctions where she invariably did the bidding, on more than one occasion overriding her husband with aplomb.  In the Fletcher offices at Penrose she was much loved, employees enjoying her persuasive way of ‘giving’ them a painting she had decided might be suitable for their office. Her affectionate manner, bestowed without regard to rank, endeared her to everyone.

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