Iza McVeigh, a fastidious wordsmith with a ‘knack for inappropriate timing’, slipped from this life on July 28 … 77 years to the day from when she arrived in this world as Iza Bisset in a Roto-o-Rangi farmhouse.
That rare link with a single date was not lost on her Australian-based daughter, Jacqui Mackley. A friend read out Jacqui’s thoughts at Iza’s farewell at The Henley Hotel: “It was very poetic … a special cycle of life that you left the world on the same day that you arrived in it.”
Iza was born on July 28, 1944, the seventh of eight children born to May and Robert Bisset. She remained close to her siblings all her life, said friends and family, always remembering birthday and other special dates. It was a character trait that endeared her to many.
After a spell living in central Cambridge, the family moved into Princes St, where the teenaged Iza became part of a trio known as ‘the princesses of Princes St’, or ‘the Cambridge girls’. Known for her striking good looks and passion for music, Iza flourished. She was a gifted singer, and together with her sister Barbara, they often performed at family events and parties. A few more years were spent in Whakatane before Iza and a friend ventured to Australia … word has it they met up with an English soccer team on the ship and never had to buy a drink the entire trip.
It was in Australia that Iza met Irish-born Tony McVeigh. When she came home in 1965, he followed and they were married in 1966 in Cambridge before settling into a life of farming. They had two children, Brendan and Jacqui, who between them gave her three much-loved grandsons.
Iza was a keen photographer. She worked initially with Heather Hills Photography, then for the Cambridge Independent, and later the Cambridge Edition, taking on the multiple roles of journalist, photographer, editor and proof-reader for years before moving onto other activities and finally retiring in 2015. She took up ghost-writing and editing romance novels frequently sourced from random parts of the world, including Russia.
The hundreds who attended her farewell, learned of Iza’s love of animals and shared some of her preferred music choices – Queen, Nickelback, Mark Knopfler.
Jacqui described her mother as impactful, independent, a wise woman who cared deeply about everybody. Her door was always open, she said, her kettle always on. “Thank you also, mum, for being so bloody funny. You had a knack for inappropriate timing.”
Brendan McVeigh and his wife Angela spoke to Iza’s love of gardening and her often off-colour wit that endeared her to many. Her comedic messages towards the end were touch with poignancy.
“She told me she had learned a lot this year… that things don’t always turn out the way you planned them, and that you just keep going,” said Brendan, who recently endured a tough health struggle of his own.
“She would be humbled by this turnout but would ask what the fuss was all about.”
Iza, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when her children were young, left her mark on many Cambridge residents.
As her admiring brother-in-law Peter Lawlor said: “If Iza McVeigh is not in heaven, there is no chance for any of us.”