Mavis Mackay, otherwise known as ‘Aunty Mavis’, celebrated a milestone birthday last month, June 30, alongside generations of dancers whom she chaperoned in her role as matron.
‘As I went into the hall, all the mums and all the children came forward, it was the best birthday I've had in years,’ says Mavis.
‘If it's anything to go by, the display that they did, I nearly broke down, it was lovely.’
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A ‘true diamond’ of a lady, Mavis was a legalised chaperone for many children during her 35 years in the position for the Iris Barnes School of Dancing while they performed at The Kings Theatre, holiday camps and other venues up and down the country.
‘People say ‘you don’t sound 90,’ but I feel it,’ she adds.
More recently owned by Karen Ainsley Tickner, the dance school provided Mavis with many happy years and ‘lovely memories’ which she says were the best times of her life.
‘It was lovely. Thirty-odd years is a heck of a long time. I've seen the little ones grow up and their little ones grow up,’ says Mavis.
Overseeing 12 children every performance, Mavis’ no-nonsense attitude and fiery personality left her well-loved and respected at the school.
‘They had a saying, when Aunty Mavis says jump, you say how high? I was very strict, but they must have liked me, I got all these lovely gestures on my birthday.
‘It was a lovely turnout, they made me a cake in the shape of a dragon because I was known as the Dragon Lady,’ she adds.
Coming into contact with various stars over her time chaperoning, from dancer and entertainer Lionel Blair to comedian Bernie Winters who first dubbed her the ‘Dragon Lady’, Mavis ensured the show always went on.
‘Nobody was safe, not even the stars. If they crossed the line, they got told off too,’ says Mavis. ‘It didn't matter who they were!’
Although Mavis was a key part of the performances for many years, ever since she was seven she maintains dancing was not her own strong suit which even formed the basis of a family joke.
‘I was seven when the war started. It was a standard joke in my family that I started dancing and then the war broke out, that was my fault you see,’ she laughs.
Mavis, who has lived at Paulsgrove for 40 years, retired from her position at the dance school aged 61, having made a huge impact on students and parents.
‘Children now will come up and say “Hello Aunty M”. It's stuck. I do like the youngsters, my mind is still young.’