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Irene McLean was born in October 1906 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Her parents William Ronaldson and Priscilla McLean nee Winks, were both from early Hawera families. They were married in Argentina after a group of Hawera people had gone there looking at farming prospects.  The family returned to Hawera, and Irene was educated at Miss Baker's private school. After the death of her mother she went to Marsden College in Wellington as a boarder.  Then an aunt and her father sent her to Lausanne, Switzerland to a finishing school in during the 1920's. While there, at the age of 18, she met and married an Italian, Count Leon Rota.

The marriage did not last and Irene returned to New Zealand. She set up a clothing retail business in Wanganui, then bought out Elizabeth Nielson's photography business at 134 High Street, Hawera (above Greenwood's Jewellery). She ran this business until selling out to two employees, including Josephine Wilson in 1955.


Irene had artistic leanings and studied at the Sorbonne School of Art in Paris, and then did a diploma in hairdressing in London.  Everything she did had to be perfect.  She also sewed like a professional dress-maker.


Younger girls of the town were awed by her use of lipstick and the combinations of designs in her clothing.  She was a continental cook and had done Cordon-Bleu courses in France.  Irene was also a champion golfer as had her mother, and the Hawera Ladies Golf Club still play for the Irene Powdrell Silver Tray.


Irene loved Ohawe Beach and taught all the younger cousins to swim and respect the surf.  Upon her return to Hawera she married an old childhood friend Alan Powdrell in 1946, and they "did up" the bach at Ohawe to a comfortable home, until retiring from work and retiring to a property at Mimiwhangata, north of Whangarei.

Irene Powdrell died on the 5 Febraury 1961 at Mimiwhangata and is buried in Whangarei.