Frances James, Knight of the National Order of Merit
At a ceremony in Napier on Friday, 30 January 2010, His Excellency Michel Legras, Ambassador of France to New Zealand, awarded the Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite medal to Ms Frances James, better known as Franki James. This was in recognition for her activities throughout her professional career which have presented a positive image of France and which thus awakened other people’s interest in and love for that country. Living in the beautiful Hawke’s Bay city of Napier, Ms James was born in Edinburgh and has New Zealand and British citizenship. Over the course of a varied professional career, she has been a journalist and an English and French language teacher. She has also worked as a social worker and with sick people. Below, you may read the text of the speech made by the Ambassador on this occasion:
A woman with an uncommon destiny, Ms Franki James has worked in many countries around the world, of which one particularly influenced her for the rest of her life: France. She has known how to use her human qualities to help others and thus has shared a recognition of France and of its values, thanks to her talents in foreign languages, in the people she has taught. Overall, she has managed to project a positive image of France through the relationships she has cultivated, and is still cultivating, whether it be in her professional or personal life.
Her work as a journalist allowed her to go further along this path, her work being a perfect example of the sincere and strong attachment she feels for our country. She began her career in Scotland, as editor for the newspaper The Scotsman and then for the newspaper My Weekly. Afterwards, she went to Denmark, Norway, and France, finishing her travels around the world in New Zealand. As a journalist for BBC Panorama, she covered important events in France, for example the François Mitterrand election in 1981 or the Klaus Barbie trial, proving once again her interest in France and in its issues and events. She was correspondent for the English newspaper Seatrade and the Greek newspaper Naftiliaki in France, and also for The Scotsman and for Price Waterhouse’s Euronews & World Journal. Her activities and their results definitely demonstrate the strong links which unite her with our country.
Apart from her work as a journalist , Ms Franki James has been, and still is, an English and French teacher. She taught English in big companies such as Air France or Dassault in France, but also to students at universities and “grandes écoles”, and this for twenty years. She also worked as a translator for the Société Française de Production (French Production Society) and for the Union des banques de Paris (Paris Bank Union). She is currently teaching English and French to adults and children, professionals and members of the general public, and also to immigrants in Napier.
Ms Franki James, with her rich life largely devoted to those in need, is a perfect example of solidarity and brotherhood. In parallel to her professional activities, she helped people to whom life had not be kind: in the 1960s, she was a social worker and worked with children of immigrants. Over the next decades, she helped old people and people with neurological problems. Today, she does voluntary work in the Cranford hospice shop and works to assist people with mental disabilities. At the same time, she was very much involved in cultural activities while she was travelling, writing a musical comedy and a book in which she shares the experiences she had with old people.
After such a track record, it seems normal that this women, who has given so much to others, who has worked so much for our country, should be rewarded for her life which can only be held up to us all as an example to follow. This is why I have the honour and the pleasure, Ms Franki James, to make you chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite, an award by France in recognition of all you have managed to do in order to present a positive image of France, having thus awakened interest and love of our country through your actions.