Edwin (Bruce) Jenkinson Interview

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Interviewer:  Frank Cooper


Today's the 3rd of February 2015. I'm interviewing Bruce Jenkinson formerly of Hawke's Bay Farmers Meat Company, Whakatu and he's going to give us the background to him and his family and his life in the meat industry. Where did your family come from originally?

We came from Yorkshire. Both my mother and father, though they came out to New Zealand separately as individuals, they knew each other in England. My father - my grandparents had a pub called 'The Black Horse' in a village called Giggleswick. Giggleswick was in the West Riding of Yorkshire in Ripplesdale. Across the river was a town called Settle, which was a bit bigger than a village. Giggleswick was renowned for its public school, Giggleswick Grammar School, founded in 1499. My father and the rest of his family went there. I don't know, they also had a farm there.

My mother's people were farming people too. They came from a place near Harrogate in Yorkshire, which was 30 or 40 miles from Giggleswick. My father was a very shy individual, rather like me, he didn't tell us very much about himself and why he came to New Zealand - I don't know. We had great difficulty after his death in finding out just when he came. But he came shortly before the outbreak of the first world war. He immediately joined the army in New Zealand and he actually served in the army for seven years. He wasn't discharged in 1922. He was in the Dental Corp, on a hospital ship 'Markino'. Since then we've had a sort of military background. His younger brother was killed in the first world war. My eldest brother went missing on air operations in the Middle East in 1941, my son's an army officer and my eldest grandson just graduated from Duntroon. I was going to show you some pictures.

I'll have a look at those later.

Alright. My mother came out here in 1915 I think, just why I'm not too sure, she had two brothers out here. She went initially to live with one of the brothers in Temuka in the South Island. He was a florist and nurseryman by the name of Lewis was his surname, and then somehow she finished up in Wellington and they - my father was a very good rugby player, he played for Yorkshire. And he was also the captain of the Harrogate Rugby Football Club for a number of years and my mother's brother was also in the team and that's how they met, so they met up again in New Zealand.

That's amazing isn't it?

And they were married on Armistice Day. Well it wasn't really Armistice Day I suppose, it was the 12th, the day after but that was when the news got here, the Saturday morning.

That's right, yes.

That's when they were married in 1918. As far as we can make out they came to Hastings in about 1925, according to my brother, but he doesn't really know much either, he was born in 1925, that's my surviving brother. Yes, he was born in '25 and I was born at the end of 1929. I went to kindergarten in Hastings. The kindergarten was in a building, I think it's still there, behind the old Baptist Church which has been demolished in Karamu Road. And I went to Central School. My father was on the school committee for 18 years.

Goodness me, yes.

Then I went to Hastings Boys' High School. Then I went to the UK when I left school. I was away for about a year. I went over and, I went with a fellow called Bruce Comrie, you remember Dr Comrie?

Yes I do.

We were actually going to a scout thing in Norway but that was only for a fortnight, and I stayed over there for about a year. Got lots of relatives in Settle and Harrogate, lots of relatives - and I stayed mainly on my mother's eldest sister's on their farm, at a place called Killimor but I travelled about extensively in the UK. I bought a little motor bike. I travelled about quite a bit visiting relatives and doing a bit of sightseeing, particularly in Giggleswick where my father came from. The pub 'The Black Horse' was right next to the churchyard where all the relations are buried.

And when I returned to New Zealand it was about this time 1950, late January early February 1950. And I had, it had been my intention to be a school teacher, but I got sort of became less keen on that as I got older and you know how in those days everybody sort of … you weren't educated if you hadn't had a season at the freezing works.

Absolutely that's right.

And I had to get some money from somewhere you see and so I went to work at Tomoana.


After a few months, two or three months I was approached by management and asked if I would, ... ever thought of a career in freezing works management you see and I said well no I hadn't and they suggested that perhaps they could be looking for people like me who might be interested. The family, Alec Kilpatrick was manager, our two families were friends, known each other for years, Alec Kirkpatrick was chairman of the Central School Committee when my father was secretary, and he had a yarn with me. We also had a friend from the UK who had been sent out here. He worked for Vestey's and he was sent out here and he was in the wool side of the business and I got very interested in that.

So I went to Lincoln College, Lincoln Agricultural College and I did a course there. And when I finished I went to Wellington and had an interview with a fellow called John Coleman who was the general manager of W & R Fletcher who owned all the Vesty works and so I started working for Vestey's and I was sent up to Westfield. I was there a couple of years and then they sent me to Patea in Taranaki, terrible place. While I was in Taranaki in Patea, I got appendicitis went into hospital to have it out, there was a little hospital and that's where I met my wife. She was a nursing sister there. In fact all with one exception I think, might have been two, the matron and one other, were the only ones that weren't immigrants. They came out under the assisted passage scheme and of course they had to go where they were told and they couldn't get staff at Patea so it was full of these people. That's where I met my wife.

Well during this period, prior to this, did you play any sports at all, rugby or?

I played rugby at school, I was in the first XV for a couple of years, but I didn't play any sport after that. When I was at Westfield and told I was being transferred to Patea I knew nothing about the place but there was a fellow at Westfield who had been at Patea. He was the employment officer, I suppose you'd call him – he'd have some fancy title today I guess. His name was Baxter. This is really another story, and I could talk about it for hours. He said to me 'oh' he said 'If you drink, gamble and play golf he said you'll be right in Patea' and I said 'well I don't do any of those things'. 'Oh well' he said, 'it will be interesting to see which ones you…' After I'd been in Patea a few months I started playing golf and I played golf for nearly 50 years. I'm still an honorary non-playing member of the Hastings Golf Club. But all that's another story.

So I had a lot of connections in Hastings, knew a lot of people, a lot of people knew me and one day I can't remember exactly when, quite out of the blue, one evening, quite out of the blue the phone rang. It was Ian Cameron whom I knew, we'd been at school together. He was a class ahead of me, he was the bell ringer, he was the bell monitor, this was at Parkvale School. Anyhow he said to me 'are you interested in coming back to Hawke's Bay?' I said 'yes I am' and he said 'well we have got something here that might interest you', he said 'would you come across and have a yarn with me?' I said 'righto' I said 'I'll come across, how about next Saturday morning?' 'That'd be alright, 10 o'clock in the office at Whakatu.' So we came over on the Friday night, stayed with my parents and went out to Whakatu at 10 o'clock the next morning. The only person in the office was Cyril Cushing who was the works manager.

We all knew Cyril Cushing, yes.

So I had a long yarn with Cyril. They were doing a bit of re-organisation at the upper level. They didn't say so but it was obvious that Ian was groomed to go up. At that stage he was assistant works manager and they wanted somebody to take his place. So after some discussion it was settled, I would go to Whakatu. It was decided that I would have to learn the Whakatu culture and that I should spend some time firstly doing odd jobs around the place just to get the feel of the place and settle in, sort of thing. 'When could I start?' I said 'I'll have to give notice at Patea', they said 'well we want you to start before the season starts'. I said 'righto I'll start round about Labour weekend, if that's alright'. 'That'll be fine'. Well there's another side to this story about all that, but its nothing to do with ...

But it's part of your life though, I think you should tell it.

Well, I'd been trying to get out of Patea for some years. I got on very well with the manager, a chap called Ralph Potter - I'd known him at Westfield, nice bloke, did a good job at Patea, good golfer too. He was trying to get me moved on and he was sent away to South America for some reason, he was away for about three months, and all this happened while he was away. And I knew that he was trying to get me a job elsewhere in the organisation and I didn't push it. One of my jobs at Patea was that - Patea had a very extensive wholesale meat trade. They used to tender for the supply of meat to places like all the hospitals, New Plymouth, Hawera, Patea, Palmerston North, the military bases Linton, Ohakea, Waiouru. They had a place in Wanganui called 'Mildcure', Mildcure supplied the processed pork product. So to keep this trade going Patea had to work all year round, so of course in the winter it was expensive to bring all the men in and work for perhaps ... to kill 200 sheep or something like that. They had to pay the minimum wage which was about - the equivalent of about 35 hours a week, so one of my jobs was to augment the supply of skins to a fellmongery so that we could lift the payments up nearer the minimum or bring the cost down per skin.

So once a month I would travel around the southern North Island and I would go to all these skin sales and buy skins at auction for delivery to Patea to process them there to try and keep the cost of the skin down. One of the sales was in Wanganui and I used to get a ride to Wanganui with a wholesale meat truck about 5 o'clock in the morning, go to Levin & Company, do a valuation then they'd have the auction and then of course I had to get back to Patea, but I had to wait until the wholesale meat truck came back. That might be 2 or 3 o'clock in the afternoon. I was walking down the street one day in Wanganui waiting, because I didn't expect the truck for another hour and I ran into Ralph Potter the manager at Patea, I don't what he was doing in Wanganui. 'Oh' he said 'I'm going back in a few minutes I'll give you a ride back.' I said 'OK but I'll have to go round to Mildcure and tell them so that the driver knows not to wait for me.' So I did that - so we had quite a yarn going back to Patea and he told me then that he was trying to get me a job over here. At that stage the Vestey organisation had a frozen vegetable business in Hastings and in Timaru, I think - Fropack I think.

Fropack, Yes I know it.

And they had a factory in Coventry Road. I'm trying to think of the manager's name, can't remember now. Anyhow he told me that he was trying to get me in there as assistant manager at Fropack you see. I wasn't all that keen, but ... this is what he was doing. At this stage of course, this was prior to my getting the call from Ian. And then Potter went overseas and then all this happened you see. And I had a lot of respect for Ralph Potter and I thought well I'll carry on here, I won't say anything until Ralph comes back, and he was due back in about three weeks. And I thought well somehow I've got to sell my house. We'd built a little house, and it's very difficult to sell a house in Patea.

I can imagine.

There were no real estate agents, you just sort of relied on word or mouth and what your solicitor could do for you. So I went to see my solicitor, who was also a personal friend, and told him what the story was, told him I wanted to keep it quiet but my house was for sale and if he knew of anybody ... Anyhow, somehow, I don't know how to this day, it got out. Now whether it was this end or that end I don't know, it got out in the end. I often suspect my mother wagged her tongue a bit.

When I came across for this interview with Cyril Cushing, one of the questions he said to me – he said 'does your mother sing in St Matthew's Choir?' And I said 'yes'. Aah - he did too. So may be that's how I got the job.

Anyhow a little while later, one morning about 10 o'clock, the relieving manager, what was his name? A fellow from Westfield was sent down to relieve while Ralph Potter was away - can't remember his name - he sent for me. So I went to see him and he said oh he said 'your house is on the market' He said 'are you leaving?' and I thought well there's no good denying it. So I said 'yeah, I said I am.' 'Well are you putting in your resignation?' I said 'yes I am I was going to do that as soon as Ralph Potter came back which I understand will be in about three weeks.' That was alright. About 2 o'clock that afternoon he sent for me again. 'Oh' he said, 'I've been talking to Wellington.' And at that stage the general manager was overseas and there was somebody relieving there. What was his name? He was the accountant who took over when the general manager was away. Scott. Somebody Scott. Anyhow, this fellow at Patea, he said to me, 'well' he says 'Scott says you can finish, go'. I was a bit knocked back, but I wasn't going to argue and so I walked out - that was it, finished. Just like that. I came home and my wife happened to be home – she was still working at that stage, I told her - she just laughed. So I rang Cyril Cushing, told him I would start the day after L

Then it all happened. We suddenly sold the house. My wife had a baby, all at once and we came over here. HBFMC had - they had a lot of houses in Whakatu, they'd set one aside for me so that was alright. The next month I commuted back and forth. I used to come over here on a Sunday night and I'd drive back to Patea – I came over here on a Friday night and I'd drive back to Patea on the Sunday night. At the end of the month these people took possession. Funnily enough, I can't remember his name who bought the place, but he was from Hastings and he was a hairdresser, can't remember his name. And he bought a dairy or taken the lease of a dairy there and he bought that, because there wasn't living accommodation with this, so when he took possession of course we came over here and we moved into the house in Whakatu, in Station Road, just opposite the hall and I started work at Whakatu.

The first job I got was I was told I had to work in the pay department. The first - I think the first three days of the week I worked in the pay department and the following two days I followed that up by working in the costing department. This gave me a background. But other things intervened. The rendering department foreman was a bit snowed under. He had no clerical assistance, he used to do all his own clerical work. And in those days all of what we called the technical tallows, that is those that were used for making soap and that sort of thing, the technical tallows, were packed in 44 gallon drums. Each drum was numbered, each drum was weighed, each drum had to be recorded in a big book. The edible tallows were packed in new wooden casks with a plastic linings. Same thing, they all had to be numbered and they all had to be weighed.

So for the first two hours every day I got this job of going over to the rendering department and doing all the specifications, and that enabled me to get a good background. I didn't know much about rendering and the foreman was a good bloke, nice bloke, I see him - usually at funerals, I saw him last week. It may be of interest to you, I don't know, I'll tell you where he is. His name is Doug Lawrence and he's at Princess Alexandra home in Napier. And he's got a very good background. He'd only been in the job a brief time himself and he had no background in rendering, but at that stage we were considering a lot of modernisation and margins and this sort of thing in the rendering department. And in the rendering department there was a tremendous amount of very expensive machinery, and a lot of pressure vessels. So we decided that it would be better to get somebody with a mechanical engineering background and we'd soon teach him about rendering, but we can - so he was a fitter at Whakatu. He was offered a job and he took it. He was a good bloke, a nice bloke. So I did that for some months and I learnt a lot about rendering at the same time.

Then I got pushed onto another job. This is what happened ... I got diverted onto this and that. Now there was a machine invented at Whakatu called a 'slipe master'. This machine eliminated a very messy, smelly process called pieing. Wool was saved from the trimmings off the skins, the [?] and the brisket pieces and the head piece, and in the old days it was what we called pieing. It was literally left to rot and then picked off my hand. We - when I say we, I wasn't there then - I mean the Hawke's Bay Farmers' Meat Company - what was the foreman's name at the time, I can't remember now, but he accidentally, I believe, discovered some other way of getting it off, by heating the skin piece and having it pulled between two rollers, a big rubber roller and a metal roller. This machine was further developed by Borthwicks. Borthwicks had it at their Waingawa Works, what they called the development section. I don't think they developed much but they took it over and they developed it a bit. Then it went to Nivens in Napier, and they developed it quite extensively and they were building these machines and they were selling them around the world and Whakatu was getting a royalty. About the only works in New Zealand that didn't have it here was at Whakatu, because I think we got such a good price for our pie because it was recognised as being a good product.

Anyhow, it was decided that we would put these machines in but nobody sort of quite knew where to put them and how to put them and set them up. So I got the job of doing that, I knew a little bit about them. And I was given the boardroom to work in and I had plans of buildings and slide rules and all sorts of things and I used to make … cut out little cardboard models of these things and try and shift them round trying to get them, because the way I wanted it wouldn't fit in the room because the trusses for the roof were too close and the way I wanted to put the machines in, was I wanted to extend them up in the air so we could get a conveyor underneath them to take the waste away. Other people would have a man there with a shovel putting it into a wheelbarrow, well that was primitive. But to do this of course we had to lift them up, put the conveyor underneath and have the trims tipping out into a container at the end of the conveyor. It was getting – it meant that they were going to be too high and they couldn't get them all in and it was a bit of a problem. We could only get one between each truss. Even though there was plenty of room, but there wasn't room for two. But somehow we managed it and we got these things in and we got them all set up and we started production.

Initially we had a lot of problems. I knew what the problem was. The chief engineer at the time was a chap called Eric Vickers. Eric was a very domineering sort of man and he had all the answers and I kept telling him, I said 'You haven't got the rollers tight enough you have to have the rollers tighter than that between the two rollers'. There's a big rubber roller and then there was a smaller metal roller with a spiral cut into which worked the pieces across. 'Ooh' he said 'the specification says that you've got to be able to get a cigarette paper between them', so here they were putting cigarette papers and I said 'That's a lot of crap.' I said 'You've got to get that tighter, got to be tighter.' 'No, no you'll ruin the bearings, the bearings will be shot in no time'. I couldn't make any progress with him. So one day Cyril Cushing said to me, he said 'I'm going to send Vick over to Tomoana to have a look at their slipe masters. He won't ... he says you're wrong, he says they don't have to be tightened, it'll ruin the bearings.' I said 'Yes he's told me'. 'So I'll send him over.' He said 'You don't go, you stay here 'cos I used to work ... So Vick went over to Tomoana and I can remember to this day sitting in Cyril's office with Cyril when Vick came in back from Tomoana, and the first thing Vick said was 'Oh we haven't got the rollers tight enough, we've got to tighten them up', and I was just … and I opened my mouth to say something and Cyril looked at me as if to say ' shut up' and he gave me a bit of a wink and a grin. This is Vickers all over – oh, I was mad. So of course they tightened them up, the things came right. We didn't have any bearings other than the normal run of things. You generally had to replace these things at the beginning of the season in preventative maintenance and we did that anyhow. God I was mad, bloody mad about that. I laugh about it now of course.

Once they tightened them down they worked beautifully?

Yes that's right. That's right - and the way he - just he – ooh ...

Anyhow I got jobs like this and after about three or four months Cyril said 'Well OK' he said 'you're assistant works manager now and that's it, away you go.' And the season was well underway of course and again it seemed to be a troubleshooting job initially. We had a lot of trouble in the boning department. The foreman was hopeless, I don't know where they got him from, but we asked him to leave eventually and we had a lot of difficulty getting a replacement for him, but we did get a bloke, Jeff Holley, great bloke, good boner, good leader of men, a great understanding of men and women, because we were getting women into those departments.

I remember after Whakatu closed Athol Hutton from Waitaki was the sort of - he was acting manager, I reported to him. And he came to me one day and he said 'We used to have a coal fired locomotive at Whakatu,' I said 'Yes that's right' I said 'but it was before my time, but I can remember it as a kid,' and he said 'what happened to it?' I don't know why he was suddenly interested. I said 'Oh it went up to the Museum of Transport and Technology in Auckland but I don't know under what circumstances'. I said that it might have been on a sort of permanent loan business. 'Ooh yes'. And he said 'Well find out will ya'. I thought what does he want to know about that for, but anyhow it wasn't my problem. So I said to Athol, I said 'I'm sure ... I know it went up there and I feel sure that it would have been a Board decision. That we would have had to have Board approval,' and he said 'go through the minutes and find out'. Well, going through the Board minutes, this is ... Alright. He said 'you know the approximate date', I said 'yes', so I went through the Board minutes for about two years around the date and I couldn't find anything. But that's – the interesting thing I found was that in July 1961 I think it was, the July meeting, Mr E B Jenkinson of Patea was appointed Assistant Works Manager at a salary of £1250 a year. The interesting thing was the salary, because that's not what I was getting at all, they were only paying me £1050. I think probably that was left for ... bit rude to pay and I thought 'Ha' and I always wondered, because when I got my first payment at Whakatu, it seemed an awful lot of money and I went through it and I thought that doesn't work out - if I multiply that by 12 I don't get £1050 a year which was the agreed payment, and funnily enough the following month I was down to the £1050 – but ...

So did you, you never found out about the train, the engine?

No, never found out.

You don't know who gave it away?

I don't know who gave it away, I'm pretty sure that's where it went to. I don't know who gave it away, I don't know why Athol Hutton wanted to know about it and why he was so pressing about it.

May be someone told him to go and play trains. So OK, so how many years were you Assistant Works Manager then at Whakatu, from 1961?

About 10 years until Cyril retired. One of the things Cyril said to me when we were talking about the job when I came over for this interview, 'Ah well' he said, 'if you make the grade' he said' you'll be Works Manager in 10 years time,' so he must have been 50, we retired at 60. They had a very good superannuation scheme at Whakatu, very good superannuation scheme. But he stayed on about another year. He'd have been about 61 when he retired I think, he stayed on another year after that . But they all sort of went pretty close together, Cyril Cushing, Ed Ranniford who was the secretary and Denis Little. Denis Little stayed on for another couple of years, he was a Board member and they kept him on for sort of a couple of years as a consultant or adviser, while we were building that new freezer building.

Another thing at the time, I told you we had this little house, little cottage in Station Road, just opposite the hall. Of course we were looking for something more permanent, and I … we finished up buying a section in Frimley, on the corner - off Lyndhurst Road anyhow - I can't remember exactly and I can't remember the name of the street, but we bought this section in Frimley. It was very convenient because you just came down Lyndhurst Road and Pakowhai Road.

Anyhow, after I'd been there about six months or more, we bought the section but we didn't have enough money to build a house. After we'd been there about six months or so, Denis Little the manager and director, oh I think he was the General Manager then, he said to me one day, he said 'The Board think that it would be a good thing if we had a senior executive living in Whakatu' and I said 'yes I could agree with that', and he said 'if we provided a suitable home, would you live in Whakatu?' I said 'yeah, I'd do that'.

We had two kids then. Mangateretere was a good little school then, very good little school, so we were quite happy about that. So the hunt was on. Just down the road, just down Anderson Road there was a house that Ernie Anderson, old Ernie Anderson. The Andersons had the land down ... and Ernie had built this place, it was only about 10 years old. And it … the fellow who was in and owned it, he worked in the pie Yard, what was his name? Anyhow it came up for sale and Denis said 'we'll go and have a look at it,' so we went and had a look at it. I think there was 10 or 12 acres of land. It was down by the railway crossing on Stock Road, by the [?] Factory. And I said to Denis 'well you know, it looks alright, fine' I said 'I have to ask my wife what she thinks, you know.' 'Oh fair enough,' so we arranged for Margaret to have a look at it. She was quite happy so the company bought it, I don't know what they paid for it. I paid £3 a week in rent and we shifted in there and we were very happy there. It was very good. Nice place.

In those days you couldn't get telephones, and they were trying to get the telephone for me, it was hopeless, nothing. There were four lines into the office. At 5 o'clock at night two lines were left in the office, one line was switched to the engine room and one line was switched to the watchman's office. So what they did was, they left one line into the office and the other line that was into the office was switched to my house. So I had to give my wife instructions that except in an emergency she couldn't use the phone between half past seven in the morning and 5 o'clock at night. It wasn't listed in the phone book or anything. And that went on for years until finally we got a phone, separate phone. That's what it was like in those days.

Anyhow, we lived there for 12 years and in the late '70s there were a lot of major changes in the industry. What became commonly known as the 'hygiene regulations'. Now most of the old freezers throughout the industry - the generally accepted storage level was about 12º, sorry minus 12 - I'm talking celsius -12 º. But the MAF suddenly decreed that it be -18. This was a result of demands from principally from the USDA and the - what we called the 3CVD. The 3CVD was the Third Country Veterinary Directive and that came from Brussels for the EEC. Well, there were very, very few freezers in the country that would you could bring down to -18. There was a block at Whakatu that we built recently for cartons, the new cartons - and 'cos once you tried to bring them down the insulation was insufficient you've got ... the ground underneath got frozen, the floors got ... so we decided that we had to totally rebuild our storage and freezing capacity and the easiest way to do it was on a greenfield site away from the works, to try and do it and keep the works going.

So we looked at this, pretty briefly, and we decided we could do this over the road, on the eastern side of the road, and we drew up some preliminary plans. We didn't own all the land, we owned most of it - we owned, of course, where my house was; then there was an empty section next door going back towards the office, there was an empty section. And then there was a two storeyed house that the company bought. It was built by someone, a freezing worker, pretty rough sort of a place, but the company bought it when all these things came up, and then next to that there was an old villa in which the railways fellow lived, what was his name? There were two railway men at Whakatu, one lived in this house, they had a little hut on the side of the track.

Yes, I remember that hut.

And they spent most of winter sitting in it round the fire playing cards. Hay, his name was Hay. His wife was the postmistress at the Post Office at Whakatu. So we thought – we had to do a lot of negotiating with the Railways because we had to build over the railway line - we wanted to get that house, and that section. We had a number of empty sections in Whakatu and in particular we had one on the corner of Buckingham Street and Railway Road and we offered to move the house onto that section, give the railway you see and they accepted that, it was all part of the agreement. So that house was moved and that left greenfields, except for my place. The fire station was at one end, but that fitted in reasonably well, and there was long debate about my house. They wanted me to stay in Whakatu and I said I was quite happy to do that, so they debated whether to move the house - but where to they didn't know, or to build a new one where, they weren't quite sure. Now the next property down Anderson Road belong to a fellow called Ozzie Wellwood, know who I mean?

Yes, he was a drover.

That's right I've just resigned from being a trustee of his estate.

A lot of people wouldn't even know his name, Ozzie Wellwood ...

Well, Ozzie had 28 acres down there and a little cottage and a little barn, a set of yards, he was a bachelor. So we thought righto we'll try and buy Ozzie out. He was getting on, so they sent me down to talk to him. I can remember one summer's lunchtime down there, we sat on his front door step and the sun shining at lunchtime and we talked about it, and we offered him $36,000 I think it was, and the arrangement would be that he would continue to live in the house as long as he wished, that by giving him three months' notice we could takeover bits of land as we required it for our purposes because we needed some of it right away. Also he could give us I think six months notice for us to take over the lot. And that was alright.

Ozzie's solicitor was Peter Gifford, so obviously he talked to Peter Gifford about it and Peter Gifford came to see us and we worked it all out and the price went up to $40,000 and we did that and the idea was then that part of it would be, with Ozzie's agreement, part of it would be fenced off and they would build a new house for me down there. So the re-siting of the house. [Looking at photographs]

So they called, tenders for the house, but they weren't very happy about the price, and they called tenders for moving the house and some housemover got the job. We lived in a motel at Karamu, you know between St George's Road and Farm Road was it? There was a store there and then motels? We lived there for about eight weeks while all this went on, and one of the shipping companies lent us a big 40ft container and we parked that in the works yard, we put all our worldly possessions in that that we didn't need at the motel and they transferred, they shifted the house. It was a great job, I used to go down nearly every day and watch them. They took it down about 5 o'clock one morning and they took it down parallel. They had two trucks and it went down the road, 'cos it was a blind road then, gravel, no traffic, only Andersons. They took it down and there was a big ditch and they had to fill all that with timber and stuff, dunnage and things to get across that. They did a great job, it was quite remarkable watching them and they did a great job of restoring the house. They did some alterations, they did some extensions and we were quite happy with that. They put the rent up too.

And Ozzie was our neighbour. Ozzie was a cantankerous old bugger. We had a few difficulties with him at times but in general we got pretty well. He ... we took some more land nearer the works where we were building this new freezer block. We took some more land there to extend the railway line. Actually we took far too much because that job was grossly overdone. I don't know how it came about, we over-estimated, but it was to our advantage. Because when the railways were looking for space to park their wagons not in use they parked them at Whakatu. When we wanted wagons there was always one there, so it worked out quite well even though it was pretty costly. It cost us a bit of money in the capital in the first place.

So it took a couple of years perhaps, we built one store to start with and it used to scare the wits out of me going into the old store over the road you know … floors and that ... I don't know how the men went in there, I was pretty scared. And we hired an old furniture van from Barry Brothers and we had that at the works all the time and whenever there was a spare gang in the freezer, we'd load up this furniture van, take it over to the new store and unload it so that there was never a moment wasted getting stuff out of the old stores. One or two stores in the front weren't too bad, they had been refurbished in the '50s, but the other stores behind them, it really used to worry me when I went in there. However I have here amongst all this stuff a supplement to the newspaper, for the opening of the new block. They ... I don't know the total details but we came to an arrangement with Mackersey. They were to build the place on the basis, I think, of 10% profit. They provided the men and all that, but we paid them, we paid the men, we paid for all the materials, we ordered all the materials. Probably if you talk to David ... I don't know if you want to know about that anyway ...

No, no it's all history, its all part of it, yes.

We did the same thing at Takapau. If you talk to David Campbell, who was the chief accountant, he'd tell you more of the details of it, but Mackersey did the job and we could alter things as we went along. It wasn't like a contract - as though we were doing it ourselves. Up to that time, when we built the new access way out the back and we built the new boning floor, and that's another story I can tell you that … we were probably the biggest construction company in Hawke's Bay. We had fitters, carpenters, plumbers, painters, electricians, there were literally hundreds of them, because we did all these jobs ourselves, because we could do it and fit it in with the kill whereas you couldn't sort of do that work ...

No, you'd have to shut the works down wouldn't you?

This was a sort of greenfields job, we could have done it ourselves but they decided on this way, and we did to some effect do it ourselves. But it was Mackersey's men and we were paying. It worked out very well, very well.

And when we eventually built at Takapau we did the same thing with Mackersey. When did that open? I don't but that'll all be in there ... in one of them.

What was your kill at that stage?

Everybody on the plant got one of those on that day and it had a pound note in it, I think, or after the ... after we changed to decimal currency – a $5 note of something. Now there'll be – what was the date?


That was '67 and what was the kill then?

That was one and a half million sheep.

That was getting up to around 2 million then. Every man on the place, every man and dog on the place got one of those. I think, well '67, I think it was still pounds, shillings and pence then.

So how did your kill compare with Tomoana's?

Well that's another long story, I could go on about that for hours.  I wasn't intimately involved with the proceedings there, but I know a bit about them.

See there's 2 million sheep and lambs 1970. That's incredible, well that's a lot of sheep.

As you know probably, prior to this day, 85 years ago or 86 years ago, Borthwicks had a works at Pakipaki. On this day in 1931 it suffered severe damage. Discussions were then held with regard to the future of the industry in Hawke's Bay, and Borthwicks decided - which was a good thing for us, but not for them, I think they made the wrong decision - Borthwicks decided that they would close the works, but they had to make some arrangements for their stock to be killed. Now the Hawke's Bay Farmers' Meat Company was a processing company. It didn't own anything, it processed and charged a fee for doing that and it processed for many different meat exporters.

So it was arranged that we would kill all Borthwicks' stock in Hawke's Bay and that was from Woodville to the Mohaka, back to the ranges, but we couldn't do it, we didn't have the capacity. So we had to farm some out to Tomoana. When I say we this is way before my time - had to be farmed out to Tomoana. Probably David Guscott could tell you something about it, I don't know - and this agreement was reached and Borthwicks' weren't allowed to take any stock out of Hawke's Bay, it had to be killed at Whakatu, or Tomoana if we couldn't handle it, and at the end of the year, the season, they balanced up and a payment was made between the two companies. Initially, the payment was made to Whakatu, but after a few years it was the other way round, and for years and years and years we were paying Tomoana a tremendous amount of money every year for this arrangement and Tomoana were sort of, it appeared to me anyhow, sitting back and doing nothing much about it, while we were increasing the kill all the time.

We had a huge – we finished - that was why they closed Whakatu – we had a huge catchment area. We were getting stock from, well you know we took over the Gear works. Then Waingawa closed and we got stock from the Wairarapa and stock right across from Wanganui, Taumarunui in the King Country. Right up ... we got stock from the Waikato, huge. People saw this as illogical and stock was brought to Whakatu and passed two or three works on the way, but they wanted it killed at Whakatu. Our killing rates were cheaper than other people's and we were generally more efficient and so this agreement went on for years and years and years, and at one stage over 50% of our kill was Borthwicks.

The Hawke's Bay Farmers' Co-op had quite a big kill but they transferred it all to Borthwicks, they had some arrangement with Borthwicks, and they transferred it at the scales, so it came into the works as HBF but after the scales it changed to Borthwicks. And that's another story we can come back on.

But this agreement, which I'm not all familiar with the details ... this agreement became a bit contentious - and it would be in the '70s sometime when discussions started to alter it and I don't - there were a number of reasons for getting it altered, not only the costs to Whakatu, but the fact that we were drawing stock from outside our district. And not only that at that particular time - Denis Little was still there, it was before Cameron's time, so it must have been in the early '70s. Anyhow I said to Denis one day, 'you know we process for all these operations' and all the product was kept separate, Borthwicks' was separate - had a different bag on it and this was done at tremendous cost. We needed quite a lot of storage space to keep all these things separately. And I said to Denis Little one day, it was in the offal room, 'You know I've been down at Alliance' and Alliance operated on much the same basis, but not quite. And one of the things at Alliance was that although the product was kept separate in the books it was all packed in a common bag and it was all in one big heap in the store. And I said to Denis one day 'you know' I said 'the time is coming when we've got to change this - too costly.' I said 'perhaps we could start with the ewes, if we put all the ewes in the common bag' and he agreed, much to my surprise, because this was one of the basic philosophies at Whakatu that the product belong to the person who was killing it, whether it be owner account or a meat exporter and that it remained that way right through to shipment and … you see. And Denis said to me, he said 'you write to all the exporters and tell them that as from next season all the ewes will be in a common bag, you explain it'. So I did that.

Well after that it was out of my hands, I don't ... but I understand that the only people that complained were Borthwicks' and this of course precipitated the revising the - getting into this agreement. And I can remember oh it must have been in the '70s because I can remember they used to have meetings at Whakatu on a Sunday afternoon and there would be Denis Little, and Sir Lanningan, the chairman, perhaps some other Board member and from Tomoana there'd be Alec Kirkpatrick and Wally Knight, who was then sort of being eased into the job as Kirk was going to retire. Well, he was pretty useless anyhow. Anyhow he didn't stay long, he didn't stay long, Wally - they sent him off to Wellington as National Livestock Manager.

Anyhow these discussions went on for some weeks and the agreement was changed, but to what I don't know. It was out of my - it wasn't in my field so that was – we never changed anything else, we never changed the lamb or the beef. Beef went into their carton, the lamb went into their bags, it was just the ewes. And about getting on into the '80s, must have been mid '70s - can't remember - Athol Hutton arrived as manager designate at Hawke's Bay Farmers Co-op. Athol had been a stock agent for a firm in Gisborne, what was their name? It was just a private little - I can't remember the name, but then he went into management. Then the Hawke's Bay Farmers' Co-op got an interest in it and in fact I think they … whether they got a controlling interest or not I don't know, but then Jock Barlow, remember Jock Barlow - Jock Barlow was the manager …

At Hawke's Bay Farmers.

He got emphysema, he was near retirement and Athol came and Athol eventually took over the job.

The first thing that Athol did - one of the first things he did not as far as we were concerned, was that he started looking into this business with Borthwicks. Well the Hawke's Bay Farmers Co-op had no infrastructure for handling all this, they had stock agents and you could - who could probably act as stock pickers, but they had no, they knew nothing about it, and Athol came to the Hawke's Bay Farmers Meat Company and told them that they were going to stop giving their stock to Borthwicks and it would be theirs. Now this involved a lot of work for us, setting up a new exporter. Now this was quite a big job and of course it fell on my shoulders, but anyhow Athol and I worked pretty well together and we got it all organised and they got a bloke from, I think he'd been a shipping clerk at some time up in Gisborne, Rhys Hopkinson was his name, do you remember? I don't know what happened to him - he became the sort of meat man, marketing man. I got on very well with him, but I did an awful lot of work for them for the first two or three years because really they were babes in the woods, you know they didn't really have a clue, so they became an exporter in their own right. And Athol told me, the first year they made half a million dollars profit and he was over the – Athol of course was over the moon, and it was a big boost to him.

And I always remember when Whakatu closed, Athol was manager of Waitaki, we reported to him you see. And one of the first things that we did was that Athol came round and he had a yarn with all the senior people you see, those that were left of us, some had already gone. And he said to me he said 'I want you to stay on on a three monthly basis.' He said 'it could be up to a year before this is all settles down,' and he said to me, he said 'I've never forgotten how good you were and what help you were to us when we took over our own stock at Hawke's Bay Farmers Co-op.' And he gave me a $2,000 a year rise on the spot like that, which was good because this affected my superannuation, it affected my redundancy, it was worth thousands. So Athol wasn't such a bad joker. So that's what happened there and – now where do we go to from here. I don't know -

Well you are in the '70s and – you built the new store – everything's running quite well but at some stage you are other, the works was going to close.

Yes, well this was ... there was all this talk about rationalisation. In this ... early '80s as a result of what they called SMPs or Supplementary Minimum Prices. There was gross over production, gross over production. The lamb kill got up to 40 million. And a lot of the works couldn't handle it, that's one reason why we got so much stock. The Meat Producers Board at one stage they thought they had all the answers and they took over all the lamb kill, but they finished up rendering a lot of them, carcasses, they all went to renderance. They had us rendering thousands of carcasses. And there was this continued talk about rationalisation. The Labour Government came in and they cut all the subsidies and it looked pretty grim for the farmer and the kill started to drop and it was getting to the stage there was a helluva shortage of killing space – there was excess. I think too the unions were waking up to the fact that, you know, if they didn't pull their finger out a lot of them were going to lose their jobs. Of course they did, and there was a lot of discussion about how the industry would go about this rationalisation. They had some advisers, or consultants who came up with grand schemes, but it was eventually ... they had decided amongst themselves that it was better to close one big works so they settled on Whakatu.

They recommened that did they?

Yep. There was a firm in Wellington called Southpack – 'cause with knocking out Whakatu you knocked out a kill of over two million a year plus about 120,000 head of cattle. But I don't know the details ... I may be maligning some people I don't know.

But I believe that Selwyn Cushing got word of what was going on. Now Selwyn had been an adviser, a financial adviser to Hawke's Bay Farmers Meat Company, he was a director of Williams & Kettle, in fact he owned a lot of Williams & Kettle, so he knew a lot about what was going on. He had been involved in this business where Whakatu took a quarter share in Williams & Kettle, Williams & Kettle took a quarter share in Whakatu, the idea being that it was going to prevent this sort of thing happening, but it didn't it sort of divided us both in effect. And I believe he got word of what was going on, he knew something about it, and he stepped into the market and started buying a lot of shares in Whakatu and that meant that they had to move fast and close the place. I think he made a lot of money out of the closure of Whakatu, but I'm not sure because … I don't like to malign him ... because I've always regarded him as a friend and he always has been.

'Course in the meantime, back in the '70s the idea came out that we would build another works, that it was - the economies of scale weren't that great. We didn't want to extend Whakatu but there was stock available. We could get the stock, so in principle we decided to build another works. I had some reservations about it. At that stage the Wellington Meat Export Company had closed the Ngauranga works; they also owned the works at Wairau. My suggestion was that we bought the works at Wairau but that was turned down. It didn't eventuate – “No we'll build new works,” and Ian was the real driver of it. I think it was his idea and he drove it along, so we did.

And of course at that stage the industry was licensed, you had to get a licence to do anything, and they had these hearings in Wellington, under Nordmeyer and there was a lot of skullduggery went on. We had bought the deer meat processing, we ran it for a couple of years and then closed it down. It was obvious that it was in the wrong place anyhow, and so there was little stock available from there. They had these hearings and in the meantime we looked for suitable properties. We decided that preferably we would be within an hour's drive of Whakatu. The idea was that it would be run from Whakatu ... it would be a satellite. Wouldn't have any infrastructure of its own, everything would be done from Whakatu. We decided we wanted no more than 40 miles away because in those days there was a restriction on transport, you had to get a licence, a special licence if you wanted to go more than 40 miles, otherwise you had to use the railways. We were going to put rail in anyhow but we wanted this less than the 40 miles if we could get it.

So we looked at about 20 odd properties between Pakipaki and Woodville and finally settled on two. One of which was in the 40k zone and one outside. They were both owned by trustee companies, both managed by trustee companies - Guardian Executive Trust - one was the Takapau property were we eventuated the other was the Oringi. We got options on both properties while we went into the nitty gritty of which one. There were a lot of factors involved, drainage, sewerage, water and all those sorts of things, rail connections. Finally we decided that it would be Takapau, so we exercised our option and we bought the place. I don't remember, I think we paid about $330,000 for it and we let the other place go. Immediately Pacific - Lowe Richmond - they immediately bought the property.

At Oringi.

We'd done all the work. They bought it with the intention – but of course at that stage too they had to get a licence. We had this hearing in Wellington. I went to a couple of sessions, never been so bored in all my life and all of what was said never came to pass. It was all wrong.

I had a bit of time on my hands in the last year at Whakatu and all the submissions made to these committees were printed so I took the opportunity of reading them and I had to laugh at some of them. A lot of it was just a load of rubbish, just a load of rubbish.

By people who knew nothing about it.

Exactly. People who just didn't have a clue.

Anyhow, we then set about trying to get the licence. They wouldn't give us a licence for three chain work - they wouldn't give us a licence at all, initially. Then we tried again and we closed Gear, and we proposed we would build two chains at Takapau. In actual fact we would make provision for three but we applied for a licence for two. One of which would be transferred from Gear, and that was accepted, but we had no sooner got - we planned to build over a year on the same basis as we built this freezer, we arranged with Mackersey.

We'd been on the job about a year and things were coming along quietly, very well, and all of a sudden the Meat Producers Board, or the Government, they dropped the licences so of course Pacific immediately started to build their corrugated iron 4 x 2's at Oringi. And in actual fact they opened about, only 5 or 6 months after us. But they had a lot of trouble. They had an awful lot of trouble both mechanically and industrially. While we went on very smoothly, very smoothly.

So that's what happened there, but the big thing that really altered the industry was shift work. Now for years and years and years we tried to get shift work in the industry but the union opposed, the trade union opposed. And initially they got a breakthrough with a small works at Ashburton. I can't remember the people who started it up. He was some newcomer to the industry and he thought he knew everything and he actually finished up in jail. Can't remember who it was now but at least he got this break. Do you know, it was after Whakatu had closed and they'd started shift work at Takapau. Now instead of killing 40 hours a week and the plant lying idle for the rest of the time, they were working two 10 hour shifts a day and each shift did 4 days, 4 x 10 hours, 40 hours, so they got a three day break. And I can remember in some work I was doing for the industry after my Whakatu days, being at Takapau, and these freezing workers telling me 'what a wonderful thing, you should have done this years ago'. I said 'we should have done it? You were the people that stopped it.' It was a wonderful thing, 3 days off and you know 10 hours a day and no problem at all 40 hours a week. Ah God.

So Bruce - with the closing of Whakatu, was there a reason to close it? Could it have been done differently or was it inevitable with delicensing, or would it have eventually gone?

Well it certainly wouldn't have continued to exist in its form at the time, but I think it could well have continued - the infrastructure was there, could have worked shifts. I think they closed the wrong works. They spent about $40 million at Tomoana, and lost the lot because I think they made a terrible balls up of what they did. I'd like to have a discussion one day, like this, but with David Guscott.

Yes, would be very interesting.


See I interviewed Michael Sanders.

Oh yes, well Michael's up in Auckland.

Yes, he's coming down again sometime this month.

Well, I'd like to see him if..

And he spoke for a couple of hours about Tomoana, and it was fascinating because he was there during the big fire, and – if he comes I'll tell him to come and see you.

After the fire, 'cause Tomoana had the abattoir licence and they had it for both Hastings and Napier at that stage, the old abattoir on the beach at Awatoto. And after the fire we made hurried arrangements to take over the abattoir kill. I remember we had to bring into use a couple of chillers that hadn't been used for about 20 years, they were from the old chilled beef trade, so that we could load out. We also arranged to kill stock for Tomoana, for W & R Fletcher, or for Vestys and we managed all right, we got along fine, we managed all that and the abattoir kill and - I can't remember exactly when that was now, in the '70s, be in the '70s.

Now Bruce, you said that were overseas when Whakatu closed. You heard through the back door sort of …

Yes, through the back door, I had no idea. It never occurred to me that Whakatu would close. A new process had come into being in which it was said that chilled lamb could be processed. Processed meant that it should be possible to send lamb to Europe by sea, 28 day - 30 day voyage. It was a process that was called 'gas flushing'. It's probably been refined a lot now ... I can't remember exactly the technical details but we carried out some trials at Whakatu and we ate some meat here that had just been lying in the refrigerator for 16 weeks, chilled. No problem.

Our agents in Germany - they're based in Cologne, Gadelfi, a firm called Gadelfi - they got interested in it. They were shipping quite a bit of lamb to Germany. They came up with all sorts of ideas, and they got keen on this and they wanted us to have a go at it. So we did. Said 'righto we'll arrange for a shipment, a full container load of whole carcasses, cut though but in natural proportions to their specifications'.

So we did this and we arranged for some coverage with the Meat Research Institute, they were interested too in what was going on. They lent us a whole lot of recording thermometers and we were able to pack these in various cartons and distribute them throughout the container so that we had, we could get a broad coverage of what was in the container, what the temperature was in the container. Can't remember the name of the vessel, but I know it was going to Flushing and the container would be offloaded and go to Cologne. So I went over there to follow it through. I waited about a fortnight or so after the ship had left here and went off to London. We had an office in London, when I say we it was in association, was called the Association of New Zealand Farmers. It was a combination of ourselves, Alliance and AFFCO and we had a cutting plant at Luton. We had our wool distribution place in Bradford and they handled all our product that went to the UK. We had about 4 or 5 stands at Smithfield, that was very interesting. Anyhow that's not part of this particular story.

So spent a few days in London at the Association of New Zealand Farmers waiting for word for the vessel arriving at Flushing. Got word that it would be there the next day so I flew over to Cologne. The container duly arrived, we unloaded it, the people at Gadelfi were very excited about it all. We had a plan of where all these thermometers were. We were able to retrieve them, about a dozen in all, and they had already made arrangements and sold it all, subject to it being up to scratch. About half the container went down to Stuttgart, so I went down to Stuttgart and went to a restaurant and had some of it. Beautiful.

Funny thing you know, we always used to pack our chilled product in white cartons to keep chilled. Gadelfi, our agents in Germany, they wanted us to change to black cartons. And I said 'black, dismal colour', and they wanted little cartons, much smaller, half the size of the existing ones.. I explained all this to them. No, no, that's what they wanted and they were the customer - but black! And he said to me - I've never thought of it before - and they said 'black'. We were in a flash restaurant - he said 'you see that waiter?', I said 'Yeah'. 'What colour clothes is he wearing?' 'Black'. 'You go to a symphony concert, what are they wearing?' 'Black. Quality, exudes quality.' And my word you know the - at this restaurant the service was just - just wonderful. They weren't obsequious - they weren't laying it on, they were so professional - I've never struck anything like it and this was in Stuttgart.

Anyhow I think there was half the container went to Stuttgart. Some went to restaurants in Cologne, some went to a supermarket in Aix la Chapelle, Aachen and we went up to Aachen which was north of Cologne and we watched it being sold in the supermarket, people buying.

Do you know, we never thought of it, but about this time they had no word in Germany for lamb, they didn't know what to call it and I think it was AFFCO that who came up with the idea and they invented this word 'lamn'. And that became the accepted - New Zealand Lamn. New Zealand L-A-M-N. And that is what was on the carton, because at this stage it was still white, but I had taken in that they should have a black one.

OK well I spent a couple or three days in Cologne and then I flew across to Edinburgh. My wife came from up there and she had relatives up there so I went up to there for a weekend to see her relatives and I took the train back to London. I was in contact pretty regularly with Ian Cameron and he never said anything. And he said – I told him I'd been to Cologne – I said it was great it's been accepted, I said we're on a winner here. And he said 'what are you going to do now'? I said 'well I want to spend a day or two at Luton', that's where we had this cutting - lot of problems and he said 'come home' and I said 'I won't, I want to go to Tahiti.' He said - we had for years and years and years every week we had sent chilled meat to Tahiti by air. We had sent it to a restaurant and a hotel. We used to send lamb legs and lamb loins chilled and we used to send beef tenderloins and strip loins. We had done it for years and nobody ever had any contact with them. Just it was all telex, letter and I thought this is an opportunity I'll go and call and see them. And Ian said, 'Oh' he said 'you can forget about that.' He said 'things are moving pretty fast here, you'd better come home' and I thought 'hmm'. I said 'all right then if you say I should come home I'll come home, but I'll have a weekend in Honolulu'. So I said 'I'll be in the office on Tuesday afternoon'. 'Righto'.

So I flew direct, well Los Angeles-Honolulu, well we stopped at Honolulu, but it went right through. The next Saturday morning I was walking down the street, can't remember its name, by what they call the International Market. Do you know Honolulu, Waikiki?

No, and I ran into a bloke called Grim Gregg, I'd known him for years. He'd been at Westfield when I was there in fact he died about a month ago. I saw a death notice in the paper. And I ran into him and at that stage I think he was working for Borthwicks in New York and Borthwicks had left New Zealand but they still had ... He said to me 'what are you going to do now?' I said 'I'm going back to Whakatu'. 'Oh' he said 'Whakatu's closed.' And I thought he meant closed for the season and I said 'yeah of course its closed - we won't open up for another fortnight or so yet'. 'No no' he said 'it's closed down'. I said ... it just went over my head. I – so I went back to the hotel for lunch and when I went into my room the little red light on the telephone was on. So I rang reception and said the little red light was on and they said a Mr Cameron from New Zealand has been trying to get hold of you, will you ring him. So I looked at my - I always carry with me a little thing little cardboard thing that you turn around to tell you what the time was all around the world, and I reckoned it was Sunday night ... no Sunday afternoon, so I rang but I got no reply. I thought he'd be at home - I rang home. So I waited about half an hour and rang again, but I got no reply. And I thought well sometimes he goes to work on a Sunday maybe he's at work. So I rang the office and I got the watchman. The watchman said 'Oh' he said 'the big meeting in the Boardroom, they're all over in the Boardroom I'll put you through.' 'Righto.' So he put me through to the Boardroom and Ian told me then that Whakatu was closed. That they were putting people off left, right and centre even on the Friday, you know closed – when they came to work on Friday morning they found it was, the place had closed down. So I said all right – it just went over my head I wasn't concerned, and I said I will be back about lunchtime on Tuesday your time. So I said 'I'll be in the office on Tuesday afternoon.' Ian said 'oh' he said - he said 'your wife knows, I've rung Margaret and told her what the story is', and … OK.

So that was it and Margaret met me at the airport and told me and she had Saturday's newspaper there, Monday's newspaper there. I went to work on Monday afternoon, but nobody was interested in me or what I'd been doing. The atmosphere was, how can I describe it? Some people weren't worried at all, others were quite worried about it. I don't quite know how to – it was quite a calm sort of atmosphere and Ian said 'oh' he said, 'Athol Hutton will be coming to see you in a few day's time about your future, but I'll be finishing next week.' A lot of the people were finishing then and there. So that was that and people just weren't interested in what I'd been doing or anything - couldn't have cared less. Just the way it was, and I – Athol came a week or so later and he offered me a job for a year, for 3 months on a roll over basis for probably up to a year, and that's what happened.

So that was that and people left like flies, in fact it got very difficult. We had to encourage some people to come back because we couldn't ... you see we still had to run Takapau; we still had to book all the stock in for Takapau; we still had to pay Takapau; we still had to keep all the records and everything else - all that still had to be done. We still had the store full of meat to sell.

So when did Takapau close then?

Well it didn't.

So its still going?


And is it owned by the Hawke's Bay Farmers Meat Company?

No. As part of the deal ... and it took a year to settle, Tomoana got Whakatu, Richmonds got Takapau. Then of course PPCS, or what do they call themselves now -Silver Fern Farms - they took over Richmonds and of course they operate Takapau now and they operate Pacific.

Well it was a fairly quiet sort of year. As I say Athol came and he was nominally running the place and he'd come up from Christchurch about once a month or something like that. We were always in communication with him and as I say Takapau still had to be kept going. A lot of product in store that had to be shipped. We had the accounts to do for the previous year and that sort of thing. That wasn't in my field. And we were desperately short of staff because as people left, people would say to me 'I've been offered a job' and I'd say 'well take it. Don't worry about the Hawke's Bay Farmers Meat Company, just take it' and away they'd go. We approached one or two people that had left us to come back and they did, might have been two or three people and they came back to help us out. People with experience. I mean you could get people but you – it was much better if you had the ones with experience who knew what the set up was and had been there before.

So, that's what happened. And three months would go by and I was offered a job in London which I turned down, I didn't want to leave Hawke's Bay. I was offered a job in Brunei. I'd had a lot to do with the halal slaughter business. I'd been on the New Zealand Committee that worked on it and travelled up to the Middle East to iron out their problems about halal slaughter. I was approached about this job in Brunei and most of their kill was goats, but it was all halal. I don't know … I didn't want to go there.

The Meat Producers Board offered me a job and they said 'oh you can live in Hawke's Bay. Come down during the week and go home again, we'll supply you with a car'. No wonder they – I can't understand these firms that throw the money around, but anyhow doesn't matter, I wouldn't have ? And so it went on and we just kept going until finally, I can't remember how we were told, I think Athol came to see us and said well '30 September is the deadline, that's it, away you go'.

So we duly had a closure on 30 September 1987. Lowering the flag you see. [Showing photos] People got dressed up because they thought they were the undertakers, some of them. I don't know – this fellow's Brian Isherwood, he was the company secretary, I don't know what happened to him. He went to Wellington somewhere - lowering the flag you see - and then tying up the halyard. Anyhow it was all – we had a big luncheon in the cafeteria, everybody that was left at the works came to the big lunch.

Was Snow Boese the caterer at Whakatu?

Yep, but he's gone now, he'd gone by then. He'd gone to Richmonds.

Oh yes, 'cause he was the caterer for our Rotary Club in Havelock and he used to cater for us the same as he would've catered at Whakatu. Lots of greasy meals and.

He was the caterer, not at the office, at the camp and for anything big that we had, which wasn't that often.

And so, when you lower the flag and have your last luncheon there, that was it.

That's right.

You just walked away. Because lots of us – I went to Napier Boys High and every day I went on the bus passed Whakatu and half the people on the school bus were from Whakatu. All these Maori families and when it closed - couldn't believe that this huge behemoth could close. And so then you came to retire seemingly at Undercliffe and been here for 30 years. Now you mentioned that your family, you have a son that's in the army, a daughter who's a lecturer, PhD lecturer at Massey, and your family have had a lot of military spread through it, hasn't it? Were you ever in the ..?  No ...

No. I was called up for national military service - no that was

 The CMT. 

I got called up had a medical exam and then I got a letter to say that I was posted to the Reserves and that I was obliged under Section so and so blah blah blah blah to advise any change of address, marital status or occupation. Never heard anything about it, never told - never heard anything more.

I was the same. I did my CMT and some of the you know a couple of weeks afterwards and then they sent me a note to say I was on the reserve list and all the same things you said, never heard. Well just as well, Vietnam, we would have been sent to Vietnam. You probably would have a major or a colonel.

'Course that was all before Gordon's time – he was only a boy then, he'd be at Lindisfarne then, I think it was about 19 – it's over 30 years now -19? Oh I can't remember, mid '70s – Vietnam. He didn't go into the army until the mid '80s.

Oh yes. Just coming back to complete the story, your wife passed away four years ago, so you'd been married for how many?

55 years.

55 years, yes that's a big break isn't it? Yes.

We were married for 55 years, we had two children. My wife was fortunate in that she was able to get a number of trips home - I think in those 55 years she'd had about 6 or 7 trips home. She was well qualified, she trained at the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh as a general nurse, she then trained as a specialist nurse in fever nursing at Sanatoriums, that sort of thing. Then she went to London where she trained as a midwife. And she was a midwife – you know the programme on TV where they get around on their bicycles - that's exactly what she did. She said the most important thing was before you went out you made sure you had plenty of pennies because you might need to use the telephone. She used to tell us some great stories about that. When she came back, when she came to New Zealand she came out under the assisted £10 Pom, and she was sent to Patea you see. So a while later here I was with appendicitis.

Yes, I always remember the canoe.

Turi's canoe, that's right. And there were two social functions in Patea per annum. Two big social functions were the Nurses Ball and the RSA Ball. One was in May and one was in June. So I took her to both, and my parents were home then in England and - they always called it home - and they were able to meet her family. So and then somebody offered us a house, to live in part of their house, so we decided to get married and that's what happened.

Well you know Bruce, that's a really wonderful story from Bigglesworth in England. Was that the place you grew up?


Oh, Giggleswick. From there to here is a great story. Giggleswick.

[Looking at photos]  That's the village cross, and this is the lych gate into the Church and the Black Horse, the Hotel is just off the ... These are all old pictures – its all about the Parish which includes [?] There is a picture somewhere I think of where you can see part of the ...

And they always found themselves on the edge of a stream didn't they? You'd wonder how they got a name like Giggleswick wouldn't you?

Yeah, well I've got another book here somewhere, tells how the name was derived. Yeah, there's the cross again and the Black Horse is just over here.  Oh there, that's the entrance to the Church ... [Photo]

'Cart By the Lych Gate Covering the Barrels to the Black Horse Hotel'

Giggleswick is renowned for its public school. And that's the school register going back.   Is there a Jenkinson mentioned? See Dad's written in a lot of stuff. Ah, there's one – George – he was Dad's – George was his second brother, so Dad'll come further over somewhere, he'll be after him ... January 1895 … so many of these fellows died in the first world war. There - that's my father there. And that's the school register.

Yes, thank you Bruce for this.

Bruce Jenkinson
Creator / Author: 
Bev Burdett
Original digital file: 
Accession Number: 

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