Jack Purcell Morrison Interview

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Interviewer:  Frank Cooper


Today's the 20th of May 2016.  I'm interviewing Mr Jack Morrison of Hastings on the life and times of his family. Jack, would you like now to tell me something about your family - where it started, and everything.

Well, will I start with me first?

No, start with your family, 'cause we have your family before you came.

God only knows where that goes from.  My father was Sid Morrison. My mother was – Olive Isabel Morrison, and in latter years she lived in Gillean Street and prior to that in many other places in Hastings. Predominant memories I have of childhood at home was in Queen Street, Hastings, just prior to King Street travelling east down Queen Street and Percy Gibson's bowser station used to be on the corner, Hector Jones's was on the opposite corner, Loan and Merc or one of those agricultural type places was where Countdown is now. Totally different building.

Hawke's Bay Farmers were on the other end of Hector Jones.

I'm not so sure – oh yes on Queen Street, but across the road from Hector Jones's … there's a building there I think the Member of Parliament's got the one of the corner. And that's always been there as far as I know. A hell of a lot older than I thought it was.

Well a lot of us went there to the dentist.

Yeah, I was going to say Bob White was on the other end, bloody good dentist.

I always remember the story of Bob White, a very attractive woman went in to have her teeth looked at or whatever, and he said “God” he said “you're a beautiful looking bitch”. [Laughter]  She walked out.

Oh he would have had a twinkle in his eye when he said it too.

He was a bloody hard doer.

Yes, I knew him quite well and his son Jerome.

Bob White used to arrive in the dark and go home in the dark and he had a Panther motorbike, and those were the days when petrol was petrol and he used to leave his motorbike on Queen Street or somewhere there and some clever bugger worked out how they could syphon his tank dry and so he got the old man to make a couple of tins on the side of the bike, looking like parcel boxes that he could fill up with petrol and it had a Panther transfer on it, and underneath the whatsaname was 'Panther Piss'.  [Laughter]   That was Bob White. But he used to apparently come to work in the dark and go home in the dark. Those were the days when people to my mind had in interest in their job.

So you were born in Hastings and you went off to...

I was born in Grays Road.  The building is still there, it's on the corner of Queen Street and Grays Road. It used to be a nurses home. So what it is now I don't know.  So that's me.

So you went to school at...

Oh, I can always remember going to Mahora - can't remember anything else. There was a couple of teachers that I liked there – buggered if I can think of their names.  But from then on it was always the Central School, and didn't enjoy it one bit.

Did you play any sport when you were at school?

No, bugger sport, I've got no use for it then and certainly no use for it now.

So at some stage or other you had an interest in lawnmowers?

Oh, well the old man made lawnmowers, and in later life I took over the franchise in Heretaunga Street when my late brother Trevor died, who had the franchise.  And I since married his wife … which is my wife June now.  And we were quite successful in business. We don't owe anybody any money.

And did you solely deal with Morrison Motor Mowers?

Yes, I did.

Nothing else, with the little Villiers motor on it.

Yes, they were the curly days, but I had a knack with two strokes, nobody else in the world seemed to.  And I built up quite a business on it.  But dealing with the public - you'd tell them to use Castrol Oil and they - “aah - Mobil in my car” you know, Mobil goes in the mower and they keep having bloody trouble. 

So where was the shop?

The first shop I operated in – oh, it’s where the – not the Countdown – what's that yellow shop, grocery outfit, opposite Tomoana Road? 

Pak'N Save.

Pak'N Save – it was on their – where their bowser station is.

Right near Cudby's.

Yeah, Cudby used to be in King Street and I believed he did shift.

Was it Kings Auto Rentals? Was there a rental company beside where you were?

No, no. In those days on Charles Street corner was a section with a house on it, with a privet hedge and then the A R Christian's shop and my shop was part of A R Christian's.   And then there was a dairy, and then there was a big building which I thought supplied chemists' stuff, and stuff like that.  But prior to that I think Cudby's or somebody that you mentioned might have had it because they did a lot of alterations to that building when the chemist part of it went up.

Bull & Hodgins was there too.

Oh, they were diagonally across the road.  87191 was their phone number. The amount of times that I picked up the phone ... “Bull & Hodgins?”  “No you're wanting 87191.” Put the bloody thing down.

Was your number very similar - must have been?

87 – because it wasn't that 87 in those days, it was just 8 - 191 we were – 8719 …   It's on a bloody pencil somewhere.

So anyway you – not only … you said you were very good with the Villiers motor but you did sharpens and settings and rebuilt motors?

[Speaking together]  Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah … That was all part and parcel of the one shop – sharpening lawnmowers and so forth.

That was a very simple little mower wasn't it?  Because ... just the little mower sitting up on top with a shaft coming out … a chain to drive the ...

Yeah, well of course there are so many damn models.  But the old man didn't like ... he would prefer a shaft to come out and … ladies with long hair get it wrapped up round the shaft.  And when J H Mason bought the place the first thing he did was put covers over everything, and that beautified the lawnmower up a bit.

But that basic model really – they started off with model A, which is the old original mower which I'd given to some – I don't know I think it’s in Waipawa somewhere, 'cause that's a helluva good museum and that's where the mower is now.   But, the actual mower being a decent mower made of decent materials didn't actually start until J H Mason's days. 

Is that right?

Yeah - the blades in the reel, in the old man's day, were just basically one up on mild steel you know, and his theory was 'oh, if you hit anything it just bends the blade and takes it away from the base plate'.  Because the reel was made … like Masport for instance, their blades sloped forward and the heavier the load of grass you go into the more they expand and the harder they come onto the reel and the cleaner they'll cut.  Whereas Morrison’s had its blades sloping backwards, and the theory was - everybody hits kid’s toys and everything else, and it bends the blade and it takes it away from the base plate. Didn't cut too well but it took it away.

With the rubbishy material they were made of - probably was the best thing to do because if it was decent material – yeah, whatever.

You would have wrecked all the base plates. So how many people did your father have?   Was it like an assembly line - the factory where he made them?  

Oh no, each person … there'd be about two or three assemblers at peak times, and each person started from nothing to finished mower.  One thing I remember about assembling mowers – the frame in those days was just eighth plate side plates, and they had bars across them.   The back one was the most offending one, and you'd nip the bolts up and these bars that went across were cadmium plated – what cadmium is I have no idea - I don't want to know.

It was a cheap sort of chrome.

I don't know what it was but it affected the metal, I'm certain it did, because the amount of times you just tightened the nut on the end and the bloody end of the shaft fell off, and it never used to happen until it was ...

Had this treatment.

Yeah - never used to happen. And then of course you had to pull the whole bloody mower to pieces to put this bloody shaft back in.  Sort of buggered up the programme. But I wasn't on the assembly line, thank Christ, but I used to -when I worked at the factory I used to sharpen reels, I used to be on capstan lathes ... liked that job, I could go to sleep on that. Yeah, I'm not joking,

Just set it alight and it would ...

No, no, no - you brought the bar in and locked the collet chuck up to a stop and then it'd stop and then you'd turn the head thing round, and the next tool would go in and do that, and the next tool - and you'd get that bloody used to it you just were asleep.  I'll never forget if I live to be a 100 – you had to count them to keep a tally on them, like a scoreboard up here.  And I used to take the thing out of the ... when it was being carted off, whatever it might have been ... and put it on the lathe bed, and I was going to count to 10, put a mark on the whatsaname and slide them into a tin. And as I say you just literally went into automatic.  And I remember this day, the tin was about half full.   I was making the tap bodies - we used to make out own taps in those days.  And I had eight or ten or something on the lathe bed, and somebody came along - I must have been away with the fairies - came along and took the tin which was half full of whatever - took it away and put an empty tin there. When it came to ten I slid the bloody things along and of course it made a helluva racket ... woke me up with a bang.   Christ, I was just in an absolute cold sweat.  [Laughter]  I'll never forget that.

So did you learn your trade by just practising working ..?

Self taught, self taught.  I learnt more at Haden & Custance.  I went there – I closed my repair business - I'd had a guts full of everything. I owned the shop – I decided 'stuff it, I'll rent the shop, close the business'.   So I rang Haden & Custance up and got hold of ... Doug Haden I think.  I said I'm looking for a job where there's nothing to do, just twist a wire or ... something like that, something I don't have to use my bloody brain on, I'm ready to go mad.  “How long?”  I said “oh - buggered if I know - twelve months I suppose.” I was there for 10 years.

So what did you do?

Everything, everything in the general ... we did a lot of Morrison work when they were making those bicycles?  Pity that damn thing didn't keep going you know, because you know – there's bicycle manufacturing in this country.  And so anyhow, we used to make the carrier – the chromium carrier thing on the back – oh there was all sorts of wire work and stuff. I don't mind repitition work.

When you were working for Haden & Custance - where was their workshop then?

You know where Harvey Norman is, over the intersection in the next block.

So, did you ever work out at Morrison Industries?


'Cause that ... your father must have sold that or ...

J H Mason bought that.

Who from – your father?


And he took all the manufacturing of the mowers and the bikes, and then he sold it to Wright Stephensons didn't he?

That might be the polite way of putting it. Wright Stephensons ... cunning bastards ... anyhow Wright Stephensons - J H Mason was a bloke that knew no fear in business, knew no fear.  And Wright Stephensons would back him.  You know where Stewart Greer garage is on the corner, well that used to be a store in the days I'm talking about, and it was loaded with Morrison products right up to the roof, and that was all promissory security for Wright Stephensons, and JH always ran right up to the bloody nostrils, but he made that bloody place spin that's for sure.   Bloody nice bloke.  You know how he died?   His son – he started PTY in Putaruru and they had a big timber mill there, Putaruru Timber Yards, and the son, who was married in Australia was brought out to run Morrison Industries and he was a wood man.   And he wanted to run PTY and he would have made a bloody good boss out there - not that I know anything about PTY - but JH was determined he was going to run Morrisons.  And he just sat on his arse in a chair and appointed somebody else to do everything.  He just was not interested.  Bloody nice guy wasted, absolutely wasted.

Yes - wasn't a metal man.

No, just wasn't interested. You could go down there any day of the week if Ian Mason was there and you were talking to him, you couldn't get away.  'Cause he had nobody else to talk to. Everybody else was busy.  Bloody nice guy.

And so what happened then, did the company go belly up?

Oh no, it was taken over finally by Wright Stephensons which was the inevitable, and they swapped Ian Mason for the property … they swapped land out at … Raupare is it?   It’s further out than Raupare.


No further out than that.


No, it’s further out than that.

Taradale, Redcliffe?

It's straight out from Fernhill.  You go straight out.

OK … Pukehamoamoa.

Yeah - in that sort of area.   And Ian of course was highly delighted to get the hell out of the place and … property wise or whatever, they swapped the factory for land out the back here somewhere.   And everybody said “what's Ian dreaming about?”  You know … bloody bit of waste land.  He turned it into a winery when winery wasn't as prevalent as it is today, and he was very successful with it.

Is that right?  Do you know what the name of the winery was?

Not a clue.  Being a teetotaller, I'm not a wowser, but being a teetotaller I wouldn't have a clue.

Nothing wrong with that.

I think they had a cork in it, I’m not sure.  [Chuckle]

Good on you.  Oh, so that's where he ended up - at Wrightson … Wrightson …

He established a great outfit out there.

He must have been at Korokipo.

And he had his own winery and everything out there.  He was quite successful. His sons are still on it as far as I know. So if you look up the register you'll find the Masons out there somewhere. He was very successful and bloody nice bloke, wasted.

And so the chap Mason, what happened to…

J H Mason?


JH Mason was a bloody fine man, I liked him. I liked him because he liked me. He thought the bloody sun shone out of me.   But anyhow – I mentioned this Putaruru Timber Yard didn't I?  Well, he was at the Putaruru Timber Yard and - I don't know whether Ian was with him or not - but anyhow he was browsing around there.  And I don't know what eyesight he had – he was driving a vehicle, but his lenses seemed to be quarter of an inch thick, you know.    Anyhow, he was having a look through Putaruru Timber Yard, and J H had to look into everything - he was interested in everything.   And because the boss was going to have an inspection they turned the band saws off, and the band saws are huge.  When you switch them off they might be still going in half an hour, you know they take a helluva long time to stop.  [Speaking together]

Yes, I know … centrifugal force.

And J H had these very thick glasses and so forth – what the hell he was doing where he was I have no idea, but he was down by where these big logs get cut up and the bloody rest of it, and he tripped over some chips of some damn thing and his glasses fell off.  And he's blind as a bloody bat and he's groping round trying to find his glasses.  And he'd walked off on his own, I imagine, because I think somebody would have stopped him … and he's walking straight in looking for his bloody glasses

Oh, you’re joking!

Blind as a bat – he walked straight into the bloody band saw.  


Yeah.  Survived for … oh, I don't know … several hours or days or …

Oooh.  Yes, I remember him. We were involved with the Mason Village in Havelock. Our Rotary Club - we planted all the trees there, when it was originally done, but I think that may have been his widow that …

Mrs Mason, yes.

Yes, ‘cause he lived up in …


That's right. He was well liked in the Village …

Oh, lovely bloke.

Yes, but what a way to end though!

Yes.  Well you know, as I say - he had to be right in the middle of every bloody thing.

So, alright then - that means once the lawnmowers and everything went to Wrightsons and Masons that was …

I don't know that actually Wright Stephensons did actually get… I honestly don't know. I know there was an Australian manager put in.

Then there was Jim Judd who was a New Zealand manager.

Was he?

Yes, from Hastings.  Jim Judd, he managed it for a while.

I didn't know he was in the managerial bit.

Yes. But those … you know, those companies - they had so many people walking around you didn't know who was a boss and who wasn’t.   And so then you were doing some work still with Haden Custance, and you stayed there for 10 years doing all sorts of things besides tying little bits of wire on things.

Yeah, well I found Haden & Custance a great life. Helluva good team … helluva good team.  In fact I – doing a bitch about this bloody road out here, it's the noisiest bloody road in Hastings and it's all because the people that put it down shouldn't have a licence for making roads because they haven't a bloody clue, and they’ve put half the shingle on it they should do, and the road noise out here is just ...

I know - it roars.

It’s absolutely unbelievable.

You can hear them both ends.

And the newer the car is the newer the tyres are and the more the buggers roar, you know.

A lot of the tyres that come in now from China and Japan are not designed for this sort of road anyway. No, they're cheap and they are noisy.

Anyhow … that's my latest bitch.

So anyway, you carried on there until you retired?

Yes, and they gave me – I must tell you this. They gave me a test dial indicator thing, and it was a thing like that, you know - just looked like a box with a handle in it and a little knob sticking out here, and if you pushed the knob it read different things.   And I – they were making a great bloody presentation about this bloody thing you see, and I said “that's only half there isn’t?”   And Custance said “what d'ya mean?”  ‘Cause I used to sit next to Custance at smoko table and this is where this bloody presentation was made.  I said “bloody thing’s only half here isn't it?”   He said “what do you mean?”   I said “well, it's got to have a magnetic table that fits onto the outfit”.   So “oh well, we'll get you the other half.” [Laughter]  “It’s no bloody good like that”.

So didn't they know that?

'Course they knew it.

Yes - they were just having you on. Was Custance the short one or a tall man?

No he wasn't very tall. I don't know whether Ray Custance ever had another jacket or whether he had a dozen exactly the same, but I never ever saw him in anything else but this bloody one jacket he had.   Always wore it.

He used to live in Lane Road.   He had the unusual house.

Yes, yes, yes.  Bloody unusual alright.  [Laughter]  He had the slack in work and he had several Islander boys there – geez they were nice blokes too – and they welded … welding and that sort of thing.  Anyhow the frame was up and I don't know whether they had wire netting on it or what the hell it had, but anyhow they had to put … as the boys said – more mud, more mud – you know - they putting … smearing this bloody stuff on … was coats and coats of it gone off.  And anyhow apparently somewhere along … I think somebody was installing … they were almost finished this bloody mud - somebody was installing something and brazing a pipe in the kitchen somewhere, and the bloody thing caught onto the wood or something, and the flames were coming straight up out the top like a bloody chimney.  Oh Christ … so anyhow we were all there and … we had a hose and … [Laughter]

Fixed it up.

Put the bloody hose down the hole.  Flooded the kitchen.  [Laughter]

I've been in that house many times, not when Custance had it but for other owners, because I used to sell real estate, and it only fitted a certain type of person.

I can never get over that landing they had with no bloody handrail around it - Christ, talk about a suicide job.  He didn't want any rails across …

That's how the architect in Wellington wanted it though wasn't it?

Oh … talk about bloody architects.  If Custance wanted anything done properly he always put me on with the bloke that's supposed to be able to do it.   Anyhow they had a great big sanding  machine … they used to do furniture and stuff originally, and that was sort of all disused … still workable, but not used.  And Custance decided that the ceiling in the dining room I think it was … what the hell was the wood?  Macrocarpa.  And he wanted this all dressed. So we had this bloody great big sanding belt going and so forth, and putting this … miles of wood … putting this stuff over this and … he'd come out and … “give it another one … give it another one”.  So anyhow we got this wood and…  macrocarpa's got a particular colour, it’s beautiful.  And this particular stuff - I don't know where the hell he got it from but it must have been top notch you know, and it really looked gorgeous.  And I said “oh, you know, we've given it the third go over the sander and it sure looks … come and have a look at it”.   “Oh no” he said “that's good. Now polyurethane it.”  I said “you're bloody mad” and he said “well - that's what the architect said” - I said “tell him to go to hell”.  I said “look at the gorgeous colour that's got”.   And he said “polyurethane it.”  Well I got a dab of polyurethane and I touched a bloody corner of a piece and it just went like any other damn wood.

You lost the colour.

Went back into … just went an orangey colour, you know.   I went back into his office and said “for Christ's sake come out and have a look at this”.  He said “what?”  I said “I've just put a bit of polyurethane on the corner of one piece of wood and if that's what your architect wants I'd fire the bastard”.   And he said “well that's what he said”.  And I said “well come and have a look”.   So he came out and had a look.   “Oh yeah”.   Well I said “can't you see the macrocarpa's got an almost like a purpley vein” … goes through the bloody stuff, it looked beautiful.  I said “can't you see that up on your ceiling?”  He said “well that's where it's going.”  And I said “But Christ - you don't want it that colour. I might as well go and get a piece of rimu and stick it up there.” He looked at me in bloody disgust and he says “do it”.  Shit.  So we painted the bloody thing - God it broke my bloody heart to see that. [Laughter]

So what – it looked yellow did it, when it was up?

Oh, just went orange like any other bloody wood does when you put – it's horrible bloody stuff.  God. You know - that's been done with polyurethane no doubt. Just orange.

So that was another skill you had.

Oh God.

You're a woodworker as well.

Oh, he just gave me a pain in the arse over that job, just because the “architect” … I'd have fired the bastard.  [Laughter]  What I've heard about architects – I used to go out to Price & McLarens and Barney … Barfoot or some name like that … only one in the telephone book anyhow.  Barney used to run ins and outs and [?] to him there and all of a sudden a bloody car would pull up and “oh … not this bloody architect”.  He hated the buggers - he always wanted something crazy. The crazier the better.

So you stayed there until you retired properly.

Yes.  Oh, I never stopped – you can't stop. You haven't seen my workshop have you?


I've got a factory out the back. [Laughter]

Have you really?

Yeah.   One of the fly presses from Haden & Custance - they were going to throw it away – I said “Jesus no I'll take that bastard home”.  So it was pretty heavy, so I pulled the damn thing to pieces and took it round in pieces round to Quality Autos ...

I know where they are.

I use their washing machine and so forth. I used to keep their fan operative in their sandblasting outfit, and they apparently had plastic pin things in the fan arrangement and of course the sand going through wore the bloody metal away in no time and they were always having these damn things repaired, or trying to find another pump the same, you know, and ‘course they were getting older and older and harder to find. And so I made up a punch and die that – strip of metal say that wide – it would bend a lug down every so often. And I made a fan thing out of it and – because making it out of metal I could use metal but I couldn't buggerise round with plastic.  Anyhow, that - I think I only ever replaced one of those in all the years [speaking together] I've been doing it.

Is that right?  So it worked alright then?

Oh yes, never wore out, and so - I got free run of the washing machine and the sandblaster.  I mightn't have all my workshop here but I've got ‘em round the place … find my way round.  It's not a matter of what you know – it’s who you know, you know?

So Jack, you obviously got a lot of pleasure out of working with metal - that was your forte. And as you said you were self-taught …


… and you obviously could do any job – it was nothing.

Well I'd have a bash at it anyhow.   I - my youngest son, Ewan … I could watch that bugger all day, he's beautiful to watch, and some of the pieces of metal that he plays around with to fit this – I think – you know, there's not a hammer mark or anything left in ‘em … bloody beautiful - watch him all day.

So where did he do his time then?

Ah, well - he was at Haden & Custance for quite a while. Went overseas to Australia with Haden & Custance several times. Installation work.

I have a son who trained to be an engineer - fitter and turner - at Tomoana, and he has said when he went to England after that, he said no one realised what a great grounding they got at Tomoana, all types of engineering. He said he could do everything and currently he works and lives in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia.  He's a policeman there, but on his down time he takes gangs into the mines for maintenance and repairs.  But he just said a place like Hawke's Bay some of the teachers were very, very good.

I tell you one thing too when I was at Haden & Custance. They had an apprentice and you know they were - I suppose you could put them in the bracket of ‘louts’ you know. They weren't bad or anything but they … you know, just bloody louts, and they had to go to the Taradale EIT.   Has it always been called that?

No, it had another name.

OK, well whatever it was that's where they went. Do you know … they came back men. It was just unbelievable. No bloody skylarking, no stupid throwing things around the bloody workshop, you know.

Bit of discipline.

Yeah.  And not only that they obviously realised what bloody idiots they must have been. You know?  They came back men.

Yes, so – well that's fascinating to hear that.  Do you still use a Morrison motor mower?

No, I use a Masport. [Laughter] I can't push a rotary mower - my back – I just can't push it, and probably be a Masport if I did push a bloody mower. Anyhow, Eileen Woodham … Ray Woodham was my accountant. …

Yes, I know Ray … I knew Ray. [Speaking together]

… and friend … and friend. D’you know how he died?

I did know but I've forgotten.

Apparently they were going to go down south.  A big trucking company that he founded, virtually … as the accountant, had asked him would they come up to their centennial whatever it was – big outfit.  And he was sitting on that couch over there telling us that he and Eileen are going to go down south.  I thought - Jesus Christ – I said “what, flying?”  “Oh hell no, no” he said “Eileen’ll do a bit of the driving”, he said “I’ll do most of it”.  I thought ‘Jesus Christ, I don't like that”.   So anyhow, I rang his son after they'd gone and I said “do you know your old man's going to drive down to Invercargill?”  He said “yes” and he says “I'm buggered if I know how I'm going to stop him”.

Was it Tulloch?

Oh, I forget now.   And he says “I'm buggered if I know how I can stop him”. I said “well he's not fit to drive that's for bloody sure” . And so – not a distance like that – Christ that's a long way. I ought to know I've done it three times.  [Chuckle]   But anyhow, the night before he was going to leave I had a meal at home with friends - one of them was a nurse or a female doctor, I'm not sure … I’ll call her a nurse - and he was saying grace and so forth and sat down and she was opposite him and she said “you alright Ray?”  And … flopped his head into his dinner and that was it – he was gone.

Yes, 'cause Keith Carran who’s a close friend of mine was his partner, Peter Howell and all those guys were – and so I used to spend quite a lot of time in their office. And I didn't know that.

No, that's how he died, quick as that …

Oh, goodness.

… dropped his head fair into the …

Yes, he was a really nice man actually.

Oh Christ - one of the best, one of the best. Christ, we've had some fun. [Chuckle]

Well, if you were a teetotaller how did you have fun with that group, if you didn't drink?

Never had any bother.

They obviously accepted it and didn't try and pour it into you.

I can't ever remember any occasion anybody offered me a drink.

May be that was the problem, they thought you were teetotal …

I can't remember any such occasion that I was anywhere where they were drinking. But, when we built this bloody house out at Frimley, I always admired … d’you remember a name - Eric Batson?

Yep, knew Eric very well. Knew son Brian very well too.

Eric Batson had a very nice home on Tomoana Road, and he had a long driveway - must have been a back section - he had a long driveway going in, very attractive. Came home to June and I said “look, I've seen the driveway I want … come and have a look”. Get in the car and drive round there … “that's what I want. Jeez, looks very nice”.  So I got the red metal in and compacted to the drive and … I remember the red metal arrived … raining like hell on the Friday, and they dropped five bloody great big plops of this down the driveway. And there were no footpaths out the front in those days, just a mud pool, so I had to park the bloody car out on the mud, jump my way across the mud to get to terra firma and looked at this and thought ‘Jesus Christ, what a job!’   So I put my gumboots on … this would’ve been about four o'clock in the afternoon I suppose, come home from work quick.  And it’s pelting down, and I thought ‘well I'm going to get soaking wet anyhow so I might as well just go out in my clothes and … free and easy.  So out I go with my rake and I pulled this bloody stuff around and I finally got it down to the stage if I dared I could drive the car in and put it in the shed and I thought ‘no - bugger it, I won't bother.’   I was buggered anyhow.

So the following day rain … was still raining but nothing like as heavy and I gave it a final rake over and a roller, that's over on that fence line over there, backwards and forwards with this hand roller, beautiful roller about that diameter, cast iron, rolled and rolled and rolled and rolled. Finally got just like the cat's whiskers and ah - said to June “well there you are there's Eric Batson's driveway.”  Had flash gate posts put in and all the rest of it, and I was very pleased with it for about six months.  And then we sort of noticed there was a little bit of a pothole here and puddle’d splash out and the puddle would get bigger, and splash more out.  The biggest bloody curse of a thing I ever had was this bloody limestone driveway.  And I go back to Tomoana Road and have a look at Eric Batson's drive … see what the hell he's doing about it - and he's got it all tar sealed. Oh Christ, here we go. So I called a drum of … I prepared the surface again, got two drums of tar, converted a watering can so’s it would fan out, and decided OK … weekend I'll get stuck in there.   And lo and behold Eric Batson came into my shop … he’s never been in me shop in his life before.   Oh Christ … “I see you've got tar seal on your drive”. I said “limestone wasn't successful”. And he said “no, no … it’s bloody hopeless”.  And I said “well, I've just got two drums of tar at home to rake over and put …”   “Oh Christ” he says “don't do that” he says “I did that” he says “I had to have it all scooped off again”. He had agricultural equipment.

‘Course he did, that's right.

And he said “no don't … for Christ’s sake don't put tar seal on limestone” he says “I can save you that heartache” he said “it just doesn't work”.

So – Christ where do we go from here?   And I had a nib of about 4” of concrete nib which was the footpath this side and the garden down that side, and I wanted that nib originally. And he said “no, for Christ's sake don't put tar seal on that”. He said “put red metal on it first.”    I said “how much?”   He said “oh, about 3-4 inches”.  Phew … Christ.  Anyhow I looked up the book and found somebody that carted red metal, and he come and had a look and he said “well you'll want at least three truck loads there” and he said “Christ - whether I can supply it or not” he said “I don't know” he said “I'm really scratching the bottom of the bin.”   And he had … on that main road out to Maraekakaho.  And he says “it's going to be the last lot. I'll bring you what I can”. So anyhow he did get the three loads and plenty of porridge with it, and … rained like buggery when he delivered it which was the best thing that could happen because I could roll it and rake it easier, and … got the base of a good outfit and the following weekend I tar sealed it, and that drive's still there.

Is that right?

And Ray Woodham says to me “you know” he says “every bloody thing you tackle” he says “turns out right” he says. I said “yeah, but Christ there's a lot of hard work in that.” And he said “Christ” he said “what about” he says “my drive - it's all broken up and this that and the other” he said “majority of it” he said “just wants another coat over the top”. He said “what about giving me a hand with my drive?”   And anyhow, that was the next weekend or couple of weekends down the drain. But, no nice guy old Ray.

Yes he was.

Now just going back to the start again, what sort of man was your father? I know that - if you don't want to talk about him you don't have to.

No, no, no - well I suppose you could put him down … He used to use the term “enginidiot” and you know, I used to think ‘oh well, he means engineer you know’.  That was his way – joke – but I think he was an enginidiot – really.  He was a helluva nice guy you know.

You see, it’s interesting that he was almost an entrepreneur with mowers, but then somewhere down the line you inherited that talent as well didn't you? That engineering talent.

You had to, because I was in the middle of it all.

But I mean it happened naturally with you. You didn't go and do an apprenticeship, you just had it.

[Speaking together]  Yeah, yeah, yeah … well you’re self-taught.  I learnt a helluva lot at Haden & Custance. I've got a machine shop, I'll show you before you go, I've got a machine shop out there second to none. It’s a factory out there, and if my bloody back was operated on I'd be in my element, but I just can't … I go out there full of enthusiasm and … ten minutes … I'm back here sitting in my bloody chair again.

Did you ever know Jim Frogley?

Yes, yes, the old man and Jim Frogley were very close. The old man bought very very cheaply, a car that de Pelichet McLeod's bought for the boss, and it was called a Vulcan. Six cylinder Vulcan. When it arrived at de Pelichet McLeod's it was running on five cylinders. So do what they may they could not get that car running on six cylinders and apparently – I don't know how the hell the old man was involved in it – but Jim Frogley … and I'm pretty sure the old man got hold of Jim Frogley … he must have bought it, been able to buy it cheap because it wouldn't run on six.  And de Pelichet's couldn't get it going, so the boss said “stuff the thing. Get rid of it.”   And it was a big thing, and it …- bloody windscreen would have been about that high - hood was way the hell up here somewhere. An of course the old man said “first thing I'll chop that bastard down” and 'course he has to go the other extreme … driving through a bloody peephole almost. Anyhow, they carted this bloody thing out to Jim Frogley's and it took them days to work it out. It was the way the … it had a generator connected to the …

Starter motor … water pump?

No, no - the distributor, and apparently this had an odd number of locations and if you didn't get it in the right bugger it didn't run on six.

It missed one, there was a gap.

Yeah, that’s simplifying the thing, but that basically was the main error. But anyhow the old man apparently bought this bloody thing cheaply, and Jim Frogley and he worked out how the hell this bloody thing would run on six cylinders.

So you just - when you feeling alright you use your workshop as a hobby do you?

Oh I make a product, I'll show you out there.   I make a product, and I know F L Bone’s would love me to carry on making them, but ten minutes out there and I'm buggered.  You don't get much done in ten minutes, and I just can't get these bastards …  I've just been in the hospital for some other bloody thing or another the other day, and I was saying to this woman that was attending to me, I said “oh, if I could get my bloody back fixed. I'm supposed to be on the operating list” and she got on the bloody computer and she said “you’re not, you know”. So that was bloody cheerful. She said “you’re not you know”.   Agh. … you just don't know just what's going on. Mind you … poor bastards are flat out.

So, apart from just using your engineering as a hobby - you retired here, you don't play bowls or anything like that.  Are you just having a nice easy retirement?

Some people would say that, yeah. I don't find anything easy with bloody backache. Sitting on my arse here all day is not funny.  You know, there's plenty of things to do.

See I can't even know … understand what it feels like 'cause it's not my back that's hurting.

Well, it just gives me hell. I go out and say ‘right, I'll mow the back lawn’ and sometimes I'll mow that and then while I'm able I'll open the bloody gate and mow the front one as well. But most times I mow one at a time ‘cause my back gives me hell.

One thing I didn't ask you, your friendship with our friend from Australia, who told me about you … what's his name? Travel agent?


Do you ever do any travelling at all, Jack?

He's related to me, that bloke.

Oh is he?

Yeah - I'm trying to think what relation he is. He's married to my niece, one of my nieces.

You know I haven't seen him for probably 10 or 15 …

Gary Muldoon - Mulvanah.

I haven't seen him for probably 15 or 20 years, and I walked into Stoneycroft – walked in and he's sitting there and I said “hello Gary!” And he said “hello Frank!”   You know?  And then he started to say “oh” he said “look, I've got this friend”.  He said “you've gotta interview him” and he said “this friend has got some good stories”. So – no, that's good.

Well, Jack if that's pretty well everything you think you can remember ..?

It’s a real hotch potch.  [Chuckle]

No, it doesn't matter. Thank you very much for allowing me to record the life and times of yourself and your family and I'd just like to say thank you.

My pleasure.

Jaack Purcell Morrison
Original digital file: 
File MorrisonJP1221_Final_Sep16.ogg33.13 MB
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