Alasdair Archibald Shaw & Joan Elizabeth Silcock Interview
Today is 17th July 2017. I’m interviewing Alasdair Shaw, formerly of Twyford, now retired. His life interest had been fruit growing; but Alasdair, would you like to tell us something about your family?
Yes. I think I’ll start off with my father and then go back from there to the grandparents after I’ve talked about him.
Now, my father was born in Scotland, in Ayr, in 1911; actually, 1907 he was born. In 1921, his parents, his sister, two aunts and an uncle all came out together. They came out on the ‘Ruahine’, and they arrived at Wellington, New Zealand, on Tuesday 20th December 1921. Now when the family arrived, they settled in Lower Hutt, but the two … Dad’s two aunts and my great-aunts, Jessie and Catherine … came up to Hawke’s Bay, and they eventually had about eight acres on the corner of Sylvan Road and Grove Road; eight acres of orchard there, mainly stone fruit, I think, and glass houses. And my father – he’s never told me, but I suspect he worked on the orchard after leaving … I think he went to the District High School in Hastings.
Alasdair, just coming back to that site on the corner of Sylvan and Frederick Street [Grove Road] – it’s now Splash Planet, and it had been Fantasyland prior to that, hadn’t it?
And of course the fact that the house has gone, it’s not easily identified, but I believe some of the trees are still standing there?
Yes. Coming down Grove Road and you go into actually where there’s a cafeteria and what-have-you; I think that drive was the original drive.
The trees are pretty big now.
The aunts were there before the earthquake; how far before that, I don’t know. And they lost a lot of crockery during the earthquake, or after the earthquake – there was a lot of damage. And they had a grandfather clock which dates back probably two generations – that’s the Shaw family – to 1770, and that actually fell over and was repaired. The damage was superficial, and I now have that clock in my sitting room, so it’s about two hundred and something years old now. Now the little aunt, as we called her … my father’s aunt, my great aunt … she ran the house, ‘cause it was quite a big house; and Jessie, the other aunt, ran the orchard and the glass houses. And she was helped in this; eventually I think she had a manager, or certainly Ralph Bixley helped her immensely and was the paid employee. Ralph of course eventually had his own orchard in Jarvis Road. Ralph always called them the Miss Shaws; I don’t think he ever referred to them as Jessie or Jeannie, just the Miss Shaw.
During the fifties the Council decided they wanted the land to extend Windsor Park, and so they had no option but to sell it to the Council. And so they had nowhere to go to; but my grandfather on my mother’s side had a house in Te Awanga, so he said, “Well, you can go there ‘til you get something.” This was about 1952, and the little one … the second one, Jeannie, died there in 1970 so they didn’t really go …
[Chuckle] Looking for anything else?
… looking for anything else. And so it meant that during the summer holidays they would come to my father’s orchard in Twyford, and we’d go down there for our holiday; and it worked pretty well.
Well just going back to the name Bixley, tied in to your family, Ralph Bixley was the brother of Don Bixley, wasn’t he?
Yes. Well Ralph had a daughter that [who] was married to Mr Berry Senior.
So now I think that’s all I want to say about Jessie and Jeannie, my great aunts who came out with my Scottish grandpa and granny. There are two big poplars down near the Harriers’ Hall in Sylvan Road, and that’s I think where the orchard finished. And they’re still there, two massive poplars.
Right – going back to my grandpa and granny – Grandpa was a wine and spirit merchant in – actually in Glasgow – he had his business in Glasgow although they lived in Ayr. And his father before him was Archibald; my grandpa was John, and my father was Archibald Peter Murdoch Shaw. He came out when he was forty-one years old in 1921 when they sailed from Southampton. He never worked when he came here, so he must’ve done pretty well for himself. He settled in Waterloo Road in Lower Hutt.
Well, the wine and spirit business was a pretty assured business, wasn’t it?
Yes. Yeah, yes it was. And he had, or had built for him, a very substantial house in Lower Hutt, with a tennis court and a small shooting range out the back. And I was told that one of the owners after they had passed on was Ron Jarden, the All Blacks Rugby three-quarter.
But Grandpa died in 1948, at quite a young age – I think he was about sixty-eight years old – so Granny came up and lived with the aunts at Windsor Park, which I’ll refer to Windsor … Dad’s place was Windsor; they did call it Dinniver; I’m not sure where that name came from. She lived in the orchard with them, and then she went down to Te Awanga and lived with them. She was born in 1876 in Ballantrae in Scotland. She died in 1973 in Te Awanga, in Napier.
What age would she have been?
Well, I think I have the wrong date that she died; she died in 1963, yeah – not ‘73. I think she was eighty.
On my mother’s side, Grandma and Grandad – Grandma was born in Wellington, and her name was Rubina Jane Spence Baumgart, which is a German name. And her father came from Germany and her mother came from the Shetland Islands, a Scottish lady. And I’m pretty sure they met in New Zealand.
Now, Grandma had three or four brothers with very German sounding names, and they changed or modified them so that they weren’t too Germanic because they would’ve got quite a tough time during the First World War. And I don’t have the names of them, but three went away – one certainly went to Gallipoli – and they all came back. And there were two that … actually Bruce I met – her brother Bruce; and then there was Laurie Baumgart who I’ve suddenly realised was a fruit grower in St George’s Road, and he was the Fruitgrowers’ Association Treasurer … Secretary/Treasurer … from 1928 to 1945. And I never met him. And he was made a life member in 1957 – Laurie Baumgart – and he was on the Fruitgrowers’ Association Committee.
D’you know whereabouts in St Georges Road he was?
No, I don’t, no. No, I’ve got no idea.
Laurie’s name is amongst the office holders in the hundred-year history of New Zealand Hawke’s Bay Fruitgrowers’ Association.
Grandma met my grandfather … I don’t know when they got married. My grandmother married Eric Simpson … Eric Volkmann Simpson … and they married in Wellington. Now Eric came from the West Coast … my grandad on my mother’s side … came from the West Coast of the South Island. He was one of about twelve children. His father was a doctor in Charleston, and Grandad had quite a few brothers and a couple of sisters. Grandad’s father was James Simpson, and Grandad had a brother we called Jim, my great-uncle, who was also a doctor. And Grandad had a couple of sisters; one went nursing in America, and occasionally she’d come back to New Zealand when I was quite a small boy. And she’d talk about cars in America having clear rooves, and she’d say, you know, “We went out for a drive and we’d able to look up and look at the stars.” Aunty Margaret; and she always said, “Hi there”, she never said, “hello”; so she would always say “Hi there.” She had quite an American accent. So she would be a great-aunt.
And Grandad was a solicitor, first practising in Taumarunui. And then he came to Hastings and bought into a firm which became Simpson, Bate & Wayne.
I’ve just interviewed Jennifer Bate, and ‘course she was …
She was the daughter of Ed Bate.
No, she was the daughter of Sandy Whyte, but she was married to one of the Bate boys, Roger.
Oh yes, well she … of course. ‘Cause I think she was at school with my sister up on the hill at Woodford. Grandad also had a brother, Tom, who was a lawyer as well; and Tom went to the First World War. And Jim … Doctor Jim … my great uncle, also went. They both came back, but Tom came back with one leg. And he devoted the rest of his life – he never married – to helping returned servicemen. And he was given a free rail ride right throughout New Zealand; I don’t know whether other returned servicemen … or whether that was just general or not; or whether …
The family must have been a very strong family because they all were doctors or lawyers or …
Yes, they were, yes.
… and they all went and fought for their country; some gave a leg away and still came back and worked for people – obviously great givers.
Yes, and Grandad was quite a giver; he was comfortably off, but he wasn’t a man about town or anything like that. He had quite a Maori clientele which he inherited from the former man that he bought the practice from. And so they settled in Willowpark Road; they had about thirty acres there, and I don’t know whether they gave or sold the land for Akina Park and part of the High School. Certainly part of that was their place.
Just to give some association, his full name was …
Eric Volkmann Simpson. And I think there is a photo … a digital of the building after the earthquake, on the corner of Karamu Road and Queen Street. It was two-storey apparently, and the top storey came right down. And apparently, Mum said that Grandad, when he was getting out of the building, Ed Bate was in the doorway propping himself up, and Grandad shoved him out into the gutter; and they both ended up in the gutter and just sat there. And both survived without any injury, yeah. But I just learned recently that there was a second storey which came down. I joined the Tramping Club about eight or nine years ago, and one of the members there – his sister’d been Grandad’s clerks … law clerk … going back.
What was her name?
Well … Barbara; her maiden name was Hare, H-a-r-e, Barbara Hare.
They came from Mangateretere. They’ve only just taken the Hare cottage away, for the roundabout.
Oh yes. And Barbara used to do gardening for Grandma when they lived in Duke Street. They moved from Willowpark Road in the early fifties, and they bought a place down by Rush Munro’s, right on the main road; a very small place. And I remember staying there when I was quite small, and you could hear the traffic whizzing past. And then I would take myself off – I must’ve been about four or five – over to Rush Munro’s. And J J Caulton was the proprietor then, and he told me to go home. [Quiet chuckle] Two or three times I remember him telling me to … “You better run off home.” He didn’t …
To a small boy he could’ve seemed quite gruff.
That’s right, yes, yeah.
And there was a haberdashery next door, Findlays. Now the Findlays had the bakery on the corner of Heretaunga Street and … the one that takes you into Lascelles Street. And Miss Findlay was the daughter of the bakery. Of course I don’t know what the shop’s … probably not there now; it was a Salvation Army Shop I think, for a while.
Grandma was quite a … my father called her the ‘German Frau’ … [chuckle] which was a bit unkind because she had quite an air about her. And she was Secretary for the Plunket Society, and I think eventually Chairman; she was secretary for many years and years. And she didn’t have a desk … this is why I’m not sure … they were probably in Willowpark Road at the time. And she didn’t have a desk, and so the Chairman at the time … or Chairwoman … was one of the Nelson ladies from Frimley, and she said to Grandma, “Well I’ve got a roll-top desk you can have.” And so Grandma got this roll top desk, and I’ve got it upstairs in the study.
So what was her full name?
Grandma’s? Oh, her maiden name was Baumgart. First name Rubina; she was known as Ruby. Yeah, as I say, I’ve got that; Mum had it, and then I’ve got it now, and I use it every day.
Grandad was very keen on sport; as a young man he played rugby in the West Coast. He sprinted. He talked about men in the twenties coming from Australia. It was sort of a professional era then – they came for prize[s], you know – I don’t know how much money, but some money.
And when he came to Hawke’s Bay as a married man he still played rugby; he played for Hastings Club – this was in the Juniors. He was a Senior player; I don’t know whether he played Seniors for Hastings Club, because he certainly had been a Senior player. And I had a photo of his team, but it’s disappeared somewhere.
He loved bowls and cricket; and he played cricket to quite an old age. But he was bald very early – it seemed to be a trait with the Simpsons – and according to Mum all the Mãoris at Nelson Park or wherever it was, called out, “Go on, Baldy! Get going …” [Chuckle] ‘Cause he played on the wing. But I remember when he lived next to Rush Munro’s, or two along; he could just walk out and go down to the Bowling Club with his bowls in his hand.
There was one [?] … I’m not sure if it was called Kia Toa or …
Referring to baldness … our pc [politically correct] world today would refer to it as a ‘wide part.’
Oh, right – I haven’t heard that. [Chuckle]
He had, in 1939 – probably the only car he ever had as far as I know – Dodge, six-cylinder Dodge, green, with a column change. And he was known to the traffic cops; he would dawdle when he went for country drives. He took my brother and I sometimes because he would collect us from home at Twyford and we’d go over to Napier. But apparently in town he went like a bat out of hell all the time, and he was quite known … He died in 1962 … ‘61 or ‘62 … and then grandma went and lived in Market Street in a flat … the corner of Lyndon Road and Market Street. And she lived ‘til she was ninety-nine. Grandma was born in 1885; she died in 1984 up at Duart Hospital. And apparently she never went to the dining room, she always demanded, or asked, for her meal in her room; partly probably because she always had trouble with her feet from a very early age, probably in her fifties, and although she walked she always had a stick as far as I used to know when I knew her, which was a long time. The aunts … my great aunts, my Scottish aunts and my Scottish granny … they all got on very well, the Simpsons and the Shaws together, and Mum always said, you know, it was such a blessing that they did.
Talking about my father who was born in Scotland, in Ayr – he attended Ayr Academy, which was a primary school, a very old school, It wasn’t a public school I don’t think, it was just an ordinary … I don’t know whether the Scots had public schools like Eton or Harrow.
But the Academy probably was equal to them, though?
Could’ve been, I don’t know. Jenny and I visited Scotland in 1999 and we went and saw his house, which I thought was going to be quite a grand house; but it was quite a solid house but from memory it was semi-detached. ‘Cause he always talked about playing … no, he didn’t talk, but I’ve got two diaries of his, from 1920 and ’21, and ’21 was when they came out, so it includes the voyage from England in the ‘Ruahine’; a year and a half before they started coming he talks about playing golf, playing tennis and riding a bike. I don’t think they ever had a car. But he seemed to play quite a bit of golf and tennis; and belonged to a gang – and I forget what they were called, but … ‘Roundheads’. Yeah – this is his diary; two years of diary that I had copied out from his diary in 1920. Yeah, I’m sure, 1920-’21. Yes, and it’s got addresses; books he’s read during that time.
Father was quite a … very good photographer – you know, an amateur photographer – but I’ve got albums of the day. I would think they’re very good – just pastoral scenes, trains – steam trains – and rivers and what-have-you; and family groups.
So, as I said before, Stanley wanted him to go into the bank, and Mum told me later that he wanted to become a surgeon. He was very clever – precise with his hands, and he built lots of things. We haven’t got onto the orchard yet, so maybe I’ll just leave that for a minute. And it seemed very strange that they wanted him to leave school, ‘cause he was living in Wellington … in Lower Hutt, in Waterloo Road … to finish his early secondary school. He went to Wellesley College in Days Bay or somewhere, and then he actually was in the bank for a while in Wellington, because he said he had a revolver; he slept there sometimes and had a revolver. And at some stage he’s come up to Hastings and stayed with his aunts in Windsor Lodge, and probably worked on the orchard. Now the aunts were quite social in a Presbyterian sort of way [chuckle] … well, they were outgoing but they would have a sherry occasionally. And I remember Dad … when they came out to home sometimes and they’d say, “Archie, this is very nice sherry, isn’t it?” And Dad’d say, “Would you like another one?” “Oh, yes, thank you!” [Chuckles] So I’m pretty sure that Dad came up; he never talked about anything, my father, his childhood or anything. I’ve learned a lot from the diary that he left, and Mum’s told me a few things. And of course now when it’s too late, you wish you’d listened more or asked more; but he just didn’t talk; he didn’t expound much except once – he said he played rugby for Hastings Club. He wasn’t a big man, oh he was average height, and I said, “Well where did you play?” And he looked a bit sheepish and said, “Hooker”. [Chuckle] I don’t know why he used to feel …
Because the hookers once were very small men.
Yes. Yeah. So I know he went to secondary school here. As I said, I think I alluded to [it] before, that he went to the Hastings District High School. And Mum said that he had new boots and he was quite ashamed of them, so he’d hide them under the hedge on the way to school, and arrive, I don’t know with bare feet or not, but …
Well there’s nothing worse than being showy with boots that were …
Yeah. You know, they were quite sort of … booty …
They were proper boots.
We didn’t go to school in shoes.
I’m pretty sure … well, obviously he met Mum at this stage when he was here in Hastings, in Grove Road. We’ll have to just bring my mum in here because she was brought up in Willowpark Road. Her Christian names were Grace Volkmann – Volkmann is a family name going back from somewhere. She was born in 1911 and died in 2003. Dad died in 1997 – I think they were both in their ninety-first year. And she had two brothers – Jim, who became a farmer – now at this Willowpark Road property they had cows on it, and I’ve got a photo somewhere of Jersey cows grazing. I think they came into a picture of the house after the earthquake, which was … bricks everywhere from the chimney and what-have-you.
Dick … Uncle Dick, Mum’s brother … was a lawyer in Wellington. He was aide de camp in the Second World War for a general – I can’t remember who it was, whether it was a New Zealand one or a British one. But certainly one came out from England and wanted to see Dick well after the war. Obviously Dick went to university to get his law degree at Victoria, and Jim went to Massey for a year – I don’t know what he did. I mean it was just a … wasn’t a university then – Massey College. And I remember he was managing a research station, Manutuke in Gisborne. Manutuke’s south of Gisborne, and I always remember that because we’d arrive there and there was this weather complex with a ladder going up. And I don’t know what would be up the top, but – I suppose the wind … Yeah, and I loved to climb up the ladder and usually get stuck half way up, and get stuck half way down.
And then Uncle Jim had a small dairy farm at Hexton, which is just out of Gisborne going inland. During those times he would’ve worked at a veterinary clinic as well, I think, because they were just small properties that he had.
And then in 1957 when my father was well-established on his orchard in Twyford, he and Uncle Jim bought a sheep station on the Tiniroto Road to Gisborne. Dad never worked it, but it was a partnership with Uncle Jim – it was three thousand acres, and that was in 1957. The access was across a river, the Mangapoike River, to get up to the homestead. There was quite a long swing bridge, a foot one; so in the early days when they first went there, you had to leave your car on one side of the footbridge and trolley everything across. And there was either a Landrover or a Prefect … old Prefect car … that they took up to the station. They took the wool out just crossing the river, sort of with a bit of a rough sort of ford, if you like; but latterly they built an all-weather concrete crossing that didn’t matter if it flooded or not. Yeah, so that’s what Jim did ‘til he … Dad didn’t stay in it terribly long, maybe fifteen years or so, and then Uncle Jim bought him out. I actually shepherded up there as a young guy before I went fruit growing.
Crossing to the station that your father was part of was north of Tiniroto, wasn’t it?
No, it was south of Tiniroto … yes, it was nearer Frasertown than Tiniroto. Yeah, the Mangapoike ran up round the property, came and joined the Wairoa River at Marumaru …
Ah, it’s lower down.
… and then it curved around and went up towards Gisborne, and Kotare [Station] had two Maori properties on either side. On the east side was … no, everything’s gone out of my head … the Tukemokihi. Tukemokihi was on that side … on the east side … and on the west side is Mahurangi.
That’s just south of Te Reinga?
Yes, that would be right, yeah.
It’s still a Māori Station, isn’t it? There’s some big lakes back of that station.
Yes. Talking about Tukemokihi – someone came in to put a gate in here for the dog [a] couple of years ago; a young guy working for two brothers that do the fencing – can’t think of their names. And we got talking and I found that his father was the manager up at Tukemokihi at one stage. These were the ones who did the residential ironwork, but he was working for them. So that was Dad and … we digressed; we were talking about Jim; we’re talking about Uncle Jim.
He sold the farm to your Uncle Jim.
Who had one son, and [?] started it. Uncle Jim and Aunt Dorothy moved to Gisborne in the seventies, and I saw quite a lot of them with my marriage to Jenny, who came from Gisborne.
Your father had the orchard in Twyford Road at that stage?
Yeah. Oh, Mum used to ride her horse from Willowpark Road down to Grove Road when Dad was staying with his aunts. So obviously a friendship eventuated between the Shaws and the Simpsons – between my father and my mother, and they were married on the 21st January 1932. And I think before they were actually married they had bought ten acres at Twyford Road. I mean I think Grandad lent some of the money to Dad, and perhaps his own father did. I know Mum’s father, the lawyer, Eric, wasn’t keen at all and he said, “You’ll never get your money back.” [Chuckle] And that was of course during the … ’32, was that during the Depression?
When they bought this place I think the trees on it were about three years old. They had varieties like Rome Beauty, Sturmer, Dougherty, ordinary Delicious … …
We all grew up with those, didn’t we?
Yeah, that’s right; and a small holding of stone fruit, probably market fruit. I’m pretty sure it was market, peaches. So that was in 1932. And of course, everything was done manually, like – there was a horse to pull the sprayer with a little wooden vat on it and some sort of motor. Dad didn’t like horses, so I don’t know how he got on but Mum said he … well, he obviously did. Then he went to having a stationary vat in the spray shed with pipes all around the orchard and then taps coming off, and a hose connected to that, which was back-breaking work ‘cause I think the hoses were pretty heavy.
Anyway, my sister … now, I’ve got two siblings.
Your sister and yourself?
Well, I was the last, but my sister was born in 1937. She’s now nearly eighty; I think she’ll be eighty next January … or seventy-nine. So she’s seven years older than I am, and Richard was born in 1939, and then I was born in 1944, so otherwise known as the baby of the family. Elizabeth was seven years older; Richard was five years older than me.
So you all went to ..?
Twyford School, although Elizabeth went to Queenswood after some time, and I remember her cycling off and she cycled into Hastings – I remember her going out the drive, which was quite a haul, to you know, where the Rudolf Steiner School … Then she went to boarding school, Woodford, when I was only five years old. She went in Form 2, so I didn’t really know her that [chuckle] … you know, we didn’t have a childhood together.
And then Richard, born in 1939, he went off to Scots College in Wellington when I was ten, I think. So I wished they had been home. Yes – so they all went off when I was reasonably young, [background hissing noise] like when I was five Elizabeth went to Woodford; Richard went to Scots when I was ten.
And one of our neighbours were the Bixleys … Dennis Bixley … he was a brother obviously to Eric and Don, and I think there was another one somewhere … oh, Ralph. And they had three boys, John, Paul and Max, and I used to play a lot with them. And there was Bruce Roach down the road next to the Bixleys where Michael Peacock lives – some of the children, I think, live. And Bruce Roach would’ve been the grandson of Roach’s – the shop. His father was Neville; Neville actually sort of travelled selling something, but he had enough land there; I can’t remember what he did with it. It would have been I suppose … could’ve been twenty-five to thirty acres.
So I went to Twyford School; Richard went to Twyford School, you know, for his primary schooling. Elizabeth did too, for a while, and then she went off to Queenswood. I used to spend quite a bit of time in the orchard …
You went to high school?
Yes, well I went to Scots College in Wellington. My brother finished there in 1957 at Scots, and I went in ’58. I stayed there only for three years, and I suddenly decided I didn’t want to stay at a boarding school, and I went to the Boys’ High for two years, which was quite a change. But I really enjoyed the High School.
And did you play any sports at the high school?
I was in the First XV; the tennis team; the captain of athletics, although I wasn’t that good. I did a lot in two years because I was so determined to make it work.
What position did you play?
On the wing. And then I did quite a lot of athletics – I joined the athletics club and ran for Hawke’s Bay-Poverty Bay’s Under-19 runners; and won Inter-school 880 [yards], 440 [yards] – not the same year, but the two. We had a very good athlete, or so did Te Aute … Tiroi Titirangi … who you might remember. His son was the professional golfer. Yes, so it was a really enjoyable sporting-wise and work-wise.
So you didn’t work for anyone else?
No. I was there for two years, and 1962 I left after five years at secondary school. And I went as a trainee shepherd at Patoka for a man called Stuart Ward who lived in Hendley Road; Stuart and Jean they didn’t have any children. And the man that’d been there before, John Durnow whose father had the store at Putorino – been there for some years. And John was a keen rugby player and played for Hastings High School Old Boys’ Seniors, and I got to know John – I played for Hastings High School Old Boys in my first year out of school in the Colts, or junior grade. Yes, it was about six hundred acres and we walked everywhere; well, we did have a tractor, a Fordson tractor, but we tended to walk. I don’t think it had any cattle on it, it was all sheep. My first job was foot rotting in the January. [Chuckle] And they had a cradle to turn them over, but the poor things – some of them … you know, they had maggots in their …
And how long did you stay shepherding then?
Well, I mean to all intents and purposes – well there wasn’t a time frame. But I was obviously still very keen on rugby and so – I wouldn’t go down to practices, it was too far, but I would go down at the weekends and play, and eventually I got my first car which was a 1953 six cylinder Vauxhall – it was quite a heavy car. But before that when I didn’t have a car, they would take me down and I might be able to stay the weekend, ‘cause they often went to town on Friday. And they had this huge American Impala car, pink – it was pink. And I think it had four doors …
Yeah, so I started playing rugby for Hastings High School Old Boys and I broke my wrist half-way through the year before lambing, and it ended up with me leaving the job and going back down to home in Twyford Road. I actually got Social Security; we had an insurance scheme too, in those days, that you paid into – every member – I forget what, but I know the secretary at the time was a man called Fred Small from Furnware. Fred spent most of his working life there, or a lot of it, and he jacked me up to get Social Security which was probably little more than I was getting from the farm, although I was fully bound on the farm. And I got my father to teach me to do a bit of pruning, and so I did that.
I haven’t talked about sort of growing up on the orchard; just thinking that we used to cultivate when I was about eleven years old; I’d drive a tractor. I was going to say that everything was done manually. I remember when I was quite small, all the fruit was put into wooden cases in the orchard; the pickers would put them into wooden cases, and there’d be stacks of wooden cases. And then the tractor and trailer would come along and they’d all be loaded onto the trailer, and then they’d be taken off the trailer once they got to the packing shed and individually tipped into a hopper; and then, after they were packed and nailed up, they were loaded by hand case by case onto the truck. Then I remember Dad going down the orchard just with a pencil and paper, and he was estimating what was in the orchard – how many cases of say, Sturmer, and what would be coming up and that sort of thing, and I’d trail him around and sit on the trailer going down when it was empty, or bringing empty boxes down the orchard. Really, they had to work so hard …
It was all manual.
It was all probably very healthy work because dad thrived on it, I think.
As you got a bit older – apart from getting the leaves out from the garden from a huge plane tree in [chuckle] the May holidays, you were given the job of … even disking the orchard in the spring. He kept it all cultivated right through to 1970 or so. So it was disked in the spring, and from quite an early age – I would’ve been … probably not primary school but certainly the beginning of secondary school when I’d come home for the holidays.
What sort of tractor were you using?
Well, his first tractor – I think he had an old Fordson which I can remember; then he had a Massey Harris circa 1948 – so I’d be only four years old when that arrived – which had no hydraulics, and whether it had a PTO [Power Take Off] or not I don’t know. So that was just coupled to a trailer, and I presume it pulled a sprayer of some sort, which I think was just a wooden vat on the trailer with a pump, and a motor for the pump, and then there’d be two men at the back with hand-held spray guns. And then it got modernised to a master to that with a ‘T’ on the top with two sets of nozzles coming out each side, and down the bottom there was [were] two curved pieces that rotated backwards and forwards with nozzles on, so they just went backwards and forwards, and spraying the lower part of the tree.
And with the Ferguson of course, with the hydraulics – when it came in 1954 it changed things dramatically. You could have harrows that were mounted on the hydraulic arms for raking up prunings. We had a rototiller that was home made or designed if you got someone – not the rototiller that you might think of today. It had blades on it that chopped up the ground. And I remember disking, rototilling, harrowing, doing all those things and even spraying at quite an early age when he got his first bean sprayer – first modern speed sprayer, as we called them.
But in 1952 he built a cool store that held two thousand bushels – had built. He put in a tennis court; he built a cool store; and then he bought a second-hand Jaguar – three and a half litre Jaguar car from Mason Chambers, which wasn’t an overhead cam model, it was a push-rod pre-war six. So I think that’s when … did I say 1952? His father died in ‘48, so possibly he …
Left the residue?
That was pretty good, to build a two thousand case cool store …
… ‘cause that’s a big store those days.
It was. And he started a private mail-order business, and now Howard Paynter in St George’s Road is doing the same thing. Dad started doing that, and I think one of the Hopes, Norman Hope, was doing it. There may’ve been someone later on in Oak Avenue – one of the Cornes’ – doing it, but 1952 I think there was only those three people. He would advertise in The Dominion, the Auckland paper, the Taranaki paper; and he bought a Commer truck, a Q15, which took about sixty cases. It had a Humber Hawk motor in it; it was as tough as old boots, the truck – went for years and years. In fact I had it after quite a few years; I think it’s out at Te Awanga in the museum … the Hope’s museum … only because it leaked oil everywhere, and when we came here to live it just wasn’t practical to have it.
But he planted Golden Delicious especially for the cool store, and he sold them for thirty shillings [30/-] a case; he didn’t have that many. But ordinary Delicious was £1; Granny Smith I don’t know, I can’t remember – I think it was possibly £1. It was quite a business, doing it; Mum was involved writing out labels that had to be pasted on each case with the person’s name, address …
Were they put on the rail?
They were put on the rail. And we had pre-printed postcards with the franking stamp, stamped by Hart Printing, Karamu Road; and he’d send this off – most of it was printed here – “I have railed to you today …” and he’d put in ‘one case’ or ‘two cases’ of – and I think he just stamped ‘Red Delicious’ or ‘Granny Smith’ – “to your nearest Railway Station.” Of course I think in those days they would actually deliver the case to your door. I think at the time he was a bit dissatisfied with what he was getting from the Apple & Pear Board. But I’ve got … which I can’t find … diaries of his; well, working diaries of before the war where you actually sold a whole variety to one person. They’d come into the orchard and buy it. Someone called Harp in Hastings … I want to say Harper … that did that sort of thing – had their own sort of pack houses in town. And I was looking for them today, I know they’re here. Draper – Draper – I’m sure that’s the name. This is before the Second World War.
So really, the formation of the Apple & Pear Board was a blessing in 1948, I think; I think with the marketing. But certainly, I’m sure the private sales and things helped to pay for boarding school fees etcetera. And it was still going; in the end he started storing for the Board … the Apple & Pear Board … when he stopped doing that. And even in 1975 after I was married and they went overseas, I had to keep an eye on the cool store, the temperature and what-have-you.
In those days, would the fruit be on pallets when it went into the cool store?
Not this one. It was only a manual … Well, we had just a … quite a big steel thing that would take five cases at a time – four or five. Clamped it at the back and it would close the claws underneath and you’d lift it up and push her in. And so all the fruit was stacked by hand. And as a primary schoolboy I was quite often called out – eight o’clock at night – to go and help Dad to stack what he wanted for the private selling, into the cool store, and consequently I developed in the body at a very young age, because he’d be up there on boxes … like sort of quite a big box, say two feet off the ground, two and a half feet … and then I’d hold the box up to him and he’d put it up there.
And that was the start, was it? Of …
No, well it wasn’t. He didn’t want me to go fruit growing, because he always thought he was the poor relative to the sheep farmer. I don’t think he minded, but I don’t think mum wanted me to do that. So I must’ve just stayed at home ‘til about October. I went down to the freezing works – Tomoana – before they started their lamb kill in … oh, I suppose around Labour Weekend, or the middle of October; and went into the yards and asked the foreman there, Jack Alexander, whether … I knew that they did take students from time to time and he said, “I’ll take your name and I’ll give you a ring if anything happens.” And soon after Labour Weekend I think, I got a call to come down to the yards and he said, “D’you want a job?” So I said, “Yes, please.”
So I started there at six o’clock in the morning when we swept the yards; this is at Tomoana Freezing Works. And the first day I went in [I] went into the smoko room which is right down the bottom of the thing to go up to the top floor where the stock were. The man that came out was a neighbour down the road, Gilbey Evans, been there for years and years. Gilbey from Evans Road; he had probably sixty acres – yes, you would probably know him. And Gilbey said, “Well you come with me.” I was quite friendly with Wayne [Evans] although Wayne was a class ahead. And Gilbey would count the sheep out of the pens, out of the yards, into the covered yards, before they went up to the top floor. They were counted as they came off the truck by the people that looked after the trucks coming in; the two men there; and they would go into a pen and then Gilbey would come and take those and count them again. How he did it, I don’t know. He’d been in there for … well that was 1963 … he’d probably been there a good twenty years at the Works, doing the same thing.
And of course my pay went from, say, £5 up to £15 to £20, to £22 pounds, depending; I think we started at six most of the mornings so I’m not sure how I got an extra … I think your standard was just under £20. And of course I loved it; there were mostly students, and probably people I knew; I think Jack Alexander, the boss of the yards – his nephew, Donovan, he’d been in the past a pretty good rugby player, and he played for Victoria University, not for Wellington. So I met him, and Mick … someone, who had been a farm manager down at Tamumu Station I think; he knew someone up at Maraetotara – this is getting towards the end of the kill – and said, “They’re looking for a young shepherd or a young man up at Waipoapoa Station in Maraetotara …
Yes. So this was of course before he arrived; there was just a manager on it before Peter Williams came there. So I went up there one Saturday I think, and presented myself to the manager, Murray Halley. Murray came from the Bay of Plenty; his wife came from the East Coast … Ngati Porou … and they had about five children then from that high to that high. [Indicates] And Murray looked me up and down and I think he told me where I’d be staying – the single men’s quarters where there was no-one else, but there was a sitting room sort of, and a laundry and a … I can’t remember the bathroom, but anyway, I ended up getting that job. And we used horses; there was … I think it was either two and a half or two thousand acres right at the end of the Waipoapoa Road. … There was another road going off it.
I remember going up one Sunday when I started and I thought, ‘What a God-forbidden place! What have I come here for?’ The wind was blowing, and … right at the end of, to me, nowhere. And anyway, I stayed there for a year – that was 1964 – and went back to the Works. But during that time I started to play senior rugby for Hastings Old Boys; went down to practice once a week. And it was the time Hawke’s Bay had a real resurgence in their provincial team, and I was playing against Tremain, Ian McRae, Bill Davis; David Bone was sort of the highest person in our team locally. He was an All Black trialist, and played for Hawke’s Bay. Yeah, it was both – I enjoyed the job, and we had horses – you rode a horse everywhere. So I had a horse of my own called Buster, I think, and had a stable, and put it in sometimes, and fed it hard feed and I had two cows to milk. We had a terrific snow storm on Labour Weekend in 1964 I think it was, and there was no power. I went to milk the cows ‘cause I had a little machine, and I thought, ‘Oh, what am I going to do?’ And went over to see the boss, Murray; said, “What are we going to do, Murray?” He said, “What? Oh! Goodness – come here, Kate.” And he took his … think it was Kate … “Come with me!” And down she went, down to the little cow shed, and she hopped on the stool and started milking the cow. [Chuckle] ‘Cause there was a Jersey and a Friesian, and that was just that sort of joke – I mean it did happen.
And then we had a tractor driver and she was pregnant – the tractor driver’s wife was pregnant, I should say – Jack Duncan and I forget his wife’s name. And she decided she was going to have her baby then, and so we had to take her down in the Landrover – or someone did – to town into the maternity thing. She didn’t have it for two weeks after that.
So you went back a second year after the Works closed again?
No, I went to Massey in 1965. So I went for the second season at the Works, and had a more responsible job, putting … with another man, Arthur Isaacson, who played rugby for Hawke’s Bay in the – I don’t know, in the forties perhaps – and he smoked a pipe and was quite laid back. He and I were responsible for putting the sheep up the race to the top floor, so there was a bit of responsibility in crossing off things, or taking half a cut of what was in a pen, half the pen out. And I got a dog from someone, called Roy, which I used there … I think I did … perhaps that was before I went to Maraetotara I bought Roy off the man that gave me the job, or sourced the job out for me. And Roy was a handy dog; it was actually more a Huntaway. Yes, it was then, after the first year. But Roy had mange quite badly, and I managed to treat him. Yeah, and he was a good dog.
And then I went off to Massey University to do a diploma in sheep farming.
How long did that take?
Just a year. It was quite a shock, actually – well, not a shock, but after two years being out in the country, and then going into sort of back into the schoolroom again; so I was there for a year and enjoyed some of it, not everything. Wool and wool classing I loved – I loved working with wool and we had a very good teacher. Two young graduates, Morrin Hardy who came actually from Hawke’s Bay. ‘Cause I knew them at Te Awanga – they had a house over the road from Grandad where my great aunts and my Scottish granny were, and we got to know Morrin and Jill and Christine. And then the other Hardy family came from Elsthorpe … Eric Hardy… which had about four boys; they were tough as nuts. Michael and Brian and Dennis and another one, a younger one. Anyway, so the fruit growing came quite a lot later.
When I finished at Massey – I made a friend there called … well I called him Tex Cooper . He came from up the Coast and anyway, he wanted to go shearing after Massey finished. His brother was a shearing contractor up the East Coast … Len Cooper … and he said, “Oh, do you want to come with me?” ‘Cause we started … we flatted together actually in the third term. And I said, “Oh, yeah.” [Chuckle] So Len somehow got a job with a contractor here and I went along as the presser. I’d never pressed a bale in my life before. Graham Porter was the guy’s name. He was quite a rough diamond. I had met him playing against Pirates – he played for the Napier Pirates.
So off we went. The first place was either in Patoka or up at Putorino. That seemed to be the two places … I think it could have been Patoka. Anyway, it was a three-stand gang; there was Graham, and a man called … someone Hawkins from Raupunga, and then Len. And after ‘bout a day or two days Graham came up to me and he said, “Can you do two hundred? D’you know how much you can shear?” [Chuckle] And I said, “Oh, I don’t know.” Anyway, Len did get his two hundred eventually, ‘cause we were only – what, twenty, I suppose. These days I guess they’ve got guys a lot younger than that doing three hundred. But it was quite an experience. I loved it actually; we used to have a run before breakfast, had plenty of food. Yeah. He was a very easy person to get on with.
And then, Frank, I went into the army as soon as I finished.
This is for your eighteen-year-old ..?
Twenty-year-old. I had to go in the beginning of January, so I couldn’t do the whole season in the shearing gang. So I think my intake went in on 5th January.
Where did you go to?
Oh, it’s not so bad in January.
Yeah – January to April. And I couldn’t go to my best friend’s twenty-first up in Gisborne, who was at Scots College with me, Ian Struthers. Now Ian had a sister, Jenny, and I first went and stayed at the Struthers’ place … end of the 3rd Form or the 4th Form, or something like that. And Jenny was Intermediate or something like that. She was just Ian’s sister, and always around being a nuisance, and … [Chuckle] We played a lot of tennis, and Ian seemed to know a lot of people, or there seemed to be people around. They lived in Rutene Road in Gisborne, and I loved it there; we went out to Wainui Beach. We used to run out to the beach and they’d go out for a swim later. And I loved the holidays up there; [in] fact I didn’t want to come home half the time.
And so that started the association with Ian’s parents and his sister, and Jenny eventually went to Woodford. She was brought up … now, I might add at this stage, I ended up marrying her in 1971, and this would’ve been 1959 when I first met the Struthers, and she had been born in Pahiatua, where – her father had been a navigator in the war navigating Wellington bombers, and did at least two tours; and eventually got invalided back, I think, to New Zealand. And he ended up marrying – my father-in-law – ended up marrying a local girl called Jan Carlaberg whose father was a surgeon in Gisborne. Yes, my mother-in-law’s father was a surgeon, and he had married one of the Barry girls whose father had the brewery up there. In fact I think D J Barry, David Barry, started off in confectionery drinks, and then bought the brewery out, whatever it was – it was Gold Top … Gold Top Beer.
That was enough to make a man give up beer.
[Chuckle] I can’t say I ever drank it actually.
Oh, you didn’t missed anything.
I think they’ve got a lot better beers up there now …
Yes, they have.
… these craft beers and what-have-you.
Well, that was quite exciting, really – so you got married, so where did you live when you were married?
So we lived in … well, I should add, after I left Massey, went shearing, went into the army, I did a stint shepherding up at Kotare Station which was my Uncle Jim’s up in the Tiniroto Road. I played rugby up there for a while, and at some stage which I can’t remember, I decided that I wanted to go fruit growing. And I went and worked for Howard Paynter in St Georges Road for the stone fruit season. And John [Paynter] was just starting off – he’d just bought twenty acres down the road where he lives and he’d planted the back in Golden Queens. I think he had planted his Grannys [Granny Smith] at the front. Anyway, and there was a young bloke there from university who I got on very well with; we were the only two pickers for the market stone fruit, and Howard was very particular – you had to pick them just like eggs. And I’d come home and I’d help Dad as well after I finished work. And I think I was saving up for a car or something like that; I was. And so that would have been in about ’69. And then I did a season in the shed with Dad, grading and doing general work and that sort of thing.
And then I went for an extended stay … in between that somewhere along the line I went to South Africa where my sister lived – which was Rhodesia at the time – with her family, and stayed there for three months or so, and hitch-hiked around Malawi, parts of South Africa, down to Cape Town. And then I went up to Gisborne and stayed with the Struthers for quite a while, and that’s when I looked at Jenny in a different way. [Background traffic noise]
[Chuckle] Yes. I wonder if the Struthers of Gisborne were related to the Struthers of Hastings?
I think very distantly. They all came from the West Coast of the South Island.
So you were smitten, and you got married?
Yes. Yes – I guess that was in 1970 that I was staying with them, before Christmas, and I had Christmas there. And Ian was my friend, and his brother was at university, I think in Australia – well, he was home for that time.
And then 1970, I played rugby for Ngatapa for half a season, and Jenny went overseas for an extended period in late winter. So after she went overseas I went back home and pruned – Dad got me really into pruning and what-have-you. I might add that when playing for Ngatapa, Ian Kirkpatrick was playing, so I was playing alongside him. And one day we were playing the main game in Gisborne, and someone in the opposition broke and the guy was tearing for the line, and Ian tore back; not only did he catch this guy but he took the ball straight off him and started marching up, running the other way. [Chuckle] There were three Kirkpatrick boys in the team at the time – David, who came and played for Hawke’s Bay for a while, and a younger brother whose name escapes me.
So then when Jenny came back from her tour ..?
Well I actually wrote to her and asked her to marry me; it got too much for me, [chuckle] so … and she said yes, so she came back in November – she’d been away like June to … she came back the end of November and we were married in the February the following year.
So in that time when I was home my father had purchased thirty-seven acres in Raupare, off Bruce Tweedie, and it was a run-off for a dairy farm in Nicholl Road, which ran right down to the stop bank of the Ngaruroro, and that was where my brother-in-law and sister were going to settle – the ones from Rhodesia. But Julian, my brother-in-law, couldn’t settle; he was not used to us … we do the manual work; doesn’t matter, we don’t just walk around …
I’ve run across this before, actually.
So they went back to South Africa; they went back not to Rhodesia, they went back to South Africa where they stayed ‘til about ten years ago before they came to New Zealand again and they live now in South Wairarapa.
But this time before Jenny actually came back, we planned what we were going to do with this land. And we planted twelve acres of asparagus and three and half acres of stone fruit; 1970 actually, we put in asparagus and stone fruit. The following year, 1971, I was married in the February; planted all these apples in the Spring, and Jenny and I were married, as I say, in Gisborne in the February. And we lived in St Aubyn Street East, up near the shops where there was a chemist … Messerschmidt, I think … just over the road from Dad.
And we started building a house, having a house built, in Labour Weekend 1971. Well actually, Labour Weekend the Raupare Stream came right up and the water went right round the house. Anyway, the house was finished in Easter ‘72, and we moved in more or less that time. So that’s actually when they had a meeting with Doug Walker and the Catchment Board, and that’s outside our place – widened the Raupare Stream. [Shows photo] It was quite difficult because there’s very little flow, [and a] gradient, so they’ve got to be very careful. But they did a very good job; ‘72. And so they [did] probably two major jobs on it, but that looks like the real major one. [Shows photo] I’ve got heaps of photos of how the place was just when we walked in – it was full of couch and …
Well it was really almost semi-riverbed, wasn’t it? It was all silt.
It was Farndon grey silt loam, and then Meeanee sand at the back. The Farndon grey silt loam was 23, I think; it was quite good soil. At the back it varied from … they called it Meeanee Sand … 25, I think it was. And that’s when Carrick Orchards was formed, so my father and I worked together from 1970 to nearly the middle ’90s.
You must’ve both been very tolerant people?
Yes. We had the odd up and down, but not that much.
So, the house you built was in Carrick Road?
In Nicholl Road, from the bottom of Raupare Road across to Twyford Road.
So you had some children?
Now, you’ve told me something about Jenny, how you came to meet her. So she grew up in Gisborne?
Yes – she had all her primary school in Pahiatua. Her father was in partnership, a lawyer with Struthers & Carruthers. Carruthers’ son became a judge, and David Carruthers, the son, was at Scots when I was there; an older boy.
And so what did she do when she left school?
Oh – Jenny went to Canterbury University and did a BA and majored in Political Science and … she majored in a couple of things … Political Science, and … I can’t remember the other one. So when I stayed in Gisborne for the long period, she’d just finished her university and then went overseas for six months where she had a base with her godmother near Rochester – little village called High Halstow. Her godmother had married a New Zealander called Jim Buddle who came from Wellington, and he was a photographer, as in studio photography and what-have-you. Jim was great friends with Jenny’s father. And then of course, she actually got feted around a bit in England because of her connection with D J Barry; and being picked up, chauffeured round London a bit and that sort of thing. I remember she took a fur coat over there – don’t know why – and she presented herself at the Queen’s Furriers in jeans and what-have-you and said, “Can you fix this?” She wanted it fixed up. “Oh yes, madam.” They took her address and said, “We’ll send it back to New Zealand”, [chuckle] without sort of blinking an eyelid. Or so the story goes – yes. And so it came back.
So when we were married first she became – not a proof reader, but she worked in the proof reading room at the Herald-Tribune – a copy holder they called them. And she would correct as the proof reader was reading; if she saw an omission she would stop the reader, which she really enjoyed, ‘cause that’s the sort of person she was – she loved books, and in fact did reviews for the Tribune Book Reviews actually, during our early married life.
We had three girls – Susannah, born in 1973, and then Elizabeth, or Libby as we call her, born in 1976, and Catherine was born in 1979. And they all went to Twyford School where I’d been. Some of them liked the orchard; others … they would do a term. They all went to university after leaving secondary school. They went up into Havelock for their secondary schooling as day girls. They would do a season in the orchard and that was it. They didn’t want to do one more – like, during the Christmas holidays, which was thinning and things after picking stone fruit. And they all went on to work in vineyards in the other holidays which I can quite understand.
Two became lawyers with First Class Honours, which to me … I’m going to skite about it because I thought it was pretty good. They never needed any pushing, right from primary school …
Isn’t it amazing, that it’s come through from the grandparents?
Yeah. Yes. Cath went to Dunedin and did a degree in Physical Education – she was more like me – and also a post-grad diploma of Textile Sciences ‘cause she was interested in clothes. And I think her thesis when she did the course in Textile Sciences was on protective clothing; spray clothing and that sort of stuff. So they all have their families now; Susannah and Libby, the first born, second born, live in Wellington.
What are their names?
Oh, right. Susannah has Hugo and Sylvie, and Hugo’s ten; Sylvie’s eight. And Hugo’s just started at Scots College in the Intermediate School, the school I went to – and my brother – which is actually quite nice … it is, yeah – I’m quite chuffed actually – in what they call the Middle School, which is first year Intermediate, going to the 4th Form. Susannah’s still practising as a lawyer.
What are their married names?
Oh – Susannah’s Susannah Shaw actually, she kept her maiden name.
Oh, did she?
Yeah. And Libby is now Libby Joll … Elizabeth, who was with the Crown Law Office in the Treaty Team; and she was on the trolley that what’s-her-name up in Waikaremoana fired a shotgun as the Crown … coming in some years ago on the [?] And I said to her, “Well, you’re only …” – she’s only five foot two; I said, “Were you scared or anything?” “Oh no, no!” And actually, Jenny and I went to one hearing up in the Bay of Plenty … a Treaty claim hearing … and she was for the Crown but she didn’t actually speak much; she was more a researcher supporting the person. And she has two little girls, Zoe and Greta, who are about seven and four years old. And her husband who she met through the Crown Law Office was doing contracts for the Crown and researching claims; but he’s done other things since with traffic safety, I think – I’m not sure, to do with teaching police and all sorts of things, about – not just police, but the government departments if you like – various things. And Susannah, the oldest one, her husband, although he is a lawyer, he’s an art dealer … qualified lawyer but he loves art, and …
So you carried on with the orchard, and over time you’ve seen some wonderful changes in the orchard system with tree spacing; the type of root stock we had; the varieties … once upon a time you planted an apple tree and it was there for fifty years.
Yes, like my father’s – sixty years some of them.
The whole thing is so dependent on appearance – doesn’t matter if the flavour isn’t that good. A lot of lovely apples we grow now, I don’t think are half as good as some of the older ones we had. And of course spraying changed, tractors changed, fruit handling systems; you know, forklifts – such a simple machine! Why didn’t someone think of it before?
Well apart from forklifts and what-have-you, and going to bulk bins, I think in my time of course, all that was in, and with the modern sprayer; but [it] was the Hydralada – when that was introduced in 1975 or so. And the other one, which was joining a co-op to the pack house. We toyed with the idea, Dad and I, of extending his, and we decided not to. And I always think that’s made my life a lot simpler.
So were you part of Fruit Packers?
Yes. We joined ‘bout 1975. I think they might’ve started in ‘72 or something like that. And ninety-nine per cent of the time it was good. We bought a [an] RL … not an RL Bedford … anyway, a Bedford from Wanganui, it had been a Power Board Bedford with a double cab, and Whiteside in Fernhill put a single cab on, and it was a low-geared truck – ideal. Just had four speed, no diff things or anything. And so up ‘til ’76 I think, ‘til we joined that Dad [had] just been running the packing shed. And I was out in the orchard picking when I got married, for two or three years, picking for him; and then started picking for myself, or doing both – doing everything really; got to the stage of having a cadet, and had about three cadets [at] different times on the orchard.
And the varieties – well, we planted ordinary Gala in Nicholl Road in 1971 in the new block, Royal Gala, Red Delicious, Granny Smiths and one called Captain Kidd which was an exported consignment … red … which never caught on for exporting much.
And then of course, 1977 was the start of the golden weather if you like, for fruit growing, for returns; suddenly they became so much better than they had been. But in 1980 the Ngaruroro River, the day after Boxing Day, was in high water – quite high water, but it broke its banks up at Fernhill, mainly due to rabbits … rabbit warrens, not the height of the river. And it roared across the paddocks and straight into our place, and we had the water right through the house; flooded the whole house and the orchard. The level came up to the first dwang in the house, but the houses that were in the upper part of Twyford Road where it first broke – some of them it came right up into the ceiling. Only twenty-six houses were involved, I think.
I thought it was closer down behind Wilkinsons’.
It was upstream from Wilkinsons’, yeah – it would’ve missed them completely. If you can imagine, at the back of McRaes up at Hill Road … actually downstream a bit further than that, more or less opposite …
And it’d actually cut a hole right through the bank?
Yes, it didn’t actually go right to the ground level; it cut …
Oh yes, it just cut enough to let some of it come through.
Yeah. So luckily the children … Jenny was up staying with her mother and father in Gisborne, and the children weren’t home, they were with her. And I watched the water coming across the paddock towards me. Had a policeman on our bridge on the Raupare Stream …
Yeah. And it was like a … there wasn’t a huge volume; it was like a wave coming in when it’s almost finished. There was just a small … but it just kept coming. And in the end this man, the policeman, was saying. “Amazing! Amazing!” And I thought, ‘Well – not bloody amazing to me!’ [Chuckle]
So I had to go; I had to leave, and I can’t remember whether I came back the same day or the day after; and the water had more or less gone from around the house. It was quite short and sharp. And I thought it would come down the Raupare Stream, you know, but it came across and into the Raupare Stream. That probably actually stopped some of the flow.
The funny thing was, we were just installing a swimming pool and of course it was full of silt; well, when I say full of silt – water and silt mixed. But the ground was quite hard on top still, in the orchard; the trees were okay, but all the hollows in the orchard were filled up with silt. And we had to spray, of course, and we had a little four wheel drive Holder tractor, an AG35, with a box with a Holder sprayer which had a Volkswagen engine to drive the fan, and the tractor just drove the pump. And you could drive through this silt, through the depressions; the silt would open and then it would close up after you went. And there was no sort of grass growing in the orchard, it was just covered in silt. But after about six weeks all the doob started coming through, and we didn’t know it for weeks and weeks. And insurance was taken care of with our insurance company; there was no real hassles – that some people have had today – and I think probably because of the fewer number of houses involved, about twenty-six altogether. I know someone in Morley Road thought, ‘Oh, gee whizz!’ And he threw all his bills out the window [chuckle] … an asparagus grower down there who’ll remain nameless; a young guy about my age or a bit younger.
So the crop was okay albeit some of the fruit was a bit small, I think. I think we had finished thinning before Christmas; like, we’d normally try to finish before Christmas.
And so during this period of course, your children went to school …
Twyford School, yes.
… grew up.
Yeah. The eldest two went to Heretaunga Intermediate. They always liked a challenge it seemed. They cycled in.
And it didn’t hurt them, did it? When you look where they ended up.
No, it was … yeah. For us too, that was an interesting experience.
And so your parents would’ve still been alive ..?
So your kids had grandparents right through …
Yeah. Yes, well you see Dad worked – he kept driving the truck ‘til he was over seventy-five.
And the orchard was known as Carrick Orchards, was it?
It was on the truck door. D’you know, I saw that truck and I spoke to that man many, many times at the Apple & Pear Board; never realised it was your father.
Oh, right. He had glasses. It was a green truck with quite big lettering on the door.
Yes. And so then you retired from orcharding, didn’t you?
Yes. Well, there’s one more water event, if you like, which was Bola. [Cyclone Bola] I’ve got 1987, I think that’s right. And at the time of Bola they were rebuilding all the stop[banks] – after the 1980 flood they started rebuilding all the stop banks from Fernhill down to Pakowhai. And they were doing it in sections, and at that Bola time they were right behind our property; there was no stop bank for about two hundred metres. And you could look from Nicholl Road to the river, and the riverbed was higher than the surrounding land – we must’ve looked before we went away to Wellington. And then we got this call to come back to Hawke’s Bay, back to home, because of the threat of Bola. So the contractors hurriedly filled the gap up with silt, ‘cause that’s all they had time for, and not right to the proper height. And the day after … the morning after we got home – it was at the back of our place and Doug Walker’s where the gap was – we had [a] helicopter with sand; there was a shingle works in Raupare Road, and they had lowered polythene down the river side of the bank with sandbags on top of it; lowered them down on ropes to help to keep it intact, to stop the erosion … the river eroding it. And the helicopter was dumping … oh, sandbags, yes of course – but the sandbags it was bringing would probably be ten just huge … whether they were fadges, I can’t remember, probably fadges … and putting them on the top. And they had a Landrover parked upstream on top of the stop bank, and if it flashed its lights you knew the whole thing was going to disintegrate, so you had to get out. And lucky that didn’t happen. There’s a photo I’ve got in the paper, taken with my bald head and putting sandbags in position – smaller ones.
And then when we got word, we had to evacuate. During that time in the morning, all the furniture’d been taken out of the house by Jeff Nicol with his truck, and left all the orchardists and … we had to evacuate, and as I drove up to Mum and Dad’s in Twyford Road, I heard over the radio that the mighty Ngaruroro had burst its banks, [interference affecting sound quality] and I thought, ‘Oh, God’, you know, ‘what’s it going to be like this time?’ And I got up to Mum and Dad’s, and I think all the children and Jenny were there, and then [interference] I decided I’d go back and have a look. And I took the big truck and drove, and I drove right home and there was nothing at all.
There was no water?
It was just a false alarm. So that was sort of the saga of Bola.
And of course at this time we were changing varieties from Granny Smith to Pacific Rose, and ordinary Gala to Royal Gala, by grafting. And we re-planted Dad’s place mostly, and then it was sold in the early nineties.
By this time the children had mostly gone off to university. We actually owned Dad’s place – we’d bought it some years earlier when we were able to buy it. And they went to live in Lyndhurst Road and they were very happy there for … Mum always said, you know, “Thank goodness you suggested that we leave.” Yeah. And it was actually just sold the other day to the people that bought it off them, so it was actually the second Property Brokers that sold it; pictures in the paper of it.
However, during all this time … during the nineties … you know, there were a lot of hailstorms in the late eighties. When was the real bad one where everybody got hit so badly? And we missed the whole thing; the February one.
And also there was talk of deregulation. Applefields in Christchurch were costing the Apple & Pear Board virtually millions in legal fees, and some people were dissatisfied with the Apple & Pear Board; it was getting top heavy. There were rumours about what people … how much money they were paying. Jenny joined the Action Group; there were three women – Marilyn Payne, someone McFarlane and her, and a couple of men from Nelson. And they fought the whole thing – they took apples to Parliament; they had a publicity man planned. And at the same time she was elected to the Hawke’s Bay Fruitgrowers’ Association; she was the second woman member ever on it; the first one was Barbara Brookfield. And that was in 1996.
Well, that was just before I decided that I didn’t want to stay fruit growing on my own account, and so I leased the orchard and went and worked for other people. And my friends I know thought I was crazy; that they could never work for anybody else.
So who did you go and work for?
For … someone in Trotter Road; I can’t … sorry. It was quite a big place. He actually worked for either the Fruitgrowers’ Federation, or in another job. And then I worked on a place in Jervois Road.
And then in the meantime my father died; Dad died in ’97. Mum and Dad had gone into Gracelands, and then they went into Eversley where they wanted to go in the first place. Dad thought he was still on the orchard sometimes. They had a double suite or a sitting room thing and a bedroom there, and it was all connected. And so they’d have their afternoon tea in what they called the sitting room or living room, and when he’d finished his tea he’d open the door into the corridor and throw the dregs out the door – he thought he was in the orchard. [Chuckles]
And then unfortunately he broke his hip there, so he couldn’t stay there. He went to Gracelands, and that was sort of the start of the … He did teach himself to walk again. And then Mum stayed there until 2003 I think, when they had the disaster in America with all the buildings coming down – was that 2003? She died just before that actually, and thank God – she would’ve hated it.
And I had various lessees, and Doug Cole’s wife, Adrienne, was quite a good friend of Jenny, and I ended up working for Doug. And he said, “Oh, I’ll lease your orchard”, and so I went back, spending quite a lot of time at home again, which I loved, actually, yeah. Although I didn’t … you know, he had pruners come in and they’d do the pruning; I controlled the harvest. And then we bought four and half acres off him in St Andrews Road which had Grannies and some young Royal Galas, something like that on, or Pacific Rose – which bordered the drain back off … what d’you call it? From … well, it went into the Karamu, but it came from Southland Road. It was quite picturesque – willows on the bank, and we had a big shed. We had two big sheds and we sold one – someone came from Gisborne that dismantled it and took it away. And we were going to build a house there; and we decided not to. We had a plan from David Trubridge, or the preliminary plans.
And then I ended up working for Stallard, Leon Stallard. That was my last job, and I was hoping to do ten years doing that sort of thing. In the meantime we’d sold, as you would know as you sold our place for us in 2003, and you got us a very good price; and then this place here – you sold it to us.
And then of course, I decided I was going have the winter off in 2006, which I did. And then Jenny had gone to Amsterdam to see Susannah – and David’s her husband – their first son, Hugo. And she’d been before that, and I didn’t want to go again, so … well, I can’t remember if I wanted to go or not. I think the first trip was … no, I don’t know, we’d been twice anyway. And soon after she got back she became ill, and it was quite a lengthy illness with cancer; and then Jenny finally died in January 2011. And I think during a long illness, you actually grieve a lot while the person’s still there.
And a funny thing that happened – when I say ‘funny’ – a peculiar thing that happened after the funeral and after everybody had gone home; the next morning I took the dog up to Duart House for just a walk. I came back, and my son-in-law said to me, “I think you’ve got a leak in your house.” I’d noticed it before in the hall; the night before, and I thought it was just someone had spilt liquid there, and I’d sort of mopped it up with a towel but it was still wet the next day. And there was a leak in the laundry, and then there was a leak in here. And it was the most bizarre thing – why it should happen at that time – and I always thought of, ‘That’s her. “Don’t forget me!”’ It was – it was … yeah.
If we turned the irrigation in the garden on it took off a lot of pressure from the leak. Luckily it was all above the concrete floor. There were two ‘T’ junctions, or two exactly the same shape where the leak came from, in here and in the laundry. And it took two or three days before sort of the plumber tracked it down.
So that was the start of a new life for me, really. Luckily Cath, my youngest daughter, and her husband and family had moved from Auckland a couple of years before so I wasn’t alone. They had twin girls, Sofia and Ruby, and they have a little boy now, Tom. Sofia and Ruby now are seven, I think – is that right, Joan? And Tom’s four; nearly eight – they’re nearly eight. And Cath’s husband, John, works for the old Lion Nathan – what it is now, you know, it’s in Singapore and … so he’s been there ever since he finished a degree at [background noise] university.
While Jenny was ill I joined the Tramping Club. It was actually through Mike Lusk, who’s a long term member of the Tramping Club. He was a GP; he’s now retired. He had a working bee every month up at Te Mata Park which anybody could go to, and I used to go to that. And then one of the guys that was there from the Tramping Club said … we talked about cycling. I said, “Oh, I mountain bike.” I started in Nicholl Road, mountain biking. And he said, “Oh, why don’t you come? We’ve got a Wednesday group that just goes cycling.” So I started doing that. And then did the odd tramp I think, and there was someone I recognised, and it was Joan. And it was from a babysitting bank that Jenny and I belonged to; and Joan belonged to the babysitting bank – and her family, Trevor and children. I said, “Oh – do you remember the babysitting bank?” And then she remembered coming out to babysit at our place, and I babysat … perhaps only once there, because I remember her youngest son, the third-born, Gray, who has a disability. And Gray was crawling around the floor, and I’d never forgotten that. And they lived in Southampton Street. And as I say, Joan remembered coming out to our place. And I suppose after a couple of years, I said, “Oh, do you want to come with me on a reconnaissance?” ‘Cause I took cycle trips; some were with the Trip Club. There was one down across Brownriggs’ property down near Pukehou; well I didn’t know how it was going to be, so I was going to go down and have a look, that’s right, before I did anything about it. Then I found … we went down a road, not Te Aute Trust Road but the road after; you couldn’t go any further. You crossed the railway line, and … the map shows the road, but it’s all Brownrigg’s things, and so I said, “Oh. We’ll just have to turn around and go back.” So we went and had a coffee at the café in Otane … McCauley’s. So I guess that was the start of a friendship. Also, Joan lived out at Haumoana.
Joan: East Clive.
Alasdair: East Clive, I’m sorry, yeah … near the beach and I’d spent a lot of time at Te Awanga and things, so I was sort of familiar – not with East Clive – but I think I sent her a few early photos I had of Te Awanga, didn’t I? From the computer, one stage … yeah. Then I think there was a gap of quite a few months, and then – sort of started again. And then after that – [it’d] be [a] couple of years maybe, or less than that – we saw quite a bit of each other and then … I think you’ve been here now three years this month? Yeah.
Well, would you like to tell me something about yourself, Jane? [Joan] Where did your folks come from? You know, where did you go to school? Brothers and sisters?
Joan: Oh, God! Well Mum was from Dunedin, and Dad from Feilding, and they met pre-war in Christchurch and married in Fielding. Mum’s mother died of TB [tuberculosis] when she was only eleven years old, so she was raised by an elderly aunt, her and her sister. Worked in the DIC [Drapery & General Importing Company] in Dunedin. I’m going backwards now, sorry – I don’t know how much you want.
Alasdair: About your father going to the war; and school teaching; where you grew up; Cheltenham, and your brother and sisters.
Joan: He did go to the war; he never spoke about it, but he was a frustrated school teacher, ‘cause I think he felt he could’ve done something better. [Chuckle] So he had sole charge of Cheltenham School, and then it became a two-teacher school; a little country school, and had very happy memories of village get-togethers on Sunday … cricket matches.
Yes, then we moved into Feilding and built a house. At that stage Pam, myself and Jackie were born. And then after that came Maxine, David and Rosemary, so there’s six of us. We lived a little out of town so we were all very active outdoor children.
Alasdair: You learnt to ride a horse.
Joan: Oh, yes, I used to ride; we couldn’t afford a horse but I used to find someone else’s to ride. [Chuckle] Used to bike six miles every weekend [chuckle] to ride a horse; pinch a few carrots out of Dad’s garden and take my lunch. I had a friend with an ex-race horse, and she used to ride her race horse out to Cheltenham because that was going to be where the main trunk railway was; it’s a lovely wide … so I’d ride my bike; she’d ride her horse; we’d ride all day out on the farm and then she would ride home and I’d ride my bike. And in the holidays, the horse came in to a paddock near where we lived, and I’d ride him all holidays; give my sisters rides to their friends’ places.
Yes, so we started off at Manchester Street and then to Lytton Street. Dad kept on teaching at Manchester Street, then went to the intermediate school when that opened; then on to the high school where he started the horticultural course for what they called ‘slow learners’ in those days. He was very interested in native seedlings and planted out at Kitchener Park. I was at Lytton Street school then, then went on to Feilding Agricultural High School.
Loved to run. We were all runners except my brother. My sisters were champions – they could run and jump. Two of them were.
What was your family name?
Joan, do you have a second name?
Alasdair: Funny – she’s got the same initials as Jenny had – JE.
And when you left school, what did you do?
A friend of mine was coming up to go nursing here, and I wanted to go nursing. And the choice was Palmerston North or Hastings, and I thought it’d be nice … I didn’t know anybody up here, but I thought that … she was coming up here so I said, “I’ll come too.” So I did my nursing training at the Memorial [Hospital] and ended up working … I really liked psychiatry, and I was working in the psychiatric unit when I registered, but they were only able to give me one day off, and at that stage … oh, I should’ve said … I had already got married. [Chuckle] I married at twenty; in those days most of my friends got married at twenty – seems pretty young now. So we had a boarder also living in the house, and I didn’t want to just have one day off, so I ended up working in Orthopaedics until I became pregnant and had my first baby in 1972 … Carlton Lawrence; and he’s now – whoa – forty-five next month. [Chuckle] Yeah.
I went back nursing when he was little; quite small, ‘cause I had post-natal depression quite badly, and I just really missed the busy-ness of being nursing and meeting all different people, and to go to a life that was so quiet, and a well-behaved baby that … he was so placid; he did everything at the right time, slept when he was supposed to [chuckle] – I found it really hard. So in the evenings when my husband was home from work, I went off to work – did twilight hours back in the Orthopaedic ward. I did the same when my second baby was born … Hester … was born in ’75.
And then the third time, I got pregnant and Gray was born two months prem [premature] under very dramatic circumstances; so I bled internally, so I was rushed up to the hospital. But he did very well as a prem baby, until he was about six months old, when he started … there was a suspicion that he couldn’t see properly, and he started fitting. And they at the time thought it was a viral problem, but now they realise it was lack of oxygen when he was born, ‘cause he was in an incubator for some weeks. Yeah. So I wasn’t able to go back to work then because he was a full time job, and I had two other children; so I had three children under five for a wee while; a busy life.
But I still liked to have a good garden, and … like, I’m very domestic, I like cooking and … [Chuckle] So I didn’t really … it was only when Gray went to school that I started sort of working part-time, doing jobs that I could be at home when I needed to be after school; worked at a local dairy. I did collating at the paper.
So he lived with us for thirty years, and … well Trevor and I were married thirty-nine years, then we parted. It’s a long time. We had a very happy early life; very busy lifestyle. We used to have overseas artists come and stay, and he and a friend organised tours. They were folk musicians; we had some very well-known folk musicians stay. Really enjoyed it and the children enjoyed it; used to go off to folk festivals.
Are you musical?
A bit. I used to sing a bit. [Chuckle]
With a guitar?
No, I’ve got a dulcimer that I play, very rarely.
What is it?
Oh, it’s beautiful. You play it on your lap; it’s [a] four stringed wooden instrument, and they were first made in Appalachia; it’s an Appalachian dulcimer.
It’s quite a beautiful instrument.
Mmm, ‘tis, isn’t it?
It’s a weird sort of strum, and it’s just incredible. So you obviously have a love for gardening as well, because you stray up to Duart; [House] were you looking after it before they developed the other side?
No. Oh, what other side?
The other side’s where the new house was built, before they cut all the gum trees down.
So you didn’t see it when it was at its roughest?
Probably not; oh, maybe just.
Alasdair: ‘Cause the house has only been there …
Joan: We saw the house going up.
Well you know, before that the lake was this dirty smelly old mosquito-ridden lake – before they drained it – and that certainly helped make the area. It’s lovely out there, isn’t it?
Alasdair: But the lake, when I first came here in 2003 it was quite good; it was quite big, and people used to actually paint it; some of the painting classes would go up there for the reflections off the trees.
Joan: People used to have their wedding photos taken beside it.
Alasdair: But then suddenly for some reason it just stopped.
The water … it wasn’t getting the water replenishment and it just became stagnant.
Because it is actually a stream, I think.
There is a stream, but they’ve put in dams up the top to slow the water down, and that stopped it.
So I guess today now, besides looking after Duart, are you part of the Tramping Club group too?
Joan: Oh yes – [in] fact I was already a member. I love – it’s my passion; tramping and guerilla gardening. [Chuckle]
So anyway, I think we’ve got a … just a picture. So thank you, Alasdair and Joan, for giving us the life and times of your families.
Alasdair: Yeah, well it’s very nice of you to ask us.
Original digital file
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Interviewer: Frank Cooper
- Alasdair Archibald Shaw
- Joan Elizabeth Silcock