Barry Herbert William Burns & Derek John Winstone Burns Interview

Today is the 11th of May 2017. I’m interviewing Barry and Derek Burns, formerly of Twyford, on the life and times of the Burns family. Right, would you like to tell us about the family’s history?

Derek: Two brothers married two sisters prior to 1900. They came out on a boat to Wellington and from Wellington they moved to Shannon where they were farming.

What sort of farming were they doing those days?

I’m not certain but I think it would have been dairying. My estimation was about 1910 they moved to … the two families moved to Hastings. Frederick remained at Tomoana … had a place at Tomoana. I don’t know where our grandfather originally settled, but my father went to the Mahora Primary School. But following that our grandfather, Herbert Harold [Hugh] Burns, bought property in Twyford. I’m not even sure about the house – I just assumed they built it. ‘cause staying with our grandparents – yeah, it was a real old place with an outside toilet.

Barry: Outside washing.

Derek: And I remember whenever we stayed there which was quite frequently, it was the time of the chamber pots under the bed.

Our grandparents had five [six] children – John, Philip, David, Stephen, Ernest and Betty, who changed her name to Elizabeth. Our grandfather helped each of them … the sons … buy property, and our father bought the place in Thompson Road round about 1931.

Barry: Did he?

Derek: And he developed that first of all just as dairying with thirty cows. Philip set up an orchard in Hill Road, David developed a dairy farm, and Stephen bought a property in Hill Road. Ernest subsequently … well, he didn’t buy any more property ‘cause it was part of the family farm, but he moved to a house further down Twyford Road. David’s house – I don’t know whether he … I don’t think he would have built it.

Barry: Comptons lived there.

Derek: Comptons, okay. And Stephens’ was an old house too. Philip ultimately moved up to North Auckland and retired there.

Barry: He moved to Bridge Pa before that.

Derek: Okay – Philip moved to Bridge Pa before he went north.

Barry: But he was the only … I would say bugger of the Burns family that was very slow at doing things … always late. He’d come to Church three quarters of an hour late, as if it was the first time he was ever late. He was a shocker.

Derek: But it never worried him.

Barry: No, no. Oh, no.

Derek: I mean his wife was exactly the same.

Barry: Philip was a shocker.

Derek: Stephen served in the Armed Forces in the Pacific, and Ernest was the only one that served and he served in the Japanese prisoner-of-war camp in Featherston. Our father, prior to buying the property, served as a missionary overseas for …

Barry: Not long.

Derek: No, it wasn’t long.

Which Church was that with?

That was a Brethren Church.

Barry: JJ and our mother went separately over to Malaysia. Because they fell out with other missionaries – my mother was a fairly strong-minded – they got married over there so they could come back together. They never talked about it.

Derek: Never said a word, no.

Dad developed his farm into sheep and then he got into peas. David did the same – he didn’t have many sheep really, it was mainly cows that he was doing. Stephen was very heavily into cropping, and then this was just … well, he started off dairying and he moved into sheep too. I can still remember them killing their own beef. And our grandparents – I can remember when the first fridge … first refrigerator arrived, there used to be a lot of cold meat that we used to eat. And I can remember our first freezer arriving too, must be about 1940 I would think.

Barry: You’re doing well … you’re doing well.

Derek: What more do you want on the Burns?

The Burns family didn’t stop at cropping and running sheep, they got more developed … as time went on they became orchardists, and asparagus growers …

Barry: No, they didn’t.

Derek: We were the first ones to go into orcharding. The family always helped each other – they worked together, whereas the other brother – they were all individual, they didn’t work together.

Barry: That was Philip.

Derek: No, no, no. No …

Both: The Redburns.

Barry: They started off there, two brothers and two sisters, but they developed. And the Blackburns did help each other … we were the first ones to start to walk away from the group because we went orcharding.

Derek: But the Burns brothers were very, very progressive, because they used to do their own hay baling, they bought their own threshing mill, and I as a young boy used to work on the press … help on the press or help on the threshing machine with my other two uncles, and even occasionally I’d have the opportunity of driving the … I mean it was a self-mobile, that – they originally started off with a tractor drawn threshing machine, and then we grew to the self-mobile threshing machine. And we used to all help as a family, stacking the hay in the various hay sheds so it was a total community thing. We never got a tractor until about 1950 I suppose. It was the first Ferguson in Twyford that had hydraulics, and the contractors … the Griffiths’ … were most interested to come along and view me ploughing a paddock with this tractor that could do that. Yeah. Yes, they were really a progressive family.

Barry: Well apparently our grandfather would come to you to buy your property. He would pay top money but he wouldn’t pay for a year, so he got a crop from that land … would then help him pay for it. He owned quite a bit around Twyford.

Derek: Oh yeah, he would’ve had two to three hundred acres I would think.

Was it wet those days, the land round where you were?

Where we were, yeah, it was very wet. There’s a spring in the back paddock and bullrushes, because we were told that in the early days when the traction engines used to come into Raupare we used to have to put planks down because the ground was so spongy. Yeah.

Barry: I can remember [tap running] … that Wattie’s were in harvesting peas. And they were moving across this block and only one guy was stupid enough to go across this drain, and he got stuck. And apparently the guy supervising the harvesting for Wattie’s knew he’d be in trouble with the cost, so we got out … I think Frasers brought their big unit out and the ground was rolling in front of them. Oh, it was shocking … to get him out ‘cause as well as the viners they had the mowers, and the mowers’ equipment tried to pull this guy and that’s what made the foreman of the whole outfit most annoyed, because they couldn’t get him out. “What did you drive through that for?” ‘Cause the mowers couldn’t pull it.

Derek: Ernest had some land by the way, that when I would work there doing cultivation, if you had the roller on it was that fine that you finished up with a big wave in front of the thing, but that was just fine soil.


Barry: We didn’t have the power. Like – our little Fergies could pull a little plough, but today with the big tractors and the big tyres no problem.

‘Cause you would have gone from horses to the Fergie wouldn’t you? You would have had horses?

Derek: We had a draught horse, and to get shingle for the drives we would drive to the shingle pit in Omahu Road, next door to where that tyre place is now. Dad would load up the dray and then the horse would walk all the way back home again. So that was a day’s adventure.

Barry: I’d forgotten that.

1954 we bought a Fergie 24 with a two-furrow plough, and …

Because you didn’t have to crank it. I can remember when we bought that tractor, my father was so thrilled that instead of having to carry the cream up after every milking to put in the bigger … what do you call it? Instead of a bucket you had the …

Derek: Cream can.

Barry: Cream can – so here he had the tractor so he didn’t have to do that. So he came up the first day with the cream can with his two or three days of cream, came out to the road, turned towards your house and the can slipped off, tipped out into the leaves – lost the lot. He just about cried. Because it was a metal tray that we had.

They were major improvements when you know, they pushed them down on a trolley to the gate.

That’s all you had.

And so when the little Fergie came along … two furrows, that was pretty good …

That’s all we had, two furrows.

…you just had to keep putting petrol in it.

Derek: Yeah, and my father taught me how to set up a field to plough and off we went. Just a pity we had stumps there. Dad set up a system too, for … ‘cause we had pigs … that he used to pump the milk from the shed …

Barry: That’s right.

Derek: ... down to the pig pens, which was progressive.

Barry: It was. I like my pigs.

Yes, but the land was quite damp – it was only suitable in a lot of cases for dairying originally. But then it became drained, it became improved.

He drained ours.

That changed the whole face of the area.

Derek: Well yeah, I mean – that drainage system, the guys came and just used their digger just to lay the tiles as they went. But they suddenly found out with the stumps that they had to use dynamite to get the stumps out and use a back actor to dig the trench, and he did all the work.

Barry: I think we got quarter of a million gallons a day off our drainage that we put in, and it changed the soil, ‘cause you could grow peas safely.

It changed from what they used to call Class 18 or 19 back to a true Twyford 14. Pat Grant who used to be the soil expert for the Ministry of Works said that was the greatest move that ever happened on the plains was when Selwyn Wilson of the …

He was a great guy.

… and they did all that work for nothing, planned all the drainage schemes. And then of course Riach or Bishop – Bishop was the other fellow that did a lot of drainage.

Riach and he got on well. They worked together.

Derek: Ours was proper … it was actual tiles that went in, but Norman next door put down the wooden …

Fascine drains.

… whatever they called it.

Barry: I think at the end, after we’d done the major lot, I used them coming up the centre, three six-by-ones, and this on top was an eight-by-one …

Oh, box drain.

Yeah – put the little cleat across so it was raised. I think it was a quicker way of doing it than the tiles, because we went through a lot of shingle with the clay tiles because of our blasting.

It made holes – you had to ballast it up to put the tile on.

Keep the level.

At some stage you much have decided to plant asparagus?

Yes, that wasn’t … it was good money, [chuckle] but it was a terrible job for picker.

Derek: Yes, it was a matter of me waking up to do my share every morning.

And we grew tomatoes very successfully, which was all done with the boxes.

Barry: Yes, then we got into bins. And I can still remember the day that I had picked up this bin, drove down to the headland, didn’t know that one of the picker’s children was following me – right behind me – I didn’t know that. And when I turned … the bin fell off I think … the bin tipped, and how this child wasn’t squashed … Oh, I was annoyed that the parent hadn’t held onto the kid.

It’s a wonder there weren’t more accidents in the paddock with all the kids and mothers picking tomatoes … ‘cause we relied on those families, didn’t we?

We had a family that during the day the husband and wife would be lucky to pick two bins of tomatoes. Three o’clock the father took off, came back with a car load of his children, and he picked four bins before they knocked off. Just a big difference.

Derek: Yes, so from tomatoes we went … well, we went into Golden Queen as our first orchard.

Barry: Well, we bought …

Derek: Oh, we bought the block of …

Barry: Dudley Currie.

Derek: Was it Dudley’s, or Lester’s?

Barry: Well Dudley had bought it off Lester.

Derek: And I worked for Lester one day – my father offered my services to help him plant his potato crop, and I worked all day and I got two shillings. [Chuckle]

Barry: And probably quite happy with that?

Derek: Well … [Chuckle]

It was that or nothing.

And then one day Lester’s wife lost her watch in the orchard, so all the school kids were offered the opportunity of helping find it. And it was found, and as school kids we get threepence each for going along there, and I can’t remember what … the person that found the watch must have got a shilling I think.

Barry: I remember that – that was down near the school.

Derek: It was at the Twyford School. The senior pupils went right through to Form 2. We had the cleaning job on a roster system – I think we got half a crown for the week that we did the cleaning.

I interviewed Jim Carrington recently …

Barry: He was around the corner of the school.

… and he was telling me about the cleaning of the school.

Derek: He would have been on the School Committee I think, yeah, ‘cause he came later to Twyford.

Barry: Is he still going well?

Good as gold.

Derek: So we both attended the Twyford School, and we both went to the Boys’ High School. Our father at one stage was the director of the dairy company.

Barry: And he was chairman of the School Committee I think.

Derek: Yeah, well I finished up as chairman of the School Committee when we had the big fly problem there.

Barry: That was bad.

What fly problem was that?

Derek: Well they reckoned it came from the Friis’s Poultry farm, and there were just swarms of flies that settled on everything, or even got into lunch boxes. They were a small fly and it was a real plague that we had for one year. We even had the press come out one day when we were having a meeting about it. Yeah – no, they were a real difficult problem.

So Friises have been out there for a long time in Twyford as a poultry farm then?

Barry: Not as long as we’ve been there.

No, I didn’t realise – I thought they were newcomers to the area.

Derek: Oh, no, no, no, no. Trevor Friis … going back to Trevor’s time …

Barry: When you shut a door you always squashed flies, there were so many.

Derek: And they just hovered. Yep – hovered at eye level, yep.  Yeah, the Friis … but the Libbys – have you interviewed somebody from the Libbys?


Dick would be good to …

Barry: Or Tom, is the mayor of …

Derek: Oh, Tom yeah … Tom Libby.

Barry: Mayor of Clive.

Derek: Yeah, Tom would be excellent. ‘Cause that was a family of about seven or eight.

How did the Golden Queens go for Wattie’s?

Barry: Well we bought the property – as Derek said, it was Lester Master … Masters owned it, then Dudley Currie bought it, planted it in Golden Queens. When we took it over it was on its way down, and after a while we started to plant more, so Wattie’s were very good with the Golden Queens.

Lester Masters …

Derek: Yeah.

He was a very, very small man.

And he used to have a massive-size cigarette in his mouth all the time – roll your own.

Barry: Took about three papers to go round it.

Derek: And he brought a kowhai tree back from the ranges and gave it to me, that I put in the garden that survived until just before we left – it got blown over. Yeah.

So he left his mark in Twyford?

Yeah, yeah. He had an orchard down towards the school on Thompson Road. Right opposite Agnews.

Barry: So Harvey you just walk through. He owns that block now, up against Ron Flowers.

How long did you grow Queens for before you changed those over then?

Derek: Oh, we must have grown them for fifteen years.

Barry: Before we started pulling them out … planted up another area. And there’s no doubt the older trees didn’t give you the quality of a peach that when you put a new tree in, it was far better. Now my friend Ron Curtis has a new variety – I’m trying to think of the name of them, and they are a very nice peach. Yeah, I can’t think of …

Derek: We used to grow broad beans too.

Barry: Beans and broad beans, and tomatoes.

Did you hand harvest the green beans and the broad beans?

At the start we did. So where did all the money go? [Chuckle]

Derek: No, it never … it never ever built up.

It just went back into redeveloping, new varieties and new plants, tractors …

Barry: And so we put the pack house in, and the same problem … they wanted more concrete. They wanted better this, better that.

Derek: Our grandfather – in the early days there was a tack shed or a saddle shed in the main shed, where he did all the canvas work and making belts and stuff. But he was injured …

Barry: Tree fell on him.

Derek: … tree felling, yeah, and so he had a limp all his life that we knew him. We always thought he was a bit of a grouchy old guy but I think he just didn’t have the communication skills that our grandmother had.

It was a different time. They came from a different era as well.

Barry: It was harder.

Women today would not put up with what mothers of yesterday did.

Well it was a copper – they had to boil the water to wash the clothes.

Everything was manual.

Derek: Yeah, the laundry was done in the copper down in the cowshed.

So you didn’t have any sisters, just boys?

Yeah we had a sister.

Is she still here?

Barry: No. No, she lived … the guy she married was very much involved in Church work and God was more important to him than even our sister. She told me this recently. Whatever God wanted that was what he did, and they moved to several Churches. And he’s died just recently, and she’s moved to Kerikeri.

So what was her name then?


Derek: She was born in 1940.

And what was her married name?

Barry: Caro.

Derek: Well no – they came from Auckland originally, didn’t they?

Barry: Yep. Well, they were English. So we went up to see Judy just a few months ago when I was well enough to travel, and … got a nice house in Kerikeri and it’s quite a nice place to live. It’s a long way from here. Well you drove up there – we flew up, but … you’re in Auckland and drove up, but it’s still quite a way above Auckland.

Derek: Well, it’s still three hours, yeah.

You went to Hastings Boys’ High, you both went there – did you play any sports at all when you were there?

Barry: No.

Derek: I played rugby.

Barry: And then you coached rugby for a long time.

Derek: Yes I did.

Which club?

Hastings Old Boys. I started off with the fourth-grade team and finished up with the junior team of the club. And I was also the Hastings Junior Selector in my time. I was fourth grade selector too when I started off, and I had the guy Robertson in my fourth-grade team. Bill Robertson, the All Black.

So what position did you play, Derek?

I played hooker.

Goodness! They’re about two hundred kilos and built like a …

Barry: Tank.

Derek: I used to do a bit of playing on the wing too, so … yeah.

When you left school you went to work for an accountant?

When I left school I started off in the Bank of New Zealand, [sound of water boiling] and I did four years there and I got given a transfer to Wellington. And I said “well, there’s no way I’m going to Wellington with the Bank of New Zealand”. So I joined the Farmers’ Meat Company and I …

Barry: That’s right.

Derek: … started off in the town office there, and then they built the office at Whakatu. I was out there for something like fifteen years I think. I was the paymaster at one stage, paying two thousand workers. I was handling cash in those days … came in twice a week to the National Bank to pick up something like £40,000, and then we’d go back and make up all the pay envelopes, and then we’d go round the Works paying all the guys, which was very interesting. You got to know everybody. And what got me was, we’d give some of these guys something like $500 in pay for the week, and the next day they’d be in for an advance on the next week’s wages, you know – it was …

Easy come, easy go.

Well yeah. And when we went out to the Works from the town office, we’d have to have a meal at the cook house, which was pretty rugged with all Snow Boese as the chief.  So after the pay department I was then put in charge of the killing records, and all the returns that went to the Meat Board.

Then there was a job came up at Nordic Industries, so I worked there – they were in very bad financial position when I started there. You were putting off paying all your creditors ’cause you never had the money. But by the time I left there – it could have been four years there I suppose – we got the place onto a situation where we could pay accounts when they became due, which was a great feeling. Plus I used to do the pricing of jobs, so it was costing I was doing as well.

And then I was approached by the auditors and said “how about applying for the job at the Hawke’s Bay Mutual Building Society?” Which I did, and got that job and I did that for …

Barry: Quite a while.

Derek: Thirteen years I think, until we got taken over by the United Building Society. And from there I took early retirement at the age of about sixty-two, sixty-three, I think.

And you’ve been retired since then?

Since then, I did do some part time work, oh, something like what … twelve, fifteen hours a week for the Baptist Church Day Care Centre.

Coming back to Nordic Industries – what did they do?

Nordic Industries were stainless steel manufacturers. And they had some great products, but the manager was …

Barry: They couldn’t have priced them right.

Derek: Well no. The first thing I found out when I was doing costing – I said “what about the scrap metal, what happens to that?” And I soon found out that the scrap metal went to the owner plus the two directors. And that was quite a few thousand dollars, every few … oh, it was many thousands of dollars, and that was just going into their pockets – it wasn’t going into the business.

You’ve retired – now when you left school, Barry, what did you do?

Barry: I went to Odlin’s at the start for a short time – very short, and then I joined Wright Stephenson’s, and finished up being transferred to Waipukurau. But I had eighteen years with Wright Stephenson’s. And then I … at that point of leaving Wright Stephenson’s … came back and we started orcharding. We bought Dudley Currie’s block of Golden Queens then started planting our own orchard. So that was interesting.

‘Cause it was really a model farm – it was very, very smart.

We kept it – the orchard – neat.

It was. I think I first met you at Wrightson’s … those were the days of Bruce Allen and Tut Morton.

Bruce is now at Clive.

Now – so you’ve both married, and have children?

Derek: I’ve got two sons who live in Auckland, North Shore actually.

And what are their names?

Wayne and Christopher. Wayne’s an accountant currently working for Heartland Bank, and Christopher’s now a fireman.

And Barry, you’ve got ..?

Barry: His biggest enjoyment – the fireman – is going down Queen Street and cars getting out of his road in Auckland.

Derek: Well he was a go-kart racer, you know. He did racing at Manfield – he’s just a petrol head.

Barry: So at thirty I lost my first wife … died. Married this Canadian who today, not being well, I can’t do without her … absolutely brilliant – knows all my hospital appointments.

Now you used to live on the right-hand side of the drive going into the orchard, and Derek you used to live just down the road between the house and the hall. What significance does the Burns family have to the hall?

Derek: The hall was built in 19…

Barry: I was twenty-one.

Derek: It was opened in 1956, and that was the year that we got married. I didn’t attend the opening dance … but well, like prior to the hall being opened there used to be the Bachelor and Spinsters dance that used to be held in one of the packing sheds in Twyford Road, I think it was. But going back to school days, the school used to have an annual ball where we went to the Fernhill Hall to present items and do the Schottische and the Valeta and all those things. And to me that was a huge hall in those days, but I went there many years later with a friend – we sang at a some function – and I was just staggered how small the actual hall was.

But the Twyford Hall was built in ’56, and in ’58 I went on the committee as the Secretary/Treasurer, and I’m still the Secretary/Treasurer over fifty years later. And I’m still looking after the toilets and stuff there … popping out. I played badminton in the hall … well, I started off playing indoor bowls with Percy Flowers and Bundy Jarvis and John Jarvis and all those. That’s going back a few years, and then I started to play badminton there, and I thought that was a bit slow. But now I’m still playing indoor bowls at the Twyford hall, with a reduced number.

Well, isn’t that wonderful though – it’s played a major part in your life, hasn’t it?

Well it has actually, yeah.

So was the land Burns land that the hall was built on?

Barry: That was the Redburns family.

Derek: Yeah, and that was the … originally there were holding paddocks for the drovers on the corner of Raupare Road and Thompson Road, and an arrangement was made whereby …

Barry: Charlie didn’t want the hall built by his house, so he swapped land for that. So the hall was then built …

Derek: Next to my place. So I was also the custodian and guy with the problem. Many nights I used to have to go over … two, three o’clock in the morning … to kick people out. I mean we used to have drunks appearing at the back door … I mean it wasn’t a good time. So yeah – I mean Norman McGaffin was the Chairman and he was very laid back. But I mean I’d hate to think the number of times I’ve actually mopped that whole hall floor because it hadn’t been left in a clean state. And we used to have Church services there on a Sunday – that was once a month, but we had Sunday School which Ernest Burns ran there for about … oh, five, ten years I suppose.

And you’re still members of the same Church, the Brethren Church.


Barry: No, he’s never been.

Derek: Well I was a member originally, ‘til about the age of eighteen, and then I went to Baptist Church, and I was treasurer there for thirteen years I think it was. And now I’m a Presbyterian in the last fifteen years.

Barry: D’you want to add your piece?

Gayle: No, I have no history.

You probably don’t remember me, do you?

Yes, I … sort of.

I remember you as a young … very young attractive woman, and you still are. [Chuckles]

Not very young, and I don’t think very attractive. [Chuckle]

So whereabouts in Canada did you come from?

Saskatchewan. It’s right in the middle, it’s in the Prairies – it’s flat, flat, flat. Flat, boring, nobody goes there, everybody comes from there.

Yes – I have a daughter-in-law who’s from Calgary.

Yeah, well we’re just the next Province over.

Barry: So I got off … the first trip … off the plane, and someone said, “where are you going?” And I said “to Saskatchewan”, and swelled out my chest and he said “nobody goes to Saskatchewan – they all leave Saskatchewan.” Now, Saskatchewan has minerals that have really made them wealthy.

Gayle: They’ve got the potash, and quite a bit of oil I think, so that’s good. So that’s me – I’ll go back to my quilting.

So you came to a point then where obviously things were going all right until you got this hailstorm?

Barry: I don’t know why we weren’t solvent, but there was a lot of people struggling.

The margin wasn’t there for fruit.

Derek: No, you just couldn’t build up a reserve at the end of the season because of all the expenses.

[Speaking together] Barry: You take Graham Flowers …

Derek: I mean the spray bill alone was something like thirty-five to forty thousand, in those days – I mean …

Barry: The minute we went onto a different spray schedule, it just … See, Dudley Currie said to me when we bought that orchard off him, “spray to the best of your ability, and at the end of the year check what you spent”. So – every fortnight or every week depending what time it was we sprayed. But later on when they came to – Wattie’s had to reduce the chemical on the fruit – so they were paying to give us when we should spray. I’m trying to think of the guy’s name – doesn’t matter. But he would get us together and have a schedule, and say “now why did you put that extra spray on?” So our spray bill just dropped, but it was too late for us.

So then at that stage you decided to sell the orchard.

Donna said she could find more money for us, and Gayle and I said “we’ve had debt – we’re getting out”. And so we lived in Harvey … his flat … nearly to Twyford School. And we put that lean-to on and a ranch slider door in it. And you’d know him well – it was him that suggested moving the Twyford hall. He was the other side of the Raupare Road … came off Omahu Road.

Derek: Oh, it was right down the back …

Barry: Long drive.

Derek: Donnelly.

Barry: Pat Donnelly was the father, Mike Donnelly was the guy that … and he used to stop … he said “you amaze me how wherever you are living,” … ‘cause we lived in that little house that Lester Masters used to live in for a while, then we moved into Harvey’s flat and did this ranch slider, and old Mike was very complimentary. He’s living in Havelock now I think.

After that you went to work with the Christian School in Copeland Road? And so you’ve been there for many years.

Well I went there not knowing whether I was going for a week or a month, and I had sixteen years, I think.

And so from there you retired to rural Pakipaki?

No, no – south of Hastings.

South of Hastings … well said. [Chuckle] And Derek, you have been retired since you were sixty-three. You have other interests like Landmarks – you’re involved?

Derek: Going back to the hall, Mike Donnelly’s idea was picked up by the Committee, that yes, that’s a good idea to shift it. Well then it was left to me to organise funding to cover the expenses because we had to buy the section, and that was bought off the Agnews for thirty or forty thousand, I think.

Barry: Oh you paid that much?

Derek: Well yeah, yeah … yeah. And then we moved the hall. Well all up it was well in excess of a hundred thousand.

Barry: I did offer to do that for free.

So where is the hall now?

Derek: By the school.

Barry: Right beside the school.

It’s not down where it used to be?

No, no, it hasn’t been there for fifteen years.

The hall’s beside the school.

Derek: Beside the school – the school have got the use of it from nine ‘til three each day, but we still take … in the old days …

Barry: That’s years ago though.

Derek: Fifteen years ago. But in the old days, Saturday nights it was used very frequently with weddings and dances and such like, and school dances which were the bane of our life with the damage they used to do. Oh yeah – no, no – that was bad news. But since its moved down there there’s not as many bookings as there used to be – nowhere near it. But it’s used by the district a couple of times a year … we have a get- together or a …

Barry: But the school uses it all the time.

Derek: Every day, yeah, yeah.

But yeah – Landmarks … I’ve been treasurer of that. I’ve been treasurer of the Hastings Musical Comedy Company which is now Theatre Hawke’s Bay. I’m treasurer of the Linden Singers, ‘cause I’m in the choir. I’m treasurer …

Barry: You’re always doing book work.

Derek: … treasurer of the Probus Club. I’m treasurer of the Rotary Club – just given them notice that I’m giving up treasurership on the 30th of June. What else do I do? That’s about all I’m currently …

Well that’s probably enough. [Chuckle]

Well yeah, and with the Twyford Hall – I mean yeah, it’s paying all the accounts and such like – yeah, and arranging funding for them, yeah. So I’ve done a lot of fund raising in my days through applications through Lotto and all the other things. And I’m still … yeah, I’m still treasurer of the Summer in the Park too, and the Jazz in the Park, yeah.

So you’re a very active community man, aren’t you?

Barry: Has been.

Derek: Oh yeah – and it’s all unpaid.

But one of the most wonderful things in life is to be able to give. We have so many people that just take, don’t we?

Oh, true, true.

And those that give don’t look for any reward for the satisfaction of being able to give.

Well I’m secretary/treasurer too, of the Hastings … the Arts Centre there in Russell Street for something like twelve years, I think.

We touched on this early in the piece when you said your father was on the Heretaunga Dairy Company Board. You know we have no history of the Heretaunga Dairy Company – it’s as if it never existed. It’s all been pulled down now – it’s just a butchery shop.

Well even that’s just about come down, yeah. Matt Parkhill was on the Board with my father at that time.

So that’s a piece of history that – the directors have all gone.

I think we used to supply eggs to the Egg Co-op there at one stage, ‘cause we had chooks and ducks at our place, yeah.

Barry: So we were different in that I didn’t get involved in the community, but I was a Church elder for thirty-four years. I wouldn’t want to be a Church elder today – people move Churches.

So grandchildren … Derek, how many grandchildren have you got?

Derek: I’ve got five grandchildren. Matthew, Kate, Nicholas – Matthew, Kate and Thomas live in North Shore, and Nicholas works as an apprentice electrician in Wanaka. And Christopher’s got one son – Christopher’s the fireman. His wife’s a doctor in audiology, and my grandson goes to the … can’t think what the name of the primary school is, but it’s a good school anyway.

And Barry, your grandchildren?

Barry: I’ve had five children … three, and then two with Gayle. And grandchildren – I have …

What are their names?

Brett and Greg come from Joy, and then from Donna I have Rachel, Alice and Julie. And I’ve got six great-grandchildren. And so just lately I’ve had my last granddaughter getting married and my oldest granddaughter has just produced another great-grandchild. So it’s amazing … when we get together as my family, I think we have twenty-five or thirty of us, which is embarrassing that you’ve [chuckle] produced that many.

Derek: And he’s got a son managing a farm at …

Barry: Out of Wairoa … Andrew.

Whose farm is that, do you know?

Well it’s owned by the Maoris, and they’ve got three farms and for a while there it looked like they were going to buy another one and Andrew was going to run two farms. But at the moment he’s running a thousand cattle and eight thousand sheep. In a very nice area, but it must be more than half an hour out of Wairoa to the west.

Towards Waikaremoana?

Yeah, yeah – heading in that direction.

Derek: And your younger son …

Barry: Jason.

Derek: Drives for Grant Wood.

Barry: He’s been truck driving for quite awhile. And the Bible says not to hassle your children. I feel like kicking him in the rear end, ‘cause he’s – for a second time – drunk and drive. No driving for twenty-eight days – nothing. So I’m picking him up and … it’s embarrassing.

And it happens.

It does.

Derek: In the best of circles.

And the thing is that you’ve got to be there to support them.

Barry: He’s still your son.

But he may grow out of it.

Derek: Our youngest – I mean we … he was such a worry – I mean he wrecked his car and it was the post’s fault that got in the way. He’s come right.

Barry: Christopher got chased home by the cops one night and he outdid them and the cop arrived at the door – “have you been in town?” “No, no, no” – here’s the car popping, cooling down. [Chuckle]

So can you think of any other things in the Burns family that might … something else that you can think of?

Derek: We had a great …

Barry: I think you did well.

Derek: We had a great home – our parents were excellent. At times I thought they were a bit tight – not tight, but you weren’t allowed to do things you wanted to do – a bit mean. But no, when you look back over the years they were good parents.

Barry: And they never had money.

Derek: No, they never had money.

But you never went without?

Both: No.

Barry: No, we didn’t.

We didn’t have much money either, but we never went without. They were from another era where the men socialised away from home with their mates. The wife spent all the time mending, darning, cooking, washing, ironing.

Derek: No, it’s true … it’s true.

And they were such strong people.

Well my mother was famous for her catering attributes for weddings and stuff you know – yeah, incredible.

Barry: Here’s my daughter, Joy, is now catering. They’ve got a … I feel very sorry for them, because he’s got a sharemilker on the farm they gradually worked into, and they’ve just been to Australia for a week, and now they’re going to China for a month with the grandchildren, you know … [Chuckle]

It’s a different world. [Chuckle]

Derek: Oh, I was in the Citizens Band for about fifteen years …

What did you play?

I started off on a cornet and finished up on tenor horn, and it was a brilliant … brilliant life, in a band where you were one member and when your piece was put together with the other pieces the tune that came out … oh, it was brilliant.

Barry: Very good friends with the two Harris machinery brothers.

Derek: Yeah, they were both in the band with me. We went to contests – you know, I mean yeah, we did it all, it was great.

Oh, by the way, back in the old days when we were kids about ten … twelve, our parents on a Sunday night – there’d be something twenty people would arrive at our home at Twyford and they’d all get round the piano, and that was a sing along that they did, yeah – it was very interesting, yeah.

Barry: Quite common. Our father did … I don’t know how he could afford it, but I think David, his brother, helped … bought a projector … a 16ml, and for a number of years went … Monday night was Haumoana, and Tuesday was Te Awanga, and Wednesday was Clifton. I helped him – we went at least four nights a week showing Christian films, and set up a big screen. But of course today – once television came the numbers didn’t. Like, you went to Clifton and there was always that family atmosphere at Clifton, and it was great. But the TV …

Derek: Bryan Hutchinson still talks to me about how great the films were at Clifton in his day.

It was. But I can’t remember the hall there.

No, there was no hall, it was all outside.

‘Course it was.

Barry: JJ built the frame out of the old milking pipes …

Derek: That’s right.

Barry: … that we could screw together, and so that held the screen – it was a big screen. So I used to use it. J … my father – they were all called by their initials, JJ, SS, DH, MIE, PA – so JJ used to speak at the end of it from a Christian point of view. And yeah, it was … did it for a long time.

Derek: So nobody could say from that era, that they know nothing about God because … so the onus is on them.

But it was just part of our family life, and it unconsciously set a lot of the rules of life which were sensible, weren’t they?

Well yeah. And your parents would always say to you “be careful what you do because it reflects back on us”.

Today no one worries.

No. No.

Barry: I said to my boys, “it’s taken me a long time to build up a name that I can … book stuff up, I can do … you can wreck that in minutes”.

So I think that’s probably a good note to finish on. Well thank you, Derek and Barry – it’s great to have heard all the story.

Original digital file


Additional information

Interviewer:  Frank Cooper


  • Barry Herbert William Burns
  • Derek John Winstone Burns

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