Basil Eric Wheatley Interview
Today is the 9th of November 15 and I’m interviewing Basil Wheatley, and Basil’s going to tell of something of the life and times and his family. So Basil would you like to start off by just telling us something about where your family came from and so forth.
Yeah – basically we didn’t know much about Dad’s family other than he come [came] out when he was twenty-one from England, from Warwickshire. It was the place with Hurley and Atherston. I think he landed at Wellington, and I remember that the story that Dad was told was that when they were lined up to get the jobs allocated to them – he was back in the line quite a bit – and anyway, apparently they were sick of asking if all the jokers wanted to go up to Hawke’s Bay, and they all turned it down. So anyway, the guy got up and said “anybody wants to go up to Hawke’s Bay into Napier to milk cows?” And the old man went straight up there and he said he’ll take it. And that was Mr King in King’s Rd in Meeanee, and he must have been there a couple of years I suppose. Then – well he said that he reckoned that actually there’s nobody could have got a better boss than he was. He gave him a bit of land to grow stuff for himself. That’s amazing that he just come [came] up here and stopped here.
And then he – as I say, I can’t remember whether he was working for him for two years, but he wouldn’t have been much more than that and then he bought a bit of land just down in … it was Plumpton Park, just a little house and a few acres of land. I think he bought it, I can’t be sure. But then, he would tell us a story about him and Mum – meeting Mum at a dance at Greenmeadows. The first time he saw her he reckons ‘that’s the woman that I’m gonna marry’. And eventually he did. And well, it wasn’t too long after that, and he met her and I can’t quite remember how long – she was staying in the Home – in McHardy Home – when the earthquake hit, and she was buried in … the walls fell down and the ceiling came down. And she said she could hear them, but couldn’t make them hear her. They just didn’t knew [know] where she was, and they cut a hole through the top. And anyway, she was in one of those steel beds, but she had enough … she was pinned by her legs and her hips. And she was there – before they got her out – for about four or six hours or something. And … ‘course her biggest worry was where her baby was, but they guaranteed to her that he was safe, and they was [were] in another place beside them somewhere, but that all worked out well. But Dad was saying that when the earthquake hit, he got on his motorbike and he tore off to see Mum, and he didn’t much worry as he was going because he had only one thing in his mind … to get to Napier. But when he come [came] to come home he just couldn’t get home, because there’s all cracks and everything in the road, but he eventually got home.
So did you all grow up at Plumpton Park then?
No, I was one when Dad bought this farm. And he bought a milk run, and he was saying that he went around with him to learn the run. And anyway when they got home the first day, they’d sold all the milk but Dad said “oh well – hey, there’s something wrong here”. But we’ve still got quite … of the milk, that’s right. And he’d actually given so much extra milk than he was paid for. Like – if they said they wanted a pint, he might give them a full blimmin’ pint and a half or a quart. So anyway he eventually bought it and he was starting to build it and then he actually come [came] here when I was … it was in 1933.
So you’ve been here from day one?
Virtually. [Chuckle] Mum said they were milking about fifty cows all the time. Their surplus at that time at it was building up went to the factory down at Waiohiki, and it was made into cheese I think.
With that, I remember they made hay of course, but they made them in those big stacks – long ones like a loaf of bread, and that was something. Mum and … like Dad had the truck delivering milk, and to sweep it into the stack – into the grab – and ‘course there was [were] trucks pulling the hay up on a cable and swung it over the top of the stack and then they’d just – as they was [were] building it up, they’d push it right around to where it had to be. And they’d say “pull!” And then you’d just pull the trip that released the grab and down it’d go.
It was easier to put it in than to take it out. Do you remember using the hay knife?
Oh my God – that thing – it was never sharp. [Chuckle]
It was pretty good, it seemed to make beautiful hay.
Yeah, they didn’t help with the hay at that stage. He got some workers that he had just to do the stacking and what-have-you. But as I say, Dad had the little truck – Ford 1-tonner with sides, and he had a sweep on the front, and I think it was Mum used to be driving that a lot. And – it just used to be windrows by the rake and then she’d just zip along the … No, it was a great time and as you say, there was billy tea and cold tea that they seemed to like.
How many brothers and sisters did you have?
There’s two brothers – I was the middle one. We used to … well, when Albert went, and he was four years older than me. He used to double when I first started going to Taradale School, four miles away. But it wasn’t long, as soon as I … little two-wheeler, just a little one, I’d bike too ’til there was more people along the road … more children along the road … they got a bus to come down and just turn down the road down here.
So you went to Taradale Primary school and then did you go to High School at the local … was there a local high school then?
No – Napier Boys’. As it was I went to the agricultural course, and I thought, you know, I couldn’t get into it very well because I could learn much more than when I come back to the farm, because Dad wanted me back on here so I only had one year.
So you came home?
I did come home, yes.
Yes, that’s the story of a lot of our lives. Our lives were set out for us.
Yeah, oh – I reckon that they are. And then – it must have been … oh, I was still at Taradale school when Dad bought the neighbouring place, and he had his own place – this place – on the market but it was a lot more … it was in a lot better condition than the neighbours’. I forget the prices that he was offered now, the memory’s gone, but he was really keen to sell it. And Mum actually did a hell of lot of the milking of the cows, she did all the milking basically and Dad did the delivering and the farm work. And Mum was saying that when she first started here … she’d had Albert and then me before Kevin arrived … she was getting up at one o’clock in the morning because there was no refrigeration. And she’d milk the cows so Dad could take the night before’s and that morning’s milk fresh, and he used to deliver that. She said that – I don’t know how, once again I can’t remember when refrigeration come [came] in, but Dad was one of the first to get gas refrigeration with a cooler and everything, with the water and then the gas as the second half of the cooler. Mum was pretty happy about that because she didn’t have to get up until half past three. [Chuckle] So you know, you can’t imagine that because … somebody’s – complain about that today because they’d think it was so wrong – leave the kids still sleeping. But nothing happened to us.
That’s the way it had to be.
And then – bit later on they decided to get somebody else to help and they got a land girl. And her husband was in New Caledonian in the war, and this woman as Mum said, she was the best man she ever had. She was marvellous, and looked after us kids if Mum and Dad went away on holidays and what-have-you. Anyway, then when he came back he worked for us for a little while. And the old house as you come up the road there, sunny little house – behind that, Dad bought a three-roomed cottage with just four room – very [?]. And I remember when [chuckle] we wanted to go to the loo, we had to walk outside down the hill a bit behind the macrocarpa and … a long drop there. And oh, it had a tin in it, because it’d catch it, and Dad – he used to, when it was full, he had to go out and dig it.
So I suppose you were like most dairy farmer’s sons – you didn’t play any sport?
No, I did, because I quite enjoyed my rugby at Taradale school. I remember we won the B grade championship of the schools the year before I left. I was selected into the Ross Shield team. We played there up at Wairoa. I had aunties up there, I just billeted with her. But we had an enjoyable time, and then – high school, I did nothing because I had to be a bus boy, and I would have liked to play tennis but no, you couldn’t get in there.
What was it like growing up in this area? I guess the friends would be children of the neighbouring farmers?
On this side it was the Williams’ – it was a Clark – the original place, it used to be Clark’s, and they sold it to Trevor Williams. And then he had two sons … about the same age as me … Charlie, and then there was a daughter, and then another Lily Williams. Well we used to have a lot of fun here because it was on the river – the bottom of the farms here – on the river, inside the riverbank, there used to be a lot of willow trees and silver willow trees. And we used to go out there shooting rabbits quite often.
So you progressed those days … would the Atkins’ would have been selling milk in Taradale the same time as you were?
Yeah, they had, Gilbert had a horse and cart. Ian was the oldest one. He was a professional guy.
He was at school when I was there.
But he’d be older than you though.
Yes he was.
Well, we used to have a lot of fun – we made our own fun, like – we were always buggers for bird nesting. Climbing up the poplar trees to get the blooming birds and nests.
So was your father able to sell most of the milk into the village?
How long did that carry on for then?
Oh well he only didn’t sell down Taradale, he had some customers there and then he went to Napier and he used to supply dairies – just two that I knew, down in Napier South, and then nearer town, Kennedy Road somewhere there. Later on that got only zones they could go into. But we basically went up Shakespeare Road and right over along by the Maori Girls’ school. [Refers to Hukarere Girls’ College]. Yeah, and I used to go now and again there when there was a milk boy short or something when I was young. But when we come [came] from Hukarere School right down which’d meet up with the road coming from the bottom. And we used to have a rail down there in the middle of the concrete path, and we used to have our arm in one of the cans under there, so if you slipped you wouldn’t hit the ground.
So how long did you carry on delivering the milk into Napier?
That’s then when Dad sold it to Harold Edgerton. He was the husband of our land girl, after he’d come back from the war, and Dad sold it to him. I can’t remember what year it was.
‘Cause there were no town milk producers then, were there?
Must have been very close to being formed?
I just can’t remember that side of it. But I remember Dad had coupons for the milk and what-have-you, and he’d sell them to some of the customers and they’d put it under the billy and save trying to collect money. But Mum – that was my Mum’s job too, was that she had to … once a month she had to go into town collecting all the money. They got on very well.
So you would never have had pigs would you, because you sold everything?
When Dad bought this property, the guy that had it, he went broke and he had a lot of pigs and he got hit by – I don’t know whether it was bad management – that he had to have enough tucker for the pigs. But the pigs – they all died, and they was actually buried down there halfway down the farm beside the creek. They weren’t dug very deep either.
So the bones [chuckle] would start showing up through the soil. Well it would have been pretty wet down by the creek. They probably didn’t want to dig too deep ’cause the hole’d fill with water.
Now the big creek down the middle – not the front one, the second one – that was a big high bank. You know, I remember we used to make silage too, in the pit. We use the same grab for that. Then later on we grew – we got a lot of pea vine from the cannery to make silage and we used to … once the peas started, trucks would be loaded at the cannery – the waste – and then Dad used to let them come here at night because it was safe to carry down here, and we used to get up to five hundred ton of the stuff and it made beautiful silage.
It was golden when it came out wasn’t it?
It was, as long as there was no bloody rain, ’cause it gets wet and it would pick up the dirt when they were picking it up.
And did von [Hartig?] … was he carting at that time?
Yeah, he was.
I always remember at Napier Boys’ High they used to put silage in and when they opened the stack up – it was the colour of it and the smell of it – cows just used to …
Do so well on it. They’d lick around to get at the last of it.
So then you were on the farm – was Albert on the farm as well?
Well he did for a while, and then he started a contracting business. He bought a hay baler and he started to contract here – all around here, but no, it didn’t go very far. He was doing that and then he shifted out from home to a place – to a house down Pakowhai Road. But Dad and I didn’t get on too well.
Were you both alike?
Well, I was told that we was [were]. But I learnt quite a lot not to be like him because he – at times, if we was [were] misbehaving, if he thought – he would actually take us home … he had a birch rod hanging beside the door. Cruel bugger really. He was take us … wasn’t there – he would take us down the road here by Adams’ place, just opposite Omarunui Road, cut a branch and bring it home and strip it, and tie it like a birch rod. And we was [were] piddling ourselves – you know, with fear.
I can imagine.
No, he was a bugger. He – you know, he’d get around your legs, and I’d … they was [were] bleeding, or big welts where it hits would come up. But you know, he didn’t do it too often, but it was [chuckle] … it was enough.
It was bad when it happened.
But – well you know, you learn. But you couldn’t do that to your own kids, you know, it’s a bit bloody tough. [Chuckle]
So at some stage then you must have left home?
Yeah, well this one day Mum and I were milking, and – I could talk to Mum any time at all, she was a wonderful woman. And I said, “oh, I can’t stop any more.” Because you know, you’d go, and the old man would always – the wages were never paid to us. The accountant from Gisborne used to call in every month to do the books, and the old man said, “you’re workin’ for yourself, not me”.
So of course I wanted to get married. Before I left we’d been buying the neighbouring place … the house was just up the drive next door. And Margaret and I was [were] going each night that we could – go up there and paint and decorate it and whatever – get it nice. And the old man – and she had a pony of course, and she wanted – there was a little strip of land on the hill, fairly steep. It was never used by us. The old man hated bloody horses so he made it too tough for us, so all the work we did on the house – it was for naught. Yeah. And I said “oh well – if that’s your attitude, I’m going”.
They were tough men. It’s interesting to hear so many of our families came through those very hard times. Our fathers came from a different era and they were hard – tough, hard men.
The old man, although he wasn’t the oldest, we always reckoned he was favouring the first son – son and heir. He did anything for Albert.
And so at that stage, you went. Where did you go to?
Well this day that I decided to go, I told Mum – it was a Monday. He was a Director of the milk company. It was a meeting day, this Monday. You would think that he knew something was up because he didn’t arrive home at anything like the right time. So we had a meal and I said, “oh, you know – I’m getting my future wife,” she was going to come up. And I lived with her parents for a little while – quite a while.
So when you left, you got married obviously. Albert carried on working on the home farm with your father?
So that day that I left, eventually he comes home, and my father-in-law to be, he was a drover and he had them up at the holding yards up here. He come [came] up the next morning, took them past there and he said, “the old bugger” he said, “he had no shirt on and going along the road and whistling away and what-have-you, and getting the cows in for Albert. When he did eventually come home that night after the meeting, Mum told him that I’d gone so he went straight down to where he was living at Pakowhai Road and told him “you’ve got to to be there in the morning to milk the cows.”
So that was the changeover. So what was Margaret’s family name then?
Well then I lived there for quite a while. I use to go around just anywhere to pick up work. Coming back … so when I left there I went into Wattie Canneries, and I said to the guy when I was getting interviewed for a job – and that was coming into the pear season – I said to him … made a bloody big mistake … I said “I don’t care how hard a work it is, but I want reasonable money.” And anyway, They took me straight on to the pear line. So I think there was six pear machines there. Anyway … go in there to do the job … so this woman foreman said “well, you’ve got to keep the fruit up to these machines.” And she had forty pound cases and I’d have to cart them out and lift them up onto the machine and then clear away the others. I was run off my blimmin’ feet. Some of these woman on these machines – I’d say”you’re bloody mad.” I said “there’s two guys has been up doing this job.” I don’t know how I … I think I carried this until the pear season finished and then carried on to the Golden Queens. I was in the factory for that season, but there’s heaps and heaps of tomatoes of course. Yeah, that was very interesting, and there was cans zooming around the ceiling, you know. That was certainly different. So the next year … next season … I went on to the pea viners, and the two or three years I was there they had the old pea viners with the tractor pulling one and the guy on the back would just – using aluminium trays to put under the bits’d fall, and then he’d be shifting. And then in the next year, then they had the bigger ones with a different system totally. But they was [were] really big machines. That was interesting. When we come [came] up to Christmas time, I was in the night shift. They used to have twenty-four hours at times when it was carting down from Central Hawke’s Bay or in between.
I remember on Christmas day, ‘course I worked – well we sat in the paddock for about two hours – it was raining and we tried to go but it was making a hell of a mess. That first week of the holiday I made £60 pound a week. Some of these guys was [were] grizzling like hell because it wasn’t enough, and I said “you don’t know how good …” That was down at Otane or something that we went for a couple of days, and then on the next week, the New Year’s week, we still had about the same amount of money, and that was like a year’s money. Where I started with Dad, when I left here, I was on the minimal wages of £2/3/4d a bloody week when I was working six / seven days a week working on the farm. Oh, gee! You know, you just … you can’t credit now. But how could anybody live on …
But they had to, didn’t they?
Well. You had no option. But the worst of it of course – I never got anything because when I left here to go to Margaret Botherway’s he wouldn’t give me any money. Oh, and – first of all what I wanted was a car. He said – it was at dinner time, and talking to Mum and Dad – and he said I wanted some money to buy a car. Anyway he said, “oh well, Albert’s coming up before long”, he said “go out there and stop him”, ’cause he was going up to the neighbour’s house. But the old man said – he was just lying on his comfortable chair and I was just leaning on the door, and anyway Albert come [came] up and he pushed beside me and went inside, and the old man said, “Basil wants some of his money – wants some money, some of his wages”. He said, “got no money … got no cash”. Anyway, he said to Albert, he said, “you go on the telephone and ring the bank.” And he come [came] back and he said “oh, you know – there’s about £2,000 or something that is available at the bank.” The old man said, “well, what do you reckon?” And the old man was just … Mum and Dad was [were] going on a world trip. Albert said “no. We need that money to buy some other cows.” I got my hat and I said, “why? It’s my wages over the years that I’ve worked.” Dad said, “Albert’s given you the answer”. So I just … the difference is, I went back to Margaret’s place and I told them and she said, “Is there a car or something that you want?” It was £45, the car that I wanted. Anyway, just … “well, we’ll lend you the money.” Just a different attitude – I don’t know. I bought that then.
So when did you then stretch out and buy some land?
Well, that was quite a long way away.
So you worked at Watties’ for some time?
Oh, no – then I worked for the milk company as a relieving farm manager, so I’d just – I’d go to anybody that wanted a holiday or sick, I’d take over their business or milking and farm work that had to be done, and I was doing that over twelve months I think.
Anyway, I remember Frank Stolle … he was a wonderful guy really, but he was a fool. He would have been a millionaire times and times again if he had only used his brains. He would just run everywhere. He wouldn’t think. I had to go to him one day – why – because he was driving along some sandy road with the tractor with a big leveller on the back of the thing, and he got too close to the side and it dug into the bank and he actually had a broken arm and everything. And he had his arm broken in a sling. He was trying to milk bloody ten sets of cows. And feeding grains as well. So oh, it was quite an experience.
We all liked Frank. He was a hard man but he always paid his bills and I never had any problems with him, but … interesting.
Yeah, he was hard. He was so hard to his own family. So bad. He was really bloody cruel to his sons.
Yes, I know.
When I was working there we’d clean up in the cow shed and then go in for breakfast, and of course there was [were] pigs everywhere. Anyway going in the gate to the house and there was three or four little wee pigs in the garden. And he said “get them out, get them out before the Missus saw them”. Because she would rip his … [Laugh]
And the flies.
And so much … acres of cannery waste. Talk about … he would give you such a story. But he had a pedigree Fresian stud, and he would know every … he’d only have to see the calf born. He would never forget it. Marvellous.
So while doing this you had some children?
Yes, five kids – luckily they’re all well, and – I’ve got three of them in Australia now with good jobs now, but it took ’em quite a long while to get a good job. They asked me for … two or three times. I had to send a cheque over to help them buy a blimmin’ house.
So during this period of doing the milking as a relief milker – what did you do after that?
When we was [were] married we lived up here at Crissoge.
Bracken’s – were the Bracken’s there then?
I knew the girls.
Oh, gosh – I still …
June and Colleen, they were lovely people.
Yeah, oh well we just were – you know, as they … two or three times, or the last few times I’ve seen them, we see each other and still hug and what-have-you.
Well they were – Bracken’s lived in Whakatu, just this side of the railway line in a little house there. On the other side of the railway was Gledhill’s, and they actually come [came] here to go into big house at Crissoge.
We had a marvellous time. That same time, there was the Bachelors’ and Spinsters’ …
… at Fernhill. And we had – it was before we started with Gavin Osborne’s, and McLeod’s and what-have-you and Petra McLean – they used to be on the committee, and then – we all was [were] eventually. That had to stop because when they built the new bridge at Fernhill that was just in front of the hall so there was no parking there then. So the hall committee decided the hall was no good – it couldn’t be shifted, so they put it up for auction to pull down. So anyway there was only two of us bidding for it. There was Arthur Wallace – he had the store next door, and it was only four feet away from his house. He actually – it was knocked down to him. It had to be down in a certain time. And so I went up to Arthur one day and I said, “are you going to do anything with this hall?” And he said, “oh, no, I think I might have taken more than I can chew.” He said, “oh – do you still want it?” I said, “oh yeah, I’ll still do it.” I forget how I paid for it – I think I only paid a couple hundred dollars for it. So eventually I got straight onto it and I pulled it down with the help of one or two of my cobbers. All of the floor was inch and a half rimu – it was beautiful timber. But the wall on the southern side of this Arthur Wallace’s house – was rotten – it was lucky being able to stand up. Anyway, so I got that down and I eventually carted all of the flooring up to home.
So you were already at Omarunui?
Ah, no – I’ve got ahead of myself. That got rid of that. But that old wood – broken and everything. We used to go … everything [everywhere] – we used to bike up to Crownthorpe and Sherenden … everywhere.
Colleen of course was my girlfriend, and then of course Margaret used to be very good friends with the Bracken’s. And I was going out with Colleen – was the main thing for a while, just as a friend. But we was [were] always – every weekend through the winter we would go dancing – every bloody time we could go.
Mmm – yes, yes. [Speaking together]
And I always used to pick the Bracken’s up, and I spent a lot of time on the weekends and what-have-you with Cottie and John, and … lovely people. He’s a real good South Islander. [Chuckle] And that was that, and then when I got married we shifted into the second house on Crissoge. And I worked for John there for a couple years, and I did a lot of tractor work … helped him with putting the stumps in over there.
So then I did the worst thing I ever did – I went over to Meeanee to work for Jack Erickson. The worst thing I ever did, you know – how miserable can a person get? I got the job and he said, “I’ll pay you £20 a week”, and I said “oh, that’s all right.” So I took the first load from Crissoge over there – must have used a truck from here – Dad’s. And anyway, funny as it may seem, I went into the house, and Dad first come [came] to me – a New Zealander chap – Jack Davies, Kings Road. Anyway I put the load of furniture in the house and I thought I’d better call into the cowshed on the way home. He was milking, and he come [came] out – he said “you know, I said I’d pay you £20 a week but I’ll only pay you £18.” If I’d had any experience at all – I was pretty raw …
… I’d have gone and took it back up there. But he was used to having Dutchmen out here and I don’t know what he … [how] much he paid them. I think I was there two months and Robbie was born – my oldest. I got cracking and took her in late at night and … so I had to be out to milk the next morning. So anyway, I got cracking and I knew no work needed to be done before nine. So actually I finished milking and I zoomed up to see Margaret. I’d rung the hospital and they said “oh, you’ve got a little boy.” So I zoomed up there to see her and I come [came] back – I think it was about nine o’clock and I saw Jack. He said “where have you been? There’s work to be done.” I said “I’ve been up to see my wife and newborn son.” I said “no need to have any work done.” Because that put very much pressure straight on us. But Olive, Jack’s wife, was just so … such a lovely person – she was the other way – she was all right with me.
But anyway, so we shifted out of there. We went to Hursts’ place – Pakowhai Road. And I could lease a house and twenty acres there, and what I decided I’d like to do would be to get a few – four or five cows and Margaret would milk those when she had to. So I bought pipe bales from somebody somewhere over half way towards Havelock, and I broke them away out of the shed and brought them out and then all of a sudden … Harry Mollenar was a Dutchman and he was very friendly with Erickson’s along the road here. We knew him very well, and he rung [rang] me one day and he said – he knew that I’d be interested in share milking – so he says to me, he said “would you like to buy the cows and everything here?” And that was only a few months I was in Hursts’ old place. Anyway I said to him – went around one night – he said “you can have the cows for £50 each.” So I said “well, the only trouble is, I got no money.” That was down Franklin Road, just off the Links Road now. Well we left it for a week or so. I said “I’m very interested in it but you know, we’ll have to work out the finances. I’ve gotta see if I can get it from …” So – had another episode with Dad. Anyway, once again he said no. And I’d been talking to the bank manager of Commercial Bank of Australia, which Dad had for years. So I went in there and he said “sorry – what equity would you have?” And I said “a dumpy old car really – an old Hillman car.” He said “oh well – come back in a week”. And we had another talk, and I said “well I’ve got £500 I can leave you, that’s all.” And basically I didn’t have that much, because I went into to Townsend Motors to ask – I’ve got the car, and I said to him “I wonder if you can help me because I want some money.” [Chuckle] He said “what sort of thing have you got to offer?” I said “oh, well I’ve got a car out there, and I want a tractor.” And he said, “can you do without the car?” I said “yes.” He said “have you seen anything down there that suits you for the tractor?” And I said “yes – it’s a David Brown 25”. And so he said “oh, well – we’ll work something out.” So we went into the office. He said “what do you want?” I said “I want £500 for it, to give this guy for the cows … towards the cows.” He said “oh well, let’s see. I think we could give you …” He’d give me a check for £500, and I drove the tractor out, home. That’s all I had.
So that was a real start wasn’t it?
Oh well – how much could I thank them? Harry said to me “well,” he said “I don’t need the money.” So I said, you know “I can do that.” Because he was marrying a girl Halliwell, and they had the farm up at …
Yes – Patoka.
So he didn’t need the money. I thought ‘oh, that’s mighty’, so we made it that I would pay him the £500, and I have the cheque book and cheque – I had to pay him … I just forget, but that’s how I got onto there.
But they were two men who really had a major part in your move into farming.
The attitude that the old man wouldn’t trust me to go onto a place.
So how many cows did you milk on Omarunui then?
Franklins Road. Well we bought twenty-seven cows, and he asked me – he wanted £50 – that was top dollar. When I was working for Jack, I told him that I was looking for a share milking job. And he said “oh, where is it?” he said, “around here?” And I was frightened to give him too much information because I’d told Dad the same thing and he said, “no – you’ll bloody well go broke”. He couldn’t give me any money. Told him about that of course, over breakfast one day, and he said, “go for it boy, go for it”. Just the difference. He said “the trouble is that I think the cows are pretty dear” – and I’ve got no money. [Chuckle] He still said “go for it. Get the monies from somewhere.” He said “I’m sorry I can’t help you, I haven’t got any money to be able to lend you.” I said “oh, that’s all right, I didn’t expect for you to give me any.” So that was the difference.
There was forty-five cows. And I didn’t want his tractor – he wanted me to sell him … because I had bought that one [chuckle]. So I gave Harry the £500 and we worked out … pay him £90 a month off the cheques until it was paid. Put me in strife, because I didn’t realise …
How much you needed to run the place.
Yeah, well it wasn’t bad. It was paying the Inland Revenue, because you had no end for – no money to put on it. Anyway, so of course you don’t pay until you get two and half years, and I was rearing the calves that I can [could] when I was there. Luckily I did, ‘cause I had to sell them to pay Inland Revenue. Isn’t it crazy?
Oh, God! So you weren’t any further ahead? No.
Well no, but I got back to square one. In the course I boosted my … it was sixty gallons that first year and I got it up to eighty the next year, and then ninety the third year. So, you know, I was going well, and rearing calves and what-have-you. When Harry’s son – he was a horse trainer and – ‘course anything that was going wrong with the bloody … or slow with the money, or the horses I think [chuckle] – he said “oh, the bloody horses are keeping the farm going.” I said “I know blimmin’ well that’s not true.” So that was always a bit of a laugh there. But then all of a sudden I had the three years’ contract.
So going back to Colleen Bracken – she was married and she married Trevor Hulena, and then they was [were] working for an Itie [Italian] called [?Chookery?] Alexander down in Dannevirke, and he was mad. But he was working for him down at Tahoraiti. Margaret, Colleen was [were] communicating pretty often. She wrote a letter one day after [??] finishing up at such and such. Anyway, she said she’d look out for a job down there for us. She got in [contact] with us again and she said there was a Maori farm down in Kumeti Road in Tirohanga. So I got in touch with them. The Chairman Wallace Galloway and the Secretary of the Company was … And anyway they got in touch with me. They wanted to know all about me and what-have-you. They come [came] and had a look at the farm. They saw the job that I’d done, and they had a look at the figures and they was [were] quite impressed. And so they went back and said you know, “we’d like you to come down and have a look at the farm”. We got in the car to go down there … driving down there, it was raining and raining and raining. We drive up to the Tirohanga factory and waited for Wallace to come. And we’re sitting out there waiting for him and it was a bastard of a day. Anyway, Hec Simmons, the secretary, he come [came] out of the office and he said,”oh, you’re waiting for Mr Galloway. It’s too blimmin’ cold out here, you’d better come in the office.” So anyway, Wallace come [came] and we drove up to the … straight through onto the range, and there was only one sheep farm out there. Pretty high. You know the Top Grass Road?
Yes, I do.
Well it was from – Kumeti Road was there, and goes … right at the end. It was such a horrible bloody day. Wallace said, “oh, we’re not going to get out of this.” He said “well we can see basically the whole farm from the cow shed.” He said “come in the cow shed.” So we was [were] in there. And it was – it was a grade about this … they were all – like that way, but down. “I’ve seen enough – yeah, that’ll do. I’ll take it.” He said “do you know anybody here in this District that you can spend an hour with while I go into the office and get the Secretary to fill out some forms?” So in the next road up, was some people we’d known and we used to stop, as kids. That’s the Caswells. And so he said “well go there for … give us an hour or so before you come into the office.” So I went over there and of course – “what are you doing here?” “Oh” I said – I’ve come down to look at that job.” He said “oh, no use for you there – there’s twenty-four people applied for the job and we all know who’s got the job.” I said “I don’t think you do, because in an hour’s time I’ve got to be at the office of Wallace Galloway to sign me up for the job.” He was really shocked about that. It was a hard job but I was prepared to take anything on. So that two hundred and thirty-four acres.
Plenty of rainfall.
After Dad died, I was down there the first year – oh, he died in April – I come [came] up here and I left Margaret to milk the cows while I come [came] up here. And I took – Dad had a rain gauge to measure the rain here. So I took it down after, and [chuckle] it was something like ninety-six … ninety-six inches.
Yes, that’d be right.
And two hundred and forty-seven days I recorded rain down there. It was amazing. I got – I think it was Trevor and Colleen in to help me shift up. Oh, I drove first of all my tractor – I had a 990 – down there. So I swapped the 25 for a 950 knowing that I was going down there. So I bought a front end loader and I had a little – oh, about an 8×10 tipping trailer – and I took that down. And I left one day … that was in winter time … and I loaded up all my gear on this trailer – homemade trailer. That’s not a tipping trailer, the one that I took down there – I mean a two wheeler – big tractor, and I loaded everything, the discs and everything I had, all went onto that. So I head off and I had an army coat. When I knew I got the job, I was told that I … there’s no way I could drive my gear down there. So I called in [to] the police station – the police station in Napier to ask them about it. And you know, he held me up a little while there, and I said, you know “I’m desperate to get all this stuff down, and I can’t afford to get a carrier”. So he said “all you’ll have to do is give me a birds’ eye look out of the …
… of the tractor and the trailer. So I did. And I said “how much is this going to cost me?” “Oh – oh, it’ll cost you a lot of money”. So he actually gets the form and fills it out and he said, “no, it’s nothing”.
So I head off. I think I left about six o’clock – it was just breaking daylight. I was dressed up to the nines and it was cold. It was frosty. I was going down – got down to Tiko [Tikokino] – went the whole way – didn’t even get to Norsewood … it started to sleet and rain and … hailing straight into my bloody face, and I had to stand on the seat to – and put my … holding my hands over the exhaust pipe to try and keep warm. Oh, geez, it was … anyway I get down … going through Dannevirke just as the pictures was [were] coming out. So I go through and get up into the house on the farm. I pulled up – looking for a key for the bloody house. No – there was nothing there at all. All concrete posts. I walked around the hou.. There was about – up against the house – this much snow on the southern side. What a place I’ve come to! Anyway, eventually got in. That farm, you know, there was nothing – all that was there – there was a chain race round the whole place, right down to the bottom. There was one trough at the cow shed, halfway down – there was only one trough to do the whole place and it was standing on a pedestal this high – the cows couldn’t hardly get a drink. That was because of the water and the rain and the wind. And there was just nothing else. No other water there. And of course this whole race went from the top right down to the bottom. And there was [were] no fences. On this side of the drive, there was [were] two wires – barbed wire – every ten acres down, and with timber, but they’d pulled those over near the fence, and that was on that side. And down the bottom was thirty acres of raw bush country. All the trees had gone, but they’d fallen over and what-have-you. So I knew that when I had a look – so the fences was [were] near enough on that side, but there was nothing … nothing that can really hold the stock properly. Down the back was [were] these big stumps – you’d see a big circle with a hole and you’d see the roots growing out from them. In the first year, I stumped virtually the lot of that. Oh, actually it’d be the second, because the first year I had the forklift. And on the right top corner beside the house was a bit of a gully from the mountain. And that was the only place there was any shingle, and that was on the property so I took my front loader and the trailer …
Fixed your tractor.
… and put a fifteen foot – too small anyway – metalled that whole thing. So the next year I stumped this bottom paddock. And when I got most of the stumps out … yeah, I’d just go in with the front end loader – dangerous as hell, lifting up and they’d slip off the side. But it was amazing – the [?] was just under the ground. Then I had to get something to work the place up and so I bought a semi swamp plough, single furrow. I was going down to Shannon to get the bloody thing straightened every bloody month or so.
To Clough’s factory?
Yeah. Well then I got a – as well as a car, I … seeing I had that baler – I saw Tom McKerlick down there. He was [????] early. He said “have you got a baler?” “Yeah”. “Right – you can do my work”. And he would mow and rake it. Going up the [?Ruapune?] – up the road anyway, his place was on the right hand side of the road and there was a gully down there and there was a gully on the other side of it. Next gully over, that was me. When he was raking, he had one of those Vicon three-wheelers, and of course the creek was like this – wandering everywhere – and he hadn’t got a clue. He did it all in the past. With that rain, it couldn’t dry – get it all dry. So anyway I went down with my spinning rake [?] – one of those ones with the chains – PZ …
… used to go across, did a good job. I think the next year he put his man on the rake and he stuck the bloody grease gun in the chain and forgot about it – smashed the bloody chain everywhere. Oh, God – it didn’t make Don very happy. [Chuckle]
No, it wouldn’t. So you did a bit of baling for neighbours?
Just [?] Bracken. I was doing quite a little bit in my fifth year – I was doing quite a bit of hay then – about twenty thousand bales, which is quite a bit. But it was an experience which I’ve never had before – the wind. The wind blew so bloody hard – Stuart Gunderson on my top side of the road next to the [?] – I did a paddock for him. I mowed it all right, but I’d realised when I started in very short time, that you didn’t go from making hay here. You daren’t touch it out of the windrow with the mower until it was dry, because the ground was very porous and it didn’t take any drying. And of course when I went down there it was rank stuff, and it was left. There was one paddock there they did three rows around the paddock and left it. And so that was all dead over the whole bloody … and of course it killed out anything decent kind of.
So how many cows did you milk there then?
Started with ninety-five and we finished up with a hundred and fifteen.
So that was a very worthwhile move up the ladder for you.
Oh – oh, absolutely. The thing was the wrong people paid for them. Like, I did – I fenced the whole place, put a track down the middle, fenced everywhere. That was all ten acres on this side, six and a half on this other side. All of the work that was done, and I lifted the gates – they were only Taranaki gates. Anyway, so after I left there I went back just to do the baling, because I had no income up here. So I put the tractor on the truck and baler on behind, and did very short season down there – it’s only from Christmas on, or it was at that stage. That was good, and then I had to bring it back because I had a business here as well.
So when you moved up here, you moved to Omarunui didn’t you?
And you were contracting from Omarunui?
And did you plant pears at Omarunui? Or did you have cows there first?
Did you ever plant pears there?
Well I did on the …
I remember seeing them there on the [?] boundary.
No, on the front of the …
Yeah, that’s after we burnt that – I forgot about that. Then I’d put – and I was looking it up yesterday. ‘Course they’re taking a lot longer to produce than the apples.
Yes, that’s right.
I never had a crop of them myself. When I was at Dannevirke I definitely was coming back home here, so – there’s nobody to share milk.
This Mr Tuck had this block of land opposite Kevin actually, down Omarunui Settlement Road, and so when Kevin told me that it was up for sale I got in touch with him and they thought the price would be around about $7,000, but in the meantime all of a sudden they took it off the market. I thought ‘oh, that’s funny’. So I approached him again the next year and he said, it was in his daughter’s name – Berkham? Yeah, up in Sainsbury Road. And anyway, they put the price to try and frighten me off, at $8,300 – straight away I said “I’ll take it.” So I had that land, and then of course I was taking it over in November, and he had a crop of peas planted for the canneries. He had no irrigation and the ground was so bloody hard. Anyway, I bought it off him and I made – it was under £100 out of the whole bloody twenty-five acres.
But then Kevin was across the road so then I … soon as I bought it – soon as I could plant them … take the peas out and then I irrigated it and put six acres of stone fruit in. Anyway that’s what I … we worked it out and later on I put the front in all apples. Down the back – just red metal. Just over my bottom back fence Tony Morrison had bought this property, and he had a metal quarry there, and it was straight red metal – beautiful for the yards and things. But it was so hard. Then they planted four acres of asparagus in the back. And then a couple of years later I got the fruit trees, the apple trees, planted them and I had to – we had a real good well down the middle of the place, so I decided to put the whole place under trickle irrigation. That was a job that was really difficult because you had to measure all the … I think that as far as I know I was the first to put our whole irrigation into trickle. I made a filter out of steel and put four outlets into it, and took two inch ones – run down so far and put another one right a way down and what-have-you. It was very good.
So you enjoyed your fruit growing time?
You grew through probably not a very profitable time for apples.
Yeah, I think it was – it was all right. It was just when Gala and …
No, it was just when Splendour … no – I didn’t buy any, that’s right. There was Spartan, Splendour and … the one I was saying first … ordinary Gala, because they’d just come in. Royal hadn’t come in then. And I picked Spartan and Splendour, and I left out …
Splendour was a good apple but you couldn’t sell them to the Apple Pear Board.
Oh, well you could, but they were so bloody fussy.
Well Ken Harvey used to buy all mine.
Oh, okay. They had such a thin skin, and they were patient with the stalks.
So how many years then did you carry on with the orchard at Omarunui? You must have planted it about the mid-seventies would you?
No, I bought the place in ’66 – 1966, and we got Margaret’s half-brother, Dick Botherway – he built our home. Right away back – two years before we left Dannevirke – in a farming magazine, there was an item – with a house – about farming up at Reporoa, and this had this diagram of the house that really took my eye. So I got in touch with those people – how the hell I did I don’t know – found out the name or … how to get hold of them. I rung [rang] them up and “could we come up and have a look at your house?” “Love for you to come up”. So we zoomed up there and you know when the back road comes to meet the main road? Just back about three chain up on the other side of the road on the top of a hill, there was this bloody house, and I was really taken with it. So I took it to Dick, and he measured it up and what-have-you and built it for us. But that one had fibrolite all around – there’s stone on mine. With a $500 forced air …
You’re going to keep warm.
… under [?] included. The house only cost $12,000 for about 1800 square house.
Now at some stage you lost Margaret did you?
Well unfortunately we parted. I know …
That’s part of your story.
I rung [rang] Margaret yesterday and asked – I said to her, “I can’t remember how your father …” He was a drover and he used to go up to Gisborne to bring cattle down to Fielding. So I got that all clear that I wasn’t sure of.
So when did you leave Omarunui then?
Well, I left there, I just can’t remember really. I’ve been trying to look up the dates. It’d have been around about … Rob, my oldest son, was managing the place at that stage, and I think one of my kids – I think Albert – was renting the family home down here. And he said “well, you know – I want it, so … got to put him out”, so …
So – well look – is this land we’re on now, was this part of the original farm?
Yeah. Twelve acres along the road here.
Yes. And so this was your part of the original farm?
Yes, well it’s … Albert had – once again, how he got away with it I don’t know, but he was given the whole farm to go in with the house, the cow shed, the stumps … And he was getting it for just a pepper rent – not very much at all. And Mum didn’t know anything about it. She didn’t realise. And it got that way that I … Kevin and I – I got it cracking, and I said to Mum, I said “this is not fair.” I said “you know, Albert’s got us by the balls.” I said “here he has got this whole place for not very much money and I have got my place and Kevin has got his place.” And I said “you know – it’s not very fair, we’ve got to pay the full price.” Anyway, she said, “oh, well I can’t do anything about that really.” And I said “you can really.” I said “if you want to be fair to us all, you’ve got to cut it out and put the rent up properly.” But she said, “oh, I don’t need it.” And I said, “well you know, that’s not the point.” [Chuckle] But anyway, Mum was very very … good thinking and she thought it over. I said “well, you know – wouldn’t it be better to sell the place and then subdivide it into three, and we will guarantee you the same money that you got from Albert’s estate of the farm.”
Anyway she went into Napier and she actually talked it over a bit and she got through them eventually, to have it sold. So Albert of course, he wanted the stuff that’s sandy … “No, it’s no good, no good for cropping or anything”. There’s a middle one between the two [?] And there was all the springs and everything, and you know, that’s the better land. And of course he got … that was all percented – cut up and he got well and truly the biggest percentage. We got twenty each and he got fifty, and that was his … Kelvin Tremain was agent, and of course he was with the Rotary and everything and Albert was the same. So he did us cold.
Oh, that’s sad.
So I finished up with – he had the bottom so we had the middle – we cut right down the middle … or a bit less than I did, probably ‘cause I wanted the house. And naturally the hill went with it, but the hill was worth nothing, basically, but we did make a few bob when I sold it. But I was the first to sell down this way, and so I sold four acres for $60K. But never mind – that’s the way things go.
Yes. Now Brenda.
No, well there’s a … quite a …
Are you going to tell me where she came from and where she lives?
There’s quite a … I can’t hide some of my other life. [Chuckle] When I left home … she knows it all.
Does she not want to come and tell us?
Oh, she’s right. Now, she doesn’t … know nothing about this one. I played a little bit of golf, and I wasn’t much good. I put my name down at Waiohiki to play in a new season – what-do-you-call-it? The Open …
Yes, Opening Day, yes.
Oh, then there’s two – there’s something else too. Anyway I went down there and – oh, I went into the office and I said “oh, I’ve put my name down,” and she said “oh – have you got a partner?” I said “no.” I [She] said “this is the sheet, you put your name down by a lady.” And she said, “oh … tell you … this lady is a lovely lady.” So I put my name down.
So when the day come [came] and we had to be at the golf course at – I think it was twelve … one o’clock – to line up, shotgun start. I had some baling to do this morning, so when I was there, I zoomed down the baler coming back home though, to get changed and back down there. And I said to Auntie Dorothy (Whittington) – that’s Mum’s sister – one of them. She was talking to me there. She said, “who’s your partner?” I said “Norma Bennett.” She said, “haven’t you seen her – you know who she is?” “ No.” So she [said] “I’ll find her for you.” So she brought her back and introduced me to her. And so we had four couples, went out and had a great day. Anyway, that was all right. I went up and had a cup of tea with them all. Don’t know if it was a week or month – I think it was a month that … they call it something else – it was the same type of thing. Anyway, one ‘bout a week before Norma rung [rang] me up and she said “are you doing anything on Saturday?” And I said “not that I know of.” “you haven’t got any more hay?” I said “I could have”. [Chuckle] She said “the group loved your company for that day.” So you know, we had tea that night and so it grew from that.
She was trying to help me with the accounts and what-have-you with the contracting and Margaret got wind of it – I don’t know how, but she did. She rung [rang] Norma up and ripped hell out of her. And so she told me, and she … “oh, no, this … it’s no good.” And I said, “it is all right, don’t worry about it. There’s nothing between Margaret and me now.” Anyway, so I went up there and ripped her up for upsetting Norma. So I married her, and of course two years later she was killed up the Omarunui Road. She drove the car into a lamp post. And that day – it was a Show Day, and I remember she was a bit tired and … oh, and before we left the Showground she said “oh Bas, I’d love … you know what I’d love? I’d love a waffle before we go.” So we had that and went away and drove off home. And before Ted [?bed?] she got the tea ready, and I went down in the shed to – actually just started painting my fruit signs because I also had the shop on Pakowhai Road that belonged to the Whittington’s? So I had that …
Are you related to the Whittington’s?
Yeah. Dorothy was Mum’s sister.
So that was a sad day … yes.
And then – ‘course I – when I come [came] up for dinner, we had our dinner, and what I couldn’t understand – that when she left away – she was going up to get some asparagus, that’s all, so there’d be asparagus for next day’s dinner. Two couples were coming up … were both golfing couples … they were coming up for tea on the Sunday I think it was. So you know – that’s why, and I went down back after that tea and she – off she went – she went out and said goodbye. She didn’t kiss me goodnight – she always did. ‘Course I come [came] up after painting the things and I thought … Norma wasn’t here. And I thought, ‘oh Christ, I’d better go and have a look for her’. So I drove along there, and I drove past when they was [?cracking?] the big concrete pole – there was [were] guys there tying it up with steel rods. You know I said, “what’s happened here?” They said “there’s been an accident”. So with that I carried on up to my orchard, and – straight away I knew it was her. And a cop come [came] back and went and saw the lady opposite – the one that had the orchard, and asked her if she knew what one [who] was driving down there. And that was part of Kenneth [?] place. And – you know, I was walking round to the house, it was dark. And all of a sudden she heard me come and she said “what’s … what’s the story? What’s …”, you know. Anyway … and I said “I’m just wondering, do you know anything about that accident on the road?” “Yes,” she said – put my [her] arm around my shoulder and she said “I’m sorry – it is Norma.” That knocked the arse right out of me, and she said “the police and everything … we’ve been all trying to get hold of you.” Yeah. She was such a wonderful lady, taken too early.
But what pissed me off, is the police reckoned she’d been drinking. You know, I know bloody well what she … at tea time she would have just one glass of wine. So that was that.
Yes, a sad day.
And so I – I’m not a person to be by myself. Haven’t got time to be a solo parent. [Chuckle] Then I met a lady, another English lady actually, in Taradale and … oh, she was from Napier, Helen McMillan. She come [came] out from England the same time as I started high school in Taradale. That’s when she started at [?] but she went to Girls’ High – I didn’t know who she was – I never knew her beforehand. And so I went out with her and I got married to her here. Had the wedding out here down in the garden.
I took her to England – she was an English lady with the old ideas of Scottish – and hated Scotland. So anyway we went over to England and went around, and we was [were] going up and got up into Scotland and all of a sudden she started to get at me a bit – you know. “You’ve got to find a place to sleep tonight” sort of thing, and this was in the middle of the day. And she was going on about the Scottish so much – “I hate Scotland.” And I stopped the car – I forget where we were – it was about the middle of Scotland somewhere – and I said, “if you don’t stop this bloody grizzling about your holiday, we’ll pack up and we’ll bloody well go home.” So anyway, that didn’t make any difference with her at all, so I did. I turned around and we went back home again. We drove rental car down to … wherever the hell it was. So that was basically it.
We spent a bit of time – went to Gavin’s – my youngest son’s wedding here, and then – friends of his that couldn’t be at his wedding here, up to Fiji – had another wedding up there. I had no ties here so I said “I’ll come too.” So we did. Oh, God! Yeah … no, Norma mustn’t have come with me, because … yeah, she was all of a sudden over there. Anyway she wanted to redo our vows over there. And Gavin and Norma just said “haven’t you noticed – she’s got no wedding or engagement rings on?” And I said “no.” So I went back to her – she was in a private room by herself. I said “what is all this about wanting to get remarried again but you haven’t got your rings and things on – where are they?” “Oh – I’ve given them away to the Salvation Army.” So I said – “wwsshh! [Makes noise] Finish! Go and see the celebrant that you’ve got – it’s all off, and you’re going home.” So that was basically her. She got a Chieftan when I was Chief of the Scottish Society in Hastings. Anyway, so that all finished and that’s where we get on to Brenda. But I knew she wasn’t going to the Scottish Society, and she did Scottish dancing … country dancing. So anyway, before when I was Chief and it was coming up to … You can join in now. [Chuckle]
Are you coming in Brenda?
Brenda: Been three hours – I was hoping to get to where I come in.
Well there’s three quarters of a lifetime gone. [Chuckle]
Basil: So then when I was Chief I decided to look up all of the Life Members and invite them – what was it to?
Brenda: The Burns’ Dinner wasn’t it? Yeah, it was the Burns’ Dinner.
Basil: Oh yes, that’s right. Three or four that I went to visit to invite them along. That’s where we joined in and I didn’t really know her, although …
Brenda: Well, I’d known you for years at the dances. At the balls and things.
What’s your background then? Where did you come from? Are you a local person?
Brenda: No, I did my schooling at … we came from Wellington to Waipuk. [Waipukurau]
Oh, well we won’t hold that against you. [Chuckle]
I did my schooling in Waipuk [Waipukurau]and the first few jobs in Waipuk. [Waipukurau]
And your folks – where were your folks from? Did they come to …? Are you a Scottish dancer – do you have a Scottish background?
My father’s parents were Irish, but I’ve got a stepfather for … [Speaking together]
Well that’s a good reason to Scottish dance.
… fifty years, so it comes from that side I think – my interest, yeah.
Right. And so – now how long have you two been together now?
Basil: Well that’s …
Brenda: Well we’ve been married thirteen, but we were together four years before that as well.
So as a couple you’re obviously enjoying the retired life of … you’re really sitting on top of the world – this is the most grand view. You know – to look out over those vineyards and see Te Mata Peak in the background. It’s priceless.
Basil: Well as I say, when I decided to build up here that was twenty-two years ago, and I bulldozed all this flat and it was pretty high in the end – cut a cutting straight away and I wanted to make a big flat area along here. The house was built I think twenty-two years ago.
Do you have any children?
Brenda: I do. Yeah I’ve got two, and seven grandkids.
Are they all local?
Yep, yep – live in Hastings.
Well that’s pretty well the life and times of Basil Wheatley. I’ve known Basil by sight – I’ve known all the Wheatley family by sight. The next thing I need from you would be some photos.
Basil: You’d have more of an idea of the photographs than I would … what you want.
Basil, I believe you also have a long interest in shooting, with shotguns. What did you call it?
Clay target shooting.
Could you tell us something about that?
Years and years and years ago – when we was [were] kids, Dad use to go out clay target shooting at Awatoto on the beach. He always said it was a rich man’s sport, and they didn’t give a damn if you could shoot or not. They’d say that you had to go into the sweepstakes because he had no chance unless you were a bloody top shooter, you’re just beating the other tops ones. Anyway, so I had that in behind my mind and when I went down to Dannevirke I applied in the paper for a worker to help me – or help us – on the farm. So anyway, the boy that come [came] out to see us, come [came] out with his family and two other brothers. And his father said at the first … when we were being introduced, or sounding as if I might take him, that “remember every month on the second Sunday of the month, that’s our day. That’s when we go clay target shooting.” I didn’t even think about it for a while until he coaxed me out to go and have a go. I’d done plenty of duck shooting but never clay target shooting. So he took the job, and in about – not quite twelve months later – he got me to go. No, it was a duck shooting shoot, that’s right, so anybody could go. And at the time … the morning I was, I’d mowed the aerodrome at Dannevirke, and that’s just only a half mile or so from the Gun Club there. So – I didn’t have a gun, so I called in there and I knew a few guys, and they said “have a go.” And I said “oh, I haven’t got my gun – never mind … no, don’t [doesn’t] matter”. “Somebody’s got a gun”. So I borrowed a bloody gun and I shot ’em all. Had a try at the next one – I think I might have missed one. That got me bloody hooked. [Chuckle] So I started up there and then every month then, went with the boy down there.
And did you …
And the family.
… actively duck shoot during ..?
Oh yes, we used to duck shoot in this Te Roro [?] just over the back here of the hill. We always used to do that. Dad used to – you know, as … from kids … we was [were] here on Dutch morning. We’d get up at sparrow fart and actually go with him and then go over later on to bring the ducks home and what-have-you. But I didn’t do any duck shooting down at Dannevirke.
So following on to that, because I couldn’t afford to do it really, I decided to try … be a [an] umpire, a referee. So I sort of went through the rules and everything like that. And I forget what year I become [became] a National Referee and I used to – I did some local refereeing in Hawke’s Bay and Woodville – then when I got a bit more confident I decided to be a National Referee so that first year that I refereed, I refereed at … north of Auckland. The Auckland Gun Club was just other side of … somewhere. And I started to – of course every second year it was Auckland, Christchurch, Auckland, Christchurch. But then of course it was built out in Auckland, so they shifted to Hamilton. So yeah, I got into the New Zealand team once, and I think that it’d be two years later Robbie, my oldest boy, got quite keen here. He was quite a good shooter. Anyway, I had to go up a day or so before to Hamilton so I bought him a Winchester gun up there, and I got him to go up – to fly up – on the Wednesday for the … Thursday was the New Zealand Single Rifles Championship, and there was a Junior Championship there. Anyway, so I went and picked him up from the airport and come [came] back and got him cracking with the gun and what-have-you – he had a few practices what-have-you – and he went into the Shoot and won. He won the New Zealand Junior Championship … Single Rifle …
Is this a natural attribute with a gun do you think? Or did you guys teach him to shoot like that?
Oh, just …
A lot of people spend a whole lifetime trying to shoot and they can’t.
Well to start with I found out – I wanted to get better and somebody pointed out – he said, “you shut one of your eyes, and you’ve got to try to keep them both open.” With me every time that I pulled the trigger, I’d always shut my eyes. And I think … later on I thought, ‘well what the hell am I shutting my eye for?’ Because you’ve lost your target for a little while. And then I’d concentrate to keep it on [open] so you actually watched the target the whole way. And it was a hell of a lot easier. Yeah, I’ve won two or three provincial and open clay shoot …
Now just one final thing, or a couple more I’ve got here – your role as Chieftain of the Scottish Society – what did that entail apart from you being the Chieftain?
Well, you was [were] basically the head of the Society.
Like being a President?
And did that take you back to Scotland?
Most of it was local?
That was. As you say it’s like a Chairman or something. When I went over to England one time … forget who that was with. Was it you who … I bought my kilt? No, I think it was Helen. I think I stopped at Moffat.
So what is your kilt?
Now the last one, and that is – you’ve had five children but you haven’t told me – whether they’re all local? And how many grandchildren?
Oh, okay. I’ve got the five – I’ve got three of them in Australia. The first one – well I didn’t finish with the orchard either, at Omarunui Settlement Road. He left me in the shit there. He’d been running it for six years, and all of a sudden … he had a tough time through bad management. When the drop of the orchard prices … Jack Cooper – he had to sell and he cut [took] a hell of a cut in what he wanted, and Campbell and Gillies across from me basically went broke. When we bought the other place we didn’t have any money. We mortgaged the whole bloody lot, and all of a sudden – Robbie was running the both places – doing a good job, but all of sudden with the downturn of the land at the time, the bank asked, he had to pay a … well he had to see – the bank manager called him in there and said …
Yeah. Cash from the orchard for the mortgage. Anyway, with the down turn they said we haven’t enough …
Equity, that’s right.
… to run the orchards. So anyway they made him write another one, and try to work out how to do it so they could get their money. And they turned us down. And I said “here – Rob – he’s sweating his guts on that bloody place, and yet you can turn him down.” I said “all you gonna do … he’s got a crop there … he’s gotta have thinners to come and thin the crop or we won’t have any crop at all.” So I said “it’s all right for you sods in the office with your bloody roof over your head, and air condition … And I said “you bloody well make me sick.” I said “what’s wrong with you guys?” Anyway, I ripped hell out of them, and they had the manager and the financial guy there. Anyway I ripped them up so much, but I had no sympathy for them. And I said to them, “I’ve been you know, with this bank all the bloody working life.” Anyway, so all of a sudden … well they said “oh well, we’ll get in touch with the boss in Auckland and in Wellington.” “Well” I said “you better, because I’ll be getting in touch with them myself if you don’t watch it.” So a week later, “Oh she’ll be all right. We okayed it.” You know – but that’s criminal. It just about broke the boy’s heart trying to work out what to do. That was tough.
So the kids. Three are in Australia, one here?
No, I’ve got two here. Rob, he went from my old orchard, got a job in Adelaide working for an older guy and he was very happy with him, but he was working – two of his sons was [were] younger than Rob, [chuckle] and you see that wouldn’t go out … So basically I think he had a couple of years there, then he went to Back O’Bourke – right away … New South Wales. First he went to Back O’Bourke, then about three years later in Back O’Bourke, where he got hold of a guy that had plenty of land and he got interested in growing melons. So he started that in Bourke, but then when I was in hospital really crook, he come [came] across – all the kids were called across – they thought I was gonna die. But he told me there that they was [were] just – the owners of Back O’Bourke was [were] just to refinancing the place for fifteen million dollars.
So they’d bought a place just up in Queensland, so they had a whole growing season right down. Anyway so that buggered up, and that’s where he got married to this Pommie girl that he’s still with, and he’s got three little girls. He’s got two with the – boy and a girl with the first marriage, and these three little girls now with her, very nice.
But now he’s shifted down to Mildura and he was farming there and then he went up to just out of … Burgundy [Bundaberg] on the … what’s the drink? [Bundaberg] But right from where Burgundy [Bundaberg] was in Queensland, he was about three hours right inland. So I had a time there with him. So he’s got another job – he went back to Mildura, but right away back, but lower, and he’s on thirty-five thousand acres of almonds. He has just told me about two months ago that they’ve just agreed to buy another twenty thousand acres, and most of it has citrus on it, but they’re going to put most of it in almonds again. Now they got an Italian company that have got a place in California with the same area. In hospital last time I was in, he was over here and he said, “Dad”, he said “they just got this job, and they’re spending four or five million dollars on a big packing shed.”
So then there’s Linda, she’s down at Waipuk. [Waipukurau] She lives there, and she’s got two … three now. She had two to her first husband and they split. And this next guy – I didn’t like the way he worked, and he told me one day “I’m gonna marry Linda”. Anyway, then they shifted down by Porangahau – by the longest name … Maori word … by Lochore’s and all of those. And they bought a house there with only about three or four acres of land. But he was a builder. Anyway they did that house out and he worked around. They had a little boy. Anyway that finished up – it had to finish up. She had a boy with him, so she’s got the three. Linda’s oldest daughter is just now – she’s having a baby up in Auckland in [on] 1st of February, so that’s her.
Then there’s Paul here with the trucks. He’s got three big Hiabs and buying another one. The new … about six months old, that was a new model – the first of its model out here – and a massive truck. But he seems to have plenty of work and he’s bought a second one, so that gives him four. He’s got two boys, and divorced his wife and then got a partner now, and they have got a little girl, she must be about eight or something now, but no – doing very well.
And then there’s Shona. She worked for Mainfreight in the office here in Napier, and she’s so high up in it that she was basically running the new system to run the place. She was so clever that they actually sent her over to Australia, to Adelaide, to work in their office there. She worked there for about, I don’t know, two or three years and then all of a sudden they sent her to Melbourne to start them up too. And then she was there for a while, and after Melbourne they shifted her up to Brisbane. Her and husband have bought a house just out of Brisbane.
And then there’s the youngest boy – he’s Kevin. He was bit of a wild boy and he worked for Honda people in Hastings as a mechanic, and then he worked for Bates’, straightening trucks and things. He decided to go to Australia – bummed around over there for a number of years – how long I wouldn’t know, but two years ago now I suppose … yeah, might be a bit more … three years. He’s got a job in [with] the Gold Coast Council. On the Council they’ve got four main depots over there and he went over into the second one, and they thought so much of him they asked him, if there’s a position in the main complex to actually take the first … apply to [for] it. Anyway he applied and all of a sudden he was on the shortlist, and he just rung [rang] up one day to say “Dad I’ve got the thing”, and so he started the job on the 4th of November.
Brenda: My Robbie – I’ve got a boy and a girl – Robbie’s technical manager for Mr Apples.
Well that’s a pretty powerful job.
It’s all he’s ever done his whole life from when he was sixteen – he put … we’ve got an orchard in Hastings … he put the trees … with his father – half of it – and yeah, so he’s got a good job there. He’s got four kids.
And my daughter, she is a florist. She’s got two boys – one’s ten, one’s seven – so she’s just recently gone back to work, so she works a couple of days a week.
So it’s all pretty exciting, and you’ve just got this lad here to look after.
Basil: I think there’s two awards in there that’s not in on that front cover, but I can’t remember what the other one was, but I definitely know that she was granted by the Rotary, Napier, the Paul …
Paul Harris Fellowship.
Yes, yes. She was awarded that – she wasn’t a member. They just granted it to her, and I think – I’m not sure but somehow I think she’s the first woman.
All right, well on that note, it’s been a wonderful interview. Thank you very much both of you.
Original digital file
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Interviewer: Frank Cooper
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