Berry, Ian Interview

Today is the 14 September 2015. I’m interviewing Ian Berry, beekeeper of Arataki Apiaries, Havelock North on the life and times of the Berry family and Ian’s family in particular. Ian will start off giving us some history. Thank you Ian.

Good morning. A bit about the history of Arataki. Arataki Honey was established by my father, Percy Berry, in 1944 when he bought nine acres of land, a family home and a few outbuildings in Arataki Road, Havelock North for what was then a large amount of money – £2000. The business started with the name Arataki Apiaries and was later changed to Arataki Apiaries Limited when we needed to become a company to make it easier to borrow money from the Bank. A few years further on we changed the name to Arataki Honey Limited – which it is now incidentally – as being a more appropriate name seeing we were primarily in the business of producing and selling honey.

My father was born in 1908 and took over his father’s farm in Nireaha in about 1930, a farm of two hundred acres of mainly hill country. He was running two hundred ewes and milking thirty-two cows at the time when we moved to Hastings in 1941. He sometimes said that although he was making a good living on the farm, he figured it was better to be poor in the sunshine in Hawke’s Bay than rich in the wind and rain of Nireaha. Nireaha is actually about seven miles west under the Tararuas out from Eketahuna in the Wairarapa.

When we moved from the farm we lived in Fitzroy Avenue in Hastings. Dad worked in the office at Tomoana Works for about three years while he started to build up his numbers of beehives ready to take the plunge and become a full time bee keeper. During our first year in Hastings Dad gave my brother Alan, aged seven, and myself, aged ten, one beehive each. They were established at the old Ormond Homestead at Oak Avenue. I soon realised to make money from bees you needed numbers of hives so I doubled my hive numbers to two the following season by buying my brother’s hive. Alan moved on to become an accountant and after some years setting up with his partners the firm of Ingram, Thomson & Berry. For most of his life Alan has been and still is our company secretary, and has played an important role in the development of Arataki Honey.

During the three years we lived in Hastings Dad built up his hive numbers at weekends along with his Home Guard duties. With the war on and sugar being rationed there was a large unsatisfied demand for honey, and there were no problems in selling all the honey that was produced in strictly controlled prices.

When the family moved to Arataki Road in 1944 money was very tight. Not only was money needed to develop the business but with five children to provide for, the oldest being myself at twelve years old, Mum and Dad were not only very busy but they had to make every penny count. There were no luxuries like washing powder and toothpaste in those days. Mum made the washing soap with mutton fat boiled up in the copper and we cleaned our teeth with salt.

If you want to know how good salt is for your teeth … well my teeth and I have slept in separate rooms for about fifty-nine years. I can remember how long because it was about two years after the wife and I were married that I had the last of my teeth taken out, and we had our sixty-first wedding anniversary on the 25th June this year.

During these first years Dad not only produced and sold some honey but also raised queen bees and hives for bees for sale. He also grew lettuces on a commercial scale in our paddock. In the spring of 1946 disaster struck. Through inexperience we lost most of our hives from a disease called nosema apis. Then there was widespread poisoning of bees that sprang through orchardists spraying arsenate of lead on the fruit blossom. That spring was dry followed by one of the driest summers on record and no honey to extract at all from the few bees we had left. Dad had bought a cultivator for weeding the lettuces we were growing, and he couldn’t meet the payments. When he went to see Mr Len Bissell in A Simmonds & Co. in Hastings to explain the situation to him, Mr Bissell asked Dad how much money would he need to get the business back on track. Dad said £500. He was then told that an overdraft for that amount would be arranged for him at the Bank and it would be guaranteed by Mr Bissell. This was a real turning point at a critical stage in the business, and we were of course a strong supporter of A Simmonds & Co. until it closed down many years later. Actually I understand there were a lot of growers of various sorts in the area Mr Bissell supported so many of them.

I know, I’ve heard that several times.

And it’s something I’m hoping that Arataki could work towards, and we are doing a certain amount of that already.

Yes. Well I know companies like Jim Wattie when he started, he got support from friends and businessmen and this man might have been one of them too.

Oh, very easy I would think.

I left school a few weeks after turning fifteen and sitting my School Certificate. Frankly I hated school as being such a waste of time learning things like algebra, trigonometry and French which I couldn’t see any use for in bee keeping. However when I left school we could not afford to have both Dad and I working the bees full time as we didn’t have enough beehives. So I worked in a local orchard for about eight months to earn some extra money, and helping Dad at the weekends. In 1947 when I was sixteen, with money saved from years of paper runs, milk runs and weekend orchard work and some help from Dad, I became the proud owner of three hundred and twenty-seven hives in the Sherenden / Crownthorpe area. A few years later these hives became part of Arataki Apiaries Limited.

During the late 1940s and 1950s Arataki hive numbers really started to grow, mainly because we were able to buy out a number of other bee keepers who were keen to sell out – often so keen to sell we bought the bees at no deposit and we’d spread payments over ten years, no interest to pay, and in some cases we even had the option of paying with money or bulk honey, whichever suited us. The reason we were able to make these sort of deals was the low uneconomic price for which bee keepers had to sell their honey and this made beehives very hard to sell. These low prices were brought about in our opinion by a single desk system of marketing our export honey and we guessed the bee keepers would eventually see the wisdom of changing to an open system for exporting New Zealand’s surplus honey. This happened, and now many new and diverse markets have been developed for New Zealand honey which is available for export after the needs of New Zealand markets have been met.

In the 1950s we started buying beehives in the Reporoa area and this led to setting up of a second factory at Waiotapu which is on the main road between Taupo and Rotorua. My second brother, Russell, the youngest of the five children, took over the development of the Rotorua area of Arataki Honey and has expanded to the point where they now farm about fourteen thousand hives. Four thousand of these hives are in Southland, with a factory at Greenvale near Gore.

Well, that’s a little of what’s happened in the last seventy-one years, so where are we at the present time?

We are a private company set up in two divisions and we run as two completely separate businesses except when dealing with the Bank and Inland Revenue. The Rotorua division is run by its three directors, my brother Russell, his wife Annette and their son Mark. They produce and pack from their fourteen thousand hives, and they are big in the production of live bees and Queen bees for export, mainly to Canada, and they also do a lot of kiwi fruit pollination. The Hawke’s Bay division also has three directors, my sister-in-law Barbara Bixley who was our Marketing Manager, Pamela Flack, our daughter, is the Director in Charge of Administration and I am the Director in Charge of Honey Production.

My wife Pat and I have three sons and three daughters. Our twin sons, John and Peter … well they’ve just … since this was written a while ago, Peter’s retired and John’s cut back – John hasn’t had the best of health. John has got about three hundred hives now, and Arataki’s bought the rest of their hives back. With the help of their wives, Karen and Glenda, their business was called Berry Beekeeping and they worked in quite a bit with Arataki Honey Hawke’s Bay.

Arataki Honey Hawke’s Bay is at present farming – we hope for the coming season ten thousand hives, since we bought these other hives back from the boys – which normally produce around four to five hundred ton of honey per year. We extract a lot of honey from other bee keepers and we also buy a lot of honey from other bee keepers. We pack seven to eight hundred tons of honey per year and market it throughout New Zealand and in many countries overseas. We also provide a lot of hives for orchard pollination in Hawke’s Bay – more than six thousand hives each spring. In Hawke’s Bay we do not produce live bees or Queens for export.

Hawke’s Bay Division now has a staff of about fifty people and the Rotorua division has about sixty people with a combined annual turnover of millions of dollars. In fact, as Alan pointed out recently Arataki Honey would qualify as one of the larger business … companies … in Hawke’s Bay. When Dad was alive and one of our granddaughters, Amy Dobson, was working in the school holidays we actually had four generations of the family working in the business at the same time which we thought was something rather special.

A while ago we sold off some of our land in Arataki Road to developers for housing, and we used the money we received on a major building programme. We built a new administration block and a much improved and enlarged Visitor Centre. The new administration block includes nine offices, a boardroom, a laboratory, a large smoko room, new clothes washing setup plus changing rooms etcetera. We also have quite extensive areas of concrete and tar seal which includes sixty-five marked car parks. Our new shop and Visitor Centre is about three times the size of our old shop and has a lot of new and exciting and innovative displays with the purpose of becoming one of the leading tourist attractions in Hawke’s Bay. Our old shop was a big success, but we aim to put our new Visitors’ Centre on the ‘must visit when in Hawke’s Bay’ list. We increased the number of school parties who visit us to learn about beekeeping and we are attracting more of the tour buses which are now coming to Hawke’s Bay in increasing numbers. Cruise ships are also bringing in large numbers of visitors to Hawke’s Bay.

I would like to extend a warm welcome to you all to come and have a look at our new setup. It costs nothing to look and I’m confident you will enjoy your visit and leave with a sense of pride of what can be achieved in Hawke’s Bay.

The new Visitors Centre was achieved through the vision and drive of our marketing team and our director Barbara Bixley. Her vision was a simple one – to have the best honey shop in the world. From the comments from both local and overseas visitors, if we are not already there we are getting pretty close. Please come and judge for yourself.

Now what of the future of Arataki Honey Hawke’s Bay? Firstly, we will work hard to stay in business as a family business and under the name of Arataki Honey. We are the No 1 brand on the New Zealand market and we intend to keep it that way.

Secondly, we must make sure we keep the varroa mites under control.

Thirdly, we aim to continue to grow as a company so we can further improve our contribution to Hawke’s Bay and the New Zealand economy.

Finally we aim to continue to be known as a good place to work, a sound, reliable firm to deal with and a firm which cares for the environment and which produces excellent products and great service.

I knew my father’s father. He died when I was about five I think, but he originally came from Ranfurly down in the South Island. He’d come out from England, and my father’s mother lived with us for many years after that and she was well in her nineties when she died, just a little old lady. In fact the cottage where my sister lives next door to us in Arataki Road here was built originally for Dad’s mum – she lived there until she died. It’s a long while ago now.

So when you left Eketahuna you were only young … you came to Hawke’s Bay and you went to school in Hawke’s Bay here, didn’t you?

Yes. Just a little bit about Mum first, perhaps.

Oh yes, okay.

Her father came from Denmark when he was about three years old on a sailing ship, and they had a big reunion – she was a Sigvertsen, you know, s-e-n being Sigvert’s son as it is in Scandinavia there. And my mother’s mother came from Norway. They lived at Rongokokako which is just a few mile up from Nireaha, close to Eketahuna. Mum and Dad met up and … oh, they must have been married about 1930, maybe a bit before. Dad won the – he was a rifle shot. Every little district had their own rifle club those days, and Dad won the belt at Trentham.

Ballinger Belt?

Ballinger Belt, yes. He was twenty-one at the time. I think it was 1930 he won that. I was born in 1931, October. The circle’s turned – one of our eldest grandsons married a girl in Norway and he’s living over there now and speaks Norwegian. [Chuckle]

Good Lord, yes, yes.

He’s a bit allergic to things and he found New Zealand life as a bee keeper wasn’t too good for his health and the colder climate over there – seems to be less pollen and so on. In fact he even took his wife’s – instead of his wife changing to his name, he changed to her name.

So then Dad’s father bought this farm in Nireaha, I think about oh, early 1900s and Dad took it over from his father after they got married. Dad actually lived in Eketahuna for a while. I can remember when I was about five going down the road to see Grandad Berry. He used to show me how to make whistles out of sticks of willow trees. He’d carve one of these for me [chuckle]. One of the things one did those days.

So yes, it’s interesting to note that Dad reckoned he was making a good living with thirty-two dairy cows and two hundred ewes on two hundred acres of rough … it’d been heavy bush country, it’d been felled of course. When we were there it was covered in logs and I can remember Dad taking out – or getting somebody to do it – a hundred cord of rata firewood from the logs, the old rata made beautiful firewood. And when we went back to the farm many years later, there wasn’t a log to be seen [chuckle]. All gone – all nice green pastures.

Also remember the, I think you must judge things a bit by the size you are because what I could remember as being these big high banks on the river they all seemed to have got smaller when I went back. [Chuckle] I think it’s to do with … you see things in proportion to your own size.

I know – you do indeed.

[Chuckle] I couldn’t understand it for a while ’til I worked out that’s probably what it was. ‘Course what was considered fairly wealthy in those days … bit different nowadays.

And of course there wasn’t the things to spend money on those days. There weren’t tractors and trucks and life was much simpler. You lived off the land.

That’s right. Mum and Dad – of course they started off – it was during the depression when they started, and Dad was a fairly innovative sort of bloke, he got milking machines and so on, but they couldn’t afford the power to run the milking machines so they had to milk everything by hand. And thirty-two cows …

Yes, I can imagine.

And of course I used to have to go down with him as a baby. [Chuckle] There was never anybody else to do it.

I know, well I grew up sitting in the cowshed too.

Then Dad had it all worked out. He used to separate the milk and send the butter to the factory and feed the skim milk to the pigs. The house was on a hill and the cowshed was on a lower sort of plateau, the pig sty was down a bit further and the skim milk ran down the old spouting to the pigs, and all the effluent from the pigsty just ran straight out into the river.


Yes. Oh, I know, I know.

Those days have gone, fortunately [chuckle].

Oh, It was a big change coming to Hawke’s Bay. We didn’t know anybody, new school and this sort of thing. ‘Course the war was on.  I started school in Eketahuna because Dad was actually working in a … he rented out the farm and was working in Eketahuna, and I think it’s now the 4 Square Store there as far as I can fathom. And I started there and on the way back home – when I was five I used to walk home two miles;  I’d stop on the way home and Dad would give me a job unscrewing the bolts. He used to make gates, farm gates and stuff, and I had to undo the bolts – the nuts off the bolts so they could use them. [Chuckle] I always had a job to do.

When we went back on to the farm a few years later, then I can remember cutting my foot on the reap hook. We used to have the job – I’d be about seven I suppose – we used to go cutting all the ragwort on the farm, and I stood on the blinking reap hook. When I was about eight I got this beaut axe for my birthday. It was a small sized one. Dad had a … he did have a tractor of sorts but it was made out of an old truck – cleats on the back wheels – he was very proud of where this thing would go. It would just about go up a vertical hill but then all the petrol used to run out of the top of carburettor and he’d have to back off again. [Chuckle] But any rate, I got this new axe, went up the hill and chopped up a whole load of firewood for Mum [chuckle] – old logs. Very proud of that. Those days you were taught to work which I never regretted.

So then you came to Hawke’s Bay?

Yes, Dad worked – he’d had done a bit of stock buying for … Alex Kirkpatrick ran the Tomoana Works those days … and they didn’t always get on eye to eye, Dad and Mr Kirkpatrick, but he worked in the office – pay clerk or something for about three years before he came out here. And of course he did his Home Guard and so on.

I went from Eketahuna School for about a year and then to Nireaha and there was only two classrooms then. When we came to Hastings I was in Standard 4 at Mahora School, and we had fifty-five boys there in the class and there was an old – well appeared to me to be old – lady teacher who taught these fifty-five boys, and I remember there were five Ians in the class. [Chuckle] She had to rule with a fairly iron … well, with the strap in those days because it was a pretty big job. They talk about classes now with about twenty people they’ve got a big class. But fifty-five boys around about ten and eleven sort of thing.

Then after that I went to the … well, there was only one High School those days. It turned out my wife Pat was also at Mahora but she was a year or two behind me and we never met up. And she went to the Boys’ High School as well, because that was the only High School. Gives some idea of how Hastings has developed over the years with the number of High Schools now. The Havelock North one’s got double what the co-ed school had. It’s huge. Then you’ve got Flaxmere and Karamu and the Girls’ High School.

And you’re living on the edge of the village now.

We’re actually in the village. Our side of the road’s become part of that part of the road which pays the higher rates. [Chuckle]

Were you at Mahora School for all your primary education?

No, I was in Standard 4. We came up in June, middle of June, and I was half way through Standard 4 that year, and then I stayed on. We had Mr Cornes, we had a co-ed class for Standard 5, and a Miss Donnelly for Standard 6 and then I went to High School. One thing I can remember during the war we used to have to bike down to Central School for manual training, carpentering etc. I made a bookcase. It was a bit wobbly. [Laughter]

We were taken by Joe Nimon’s old Morris commercial bus from the village in Havelock to the Central School.

We had to get our own way there, and I had my bike but of course you couldn’t get any tubes or anything those days. It was a real old bone shaker. I had a piece of hard garden hose I put in the tyres and made a tube out of that – rattle, rattle, rattle. Had a drink of water as you go past Rush Munro’s looking longingly at the ice creams. [Laughter]

I’ve interviewed quite a few people who went to Mahora School. Do you remember the Hingston girls? Flo and Jan Hingston? They might have been just after you.

I was sort of a year ahead as much as I got through the primers. Mum taught us to read and write before we … they didn’t have kindergarten in those days. My brother Alan particularly – his birthday came in January. He was only one year in the primers before he went to Standard 1, and I was a year and a little bit, which basically meant we were about a year younger than most of the kids in the same class.

Well, you had a sister Marion.

That’s right, yes.

She was in my class at school.

Oh, was she?

And I think she may have been dux …

Oh, that wouldn’t surprise me.

… because she was a very bright young lass.

She was all brains and no sense. I’ve got a daughter like that. In fact Marion’s in Duart Hospital now. She married into the Mormon Church and she had eight children. Most of them are in America. She’s got to the stage now she’s got to be looked after. She’s way overweight, but she’s got one son who lives in Hastings.

So then you went to Hastings Boys’ High and stayed there until you decided it was time to leave and to go bee keeping.

Yes, I sat my School Certificate, which I got. I thought I’d got it without any spare points at all but I found out many, many years later by a teacher who explained to me that the maths weren’t worked out the way I thought they were [chuckle] so I actually did better than I thought I had. I couldn’t fathom out why they had such poor results in maths, but then I found out – I think it was maths and algebra or something like that were added together. That was my worst subject I thought, but maths was always one of my best subjects. I didn’t understand trigonometry.

Well, they didn’t have any practical use, did they, in life?

Not to a beekeeper. I figured well … all these guys all going off to University – should be enough businesses to employ them when they came out of University, and in fact that’s about how it worked out – not that we made a lot of money for a long time, but we’ve done very well lately.

Did you play any sport at all when you were at High School … Primary School?

No I became a lab monitor. We cleaned up the laboratories and stuff when it was sports time. [Chuckle] I did take up tramping when I left school. We had a couple of teachers staying with us working and they offered to take me tramping, so I went tramping and – oh, this is all right. The first thing I bought Pat when we met up – we met at a dance – was a pair of tramping boots. It wasn’t long after that I more or less gave up, but too much else to do and she carried on for a while – been out with some of the kids. We had six children, three of each, and we’ve got nineteen grandchildren and we’ve got … I think the last count is eighteen great grandchildren.

And the name lives on, doesn’t it?

So we went forth and multiplied. [Chuckle] Nowadays I still work full time, but I do a bit of singing.

Do you have any other hobbies Ian at all?

Yes, I took up country music. I used to take my mother-in-law – we got on very well together, and I used to take her to country music and sort of got interested in country music – got to know a few people.

So do you go to the Kidnappers ..?

No, I belong to the Napier Country Music Club. We’ve just had our 40th birthday party over the weekend. I didn’t get to all of it, but it started on Friday night and went on Saturday afternoon, and went to the concerts and met some of the old families that started it up. It was really good.

Oh, that’s wonderful. Yes I can appreciate that, I’m a great country music person too. Whenever I’ve gone to Australia I’ve usually hunted out competitions and heard the most wonderful music.

Oh, I’m very keen on it.

In fact for ten years I sponsored the … one of the sponsors of the Kidnappers Country Show that Herb Berkahn runs on a Wednesday night.

That would be Lyn Berkahn and Brian’s relation. At the concert Lyn ran a fair bit of the … did the introductions and stuff.

So you didn’t play bowls or anything like ..?

No, Dad tried bowls for a while but thought that was a bit boring.

But he was a rifle shot. I always remember George McKeown who was our neighbour – he used to talk about Percy Berry, and the Berry family, and shooting.

In fact I’ve got a recording that Laurie Swindell did many years ago for the radio. It was a half hour programme and it’s got George speaking on it. It’s quite nice to hear a voice from the past as it were.

I belong to a Miniature Rifle Club in Hastings, and George was the President. George had another friend Charlie Densen who was a builder who lived … did six weeks to become a builder after the war. And we built the Rifle Club in Hastings out of all this old stables that George had been given. Yes, because George [Gordon] shot and Maurice [Gordon] shot. 

That’s right, Maurice – I think he got a medal for something. I think … Olympics or the … not sure whether it was the Olympics or the Commonwealth Games.

Commonwealth – yes, it was, yes. So it’s just a matter of mopping up some of those people. Do you remember Charlie Gordon? 

Yes, yes.

The community wasn’t that big because everyone knew somebody in it, and although we never mixed closely we were all very aware of who was there and what they did.

So now your retirement is still working as Production Manager of Arataki Apiaries.

Oh yes, I still work seven days a week pretty much.

So the future of beekeeping in New Zealand is good, is it?  As long as they maintain the disease problem?

The main trouble is to keep the … varroa was a big shock and it still is. It’s cost a lot of money to get varroa and [?]. We’ve been spending a lot of money trying to keep [get] the Government to prevent honey imports because there’s are a lot of diseases which we haven’t got, and if we get them in … all these apples and stuff they’re planting and that … they’d be bloomin’ lucky if there’s any bees to pollinate it. It’s no use planting apples if you … They just … just … it doesn’t seem to enter the fruitgrowers’ minds that there may not be any bees. It’s a risk. At the present time of course, beekeepers have had some huge changes just in the last few years with the price of manuka sky rocketing … big money. And there’s a lot of honey going out as manuka that isn’t. They found that you can make active manuka out of stirring some chemicals into the honey. What’s rewa honey becomes manuka, and they’re starting to wake up to – the people who are buying it are starting to wake up to the fact that a lot of honey they are buying as manuka honey at high prices, is not. We fortunately – we were producing manuka and selling manuka honey to a certain amount before the … Bill Floyd who we employed as a marketing expert when I was on the … I was National President for three years and on the Committee – Executive – for a total of seven years I think it was. One of the jobs we did those days – it was hard to sell honey, so we got Bill Floyd going on this manuka thing and we seem to be getting the benefits of it now, and that’s probably twenty years ago. But now it’s a lot of big firms, overseas financed, and they’re just walking over the top of everybody and just bunging bees in … the old spirit of sort of helping each other out even though we were competitors, we still – you know, if a neighbour needed a hand for some reason or another;  you got sick or …

It seems to be some security problems with hives too at the moment.

Oh, yeah there always was a certain amount of problems but it’s got a lot worse. I think you know – hive values have sky rocketed to the point where it’s ridiculous really.

So what is a hive worth?

Oh, well it used to be worth about £2 or £3 but now they’re worth about $500-$600 – some of them even higher. It’s just sky rocketed. There’s just so many people going into it and piling bees on top of everybody else. Nobody’s going to get any honey, and all … they’ll finish up they’ll lose interest, and of course they haven’t got the experience of beekeepers to keep the disease under control – particularly if they open this export market up which the Government’s been pushing to do a bit. There’s two things that could … if we get more diseases in such as European brood disease from Australia or small hive beetle from Australia – there’s a number of other viruses and all sorts of things. Varroa weakens the bees, and then it’s allowed certain viruses that have always been there but don’t normally worry the hives. It’s weakened them down to the point where the virus is becoming quite important. Viruses mutate apparently quite … you know, they adapt to whatever’s …

So do you have to inspect your hives regularly for the varroa mite – and if they’ve got it?

Yes. Oh, we generally tend to treat without inspection, but it’s assumed they’ve got it. And once again there’s quite a bit of debate what’s the best way to do it. We’ve had it here for about ten years here I think. We keep it under control pretty good but then there’s always debate, you know, whether this treatment’s become … the bees become resistant to the treatment, then the mites become resistant to the treatment and develop too. Oh, it’s a continuing problem. But we’re one of … the way we’re established – if we can’t cope then nobody will.

So now that most of your children have retired or nearing retirement are any of your grandchildren involved?

Yes, we’ve got one granddaughter in the office, we’ve got one granddaughter in the shop and we’ve got one grandson in the bees. You know, they are not there because they’re our children, they’re there because they can do the job and they want to do it. You know we prefer – we’ve got a number of families that have got several members of different families … the chap that does our pollination, well his brother works as a beekeeper as well, and his brother’s wife works in the office here – that’s Tina out there. She came in a while ago. Well – it’s a big help for a business if you don’t keep losing your staff, because we’ve had a lot of … all these big outfits starting up have been pushing to get our staff, but they’ve been very loyal.

Yes, because you know, for them to leave here and take your expertise to another company …

Oh, in some cases they’ve turned up in sales, but in the main they’ve stuck with us very well. We don’t seem to have any trouble attracting staff. If you get a good reputation for looking after your staff …

I believe some of your staff have been here for forty-seven years and never left.  [Chuckle]  It’s fifty years, is it? Oh, it’s a wonderful story.

Okay, is there anything else you can think about that we may not have covered? It’s interesting to see how this area of Arataki has developed over the years from small orchards, very poor dry orchards that all were able to make a little living out of.

Yes, well Pat’s family were all orchardists. Some of them came back from the war and went to Grasmere. And I think all her uncles were orchardists.  Her father was Ralph Bixley.

That’s right. Well see, Don Bixley …

Yep – that was her uncle.

… he married my aunty, Violet Wilson.

Oh, Aunty Violet. Yeah – I remember when Pat and I got engaged we went to the orchardists’ picnic, and Pat tells Aunty Violet that she was engaged, you see. Aunty Violet nearly fell over – she hadn’t known anything about it. [Chuckle]

So anyway we’re all connected one way or the other – you can’t get away from it.

I must tell Pat. [Chuckle]

Of course the Bixley children – they’re all my cousins, because Bob Wilson … Mum was a Wilson.

Oh, Pat used to work at Wilson’s Nurseries too, with you.

Oh yes … no, different Wilson – I’m talking about Bob Wilson down here.

Oh. Oh, what was his ..? One of the Wilsons used to run the metal pit down here.


Lindsay, that’s right – oh, the amount of time they spent shovelling shingle down there.

We could never understand when he used to cart shingle down to the dairy farm to do yards and tracks, why it took him so long between loads. We never realised he was shovelling it.

Shovelled it all by hand through a screen.

I know – I know. So – yes it’s been great.

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Arataki Apiaries Limited

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Interviewer:  Frank Cooper


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