Brian Desmond Liley & Garethe Morrell Liley Interview
Today is the 17th of July 2018. I’m interviewing Garethe and Brian Liley on their family in Hawke’s Bay. Brian, would you like to start off by telling us something about your family?
Yes. My grandparents on the Liley side … my grandmother … was the original one to come to this country, and then Mr Liley, he came later. And my father was born in … I think it was about 1896, and his parents had settled in Havelock and that’s where he was born in Te Aute Road, along with about four or five brothers and three sisters.
Should’ve been Lileyville, shouldn’t it?
Yeah, it should’ve been … yeah, Te Aute Road could have been more accurately named Liley. But yes, they all settled there except Uncle Ralph, who settled on the corner of Guthrie Road and built a house on the corner of Guthrie Road and Te Mata Road. Dad and Mum built a house in Akina in Hastings, and Aunty Ruby who I think was the youngest of the Liley family – she married Horace Upchurch, and they lived in Hastings also.
And as I remember, my father and Horace Upchurch were the only two that had motor cars. So we frequented Havelock by way of visiting their brothers and sisters out there, so I got very familiar with Havelock in those early days, and enjoyed Havelock in its true village style, as it used to be, very much. Bourgeoise Brothers was it? The store there?
And the old Post Office? And one of Dad’s sisters, Alice, married Frank Redpath, and he was a tailor by trade. And he was in business as a tailor in Havelock on the corner of Joll Road for some years, where the bank is now. And another brother of my father, one I don’t remember at all, was a plumber in Havelock – Fred Liley. And he and a chap Fergusson formed the firm of Liley and Fergusson Plumbers in Havelock in the early days. My father was a plumber also and he set up in business in Hastings, with Harry Horton joining him after he set up as a plumbing firm too, of Liley and Horton, one of the older firms of Hastings.
Just let’s go back a bit further. Where did your grandfather come from to Havelock? Where did you go to school? What were your brothers’ and sisters’ names?
They came from Kent did they, the Lileys? The Masters did, but …
Garethe: Nottingham I think.
Brian: Nottingham, was it?
Garethe: He came out and ended up working for George Bee, and married the daughter … as they did.
Brian: That’s the grandfather, yeah, yeah. That’s right, yes. Well then yes, going back to those early days – of course that’s the turn of the century, and of course my father actually got away to the First World War, being born back in the late 1800s. He didn’t get away ‘til 1916, but he saw it through from then ‘til the end of the war. And of course his Commanding Officer was Sir Andrew Russell, and subsequently Dad did work on Tuna Nui. And I can remember one story of Dad building a cattle stop up there at Tuna Nui, and Sir Andrew coming up on his horse and reigning in by the hole in the ground that they were building this cattle stop in, and saying “well, Liley – bit like being back in the trenches, is it?” And so that was his old association.
And the firm of Liley and Horton carried on for many years. They were a very successful partnership – no formal arrangement, just two men agreeing and continually agreeing.
I served my time there of course. I was a bit lost at school by way of a career. My brother and sister had gone to university, and my father’s health was failing because he’d been … suffered the mustard gas in the First World War and his breathing gave out on him, and so he wasn’t in a state to be able to afford to send me to university – not that I think myself university material. I was more a hands-on sort of a person, so I said to Dad “what about an apprenticeship?” So he fitted me in there, and I served my time with the old firm as I refer to it. And back in those days it was still a six-year apprenticeship, which is pretty big by today’s standards – I believe it’s only four, or less nowadays. And you could only sit your final exam at five years … was the earliest you could sit it, but I was a bit cheeky – I wrote away at about four and a half years to the Apprenticeship Board and said I thought I was capable of sitting the exam. And what I got back from them was an application form and a bill for the fee to enter, so I just took it and went to it and got my qualifications.
And I’ll never forget, I’d never belonged to a union … being an apprentice … in all my life, or had anything to do with them, but I’d hardly qualified when a man came into the workshop and came up to me and congratulated me for qualifying, and said “now you’ve got to join the union.” And I was stunned. And so then I suddenly remembered that apprentices didn’t have to join the union, and I was still technically in apprenticeship ‘cause my contract went through to six years. And so I said, “I’m an apprentice – I don’t have to join”. So he went away. And he forgot about me, because I never, ever joined the union and I was pretty proud of that because I wasn’t a union-type person.
And of course I stayed on after … that actually – early qualification did give me a year off my apprenticeship, so my contract was shortened by way of that qualification to five years. But – and thanks to my employers, my father having passed away by then and it was really just Harry – I stayed on for two years as a qualified tradesman, and then set out on my own.
I remember my father saying about him sitting his final exam, and he had to get on the train in Hastings and go through to Napier to sit the final exam over there. He had to be back ‘cause the boss said to him “get back as soon as you can Liley, and get back on the job.” And that’s how it was in those days.
Now here we are at this stage Brian, but where did you go to school? You’ve skipped that part.
Yeah. Well we were – as I say our first family home was in Akina, that meant the nearest school was Central School. So we three children of our family went to that primary school and from there we went on to the local high school down Karamu Road, which of course in those days was co-ed. And I stayed on there – I was expected to get my School Certificate, and I’m afraid being a hands-on, an outdoor sort of a bloke I didn’t try very hard and I missed it. So I was sent back and told I had to get my School Certificate, which I applied myself to and got in the second year. But then as I say – well what we were doing as young fellows in those days -come the Christmas holidays we’d go down to the freezing works and get a job, telling them a lie that we were [chuckle] nineteen years of age. Yeah, and we would work there.
Well on my second year in the fifth form getting the School Certificate, I stayed on when school went back not knowing what I was going to do, because my father wasn’t that keen for me to be a plumber. And nobody was stepping up and taking any interest in me as regards a career, so that’s how I came to approach my father for an apprenticeship and how I became a plumber. But that was my schooling. The only thing I saw of university – I went back to university after one Christmas holidays with my brother and sister and stayed with them for a week or two, and experienced a bit of the hectic student life for a week or so. But that’s as far as my education went other than my qualifications as a plumber, and finally a sheet metal worker and heating installer, and spent about … getting on for fifty years in business, I think it was.
And did you play any sport when you were at high school?
Yeah, I played rugby and tennis. I was not a star in sports, although I enjoyed them very much. But I’m afraid I advanced on too broad a front … and probably a failing in my life, because I had too many interests and probably was a master of none.
Garethe: Master of too many.
Brian: [Chuckle] So yes, it was just rugby. And then I … when I left school I played rugby for the Old Boys’ Football Club. And I played tennis at the Havelock Tennis Club, as it used to be.
Who were some of your friends that you played with those days, and go around with – who were your close friends?
Probably from primary school, John McCormick, who finished up in his father’s business as an insurance assessor and was very successful there – still friendly with John. He would be the earliest one. At high school I can remember more friendships – Richard Jones, of Bon Marche Jones; his henchman Peter Wright, who actually joined the Navy. And another mate was Gerald Munro who worked for Noel Wilson, the chemist in Hastings – one of the leading chemist shops in Hastings in those days – and qualified as a pharmacist. And he bought a business in Helensville and worked there all his life, eventually becoming the Mayor of Helensville. Barry Church, another one – he was a Parkvale lad – met him at high school and we struck up a pretty solid friendship. He qualified as a school teacher and moved around the country a bit as a teacher and finished up at Hamilton. Another mate at high school was a rellie of mine, Brian Leeves. My grandmother on my mother’s side – her maiden name was Leeves, so when Brian, who came from Parkvale and I from Hastings, met up at high school knowing that we were related but didn’t delve into how we were related struck up a good friendship. That was my days.
And in the school holidays in those days I used to go out to Twyford where I had my uncle Lester [correct spelling: *Leicester, commonly spelled Lester], a bachelor out there who had a mixed farm of a number of acres out there. And my Aunty Maud – they were brother and sister of my mother – Maud Burge, she married Bob Burge, a nice old chap out there and they had a mixed farm with a dairy herd. And I used to work on those properties or go and stay as a kid in the early days, and that developed into actually working on those properties in my school holidays. I can remember making hundreds of wooden fruit boxes. And – of course that was … on Aunty Maud’s farm they still had two draught horses doing the work. And they’d saddle up the draught horses and put them into the shafts of the dray, and carted all the apples on those with the draught horses. And I can remember their names … Dilly and Baldy were these two draught horses … lovely big, quiet animals, most enjoyable.
Uncle Lester of course, was a real hard case fellow, and it was always a bag of fun to go and stay at his place for the weekend. And we’d get up to all sorts of high jinks as well as do our work of course. And those were my childhood memories.
Lester Masters – he used to move around all the people that he knew to sell his books.
And I’ve still got two of his little books.
Yes. They’re a little bit sought-after nowadays.
Yes. So then you started your first business, and where was that?
My mother had – when she lost her husband, my father, she was not old enough to qualify for any assistance … financial assistance … so she had to look to supporting herself. Uncle Ralph heard of a little local dairy for sale called the Mayfair Milk Bar in Karamu Road, and she bought that and built a house over the back of the Mayfair Milk Bar, which is a property that was subdivided off what was Walker’s Nursery in that area in those days. And she built a nice new house there – which was my father’s intention, to eventually build a new home and live in it. So she achieved that and it was a very happy household. The three … us three siblings, we banded together and with Mum worked as a team running the shop and running the house, and it was a very happy time there. And the livelihood of the household was achieved through the little Mayfair Milk Bar which was a lot of fun. It was a seven day a week job. I remember when we first took it over it used to be open until nine o’clock at night, and Peter, my brother, and I used to do the night shift from seven ‘til nine. We soon got sick of that, and so seven o’clock was decided to be the closing time.
Now you’ve mentioned Peter.
He was one of your brothers?
One brother, yeah.
What did he do?
He qualified in art at Canterbury Art School, way back in the days when the Art School was separate from the university. He established a great friendship with Bill Sutton who was one of the tutors there and became – when the Art School was taken over by the university – he became head of the Art Faculty at the university. And he became a family friend, and being a bachelor as he was, he used to come up from Christchurch on a motorbike – I can remember it, a big BSA – and stay with us for six weeks or so. And that was a lot of fun because he was a real character of a chap. And of course became part of our family then – all of us took a great interest in art as a result of my brother and his friendship with Bill, who became a well know Hawke’s Bay artist. Yes, Peter qualified in art.
My father died before my sister got her BA, but she got three-quarters of the way to it. But she became the mainstay behind the counter in the Mayfair Milk Bar, and I can remember she was very popular with the boys from Fowler, Drummond and Wardell, the furniture factory round the corner. They used to always come over to the shop to get their milkshakes and biscuits and what-have-you, but I feel that my sister was the main attraction.
So, where did you start your first business?
While I was still living with Mum in the Mayfair Avenue house; out of her garage there. Then I built … built it myself … a reasonably-sized double garage separate to the house, because the garage that I speak of was originally an integral part of the design of the house – a single garage. I built a double garage there and garden shed of … would’ve been about the size of a double garage. And that was my workshop for the first two years until there was [were] complaints from the neighbours that you couldn’t operate a plumbing business in the suburbs. So fortunately, I was sufficiently friendly with the building inspector … plumbing inspector … at the Hastings Council, old Doug Hopkins, and he rang me up one day and he said, “they’re on to you working from home, so you’d better start looking to shift”. And so I bought a property as a result of that in Karamu Road.
Garethe: That same day you came to do that you bought the shoes from your mother.
Brian: There was an old house on it with a double garage on it, and I moved into the old garage … the double garage … and I operated my business there, from this old shed, and that was – they were good days, really. I put two little illegal extensions on it because I remember, it was back in the good old freedom days when everybody was friendly. I rang the building inspector and I said “I want to put a little smoko room on the shed there.” And he said “how big?” And I said “oh, about eight foot by six foot”. And he said “oh … that’s a bit of a problem”. He said “why don’t you quickly do it while I’m not looking?”
[Chuckle] Yes, I know – times have changed. Most people complied anyway.
[Chuckle] Yes. And so we got quite established there, and were there for some years.
So how long did you work there before you met Garethe?
Well that was [chuckle] … I think I was still working from home was I not? Yeah. And of course I’d become friendly with Gordon Black, who was one of the mainstay members of the Aero Club out here at Bridge Pa. And of course through him I met up with a few other flying guys, and of course one of those was Laurie Cook who I also knew from high school because at one stage old Laurie had a crush on my sister, so I knew him quite well. Well Laurie rang me up one time and he said “are you going to the Aero Club Ball?” And I said, “oh, I don’t know Laurie, I haven’t got a … I’m not acquainted with a girl at the moment”, and what-have-you, and he said “oh yeah – well I’ve got a friend of my girlfriend’s – she could be available”. And I said “oh yeah – righto, all right. See what you come up with.” So he rang me back and said “yes, it’s on.” And I said “who is she?” And he said “Garethe Jones – do you know her? You should know her, she was at high school”. And I couldn’t remember a Garethe Jones. Anyway, he said “I’ll drop her off on the night”, so that was it. And on the Saturday night of [chuckle] the Aero Club Ball, Laurie drove into the Mayfair Avenue house and knocked at the front door and I went to the front door. Already there was … in the house meeting up to go to the ball, was Des Thompson and his girlfriend
Garethe: Anne … Anne Williams.
Brian: Anne Williams, that’s right – that was part of our gang. Des Thompson was a very successful accountant in Hastings in his day.
And I went to the front door, and Laurie didn’t do the honours very well – he just opened the door for Garethe and she got out, and he went up and knocked at the door and pushed her forward. And I’ll never forget, there was a creeper there by the front door, and Garethe, with her evening ball gown, got tangled in the creeper. So our first encounter was untangling the dress from the creeper. Anyway, she came in and we sat and chatted for a little while, and I think we might’ve had a wee drinky before we took off.
Garethe: Blue Nun or one of those funny things.
Brian: Then Des and Anne – they went off and said “see you there”, and I said “righto”. And so Garethe and I went out to the garage and got the car and got in and drove off to the ball, and had a … we struck it off, right from that night.
At that point, Garethe is going to tell me about her first meeting, and then if you tell us about where you folks came from.
Garethe: So do I talk about the encounter with Brian first?
Right. Well it was quite funny really, because – did you remember Margaret Oliver?
Right. Well Margaret Oliver was … her mother had known my grandmother, Dolbel, who was my mother’s family. And so we used to call occasionally, and that was down … what was the street that Uncle Ralph was in? Guthrie Road.
Brian: Guthrie Road, yeah.
Garethe: Okay. Her grandmother retired there, and Margaret sometimes would say “come on, we’ll go and see my grandmother”. And every time we walked in the door she would say “and how’s your grandmother dear?” But Margaret was a bit inclined to sort of lead you astray a little bit – she was a bit of a free spirit, and so my mother didn’t encourage that friendship much. But Margaret went on to become a nurse at the local hospital, and it was her that rang me up. And I at that stage was heading off with great aspirations to become an actress down in Wellington, with New Zealand Players. It was all set up – I was going to stay with Mabel Hawthorne, who was Ben Hawthorne’s mother, because we’d been in a local school production together and I’d also been in quite a few plays with group theatre here, which I’d joined. And I’d gone off to some schools aligned to Hugh Hunt, who was the brother of Sir John Hunt of the Everest fame. He’d come here to take a school down there, and I’d gone down there and qualified down there. So I’d set up all this thing, and I … off down to join up with New Zealand Players who were the only professional theatre at that stage. Everybody else – if you wanted to follow that line you went to England and joined RADA over there, which was what everybody’s aspiration was.
So … now I’ve wandered a bit, Frank, so you’ll have to get me on the path again. Oh … well that was Margaret – she rang me up and she said “there’s this bloke that’s going to a ball, and he needs a partner”. And I said “oh, Margaret, I’m going down to Wellington in a week – oh no, I can’t come.” “Oh, come on – don’t be a spoil sport – he needs a partner.” Mum’s down the hallway keeping an eye on what’s going on with her daughter – she had four daughters and one son, and she was keeping an eye on all the daughters. “Who’s that?” And I said “oh, it’s Margaret Oliver, Mum”. “Oh”, said Mum. And I said “she said there’s somebody who wants a partner to go to a ball”. “Oh, well find out who he is”. So I said to Margaret “who is it?” “Well, his name’s Todd Shliley”. So Mum said “who is it?” And I said Clive Shliley”. “Liley”, she said, “oh – that’ll be all right, dear.”
Brian: The name’s still being [?]. [Chuckle]
Garethe: So I said to Margaret “oh, I suppose I can, Margaret, but look, I … I haven’t got anything to wear – I’ve got everything all packed.” “Oh, come on … come on.” So this is what happened. So Laurie turned up at the door, and introduced himself to Mum, and Mum knew Margaret. So off he delivered me – up this long driveway in Hastings … [coughs]
Brian: Off Mayfair Avenue.
Garethe: … opens the door and deposits me at the door, and I immediately got caught …
Brian: And he took straight off, didn’t he? He didn’t – yeah, didn’t give any preliminaries at all – we were thrown together.”
Garethe: But anyway, we worked. But the funny thing is that the first thing I can remember was the door opening and a very presentable young man, laughing and smiling and talking to somebody back in the lounge, and said “come on in”, and I said [chuckle] “oh, I can’t”. So he disentangled me and in we went. And of course I knew Anne Williams, who was a friend of my cousin Pam, and I knew Des. But I’d never known at high school, though we’ve talked about all the people – I mean, Gerald Munro was a great mate of his, and I knew Gerald in the science wing.
Brian: I was obviously insignificant at high school.
Garethe: Yes. [Chuckle] And also, I know you all – you might know I knew Mossy Apperley, and he had been a mate of yours, and all these different ones.
Brian: I kept under the radar, yeah.
Garethe: Yeah. And of course you’d know the Druzianic girls, and Barbara Druzianic was a great mate of mine. We were avid readers of books in my youth and Barbara and I used to exchange our mothers’ books. Our mothers didn’t know anything about it, but our education came from reading books … probably that we shouldn’t have read, but which stood us in good stead. So that’s when I met Podge.
Can we just stop there, this nickname, Podge – I’ve heard it over the years but I’ve never, ever been game to use it.
Brian: It’s still used a lot.
Garethe: It’s only … when he was eighteen months old he was a … you would not know it, ‘cause he was a little … tiny little, thin little boy, but for a very short period of eighteen months he was a round dump …
Brian: My father said “he’s a podge” …
Brian: … and apparently it stuck from there, right back from those days.
Brian: And I grew up with it, so I didn’t even know where it had come from until I questioned my parents. And there was at that stage a ‘Podge’ camp and a ‘Brian’ camp, and – oh, you didn’t know Podge unless … I mean, if you called him ‘Podge’, you knew him. If you didn’t, you didn’t know us. So anyway …
Okay, now let’s go back then to the start where your father came from, and your mother, and if we build on that … your sisters, their names?
Right, so I came from a family of … my father being Keith Jones, and my mother being Gladys Dolbel. And they’d met many years ago because my mother’s family came from Redcliffe Station in Taradale, and my father’s family had been very early settlers in the Puketapu area. And this is what Lester Masters uncovered ,because Podge took me out to meet Lester not long after we’d met. And the first thing he did was … “Jones”, he said, “stay there.” And he hopped up, he went over to some… and he said “I’ve got a photo of your grandfather as a young man”. And there was my grandfather in stove-pipe trousers and pointed shoes, and – a real dandy you know. And so this was the beginning of us discovering how many linkages …
Brian: There were.
Garethe: … between our families because …
Brian: ‘Cause Lester was doing his research in those days for his writings and he’d come across the Jones family of Puketapu …
Garethe: … and my grandfather. And that was another interesting thing because there was an awful lot of women that died in childbirth in those days, Frank. And my grandfather … Dad’s father … he was the only child from a marriage between the William Jones who had the early hotel … the Kuripapango Hotel … and all these up the Taihape Road, and ran the mail service. And he married a Hughes, and she died having my grandfather. And this is quite an interesting thing, how things have changed, because in those days no woman could go and live in a house with a man unless there was a chaperone or unless they were married. Well, the sister came to look after my grandfather – her sister – and at that stage I think she was still quite young, about sixteen or so. And in those days you couldn’t marry your wife’s sister – that was another antiquated … in New Zealand. So what did they do? Because there was scandal if you didn’t get married. They could go to Australia and get married, which they did. And Grandpa’s step-brothers and step-sisters – the first child born … that joined my grandfather in business … he was born in Sydney, so he was called Syd. So …
That’s not very original.
Brian: Solved the problem.
Garethe: Yes. And she – I think she eventually might have died in childbirth too, some years later. But the Hughes family got a book done by Evagean Publishing. And we had a huge reunion, didn’t we, Podge? That you came to, which was wonderful.
Brian: At Puketapu.
Garethe: Yes, at Puketapu. And half of them are all – I mean, if you go to the Puketapu cemetery all my relations are there, both on my mother’s side and my father’s side.
And were they related to SW Jones of Napier?
Brian: They’re descendants directly of … sort of, the carrying business has come down …
Yes, I only know that because I know Lawrence Yule very well.
Garethe: Well of course, you know Lawrence is connected to us by having been …
Brian: By Etain.
Garethe: He’s Etain’s nephew.
Brian: And now he’s married Ross Jones’ daughter.
Garethe: Yeah. Well, so the two sides of the family are now connected together. It’s just crazy. But then … Hawke’s Bay, this is what happens – we joke about being very careful.
Something I’ve found about a man’s first wife dying in childbirth, you know, what did a man do?
All that hypocrisy has gone, Frank, I’ve got to say. While I don’t always applaud all of the liberation, we’re living more real true lives now. Because so many people … there were always the skeleton[s] in the cupboard.
No one ever had Alzheimers – they just had the old uncle or old aunty that stayed in the back room.
Brian: Yeah, that’s right.
So we’re coming back to your family …
Garethe: Right. Well, I was one of five children. My eldest sister, Etain, married Douglas Yule. They had been prefects at high school together, way back. And then my brother Ron was next, and then … he was the only boy. I was the third child, and that was quite a good position to be in because I didn’t belong to the old group or with the younger ones, because I had two younger sisters, Alison and Lyn, and they became two together. And my brother and sister …
Brian: Older sister, Etain.
Garethe: … were older than me, but I was very good friends with my brother, so all of Ron’s friends became my friends … Ted Leech, Cookie Bissell, [chuckle] Brian Taylor, Stuart Longley, Godfrey Rogers – because Anne was a friend of Anne’s – they lived around the corner, and the McMillans, and Mark was at school with me. But Howard, his brother, had also gone to Art School, or had gone to Canterbury University and had become friendly with Bill Sutton who used to come up here.
So again, when Bill came up – I remember the first time that I went into a pub – and I was under age – was on the back of Bill’s motorbike, because he said “come on, we’ll go out and call and see Howard”. And so out we go out there, and the next minute I’m in [chuckle] … I’m in the local Havelock pub and thinking ‘my mother would be horrified [chuckle] if she knew I was here’, but she didn’t, so that …
Brian: These university types …
Garethe: Yes – university types.
This Bill Sutton – that wasn’t the Bill Sutton that was the MP, was it?
No, no, no. He’s actually one of New Zealand’s foremost portrait artists, WA Sutton, and he came up here and he painted Jimmy Wattie who had been at school with Nene.
Brian: My mother that is – her nickname was Nene. And anyway, he was commissioned to do Jim Wattie, and so of course he naturally came to stay with us. Then it was “where do we sit?” Well, Sir Jim Wattie sat in Mum’s garage, and was painted there. [Chuckle]
Garethe: And we have still got the sketch draft of him, and the portrait’s in the library. But anyway, so where are we up to?
Brian: Your family.
Garethe: Right – Ron married a nurse …
Brian: In Hastings. She actually came from way up the East Cape.
Garethe: But she had been … not truly adopted. Her father – there was a case of an Italian marrying a Scotswoman, twice over. Because Margherita’s father had married a Scotswoman who had come out to New Zealand as a land girl, working up the coast. George’s mother …
Brian: George was Margherita’s father.
Garethe: … had married an Italian General from the Second World War when she had been overseas on the painting thing, as they did in the 1920s or so. So there was a double whammy of Italian and Scottish, Italian and Scottish.
Now the other interesting thing was that – this is where the Bee side of the family comes in again – is that Margherita was born, then her mother got pregnant again and they were in a very remote area, and she died in childbirth and George was up there on his own.
Brian: Working on this farm in the outbacks of the East Cape.
Garethe: And so Brian’s relation through marriage, Lorna Hindmarsh – she’d been a Cato. And the Catos … coming down the line … had been married through the Bee side of the family, and so she ended up being virtually adopted, but George didn’t want to …
Brian: By his heir, the Hindmarshes.
Garethe: Yeah, he didn’t want … she just had boys, and this beautiful little … I can imagine what she’d look like as a child. She became adopted by them as such, and even though not officially …
Brian: Not officially – by way of living with them.
Garethe: She virtually was … she considered them her brothers. [Speaking together] So that was another link there, as well.
Brian: George never relinquished her. That was Ron’s wife, yeah.
Garethe: And then Alison married Roger Burson, and Roger came from a farming family down in Dannevirke. And then Lyn, after various jobs and things, she married Stuart Morice, and he’d worked as a land agent. He became, he told us – wasn’t he one of the first rural cadets? [Speaking together]
Brian: Rural cadets – when they started that thing – he was in on that with one or two others, and went to Lincoln. Yeah. Then he came and worked for Williams and Kettle’s after.
Garethe: And it was when we were looking … what had happened, Frank, was we’d outgrown the house that we’d first built in Tudor Avenue.
Brian: You and I, yeah.
Garethe: And we spoke to our builders, and they said “oh, it’s a very small section.” At that stage, Frank, and you’d remember that, people stayed in their houses, they didn’t move. So there were no houses to buy in Hastings as such. And so …
Brian: We consulted our builders, and they said “oh, you’d be better to start again.” Well I talked to Stuart … [speaking together]
Garethe: Buy a section.
Brian: … who was in the real estate business, and had a look at the market myself, and it wasn’t a dickens of a lot of difference to buy ten acres out here or a quarter acre section somewhere in Havelock, and so we decided on the ten acres.
So that means the whole family was all married and settled, and your brothers and sisters?
Garethe: Mum and Dad were still in the house that they were in and they stayed there right ‘til when you say you sold it.
Did Ron join the Air Force?
He did. He went down, but Etain went down and was one of the very first women students at Massey University which was still all male. And she did a horticultural course because she’d worked for Wilson’s Nurseries in Pakowhai Road. But she ended up meeting the Queen and planting a tree with the Queen, because she worked for the bloke who worked in the …
Brian: Well, it seemed to be the Parks Department in Wellington City.
Garethe: Yes. Yes, and I went down and stayed with her.
Brian: [Speaking together] And remember old James Stirling? He used to have a gardening programme – well he was her boss.
Garethe: And I went around in a rattly old vehicle down in Wellington because they used to supply all the flowers for Government House. And so Etain went up and did the flowers at Government House, and she was very quiet about … she never said anything about this, you wouldn’t know. But she did actually meet the Queen and plant a … and we’ve got a photo of her in the ‘Free Lance’, haven’t we?
Brian: Yeah. [Speaking together]
Garethe: Planting a tree …
Brian: One in the ‘Free Lance Pictorial Publication’, yeah – there’s a picture of Etain meeting the Queen in that.
Garethe: But anyway, so that was that aspect of it. And then when we came out here it was just shingle – nothing growing here, only tobacco.
It was very barren.
Brian: It was all the same land, wasn’t it? Type of land then. These terraces down the land were the river bank, I presume.
So what did you do when you left school before you met Brian?
Garethe: Well, now that was very interesting because I had a very early and very strong friendship with Fiona McLeod. And Fiona and I got on quite well together I think. She had one of those strawberry …
Brian: Birthmark things.
Garethe: … stains on her face …
Yes, I remember that.
… and I as a child had been very, very sick with drinking unpasteurised milk on an aunt’s farm, because I used to go … all my mother’s family married farmers, and the milk wasn’t pasteurised in those days, Frank. And the only other person who had a similar thing was Margot Harvey. But my glands got very, very infected, and it was the TB germ but not the TB from your lungs. And she had a little scar on her neck, but I had a very nasty scar.
So that was our early friendship with Fiona. And then I became great friends with the McLeod family. And when I got to the sixth form … because I was like Brian, I didn’t sit School Cert in the fifth form, because at that stage Connie Miller was producing Gilbert and Sullivan operas, and I got cast in this production called ‘Yeoman of the Guard’. And Connie said to me, “I don’t think you should try and sit School Certificate this year, because you’re really extended in this”. It was called a semi-operatic one, of all the ones. And so I didn’t bother to sit the exam, and that’s how I ended up in a class with Julia Liley, who was a year behind me – because I was like Brian, I didn’t sit School Cert ‘til the second year.
Well after that I was still at school. Peter had turned up as a fill in …
Brian: Art teacher at high school, having qualified in Art …
Garethe: … with Geoff Fuller. And Jocelyn Green was part of that crowd, and Peter and … had Peter been to England then?
Garethe: Anyway …
Brian: Get back onto yourself. Your first job was when Mr McLeod rang up. [Speaking together]
Garethe: My first job … Ian McLeod rang up my parents at home and said “look, I’m bringing in a lot of technical stuff and I want somebody in Reception that can operate all this”. It was the first of the intercom systems, and quite new in those days. And so he said “I want Gareth”. Well that was an easy out for me, because – one, I didn’t want to become a teacher; I didn’t want to become a nurse; the only alternative was in a shop, and … what was the other alternatives? Those were just about all.
And so off I went and started working at de Pelichet McLeod, and had a wonderful time because I learned all this new equipment; had lots of amusing experiences; met lots of farming families, some of whom I knew from my mother’s side, others it was Central Hawke’s Bay and that sort of thing. It was back in the days where all the entries were done in a ledger book, by hand, and there was a bloke there called Colin Turner, and his writing was beautiful. And when anybody came in Colin was sitting on – it was a little bit like Charles Dickens things … of desks you know, with the angled things for the big books to … And so anyway there I stayed. But at this stage I was still passing off going down to Wellington, wasn’t I?
Brian: Yes. You only worked at de Pelichet’s about a couple of years, did you?
Garethe: Two full years there.
Brian: And then you set up to go down to Wellington.
Garethe: But then, the other funny thing about that – the Secretary there was a lovely bloke called Brough McCorkindale. Now – he married a second cousin of Brian‘s.
Was he Craig’s brother?
He was Craig’s father. But his wife – she was lovely, wasn’t she? What was her name? Oh, Nance’s sister … Nance Hallett‘s sister. You see there were cousins of Brian’s Liley family down that road.
‘Cause the Halletts are tied to the Lileys too, aren’t they?
Brian: She lost her sight, didn’t she?
Garethe: Yes, yes – it was diabetes. [Speaking together]
Brian: I used to go down and do maintenance plumbing work at that Brough McCorkindale’s house, and she was pretty well totally blind. Although – I suppose it was familiarity – she’d make me a cup of tea when I was working there, and of course she’d know by the arrangement that the plumber was coming and that it would be me. And she’d hear me coming and say “hello, Brian”, and she wasn’t really looking at me. Yeah – just amazing. Right …
Talk about our children – when were they born?
Right. Well we were married ‘61, and they were born ‘62, ‘64, ‘66.
Brian: Simon, the boy, being the oldest.
Garethe: Yes. And at that stage we were still in Tudor Avenue, and my …
Brian: That’s where we built a house. It was just over the back of Mum’s house … in fact we had a little gate between the two properties. Great arrangement.
Garethe: And it was wonderful – she was the most wonderful mother-in-law that you could ever have. Very early on, she said to me “now whatever you do, there will be spider webs, and your windows will get dirty. Don’t waste too much time worrying about those things because you won’t stop them, and they can make your life a misery.” So she was wonderful, and we never – even though we had this wonderful connection, she would never just turn up at my place, and I never turned up at her place – I would ring up or she would ring up. And she used to play bridge with some of her friends, and she would ring up and …
Brian: Sometimes the bridge four would meet at her house … one of those roving fours.
Garethe: She would ring up and say “bring the children over for afternoon tea. The girls want to meet the children.” So I would wander over with the children.
Simon went to Mayfair School. All of the children … no. Simon and Jo went to Mayfair. By the time Angie was due for school we were out here. And we thought that – there was a school bus that came to the end of the road to take them out to Maraekakaho, and so that’s where they did their schooling. And as a result of that they had lots of friends, and our connections got connected again with the parents, didn’t we? We caught up with [speaking together] Kendall and Jill Jackson, and …
Brian: We became very friendly with the headmaster and his wife, who were the … the only teaching staff at the school I think, and we’re still friendly with them today.
Garethe: And so that’s where Angela went to school. Then when it came to secondary school, a lot of the girls out there of course carried on and went to boarding schools and things, but there was no need for that for our girls. So the two girls went to Hastings Girls’ High. Simon we sent to Lindisfarne, and the reason for that is that he was a bit of a shy boy. And we also had connections with Lindisfarne in that my aunt, Ivy Dolbel, that had been my mother’s sister … Ivy Alexander … she had put a lot of money into … to start the school and my cousin, Roger Alexander, was a first day pupil at the school. And so we thought ‘oh, it’d be nice for Simon to go there’, and it was right next door to Hastings Girls’.
I was at that stage working – going in from here and in fact I worked for Brian from day one, before we were engaged or anything, when I came home from Wellington.
Brian: I got her writing out accounts for me. Better hand writing than mine.
Garethe: So really, that was a bone of contention we had because we paid an awful lot of tax. And I legitimately was the only person writing out accounts and everything and if our accountant had been more switched on …
Brian: He wasn’t a very progressive accountant.
Garethe: No. He could’ve paid me, which I really deserved … That’s when – the success of our marriage, Frank, was very early on in the piece – we decided we’d be a hundred per cent frank with each other. There were no secrets – however naughty I might’ve been I could always go to Brian, and he would … might give me a bit of the eye … but he never growled me, he was very gracious. He gave me room to come back and say I was sorry, they were never great transgressions, but that’s been a success, hasn’t it? We have no secrets from … and then you don’t have to worry about any of these skeletons in the cupboard coming out – it’s been very refreshing.
Brian: None there, yeah.
Simon went to Massey, didn’t he? On a …
Garethe: Agricultural course, because he started working for Joe Leith.
Brian: That’s right, he left school – he used to go in his holidays and work for Joe Leith, didn’t he?
Garethe: That’s right.
Brian: And then he took a permanent job there.
Another Liley who couldn’t leave [chuckle] Te Aute Road?
Yeah. And so from there we sent him off to Massey.
Garethe: And then somebody who’d married a cousin of Brian’s, Keith Spackman – he said, “look, there are these … sending people over on an exchange.”
Brian: For experience abroad.
Garethe: And so he went with Louise Wake actually, Graham’s daughter, and they went over to Washington, didn’t they? On an exchange.
So Grant’s related to me too – well it must be through the Liley … Grant Spackman.
Garethe: Oh, right.
Brian: Yes. Well Merle, his mother …
Garethe: Merle was a Liley.
Brian: She was a daughter of Fred, the plumber.
Garethe: And there were a number of girls there.
So he went over on this exchange ..?
He went over on this exchange. And then he and his cousin later … Alistair Yule, who was the son of Etain and Douglas … they went over to – way up Northern Territory.
Garethe: And they had a very good name for themselves there – what did they call themselves?
Brian: Wasn’t that in England?
Garethe: Oh that was in England, yes.
Brian: They went for the big OE together, Alistair … the two cousins … and I think they started down in Melbourne and worked their way up north. A and Angela our daughter at one stage joined them.
Garethe: Yes, she did.
Brian: And went as far as up north and then came home, but the boys went on to England.
Garethe: And over there they got a job on a farm and they called themselves …
Brian: It was the mucking out of the indoor cattle arrangement.
Garethe: But they were specialists, weren’t they?
Brian: They called themselves ‘Straw and something …’
Brian: ‘Specialist Analysists’, [Analysts] [chuckle] or something of that nature they called themselves.
Garethe: Anyway … you see our early childhood, Douglas and & Etain had a built a cottage down at … and this is where there are tie-ups again … down at Mangakuri Beach, because Douglas’s relations were Williamses. At that stage it was land that was just available to descendants of that family. But we’d gone out there – and Neville Norwell had drawn up plans for the cottage – and we’d gone out there and Brian had been the plumber in the family. He was cautioned by my father when he first met him – he said, “now Brian …” because my father had experienced this … he said “whatever you do …” [speaking together]
Brian: “Charge for your services …”
Garethe: “If you are called to do work …”
Brian: “… whether it’s relations or not – charge, because they’ll come at you”.
Garethe: Mmm. “And just because they’re relations” – he said, “you’re in there to make a living …”
Brian: Oh, you would know, Frank.
Garethe: “So just charge.” So that was very good advice, wasn’t it?
Brian: Anyway, there was no trouble anywhere to speak of.
Garethe: No. But he did do an awful lot of … [speaking together]
Brian: But I did the plumbing on the cottage that Neville had designed out there for Doug and Etain. But the first time we stayed out there with Doug and Etain was in the old house …
Garethe: That’s right.
Brian: Old … what must have been a cottage on Mangakuri Station, I guess – it was an old house. [Speaking together, indecipherable] We stayed there, and then they graduated to building their own house and we spent many a happy time out there. And after Douglas died Etain kept it up. She would get Valerie Yule who was widowed early too, and Etain and Garethe and I – the four of us would go out and spend a couple of nights together. [Speaking together]
Garethe: And have lovely holidays. Yes.
Brian: We had some lovely times out there.
Garethe: So that was another little aspect to our … and being a close family we’d always done things together, and our extended cousins on both sides. We haven’t seen the Jones’ ones so much, inasmuch as [speaking together, indecipherable] Uncle Bill was the youngest. In fact my father … I can remember my mother keeping things warm on the Moffat stove that we had because my father came … [speaking together]
Brian: Father came home for a late …
Garethe: … midnight.
Brian: … evening meal. But getting back …
Garethe: He kept … he kept my uncle’s trucks on the road, didn’t he?
Brian: Yeah. Yeah, Keith was one of these engineers as engineers turn out – they just seem to be capable of anything – anything at all.
But getting back to our family, Jo expressed an interest in farming and she found a course at Waikato Technical Institute.
Garethe: Well for a start, what she’d found at Hastings Girls’ High …
Brian: Oh yes, yeah.
Garethe: … she found it very difficult. There was one teacher in particular who later had a nervous breakdown, and you can understand that. But there was one teacher there that was very difficult, and so she was going to leave. So we said “no – go and stay with Nana and Poppa in Havelock, and go to Havelock High”. And that’s where she found this course of …
Brian: This was the makings of her, because actually she was quite scholastic.
Garethe: She was.
Brian: Quite clever in that department, so she boarded with her grandparents there in Havelock for that period. And then she found this course, and so we set it up with Julia Liley who lived in Hamilton at the time. And we said to Julia “how would you like a boarder?” ‘Cause Julia was never married – she was always on her own – and so that was arranged.
Garethe: So we paid, you know …
Brian: In both instances we paid – [speaking together, indecipherable] we wanted to keep it straight, and we paid them for the board in both cases. But Jo attended the Waikato Technical Institute, and typically of her she came top of the course above the boys. There was [were] two girls in the course, and the two girls – the other girl I think, was actually tops and Jo was second, and they were quite some bit above the boys and they were doing the whole bit of the … [speaking together]
Garethe: She did the wool-classing …
Brian: … sheep and cattle thing, of killing sheep, crutching and shearing …
Garethe: She did a wool-classing course and she …
Brian: She did a wool-classing course and what-have-you. [Speaking together] But that was her qualification.
Garethe: Which served her very well when later on she married the son of the manager of Tangihau Station.
Brian: Tangihau Station in Gisborne
Garethe: And so she then managed all the records for the Angus studs and everything, didn’t she?
Brian: Yeah, that’s right.
Garethe: So she was very … you know, good in that respect.
Brian: Being out here on a lifestyle block, inevitably ponies came into the scene, and from ponies the two girls – Simon wasn’t interested, he was interested in four wheels …
Garethe: Well the horsepower he was interested in was under the bonnet.
Brian: They graduated to playing polo cross, and that took them all over the place. They went as far as Taupo and Gisborne and Central Hawke’s Bay … they’d go and play this game. There’d be weekend carnivals, tournaments and through that Jo met her husband, Merrick Mullooly, of Tangihau Station.
Garethe: We became great friends with the family …
Brian: Gwenda … his parents. We built a cottage up at Waikaremoana, and they’d come up there and stay with us and that – that friendship still has carried on. Yeah. Toby died, but Lorraine Mullooly … mother, is still alive. But the next thing – Garethe and I were in a hotel in Auckland attending a heating conference and there was a message on the phone when we got back to our room.
Garethe: Oh, yes.
Brian: We rang home – Angela was here. “Oh, oh Mum – Mum, I didn’t tell you but I applied for a job in England.” And she was only eighteen.
Garethe: She’d found it in ‘The Horse and Hound’ thing, and she’d been working for us you see, in the office. And she said “I’ve got to be in Heathrow in a week”, or something. And we are sitting there on the bed …
Brian: How the dickens do you get a passport and all that in that time? Anyway, we managed it, and off she went …
Garethe: But what it was – she ended up working …
Brian: Remember that guy … New Zealand guy that started up a Polo Club in London …
Garethe: The Windsor Polo Club.
Brian: No, it had a Maori name. He’d used a Maori name to distinguish it as New Zealand …
Garethe: Well, Rangitikei, he called it … [speaking together] but his name was Grace.
Brian: The Rangitikei Polo Club or something.
Garethe: His name was Grace.
Brian: Was it?
Garethe: Yes. But he called it the Rangitikei Polo Club.
Brian: And he used to get New Zealand girls to go over and groom the horses. And so Angela ended up there. The first thing she did was say “Mum – I’ve seen a real live castle. The landscape’s very much like New Zealand, but when you come round the corner you don’t see a mountain, you see a castle.” [Chuckle] [Speaking together, indecipherable]
She was very naive. I remember when we took her to the Napier airport, ‘cause she flew to Auckland, and we’re sitting there waiting for the plane to come in, and … of course in those days they were just Friendships, which were you know, I suppose they’re much the same size now … they’re only small aeroplanes that come in.
Garethe: She’d seen the planes here.
Brian: And of course she was fairly familiar with aeroplanes out here, but she saw this plane and she said, “my goodness! Aren’t they big?” And we thought ‘what’s she going to say when she gets to Auckland?’ But anyway, she was over there for some time and moved about – she didn’t stay there that long. The boss man tended to make use of the girls a bit, and so she took off and worked elsewhere.
Garethe: She decided to leave before he got to their caravan, so. But she went and lived in this lovely little lodge house, and it was … at that stage a lot of the …
Brian: I think that was a quarter horse stud she was on.
Garethe: Yes, that was the last one.
Brian: She used to – for the Polo Club she would exercise the polo ponies in the Great Windsor Park, and she wrote home and said “I’ve seen the Duke, with his carriage and four”.
Garethe: Yes. [Chuckle] And it was snowing, wasn’t it?
Brian: Oh, it was snowing, and she’d never seen snow and it snowed. But we were … you know, fascinated with the delight of a young person experiencing these things for the first time.
Garethe: Anyway, what brought that to an end – she came home to be her sister’s bridesmaid. And when Jo and Merrick got married, they got married here in the garden. And Michael Thorley who had been a mate of ours, he came …
Brian: He was the minister.
Garethe: He was the officiator. And the Thorley family were lovely. And anyway, I can remember that, and Jo said “but I want to arrive, Mum, I don’t want to come out of the house”. [Chuckle] So dear old Douglas and Etain – they said “come over here.”
Brian: “Get dressed over at our place and then arrive by car.” [Speaking together]
Garethe: “Get dressed over here.” So they did, they arrived by car and came up the steps. It was a lovely wedding, wasn’t it?
Brian: A little amusing story there was – I was over there too, at the Yule’s house for some reason, at that time. And the bride was being prepared in the lounge over at the Yule’s house, and I was sitting chatting to Douglas. And Douglas had had his shotgun stolen and I … just out of conversation I said “did you ever get your shotgun back?” He said “yes, I did”, he said “it’s not in too good a shape”. And he got up and he went back and he walked into the room carrying this shotgun. And Roger Burson … [speaking together]
Garethe: And my brother-in-law who was a photographer …
Brian: … who was a keen photographer – he snapped a shot of Douglas with the shotgun walking into the room and the bride standing in the background. So it was referred to as a shotgun wedding. [Chuckle]
Garethe: Even though it wasn’t. No, because they wouldn’t have any children for about four or five years. He was one of a twin, and the mother – there was this concern that sometimes when you have twins, one’s capable of fathering children and the other one isn’t. So her mother-in-law was watching anxiously, but she eventually had a girl and then a little boy. And that was a tragedy in the family, because he drowned out at Akitio Station. And that was about the time when Dilcie lost her little granddaughter … drowned.
Brian: In a drowning in a pool.
Garethe: And so it’s tended to pull our families closer together with the tragedies that you suffer together. But you get up and you go on because that’s what you have to do in life.
Now at what stage did your son decide to become a plumber?
Brian: When he came back from overseas I think it was, he just approached me … “any chance of a job?” And he never actually became a plumber … he qualified in …
Garethe: But he qualified in heating.
Brian: … in heating. So he just carried on in that side of the business.
Garethe: You could talk about that to Frank, about how we diversified from …
Garethe: … from you being a plumber, into heating.
Well I remember that very well. It wasn’t subtle, you really did it very [chuckle] … it was all or nothing, wasn’t it?
Brian: Yeah, we did get into it.
Garethe: Brian had started off … we’d been approached by … when we were living in the property down Karamu Road … we shifted from Tudor Avenue … [speaking together] we bought a property …
Brian: Into the old house on the property in Karamu Road while we owned this property, to free up the capital from the house in town to build here. And so we lived in the house there and worked from the property also, and we would get travellers calling in. And the first one was the Schooner pot-bellied stove bloke came in.
Garethe: But originally we’d gone up to Auckland and got that agency ourselves – Visor Fireplaces.
Brian: Oh, the Visor Fireplaces. Neville introduced me to that, because he was specifying these things in his plans. So I went up to Auckland and found the source of them and got the agency for it. And Neville sold quite a number of Visor fireplaces for me.
Garethe: They were the first … the forerunners of having a fireplace in a room instead of …
Garethe: And so that was the first thing, then we had …
Brian: Then the Schooner Pot Belly man, then the Masport Pot Belly man, then the Kent man – just came knocking at the door, so that’s how it exploded.
Garethe: And then Brian became really … his sheet metal work has always been wonderful. He got approached to build the big copper kettle … a giant copper kettle … for a huge shop in Taupo called the Copper Kettle. [Speaking together, indecipherable]
Brian: Yeah, things like that.
Garethe: And then he would fly down to Wellington to talk with … See, he’d come through the wood burning, oil fired …
Brian: Oil fired central heating and all of that stuff.
Garethe: And so he used to fly down, and really became an expert in his field but he never ever …
Brian: Oh, I was …
Garethe: Pushed that. Yes.
Brian: … called on for meetings on occasions for meetings in Wellington and Christchurch – not very often.
Mention was made of the Waikaremoana property – we just saw it advertised in the paper – ‘partially built cottage at Waikaremoana’. So I said to Garethe …
Garethe: “Take a letter Miss Jones …”
Brian: Yeah, I said “take a letter, Miss Jones – respond to that advertisement and say we’re interested – we’ll buy it.” [Speaking together]
Was this at Maniapoto?
Yeah. And so she did. And it was Julie, bought. And Rodney Gallen had a cottage up there we knew. [Speaking together, indecipherable] And the lawyer said to us, “you’re mad! You’ve got to go and have a look at it – you can’t buy something without going and looking at it.” So we jumped in the car and went up there, and fortunately Rodney was in his cottage. So we didn’t even know which cottage it was, so he took us across the road …
Garethe: We had a cup of tea with him, and then he said “buy it”.
Brian: … and he said “I don’t know either, but I’m guessing it’s this one here”. And all that was there was about a twenty-foot-square flat roof box with high windows along it, and Garethe thought it was the public toilets.
Garethe: [Chuckle] Looked just like a public toilet.
Brian: Anyway, it was discovered to be that that was it, and so we duly bought it. Then … John Scott was working in the area at the time round at the headquarters, and I called on him, because I knew him well from doing work for him and what-have-you. I said “design extensions to this thing and turn it into a proper cottage for us”, which he did. And that was very successful. And Garethe and I built it, except for …
Garethe: Simon too, he was …
Brian: Yeah … the first extension out the front, which was the lounge-living room, was the biggest portion of it. And Lloyd Hulena, the builder, who’d got me out to his cottage at Waimarama, he says “I’ll come up and give you a hand at Waikaremoana – we’ll do it that way”. So he came up and we got the front room up to closed in, and he left me to it. Well then there was a portion … two-storeyed portion … on the back that Simon, Garethe and I built. I want to really make mention of it because the concrete slab of … at least six metres by six metres … we – Garethe and I – mixed the concrete in a concrete mixer and poured it. And this is how hard she worked, during our time.
Garethe: Bit I’ve worked with my father and poured a concrete slab.
Brian: Yeah, you had, with your father being a practical man. But then we had many a happy time up there with Rodney, and Fred and Heather Sanders – they got a cottage up there, and Marion Moss … and there was quite a gang of us. And we befriended some of the others up there of course …
Garethe: Neills, next door.
Brian: Next door to us was [were] some permanent residents there – the only permanent residents. And that was handy because they kept an eye on our place for us and what-have-you. But that was a …
Garethe: That was a very happy journey.
Brian: … a stage of our lives where … The children got a wee bit sick of it because come the holidays that was where we went, whereas they wanted to go to other places.
Garethe: They wanted to go to the Show. I’ve got a little diary that I’ve given back to Joanna, my daughter. “I want to go to the Show, and we’re going up to the cottage”. [Chuckle] But once they were up there, both being horsewomen – and this is another lovely funny story – we became great friends with Lou Dolman, the policeman up there. Lou was a lovely man, and he eventually bought a cottage up behind us and our friendship continued. But this particular time … they’d put in …
Brian: The girls had found horses roaming free, around on what was really hydro land …
Garethe: It was.
Brian: … not the park. Anyway, they came across one or two Maori kids and said to them, “what’s the story with these horses?” “Oh, they’re just horses.” They said “can we ride them?” “Oh yeah, just help yourself – we just grab one now and then and go for a ride on it.” So our girls were putting bridles in the car when we went up there, and they’d go and catch a horse and go riding. Well one day we were out walking with Rodney in the bush down on the hydro land. Weren’t we?
Brian: And we’d been gathering the odd shrub out of the bush there which we felt a little bit guilty about, but [speaking together, indecipherable] we shouldn’t because it was hydro land, not parkland. But anyway, we saw Lou’s Landcruiser coming down the road towards us and he didn’t usually come down into Kaitawa where we were, it was off his beat sort of, and we thought ‘oh, he’s looking for us.’ And so Rodney threw his bundle of [chuckle] shrubs …
Garethe: Over the bush.
Brian: … over into the bush out of sight. And anyway, Lou came up to us and he said “your girls have been riding horses”, and we said …
Garethe: No, no – he didn’t say the girls. He said “I had a complaint” …
Brian: “I had a complaint about your kids riding the horses. And of course being a complaint it’s official, and I’ve got to follow it up.” And of course we’re friends, but he’s keeping a straight face and doing his job, which we understood. And he’d picked up Simon …
Garethe: And his friend – he was a boy from Hillsbrook.
Brian: What was his name? Oh anyway …
Brian: Bix, was it? Yeah. he’d picked up these two boys thinking it was them, got them in the Landcruiser with him and driven down. And this was … the drive pipes came down from Lake Waikaremoana to the power house of Kaitawa. And it’s quite a climb. He got down to the bottom of the pipes, let the boys out, and he said “your punishment is to walk back up there, and now I’m going to see your parents” … ‘cause he saw us over there, you see. So he told us this story, but the …
Garethe: And it was … the boys were innocent.
Brian: Yeah, it was the girls that had been riding [?] …
Garethe: Now, our daughter, Angela, was excellent with horse breeding way before all these computer systems. She used to get people ringing her up to …
Brian: For line breeding.
Garethe: … cross-line breeding. And so she was the horsewoman, and she could recognise good horse flesh when she saw it, so these nags that had been ridden round, she’d seen one that was looking – wandering around that was looking a bit better.
Brian: Looked a bit better than the others, and that’s what got her into trouble, because that was somebody’s riding horse, not just a brumby.
Garethe: Anyway, just along those lines, she did actually – here we’re officially recorded as Valentine’s Stud and bred horses here..
Brian: We had a stallion here for a while … [speaking together] and that was another Liley enterprise.
Garethe: He was the son of Sir Tristram, wasn’t he? And he ended up with Maurice Beatson in the finish. But round here Brian was dragged in because Angela had actually worked for Norm Hawthorne on his stud down the road there.
Brian: Down Otara Road. [Speaking together, indecipherable] So she knew all about it, that’s why she took it on. She’d been approached to take this stallion. So we were roped in to …
Garethe: But she’s bred some good horses. And we went up to the sales, and that was another … [speaking together]
Brian: The Karaka sales, she drew us into that, and so that was part of our experience of life, you know, where your kids take you.
And of course the other aspect of where your kids take you, was Merrick and Jo – Merrick did farm managing and he’d go from this farm to that farm as a manager. And we got to … oh, numerous places – Beckford Station down here at Onga; [Onga Onga] Woodland Station up at Raupunga – Mossmans; Akitio Station on the Coast there, which was beautiful; and then Rangiatia, round on the western access road of Taupo.
Garethe: That was Maori management. But the sad thing was that Akitio where they were, that was when Luke was drowned – it was a swimming pool that was just not maintained, and it was terrible – dreadful affect …
Brian: It was a neighbouring farm where Jo had got the job of mowing the lawns to make extra money. She mowed the lawns at the local school at Akitio. And then she was a pretty sort of hard working girl – she took on this other job of mowing these lawns on quite an extensive lawn set up. I went there once and helped her. And the people lived in Taupo, even though this was a big flash fairly modern home on this particular station, they lived in Taupo because they were wealthy enough to do so, or whatever. And the swimming pool was fenced off, but neglected. But while Jo was mowing, the little boy had managed to climb the fence or something …
Garethe: And the terrible thing was, Brian had made slides for the kids, you know, when they were small and Luke loved that. There was a slide, and he climbed on that and … And because it hadn’t been maintained they had helicopters out there, and they couldn’t see him in the sludge …
Brian: You couldn’t see him in the water, it was all murky.
Garethe: It was terrible … dreadful. The worse part of that, Frank, is that – there is this thing, it was just starting to rear its ugly head at that stage, of child abuse, you know. So the Police … you know, there was – the questioning was …
Brian: How did it happen? [Speaking together] ‘Cause it was their duty to look into it.
Garethe: … had she done it. But that was not a good time. [Speaking together]
Brian: But anyway, that all settled down, and it was proven to be a pure accident. But it had a bad affect on the marriage and what-have-you, and eventually they parted company.
Garethe: But they’ve never divorced, and we still say …
Brian: And he lives around here nowadays too and he’s still part of the family.
Garethe: And they eventually had another little girl, later, but she … and this is the interesting thing, she may well be interested, because the ones that come later never get to know what went before, and have difficulty understanding it sometimes.
Now coming back to BD Liley, the plumber – once you’d set up business you were there in the same area for how many years?
Brian: I suppose I worked out of Mum’s place for about four or five years, and then by way of there being a complaint about me operating a business in a residential area, we bought the property in Karamu Road and immediately moved the business into the old shed there. We worked like that for some years, and a new bank manager turned up at our bank. And we got to know him and he seemed quite friendly and helpful …
Garethe: What happened was, Frank, he tripped over some flashings – he’d come down to see us …
Brian: One day he came down to the shop, out of the blue. And he said “you’re operating a business bigger than this silly little shed. You should put up a building on this property.” He said “I’ll put up the money”. So it was just like that, so …
Garethe: He was the first bank manager that ever came near us.
Brian: And so we built the building. And so … yes, we carried on ‘til … I was in my seventies, wasn’t I? When we retired?
Garethe: Oh, yes, we were both in our seventies, because we were still doing the … you have to go out and get business, Frank. A lot of people wait for business to come in the door. [Speaking together]
Brian: Well there were people would come into the shop, and then they’d say “would you come to my house and advise me?” [Speaking together]
Garethe: And a lot of them were working.
Brian: So every evening, Garethe and I would set off from work with two or three addresses to call on. And a little amusing aside to that was – in the winter times particularly, I would go into the house and Garethe would sit in the van outside waiting for me, and quite often the evening meal was being prepared in that house. And I’d discuss the matter with the people and take measurements and what-have-you to prepare a quote. I’d get back out into the van and Garethe would say those people are having steak for tea aren’t they?
Garethe: Steak and onions – I could smell it on his clothing.
Brian: And of course we were a bit hungry at that stage of the evening. But yes, that extended our day a bit, so it was … But collectively I think, it was nearly fifty years that we were actually active in the business.
And this would what – be four generations, plumbers?
Well, Dad’s father was a builder, so it was Dad, myself, and then Simon still as an associate to the trade … three generations.
But now one of the Masters family is a fully-fledged plumber in town, and ironically he can call himself Masters’ Plumbers.
Garethe: Yes. And he knows Simon, and they’re mates.
Brian: And they’re great mates.
Is he down at the old Masters property?
Brian: He was working from there, I don’t know whether he still is – Tim. Nice chap – he’s doing quite well, I understand.
Garethe: And of course Peter had a godson from Fred’s family. You see the second world war took out so many people, didn’t it? And Fred Masters, who married Molly … Molly – I can’t think.
Brian: No, what was the …
Garethe: Anyway …
Brian: ... married name of her sister?
Garethe: He inherited it, and then Peter was godfather to one of the boys, Tony.
Brian: Tony Masters, and [?] [speaking together] was godfather to Kerry Masters – he went to Australia. But that’s interesting – that property was originally … fronted onto Windsor Avenue as it is now – it was called Selwood Road. And the old house is still there, and what the grandparents first line of business was, was a hop garden. And the property in its glory day, was just about from Windsor Avenue to St Georges Road.
Garethe: And back the other way.
Brian: And it got through to Howard Street too, while young Fred was in charge of it, and Tony. And the property round in Crosses Road, so he got very big in the fruit growing business, but it was the family property. And I can remember a family Christmas there on one occasion, and Lester was there. And at one stage of the evening Lester and I wandered out and started to walk off down alongside the first row of apple trees there. And he stopped and looked at them, and he said “by joves, you know, some of these trees must be fifty years old, ‘cause I remember planting them”. And so we got talking, and he said “my first job when I left school was to take out the hops and to start planting apple trees”.
Garethe: But then, Frank we’ve got hops growing here …
Did you plant them?
… and I said to Brian … it was a pot plant that Peter got us. But the family also were potters over in England, from Kent, and we’ve got pottery there that was made by the family. And a lot of it’s in the Victoria and Albert Museum, we found out.
Brian: As novelty pieces, they’d make little items, and as decoration on them they’d have hops.
Garethe: Was the hops, on them.
Brian: We’ve got one or two pieces here.
Garethe: Yeah. But the other little story about that was, we didn’t do an overseas … everybody seemed to go OE but we didn’t go ‘til 1998. And while we were there we were in Kent and we were with a couple that we knew, and we were driving around the back areas of Kent …
Brian: And I was taking great interest in the oast houses as they call them over there because of my ancestry association with hop growing. And I said to – John was driving at the time – I said “just stop here – I’ll get a photo of this particular oast house”. And so I did. We came home, and this was among our collection and we got it enlarged into a reasonable picture because of its association, and had it hanging on the wall. I think it’s still there, with a photograph of the hop kiln as we used to call it, here in Selwood Road. And they’re above each other in there. [Speaking together]
Garethe: Because Nene was born there.
Brian: And subsequently we used to – by way of our interest in art – we used to go to Colin Blackmore … Colin and Beryl Blackmore’s art exhibitions in their building in town where they started upstairs, and then subsequently at the Long Cottage Gallery out there in … Middle Road was it? No, Iona Road. And we bought – there was a picture there of an oast house. And I didn’t recognise it, and the guy was there that painted it and I said to him, “that’s a genuine existing Kent oast house.” And he said, “yes it is.” He said “I sat here in the paddock and painted it.” I said “good – I’ll buy it.” So we bought it home and we compared the photo, just out of … well, it was some days later … we suddenly realised they were one and the same. [Speaking together]
It was the same one.
And I’d taken a photo of the very one. [Speaking together]
Garethe: Because it was an unusual oast house. He said when he painted it, he said “it was unusual in that it had a sloping verandah, and a lot of them didn’t have that.” So we see this one there, and this photo of ours and I said “look at this – it’s just …”
Brian: And it’s recognisable by that verandah. I think the verandah roof – lean-to roof – up against the side of the building is actually a horse and dray … originally a horse and dray shed, that sort of thing.
Okay, well now you’ve retired – what are your interests now? You still have an interest in art, obviously?
Yes, in art. Not active, it’s a fairly passive interest. I’m not an artist myself, I haven’t tried myself. But other than that, family is taking up a lot of our time by way of – in particular our older daughter Jo is suffering badly from kidney failure, and we’re supporting her as much as we can. And our other active interest is this Founders Group that you probably know of?
Yes, people have asked me whether I wanted to join.
Garethe: I know. We just joined up, mainly …
Brian: Really because of Etain, I think it was …
Brian: … and Valerie.
Garethe: And then my other sister, Alison, and Lyn …
Brian: They joined up too.
Garethe: Yes. And what’s been of interest in that, is that … you see, we’ve got so many relations and family around here, Frank, that just keeping up with them [speaking together] …
Brian: Visiting our friends and relations is … you know, satisfies us sufficiently. We’re not outgoing people really, are we?
Garethe: Yes. We don’t belong to clubs. When we first came here they were just starting up the golf course down there … [speaking together]
Brian: So I joined up.
Garethe: … and Brian and I thought ‘good – we’ll be family members’. Well it didn’t take five minutes before – no, it’s men’s club and women’s club, and we weren’t interested in that, [speaking together] so we didn’t join.
Brian: And also, I finished up doing more plumbing over there than I did playing golf, so I resigned.
Garethe: But that’s the other thing I’d like to say about us. We were always being approached by people for things – we gave lots of things away in the business. We didn’t do it as a big statement or anything. At Akitio we supplied a lot of the goods. We had an agency [speaking together] for Hoover.
Brian: They were building a community hall there, and for a while there we had a white goods agency for Hoover products. And when we pulled out of it there was residue stock had to be got rid of, and so we donated one to the Mayfair School to raffle it, and we gave one to the Akitio Hall. I think they were both washing machines, weren’t they?
Garethe: One was a refrigerator I think – yes.
Okay. Well is there anything that you’ve forgotten to tell me? Did you ever fish at Waikaremoana?
Brian: Oh, yes – quite a bit. Quite a bit, yes.
It’s a wonder that I never saw you – I spent half my life at Waikaremoana.
Garethe: Did you? Well you would’ve known Percy Watson?
No, we used to go and stay over at the Lake over at Marauiti.
Brian: Oh, yeah. No, we didn’t …
Garethe: Right. Well you see …
Brian: ‘Course we went up to those areas, but we didn’t go down there.
Garethe: We used to come across the Wills family up there, because Fiona and I were great friends – our friendship never ever faulted, and when she and John got married we went up there an awful lot. When they used to come to town in their big red truck with rolls of … [speaking together] netting and wire and things …
Brian: Netting and fence posts and shingle and stuff on this truck.
Garethe: … and sleepy boys with them – they’d come and put the children to bed. [Speaking together, indecipherable]
Brian: And we did a – I did a lot of work up there and we used to visit up there.
Yes – we used to go up on our Rotary Club and work at Kaitawa.
The school aspect of it.
Great place to do nothing.
Garethe: Wonderful. A place of tranquility and peace. And I’d gone up there as a child, you see – during the war, Dad was kept back here. He’d signed up for the Air Force, but he was kept here as a …
Brian: Essential industry, weren’t they called?
Garethe: …and the Americans had joined the war by then, and Dad used to service their boats that came in. And also as a result of that he got given a lot of ping pong balls and things that you couldn’t get, and we used to take them up to what was then the hostel, because … to try and keep staff there because it was so remote, they had trouble keeping staff. And the first game of ‘Battleships’ I played was on a printed form that Dad had got, because they’d give these things to Dad. So we went up there as children. And then later on Brian went up and did all the plumbing on the cabins.
Brian: No, I didn’t do … I renewed spouting on the … we stayed in one of the cabins and had our meals up at the Lake House – apprentice and myself – as we renewed all the spouting on the individual little cabins … the old cabins that used to be there.
Garethe: ‘Cause you could walk from the Hostel down to that area.
Brian: And we took my mother up there on one occasion, Garethe and I, just as a nice little trip – this was before we had a cottage there – and stayed in the Lake House as guests, and did ourselves proud sitting in the lounge and looking through that great big picture window …
Garethe: Glass window.
Brian: … that looked right down the lake. It was just beautiful. Oh, some people it doesn’t appeal to, but the majority I think it does appeal … it means something to.
Garethe: And I think we’re starting to see more and more, Frank, that quiet time to yourself is as important as anything. We’ve moved this frenetic pace faster and faster. For us now, we’re really enjoying this part of our life. We feel we’ve earned the right to sit and do things that we either do, or
Too much sitting isn’t good for you, really.
No … no.
Brian: [Chuckle] So the doctor said the other day when I complained about my knees. He said “do you exercise much?”
Garethe: But Brian’s dealing with a condition ….
Brian: Oh, I’ve got a girdle on at the moment holding myself in, because last October they opened me up because I blew up out here like a pregnant woman. And they had to drain my stomach and sort out what was wrong, and they couldn’t. So they found my appendix was on the wrong side, and it was a twisted bowel. So they sorted that out and sewed me up. Well, his sewing wasn’t very good. And it’s … the inner thing is … and I’ve got this blimmin’ great hernia that sticks out here, like a woman’s breast. So I wear a girdle to hold it in, and I’m supposedly going in in about two or three months’ time … yeah, have a repair done.
Okay, now is there anything that you’ve omitted to tell me?
What developed – once we went into the heating business, there would always be an annual conference of the heating industry, which was … I had originally been in the oil … the Visor fireplace and then I got an agency for Warm Air oil fired heating. And so we did a bit of that, and there was one or two business conferences for that – Warm Air outfit would throw a conference. And you didn’t come to those. Ian Whittlestone, who was the Napier agent – we’d take his car. He had a flasher car than I did – he had a Mercedes, so we’d go in his Mercedes up to the Auckland conference. And that sort of started this conference thing, and when the wood heating took over from the oil heating industry by way of the first big rise in oil prices, the wood fire heating industry developed and Warm Air industry started to make solid fuel heaters as they had done originally, and one or two others – Masport started to make them, and it developed and we would go away to the … We belonged to a group called the Heatshop Group, which was a …
Garethe: That developed later, didn’t it?
Brian: That developed later as specific dealers in districts getting together to pool our advertising and that sort of thing. And they used to have a conference, and some of the manufacturers used to have an annual conference. So sometimes we’d go away for business conferences twice a year and live the high life in a flash hotel somewhere.
Garethe: But nevertheless, that was when – you see, when I think about it now with accounts and things like that – we would’ve had accounts from one end of New Zealand to the other …
Brian: Oh, the firms we dealt off, yeah. [Speaking together]
Garethe: … with firms that we dealt with, and great associations with them all, didn’t we? We made some wonderful friends. And so in a way it would be a bit … I suppose like people that belong to Lions or Rotary, or things like that. It’s an extended network of people.
Brian: There’d always … in association with those conferences, and I guess all industries have them to a large extent … they would have a social evening towards the end of the conference. And one that sticks in our minds was – I don’t know where we were, but we’d got on a bus, the whole lot of us, and gone to this sort of old time hotel somewhere, and it must have been still in the city somewhere. And it was a Fawlty Towers evening, and these people – well, the guy that did Manuel – he actually came from round here somewhere.
Garethe: He came and did it here, I think.
Brian: They used to do it up at the Peak, didn’t they?
Well these people – the three of them were experts – they were brilliant. And we were in fits of laughter for the whole evening. It was just madness.
Garethe: I thought you were talking about another one that we went to and it was Billy T James, and he was …
Brian: He was live there, yeah.
Garethe: Oh, he was wonderful, and really he was … [speaking together]
Brian: He was a really talented guy.
Garethe: … and a real singer – perfect singer. I mean he did this joking bit a lot. And he was one of the ones that I think started to break down some of these barriers that … because let’s face it, Frank – and you may’ve or may not’ve seen it – there’s still some very, very prejudiced people here.
Well the Maoris didn’t like him, at all.
Brian: Yeah … no. No, they … [all speaking together, some indecipherable]
They didn’t see the funny side, and he wasn’t taking …
... from that point of view, really.
Garethe: No. No. But he did break down some of those barriers, and I’m glad to see them go, because when we moved in the polo cross circle areas – and Brian’s just come back with Andrew and Ben yesterday, from a job over here, with the Stones, and Dave Stone. And for years he was …
Brian: A Maori couple out at Pakipaki that I’d always looked after.
Garethe: Yes. He was in Maori Affairs – very high up in Maori Affairs.
Brian: And now they’ve carried on with my daughter and her partner.
Garethe: And you see the local people down here … Mrs Kamau … it was so funny because we used to look after her. And of course when Arthur’s daughter married Karen Crawford, Arthur rang me up, and he said “now, keep in touch with her, because she’s out there in a group”. Well, we just became part of the community there, and it was just wonderful. But Mrs Kamau, who was a relative of the Crawfords – she used to get cross when Podge went and did anybody else’s plumbing – she’d say to them “Mr Liley’s my plumber! Mr Liley’s my plumber!” No – we’ve made great friends. And of course, we have to remember that we came out here and there were dreadful things done. And as I say, that book there doesn’t let a lot of people get away with a lot of stuff that they’re … And I just think, ‘you were so ignorant, you people’.
Okay, well I think that’s probably just a nice note to finish on. Thank you very much for sharing the Liley history with the rest of Hawke’s Bay. Thank you, Garethe, and thank you, Brian.
Garethe: No … and thank you, Frank.
Original digital file
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Interviewer: Frank Cooper