Cuttance, Brother Stuart Henry Interview
Good afternoon. Today is Monday 27th March 2021. I am about to interview Brother Stuart [Cuttance] from the Marist Community in Taradale.
[Father John Craddock is also present, speaking occasionally]
Right. Well my first contact with Hawke’s Bay was when I joined the Marist Brothers. I went to do a novitiate in Highden – that was in the Manawatu – and when I finished it there was a chap who wanted to go to the Islands that [who] was actually working in the winery here … Mission Winery … and he wanted to go to the Islands. And he told me in confidence: “Well, there’s not much future here because what we’ve got here is a winery that has a fairly low output, and it seems to be like a cottage industry.” That’s in winemaking, all right? So what my input was – I looked around for what I could do to increase production, because that’s what you really want … if your production increases, your income increases at the same time. So one of the first things we did because we were short of wine, we made liqueurs, and they were quite successful. So we worked on that; and then – there was a gradual increase in volume of grapes too, because we started to look round to see where we could put perhaps more grapes in, because the market was there – and use that for sale of wines. So instead of being a cottage industry we gradually increased production.
Well, I continued on there initially, and then I was sent to France to pick up whatever information I could from there; and it involved learning the language and so forth. And I brought back a few ideas that we did use and could use to improve our standard of production; and from that gradual increase of say, for example, sixty tons, we ended up at the present day with about over three thousand tons we can now handle, which is quite a big … But it wasn’t done by me, I only went as far as lifting our initial production probably to ten times what we were originally doing; the increase came from the person that [who] took over from me, and that was Paul Mooney. [Have] you met him?
No – well he was the chap that I think made a mention for me to see you; but you’d be better to pick this up on his behalf [with him] because this is only half the story. I went so far, but he continued on; that was the way it went. And today it’s quite a successful business and it’s a source of income for us, basically, ‘cause we’re a group; and before we were relying mainly on returns from farming. We had some good men in that, but one or two died and so forth and it brought this more to the fore. They began to invest in it and put capital into it to get it started. And that was done, and today it’s a successful business. So that’s my basic input there … the initial input, and he continued it on and with the finance given to him he was able to build it up and compete with other wineries. So it’s been quite a successful period of time that this has gone on – that was from the fifties to today where it’s a moderate size winery – so it just simply takes its place among others in Hawke’s Bay and other areas of New Zealand.
And the name of the company?
Mission Vineyards. It’s a Marist … it’s [the] Catholic Church. And I think it’s been quite good because we’ve got an aging body, and I think with household expenses and so forth, that was quite well received and quite needed as well, so that has continued on to the present day, and it probably will continue on to the future because I can’t see them dropping out of it now.
When I left here I went to teaching. I had to do a bit of work before that, and I went to St Bede’s and taught there. I taught in Samoa; came back here to New Zealand and I was in Wairoa for seventeen years. And while there I did work with dyslexic kiddies … kiddies that have a slow learning capacity … just bring them up to a level where they are able to go back to a class and complete work there; or if they’ve been there a while, try to get them a job if they’re at an age where they could go on and find a job. So I did that for nine years, and that was with a group called SPELD, and there was quite a need for them up there because there was nothing there then. But since then, I think actually there’s a woman at the college what she did was … because she had a dyslexic son herself, she’s done a bit of work to try and get the kiddies into a situation where they can continue on with studies like an ordinary student. And I think that’s been quite successful.
So whereabouts is this?
This is Wairoa, up north of here. It’s about a hundred ks [kilometres] north of here. It’s not far from where the … you know, the launch site is for the …
Yep, that’s right. So that’s the area I’ve been interested in. Once a kiddie gets behind in class, whether it’s secondary or primary, it’s very difficult for them to join it or to continue in it, because they’re missing so much that it becomes impossible for them to keep up with it, because they haven’t got the basic; they’ve missed out on too much. So what SPELD and other groups such as that do, they get the kiddie up to a level that they can enter back into a class and continue on as a normal student. They have to work fairly hard to do it, but they can do it if they’re really interested, and most of them are; and of course they get the support from their parents as well. So that’s another aspect of the work I’ve been doing.
So how many of those children were there compared to the rest of the school?
Well there’s sixty thousand students in that position in New Zealand, so it’s quite a major problem. It’s now recognised by the government, but before this it wasn’t even recognised by the government. But now they are making provision for them and trying to get more teachers into looking after those ones without say, the need of the societies such as SPELD, I’m talking about. It’s quite good; it’s quite necessary too, for that kiddie to be a normal person, and they can be if they can keep going, they can qualify in whatever field they want to go into once they get their feet on the ground and continue on at the same level.
What year would that’ve been?
I was there from … ooh, hold on … I’d better go back from where I left; I left [a] couple of years ago; I was seventeen years there.
Father John: Round about 2004 we were in Ngaio together, and you left from Ngaio to go to Wairoa …
Brother Stuart: That’s right. Yep.
Father John: … so that’s seventeen years on from that, 2003 perhaps; that took you through to round about 2020, and you’ve been here two years.
Brother Stuart: That’s right, I’ve been here a couple of years. So that’s more or less the background to what I’m doing.
Father John: The dates earlier on, Stu, were not clear as to what date you entered; what you’ve done before you entered the Society of Mary …
Brother Stuart: Oh yeah. I was a pharmacist before I … and I think that’s the reason when I completed initial training, that I went into the winery, because with my background with science subjects and so forth, it was quite handy in the ….
Father John: ‘Bout 1952 or so …
Brother Stuart: That’s right. And the man that [who] took over from me, he was something similar, but he’d come from a different field. He was going to take food technology but he couldn’t get into it so he took physics as his majoring subject. And so he’s continued on in that; he’s been there forty years. I think I was there about thirty years in the winery. Part of the time I was there I was in charge; I worked with an elderly Brother earlier on; and I went to France to pick up information. I’ve already mentioned that, and that was quite …
Father John: That’s why he was given a French scholarship …
Brother Stuart: Yeah, it was a government scholarship, yeah.
Father John: … because of the connection. The vineyard was founded by French Brothers here in Meeanee in 1851, and it was that French connection that the French government acknowledged, and offered Brother Stuart and also Brother Joseph a year or so in France, paid for by the Republic of France.
Brother Stuart: Mmm. That gave us the update on winemaking and marketing and so forth, and it was quite handy … quite useful ‘cause then, once you applied it you raised the standard; makes it easier for yourself as well, so it was quite a good thing, and …
Father John: So in the 1960s …
Brother Stuart: Mmm. That’s right. ’64 I think I was over there.
So how did you find living in France compared to living here in New Zealand?
Well I found they were quite good, because once we had government backing, once we had government backing they were prepared to give information to you. And you’d nominate what you wanted in your work, and they’d send you to a [?]. And you might be there for a month or so and pick up information, and then you’d go somewhere else. And then what they did was, you’d put in a written report each month to the French authorities, and if you completed your course successfully they flew you back, paid all expenses on a flight back to New Zealand, so we couldn’t complain. [Chuckle]
No. And so you had to learn French; did you speak French before you went over?
Oh, you had to speak … yes, you had to speak and write French, but we went 3 months for a course and picked the language up. Yeah, I’d done a little bit in secondary, but we went to the Faculty of Letters in Bordeaux [University of Bordeaux] and worked with half a dozen different nationalities. It was quite interesting too, because you ran across people who had [a] different outlook than [from] yours, and you think you’ve got the answer but you haven’t always got it. [Chuckles] Yeah.
So did you find a favourite place in France?
I like Bordeaux; it’s quite nice, yeah. And it was close to Cognac … that’s brandy. They distil wine and take the alcohol out of the wine, and make [it] into brandy. And that actually has happened here in New Zealand; but yeah, people can do that now as well. Mmm.
But we had a Brother here … Brother Maurice … and he brought in quite a number of grapes through the Agriculture Department, and they were put into production for wine. That was quite handy because some of those varieties were well accepted by New Zealand. See, during the war with Germany, and here as well, the wines were all sweet; but after the war people didn’t need that sugar for growth and for normal purposes; they could do without it, and they gradually switched to table wines and that was the beginning of the table wines. That’s what we’ve got today, is basically table wines; some are naturally sweet. When I say they’re naturally sweet, they’re made that way, or blended with a wine that is quite sweet.
So dare I ask, what’s your favourite wine?
Oh I like a red … dry red, it’s quite nice, yeah. We’ve got Cabernet and Merlot here – that’s a typical blend with the Cabernet – it softens it a little bit and makes it presented [presentable] for more people. Marketing is … you’ve got to know what people want and provide that need; you can make what you like, but unless you can sell it via marketing you’re wasting your time. So people do watch the market; and they’ve got that in the Mission here now, a marketing system, and it’s quite successful. Mmm. And New Zealand has quite a good reputation for wines – a reasonable reputation, anyway. I think one of the best was Marlborough …
Father John: Stoneleigh? Oyster Bay?
Brother Stuart: No, no – the name of the wine.
Father John: The Sauvignon Blanc?
Brother Stuart: Sauvignon Blanc, yep. We’ve actually got a niche in that in Europe now, you know, we’ve got very good sales on it. And that’s a very good area they’re working from, and this area here, Chardonnay sells well; and as I say, reds sell well. And they were different to Australian white wines – they’ve got a very warm climate and a fairly fast maturing date. Ours is slower, and we’ve got a better type of product with the slowing up of the maturation section, and that’s quite noticeable. But reds, they leave us … yeah, they’ve got a bit of an edge on us with red wines.
But these wineries make a range of wines to suit various people as long as there’s sufficient interest in it they’ll put it out, and that’s a sales point for them and it’s built in with their production, [as] long as they maintain the standard that’s required. Yeah, if you drop your standard – you can actually do it and make a mistake or alter something – but if you do it too often you can often lose your market. You’ve just got to be careful how you market them, what you’re marketing. You’ve got to suit your customer, ‘cause they’re the people you’re depending on for sales.
So with the white wine, how long should you keep it before you drink it?
Depends on the wine. Certain varieties … Sauvignon Blanc … that’s got an initial flavour that comes in with the vintage. A dry white wine will develop over the years; you might keep it for five or six years, might be ten years, and it’s developing all the time. But those others are short-lived wines and might’ve lost their initial aromatic character; they’re not much good for marketing because people … they’re not getting what they’re looking for in that particular type. Yeah.
And what about red wines, how long should you keep those for?
Oh, red … Europe in the past has actually kept red wines for quite a time, probably up to twenty or thirty years in some cases, but you pay a big price for it because you’re tying up capital, you see. But they’ve cottoned on to what we’re doing and other areas are doing, where they bring them through much earlier by fermentation and various techniques; and they can have them out at eighteen months. And also they bring in an oak taste, and that can quite improve the character of a red wine; and that’s done quite a lot – except it’s very expensive. A cask is worth $1,000, so if you’re trotting out say, a thousand or so litres of a red wine you’ve got to be careful you don’t go overboard just like any other business. You’ve just got to watch your income and your meeting of calls on your accounts. You’ve got to treat it just as an ordinary business, except it’s primary; it’s not secondary. Wine production is a primary production industry. I think here in Hawke’s Bay we do have a pretty good climate; I hope it doesn’t change too much with the climatic change. It may, it could make a difference, but we’ll have to wait and see. It’s a long term problem, isn’t it?
So you’ve got two sections with a winery, ‘cause what you do to your grapes before they’re turned into a wine – you’ve got all the changes that are made by people who work in the vineyard, you know, spraying and pruning and everything else; and soil changes you want to make if you want to make certain changes – that influences the wine too, so you’re depending on other people as well as yourself. You’re making the wine, sure, but you’ll be working with what’s basically come in, and that’s quite important; you don’t bring in a poor product. In France for example, if the product’s not up to standard nor [for] a wine, they don’t use the name. They sell it any other way but they’ll never put a name on it as a top wine – well they can’t, anyway, ‘cause they’d lose their customers if they did. And it’s the same here except it’s not as critical as over there. But you can make perhaps one or two mistakes in some way, but if you do it too often your production and sales are … well production’s not affected, but the sales are affected so it’s based on that relationship.
So you were mainly involved with the making, not the selling?
No, I never did any selling; all I did is I made it. And if they were wanting a wine type … for example, we’ve got it here now – [have] you ever drunk a rose?
Well that’s a new variety on the market now. And if a person is in a winery and he wants a market, he’s got to look at that – “Have I got a place here?” And if he finds he has he’ll produce; so that’s sort of how it works.
So the market controls …
The market is controlled by the needs of the customer, but that’s probably other industries as well I suppose, whether it’s farming or any other way, isn’t it? You only produce what you can sell and make a living or a profit out of it. Mmm.
But I think you would be worthwhile having a talk with Paul Mooney, because I’ve just given you the initial phase. But he’s been here forty years now, so I think if you asked him and told him you were interested in continuing, and I’ve talked to you, he’ll put you through and he’ll add a number of technical advances that I never had; well he’s got to have them to control production along those lines. You know where he is?
I will find him.
You know where the Mission is?
He’s in the winery at the bottom of the hill. Paul Mooney, mmm, he’s a good man. Mmm. He’s done a great job.
I’m interested in asking you what was it like living in Wairoa?
Living in Wairoa? Well, it’s got a bad reputation, but I think … I’ll give an example. Up there, what they did one time – the TV crowd – they gave free alcohol to the gangs. You can imagine what happened after that – it was just stupidity. There are two gangs up there; there’s the Mongrel Mob live in the cities, and …what’s the other crowd?
Black Power – they live individually all round the country. Orphans [?Auckland’s?] controlled by drugs too, ‘cause that’s where they make their money; and it’s pretty tough on other people when they do it. But they’ve got about … I think it’s seventeen or nineteen police up there; it’s quite a big crowd, in case something goes wrong. And they can draw on other areas, but normally I never had any trouble with them, not that I ever made contact with them; I might have spoken to them in passing or something like that, but I never had any need to … when we were up there I was doing a bit of teaching with these kiddies. That was at the school level. Well the only thing is, at the secondary school they solicited for new members, and that was a bit heavy going because some of those kids had no family background at all, and they grabbed them. But unfortunately the gangs would capitalise on this, and they’d say, “Well we’re looking for a source of TV”, [televisions] say, “you find some for us.” And what they would gradually do, they’d keep doing things like that and eventually they’d bring them in as members. Before that they’re not members, so they do these things to join up. So that wasn’t too good. And also with the drugs … to get the kids … for a while there what they were doing – they had marijuana cigarettes laced with P [methamphetamine]. So that’s hopeless for kids, you know, that was heavy going. So you know, they don’t worry too much about morality – they just go ahead and make their money, but … tsk!
They’re not the only ones there of course. There’s others there who are doing quite good work so … it’s mainly primary industry, there’s no secondary industry there. All they may have now, is I think they were talking of putting the rail through to there; that would stimulate interest up there in Wairoa as far as jobs are concerned.
Which side of the river did you live on?
Oh I lived on the south side. Do you know much about it?
No … I’ve been going there to interview people.
Brother Stuart: Oh no, I quite enjoyed it, but in one way coming down here, I can medical attention I wouldn’t get there. They were good in what they did, but they were limited in what they could do, and with the staff; but here, if you’ve got anything wrong with you there’ll be some area that will look after you. That’s good; I think it’s an excellent thing. That’s if you want to get rid of a problem or [be] treated for a problem.
So did you go anywhere near Lake Waikaremoana?
Oh yeah, I’ve been out two or three times, yeah. Yeah. That’s quite good … beautiful isn’t it?
It is. There’s a lot of country up there …
Yeah, there is.
… and there’s lots of stories and a lot of history for that area, early history.
Yeah, that’s right.
I take my hat off to you teaching children like that … it’s a special gift.
Well you get to know the kids very well too, you know. I found once they get to know you, they’re okay. I did another area in Wellington, and they were mainly street kids. And that was quite interesting.
Can you talk to us about it?
Well, what it was … it was called … I’ll think of the name of the place. Kids would go there
Father John: Kaiwharawhara?
Brother Stuart: No …
Father John: Where your cousin or nephew was principal?
Brother Stuart: My nephew was principal there. But I’d just come back from Samoa, and they said they wanted somebody there, so I went there and that was quite good … get to know the kids, because they’ve got a bit of a reputation; some of them were hard shots. And I think with the police … the police were quite good because if a kid was behaving himself, even though they want him, they’d leave him alone if he behaved himself; [chuckle] which is fair enough. And you were teaching them …
Father John: Where was this?
Brother Stuart: I’m trying to think of the name of the place.
Father John: Are we speaking of Christchurch, or Wellington?
Brother Stuart: No, Wellington. I spent five years there.
Brother Stuart: No, oh, no, no – it was mainly in the town.
Father John: On the way up to Ngaio?
Brother Stuart: Yes.
Father John: Yep – the Ngaio Gorge, and that was the …
Brother Stuart: Alternative Education. A kid’d get into trouble, and it’d be something like what I’d do in Wairoa, but that was more with the schools. This was to get the kids off the street if they could, and back into the class or whatever it was, mmm. But they were good kids. I mean okay, they had problems, but that’s how it goes.
But yes, my nephew was … where is he now? He’s up in Gisborne now … teaching up in Gisborne; but he took that on for a few years. But again, you take the kid as far as you can; get them up to the level where they can go back into a class and be accepted in a class, and work at the same level as the other people. That’s half the battle. They’re part of, otherwise the kids are talking about things that they’re doing and what-have-you, and they’ve got no relation to it if they’re not keeping up with them; works out that way.
So where did you actually go to school yourself?
I went to St Bede’s in Christchurch – that’s my secondary. Primary, I went to a place called Titter Creek; you would never’ve heard of it, I don’t suppose. It was funny you talking about that …
Father John: In Southland?
Brother Stuart: In Southland. A chap came into Wairoa, and I said, “Where are you from?” He said, “I’m from Southland, from a place you’ve never heard of.” And I said, “What is it?” “Titter Creek.” I said, “Well I went to school there.” [Chuckle] Small place isn’t it? Small world. Yeah.
Father John: Stuart was born in Hokitika, and his family were from South Westland.
Right – a real West Coaster …
Brother Stuart: Mm-hm.
Father John: From Martin’s Bay and Jackson’s Bay.
Brother Stuart: Down the bottom end. [Chuckles]
Right … do you miss it?
Oh no, I never lived down there – that was back to my grandfather [and] my father. They used to have a boat there … every three months for bringin’ supplies. They were going to make a port there for work with Australia, but it was impractical because they’re so isolated – it couldn’t have worked. They could probably reship it I suppose, but by the time they did the cost’d be too great.
Father John: When he was school age they shifted to Southland.
I actually liked listening to the people from Gore …
Brother Stuart: Oh, a hard ‘R’. Yeah, that’s right; that’s the Scottish. Number of Southlanders have that hard ‘R’. I’ve got a touch of it myself.
Father John: We went down together just last month for a fortnight, visiting the places of his origins.
Mmm. Yeah, met people that … they’re distant relations and what-have-you, ‘cause we’ve been away from there for a wee while. Yeah.
So did you go back to where you actually lived?
Where they lived, yes – Martin’s Bay, yes. Not Martin’s Bay, Jackson’s Bay. My grandmother came from Martin’s Bay; that’s just before you get to Fiordland.
What year would they have come out here?
Oh, I think about … time of the gold rush I think, when the Coast had gold. I think they were miners when they came out.
And they came out from England?
Came from England, yeah. Oh, I think my grandmother came from Ireland; the Cuttances came from France actually, so that was one thing about it … I think they might have been tied up with the Revolution somehow, I’m not sure about that. [Chuckle] My father was from West Coast; he was actually born down West Coast, and when the war came he put his age up and went to France. And while he was there he got badly gassed with mustard gas – he’s buried with a gas shell – and they shot him back to New Zealand. I think they thought he would die, but he struck a good trip back and it was summer here and he worked outside; it was quite good. But he used to cough terribly, and what they used to do … he’d go to Dunedin and have … collapse a lung, flood it with oil – olive oil – and do both lungs and that would stop him coughing for a while and then he’d have to go back later on so this went on for quite a while.
How old was he when he passed away?
Well he wasn’t too bad actually; he must’ve had a good strong constitution. He must’ve died in the sixties. Yeah – didn’t do too badly. He was born – I think he was born after the turn of the nineteenth [twentieth] century … well put it this way, I think he was about fifteen or something in 1914 when he went to the war. Yeah. So that’s part of, eh?
And what about your mum – where did she come from?
She came from Southland, and I’m trying to think of the name of the area. It’s [a] tourist area down there now; I can’t think of the name of it, though. But she was there, and then she went as a teenager to Walter Peak and Mt Nicholas – that’s in Queenstown. She lived there until she met dad after the war, so he was still in uniform. They went down to Dunedin, the two of them, and somebody let a cracker go behind him and he fainted. [Chuckle] Yeah, just the sudden noise … that’s what I heard, yeah.
And you’ve got brothers and sisters?
I [I’ve] got one brother – two other brothers and a sister passed away. I’ve got one brother here and he is just out of Wellington, and myself.
So you were number what child?
Me? I was middle of the road. [Chuckle]
Father John: And when his family shifted to Christchurch just before World War II he went to Addington Convent School to the Mission Sisters, and they recognised his talent and directed him to St Bede’s. He then went into pharmacy after getting his University Entrance. He was in Christchurch for the Ballantyne’s fire, and when I say in Christchurch – he was a pharmacist in Colombo Street in the centre [of] town for the Ballantyne’s fire.
Brother Stuart: Thirty-nine died there … wasn’t very pleasant.
Christchurch really has had its moments, hasn’t it?
They have; and with the Muslim people now. These things blow up in various areas occasionally and cause a bit of consternation; and then quieten down. The people … probably those Muslim people will be drawn into our culture, won’t they?
Yes – more so now than perhaps if that hadn’t happened.
Yeah, that’s right.
[Looking at photos] Now, he [unnamed person, Bernard?] was in charge of the cellars in the first case [place] before I came there; then he ended up retiring from it and Brother Basil took over. And I went and worked with Basil before I went to France, and when I came back I took over from him, so that’s how it went.
But he was a British Army man, and how he joined … he was in London; and his mother was a widow and she had a crowd of kiddies … about six kiddies I think, something like that. And a Sergeant on a corner was recruiting, and he said to Bernard, “How would you like to have three good meals a day?” And he said, “a warm bed, money to send home?” He said, “I wouldn’t mind.” But he was a bit young, so he was a drummer boy for a while, and then became a soldier. And before he joined us … it was in 1913, and then when the war broke out in 1914, he went down and he saw an old man – one of our people – in Wellington. And he said, “I’m going to go back and join up.” He said, “You’re not going back and join[ing] up.” He said, “What am I going to do? I’ll go back and go mad.” “Well”, he said, “go back and go mad.” So he [chuckles] went back. [Chuckles] So I thought it was a good way to put it. He’s a lovely chap; but he was a great man.
Brother Stuart, I would like very much to thank you for giving us this information and the use of these photos; very much appreciated. Thank you very much.
Thank you, too.
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Interviewer: Lyn Sturm