Cyril Arnold (Dick) Rowe Interview
It’s the 9th of May  and I’m interviewing today, Cyril Arnold Rowe. Great friend, been in Hawke’s Bay for many, many years and it’s indeed a privilege to be able to have a talk with you today, Dick (as I call you). I think you’ve been known as Dick as long as I can remember as well. He’s with TMV Wines, which was Te Mata Vineyards for many, many years and that’s how I got to know him, from the early days. Good afternoon Dick. Welcome.
And I start on this. My mother came from Birmingham, England. She had one brother, that’s all. My father came from Cornwall. It was a large family – I’m not too sure how many. I think he worked on the land before he came to New Zealand. And both parents came to New Zealand prior to – back in the last century.
That would be the 18..?
In the late ’80s and ’90s they came out, yeah. They married in New Zealand. My mother worked for Bernard Chambers which was alongside TMV Cellars. That’s where my father met her … I think she was the governess there. They left Te Mata – why I don’t know – they went to Auckland and he was a groundsman at one of the parks there. And then two or three years later he came back and they spent the rest of their life at Te Mata.
And how many children did they have? Or how many brothers and sisters did you ..?
I had one brother, two sisters. There was girl, boy, boy, girl, and they are all dead.
You’re the only survivor.
They reckon the skinny ones live the longest. [Chuckle]
Dick, you met your wife where?
Met my wife in Hastings. She was a hairdresser – worked in a saloon [salon] there and actually met her at the hairdressers saloon [salon].
Then you got married?
Married in the English Church in Havelock.
Oh – St Luke’s?
Yeah, St Luke’s. Brought [bought] a property the old golf house at Te Mata, brought [bought] that property. Lived there ’til about 1964 – ’65. Built the place up at Tainui Drive in Havelock. Sold that, came here and been here since 1970.
My friend John Duncan, he was in that old house.
John bought that place off me.
He bought it from you?
We had some great parties in there. You looked after it well.
Yeah. [Chuckle] He burnt it down. [Laughter]
I remember that, I remember the night it burnt down.
Yeah, John was a bit of a … he was quite a player wasn’t he? [Chuckle]
He was. Great friend of mine, as it turned out in the long run. Children?
Children, yeah. One girl, one boy. I don’t know there … if you want I can whistle up the wife, she’ll know. Daughter still in New Zealand, son in Australia.
Your daughter’s name?
Sally Anne. Son, Richard John. Daughter had two children, two daughters. Son had one boy.
Now, your growing up in Hawke’s Bay?
Lived in Hawke’s Bay apart from War years. I had – it sticks in my mind – three years, two hundred and eighty six days I served in the Armed Forces.
New Zealand Forces.
Yeah, Army. We were the … they called us The Glamour Boys. We went to England – we were due to go East but Dunkirk was knocking around, and I think they shot us to England – I think we were too late. Then we went out East to Cairo, then we went to … it’s a big country … in the Mediterranean … they’re great fruit shop owners.
Greece. Went to Greece, and from Greece, went to Crete. Went back then to the desert, El Alamein, right through the desert right at the top, came back. Went up through Syria right up to the Turkish border, came back, and then the furlough started. And I was one of the unlucky buggers that didn’t draw a marble. I had to stay in Cairo until the boys that had come home on furlough, came back, because they mutinied here and they didn’t come back. [Chuckle]
What position did you hold in the Army?
I ended up a Corporal.
And the only reason I took the stripe was because I had to stay in Cairo ’til the on-leave boys came back. And ‘course – one and six a day’s not much, so I said to the Commanding Officer, “what about a stripe?” So he gave me one, and we were there that bloody long he gave me another one. [Chuckle] So as far as any rank, it was of no interest, I was mainly a driver.
And then after the War you came back?
Came back – served with my father for a couple of years. He had a heart attack. I took over running TMV.
What was your father’s name?
And he was running TMV for the Toogoods?
Yep, yep. It was owned by a Wellington crowd.
And did the Toogoods buy it from the Wellington crowd?
No, well Toogood’s married the owner’s daughter, and Warren came in as Managing Director. How they tied it up I don’t know as far as the ownership. I was in charge of – I made the wine, I ran the vineyard – I virtually ran the show, bar they did the office.
And then there was Elrick, wasn’t there?
Elrick, yes, yes.
And what are the major brands that you had? We were talking about it before?
Well we used to make a Madeira and a sherry, all those.
You know these days you don’t hear of madeira and sherry and …
No. You see, well – I don’t know anything about the wine today – not a thing. You see in my day it was all fortified wine.
And so you spent virtually your whole life there?
I spent – yeah, well Toogood’s then started the – what we used to call the apple factory. Well then I was running them both … well not running … I was the winemaker for both. And finally I cut the strings when TMV was sold to …
No, no – before that. There was a bloke – I can’t think of his name, but I think he was only going to strip it. And then that’s when Buck came in, and I was full time with Toogood Havelock, they built a factory there.
Did you spend any time with John Buck?
No, No. No, I was well out of it before Buck came.
Dick, did you play any sport?
Not much – a bit at school, but when I left school we were too busy trying to make a bob.
What school were you at?
Havelock Primary and then Hastings High. In those days – you know, you look back now – we had to walk or bike or … there was no buses or anything. From Te Mata to High School was a fair walk.
Some rode horses and …
And what other interests did you have?
Not much in younger years. After the War when I came back I got very interested in vintage cars. I had quite a number of them. I reckon I had the best – I had a Rolls Royce, I had a Daimler and I had a Bentley.
You had the best all right. Didn’t play around with the rubbish did you?
No, no. [Chuckle] And then I went from four wheels to … I got terribly interested in motor bikes. I’ve still got, I think it’s eight or nine motorbikes in the shed.
Yeah – Matchlesses, BSAs, and Ariels.
Got an Indian in there?
No, got no Yankee stuff. All Pommie, bar – there’s one Japanese ?Wight? and I used to point out to people – you’d come into the shed and I said, “what do you notice?” And they’d say “I don’t know”. And I’d say – “look underneath all those bikes”. Under all the English bikes there was a heap of oil where they all leaked oil, and the Japanese there wasn’t a drop.
Now you must have done some travelling in your time? Been overseas?
Never … I swore when I came back from the War I’d never … this is the best country in the world. I’d never leave New Zealand and I never have … never wanted to. I used to tour either the North or the South Island once a year, on the bike. There was a crowd of us, we used to … That’s what I can’t understand [?] people, because the first thing they want to do is rush overseas. They haven’t even seen their own country.
Did you match up with your biking with Don Hembrow or Don Burgess from Havelock?
Burgess – yes, yeah. rode with Burgess lots of times. Rallied with him.
He’s got a number of motorbikes.
Yeah, he was keen. Actually, he did a trip right round the outside of Australia.
And you’ve had a pretty healthy life?
You’ve kept yourself fit? What I want to ask you is I used to see you walking the streets of Hastings, down … fair walk from here … into Heretaunga Street. And I used to see you down near the Catholic Church down there, walking along with a crooked stick. Now there must be a story behind that crooked stick.
Well yes, I started to – my right leg started giving me a bit of trouble, and I was walking – I used to walk every day for at least three hours. I’d go … here to Stortford, to the boundary of Havelock and back. And that’s when I bought a straight walking stick. I was walking, and I saw a bloke with a proper curly stick – a beauty. It fascinated me. So I set to, and I kept looking round through trees and so on ’til I got onto the right tree and that was the weeping willow … twisted willow. And then I used to … in my walks if I saw a twisted willow tree I’d knock on the door of the place and ask, “could I have a such and such a branch?” I used to cut it out. And I made walking sticks here for – oh must have been seven or eight years.
So that’s how it started, and you just ..?
That’s how it started.
And you picked the best one out of them all?
Yeah, well – that’s a favourite.
My word. Wish I had a camera to take a photo of that. Simple isn’t it?
Yeah. All it is – I used to have to steam some of them. You know the twist was right but that wasn’t straight so I had to steam it to straighten it. And then I’d have to steam it and quite often bend the handle. But, no, not only that Jim, it gave me a great talking point. That was I think that interested me more than anything, is that people would stop me and say “oh … where did you get the stick?” You know – otherwise an old man walking around – nobody’d want to know you.
[Chuckle] Yep, you’re quite right. Well – I mean that’s how I knew that … you were walking down the street when I saw that stick, so I knew – that’s Stick Rowe all right. So you’ve got a fair number of them, and of course taking them away from neighbours as well – more friends that you made, and they wanted to know all about it.
And what are some of the interesting things that you can remember about Hastings? It’s changed a lot hasn’t it?
Oh big change. When I first started work I worked for a farmer just down the road from where we lived, and I used to drive a horse and cart with the pigs to the market to old Gordon Walker. That’s what – I can remember that Hastings, but as you grow you don’t seem to take much … you’ve got your own sphere of – sort of, you know, what you’re doing, your friends and so on. It’s just a pity that you don’t take more notice of … because you don’t realise that all that’s going to be gone. See in those days it was very, very narrow – well to start with the road wasn’t even bitumen from Havelock to Hastings, and very, very few cars. And those that did have cars – Dad didn’t take it to work or anything, the car was just brought out on a nice weekend to take the family out. Now, Mum, Dad, the kids – they’ve all got motor cars.
Yes they have, they pick the kids up from school and … in our days we had to walk to school.
At the earthquake I was at the Havelock North swimming baths, and it had a very, very high brick wall in the front. And there was I think about three classes of us in the swimming baths, some getting in them – I’m wrong there was none in the baths – we only got there, we were undressing. And the wall fortunately just flopped straight out like that. The swooshing of the water damn near half emptied the swimming baths as the ‘quake got swinging. But I didn’t – the family wouldn’t let us come to town. We lived in the washhouse for about a week and then we went back inside and … oh, and the cottage we were in – the chimney just fell out.
Were the baths in the same place as what they are now?
Same place they are now, yep.
They’ve just developed all that area and made it a playground.
As long as I can remember the baths are always there. I can’t remember but the story is that it was dug out with a horse and a scoop. But the Domain was always there but it was the school’s playground. Don’t know if you remember the school.
We played cricket on it a lot too, and the Cricket Pavilion and that’s all been moved around and there’s a playground for kids there in the front there – very nice too.
Dick, food – all changed now – packets of food, whereas before it was all out of the garden wasn’t it?
Oh yeah. Oh, that’s right. We grew our food. Dad used to have a … I suppose it was an eighth of an acre, and he used to hand dig it and … soon as he came home from work – into the garden. And weekends spent in the garden, and grow all our vegetables. Well we … there wasn’t the money, and there wasn’t the shops. Bread used to be delivered; Thompson’s the butchers used to deliver our meat once a week. Alec Fraser was the baker in Havelock and he used a horse and cart to deliver the bread.
No, no. Too far. I can remember … I can’t think of his name – a farmer at Maraetotora – coming in, bringing his wool in once a year. He’d be on a great big four wheeled wooden wagon. There’d be what – about four or five bales high and he used to stop at the crossroads at Te Mata, first day from home to there, he’d sleep there, then he’d hitch up and that second day he’d get to Hastings. I remember clambering up on these wool bales for a ride to school in front of these lovely … I think it was eight great big Chesdale [Clydesdale] horses. Took him two days to get to town and he used to back load chaff for the horses. He’d spend a week bringing it all in and getting home again.
Trying to think of the name that would have done that.
Rigger, Rigger, Rigger – Jack Rigger was his son. Jack was a great woodcutter.
So over the years you’ve kept pretty good health?
Yeah, good health. Once in hospital – we were coming back from the car races at Ardmore, went over the bank. Broke a rib … I was in hospital for that. And briefly, in the last ten years I had something, I don’t know what it was – they cut a lump out of my throat. And I’ve had one eye done – that’s about it.
Kept very well. Mind you, all that walking you did.
I put it down to walking.
Three hours a day.
Well, I must have been … virtually I retired at fifty-five, and then I got sick of that and went and worked for Webbs’ Design. I must have stopped work altogether when I was about seventy. And I walked up to … be about ninety-five perhaps … up ’til then. And I put that down … I’ve worn my hip out. [Chuckle]
Yes. There was Bruce Webster and his brother – Bruce was in the cars wasn’t he?
Yeah, I used to … always went with Bruce. He had a … to start with he bought a Cooper and that was a very early Cooper, it was more or less just a pipe frame with a double locker Norton motor on. And then he took the Norton motor out and bought a Porsche industrial motor and put that in. And I think that car still holds the Te Onepu Hill Climb record.
I must ask his son, Richard, who’s my next door neighbour.
Oh, are you in Havelock?
Yeah, well Owen …
He had it, yeah. Oh, well you know Havelock pretty well then.
Been there thirty-two years.
And did you do any car racing? Oh, Angus Hislop used to go too, didn’t he?
Oh, yeah Angus – he went overseas. He was actually – he was best driver of New Zealand. The scheme was they‘d get all these young ones and train them, and bet the one that wins the most races in a particular year, well the organisation sent him overseas. Yeah, he had a D Type Jag first, and then he ended up … he imported an overseas …
He was in the Le Mans or something – twenty-four hour race with Denny Hulme was he?
Yeah, Denny he was on the same team. He went over and they had to – I think they were given a lump sum and that was for … Denny of course became World Champion.
Yes he did. So you’ve seen a fair bit of life. Wonderful life. When you look at all the changes around, you wonder where everything’s going.
I don’t understand the drugs and the booze. Sure, we had booze and we played up – but hey – we respected our elders. But yeah – knock an old woman down and … it’s bloody terrible. I blame the bloody Government half the time. You don’t want to hear about that.
Soon as they took the strap away …
Oh, yeah – gone, yeah.
… you know, it’s just too easy for kids now. You know that you can’t touch them.
Mind you we were cheeky little buggers. [Chuckle] I remember when I finished Standard 6 at Havelock, we had a pretty hard Headmaster and he had a long strap and he used to love to get up your arm. So on the last day at School I nicked his strap, and I took it down to the Village after school out, and I took the bits back to him and I said “stitch them together if you can”. [Chuckle]
Oooh, Dick … so under the cover of leaving school?
And – what sport did you play when you went to Boys’ High School? Did you play rugby?
Yeah, played a bit of rugby. Sorry, but I wasn’t very keen on cricket. How would you like to be playing today Jim?
Wonderful, wouldn’t it? The money.
They’re mad. Listen they’re not playing the ball, they’re playing the man.
You dead right – they’re playing the man. That’s why all these injuries now, it’s just …
But you can see the hate in the bowler’s eyes. You know – sitting here, if there’s nothing else but cricket on, well I’ll watch cricket, but I can’t understand it – absolute hate.
We tackled around the ankles and the ball was let go and it went flying out to the … the backs were lined up like that, and there were the forwards there, so the back line could work, but now they’re right up like this and just bang, bang, bang into each other.
It’s … knock him down, knock him down. And not only knock him down, kick him.
And I look at the rugby league players and I just …
Well that’s a stupid game.
Looking in the paper this morning – they get $20,000 to be in the test side, then they lose by thirty points to something or other – they still get their $20,000 …
‘Course they do.
… for being a member of the … They should play it on ‘if you win you get paid.’
And they’re figureheads for the younger generation. And then the younger generation – pick up the paper and … drugs, booze, fight. You know – your day Jim, the younger generation looked up to you. You know, any fellow keen on cricket … all he could talk was Jimmy Newbigin made a hundred runs – did this and did that.
Now I’m quite happy to march on out of this world. [Chuckle]
So am I.
Oh, you’ve got what – another twenty years.
I don’t know whether the kids would want me around in twenty years‘ time Dick.
Well, [chuckle] … got nothing to do with them. [Chuckle]
Well this has been a very good chat …
Pretty common life.
I want to thank you very much, on behalf of the Knowledge Bank, for allowing me to interview you as well, I’m pleased.
I’m pleased to have somebody to talk to.
The knowledge that’s in Hawke’s Bay is just amazing – it is amazing.
Well, I’ll terminate this talk now in thanking Dick – as I knew him, but it’s Arnold Cyril Rowe [Cyril Arnold Rowe] – and thank him very much indeed. And all the very best, and I hope you hit that hundred mark.
Original digital file
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Interviewer: Jim Newbigin
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