David Frank Barham Interview
Today is the 9th of the 9th 2014. I’m recording an interview on the life & times of David Barham of Havelock North. David, we’ll start off by you introducing the subject by telling me where your great parents or parents, where they came from, where to and start there.
Well, thanks for the opportunity. I will enjoy reciting my personality, history and all the rest of it and I hope I don’t bore you. If I see you nodding off, I’ll know what to do. I was born in Dunedin in the depression and it was early days of the depression and that was in 1932 right in the middle of the depression and I have been asked to talk about my life. A lot of the times I think it has been a very mundane one but when some people hear they think it’s really interesting and my mother who was born in Winton and her antecedents and mine too of course, I think they came from Scotland. They got chased off their crofts and into the lowlands and they stayed there for a while & I think they came to New Zealand from Perth. My father is an Englishman and Englishman appear to be close mouthed about their pasts and they don’t sort of spread all the details around and so I know a lot more about my mother’s side of the tree rather than my father’s. Winton was where my mother and four or three other sisters. There are an awful lot of women in the whole thing and since I’ve started breeding its all boys. (laughter)
Good for the name.
Yes it is. It just brings up a little quirky thing that my tree shows the first born is a boy and that family is well contained – 2 boys and a girl and now that pattern has gone on for ages. It’s statistically quite, what do you call it, unusual and in fact I always have in the family, I always take a bet on who will be a boy or a girl and I have collected money for being right. I think I have gone right back since I was born. I’m the oldest of course and I have a brother and I have a sister so it’s going on and on and on. If you like to go and have a look at all the photographs out there of our great grandchildren it’s exactly the same, 1, 2 and always the first born is a male.
That’s interesting isn’t it. Dominant all the way through and now you’re the patriarch of the clan.
Yes, there’s nobody left older than me. I won’t say wiser.
What did they do in Winton, your mother’s family?
Dad was a banker, Bank of NZ, he’d roll in his grave that I never used the Bank of NZ. Not that I don’t like it or anything it’s just the way things were.
That would have been about what time would they have been in Winton then.
1931 mostly. They were married in Winton and I was born in 1932 and I think it’s around about 12 months after that.
Yes sure, because Winton is quite an old settlement isn’t it? I notice a lot of the buildings that are still in the Main Street have quite old architecture and the date on them. It must have been amongst the earliest part of Southland.
Yes. I think it’s probably the coach stop out of Invercargill. It’s about 20 miles- something like that. But he was there. They were both protestants – Presbyterians. The boarder of a remaining aunt, she played the organ and he, the boarder, rang the bell. I don’t know the rest of the detail.
You’d be lucky to find anything but Presbyterians in that area.
Down there I discovered early on when visiting the place that women were called Mrs David and the men Mr Bill and things like that – another little quirk of the Scottish I suppose I don’t know. But I visited Winton quite a lot. Tuberculosis was rife when I was young and two or three, two anyway, took tuberculosis and there were letters about catching the coach to Waipiata where there was a hospital for tubercular things and they were sort of very rugged journeys. I have letters and so on describing it. So it was a rugged beginning even though it was a lowland place.
Where was Waipiata?
Oh yes I know over the pig route.
No, it wouldn’t be, it goes in where Tapanui is.
Oh yes I know, the other way.
And there’s a junction there, I don’t know what the name of the junction is.
So did you go to primary school in Winton?
No I didn’t. My first conscious memory is two. One is I was standing on the chair and my mother was folding handkerchiefs and I was tucking them into the corners of the suitcase and I didn’t really know what it was all about but I enjoyed it but I can still see that. It was, what do you call it, one that holds the heat, I’ve forgotten the word, it had big tops that you pulled down ..
Oh yes a Press, a linen press
No, no, just keeps the plates and they were quite thick things and it saved the electricity.
It was on the top of the range.
Oh yes, I know exactly what you’re talking about.
And nobody told me, and I didn’t think to ask, I must have been I think 4 because I discovered years later that little memory was the fact that Mum was going to get my sister, who wasn’t born there, I think she was born she went away anyway and came back with a baby.
Oh okay, she was off to the Maternity Home. Yes that happened in a lot of our lives. We couldn’t understand where these babies came from.
That’s right. So I had a sister and then I think about six years later and my memory is, and I think it’s probably faulty, that there was a push on by the Government to, it was during the war towards the end of the war, and I somehow had the idea that the Government encouraged conception and things like that to keep the population going. Whether that’s true I must sometime find out. Anyway so that’s me and a brother & a son a few years later, a sister. The depression, looking back I’m rather pleased that I was born at that time. I think the values at that time as I’ve grown older and older and older I’ve thought very highly of how my parents brought me up and the rest of the family and they were religious. I don’t think I was allowed to actually listen to 4ZB. I was allowed to listen to 4YA.
Yes I can imagine.
Dad was in the fire and I had to walk to church, the Knox Church is one end of Dunedin and we lived just above Carisbrook in Dunedin and it was a fair tramp along to Knox. There was a perfectly good Presbyterian Church just down the road. When they first got there they actually rented a house before they bought one and that was in Ngakaho not far from the Knox Church. So I was quite fit for the weekend. I walked a long way to church. Sometimes I was allowed to catch the tram home with my father. I ate gums you know those jellied gums. They were wrapped in cellophane and he had a pocket full of them because I sat with him in the choir.
So that’s how it went on. Unfortunately we have not really been very good in any particular way but I want to think that the values I got through my parents have really helped. They have been a great gem if you like. As I grow older the gem glitters more and more. The depression meant that a lot of people haven’t got a lot of wealth or didn’t have a lot of wealth and for example Dad never bought a car. I found later on actually something quite important that I didn’t drop to it for a good few years. Mum & Dad settled in Dunedin. Dunedin had a University and both of them, neither of them had a University education but I think Mum worked in a clothing for clothes and so they were, I think she left school in Standard 6 or 5 whatever it is but she was a very intelligent person and wrote poetry. She was a very sensitive person and rather a good looking one too. So they decided, Dad or the Bank, I don’t know whether it still happens but the Banks all of them always kept the people moving. If you wanted to go up the ladder of luck then you had to move and they consciously didn’t move because she had the children, myself, brother & sister, the asset of close education to the University. And I went first, going back a little bit, the first other thing that I remember from very very young was Mum taking me to the kindergarten and I think I bellowed and kicked up a fuss but she just stalked out and left me to it. And I don’t know how long I cried but I can remember sitting on the brick wall. I could just about build the wall – it‘s that clear in my mind and , it was a brick and wooden fence, and I eventually ran away. And I just opened the door and sat on the fence. I remember that. From there I went to Caversham Primary School. I have one picture, I think it might have been primer 2 or 3 and I sometimes check to see if I missed a good one, a pretty one.
Then I went to Carisbrook Intermediate which was one of the first or the second Intermediate in NZ and just on the flats. Our house was elevated and we looked right down on to Carisbrook and then on to St [?] St Clare… the beaches. So I was handy to good things. Just a little side comment. While I was in the primers or early standards I was bigger or tall anyway but there was a bush track where I went down from the hill over the railway line and down to the Caversham Railway Station and the school was just beyond that. This track I went up to school, up and down, and there was a boy at school called Johnny Hunter and he was a bully and so one afternoon going home from school – there was a bit of a cave in the bank that the track went past and he grabbed me, pushed me into the cave and put a lot of branches there. I suppose I’d be 6 or something like that. However I can remember thinking to myself “now is the time” so I took a stick from the cave and gave him a crack on the head. He never bothered me again.
I can imagine.
And another sort of act of violence. Down the hill going down to Carisbrook, there was a steep road near Hampton Court and my mother had an irritating habit of saying “Bob Todd wouldn’t do that ” until I developed a seething dislike for him but I can remember vividly he was coming up the hill and just opposite his house actually I had my satchel as you did in those days over my front and I had a desperate urge to do him harm so I took it off my shoulder and I swung it round and banged it against his head. He fell over and looked at me and said “What did you do that for” and you know I couldn’t really tell him that it was my mother’s fault.
So why did she say Bob Todd wouldn’t do that. Was he a good boy?
Yes, she did. So I felt I couldn’t do anything. Bob Todd didn’t do it.
So then you went off to High School.
Yes, Kings High School. It was quite a new one really. No the Intermediate I was at intermediate. I was a bit lucky. It was very stringently graded. If you were or if your name was McAndrew, There was a lot of grading of those classes. And I had very good teachers and I also had the company of some really interesting kids. There was the daughter of Arthur Barnett and all sorts of things like that.
She lives in Havelock, the Barnetts’ daughter. She built a beautiful big home up in Chambers Street. Isn’t that funny.
Well that’s interesting because Brian James his father was a Barnett. His wife Jane came from South Otago from Balclutha on a farm. What name was it ?
I don’t remember her first name. I’ve met her several times. I’ll find that out sometime and tell you. She lived in a small home there while she was building this huge $2million house up in Chambers Street with probably the last of the Barnett money.
Probably the shop got burnt out and when they repaired it they sort of developed it quite differently and it had a horse out the front and a knee high great big thing. That’s Arthur Barnett. So I’d love to know…
I’ll check – I’ll find out her name anyway, carry on, you’ve said this girl was in your class and other people obviously.
Yes, anyway 2 years at Carisbrook Intermediate where I did okay I think. Then I went to Kings High School which was right next door with a couple of playing fields in between and I was actually over the railway but it was a boundary between you had to go to Otago Boys’ High School if you were on the north and if you were on the other side ..
It was zoned.
I was zoned actually. It was just over the railway line up the hill so I don’t know how we got in there. I think the… it must have been pretty lax because it was so close to Kings and a long way away from Otago Boys’. I had a good time at the school. They had cadets and I showed some, I thought, intelligence to put my name down to be in the intelligence section.
I used to lead my troops into the sand hills between St Kilda and St Clare. So we had a fairly, what shall I say, varied type of training. And so I lead at the end of each section. They used to have cadets right at the beginning of the year as we did here.
Yes we did too, we used to wear those sandpaper khaki outfits. First week or two weeks at Napier Boys’ High we used to do that.
That’s right. So I didn’t shine. I happened to find out my measurement intelligence on the Otis thing and I don’t know if it did affect me at all. I don’t think it did really but I don’t think I worked to my proper depth at all and as I went through the school I became less and less like the finer aspects of life to divert my attention so I sat School Certificate and I missed by 4 points. You had to get an average in the 5 subjects. I can’t remember. Do you remember?
No, I’m nearly your age too remember so I can’t remember some of these things.
Well, I must have had a 500 of my marks. And there was a sort of a cut there and bingo, and that’s why in the end they scrapped it because they passed really half and half didn’t. However that stirred my mother and I had a friend from Otago Boys’ who lived not very far away but he was closer to Otago Boys’ High and we made friends and his father was the Harbour Master and I think his mother was ill and so he stayed with me and by that time Mum had worked out a system to get me through the School Certificate. We had a veranda and it was very cold in the winter in Dunedin and every morning we had to turn out and she allowed us a hot water bottle each for homework and study and the only part of it I had was warm feet. And you know it’s interesting to think of food. We always had a yeast to drink and we were required to swallow it. You’d stir it up which was its redeeming feature. It became a bit competitive and that sort of helped us to manage the study thing. And we had a lovely view right out to the sea which took our imagination occasionally.
And so you eventually passed School Certificate?
Yes I did. And then the next year I was accredited. I think I might have pulled my socks up a bit and I got accredited for UE (University Entrance). But that left me with a year short of [?] Years. So I had to sit School Certificate a second time. So I went to the next year straight to University from the 6th form and I did a BA in history and geography and geology and a whole lot of related subjects. And there is the cape that I went through each day. Under there, up these stairs and there was a canteen and go down there and round that corner and you went down some steps and there was the billiard room. I didn’t do snooker much at all. It was more interesting playing all the things you could do with three balls and I actually shamefully won the 1951 billiards tournament. Well it was another sign of not doing very much work.
I[?] spent youth do you think? But we all did that. We used to go and play snooker in Hastings and we were not supposed to go near the place because they were dens of iniquity but we still went. What other sports besides billiards did you play ?
I got in the 1st 15. I did a lot of athletics and I’ve still got medals for breaking records and so on in the Otago competition and I think I broke the school record that lasted for about 5 or 6 years and so on. It was in the days – I don’t know if you know much about high jumping – but it was the scissors, then there were the eastern cut off and the other one was the western roll and that was the one I excelled at when I got that far.
So you were obviously quite competitive as a young man.
Oh yes I was.
And so while you were at University obviously – I know you mentioned to me that you headed for the hills with mates and opened a whole new page to your life.
Yes I gave up the office. First of all I had C and T and I got drawn in the 4th intake and I decided not to do that. You could of course set it aside and do it when you – but I wanted to go to University and get that over so I did and about that time I think Lyn must have asked my hand in marriage. Going over the hill down to the rugby. Those sorts of things. We lived in several places very quickly. I went to Christchurch after the BA and at the end of that day we had no money except what Lyn could earn and so I got a job in Greymouth and that was a very interesting place and the name that we had the flat under is very common round here. I think he was fireman – Rainey – I don’t know if you know the name. We had to buy a car so I bought a car. It was a Morris E.
Yes I know Morris E. Where did you put your legs ?
Well, we had the year at Christchurch and we rented a house which I nearly burnt down up in Cashmere and I was short of beer and I decided to make my own brew and it was a wooden house (laughter) and so I decided to brew it and I got a paper with a recipe on it which said boil the water until boiling. I can’t remember the other steps but I did do that. I got it boiling and then somebody rang on the telephone or something like that and I walked away from it. What I’d done it wouldn’t boil so I thought you know those enamel things with holes. Hospitals have them. Well I got some chips, not the ones you eat, and I put it in the boiler which was on 3 legs or 4 legs or something so I slid it under the boiler (laughter) and when I came back there was a bit of smoke around and I thought that’s not very good and so I went in and it had burnt a hole in the wooden floor right in the middle but underneath and my first reaction was to duck underneath and everybody had but this one didn’t and it was about two feet or less. You couldn’t get in so I had to hose it often until it came out the cellar door. And then I thought well it was a good friend of Lyn’s sister whose house it was so I thought I had better maintain it a bit. So I found a second hand shop and bought some lino and tacked it over. But I didn’t stop there. I went away and got another barrel, it was a wine barrel, and I sort of swished it out a bit and I brewed this brew in the wine barrel and I decided we had better have a party so I announced a party at the teachers’ college and everybody arrived after I had brewed it for a fair bit and so I thought afterwards it must have been a mixture of wine and beer. Anyway about all the people came and they were drunk, not good in the tummy. But we thought it was good because it was cheap. So that was our first year in Christchurch.
So then you went to Greymouth.
Yes I went to Greymouth. Never been there before and it was a very interesting place. The school was a technical college. They had those sort of things. Dunedin had one. Yes I found the place a very warm place. The climate didn’t worry us at all.
Well there isn’t one is there.
No, the flat was ….. we travelled over in this Morris E and there was me, my wife, my wife’s mother thank God, Michael who was a baby, and a dog. I got this dog in order to …… I went in Christchurch to see the baby and here was this dog named Hamish, and so I shot home quickly and looked at the newspapers I wanted a dog with a pedigree so I could give it a name. So I did that. The next day I took the dog into the hospital. Fortunately the person running the hospital was Lyn’s sister. So I went in and she said “what’s that” and I said it’s a dog. And I said I don’t like Hamish as a name and that dog’s got the name now so we can’t do it so she gave up pretty quickly about the name. And funnily enough we’ve got a Hamish but she had to wait for another two babies for that. But anyway, what else was there about Christchurch.
Well you did a lot of hunting when you were in the South Island didn’t you.
Yes I did. We came back from the West Coast. I applied for and got a job in Dunedin in Kaikorai Valley High School. It was just a year old so it was quite an exciting opportunity. So I did that and I was head of the Social Studies Department and things were going well and there were two or three people in the staff very keen on the mountains and two or three of us decided we might as well get some deer as well as just going tramping and all the rest of it. It was before the time of the helicopters but they started to come in big numbers after we had moved away really. But yes we had, I don’t know if you know the names, but the top end of Wakatipu is the Darren Mountains and Beensburn and the Routeburn and all of that and that goes right over the backbone of the Alps. So all around there we would be into the weekend or even the weekend or certainly if there was a Monday holiday or something. We would pile into the car, the four of us, and down to Gore and up to Queenstown and we got to know Harry Bryant who ran the open air buses as a tourist thing and he got us over the Dart and so we went in there in all sorts of places over into the Haast and so on so that was probably our … about 4 or 5 of us regular and we enjoyed some close scrapes, close muck ups but covered a lot of territory and we went in for bigger times, 3 or 4 weeks, and I think I’ve probably mentioned that we were there when the poor boy over the Routeburn….
Over the Routeburn. That’s over the Harris Saddle isn’t it.
Yes. It was sad, very sad. In a sense we felt you know we should have done more. They came up the river under the tutelage of quite a big man and kids from Roxburgh Intermediate I think it was and they came up the river to the huts at the bottom the old huts at the bottom where the Routeburn forked over the East Col and the other over the Harris Saddle. And we told them because we’d been there for a week that it was snowing up there and they would be silly to take these kids over there. He just wanted to get through to the round trip come hell or high water and at night they all talked and carried on not much sleep. The bad clothing and everything but anyway to cut a long story short in the morning the snow cleared and then on the evening we went right up to the snow line and it was very heavy and so we thought they’ve either got through or got down hill or something and we came back two weeks later and found that two had died. It should never have happened. One of our lot I think went to the – not Court I don’t think it was Court.
Yes. So we had lots and lots of different wonderful times. I nearly was silly enough however to expose myself crossing the Dart River which is very graded and very hard to pick. There were five of us I think. One of them was not very experienced and so we wrote and did the pendulum thing and the first one went and I said throw it back and I told them when they go across throw it back because they have somebody on the end of it. However, the last fellow panicked a bit, you could feel the googlies rolling down. So he went across and all the rest of it and he threw it in like all the others and there’s me over there. Anyway I had the longest legs, not that that makes much difference but I did manage to hop or not hop but sort of bounce which is very dangerous with a pack on. We had a great fraternity and one of the people, it was the husband of the heiress of Speights, and he died on Aspiring.
And what about deer, did you get lots of deer? And you sold those in those days or did you just eat them.
No, as we moved along we shot one and it was a nice haunch. We’d tie it up and put it up the tree and pick it up on the way back. And big big meals which the wives were willing, I don’t know if they were willing, but they did cook. Our tents were only very small for two people and you could make on a little lamp. We ate venison and got quite good at it and on one occasion we did a bad calculation and we had to eat possum.
There was no deer meat. That’s alright. You’re not the first one that’s been caught without meat.
No I know that.
There were the odd times David I almost had to do that because I used to have one or two fishing mates who would always say to me “you bring something to drink and I’ll bring the food”. And you might only be going out for a day and when you got out there about midday after you’d been walking for four or five hours you’d think it’s time to stop and have a meal and they’d pull out a few water crackers and you’d think to yourself “ I don’t believe it”, so I never relied on anyone to carry food for me. So obviously you were very sure of shooting something if you ended up having to eat possum.
We had them dotted up or under a rock if there was a couple of days and the blowflies were something to avoid. When I was on the West Coast, holidays were there of course, we had no money. It was very rough for the family. Other people were the same. I got a job in a brewery and I got a lot of jobs all over. It appeared what kids do here. They go to the shops and so on, New World and so on. It was quite difficult really and anyway I’d got a job as a rugby reporter and so I had to go round and do all these things and I fell off my bike several times. I had to get the Saturday’s game reported for Monday and so that had to be an analysis.
So you fell off your bike because you’d had too much beer from your beer job.
I had to go from Club to Club. I did two reports at the main ground. I was about 4 hours or so there. I had to do it you see to write up for the Monday. And it would be there on the desk. Everybody seems to read it. Nobody complained. But that kept me a little bit. But I got a better job as well. It was at Monteiths at Hokitika and there was Tui, that’s the labels, up at Reefton. So I had to put them down all the pubs. There were 24 of them.
Right, so you were back in the frying pan again.
Yes. Have I told you any of this?
Well there were some funny things. It would only happen on the West Coast. The Brewery was at Greymouth, that’s the biggest town, with the Tui brewery up at Reefton and down at Hokitika was the other one, whatever it was. So I had big barrels, hogsheads 72 pounds. Pretty difficult to do – it’s alright just in town because they had hooks and hatches and ….
Yes I’ve seen those on the footpath.
They were around there. Put the sack down and so on. I got a fair few – the mothers I don’t think liked the idea of me being a teacher. Nobody complained really. So I did that. On one occasion I was delivering to Jacksons – next stop is Otira. I went and dropped off about six or seven for the next week or month or something and I usually got a beer from them each time. The idea of driving and drinking didn’t come into the conversation. It was in the morning. So I drew up beside the thing and I put down the kegs and I was smoking at that time too so I sat by the bench and he pulled the beer and I suddenly remembered that I had, I was rolling my own at that time, cigarettes, so I walked out to the truck and I put my hand in to get the tobacco and my cigarette lighter and I could hear this funny noise on the other side, a scratchy sort of noise, so I walked round the back and here’s the owner of the pub, the publican, siphoning the petrol out of the truck.
Well I didn’t joke I got quite cross. I wondered why he poured two and afterwards I realised they were both for me.
Isn’t that incredible?
I said to him “Hey, what are you doing”. He said “it’s alright I’m just taking some petrol.” I said “you can’t do that, it belongs to the company”. “They don’t mind” he said. I thought by gee I’ll get the boss on to this fellow. And I said “Look I could run out before … I’ve got to go up to the next place and then all the way back to Greymouth and I’ll run out of petrol”. He said “Oh I never take enough to run you out. He had been doing this for ages. So I told the publican and he said that’s okay. Well, because they can upset the continuity of all sorts of things. Anyway I didn’t argue because I got back and he knows about it and that’s it.
Isn’t that strange? I know during the war time my father could get petrol because he had a farm and a car and across the road the neighbour had a chap working on the farm who had a motorbike and he used to come over to my father and buy a gallon of petrol. No he didn’t buy it he borrowed a gallon of petrol off my father for his motorbike and then my father was in the pub, he used to do this quite regularly but this chap burnt his bridges because he was skiting in the pub how he used to go and borrow this gallon of petrol off my father and then go back at night and siphon a gallon out of my father’s car and give that back to my father. So, it didn’t only happen on the West Coast, it happened in Havelock North too. (Laughter).
So you were actually teaching as well as doing this brewery run?
Yes. All holidays. Holidays were full up for everything. Some funny things happened there though. Our flat had two levels and it was in the bush. I don’t know if you ever saw that spooky house on the hill (famous). Anyway that’s how the flat was and the church cathedral was round the corner. We had this dog, we took it over from Christchurch. It was a mad dog. It was one of these Springer Spaniels. It was nuts, absolutely nuts. We got it from Christchurch and so we took it with us in the little car. Incidentally Lyn, when we arrived with the furniture had been in there. We bought it at a place down on the flat – poor houses and things in Christchurch, sent it over, and Lyn went up. I said go and unlock the door and we’ll get the stuff alright. So she came out crying and she said “I’m going home”.
Fortunately her mother kept the lid on but there was this pitiful bit of borer in furniture and I went in and just as I did the dog peed in the corner and it all ran down there.
It wasn’t only full of borer but it sloped a bit too.
Up above was the lounge and we had down here. And after we had been there for two or three days, maybe a couple of weeks, we were going off to sleep and we could hear this squeak, squeak (8 squeaks) and it was him in his bed, he had four, ten kids I think. A very interesting man. He got me the job at the newspaper. He was a little fellow. She was a big strong woman. In the end I went through to the washhouse and got a broom- and I went bang, bang, bang on the roof. Stopped. I thought that will fix them. Five minutes later it went squeak, squeak again. Funny, very interesting. One of the aspects of our lives is that we’ve been lucky. We’ve been able to travel and it’s one of the things that I at the moment special and Lyn too was on our bucket things. We’ve been to Australia several times. Tony Dallimore had an apartment over there so we actually went there a lot. Dunedin, Palmerston North, Raumati, I came here from Raumati. And I haven’t mentioned that in between there I was an inspector of the secondary schools.
Was this before you came to Havelock.
Yes. And I came here from the inspectorate. So I’ve had the luck of starting a new school and there are very few people who can do that in terms of a secondary school. Might be a few primary but with a clean slate and you can build the school step by step with good foundations, with good values and all those sorts of things and I think, it was me really, Lyn wasn’t part of it but she was a great support but the old heart warms when I meet students who come and say hello and all the rest of it and the fact that I think it was a successful school. So that’s just about where we’re up to now.
David, it was always interesting the school always came up with very good values, cultural, sporting wise took a while to build, but it built and built.
Yes, and it’s mostly when you take over a school as principal you’ve got a whole lot of web of some very very good, some of them absolutely terrible to difficult to change and all the rest of it.
And of course you had some really good staff working with you. Some of them were with you for ever and a day.
I’m just reading my notes here. There were just two other things. I won’t dwell on them. But somehow there must be a hunter gene because long before the deer stalking when I was probably in the intermediate, but for earlier than that, I made more money rabbiting than I did from anything else. I did other things like – there’s three things I did to get my – it sort of worries me a wee bit just how hard the kids, I know they do still, they want some money, parents can’t give them heaps of pocket money and all the rest of it, but I started in Standard 3 I think. Somebody gave me a ferret. Well I can’t remember who it was. I know the papers had For Sale ferrets. This was in 1937/8. I wasn’t all that old. I got another fellow that failed School Certificate alongside me and he got involved too. I bought two ferrets, they’re cream, not polecat stuff, and not all that big either as some of the others. Not as big as – bigger than a stoat though. So I bought two ferrets, made a cage, one for sleeping and one for pooing and so on and at the same time I built a henhouse. My parents were wonderful. I just wish I could talk to them now. So I encouraged two or three other boys to do ferreting. I knew a lot about Central Otago because I had been up there briefly for another holiday job and I bred them and I sold the bucks that I didn’t want because they are too rough. They put the rabbit in a corner and chew it away and I lose the ferret too. So I bred Two pounds for a female ferret with its teeth there which holds on to the… nipped with a pair of pliers. I didn’t think of the pain it might have inflicted. Then I had to make nets, you can buy them but they’re very expensive but I learnt how to knit them…….
No.8 wire stuff. You make the bag so that it has a draw string. And then you set the place. Some of the warrens were 100 holes and that’s pretty tricky but it’s quite a good thing really. You set them one at a time until they are all in the warren. Along the side of the railways is often the best place to do it but it was exciting in midwinter. I’ve got the China man’s invoice for a sack of skins and I got 2pounds 2/11d. The bugger didn’t give me the penny.
For a skin?
Yes. It appeared for a oncer.
Because that’s the woolly skin isn’t it.
Yes, and I used to on Sundays – we were out for the weekends holidays I could count my money and I was probably the richest person in the class. I was only 9 or 10. I took one to school one day. It caused a bit of a [?]
When you covered all the warren holes with these nets, then you put the ferret in and all of a sudden the rabbits all came out these holes and you grabbed them.
But the thing was you didn’t know which hole (both men talking). So you made sure you had nets over them all and they bolt. They don’t just sort of sneak, although they might sit there but if they get a smell they always bolt through the end. We could have 20 and what you did you rushed to the first one and shoved your heel where it was so another one wouldn’t come…out… Then you’d stretch its neck, throw it over there, move around quite a lot, so…
So you got more than one in the nets? Once you got one out and threw it to one side another one could come in.
We replaced it straight away. It was quite easy to do. Put the peg in and…(both talking). And I bought a bike and I bought a watch and a lot of things that they didn’t have to get [?]
Oh, that would have been wonderful.
And we stretched them, just like shooting them or trapping them really. You bend them over and then you peel the, remove, not skin, but fat I suppose it is.
So how did you make the ferrets come back then.
I just wait.
And they would always come back.
They would when there was nothing left.
Well they would come until the warren was empty?
Yes, that’s why we took the teeth out so they couldn’t kill them and stay in there and eat them. The guy that went with me sent an invoice for the chap on the chinaman.
Well this chap Hunter was it? Is he still alive?
I’ve no idea.
You just lost contact with him?
Yes. I still don’t mind what happens to him.
Yes, it’s interesting isn’t it? So then you’re up here as a principal of a new High School and so you had a few adventures up here too.
Oh yes. Some publicans… I think you might be referring to the time we decided to become grape growers and had 10 acres at Black Bridge. Life was getting fairly hefty and we thought we’d enjoy working a vineyard. When I sold it I actually made money out of it as so often you do.
So you were at Havelock High School for how many years ?
And you retired from teaching. You didn’t do anything after that.
Oh yes I did. I did a lot. But while at the winery we were a bit of a sort of target for people and so on. Often they had to turn off the bridge and want petrol and Lyn felt when I wasn’t there it was not too good. But however I had an interesting story and Ill start this story. We had a, I think it was a Rotary meeting and the doctor, Abernethy, brought a rifle to where we had the swimming pool, middle of the summer and I said “what do you want to do with that” and he said “I would like to shoot a tin” which means sights. And I said “Yes, surely”. Meanwhile I think we were, I certainly was, drinking gin. Not copious I thought. However, they all went home and I was sitting beside the pool having a gin and I put my hand down and a wild cat hurt me. It just went for me so and I got angry and decided to kill it. It wasn’t the neighbours it was just a wild cat. And so I went inside and got a 22 and killed the cat. I felt better for that but I decided how will I get rid of it. The winery was full of stones, (not good for digging holes) so I was just in my underpants, I had just had a swim to cool off so I decided I would throw it in the river and therefore I don’t have to dig a hole. So I went down and Lyn at the time had a little Morris Minor and so I thought I would take that and go to the bridge and throw it from the bridge. Simple!!! So I threw it in the boot and drove up to the bridge (Black Bridge, also know as the White Bridge actually) and I thought now I’ll just throw it over the middle. I had to get up on the top of the stop bank and I had to turn I couldn’t turn on the bridge so I went through to the end of the bridge where the stopbank was and there was a bit of a gate. I threw the cat over the bridge on the way and so I was completely clean as they say and I missed the bottom of the stopbank and the car went backwards with the fence on one side and the bank on the other so I thought this isn’t all this happy so I had to wind the window down and climb out through the window and go back across the bridge which normally seems to me a very short one but on this particular occasion it seemed to be a mile long because it was midnight and they were all going home from parties and so on, the people, and so I thought to myself I will just have to do it so I climbed out the window and set off across the bridge in a pair of underpants and those of you who go listening and don’t know my shape, skinny and long and not really the sort of thing you would want to mess with. And so I walked across the bridge. Well there must have been 10 cars passed and they all tooted. Some of them wound their windows down and uttered obscenities. So I had to keep on going and the tooting and the obscenities coming out from the people coming home from a party and some of them mentioned my name so I couldn’t hide. Anyway I went over the bridge into the house and asked Lyn if I could use her car. She said no. I don’t know why, I can’t remember. Anyway I took it anyway and by this time I had had another gin just for my nerves and so I ventured back over the bridge. I drove up and I could see blinking lights white and red and I arrived to meet the traffic officer and he said to me “is this your car” and I said “Yes it is” and the next question is “Why are you here, how did you get this” and I wasn’t too keen to talk to him so I just talked as fast as he did and just kept talking to him until the man with the breakdown truck arrived and so I whispered to him “get it out, turn left at the bottom” and so on. I did and the cop was still trying to write in his notebook so I eventually shot over … He pulled the car out and I went over the bridge, turned left into the garage andthe cop came over the bridge, turned left and straight on.
So once you’d sold that you moved back to Havelock North and you moved to Iona Road and then from Iona Road you moved to Villa 48 and so David when you sort of look back, the High School has come of age, it’s really very much part of our community. You must feel some pride. You were there for the foundation and bringing it to some maturity. So the other thing is of course you were part of Rotary for many years as a Rotarian but when you retired you got into finance markets didn’t you?
I did, I chose to for two reasons. John Baker, a friend of mine, a lawyer, had taken up the franchise for a finance investment company called Spicers which I think had quite a good name at that time. I just wanted… Your mates in a place like this they often talk about teachers if you teach, teach teachers if you can, if you can’t you teach sort of thing. So I thought I would like to test myself for something new. I’ve always been reasonably literate in financial matters but it was a bit of tickling up in Auckland, myself and another colleague, who went to the same University as me actually.
Yes, Auckland brushing up with this friend.
Yes and we both of us, not sure if I went first but anyway we had 4 years there and it gave me an opportunity to have an income instead of all outgoings. So it helped with keeping track of the financial area. Then after that I had always since I left the school I had done consulting for secondary schools and boards, helping boards make appointments and things of that kind or where a principal gets in strife to help the Ministry and put jobs like that in front of me. So for another four years I did that and I enjoyed that too because it was very varied. Things like perhaps indiscreet teachers in a sexual context and things of that kind. And I did that for four years too. There was a whole lot of work available in that sort of area.
And of course with all the accumulation of experience you had that sort of work would probably become very easy.
Yes, it wasn’t difficult. I put a lot of time into it. I mean if you are investigating bad behaviour or unacceptable behaviour of a teacher, you’ve got to get it right. But it didn’t weary me.
I suppose you could say that I have had a spread of work particularly in the early years. Even on the West Coast I just used my holidays. I couldn’t do anything other than that. But there are two or three rather interesting things. There’s a book shop in Dunedin called Newbolds. It was the oldest second hand book shop, I think it might have been Australasia, but certainly New Zealand. It was three storeys and I worked for him, the fellow that owned it, lovely fellow, and he had all these books, hundreds of them, and up the top floor was all dusty but people wanted to get amongst them and try and find something interesting. I worked for him for two years on Friday nights. I got to know a lot of interesting people and he got a bit ill so I had to run the shop ultimately, not forever, but it was just a job that you wouldn’t sort of think he paid quite well – it wasn’t about the money but I enjoyed it. One of the other more physical sort of jobs is I had a friend whose father worked for the Council and I asked his son “do you know where I can get a job for these holidays” and he said “Yes, come with me”. So I jumped into his car, he had a car, I didn’t, and we went up to a place, it was a quarry, quarrying bluestone which is a particularly sort of shattery type of rock. And the job was standing back while they blew a piece of the thing and it comes down in big and small boulders, a lot of big ones, so they had to pop them in other words find a bit of clay and they just put it on top of the gelignite and shatter it a bit more and our job was to take it… and break up all the rocks so you could lift them manually and put them on the truck and the truck goes away down the mountain and get crushed and that’s what all the roads were made of. Quite hard work especially if you ignore nature. You had to hit the thing, hit it and hit it and if you hit it in the wrong place you just get the weak chips.
What did you call the hammer?
Spal hammer. You used to see old photos of men because they were a sort of tapered head weren’t they.
Yes. One end and the other end was a …
And you’d see men on the road breaking rocks down to the proper size. Oh that says something, from rabbiting to breweries, the brewery one sounded quite fascinating. I can just see you or the one where you were doing the reporting and falling off your bike. So you’ve certainly led a very interesting life.
Finally I found a farm and a farmer, a family of them there was, this would be 1950. I had just started University and had holidays and I got this job. The name of the place is Ongiburn so one of the things that has to happen to a very, very rich soil but it does need draining and I didn’t just do that I actually ran the farm for him because he got asthma very, very badly and had to go up to Queenstown in the summer. Run the shearing and run the dipping and things like that. I tried to drive the spring carter over a fence on one occasion. I made friends with a horse and it never let me down. And I went in there passing some years ago now and he’d sold it, Baird was his name, and he had a brother further up out of Bury where the whisky comes from, he had a brother there, It was a family sort of thing. There were 42 cows that I milked, with machines in those days too but I do remember what constituted a breakfast in Southland. At one end of the table was one maybe two big plates of lamb chops for breakfast. And the other bowl held lovely new potatoes from the soil of Southland with butter. And so I did a lot of work there and learned most of the things. I ran the shearing shed and all the rest of it and so I learned a lot, in fact I very nearly veered for agriculture at University because I became interested in a mixed farm situation.
That’s really about all.
These are the life and times of the founding principal of our new High School in Havelock North some years ago, and David was telling us how he developed through this life into where we are today. Thankyou very much David. It’s been a pleasure to listen to that.
This is an addendum to the interview of Mr David Barham – these are some things that we omitted. David would you like now to talk about those things.
Thank you Frank. In the area of travel and recreation. By way of recreation I did quite a lot of sailing with a good friend, a Rotarian, and he was on the national scale really for yachting and racing and Tony Dallimore and another friend together bought a yacht, a Nolex 18 and that led to a lot of activity out on the water joining the yachting club, learning how to sail one. Tony was a very good yachtsman, a very successful one and very competitive and through that I’ve had some adventure. Incidentally I can’t swim. I mentioned that to Tony one day and he said “goodness I didn’t know you couldn’t swim”. And I said “Actually swimming to me is the art of staying alive in the water”. And so he decided that I could carry on.
It’s interesting you say that because I used to yacht too and I said to David Davidson “By the way I don’t swim”. I said “Water is for drinking and putting in gin”.
Well I had a lot of firsts if you like. We had racing from Wellington up to Napier and I can remember it took us 13 hours, 13 minutes and I think probably close to 13 seconds. We passed the finish line in Napier and also on that particular race it was blowing very fast then the wind went down altogether and it was my birthday. It must have been the 29th December. So the boys had stocked the yacht for a birthday party and one of the pieces was a very nice red wine which I actually spilt and ruined the whole effect. However, yachties have their ways and Tony scrabbled around in a locker and found a fairly aged Pinot Noir so we carried on the party. But I learnt enough while 2 English teachers were on exchange from England and I thought to do something to mark their going home really so I chartered a yacht, quite a nice yacht, in the Bay of Islands and we spent a week sailing round the Bay of Islands without anybody drowning, including myself.
Just as well actually, the story would not be here today would it?
No it wouldn’t. And we did sailing/cruising up to Whitianga and we had some great moments and it’s marvellous to do a tack and you’re behind and you’ve got the wind right and you passed in the next turn. The problem was that it was a fairly big boat because the boys, both of them and another friend, actually sold the Nolex and bought a big keeler. It had actually been in the race from Auckland to Suva so we could cruise long distances and from here to Mercury Bay and all parts of the Hauraki Gulf and so on we had a lot of fun swapping beer and oysters. We had a wonderful time. Unfortunately during the period the yacht was stolen, it was quite a big boat, and it was stolen from the yard of the yacht club and when the Police got on to it, it was seen being towed over the Taupo Road. Anyway to cut a long story short eventually the Police found it at Lyttelton through a woman complaining about a big boat keeping the sun out of her lounge. They had chopped it about and made it shorter, added pieces and so on but by then the Insurance Company had paid out so he bought another boat.
It was probably a good thing. I remember that. It created a lot of interest when the boat was stolen.
So that’s another of the anichian low in my life. It was a sport I never thought I would take part in but once you’re in it it’s pretty difficult to let it go. The sailing in my life continued when Tony and his wife moved to Queensland and incidentally I think, first when he reached Queensland, he worked in a harbour, dealing with yachts anyway and renting them and so on so we kept in touch with Tony and Angela, his wife, and I think we fell in love with Caloundra and the Sunshine Coast and fortunately for us he actually ran a block of holiday flats and so when we realised that we visited the two of them on a regular basis every year. We had a month or six weeks over on the Sunshine Coast and it was a nice connection too. We saw them once a year and had lots to talk about when we went there.
The one thing you haven’t told me about, you went to the States.
Another adventure had to do with travel. I was lucky enough to get a Fellowship, Fisher & Paykel Fellowship. It is given to 2 principals each year and it allowed us to make our first incisive inroads into Europe. I was away for three months. Lyn joined me and we covered a lot of territory and lots of education all over Europe. That was one of the excitements. Another opportunity arose. I was asked to chair the two other opportunities for travel, it didn’t really cost too much. I was fortunate enough to get a Fellowship (Fisher & Paykel Fellowship). It allowed travel and all the rest of it for three months and I accepted with alacrity and Lyn came for two months and the first time through Europe and travelled a lot on those long boat on the canals and a whole world opens when you do that sort of thing, stopping at pubs. Somebody stole the longboat while we were in the bar next to the canal. Fortunately we had an Ex- Admiral next to us and he took over and had the longboat very quickly. It was a wonderful atmosphere being able to step off the boat and be virtually in a quaint village and things like that. That is something that doesn’t happen in New Zealand. Two other opportunities for travel. I became chairman of the Council, Sister City Scheme with Guilin which is in the heart of southern China and I took a group of principals for I think about three weeks. We had a marvellous reception because it was official. A lot of speeches were required but we went to Guilin and it’s a fascinating place with a fascinating landscape. I think it’s the second biggest visited area of China for tourists. That was a real experience and as a result we made connections with schools of a very similar type of school and type of student and so on as Havelock North High School so we were able to make a lasting connection and another, most of my friends scoffed at this, but I was asked to join the Alcoholic Advisory.
We thought this was marvellous … he was a practising member.
Yes, I was a practising member. But I became responsible for all the advertising, education about alcohol. It was in my tender hands. I got some help with some of the better people around the education field who made education material and it was quite successful. However, most of my friends really thought it was – I won’t say it was a waste of time because in fact we did some very good work for about 4 years. It did mean that I got a free ticket to Wellington once a month and that was an incentive of course to carry on and I eventually towards my tenure, I got them into a pub, my Committee. Everybody behaved and everything else so our work didn’t go astray. It still operates and I don’t hear too much of it now but I think it is still working.
So those are some of the opportunities from an official type thing that allowed us to see a lot of the world.
Well thank you David.
Original digital file
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Format of the originalAudio recording
Interviewer : Frank Cooper