David Henry Mossman & (Bry) Virginia Bry Mossman Interview
Today is the 21st of August 2018. I’m interviewing David and Bry Mossman about the life and times of the Mossman family in New Zealand, especially Hawke’s Bay. David, would you like to tell us something about your family?
Sure, Frank, thank you very much for the opportunity. The Mossman family, with the name Mossman, is bog Irish – men of moss, men of turf, digging the turf; [a] couple of chickens, a pig and a horse.
My great-grandfather was married in Confeacle, [County Tyrone, Northern Ireland] on 28th of November 1847 to Eleanor Dilworth. They had a number of children, and in the ‘Winterthur’ in 1866 they arrived in New Zealand with their children. That was Thomas William Mossman, and there is a very nice summary of his life in the Hawke’s Bay paper at the time which tells you all his history, which is quite long, seeing he was born in 1798 and died just short of his hundredth year.
The early Mossman family has an interesting origin that not many people really know about. Thomas William Mossman married Eleanor Dilworth, and Eleanor Dilworth was the favourite sister of James Dilworth who was an Ulster man who emigrated from Ireland to Australia for a month or two in the bank, and then came to New Zealand. And James Dilworth became one of New Zealand’s most successful financiers; on the Auckland University Council etcetera. And in his will he created the Dilworth School in Auckland which educates five hundred and fifty children of parents who may be unable to provide a good education. One of the interesting things about that was that boys had to be of reasonable … in other words, they were not in the business of educating naughty boys; they wanted people that were good boys that they could really help. And they’ve done it.
So the Mossman family arrived in New Zealand at the behest of rich Uncle James Dilworth. Some years before, James Dilworth Mossman as a nine year old, had come to New Zealand to be the son and heir of James Dilworth. There’re other parts of the Mossman history that anybody that listens could find out, but that in itself … James Dilworth Mossman was a very interesting character.
My grandfather, Henry Albert Mossman – six foot four of him – was born in James Dilworth’s house at Remuera. James Dilworth at the time, amongst other things, was a farmer and owned all the land around Remuera. So my father [grandfather], Henry Albert, was born there shortly after the arrival of the ‘Winterthur’, so he was born in September 1866. The family – Thomas William and Eleanor and their children, James, Willy, Mary, Isabella and the youngest was my grandfather, Henry – went to Cambridge, bought a bit of land there for a while, and then they came to Hawke’s Bay, and Thomas and Eleanor lived at Clive for a while. And there’s quite an outstanding story of where my grandfather, in the floods of Clive, took a buggy and a horse and went over and saved a number of people from drowning of [in] massive floods that occurred in … I think it was about 1897.
Anyway, Henry Albert Mossman was an interesting character to say the least. He showed all the tendencies of his uncle, James Dilworth. Henry – or Harry as he was known – became a very successful businessman in Hawke’s Bay. I think he was known as ‘Forty percent Mossman’, or something like that. He ran estate finance, bought farms; in general, first came to live in Hastings in Outram Road in a little house, and then he built a beautiful house in Havelock North up Duart Road. He had a few acres there, and that in itself was interesting ‘cause my lovely aunts, my father’s sisters Mary and Bess, were Havelock identities – Aunt Mary especially, in education, by forty-seven years as a servant of Iona College; on the Board, and doing a great deal of good work for the education of children.
So my father, Tom, was born in 1898, and shortly before that one of the Mossman properties [Woodlands] was purchased with signatures from the Māori. It was purchased by Willy Mossman and Harry Mossman, and it must’ve been in the back of beyond; well, it was. And all the Mossman boys and the cousins did their time as young men up there between the ages of fifteen to eighteen or so, cutting scrub and doing all the early breaking in and things. And it must’ve been [a] pretty isolated life because they all chose to volunteer for the First World War.
So in 1914 James Dilworth Bradley Mossman … that’s a nephew of the original James Dilworth Mossman … he is now buried in Walker’s Ridge, Gallipoli, and my father’s cousin, Thomas Mossman, who was born in 1887 is now in the Cairo cemetery. So then there went Thomas David Mossman, my father, in 1917; he spent eighteen months in Egypt up in Jordan in the Gethsemane Gardens, and was camped at Maadi. And then another cousin was Bert Mossman; all of these boys worked on Woodlands at the turn of the century. Bert Mossman ended up in Passchendale, or somewhere right in the thick of it, and he was wounded and came home and more or less died of his wounds some ten or twelve years later. My father came home, as did Pynson Mossman, my father’s cousin. Pynson became quite well known, because the government purchased horses from people that had farms, and Pynson brought all his horses out for the government to select; amongst [them] a horse called ‘Star’. And Pynson was in Egypt and these horses were all taken over to Egypt; and blow me down in the midst of a bit of action Pynson was reunited with ‘Star’. And that’s another story, Frank, for anybody that wants to catch up on it. It’s written and recorded in some papers. And really, when I look at it, I think of a modern movie called ‘The War Horse’. Well in fact the Mossmans were the war horses … you know, at the turn of the century, not in the modern movie ‘War Horse’ … when people were united in battle.
So anyway, I’ll just get back to Harry Mossman for a while because he had a very interesting life. And he wrote a little blue book telling us all about his relations and how he got on in the world. And he was in school in Waipawa when the family was there, and somebody said, “Does anybody want to be a Post & Telegraph man?” Harry put his hand up at twelve years of age, [chuckle] and he got the job delivering telegrams, so that was his start. Also, in James Dilworth’s will in 1878 when Harry was ten, James chose him as his heir. That was the last will that he wrote before he wrote the will to give to the children.
Harry was very successful in his own right, and there was [were] quite interesting letters between James Dilworth and Harry Mossman over a period of years. The Mossmans got their start from James Dilworth in New Zealand; and nobody really knows about this kind of history but it’d be really interesting for the family. So James left Dunserk – and this is a property that was named after Dunserk; it’s just out of Dungannon in Ireland – and also he left a property at Waerenga-o-kuri [in Gisborne]. So each of these properties was left to the children of his nephew. So Willy, Henry’s oldest brother, received the Waerenga-o-kuri … ‘The Laurels’ and around; and Harry, my grandfather, received Dunserk. But the family didn’t know that these properties were not actually left to the nephews; they were left to the nephews’ children, so that both Harry and Willy had a lifetime interest in the farms but it was [they were] never theirs. And so as the generations went by it’s quite strange that one young Mossman, namely me, suddenly appeared to have an interest in some of these properties that I certainly didn’t know about when I was growing up.
So in around about [the] 1890s Harry was up on Dunserk planting poles and shearing sheep. And Gisborne was sort of where Willy’s children were born and bred, and they went to Patutahi [in Gisborne] – they’re all Mossmans. And then Harry came down here to Hawke’s Bay and joined up with a guy Paterson so it became Paterson, Mossman & Co [Company]. And from what I know, at Pakowhai they had the biggest dairy farm in New Zealand, which is pretty hard to comprehend. They had something like seven hundred and fifty cows, all hand milked. So Harry said that about ten years after that it was his best time of business. And he was a young man, probably thirty-four to forty, and he built his lovely house in Havelock North at 42 Duart Road – called it ‘Braemar’ – where my father was brought up with Aunt Mary, Aunt Bess and Alec Mossman. Alec Mossman went to Gisborne and produced four daughters; my cousins, Kay, Joanne, Libby and Prue. And my father married my mother [a]round about ‘39 and I was born in 1942, and the only son, so I became an only child.
So on Willy’s side … Willy Mossman, my grandfather’s brother … Willy’s son Pynson Mossman, my father’s cousin, had eleven children and they all became, in their own right, well-known people around the Gisborne area, serving New Zealand in the Second World War, and many of them drawing balloted farms.
So the Mossman history is really about the land. And when Bry [David’s wife, Virginia Bry Mossman] and I went to Dungannon just a little time ago, we visited the Royal School of Dungannon where James Dilworth was educated, and we went to see Anne Dilworth’s property; who [she] was his maiden aunt who financed James Dilworth to become the man he was in Australia and New Zealand. Yes, so it is conjecture whether she was really a Dilworth, but James was there. And she was unmarried and she must’ve had a few dollars because she helped James on his way. And he walked to the Royal School of Dungannon every day, and so we had the privilege of going there not very long ago … this year. And it was really interesting just to see the tremendous progress in education and the inter-relationship now that the Royal School of Dungannon has taken on with Dilworth. So Dilworth boys go across for gap years, and Royal School of Dungannon come to Auckland. It’s a wonderful story.
So David, Dilworth is still going?
Absolutely. Very, very successful; very, very successful school in Auckland, just as you go in, probably on the main south road before you get to Newmarket, on the lefthand side. And you know, they’ve got pretty formidable trustees now; they didn’t have a lot of money for the first ten or fifteen years, but James was very explicit in his will with exactly what he wanted, and explicit. And you know, it’s really interesting in the Mossman family, you know … we have an edict that’s passed down from both my grandfather and on my grandmother’s side, that really you don’t sell anything. Over your lifetime you try to accumulate and keep your head above water, you know, so that is part of the Mossman heritage. So that gives you a quick introduction; obviously there’s a hell of a lot more.
Well yes. I think that probably will develop as you carry on with your story.
For the family and that, the interesting thing is that the heir to James Dilworth, one James Dilworth Mossman, was brought up in Remuera and went to King’s School there. And he could play the piano, and he was bright; but it’s possible that he might’ve been a little bit difficult, because he ran away from James. And this is how the family came to Hawke’s Bay, because they went looking for him. So James Dilworth Mossman ended up working for Hunter down at Porangahau. Yes; and I have his diaries. I have James Dilworth’s diaries. Now the interesting thing about this is that he was taken back up to Dilworth, and then he actually hitched a boat to Melbourne. And he arrived in Melbourne and he changed his name to James Lomayne. And he must’ve been quite an intelligent young man, but probably a little bit different; he ended up speaking a number of languages, and Lomayne was French and we believe it was a derivative of ‘l’homme’, meaning man in French, and ‘mayne’ or ‘marius’, meaning moss. So in French where the adjective goes after the noun, he was actually Lomayne, or man of moss.
And so the really interesting thing about it is, there’s a young detective in Melbourne right now, as I speak, writing a book about the early days of detectives in Melbourne because James rose to the rank of … virtually the boss detective in Melbourne, in the days when Melbourne was developing a detective service. So for any of the family in the future, that book certainly will be available and it’s going to trace all the workings and things of James Lomayne, and his arrests and all sorts of things. In fact he came back to Auckland in the late eighties, I think, to arrest two people. But one of his stories was he arrested four or five fellows who were counterfeiting coins. And they were French, and James was [would] reputedly go up, arrest them, find all the documents, translate them all right there in front of the men, and then arrest them and say, “Well, this is what you said.” So that was pretty big.
So anyway, unfortunately James, because he was probably very intelligent but really on the edge, he never married. He lived in a hotel in Melbourne, and he actually committed suicide on the steps of the Melbourne Police Station in 1893 with a small Derringer. But once again this will all come out in the book. So you know, there are some interesting characters, believe it or not.
So my father, Tom, son of Henry, grandson of Thomas William Mossman and Eleanor Mossman who are buried in the old part of the Napier Cemetery, along with one of their children that died with scarlet fever, I think; Andrew. Those three are buried in the Napier Cemetery, and can easily be found. We’ve been and visited them on some occasions. So they were the founders in New Zealand of the Mossman family.
From then it’s expanded, because Willy had all the children and they’ve expanded, so I now have a second cousin who has seventy cousins; so it’s not bad. They vary in occupations from Stewart who’s a brain surgeon of note, to David Mossman, a namesake of mine; and Peter who’s an undertaker in Tokoroa; and things like that, so that the broader family is … you know, part of the fabric of New Zealand, even though we arrived and stayed in Hawke’s Bay.
So my father, born in 98, died on 12th January 1956; he died at Woodlands. And he had a pretty interesting career, because his father was, I think, a very determined man and very single minded. He was Presbyterian, and might’ve had a bit of a religious streak in him. He married Annie McFarlane Whyte of Tiniroto. So one of the farms that was passed down is called ‘Mount [?Whaka…?]’ [Whakapunake?] up the Parikanapa Road. Now that is just a short buggy ride from ‘Abbotsford’, which was the Whyte family property. So they asked Harry, you know, “Why did you buy the farm?” He said, “Well, it wasn’t far to go and visit Annie.” So they were married in about 1896 up at Tiniroto and they spent their wedding night in the Frasertown Tavern, then they came down here. So my relations on my grandmother’s side was [were] Sandy Whyte, who was a medico here; Alistair Whyte – Sandy Whyte was Annie Whyte’s brother, so Alistair Whyte was a cousin of my father, but there was a bit of a generation split in age.
I interviewed Jennifer …
… and also Peter, the Judge, up in Taupō. I’ve heard how the railway was suggested by your relative that it should go through Tiniroto, not round the coast.
That’s correct. The Whytes in themselves were an interesting family. They came to New Zealand, but amongst the Whytes the eldest [in] each generation – one was called Alexander and the next was called David; and they were engineers or medicos. And so they skipped a generation. And one of the early Whytes built bridges – of which I’ve got photos – for Lord Brassey in India; and so he was the engineer. They came out here, I think … my grandmother Annie McFarlane Whyte had asthma; I remember as a child she had asthma quite badly, and I believe that they sort of came to New Zealand from Scotland, you know, to be able to breathe better. So this was the go, you know – come to New Zealand, go to rural New Zealand. And they bought a place up at Tiniroto called ‘Abbotsford’, and the wonderful thing about that, that was purchased by another person and then purchased by Bob Berry, who died [a] couple of weeks ago at the age of a hundred. And he’s created the most amazing aborerium [arboretum] on ‘Abbotsford’, which is now called ‘Hackfalls’, in the Tiniroto area. Yeah. It’s absolutely staggering. Bob married a Lady Anne [Palmer], from Britain who was a real keen gardener, and they’ve been there for thirty or forty years, and he just planted the whole farm in trees and it’s just amazing.
I’ve climbed all over Eastwood Hills and others in that area …
Yeah, well this is another one.
[The] chap that had Eastwood Hills didn’t wear any clothes!
Everyone tells the same story …
That’s right. Well you know, things like that … you know, [are a] wonderful legacy to New Zealand communities, you know, because it’s all pro bono now. People go up there from Gisborne, including a lot of my rellies, and you know, they do the pruning and the thinning and all that sort of thing. You know, in my lifetime I regret what I consider the demise of rural communities for a lot of reasons, but they’re not very good reasons. You know, the pine trees is the specific … where I come from, you know, the pine trees has [have] destroyed north of Gisborne, and it’s destroyed the fabric of the town of Wairoa and the community. You know, whereas guys could shear sheep and fence and everything, pine trees are no labour one year and then you don’t get any more labour till the eighth year. And of course one pine tree puts out 1.6 kilograms of pollen; so Shane Jones’ [chuckle] billion trees over the lifetime from twelve to thirty is going to put out sixty-three billion kilograms of pine pollen over New Zealand.
And that’ll be the next problem.
It’s a bloody disaster.
Anyway, getting back to the Mossmans – so my mother married my father. Her name was Marjorie Collins … Marjorie Sutherland when she married, because her first husband was killed. So I have two half sisters and a half brother – Diana, the eldest, George and Cecily. They were brought up as Sutherlands; my mother’s first husband was again an interesting character. His name was Ernest George Sutherland, or Buzz Sutherland, and he was fourth in the decathlon in the 1924 Olympics representing South Africa. So Marjorie, my mum, knew Porritt and all that, because Arthur Porritt was in the hundred yards … came third in the hundred yards. And imagine, you know, the joy on my mother’s face looking at ‘Chariots of Fire’ when the movie came out; so that was a pretty special occasion for her. She was an athlete in her time. And Buzz was killed, and then my mother was left with three children for maybe four, five years.
And my mother was working in the AMP [Australian Mutual Provident Society] in Wellington, and she came to Hawke’s Bay to work in the Hawke’s Bay Farmers. And one young Thomas David Mossman used to go into the Hawke’s Bay Farmers to buy the groceries and noticed this lovely young woman there, and after a year or two they were married. Marjorie and Tom and the three children went up to Woodlands, and I was born in the Memorial Hospital in Hastings in 1942, at the time Marjorie and Tom were living on Woodlands.
So yeah, my father continued to come and go … you know, during his lifetime … from Woodlands down here to Hawke’s Bay. He was very interested in horses; we’ve got lovely photos of the times in the early century in the Hawke’s Bay Show, you know, where many people would go and they’d boil the billy and have their cups of tea and all that.
That was a pretty special times. And then my father bred horses; and he had one or two very good horses. That was just before the time where [when] the Holdens bought in sires and really started off the show jumping in the early fifties, you know, in New Zealand; because previous to that it was the Nuhaka Sports, or the Mohaka Sports, or wherever …
In the tin trunk there’s [there’re] a lot of files for all you that are interested in the future – I haven’t been game to open the tin trunk because there’s too many documents, too many diaries. [Chuckles] Okay – so that gives an overview.
Oh! Interestingly, on my mother’s side – because I’m a Mossman but my mother was a Collins – her mother was Mary Lesley Morison, with one ‘r’. And he was an interesting character – William Leslie Morison – he was the first artist sculpture [sculptor] to cast a bronze in New Zealand. He came from Scotland, and he cast a bronze of Robbie Burns in the Octagon in Dunedin, and that was the first bronze cast by any sculptor in New Zealand. And he started an Otago Arts Society and then a Wellington Arts Society; and amongst his pupils who became famous New Zealand artists in the early days [was] Frances Hodgkin[s]. William Leslie Morison’s great friend was Señor Nerli, who was an Italian painter that [who] came to New Zealand; very reputable painter in both Italy and in New Zealand. And in the family there is a wonderful painting by Señor Nerli of William Leslie Morison [in] his tam ‘o shanter with a fag hanging out of his mouth, looking like a ruddy-faced Scotsman – well, he was. And that is hanging in the Auckland Art Gallery right now; it was given by the family to the Auckland Art Gallery some thirty … twenty-five years ago. So if any of the family wants to go there and have a look, that’s a rellie. Now the other part they don’t know about – just over there is the painting, and … we’ve just shifted, and that painting there is a self portrait of William Leslie Morison of [for] which he won the Gold Medal at the Edinburgh School of Arts. And that’s the painting; it’s him in the nude, and what you see is that thing that looks like a spear is an easel. And he won that, so we managed to frame it, and the family on my mother’s side, like my half-sisters and [half]-brothers, they passed down quite a lot of his artwork. So he was an interesting character, and there’s a book about him, too; so if you want to look up William Leslie Morison you’ll be able to find all his stuff and all that kind of stuff.
It covers quite a broad spectrum, your family, doesn’t it?
It’s a very interesting family, and it’s held pretty closely. The thing about all this is that, you know, I really enjoy that you’ve come up and asked me to do this because it was one of the things that you get around to doing; but I hadn’t got around to doing. And I hadn’t got around to doing it because a lot of things in life are of the moment, and I don’t believe should be consigned to the history books. And a lot of Mossman history is oral history of the moment. And it’s really quite enjoyable extracting bits from here and there, because my aunts taught me a great deal … Bess and Mary; as did my mother, obviously. My father unfortunately died when I was twelve, at Hereworth. So I think that covers our Hawke’s Bay introduction. So where would you like to go from here?
Now we need to start with you, growing up; [chuckle] it wasn’t all at the farm?
No, not at all. Not at all. So I was at Woodlands ‘til I was six, and then my mother came down here; my father remained on the farm. So I came down here about 1946. My mother had a house down here in Breadalbane Road which she had before she was married, so I came down and lived there. And my father stayed on Woodlands, and he would come and go. And my brothers and sisters were there, but they were quite a lot older than me; George was the closest to my age and he was nine years older than me. And then Diana, the eldest, she was something like fourteen year[s] older, and Cecily, my sister who is still alive in Taupō, she’s about eighty-seven now. So born in Memorial [Hospital] Hastings, up to Woodlands maybe five or six years, and then back down here and then off to Havelock North Primary.
Well, I remember you coming to Havelock Primary because the school wasn’t that big; every new face you knew. Over the years we kept hearing about this David Mossman, the Wairoa vet. Sports, did you excel at any?
Oh, I did a little bit of sport, and I was quite good. Yes, but as one did, you know, one played cricket, and was taught a little bit of rugby, and had to run down to the gate in the middle of winter in the frosts to keep fit. I think there was a hundred and ten boys roughly, there. So I went to Hereworth – I finished at primary school in Havelock in 1952, and I went to Hereworth in 1953 and became a boarder there for four years. And that was interesting times, and it was very tough times in recollection. Some people like boarding school and some people survived boarding school. But Hereworth at the time was on the British model, and you know, you kind of were taught, and you had to pass; there was no [margin of] error for failing. So it was a rote education; it was not a creative school at the time. But anyway, it produced a lot of very fine fellows in the system which was education at that time. I think I must have been a little bit of a rebel.
[Chuckle] Well you were a country lad, weren’t you?
Well, I probably was.
And sent down here to socialise …
Well yes, but you know I still have some very good friends today that I was with at Hereworth. From Hereworth, yes we did do quite a lot of sport; academia was second place, really.
And then from Hereworth I went as a boarder to Lindisfarne. I went there because when Lindisfarne was started, people in Hawke’s Bay decided they needed a school in Hawke’s Bay, you know, for the climate and also Havelock was a wonderful centre of education with Iona, Woodford and Hereworth. So it was quite reasonable to expect that there should be a secondary school of the same ilk as those schools, in Hawke’s Bay. So the Herrick homestead was up for sale around about 1952, and somebody went round and got the businessmen of Hastings to contribute £1,000 or £500 each. So that was the raising of the money to purchase the Herrick homestead, and then the Presbyterian Diocese or … forgotten what it’s called … you know, they stepped in with the education. And you know, the first boys went to Lindisfarne as boarders, I think, twenty-eight of them in 1953; and believe it or not, we have a wonderful mid-winter meeting at the Puketapu Pub every year, of [at] which many of those gentlemen roll up. They’re in their early eighties now, and we have a wonderful time. So we manage to get the spectrum of people come, you know – those from about 1953 to ‘60. So as we get older and walk on, you know, there’ll be others to fill our boots, which is wonderful.
So I then left Hereworth in 1956 and went to Lindisfarne in 1957 to 1960. And I think it’s fair to say that I really blossomed at Lindisfarne, because they were not the strict nature of trying to raise boys for the British Army; the kind of culture which existed at the time; and at the time, that was the type of culture. And Lindisfarne of course, when it opened, had no rules – they took a number of years, you know, to develop rules. And I have amazing friends now, scattered throughout New Zealand, which [whom] I very much respect; but as a child or growing up as a teenager you don’t really understand the backgrounds of people, you know, that you’re friends with. You play sport and you do this and that, but I’m going to name a few, because as I grew older I realised that I went to Lindisfarne with what were then parents – the captains of New Zealand industry. And they’d sent their children to Lindisfarne to get them out of the likes of Wellington and Auckland because it was at the time when education might be a bit ordinary, or just starting to [get] a bit ordinary which the change in social attitudes. And so you know, I ended up … and this is the reason that … I mean you know, I’ve sat for fifteen years on the Malaghan Institute, because my great friend Graham Malaghan who I went to Lindisfarne with – what we didn’t realise at the time was his father was Len Malaghan, who was Tip Top in New Zealand, and Refrigerated Freightlines, and coolstores – Whakatu – and all that kind of stuff. So it’s quite amazing, you know, the pro bono things that I’ve learnt that these guys do. You know, another fellow was Geoff Clark. Well he was Tom Clark’s son, and he now lives in Napier; another one was the boy Firth, of Firth Concrete; another one was the boy Roberts. And what it was – it was quite funny; an eclectic mix, because you had the city boys coming to visit the country boys and all thrown into boarding school. And so some of the habits were very funny of the city boys because they were far advanced, you know – they knew how to bet on racehorses; they knew how to have crown and anchor. And one of the boys was one James Boyd from North Auckland and we called him Bookie Boyd because he ran the books at school. [Chuckle] And those friends are still my very great friends today.
So being a Mossman and being associated, or supposedly associated, with the land, but you know, we could come and go a little bit on the farm but I was never brought up to really understand the mechanism of farming. However, in consultation with my mother and my aunt Mary it was decided that I should perhaps leave Hawke’s Bay and go to Lincoln [University] in the South Island. And so I went to Lincoln, and I didn’t know anybody there at all because they [there] were some Australians, some South Island boys; so I started off in a degree course called Degree 1. And we had a wonderful time at Lincoln, and once again those gentlemen of that particular year – we meet every two years. And once again some of my peers have become very well known New Zealanders, and it’s a thrill you know to go and talk about old times.
So at the end of the first year at Lincoln I saw on the [notice] board, ‘Do you want to become a veterinarian?’ I saw this sign on the board and I copied it down. In my course, starting on a degree, you had to do Practical. I didn’t like dairy farming cause I was a beef and sheep and horse man through and through, so after the end of exams I put an ad [advertisement] in the newspaper and worked up on a Waikato dairy farm for eight weeks. and again that was a very interesting time, just out of Hamilton. At the same time I put in an application to the Veterinary Services Council. None of my friends, obviously from Lincoln, knew I did that, and I didn’t rock up the next year because I was interviewed, and the Veterinary Services Council in that particular year they selected nine people from New Zealand to go on scholarships to train in Australia. I went to Brisbane because I didn’t fancy the idea, being a bit of a country boy, how I could handle a big city like Sydney; and Brisbane was just a big country town. And so some of us went to Sydney and others went to Brisbane, and that started another real era of my life being educated by some of the best lecturers and people at the University of Queensland. And again when I look back they were inclusive people; and believe it or not, in some cases you were allowed to fail and have another go, and that was something that I’d never experienced in my educative process where if you failed, you failed, and you were not allowed to learn by your mistakes. So I understand now at my age that it is very important to make mistakes and it is very important to learn by [from] them. And therefore in my capacity – and I have done a lot of academic stuff, and science – I’ve done quite a lot; but probably it’s not appropriate to say in this, but you know, I’ve consulted to many people throughout the world including some of the major chemical companies, from Wairoa which nobody knew that I ever did. It’s really interesting because … I don’t want to sound too … but there are some facts. You know, the fact is that with my work in Wairoa I became incredibly engrossed in the farming scene and have some incredible friends from the Wairoa area, and did a lot more than what you might call veterinary science. We developed animal health programmes, you know, that went globally, and probably at one time I was better know in the States than I was in New Zealand. But of course that does happen to many New Zealanders, and it’s not an isolated case.
But we developed beef cattle modelling where we can mathematically predict the chances of getting a cow in calf, irrespective of everything that was surrounding it. And we developed a system called Concentrated Calving which made millions for those people that bought into it, and some of the biggest farmers in New Zealand did. And then at that time the Australians noticed me, and they gave me a prize that was the Australian College of Veterinary Sciencists’ prize for the veterinarian that they believed in Australia and New Zealand had done the most to advance in both literature and science for the ongoing of veterinary science, which I was very, very happy to receive. And I went to Sydney and gave an oration in the Sydney Opera House, and that was great fun because the hierarchy of the business in Australia were there.
So from then I did a lot more; started out as an employee. I came back from Sydney, went to work in Gisborne for a little while, and I decided that was not for me. So we were under bond from the Veterinary Services Council, so I rang them and said, “I want to get out for a couple of years.” So I went to Sydney and I got a job … probably the highest paying job in Sydney at the time … in small animals, in cats and dogs … and I did something that stood me in good stead as a veterinarian in a rural practice, in two years, with all the small animal work which I was then able to have practical experience of when I came back to Wairoa. You know, so Wairoa was just a golden opportunity for me with many, many beef cows; many, many sheep – I think there are a million sheep. I know one year we vaccinated twenty-eight thousand female calves for brucellosis when we were doing an eradication scheme, you know, for the government. But also, in a practice where you know, upwards of three thousand dogs which people don’t kind of think of in Wairoa; and of course the horses. You know, like Cricklewood; and Frank, you know probably a bit about Cricklewood – you know, they had eighty broodmares at the time, and ten shepherds with about twenty dogs each. You know, it was a huge operation of twelve thousand acres. And when Joe Clayton-Greene there when they were pouring the fertiliser on in [under] the land development scheme, you know, they got up to something like sixty thousand livestock units. So I was very privileged to be a veterinarian to everybody, from my mates at Raupunga to my mates who are … probably under the cover of darkness … the biggest farmers’ organisation in New Zealand. And that was [a] wonderful time.
So as I’d done all these mathematical models word got out a bit, and so I ended up being a consultant up the Waikura Valley [Gisborne], and that was really interesting ‘cause I’d go up there – Kevin Baker on Waikura Station. And how that happened was, the young fellow that’s now been managing Tangihau [Gisborne] for twenty years, McHardy, was a shepherd on Okare, [Ruakituri, Hawke’s Bay] and he went up to manage for Kevin Baker. And he said to Kevin, “You’d better get Mossman up here to have a look at the cows”, ‘cause Kevin had about nine hundred cows doing about six hundred calves. So anyway, we turned that around over three years to about seven hundred and fifty cows doing seven hundred calves. So that was a success; and word got out, and so we did Matarau [Gisborne], Waikura, Te Kumi [Gisborne]; and why I loved it is I put my diving gear and my tanks in the back, [chuckle] rang up a mate, and we’d go up and stay with Kevin for three days. We’d do a bit of work there, and off Lottin Point [East Cape] spearfishing and carrying on, and then round to Waiau Bay and stay in the pub; and Kevin takes us out in his boat and we’d go diving. And that was … you know, the [East] coast was really a wonderful part again of my life from Wairoa.
But I visited the coast first when I worked in Gisborne. I volunteered to go up the coast when there were no veterinarians there, so I used to drive as far as Tolaga Bay because veterinarians covered to Tolaga Bay; then I used to do Tolaga Bay, you know, right up past Ruatoria. So I met some wonderful people in those days like Colin Williams; and you know, some of the coast people were marvellous. And I can tell you now it’s a bit sad for me going on a bit of thing around the coast, you know, to see some of the degradation of the land there now with not the skills of farming that they had in those days. There seems to be a loss of skills; the repairs and maintenance are not near as good as they used to be; and of course the ever increasing blanket of green, [pine forests] ostensibly put up there to stop erosion, but when they cut it down all the slash and the trees and the silt and everything goes out down the rivers. And we’ve had this unbelievable thing in the last month of Tolaga Bay just about getting wiped out. Now all this is … to all those politicians which [who] will never listen to this … this is all predictable. And now we’re back in the cycle again, and I just can’t believe it.
So then after I’d done this stuff and I’d got this thing from Australia, they gave me a Cooper’s [NZ] Farm Management award that was given to me rather unusually from the Farm Management Society of New Zealand, and that’s the graduates of Massey, for somebody who got in with … dared to introduce ideas of exceptional economic importance to New Zealand. And that was called the Cooper’s [NZ] Farm Management award, and that was another time ‘cause I caught up with a few of my Lincoln mates.
And then Mercks [Merck, Sharp & Dohme] collared me, so off to New York to make some films; and at one time from interaction [interactive] television in ‘93 I talked to three thousand researchers across four time zones in the [United] States, and that was really special. And then a year later we went to Vancouver; made some more films for Mercks, because Mercks had collared what I’d done because it fitted in with their marketing of animal health; because what I’d shown was that what every farmer knew – if you fed an animal really well and grow [grew] it really well, and you had a group of cows that were all very well grown, they would all cycle so they could in-calf quickly. So Mercks with their Ivomec® which was a very good product at the time, got rid of a lot of parasites so enabled the young heifers to grow; so they could show economically by giving the cattle Ivomec® that they grew, which with the matter of a few kilos, changed the in-calf rate over forty-five days from maybe forty-five percent to seventy-five percent. So this was huge economic data for Mercks, so I became for three years one of four people on a world expert panel for Mercks. And one of my really interesting times was going to Vancouver to do a similar thing; and with all these things, it’s fun – it’s fun to go. They do pay you a little bit, but not much; but you know, they fly you First Class – I’d never been in the front end of an aeroplane. Lange was sitting behind me one day … David Lange. [Former NZ Prime Minister]
So when we’d done a bit of work in Vancouver we went up to the Aquarium, and we had a private evening dinner with these orca whales swimming round and round us, while we sat down to a silver service dinner courtesy of Mercks. They were a wonderful company, and still are. I know a lot of people sort of say this and that about the pharmaceutical industry, but you know, they might’ve made a lot of money and people might grizzle about the prices, but they’ve immensely helped mankind, both in human research and in animal research. Just to give you an idea, in New Zealand at the present stage, despite what everybody says, if we didn’t have animal health products controlling parasites and grazing systems that we have for sheep, our sheep numbers would drop by two-thirds. So that’s how important animal health [is, and] as a veterinarian [it] always used to irk me a bit that with all these things we couldn’t get products, apart from hormones that were introduced, to above the normal; all the farmer or the advisers or the veterinarians are trying to do is really just bring things back up to normal. Everything around it wants to drag them down, so we’re constantly on the treadmill to plug and bring them back up to normal rather than … And then of course a lot of these hormones, because of the social changes, you know, were outlawed – European Unions wouldn’t take cattle so they were outlawed in New Zealand. But it’s really interesting with Trump now with his trade policies; and we’ll see whether [the] European Union will open up their market to hormone treated cattle from America, because it’s a non-tariff barrier.
So then to Vancouver; and then Pfizers – I consulted to Pfizers. I was actually responsible for part of the development of a drug called Dectomax®, not on the chemical side of things, but for use where it fitted in and how it operated. And that became one of Pfizer’s largest animal health sales item[s].
The other thing that I was quite proud of as a veterinarian was, we used to give horses a bit of B12 into the vein, you know, to help them out a bit sometimes. And this is a water soluble vitamin, and in the early days a lot of Taupō was where Bush sickness was diagnosed, and that was a cobalt deficiency. But the cobalt needed for the bacteria to manufacture B12 – which is then absorbed through the rumen into the animal – the discovery was that cobalt sulphate – and a brilliant discovery – you dose the sheep and … what stopped all that pumice being grazed? Bush sickness. So after looking at this B12 in horses, I started using dogs to inject them to increase their appetite sometimes; then I started using it in poor animals that I’d treated. And then with John Stovell at Willowflat, I did an extensive trial on growing lambs with an injection of vitamin B12 directly into the lambs; and there was a huge difference in the growth rate of the lambs straight on this Vitamin B12. So then I rang up Tasman Vaccine Laboratory and they imported [?] or vitamin B12; we added it to 200ml sterile water, cobalt-radiated [it] and produced the first Vitamin B12 injections used for sheep and cattle in New Zealand. But because I wasn’t business oriented, I was veterinary oriented – I saw the usage of this, but of course some of my very clever colleagues collared it, and now of course it’s a huge seller, you know, throughout New Zealand. It’s added to vitamins, it’s added to vaccines; so you’ll see everything in New Zealand … and that comes from little old Wairoa.
We also did a whole lot of other things in our trials, and I’m grateful to the farmers of Wairoa who were very forgiving. But what they would say to me …”Well, give it a go, Moose”. So we would, and we were many times very successful but sometimes not so successful; but that was all part of the ethic and the culture. Overall it benefited the farmers and it benefited the veterinarians, ‘cause they had the opportunity. So Wairoa Veterinary Services built up a name over many years, and I used to have the top graduates out of Massey come to Wairoa, you know, for two or three years, and we used to help them on their way, both from the veterinary angle and from the farming interactive, you know, with the farmers who were just delightful.
Again, those veterinarians I’m very proud of – I run into them sometimes, and you know, some have become chief pathologists in New York; some of them running Brussels for a while. You know, these are Kiwis, you know, and certainly … yeah, some of them are running some of the biggest organisations in New Zealand now, you know the likes of … oh, I won’t name them, but there was one guy that was the chief of Landcorp; I used to have arguments with him about cutting down pine trees to put in dairy farmers, ‘cause you’re just contaminating the whole of the area between Rotorua and Taupō, and you know, the downstream of that is horrific. And there’s still twenty-five thousand dairy cows on that pumice with no ilk other than input of high rates of fertiliser which’ll leech in with concentrated dairy cows; so in my opinion – and I’m going to say it now – the dairy industry has got a lot to answer for, and they haven’t been brought to heel yet. Hopefully they will soon. And I know it’s in New Zealand’s best interest to have $19 billion coming from Fonterra, but there’s really huge gaps in their strategy if they want to have sustainable milk, you know, for New Zealand’s benefit and for the people in New Zealand.
So then around about 2000, 98, I decided that it was time for me to go; so I literally walked into the clinic and I got my really good friend … lifetime friend, Doug Watson … who’s a pretty clever fellow with figures and that, and he was a director of a company called Veterinary Enterprise; and I said, “Come on, Doug, I’m out of here – can you get him to buy the place?” He did, and they have become very successful – a huge … probably the leading veterinary corporate enterprise in New Zealand called Veterinary Enterprise … and they scan practices all over New Zealand now. Very very good; and brought the veterinary profession from the ‘James Herriot’ which I was, into the corporate world which I don’t necessarily like. And I sold and I maintained an interest – they bought fifty-one percent, and I maintained forty-nine percent and did a bit of consultation every now and again ‘cause I couldn’t drop my farmers out. So I let all me [my] mates have my phone number, and they’d ring me up for the next three or four years, you know, just to check up things; so again, that was a transition in David Henry Mossman’s life.
And then one says, “Well, what does one do after having a wonderful life?” With wonderful friends, wonderful wife and wonderful children, Tony, Tori, Adam, Kelly and little Mickey, the youngest. So when I went to Australia I was married and had two children; I married a very nice woman called Lynette Strong, and she was the mother of Tony Mossman and Victoria Mossman, my two children that [who] live in Havelock North. Tony is successful; BM Accounting in Havelock North now, and his great grandfather would be very, very proud of him. Because I’ve looked at him and I just wondered whether they all got the Mossman lip; and that’s sort of a lowered lip, with the index finger where you go like that when you’re counting. [Chuckle] And then when I went to Wairoa I met Bry, and Bry was the daughter of Eric Forbes. Bry has her own amazing history. We bought up a property up the Lake Road where we lived, as well as supervising the lands that we had at the time. And that was really fun times and that was thirty years.
It was really quite funny, you know, ‘cause I just have wonderful … like Jimmy Weir, you know … I pulled him out of the ditch about three times going home from the Frasertown pub to Okare, that JB didn’t know about. And of course, he gave me stick. I bought an old Range Rover – you know, I didn’t pay too much money – but I used to tow the harrows round to get rid of the horse shit [chuckle] up the Lake Road; so you could see the local vet driving around in a Range Rover towing the harrows. And that’s why I kept the Subaru, because that was a wonderful vehicle. Yeah, so that’s where we lived and we brought up our children – Tony, Tori … Tony was sent to Lindisfarne in the third form; then Tori was educated at Iona as all Mossman girl children have to be; and then Kelly went to Iona and so did Mickey, our youngest; and Adam went to Lindisfarne, so they’ve all been educated down here in Hawke’s Bay.
So when Mickey came it was quite interesting; my friend Rupert Ryan … my lifelong friend … rang me up and said, “Moose! I’ve got the place for you.” I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “It’s big enough.” So I came down here and we opened the door and we walked in with Robert Cox; and Bry was with me, and I said to Mickey – she was only little – I said, “Would you like to skate down this hallway?” She said, “Sure, Dad.” ‘Cause it got pretty cold up the Lake Road. So we made an offer, and Hutchy was on the board and they accepted the offer, and so that’s how we shifted. But we did that in ‘94, and nobody knew that I commuted, you know, for six years; and we did that because it was Mickey’s turn you know to go to school and we didn’t want her at a young age to go to boarding school. So that was a marvellous … ‘nother twenty years of our life [lives] where we brought up kids. And it was large enough to have Tony and his wife and his two children staying there six months when they did their house, and Adam and Nicola and their children stay, you know, while they built the house up Duart Road; and Tori, my daughter, who lives in Duart Road.
It’s a big house …
Well, it’s just a wonderful thing for us because we have sold it to a Hawke’s Bay man, a Hastings man who’s been overseas, and relatively, I will say, done well; married a lovely Norwegian and they have six children. So it really is handing on the baton because I refused any developers’ offers as they came along; was not remotely interested, and so we did a private deal. I was not remotely interested in doing this or that or the other. So we walked away from that and did this here and we live in this house now for a little while.
Okay, shall I continue?
Because you know, it became another phase of David Henry Mossman’s life.
So I maintained my friendships, obviously wide – I have people that I know extremely well all over the world ‘cause of some of my stuff. Anyway, I was sitting around the table one day and I got a boot under the table in the shins, saying there’s a bit of land coming up for tender down the road. This was in 2002, just when I sort of got out of being a vet. So my very wonderful partner to be, who I was a veterinarian to up the Ruakituri Valley – one David and Sally Hansen who have a farm up the Ruakituri. Well, I was the veterinarian to them when they first came up, and we have some wonderful stories, David and I – me as the vet and him as the farmer. So with a boot in the shins under the table we became partners.
So we put in a tender for what was Chip McHardy selling Shoal Beach, and I think the rest is history. David and I had a controlling interest; David and I did all the development; with the children we dry-hired Walmsley’s machinery, and the children did all. Mickey, our youngest daughter, drove the Moxy for six months; Adam, our boy, shifted a hundred and thirty thousand cubic metres with the digger; Tony Mossman did the figures; David Hansen – he was D1 and I was D2, because I’d do the bullets and David fired them. So now we have an absolutely brilliant ecologic[al] development, which … I don’t believe there’s any other development like it in New Zealand. We won a prize for our sewerage; we captured all of the sewerage from every house, put it into two huge tanks which we dropped in the ground; they’re filtered; come back and go out in the irrigation in the common ground; the sections open up into common ground, so the whole thing is integrated. To give you an idea, there was some talk about the development before we won the tender, and that involved eighty-seven sections. We re-did it for ourselves and there are fifty-eight sections there.
Where is this?
This is Aramoana. We call it Shoal Bay’, and we call the beach Shoal Beach, but it is Aramoana, and it’s between Pourerere and Blackhead.
All our New Zealand family – we hired the old shearers’ quarters for Christmas, two years ago.
Oh, really? Oh, did you see the development then?
Yes; had a walk round.
Well all the trees are grown, and on the other side we did the road; there was no access for public. And we gave the road … it was part of the … well, the negotiations if you like, but we were quite happy with that. And we built that road – cost us a $1m for the road and we gave it to the Central Hawke’s Bay Council. And part of the tender that we did, we doubled the size of the parking area down the front underneath the trees there; and three years ago we bought the wool shed and we spent a great deal of money completing re-doing it up …
I can see that.
… re-roofing it.
It’s better than new.
It will be a wonderful centre in the future. So once again – I’m not taking anything from it, but David Hansen and I – once again we’re back into education, because there’s been an educational Trust set up for the use of the woolshed, which has Rod Hansen and Richard Lee and a couple of other fellows on the committee, that will assist in the opportunity for children at school to take advantage of the Te Angiangi Marine Reserve. But we just made one rule – David Hansen and I will control it completely – which we do. So nobody can walk in there; and more especially, no children or schools can go there in the holidays, because we had a very unfortunate visit and we realised that in the holidays children are not controllable and there was some tagging that occurred and it was $5,000 or $6,000 to correct it. But these are all the things that you face. I mean we met a lot of opposition, you know, or Chip had met a lot of opposition when he was proposing. You know, but people – they never kind of looked at the integration and sustainability, you know, for humans of [in] what we did, or we’ve done, without destroying any of the ecological values.
And it was really important that Bry was walking along in 2006 and re-discoverd a dotterel down there, you know, which is a little running bird. It’s a silly bird because it lays its eggs in the sand which is hit by high tides. So they were good old days. So you know, that’s all fenced off now.
And then another part that the McHardys gave over the other side, that’s all been developed now, with our help obviously, into all natives. So you know, it’s good enough now but fast forward another twenty years …
It’s going to look marvellous …
And you see [with] the Te Angiangi Reserve and the boundaries of the beach, you know, it’s just wonderful and we have wonderful times. So that’s what David Mossman did, you know, for the next five or six or seven years. And David Hansen and I would drive down every day with the development, and negotiating with Councils and Regional Councils …
I’m not sure how long it is since David and Sally have been at Lime Hills, but when he first went there and planted all his trees and everything … it’s just a beautiful woodland.
Well of course David and I talked about trees quite a lot, you see, because I took over Woodlands in 1971 when I was just a young, raw prawn vet in Wairoa. I could’ve taken it over some years earlier, but I let the trustees and everything do it because I didn’t know about farming, you know, I had to learn. So in 1973 I knocked down a few pine trees, and I was hustled by a very clever fellow in a big car that [who] said, “Oh – we’ll cut down your pine trees, and we’ll give you $1 per hack and nail, and we’ll clean up the mess.” And I find out that he was an intermediary; he jacked up the people that he sold them to on the wharf at Napier, and he jacked up the pine trees; and he got the contractors in and he knocked my pine trees out, left a helluva bloody mess, and gave me some money. At least I did get the money, which sometimes doesn’t happen in farmers’ pine tree lots. So I’ve still got all that documentation, I think. So I looked at these few pine trees and I think it was three years after decimal currency changed, and we got something like $7,000 for the pine trees. And that was a very small area, maybe two acres at the entrance to Woodlands that my father had planted in the thirties, so they were unpruned pine trees. And in that particular year, you know, I was just cutting my teeth, trying to do cashflows and trying to find out how you managed Woodlands; and I looked at this [these] pine trees and I said to myself, “You know, if we put a lot of the not so good places in Woodlands into pine trees”, and I worked as a veterinarian and we could do the job, you know, “it would be pretty good, you know, thirty or forty years later.” Well it’s not been pretty good, it’s been outstanding. So from what my father taught me by planting pine trees, and me having the benefits of those few pine trees and seeing the money that was generated – because in that particular year I think the whole gross income of Woodlands was something like $57,000; and I could pick up one-fifth of the gross income on a couple of acres. [Speaking together] Admittedly it had been a few years back, and you would have to discount it.
And then just at that stage companies were allowed to deduct pine trees when they developed them, but individuals weren’t. You weren’t allowed, so you had to have capital money if you wanted to plant pine trees. No wonder there was a period of time when no pine trees were planted. So the then government got the idea that they would come out with a forestry encouragement grant, and that was in the seventies. And they had a wonderful thing called the Forest Service, and they had a lot of very good employees dedicated to the job, and they helped farmers. So when I saw this thing, you know – you were given fifty percent back by the government if it was supervised by a forester; and our forester was Fred Breuer from Napier. So I put in about five hundred acres of pines, and that was just in the realms of people talking about farm forestry; but I suddenly realised that that was okay but it couldn’t be as a project, because the farming amongst the forestry would not let you have enough stuff at the end of the day. And pine trees were no different than sheep and cattle – that if you put too many on, you lost.
So we developed different regimes. I did a farm forestry course from Upper Hutt and I became a member of the New Zealand Foresters’ Institute. And we developed four different regimes across the four hundred acres, and surprising as it may seem, the original farm forestry concept was not the best returner of money, because pruned logs dropped in value. So then I managed to get the family … like, my son … you know, his upbringing with Mahi, my very loyal friend who was a Tongan Policeman who I hid in the shearers’ quarters at Woodlands in 1970; he died recently. We remained firm friends, and he worked for me for thirty-five years. And my son … they would prune some pine trees, and that led him when he went to university he did a project on trees. But he went to Otago and he did finance and accountancy, and I don’t think there’s anybody in New Zealand knows more about the pitfalls and everything of what the government’s trying to do now with emission[s] trading scheme and … you know, I have opinions on that but I won’t voice them here now. [Chuckle] Yes, so that was another part of the Mossman history, was the pine trees.
And then strange as it may seem – I learnt from my father, but then I got left a bit of land when my grandfather died in 1960; I got left a few acres of land out by the prison between where the chook farm is and Mangaroa Prison is. Part of that land that was left to me, just a few acres, had pine trees on it. And I remember my grandfather cutting down the pine trees and saying how good they were and this was probably in [the] 1950s. But unfortunately once again, the Mossman family, because it didn’t believe in selling too much, of course when it came to death duties with my grandfather – it was after the Nordmeyer budget of ‘58 where the Labour Government taxed standing trees – so my grandfather’s estate was caught up in quite a lot of things that had to be done. Now the interesting thing about life is when you get experts in to help you, sometimes it’s pretty hard to have a crystal ball; but in hindsight, one must have to be very careful of calling in experts for something that you do for over a thirty year period in the future. My grandfather wrote a very comprehensive will, and of course by the time he died in 1960, twelve of the charities had dispersed. Of the twelve charities that he divided and [to which he] left the money, six of them had gone. But because of my thing on the Trust Board of the Malaghan Institute, I managed to steer what those six trusts would’ve got straight into cancer research in Wellington. So I thought that was a good thing; but what I didn’t think was a good thing is the people that controlled my grandfather’s estate, who did a very poor job of it. Anyway, that’s oral history in [of] the Mossmans, and probably not here.
It’s interesting … I interviewied a man a couple of weekends ago, and he used to manufacture borogluconate; and he worked for the NDA [National Dairy Association] for sixty years. When he was fifty years old he developed and made the first borogluconate …
Right – we used to use it; we used to buy and have shares in NDA and buy that product.
They used to pump the udders up and tie rags round it [them] to stop milk fever.
That’s right, yeah.
And this ninety-eight year old man actually started …
Helped to develop it, yeah.
… making it. Yeah.
Well I have a wonderful story about that. And maybe it’s time for a little bit of humour perhaps. But in Wairoa we’ve got a lot of cattle with magnesium staggers and everything and part of my beef production system is about concentrating calving. We managed to feed them better at the time that they need them so we virtually wiped it out.
But I have a lovely story about Ruataniwha Road, about a cow – and this is a true story – down with milk fever; and as you know they go in a coma through lack of calcium; their muscles won’t work. It was blowing bubbles out of a pool of water, and I go over … and I come as a veterinarian … and I have a look and I think, ‘Oh, there’s a calf over there – oh yeah, it’s milk fever.’ So there’s George behind me – I’m being politically correct now – and his son, who said, “You … you know, you fix it up?” “Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. Okay.” And I run it in, went round the back side of it after the cow … said, “Give it a boot in the bum”; and it jumped out of the pool of water and run [ran] across the paddock. And I turned round … I turned round and …
[Chuckle] Oh dear!
He said to me, “Oh, Jesus Christ! Will it be all right? No! Boy, go get the shovel.” And I said, “No, no, it’s going to be alive and well, and it’ll be okay; don’t put the calf on it.” He said, “Hey boy! Go get the shovel – we’ll dig up the other three!” [Chuckle] And that’s a true story, so if you know about milk fever …
We used to do all our own AI, [artificial insemination] and this was the man who developed the straws.
I remember doing AI for Jack Poate, you know – that was about ‘69 and Jack had been studying it and saw that for some reason or other there was some … or it might’ve been ‘73 … some Charolais semen had got into New Zealand. And Jack got some of this and we went out and did the AI. It wasn’t kind of as successful as it was [is] today, but we got a few calves, you know. But then, you see, we reproduced a whole herd, a hundred and twenty-four calves on the ground, you know, from seven cows, [from] which the fertilised embryos were harvested, for a particular farmer just south of Nuhaka. And I supervised the whole lot, and we got a hundred and twenty-four live calves on the ground from seven cows in one year. Amazing!
And I mean we don’t hear of the technology that’s going on, and for better or for worse, you know, mankind progresses. And I believe it does, but you know, I think we’re at the crossroads now. [I] do think we’ve got to do a little bit more for education, to enable people to have their own creativity and not find it when they’re fifty or sixty.
Yeah, it’s too late then.
Could you grab Bry? We must give her the opportunity …
Now Bry Mossman is going to tell us something about her life, her family; where she met David, and where her folks came from, where she was born, and so forth. Thank you, Bry.
Bry: I met David in Wairoa; David was a friend of my father. And I had been living in Palmerston North and been married and had two children. So that’s how I met David, in Wairoa. But originally I was born in Gisborne, and my father and mother were born in Gisborne as well. My father’s parents … his mother came from the Chatham Islands … part Māori. How much Māori we’re not quite sure. And his father was born in Towai in North Auckland. Towai – it’s in North Auckland.
Oh, I haven’t heard of that one.
No. That was the Forbes side, because my father was a Forbes … Eric Forbes. So originally the Forbes family, apart from coming from Scotland, in Inverness, they went to Australia. My great grandfather was Australian; my grandfather was a first generation New Zealander.
What did you folks do?
My father was in World War II with the British Navy, in radar communications; and when the war finished he came back to Gisborne. And he was offered either a farm, to go farming, or an apprenticeship and he chose the apprenticeship because he didn’t know anything about farming. So he became a saddler for the Thompsons in Gisborne – they’re a big saddlery firm there.
Is this the Forbes name we see associated with saddlery businesses?
That’s your relations?
Bry: Yes. My brother took over …
David: In Stortford [Lodge].
Bry: Yes, in Stortford. So my dad was a saddler, and he married my mother; her father was English, and they’d come to Gisborne as well; ‘cause her mother was from Canterbury … Timaru … and married my grandfather who was English, who’d come out from London. And they had my mum. Mum was a teacher, and Dad and Mum lived in Gisborne. And then they moved to Wairoa and they had a business there, Forbes & Co, and it was a bit like the early Farmlands; it was like a general store. He was the biggest boot seller in the East Coast of New Zealand, I think. He had a very good business, and they also had a boat business and a motorcycle business. So they were a real rural town.
So you grew up in Wairoa then?
I lived with my grandparents until I was about four, because there was [were] no places to rent in Wairoa. So as a child I grew up in Gisborne with my grandparents, and my mum and dad commuted and … eventually went to school in Wairoa, and then left Wairoa when I was sixteen, seventeen and went to Teachers’ College in Palmerston North.
So you’re a teacher?
Oooh … well kind of. [Chuckle] I had two years at Training College, but I just found teaching so stifling so I ended up applying for a job with Charles Haines Advertising in Wellington. So I worked in the advertising industry for about two or three years, and then I worked for State Services Commission when they were loading up the Wanganui computer, and they needed programmers and people to load that computer up. So I was a night time … I worked from six o’clock at night [chuckle] ‘til about one or two in the morning. Very good money, so it was worth doing.
Then I had a family; I was originally married to Lee Winter from Wairoa, which is an old Wairoa … Winter family. I was basically a hometown girl really, [chuckle] and had two children. And then we lived in Palmerston North for about six years.
And your children, where are they now?
My oldest daughter’s Kelly, and she lives in Auckland. She married an Auckland boy; lived in London fourteen years. She doesn’t want to come back.
Adam is married [to] Nicola Pernel, and John Pernel is an old Wairoa-Gisborne name … the Pernels, yes. And I knew John – I used to see him standing outside … I used to go to the Presbyterian Church when I was at Sunday School … and John would always be standing out on the road; I remember John quite well. He didn’t go to the same school as I did; I went to Hillneath School, which is no longer. So Adam’s married Nicola, and they live in Havelock North and have four children.
And Michaela married a Trotter … she married Clem Trotter from Wellington; Ron Trotter’s grandson, so we have [chuckle] Trotters in the family. They have trot tots.
David: Trotters and [?Dakins?].
Bry: Yes, so the joke in the family is, you don’t want to call your kid Ryan. [Chuckles] So they’ve got two grandchildren; so we’ve got ten grandchildren between us, haven’t we? So we’ve got a his, hers and ours family.
And besides looking after this man of yours, do you have any hobbies?
David: She’s busy.
Bry: I’m just too busy. I spent most of my life in Wairoa looking after the house and the garden and all the kids, and really running around after children, and making sure David – I’m an old fashioned wife, I suppose – there’s always a meal on the table …
Bry: … ‘cause David worked such long hours, and we lived on a hundred acres so you know, big garden and a big house and lots of kids and animals, and so really … I did a bit of part time relieving in Wairoa. That was a bit tough, [chuckle] as you can imagine. But really, it wasn’t ‘til the eighties that I took over my father’s … the manufacturing side of my father’s business. I worked there for five years under Lord Manufacturing, and I ran that company for four, five years …
David: Very well, too.
Bry: … making accessories for carpenters all round New Zealand, and gardenware. And I had reps [representatives] in Australia; I had twenty-three reps on the road. I had about twelve reps under a chap in Geelong in Australia, and with AHM I had probably ten reps here. So they sold all the collars … dog collars, carving … all that sort of thing to Farmlands and Mitre10; it was quite a big business.
You look back and you think, how did you cope with it all?
Well it was nice at five o’clock to come home for a wine. [Chuckle]
I didn’t ask you David, I know that you went as far north as Ruatoria, but how far south did you come from Wairoa?
David: Oh, okay. I didn’t want to come down to Hawke’s Bay at all, you know, like … to Hastings. So I did Tutira for many years cause they couldn’t get any veterinarians there, and you know, we kind of ran at a loss you know, doing Tutira. And of course the dairy industry went broke in ‘86/’87, and all the sharemilkers in Tutira just got up and walked out.
And I did all the Lands & Survey, you know – Opouahi and Waitara, you know – doing the Lands & Survey. We had a big practice; it was a big practice, but I never ever really came down to help me [my] mates down here. They were catered for. I mean, yeah – we had enough on our hands.
There’s so much history in that back country …
It’s amazing. Well, the Lands & Survey’s an interesting thing in the Wairoa area, you know, because they bought the [?] place, split it up and that was going to be pretty good. And it was pretty good, and a whole lot of young people got up there with mortgages around their neck and they farmed; and you know, they became very, very good farmers. But in hindsight of course, the government was making a fortune out of buying land and subdividing it up and then flogging it off; and most of the places were too small. So that’s why Clifford got out – I mean, Clifford got his start up there. Ian Bickell now owns two or three or four of the farms up there.
But then the worst thing that happened was of course that Landcorp was created, and they amalgamated Mangaone, Ruapapa and Waihi. And schools went; the married shepherds went; and so they put the corporate rule over something. And d’you know that Landcorp’s profit … right? Landcorp’s profit for the last few years is hardly my profit, and yet they’ve got $1.8 billion worth of land. It’s an absolute shambles; and it’s sixty people in Rotorua. And you know, I tried to get some of the politicians in the National Party to change their mind, but I was stonewalled by the fact that it’s not our policy, so there was no thinkability, you know, and unfortunately this is what we’re up [against] now – there’s no thinkability behind what comes out. And I think we’re in for a very ordinary time, as farmers.
Okay, well I think probably this history can be added to at any time, so if you think of something that is important …
But having done some of this with Salute Wairoa and these nine hundred men, you know, from the Woodlands point of view; now I can talk on behalf of Bry because Eric Forbes was again a very modest man … a very very fine man … and he was decorated in six theatres of war in the British Royal Navy, you know, in the radar …
Bry: He’s in communications.
David: Yeah, so yes, this lad born in Gisborne, as a seventeen or eighteen year old, was selected by the British …
David: …to go in as a radar man in the development stages; and to go into six different theatres of war, including having something to do with the ‘Kuttabul’ and the sinking in the harbour in Sydney. You know, and I think all Eric wanted to do, you know, was kind of come home and have a family and have a life, which …
Bry: A quiet life.
David: … a quiet life. I was privileged to meet many of those farmers that had balloted farms and they were the most gentlest, generous men. You know, like the Maurie Logans; the Murray Richardsons; people in Wairoa that had had those farms after the Second World War, and you know, they’d been in the ORDG, and they’d been on the ‘Achilles’ went it sunk – Maurie Logan – I think it was the Achilles. And all these people were scattered throughout Wairoa, and they were just great. And they didn’t tell their stories very much, but they did tell me a little.
Okay I think at this stage we’ve pretty well covered everything. Thank you, Bry and David, for giving us this history of Hawke’s Bay. Thank you for the contribution.
Thank you, Frank, for giving us the opportunity, and thanks to the Knowledge Bank in Hawke’s Bay.
Original digital file
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Interviewer: Frank Cooper
- David Henry Mossman
- Virginia Bry Mossman