Graham Sydney Clare Interview

Today is the 9th of November 2017. I’m interviewing Graham Clare of Havelock North on his family and his business over the years. Graham, would you like to tell us something about your family?

Something about my family is my father was at the First World War, and he came out from England by boat … don’t know how many weeks it used to take to get to New Zealand, but that’s what he did. He was an engineer. I’m not sure what he did on the boat, whether he was engaged there or not, but he landed in New Zealand and as an engineer he worked in the freezing works.

Where was this, in Christchurch?

At Belfast. So he then shifted around and I’m not sure quite where, but I know he was at the Pakipak [Pakipaki] Works during the earthquake. And that’s what he did there.

Now his mother and father came out from England – followed him out, because as he told them conditions were so much better there, in New Zealand. And then his brother came and settled in Belfast as well.

He worked as an engineer with the freezing works for quite a while, but then he went into a business … shares of a big business in Christchurch … a metal pressing company … what it’s called. And he was actually a die maker – that was his trade. And he went into several businesses in Christchurch sharpening saws – all that sort of thing, general engineering. And then he got an offer of going up to Hastings from Christchurch to take shares with an engineering business. The other partner was Les Barclay, and that was like that for a long, long time – it was the two of them.

Now before he came up he had married obviously, because you were born in Christchurch, weren’t you?


So he married your mother – she was a Hawke’s Bay girl?

Yeah – that’s where they met, at the dances that they had.

And he must have gone back to Christchurch when they were married then, because …


… you started off …

That’s right.

… growing up there. Yes of course, she was a Speers of Longlands.

Yep. Well Dad and Mum used to organise the dances at the Pakipaki Hall, and that’s where they met.

Now the Pakipaki Hall – that’s down in the marae, is it?

‘Tis, yes. Houngarea Hall I think.

Oh, so you’re a family that was well involved in that local community?

Well that’s true, yeah.

And you lived at your grandfather’s home?

[I’m] not sure … not sure of that. It would have to be somewhere that they lived.

Yes. But didn’t your parents move into old Alec’s home to help look after him?

Yeah, that’s where we went when we came up from Christchurch, and we went and looked after Grandad. We were there for quite a while. We were there really until he died – that’s Grandad that died.

My father and your grandad were very close friends once …

That’s right – good drinking partners, I think.

… and they fell out, and never spoke again.

You wonder why, don’t you?

And so then you went to school – did you go to Central School?

Went to Central School – we used to go in on the school bus. It picked us up at the gate of the old homestead and dropped us off in town at Central School. Often used to regret some of that because we were sort of drifted along with sports and things like that, but we got on the school bus and that took us home straight away, so we always felt we missed out on a lot on …

So you were locked out of going to rugby practice … all those things.

Yeah. Yeah.

Of course the Speers’d be on the bus too?

Yeah, and quite a few from Bridge Pa and all of that.

And I guess then you went to Boys’ High?

Hastings Boys’ High.

And did you excel or do anything there?

No, I don’t think so.

Did you play any sport at high school or was it the same thing?

Yeah, same thing, we used to have to go home on the bus. Oh, Thursday I think we had a bit of rugby that we played, but not very much because we were still limited by when the bus came.

You took obviously trades at High School, did you?

Yeah I took … General was the course that I took. I remember Buck Hamilton when we first got there, and he said “what are you doing in this class?” ‘Cause Buck was an engineer [chuckle] … “you shouldn’t be in here.”

Yes I thought for a minute you might have been a trades class.

That’s what he thought … that’s where he thought I should be. But he knew Dad, from way back.

And so while you were living at your grandad’s place, your father was in partnership with Les Barclay …


… and they had a business down Heretaunga Street West, was it?

No, it was in Karamu North. It’s now owned by a liquor outlet, John Steele before that.

That’s right. I met your father a couple of times at this particular shop.

[Chuckle] Yes.

Your sister? What did your sister do when she left?

She left school and went to work at the Post Office. And yeah, there’s a little side issue in there, but I don’t like to … I can put it down you can always scrub it out if you want. But she got the job that she wanted when she left school and it was a long time after that that they told her why she got the job. And because her name was Clare they thought she was Irish, and obviously Catholic.

But I tell you what – it worked those days.

Yep – that’s what it was about.

Yes. And then later on she married Seth Fulford?

Yeah … yep. Well she changed jobs after that and she went and worked at Blackmores for quite a while, in the office.

Men’s outfitters. And from there, how many children did they have?

Two. Boy and a girl.

Are they still both here?

They are.

So then you of course, being the younger brother, started working an apprenticeship with …

Hector Jones, and the apprenticeship was five years. That’s how long it took to get though.

And five years working under Ralph Taylor. Grumpy old Ralph … he was okay. [Chuckle]

I often think about Ralph. I’m sure I could have helped him, you know, if I’d just carried on a little bit further. But Stuart Longley, as you talked about earlier on, he was a very kind man, he really was. He was something different. He was an asthmatic, the same as I was …

Yes, sure.

… and whether that made the difference or not I don’t know. But he was … yeah, had a lot of time for him.

You did your time, five years, and you left?

Stayed there for quite a while, yeah – don’t ask my how long now. And then I had the opportunity to go into business on my own.

And that was Jervois Street?

Jervois Street, yeah. No, it wasn’t Jervois Street to start with … Alexandra Street.

But it served it’s purpose, didn’t it?

Oh, it did, yeah – heck yeah. That’s dead right – it was all a bit different. We moved round into Jervois Street and knocked the front out of the old house. And that was a good workshop too, and I always used to … when it was done I thought ‘well that’s my business premises done’, not realising that within six months I was going to be outgrowing the … with that business.

Well that’s the problem when you do a good job, isn’t it? People like you.

[Chuckle] But I know we built the workshop building before I built the house, which was a bit unusual in those days but that’s the way I did it.

Well, it was probably quite sensible really.

It is yes, but a lot of people aren’t sensible with that sort of thing. I’m not saying that I was, it was just the way that it fell. The opportunity was there.

How would you describe your first home?


Later you built this lovely big Lockwood home …


And it’s time we talked about where you met Marie.

Okay, yeah. Well we used to go out to the dances together to start with. And there was quite a group of us that used to get around together, and Marie was one of those. Yeah, I started taking Marie out quite frequently.

Was the BSA car yours of Norman’s?

No, it was ours. It was in the shed when we came up from Christchurch – the BSA car, and hadn’t been used for quite a long time. And my father being an engineer of course, he mucked around and got it going. It was a good little car … really good little car. We put the Ford 10 motor and gear box in it. It had a bit of a chequered history, [the] amount of people that worked on it, and we had to replace it in the finish. Quite rare. Well the BSA had a fluid fly wheel, pre-select gear box made by Daimler. And I know when I went to get my licence, the traffic cop said “have you driven any different sort of cars that ..?” You know, because it was different. You had no clutch. Yeah, it was different. I said “well my father’s got a Bradford truck”, I said “I drive that as well.” “If you can drive a Bradford truck”, [chuckle] “you’ve got your licence.”

We used to hitch a ride home from Napier Boys’ High with Ray Almond, and he had a Bradford van. But I always said I’d never own one.

No. Well Alan Speers had a Bradford truck, and he had it for quite a long time. In fact it’s still in Jimmy’s shed … it’s still there. And anyway, Don Speers – they used to have a farm that they leased at Elsthorpe – and Don Speers took Alan’s Bradford truck up to Elsthorpe to do something, and he said he quickly learnt that if you wanted to go straight ahead, that’s where you put the steering wheel, was straight ahead. Don’t try any of these things ‘cause that’s what it does. Oh … it took him .. he was virtually home again I think, before he’d learnt how to drive it.

We were talking about Marie. You got married … when was that?

‘63, yeah.

And you had two children?


John and Lisa?


And Lisa unfortunately had a medical problem that took her away?


And of course John, he became an auto-electrician too, didn’t he?

Oh, yes. [Chuckle]

You can’t stop, it can you?

No, it seems to come out eventually.

You never really took things easy until you actually stopped?

Well that’s right, and I got called back there several times until in the finish I said “we’re going to make a break here”, so I slipped out of it.

And John carried that on until he disposed of the business and became a pilot.

That’s right.

I think he trains pilots, doesn’t he?

Yeah. They’ve got a name for it.

So that was I guess a relief to sell the business and a move away from it, but of course during this period of time Marie became unwell didn’t she?

Yeah … mmm.

And that was a very sad day.


Often think of Marie. And from that point you’ve really been on your own?


Now just some other areas, Graham – you’ve always been a very, very keen duck shooter?

[Chuckle] I just loved it – I was addicted to it, I know that.

When did you start duck shooting?

Oh, I was still at school. Yeah, and I just used to drift out on the riverbed, duck shooting for hours on end. Marie never minded, ‘cause she said “he was a duck shooter when I met him”, so …

And you actually shot until you were seventy-seven, didn’t you?

Seventy-eight … seventy-seven, you’re right.,

Yes, I remember when you stopped. And of course you gave John the bug too – he’s turned into a great white hunter.

He still enjoys it, but he’s nowhere near the dedication that his father’s got.

No, no. Did you ever do any clay bird shooting or anything like that?

Yeah, I did quite a bit of that … quite a lot.

Was that just to sharpen your duck shooting?

Virtually a different sport altogether, yeah, and I used to enjoy it. But I was … yeah, I was chasing it pretty hard there for a while, and it was good. Eventually one day I was out at the Gun Club, beautiful sunny day and I’m out there shooting clay birds, and all of a sudden I thought ‘I’ve got a family at home that I should be with, not out here’. And I just chopped it off, yeah.

Well one of your other great loves was fishing …


… for the wily trout.


And you’ve done that all over the area too, haven’t you?

[Chuckle] … have really.

You’ve fished Waikaremoana, Taupo?

I have really, and I used to spend a lot of time on the Tukituki … the local Tukituki River, ‘cause it’s some of the best fishing that you’ll get in the world. Often we drive past it, going fishing.

It seems crazy.

It does, yeah. But yes … Waikaremoana … loved Waikaremoana. And Taupo, yes – I fished a bit of Taupo but I wasn’t as dedicated to it somehow.

Maraetotara was another favourite spot of yours too, wasn’t it?

Was too, yes.

I remember going with you up to the hot springs at Puketitiri, and we went up in the old Land Rover.

Did we really?

We did indeed.


And Craig must have been quite young at the time.

I remember we had Craig with us – he wasn’t very old.

No. I guess you’re like a lot of us – it’s not that you don’t enjoy fishing, it’s just become more difficult now than it used to be.


I guess you’ve been a member of the Rotary Club in Havelock North; you’ve been a member of Jim Newbigin’s Coffin Dodgers?


You’ve obviously been a member of the Fishing Club. Were you a member of the Hastings Angling Club?

Yes, I was, yeah.

Because I think … would that have been one of the areas you had contact with Laurie Cook?

That’s right. And the big fish that he caught.

When I took all the photos in of him with his fish, I said “you must include it. That’s the biggest fish ever caught out of the Tukituki in memory, and it was caught by a man who was a superb fisherman who has been a ranger …

They didn’t realise.



So you’ve retired, but let’s go back and look at some of the happy days of the past and I often think of all the balls and the parties that we all went to as couples. They were really neat times.

Yeah. That’s dead right. [Chuckle] It’s like that Roger Fox Band, I can’t handle it, it’s just too loud. Yeah. Painful.

The one thing we didn’t talk about and that was Lisa’s wedding. And Lisa married Daniel Sullivan?

Yeah. She’s been divorced.

That’s right. Is there anything else about anything that …

Bound to be.

You’re part of such a huge family circle …

It does [is] really. You’ve got to be careful in Havelock, if you talk to a Joll, or a Fulford [chuckle] or a …

Or a Yule or a Speers …

They’re all tied up. [Chuckle]

Yes. Oh, the other thing we’ve forgotten about and that’s Auckland and Waihi Beach, and your new friends up there, ‘cause you and Marie had this friendship while Marie was still with us, didn’t you?

That’s right – oh heck, yeah. Yeah.

So if you tell us something about these friends … how you came to meet them and when you moved the caravan up there.

Well the caravan was here, we used to take it out to Waimarama, and … doing that, and we’d also been camping at the camp at Waihi. And Marie said “why don’t we put the caravan up there?” And that’s where we put it. We tried everything up there – we had tents, we had caravans. We’ve settled now, and we’ve got the caravan there but we’ve also got an annex as well – turns it into a little motel unit. The place itself is quite different. It’s a closing optional place, which … a lot of people can’t handle that [?] life.

Yeah, but that’s a personal thing, isn’t it?

Yeah. We’ve been there for years, so you know …

You’ve grown with it.


And your friends – you met them there?

Yeah, most of them, yes. Gee whizz, we’ve … you know, known them for so long now and they really are …

It is a long time …

[Chuckle] Yeah.

… since you took the caravan up first.

Yeah. Before I took the caravan I wanted a spare tyre because I didn’t want to get held up on the way. [Chuckle] So I managed to get one, it was off a Mark III Zephyr which happened to be the same as the caravan. So … didn’t want to get a flat tyre half way over those hills.


So as it happened – yes, it didn’t happen – didn’t need it. It’s still out in the shed, never been used. [Chuckle]

The other thing, Graham, we haven’t talked about … you’ve always enjoyed nice cars too.


You had the Valiant – you must’ve had some before that?

Yeah, I did. PA Vauxhall … was that before or after?

[Speaking together] That’s right, of course …

Brown one. Was that before or after? Yeah, before the Valiant. Yeah, that Valiant was a nice car. [Chuckle]

Well they were quite powerful really, weren’t they?

That’s right.

And then you have a beautiful … is that a royal blue Daimler?

Midnight blue.

In immaculate order …


And to keep it company there’s a Merc sitting there. That’d be very nice to own that. You’ve never put a towbar on it?

No – I wouldn’t do it.

And you’ve got the Land Cruiser; you’ve got the Land Rover that you’re rebuilding at the moment … it’s nearly as old as you are.

[Chuckle] Someone said the other day, how old it was. It’s a ‘51.

Sixty-three years old … quite old.

‘Tis, isn’t it? Yep – just always had cars, I suppose.

The other thing to do with the business, and how things have changed over time, Graham … originally your workshop was full of generators, starter motors, distributors … now you’ve got electronics, you’ve got computers. It must have been quite a learning curve?

No, [the] workshops used to be just full, you’re quite right what [as] you say – full of Hillman Hunters, Vauxhall Vivas and all those cars.

Yes. If you came in and wanted a generator or a starter motor, you just went to the shelf and there they were, all these exchange ones.

There was … we had dozens of them – think we had ‘bout six or seven of them, and sometimes it wasn’t enough.

I don’t know whether cars have better suspensions, but you know yourself …

I know it’s true, but I don’t know why.

Batteries, you know – they were lucky if they actually reached their guaranteed time. Now, the batteries go forever.

Well we used to put new cases on them when I was an apprentice …


… and we’d pull all the plates out, and put it over onto the top of the new one, and down it went. Now you wouldn’t even bother … they’re all plastic, you can’t get in there to do that anyway.

Yes. Yes. And you remember they used to grow whiskers round all the terminals …

All sealed … well sealed and the fumes can’t get out.

And there’s been some major changes. ‘Cause you would’ve originally, I suppose, started with magnetos, and that was another specialised job, wasn’t it?


How would you like to go in now and work on it?

I’d be lost … really lost.

So I think that’ll probably just about – unless you can think of something?

There’s bound to be something we’ve missed out on, but don’t ask me what it is ‘cause I can’t remember.

So thank you for sharing that [??].

Well, thank you – I’d be lost on my own that’s for sure.

Okay. Well thank you, Graham.

This is an addendum to our previous interview. Graham, would you like to tell us something about Marie’s artwork?

Well it was very important to Marie and she was very good at it, and she used to belong to several clubs. U3A [University of the Third Age] was one of the clubs that she used to belong to – she used to teach them. And Keirunga, she was very active in Keirunga. She was a water colour artist but she used to branch into other areas as well. I may be a bit biased, but I thought she was [an] excellent artist.

She didn’t do any pottery or anything like that, did she?

She did play around with that a little bit, just as an experiment, that’s all. But really, watercolours was her main avenue.

Well you actually have a little studio at the side of the house in Napier Road here that she used to paint in.

That’s right. Yes. Well that’s absolutely full of artwork from Marie, and she’s got artworks in Wellington which get leased out.

Okay – that’s fine.

Today is the 18th of January 2018. Today I’m doing an addendum to Graham Clare’s interview. Graham’s going to tell us about things that he forgot.

It’s a bit hard just to break in. I’ve got no …

Well, you could start off by talking about when you and Marie moved into the little …

Cottage – yeah.

Tell us about that, because I can remember some really happy times.

We did have some happy times in there. We used to laugh because in amongst all the gang we had the smallest house that you could get, but we seemed to have more parties than anybody else. [Chuckle] But it was really good. We ended up doing it up ‘til it was very comfortable. I knew there were things in there that needed fixing, but none of our friends could … they hated the thought of losing what we all enjoyed so much.

So you’ve always spent quite a lot of time with your cousin Don, fishing and shooting. Would you like to tell us something about that?

Yes well Don and I we shot ducks together for many, many years. And I’d be still at school when I first started duck shooting with Don, and I’ve got a lot to be thankful to him for … some of the, you know, things that happened. He was older than I was … he was about five or six years older.

I only really knew your duck shooting days when you were up at Middle Road – you then moved down to Waitangi in the later years, didn’t you?

That’s right, yeah. Yeah. Middle Road got too much for us. It was a young man’s place … all the gates and everything. And we moved down to Waitangi and that was a gentlemen’s shooting. We could be from home to there in about ten minutes. That suited us fine.

You probably didn’t get as many ducks though, as you used to get at Middle Road.

No. Nothing like it. But we were quite happy … we realised that all we needed to have was a feed and the sport that went with it.

Cause I always remember duck shooting always was about Marie’s birthday …


and you always seem to be able to bring home a whole bath full of ducks for her to [chuckle] practise on, plucking.

That’s right. Well she was very good, ‘cause I was working in those days. I’d be at work and Marie would be at home. Sometimes it would be a cock pheasant or sometimes some of the ducks. And she always used to tell the story that she was plucking a cock pheasant, and a springer spaniels that I had, Sprig – he was always watching her all the time. [Chuckle] As far as he was concerned it was his cock pheasant, it wasn’t Marie’s cock pheasant. And she used to laugh ‘cause he’d have his nose about two inches away from her plucking the feathers out.

And of course those days you had the backup of your Mark 1 Land Rover, didn’t you?

That’s right, yeah.

That must have been a godsend to be able to go wherever you wanted to go?

Well it was very slow, it was very low geared. As soon as you hit the hills at the back of …


… yeah, then you’d be down in the gears. Never got lower than low gear, that was [chuckle] the lowest. [Chuckle] And it was very reliable and really good, but yes, it was slow. Then I got the Land Cruiser which speeded things up a little.

Then there was the other time we went up to Tony Connors’ to test the Ngaruroro River – whether jet boats affected the trout striking. So you were the fisherman; he would roar in with a jet boat over a pool; you would jump out, cast into the pool, pull a couple of fish out, and so destroy all the theories of …

That’s right, yeah.

And that boat those days – it was overdraft, wasn’t it?

Yeah, overdraft. I remember those days. I remember going there and we had to check to see what was going on, whether it affected the fish. A chap by the name of Merv Berkett – he was part of the committee that was checking it out. We felt that in our mind we proved that it didn’t affect the fishing at all.

While we’re talking about fishing, of course your fishing days [were] with the Fulfords?


You were sort of commercial fisherman, weren’t you?

Yes, they had all the answers, they really did. They were excellent fishermen those guys, particularly Ewan and Noel. And I remember first going out there … being invited to go out there, and I went out there, and wow! It was sort of [chuckle] in amongst all the guys that were real experts. They really were.

They just seemed to catch all the best fish.

Yeah.  And the crayfishing … it just wasn’t asking about whether we get any crayfish, it’s how many we get. Different now.

In those days of course, you had your own boat?


That was a sixteen foot …

Sea Nymph. Good boat, really good boat.

Yes. You never got tipped out there, did you?

No, nothing like that. A few round us that did.

And then of course there was Waikaremoana?

Yes, that was a regular. And we’d take the kids with us, and … yeah.

You would go and camp in one of the inlets, wouldn’t you?

Yes. Sometimes we stayed at the Home Bay in the little huts that were built for the hydro power guys. We thought that they were marvellous but the people that looked after them didn’t think they were that [?] They were getting old and dilapidated.

Freshwater fishing took you from Taupo all over the place. You weren’t particularly homed in on any one particular one, were you?

No, we used to roam around quite a bit.

Biggest fish you ever caught?

The biggest fish I’ve ever caught is seven and a half pound – I could never get more than that. And that was out at Waikaremoana … and those browns that cruise the edge. Just about every one of them you caught was seven and a half pound. [Chuckle]

So the Ruakituri’s like that. We used to catch five, six pound trout all the time, but to get a seven or eight pounder … very seldom.

We sort of … Bobby [?Spane?] actually, and myself used to go up there, and we mastered those browns cruising the edge. We learnt how to catch them – made it quite exciting.

Now the other thing we haven’t really said much about, and that was Marie’s art.

Yes … yes.

Because she was an artist in her own right, wasn’t she?

Yeah, a really good artist, she really was, and so sad that she was cut short so soon.

But I’m sure you’ve got many of her paintings?

Yes. In actual fact John, my son, went down to Wellington last weekend and collected up a lot of Marie’s paintings from down there. And they had them down there on lease, so they leased them out, and he shifted them around and brought some home. And they still attract a lot of attention. I’ve got paintings all round Hastings which … [chuckle] it’s just a matter of me going and collecting them up. There’s some in one of the banks; one of the accountants I think, has got Marie’s paintings in. And Stephen Bentall – he’s got two in his. Yes, they’re still around.

That’s good. Now can you think of anything else that we may have forgotten about?

Not really. Oh Christmas Eve function … yeah, under the lights. And I used to make sure that I got blue lights because the blue was sort of like snow. And no, we had a lot and it really looked good when the … [by] the time I finished.

The only thing that isn’t still over there is the barbecue …

Well it was a big barbecue, one like that. There’s my barbecue now, it’s on the deck there, for two people. But it’s quite big enough. [Chuckle]

Okay, well look I think that’s probably given us all those little extras.


So thank you, Graham.

Good, Frank, yeah – that’s good.

Original digital file



  • Graham Sydney Clare
  • Marie Alice Clare

Additional information

Interviewer:  Frank Cooper

Accession number


Do you know something about this record?

Please note we cannot verify the accuracy of any information posted by the community.

Supporters and sponsors

We sincerely thank the following businesses and organisations for their support.