Ian Richard Charles Longley Interview
Today is the 19 November, 2014. I’m interviewing Ian Longley of Hastings on the life and times of himself and his family. Thankyou Ian.
I’m the younger son of A W S Longley and Amelia Maud Longley. She was a Hales, was born in Wimbledon. She was the eldest daughter of the Hales family down there. They had a farm right opposite where the Wimbledon School is as of now. My father, he came out from England. He was the son of the manager of a coal mine in Yorkshire. He came to New Zealand to Wellington and he started school teaching and he went up here behind Pakipaki. There was a saw mill up there at that stage. They had I think eight children there from the area with all hands and he was there as a school teacher, and taught them there.
Can you remember approximately what date that was Ian?
No, I can’t remember. So from there he was then transferred to Wimbledon School and was teaching there. My mother was going to school there and it was … they hit it off pretty quickly, because at that stage it was the only schooling there was. And I think she might have been about eighteen at that stage when she was still at primary school. So it wasn’t long before the relationship was created.
Her father, Thomas Hales, he being a farmer, he thought it would be a good idea if my father should have a farm, so he set it up for them on the Wimbledon Road which was … be about five miles from the Wimbledon Hotel north towards Porangahau. They moved in there – it was just a little lean-to shack but he also, being pretty enterprising, decided that it would be a good idea if they bought the Wimbledon Store. So he bought the Wimbledon Store; my mother ran the store. At this stage there were still coaches coming out from Dannevirke. My father was always quick to latch on anything new, and he thought it would be a good idea to start a service car run between Herbertville and Wimbledon. So he bought two Cadillac cars, the big open tourer ones where they could put plenty in. And it was only a period of time before he ran the coaching company broke. People just wouldn’t go in a coach, because it was the joke that the wives didn’t like their hubbies had to stay overnight in Dannevirke and got into all sorts of trouble, so they could see they could get them home again the same day.
Would this be in the 1920s?
It would be, yes, that’s right. And then I think he bought also a Minerva, and he had to have the Minerva there as well – that was another big car. And they were quite willing – he always remarked on that because he was getting £100 a fare between Herbertville and Dannevirke.
In those days he said the worst thing about the cars in those areas, that everyone else had coaches and muddy roads and so forth and the wagons left a narrow track and if you slipped into that track you tore the tyre off. So they used to have about four spare rims on the back and they used to ruin tyres every trip. And apart from that it was cheaper than having to stay overnight. So he kept that running, so he was successful with that and of course he had the store and he was still teaching and he had a farm, so I think the Education Department thought maybe he had too much to do so [chuckle] they suggested he leave the teaching, which he did.
So how big would the farm have been?
It was about a thousand acres.
Oh gosh, oh … and school teaching and a store.
Oh, yes. He had a very good man that he employed to drive one of the cars. As it turned out he was a ‘fixit’ man. He could fix anything no matter what it was, he just fixed it. Dad had the brain and he had the hands, and it was … they were a great combination. In fact he worked for my father for forty years. So that is what happened there.
The store was leased out when they moved to the farm when he gave up teaching. That carried on for many years. I remember one of the ones that leased for a long time was George Hart. He was there and in fact I went to school with his daughter. At that stage I’m the youngest of six children, four sisters and one brother. They are all deceased. I’m the only one left now. At eighty four I’m feeling a bit vulnerable now. [Chuckle]
Schooling, I used to have to ride from the farm to the Wimbledon School which was five miles and I used to ride … had a pony and used to ride it. Those days there was no such things as saddles for kids. There was a sack or surcingle round …
… and I became allergic to the horses. It was through the horse [speaking together] …
Yeah. My father bought my second sister a little Singer. She used to drive me to school in that in the winter time. But when the roads were bad sometimes I’d have to stay with my grandmother, Jemima Hales, who lived opposite the school. That was where I was there. Of course at that stage I was nearly finished at primary school and the war came and there was just an exodus of all young men from the district. It was very noticeable actually – very difficult to get people to help when all the young ones had gone.
So what was it like growing up in that area as a boy. What did you do?
I don’t know, because … the youngest, I suppose I got pushed around a bit.
Yeah and I tagged along with all the others.
Why are you following us?
Yeah. I … at a very early age I had a real liking to [for] machinery. In fact the man who worked for my father he built a box on the back of a Fordson tractor. My father had one of the first Fordson tractor in the district – one of three in Hawke’s Bay I gather. The local farmers used to laugh and used to reckon he was going to fill all the gullies up with kerosene tins. [Chuckle] It was a bit of a joke about that. Anyway I was …sat in the box, maybe I don’t know – three, four – and I went out riding on the tractor and I became that way inclined.
So were they rubber tyred tractors or steel?
Oh, no, no – they were steel. Right back then they were just diagonal bars across …
Yes. So it wouldn’t have been very comfortable riding on it.
Oh, terrible. [Chuckle] So when the war came, where was I going to go to school – that was the next thing. So because I’d just had pneumonia for the second time my father thought he’d better get me away to school. And it was during mid-term and the only place they could get me in was in Wanganui at St George’s College, and that was a Preparatory to Collegiate. That was an experience for me. I’d never been on a train before, never been away from home and it was all pretty scary stuff for a young lad. But it was a very interesting life in those few years I had at St George’s. Because the war was on we had Chinese, American, English, Dutch children. People were sending the children to the safe place in New Zealand. They were going up to St George’s. There was a real mixed thing, and I will never forget an American boy – we called him ‘Yank’, and we went to him because he always had money so he was our banker and he always of course had interest on us. [Chuckle] And then from St George’s I was meant to go on to Collegiate, and I said to my father “no, I don’t want to go to Collegiate”. He said “what do you want to do?” And I said “well, I want to go to Wanganui Technical College.” So that’s where I went. Loved it because it had the workshops and everything and I was happy making things, doing things.
And did you play any sports while you were in Wanganui?
No, I was not a good sportsman at all. It was never part of my scene. Never was and never has been, actually. I’ve just kept my hands busy and I like making things or doing things.
So when I’d finished there I went back to the farm. At that stage my brother was an agricultural contractor – my father had set him up, and at that stage had an early Caterpillar crawler tractor which was pretty new then and ‘the’ thing to have. And he went on and Dad bought him a second tractor, and was contracting. My brother got sick of that and decided it wasn’t him, so he shut it down and I ended up with the tractors. One was in a bit of a worn out state so my job was to try and get it together. I worked there, mainly on the farm, doing nearly all … all the tractor work. Anything with wheels I was doing it, and I was the fixit man from fixing the roof to whatever, so I became pretty handy. The second Caterpillar tractor started using oil, so we decided to pull it down. And [I] talked Dad into letting me pull it down and found out what was wrong, and it needed a new set of rings and it needed new cylinders in it. I’m in the proceeds of doing this when – unknown to me of course – that the Caterpillar representatives and one of the head men from America were visiting around different clients who had their product in New Zealand. They must have heard about me, I presume because I was ordering parts. So they came out and they were amazed that I was there – just timing up the fuel pump and what I’d done. And two guys were there and they turned to my Dad and they said “well it’s like this Mr Longley. We want your son in America.” Dad said “oh, well – you’d better talk to my son about that”. So they talked to me and I said “ yes – that’s a pretty good idea”. They were going to put me through the training, you know. So we hadn’t signed anything but it was all agreed to go, and Mum wasn’t very happy about me going to America at all, but she agreed it would probably be the best thing. So everything was set and then – blow me down – Dad had a heart attack. Mum looked at me and she said “are you still going to go to America? I really need you here”. And I said “yeah – I understand”, so I stayed. So I didn’t do the opportunity.
I then became fully involved in the farm. I carried on. I got married when I was twenty two I think it was, to a Wanganui girl I went to school with. We raised six children out there. We’ve since parted our ways as sometimes happens. My children are still all alive; my youngest boy was right into mechanical things of course, and I set him up here in Havelock North for servicing Mercedes Benz for a number of years. I bought an orchard on Napier Road.
He started collecting all the old Benz’s round the Bay and would sell them off for spare parts. He was pretty happy there actually and then one of the agents who used to be my neighbour out at Porangahau, Tony Baillie, came to see me. He said “hey”, he said “are you interested in selling that orchard you bought off the Davis family?” I said “why?” He said “I think I could get you good money”. I said to my son Michael “well it looks like we’ve got to shut down … might have to move from here”. So he did. He moved to Napier and I actually sold that property to an Australian couple who are now … called it the Te Mata Figgery. That was that there.
Well, going back to the farm – obviously did you still do any contracting or did you just run the farm?
Oh yes, I was contracting in a big way.
They would have been Cat 22s that you had originally were they? Or T20s?
The Caterpillars went very quickly and I started experimenting with other tractors. My Dad was – of course being an Englishman he liked to have everything English. [Chuckle] Jaguars and Rovers and all that in his life time. He was convinced he should buy a Fowler Marshall crawler tractor because he was the CEO of the Power Board in Waipukurau and Tom Lowry had one. They got their heads together and my father thought he should buy one for me so we went with those for a number of years. I had two of them. But most of my contracting was done with hay contracting – found that was something I could fit in with the thousand acre farm I was running. That was very successful. I had a woman that worked for me for nineteen years on the farm, and she became very good. Everyone in the district used to talk about her .. she was … they reckoned she was worth two men. And she did the farm work while I did the contracting.
And so what sort of equipment did you use for the farm contracting? New Holland or John Deere?
No, well – that is interesting, because we had Ferguson to start with. But Dad had the second Ferguson that came in to the Bay. He was innovative, you know, and he liked the idea of the three point linkage. We started off with Fergusons and I kept up the Fergusons because they got bigger and bigger as you seem to do.
One year we were predicted we were going to have a drought. A drought was … it was due. It was going to be a good one – we could see that happening. And I thought about that, and previously I was selling hay off the farm and the demand was too great. And I knew some local Maori’s at Porangahau, just on the Wimbledon Road before you go over the hill into Porangahau – all those flats in there – they owned them. I went and had a talk to them and said “what are going to do with those paddocks?” They said “why?” I said “I’d like to lease them off you for two months – the whole lot”. We agreed to a price – I offered them at better price than what they were getting for grazing. So I went in and put down the tine harrows and pulled them right through all the paddocks to pick up all the wire and bits and pieces that were lying around. I didn’t want any of that in the mowers. [Chuckle] It so happened I made a real killing in that first year of doing that, with money.
On the farm we always had a Landrover, one of the first that came out. My Dad was into Romney stud, and we had to go up to Maxwell to get a stud ram … a replacement stud ram. So we went in the Landrover and I had a little crate on the back and away we go. And coming back by Marton, a blast of steam up the front of us and it blew the core out of the radiator. A big chunk went flying. I walked for a while and found a house and went and phoned up Palmerston North and eventually found Manawatu Motors were the agents for Landrover. I rang them up and they said “yes, we’ll send the truck for you right away and pick you up.” Now this was about half past seven at night. We were eventually picked up and went to Manawatu Motors. And while we were there waiting, the mechanic came and he said “you wouldn’t believe this – we’ve got a brand new radiator sitting upstairs for this model.” They set about putting the new radiator in. So while father and I were just watching, you know, the main door goes up and in comes a Mercedes and the salesman drives it round and puts it in the showroom and he starts polishing, and this is quite late by this stage. So Dad being curious about liking nice cars and that he wandered over to have a look at it, you see. Well, he’s looking at it, I wandered over, the mechanic spots Dad and starts doing the hard sell on him.
Now it was interesting, because that Mercedes had come from Waipawa. It was an estate car. It had only done just a few miles. That’s alright, the radiator is in the Landrover so we go home. That was on a Friday night. I rang Dad on the Sunday, I think it was, my father, and I said to him “what are you doing on Monday?” He said “I suppose we’re going back to Palmerston North.” Because he’d asked me previously – he said to me one day we’d been in to the stock sale in Waipukurau, and he said “tell me something” he said “what sort of a car would you like to own?” I said “I want a Rolls Royce Dad.” [Chuckle] And he looked at me and he said “and with that attitude you’ll own one.” I was serious, so … ’cause I just liked the best that there was.
So anyway, that was a pipe dream but I said it. On the Monday morning we went back to Manawatu. So the salesman sees us arrive, you see, and takes my father [clock chimes] into the office and starts doing the hard sell on him again, and I’m sitting behind the wheel of the Mercedes 220, just looking at all the dials and everything on it and I liked all the chrome in it. The salesman said to my father, he said “well what do you think about it?” He said “it’s no use talking to me, the buyer’s sitting behind the wheel there”. And the guy … he couldn’t believe it because I was so young, you know. He came and got me in the office, you see, and Dad was watching, just sitting back in the chair and was watching to see how I was going to manage the deal. He said “well, you know … what’s the deposit? And the terms can be like this.” And he went like that. I said “no, I’ll pay for it by cheque.” I pulled out the pink cheque book and he nearly fell over. You know what that represents don’t you? Murray Roberts cheque book.
Oh, of course.
I experienced that in Wellington. It’s like opening the vault door.
Well, I used to be a contractor too, and most of my clients – they all paid – Dalgety’s cheques, Murray Roberts, De Pelichet – they all had their …
But the Murray Roberts one – you never questioned it. I actually met with Murray Roberts himself. So he said “okay” … so he accepted the cheque, and he looked at it and that and said “yeah, that’s fine – it’s all settled”. He said “oh, I’ll take you for a drive in the car, you have to have a drive”. I said “no I don’t want a drive.” He said “but you have to have a drive before I let you take it.” I said “no, I want it on the hoist.” And he was a bit flabbergasted, and Dad sat there and he said “I think you should just listen to what he’s saying – he wants it on the hoist”. It went on the hoist and when I had a look at it I could see that … the shock absorbers in the Mercedes were inside the spring … and on the metal roads at Porangahau out there – ’cause it was metal roads all the way from Wanstead as you know. and the shock absorbers in the Holden station wagon had flattened – twice a year I had to put new shocks on it. When I saw that I knew, and I had a good look and it was stone proof underneath – that’s what I was thinking of. And that was a very successful car that I … I drove that to about 146,000 miles I think it was – lovely car.
Coming back to your Fowler Marshall – we tried it out in the paddock, tried it out with roller discs and harrows and this thing would just keep pulling, bit it wasn’t very quick. It was quite slow but it would pull. It didn’t matter what we put on the back of it but this tractor was immaculate.
Well actually, talking about the Fowler tractors, ’cause as I mentioned before … forgotten his name – just talked about the Fowler and … the farmer, can’t think of his name now. He got the wheeled tractor anyway. He was with Dad on the Power Board. And he had a plough specially made for that Fowler tractor and he had five furrows on the back of it. And he said he could still pull it with these.
I know. There was no wheel slip because the big motor probably only fired five times a revolution.
Yeah, well they originated ’cause Fowler were the traction engine people.
It started with a cartridge start. I still have a packet of cartridges in the shed.
So what size Massey Ferguson did you get up to?
I went to a 185 I think it was. Now from then, bearing in mind I had my first Mercedes and I bought the next one. The first one when I bought it I realised that it was … there were still six children, take them to school and I thought ‘I can’t take the children to school in a Mercedes, there’ll be all noses out of joint. It wasn’t appropriate.
So what I did – I went back to do a service over at Manawatu Motors and I said “I’m in a quandary … I don’t know what to buy ’cause everything I look at now I’ve bought this is rubbish.” And he said “buy another one – a second hand …” And I hadn’t thought of it. So I did, and I bought a diesel, an early one, and it had a straight seat in the front so you know, you could squeeze everybody in it. Now that – I sold that, with 480,000 miles on it. Bill Stevenson had done the engine up once on it ’cause I’d cracked the head on it, because they had cast heads in those days and they didn’t survive too well. If you can understand, by then I’ve got Mercedes on the brain, so I was a great customer of Cable Price because I’d made friends with … he was a parts guy in Seaview at Cable Price where they originally were and I’d taken the Mercedes down there for servicing. And I’d also had … I went from Caterpillar to Allis Chalmers. I had an HD5 and then I had the HD6PO model so Cable Price knew me well – I spent a lot of money with them, so …
I made friends with the parts guy. He said to me one day “hey, we’ve got Rovers’ clubs, and we’ve got Rolls Royce clubs and we haven’t got a Mercedes club. Why don’t you start a Mercedes men’s club?” And he kept prompting me for years … about ten years he kept prompting me. I never did anything until I decided to do it. With Mercedes in my mind, Cable Price were supplying me with Mercedes books of course. And I was friendly with the General Manager and he rang me up and he said “hey, I want to ask you something” he said “we brought in six Mercedes tractors, they’re down in Christchurch. We thought they’d be good sellers down there and we can’t sell one of them”. And I said “is that right?” And he said “yes.” I said “I’ve read about those.” He said “what do you think?” “Well” I said “d’you reckon you can get one to me?” Just like that, you see. [Chuckle] And I said “what sort of commission will you give me?” He said “why?” I said “I think I can probably sell a few more.” Which I did – I sold four in the Bay. And my carrier bought one, that was Mackie … Mackie’s Transport. Another one was a hedge cutter, I can’t think of his name. Lilburne Estate bought one. They also bought mine when I sold the farm. And those Mercedes tractors are still going with a contractor down in Levin.
Is that right? I have seen the one that’s got the hedge cutter on it. Frank Hooper in Havelock built it up originally and his son-in-law took it to Central.
Yes it was sort of based down in Takapau.
That’s right. That’s the only Mercedes I’ve ever seen.
You’ve never come across mine?
Yeah, I set mine up with dual front and rear on it. We had to get a German rotary hoe for it, a big one, and it was big gear went behind it. Then I got a ring from Cable Price in Christchurch. “Mr Longley, we have down here … we’ve repossessed a Mercedes Benz tractor.” I said “oh, yeah – what is it?” “Oh, it’s a 700.” And I said “oh, yeah – I’ve read about those … wouldn’t mind one of those.” He said “we could do a very good deal with you.” I said “ oh I don’t know, it’s too far down there.” He said “we’ll fly you down, don’t worry, we’ll fly you down”. So they flew me down and took one look, and I’d already bought it anyhow. [Chuckle] So those two worked in conjunction haymaking.
So how many horsepower was the 700? Small Mercedes …
Seventy. And a four cylinder and it used the same pistons or valve gear and everything as the 1418, the truck? They chopped two off it. That same engine went into the Unimog. And the tractor was built … and this was the interesting about … a lot of people didn’t realise Mercedes built tractors. What they did – some enterprising guy over there thought about it and thought “why don’t we make a tractor – we’ve got engines, we’ve got gear boxes from the trucks, we’ve got diffs and transfer hubs and everything from the trucks to put it together”. So it was the only tractor that had a syncromesh gear box. Mine was the first out on the farm and we had trouble changing gear. And they had a very, very clever guy that worked for Cable Price, and he was the faults man for New Zealand. They sent him up to me, and he came up with his truck with all the tools and jacks and everything he might want – he was going to fix it, you know? So we pulled the gear box out of it and we pulled it to pieces because I had a pretty good workshop out there … good place to work. He scratched his head and thought about and had a few smokes and we talked about it, and he said “I think I know what’s wrong with this.” I said “what?” “See these syncro rings?” I said “yeah”. He said “this gear box is made for a truck which travels from twenty to eighty miles an hour, and here it is in a tractor – all the gears are going too slow.” He said “you got a rat tail file?” I said “yes”. We got it out and we rat tail filed inside of the slip and fixed it. That’s all it was. Fixed it, just like that. So you know we talk about cockies being, you know – number 8 wire thinking – and that’s where he was, you know? But yeah, I was quite impressed with how he sorted it out.
Yes, some people have that ability to fix the problem rather than worrying about what’s wrong with it.
Exactly. And the small tractor … when I sold the farm my neighbour said “I want that small tractor, I’ve got to have that Mercedes”, because he saw how it worked and where it went. I got a ring from him one day and he says “I think I need your help. I think you need your HD6.” He said “I’ve done a silly thing and I’ve driven into a spring with my D4”. And it was sunk. [Chuckle] So I said “okay”, and I said “give us an hour and I’ll be over.” I said “you’d better cut the fences and let us through the boundary. “ Of course, I whistled over in the MB tractor, didn’t I? He said “what are you going to do with that?” I said “well, this’ll pull more than the HD6 will”. He didn’t believe me of course. So he hopped up in the dicky seat and he said “the tractor’s down there”, you know. He said “you might have go round and up and down and round to get to it.” I said “what’s wrong with going down here?” And he just looked. And I just locked up the diff locks and went straight down. He couldn’t believe it. [Chuckle] Then we drove over the spring … drove over it mind you, yeah. It didn’t even skid the wheels – it popped him straight out.
Well I suppose you’ve got eight tyres on the ground.
And then I turned round and climbed back out where I went, and he said “I won’t take the D4 up there.” That was his lesson about the actual tractor. And I’ve had I don’t know how many people came from the South Island to see me working with the MB tractor ’cause it was so stable on the sidings.
I remember I was rotary hoeing. We’d scrub raked – I’d bought a block off the Maoris, which was an interesting thing in itself because you can’t buy land off Maoris. This lady was a Ropiha from Porangahau, and she’d seen me working and what I was doing, and she wanted … the neighbours wanted to buy it, and no – she wouldn’t sell it – she wanted me to have it. Said to her husband “Ian’s got to have that – how are we going to do it?” And she worked for the lawyer in Dannevirke … the guy with the glass eye.
Yes I know the chap you mean.
He said “oh that’s easy … Europeanise yourself”. She did. She could legally sell it to me.
What was his name now?
Yeah, it’s on the tip of my tongue.
Frank Gordon, had he moved out into your area when you were still there?
No I don’t think so. The name rings a bell.
He would have been later probably. So the farm itself – you ran mainly cattle? Sheep?
Yes, Angus and Romney, ’cause Dad used to breed at his own Tawadale stud. When I took over, a friend of mine who was a stock agent for W & K actually, he suggested I put a Hereford cross with them, which I did. And then they roared away. I also had a block of land at Porangahau on the Porangahau straight going down to the beach and that was family land left to my mother from the Lambert estate.
That was all flat land, yes I know the place. [Speaking together]
All flat, it was on the left hand side going to the river. And when my Mum and Dad retired they retired to the old vicarage and leased the church land. They had seventy acres there and he used to run his stud there. And they did that right up until they passed on.
You would know the old Porangahau Hotel probably well, too?
[Chuckle] There was a joke about me one day, and I tell you it’s interesting, ’cause we’d been down hay making, and I said ‘I think a beer was in order’. So hopped in there on the way home and sort of had a beer and there was a few guys in there – locals – and they were talking about which was the best car, whether it was a Holden or a Ford, and there was quite a discussion going on. And I walked in and they said “oh, no use talking to you Longley, you’ve got stars in the eyes.” I said “oh, yeah, probably have.” There’s this cook, and he says “why don’t you buy a Mercedes motor bike?” I said “they don’t make one”, and there was silence. That scotched them. [Chuckle] In other words, if there had’ve been I would’ve had one. ‘Cause I had two wagons as replacement to the Landrover, and I had them right up until just a few years ago when I sold the last one. It was all Mercedes on the farm.
Yes. And the old Porangahau pub … were you there when the American lady managed it?
We used to go down there now and again for … went down for Christmas lunch once. Very hospitable place.
Yes, it always has been too.
Well I guess it was an area that people had to make their own fun because you all had to live with one another. And so you were still doing harvesting as well as the agricultural work.
Yep, right up until I sold up. It was interesting , I had four sons and I remember Dad saying to me “who are you going to leave the farm to?” And I thought “oh … it’s a bit hard to work this out.” So I said to them, I said “okay – what you’ve got to do when you finish school you go and get a trade, each one of you, and we’ll see who comes back to the farm”. None of them did.
No, I think there were some opportunities. And I came through the same era as you did. It was a wonderful life. I think that some of those opportunities are there now but it’s so costly for some of these young men to get into it.
We’re on a different … everything’s different. Tractors are ten times dearer than what they used to be. The machinery is absolutely ridiculously priced.
And so you carried on with that sort of lifestyle until you retired. And you retired to here?
No, we retired to Lane Road in Havelock. We had a nice property up there. Unfortunately I bought a split level house with stairs in it, and then my knees packed up on me. I thought ‘well that’s not the place to be with a crook knee’.
But you don’t think you’re going to have crook knees when you buy properties like that do you?
I’ve had heart problems too.
So what other highlights? You obviously travelled.
Obviously. Yeah, I went to the Mercedes Benz factory.
Chose the car?
We had a meeting up in Taupo and I suggested … well the hundred year celebration for Mercedes Benz was coming up … who’d like to go with me over to the Anniversary. I was surprised – there was twenty hands shot up just like that.
And we contacted the Australian club and we had about twelve come from there as well. And we got a professional to organise the tour. And we went to the States first, to LA, and went to the main distributing place for Mercedes and that was really interesting, that. It was very interesting when they showed me a crate opened up. One of the Mercedes had broken free of its anchorage and it was just a crumpled piece of metal, it had destroyed itself.
‘Cause yeah, it doesn’t take much – the weight of it thumping around.
Rough seas or whatever it was. It might have been dropped a couple of times, I don’t know, but …
So that was a very successful trip, obviously?
Yes. So we went to Berlin and had a look through there and of course the Berlin Wall was still up then. And it was interesting going through into the East because I couldn’t believe it. I just walked in and stood there and looked. The whole place was grey. The people all looked grey, their clothes all looked grey – it looked terrible. [Speaking together]
It was … oh, I felt real uncomfortable. So I wasn’t impressed with that at all. And then of course we went to Stuttgart, to the factory. Now they knew that there was a Mercedes Benz club coming from New Zealand and they were there to greet us when we arrived on the bus. And boy did they lay it on for us. They laid on a dinner with the hierarchy. And when they realised that I was the New Zealand patron – God, I had to go up and sit with the CEO, didn’t I? That was quite a nerve wracking experience for an old cocky.
But I mean you’d bought your way into Mercedes Benz hadn’t you? With all your tractors and cars. You were just getting your right dues.
It was very interesting. I was amazed that everything, the crockery – everything – had the star on it of course, you know. Even the sugar was wrapped up in a little square with a photo of a car on it, or the star.
And I’ve got some sitting in the sideboard there ’cause I brought back … ’cause I was intrigued with them. I was looking at them, and one of the – not the CEO, one of the other Mercedes hierarchy there – saw me and he grabbed a handful and put them in my pocket, so I’ve still got them.
And so you’ve been … obviously you worked your way up as the President and Patron of the Mercedes Club? Or did you become the patron ..?
I became patron very early on because I was the founder. And you know – would you believe it – you know, way out at Porangahau ?? the founder of the club. It was interesting.
And so are you still involved as the patron?
Oh yes, I’ve just come back … we’ve been up to Tirau, to their Christmas party up there … Midlands Club. And I presented high mileage awards to some of the members there. One had done a million k’s because he drove Courier vans so he got his million K pin. I’m an owner of a two million K pin. There’s the award up – just there, alongside you there. That was presented to me by a special function in Hamilton, by Mercedes Benz.
And how strong is the Club locally?
I don’t know much about it locally. I’m not involved locally. I range between all the Clubs I’m always invited everywhere.
‘Course you are.
And we had a bit of a difference of opinion so I thought it would be better to move on. It happens sometimes. I’m a life member also. If you could say … all my time has really been involved for forty years with Mercedes Benz and the Club.
Certainly a very loyal client and they had a quality that a lot of others … and yet when you looked at them they were very simple and the motors were not complicated. ‘Course at that time we didn’t have an active Mercedes garage in Hastings and Bill Crosby was … yeah Bill – he was a very good diagnostic mechanic.
He was a Mercedes trader who was a better seller than anything.
Absolutely. So really that pretty well sums up. You’ve retired here in what I would call a park-like section. It’s absolutely lovely. I guess, unless … have you got anything else that ..?
Not really. No, I think that covers it pretty well. My partner and I have been together for twenty years and we seem to be getting on pretty good.
How many vehicles did you say you’d had?
That’s including your tractors and trucks?
That’s including the trucks. I had a Unimog, I bought a new Unimog – you know, the same as the army?
Yes. Did Mangarapa have ..?
They had trucks.
They had Mercedes didn’t they?
‘Cause Max Mouatt …
Max Mouatt – he liked Mercedes. They just lived up the road here.
That’s right, I know.
This recording was done for the sake of the family.
[Reads from his father’s account of his history]:
“I realise myself that I know very little about the family because when I left home in 1906 I was eighteen at that time. One of the … eighteen years old are concerned more about the living than the dead. The result is that anything that I know is purely hearsay, as I remember it from my own parents.
“My father always told me that so far as he could go back with family history that the first ancestor that we knew anything about came from France. He was a Frenchman with Henry V. That would be after the battle of Agincourt, 1415 I think. So far as I can understand he was a valet at one of the kings men there – that’s all I knew about it, and it’s pure hearsay of course.
“He also talked a bit about an Archbishop of Canterbury who apparently was a member of our family, but I’ve never been able to prove that was correct. But recently I have looked up encyclopaedias and found quite a bit on him. Whether to put it here or not I’m not at all sure. His name was Charles Thomas Longley born in 1794 and died in 1868. He was born at Rochester, educated at Winchester and Christ’s College and then Oxford. He was ordained in 1823; headmaster at Harrow in 1829; first Bishop of Ripon in 1836; Bishop of Durham in 1856; Archbishop of York in 1860; Archbishop of Canterbury in 1862. He was a great uncle as far as I know of myself, and also was my Godfather. He was present at the wedding of Queen Victoria, and that is as far as anything I know about him.
I also understand Dad said at different times that my Grandfather was Coachman in [for] Queen Victoria for some considerable time, but whether there is any truth in that I don’t know, and I’m certainly not going to find out. A portrait of him is in my possession and also a snuff box which he gave me for a Christmas present. I have a booklet about the history of the Ripon Cathedral and as a boy I once sang at Ripon Cathedral.
“I was born in Dartfield, Yorkshire on the 22 April 1887. My parents were Arthur Longley and Louise Machin. They originally came from the south of England just after they were married. Strange to say both of them were interested and worked for a railways at that period. As a matter of fact mother always told us she was one of the first women operators in the morse code.
“Dad eventually became a station master on the London/Brighton south coast railway line. After having stayed at various country stations my father eventually left the railway to join with a big colliery business in Yorkshire and became a business manager – the one belonging to a local millionaire. He was on the clerking side of the business and had nothing to do with the digging in the coal itself. He did this for a good few years of course. The whole of our family was steeped in the thing because we were born and bred in a coal mining community. In fact as a young boy while still going to school I very often had to help down the mine with the engineer because the engineer’s son was a school friend of mine. He had the opportunity and occasion to go down and took me with him. It was quite an experience. I was always more or less scared as all young boys would be going down those mines ’til I got used to it. The mines were six hundred yards deep so it was quite a distance.
“On the way there – there’s a little story I could attach to this. On Saturday afternoons this boy and myself used to go down to the colliery into the engineering part where all the machinery was, and there was always plenty of steam up so we’d use the lathe. He was very clever. As a matter of fact when we almost about fifteen or sixteen, between the two of us we built a motor bike, built on an ordinary push bike frame. We bought parts of the engine in turn, others up at the colliery. Anyway, I was about to tell you of the fright I got on one particular Saturday. We were fooling about over the top of the mine shaft as it had [at] it’s mouth a big flat surface of steel because as the tubs, as they used to call them – the little wagons full of coal – used to come up in the cages from the pit below and were pushed onto the steel platform, where they could be pushed anywhere across the steel platform. Anyway we were fooling about skidding on this beautiful slippery surface. I was doing a particularly long slide and my friend pushed me, and he pushed me right into the gates that stopped one from falling into the mine. The gate swung over the top of the mine mouth while I clung on like grim death. There was six hundred yards underneath me, and I was helpless there until he had the brains enough to come and pull the gate back. I never forgot that part.
“Even in those days the pit ponies were working, for if a mine had been working for many years it was an extensive walk to the coal face. The ponies were periodically brought up every three months for a change, but they still went blind after many years in the dark.
“In my father’s day boys of six and seven years of age used to work pushing the wagons through the narrow tunnels, often unable to stand upright. The wagons contained up to half a ton of coal at a time. In the mine shaft mentioned above the cages went up and down alternately passing each other. Each cage took up to three layers of the little trucks on three floors. The men used the same cages, eight to twenty men to a cage.
“A good seam would be six foot to seven foot thick of coal. A dateller was an overseer over a gang of coal workers working at the face. He worked almost as a contractor would. One of his jobs was to see that the coal was organised into the wagons drawn by the ponies.
“Off the course, my younger sister Elsie’s husband was killed down in the mine. Harold Carter was a dateller and he was killed by a fall of the roof of the tunnel. He was living when I went to England in 1948.
“I can’t remember a great deal about my early youth. I don’t know why. I had three sisters all older than myself – up to twenty years older. They had a governess while they were young but I was educated till I was about eight years old by my sisters. School was two and a half miles from our house and there was no other way to go except to walk. That’s the only education I got until I went to school. I also had a brother older than myself and a sister younger than myself. That was six of us. My brother was ten years older than I and is of course, is dead now.
“I think my father was one of the most versatile men I ever knew. He could almost do anything. He was a wonderful singer and had a beautiful baritone voice. He sang in quite a few of the cathedrals and big churches around Yorkshire. His son Dick, my brother, followed him as I followed Dick into the local church. I did quite a bit of singing too. In fact father was a baritone singer. We used to go to the annual festivals at various cathedrals, for instance, Sheffield, Winchester, York Minister and Durham. I sang in all these cathedrals as a choir boy – not a particularly good one, though I must have had some sort of voice otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to get there.
“Then this time, when I first started school, Dad left the coal mine job managing and joined what was then the equivalent of a social security department. He was an officer of the Poor Law, as it was called, acting simply as a social welfare officer. He also had a commission that allowed him to (with the assistance of doctors) to admit people to the various institutions, chiefly called the workhouses. In other words he was just a public servant, although until his death – at any rate until his retirement.
“At this time one of father’s jobs used to be … was to provide transport to take these people to the workhouse, or for certified patients, to the lunatic asylum, which were not in our village but at Wakefield, a country town in the West Riding of Yorkshire. Naturally as a boy I wanted to go too. Father took me with him when I was about ten. He sat with a patient and a policeman in the closed part of the cab while I sat with the cabbie. I saw some extraordinary sights. I saw the way in which the lunatic was first strapped up to prevent him becoming violent. The straight jacket was a strong sheet with long tapes attached. Two policemen would hold either end of the sheet and stand either side of the patient. Suddenly they would turn him in opposite directions and wrap him up. When we arrived at the asylum and went inside we walked through a big hall full of all sorts of people. There were Queen Victorians, Napoleons, etcetera. I wanted to see a padded cell so they showed me one and let me go inside. It was small, about six foot by six foot, all lined with padded leather with no windows in the walls. There was a small window in the ceiling out of reach which admitted the only light the room had. There was, of course, no electricity in those days. I walked inside. Even the floor was padded which was most disconcerting as it was spongy and gave nothing solid to step on. Then they shut me in. My curiosity soon gave way to fright in those eerie surroundings. I wasn’t left there more than a few minutes, but it was long enough to convince me the cell was a good place to lose one’s sanity, not regain it.
This one is headed ‘A Young Runaway’s Trip to London’:
“It must have been about this time I decided to visit London. England was covered in railway lines in those days. I could take a day’s excursion train from my home in Yorkshire to London which cost about ten shillings. I emptied my piggy bank and found I had sufficient for the trip and a little left over to spend. I was confident that I would be all right, for my uncle was a station master at Victoria Station, the terminal for the South Brighton Line. I intended to visit him. So I went without my parents’ knowledge. Had to get up very early in order to catch the Curzon train. It took about three hours’ travelling time.
“When I arrived I found my terminal was on the north side of London and I had to get across London to reach Victoria Station. I found the underground and spent a further two hours going round and round trying to find the right station on which to alight, and missing it. I eventually came to recognise the station before the one I wanted and finally got off at the right place and found my uncle. He was dressed in the manner of a station master in those days in a frock coat and a top hat. By this time the Police were already looking for me, having been alerted to my disappearance, and probably, destination. I enjoyed my holiday. Once there I was allowed to stay a week. I remember seeing horse drawn trams over the embankment. But when I went back home I had no private money for several weeks at least.
“I went to school of course, when I was little more than an infant and they put me into Standard 3. It was a local school that were in those days called a ward – similar to primary school. I put in the usual years until I was in Standard 7, and passed the School Leaving Certificate. Then as a matter of fact I wanted to work in the colliery, because I had made up my mind that I was going to be an engineer, but Father had a different idea. He found out that I was messing about in his colliery at that time. He hadn’t known I was working on Saturdays doing a little bit in the way of odd jobs here and there. But he eventually found out, and one Saturday at Lent he said to me “Bill”, he says “you’re starting school teaching on Monday”. I said “oh, is that the idea”, and he said “yes.” I said “where am I going to start?” “Oh”, he says “down at Poots School, down there”. I have appreciated for four years the teaching profession, and I said “that’s very nice indeed”. Of course in those days you didn’t cheek your father too much but I had to grin and bear it.
“So I went through with it and for the next four years until I was eighteen. That was four years I suppose. I went to Barnsley Pupils’ Teachers Centre which is much the same as a Teachers’ College here. I didn’t take my matriculation, I took the King’s Scholarship, which is equivalent but with a Teachers’ Certificate, you see. But I never attended University regularly. I did put in quite a few extra mural lectures and that sort of thing.
“By the way the conditions were a bit different then to now. I did three days of work a week at the Pupils’ Teachers Centre, and three days of prep school at the School and that’s how we filled in the four years of apprenticeship. Wages were quite good in those days. I got £5 for the first year, £7/10/- for the second, £10 for the next and £12/10/- for the last year. Now you can realise why I was dependent on my parents.
“Of course when I got my Teachers’ Certificate I took a job at the local school. I stayed there six months because I wanted to save enough money to come out to New Zealand or some other such place. I had already made up my mind to do this, and after six months I got in touch with the New Zealand Commissioner in London … got an assisted passage. The cost of the passage was £10. I had to sign up to work on the main trunk railway that was going through at the time. This was in 1906.
“I turned 19 years old when we were in the Bay of Biscay and I arrived in this country on the 2nd June 1906. The trip to New Zealand – the voyage was very typical for those days. It took seven weeks to come out to New Zealand. There was nothing really of consequence to happen during the voyage. It was a steamship the “SS Turakina” which was eventually sunk by the Germans in the 1st World War in the Atlantic. She was a very stable ship. I never got sea sick or anything like that. We enjoyed every minute of the voyage although we were cooped up pretty well. There were about five hundred of us. It was a meat boat which came back as a passenger boat by filling up all the freezing chambers with divisions and extras to provide … that was supposed to be the cabins. There were lots of complaints about the food although I could never understand it. I put on about a stone and a half coming to New Zealand. I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of it.
“Anyway we stopped at Tenerife and had a day out there. There was one incident there that – I mustn’t forget this one. A friend and [that] I had in the cabin with me – I had a two berth cabin – coming from the same place as I did. He got off, and he was going to have a good time. All I had was a couple of pounds my father had given me when I had left. I wasn’t going to squander it. Well, my cabin mate left me and the next morning we picked him up just before the boat was due to sail, in the gutter. He had been thoroughly stunned and he didn’t know where he was. He’d lost every penny he’d got. Everything had been carried away. They’d even taken his trousers off him and put on an old pair. He hadn’t had a good time at all and he didn’t like to talk too much about it.” [Chuckle]
“Next port of call was Cape Town. We went ashore for a day and had a look around Table Mountain. I can remember going up. In those days there was no aerial railway there as it is now. We walked up some distance but we did not have a great deal of time. I remember picking up some silver leaves of some plant I’ve never seen before, but that is the only thing I really remember about Cape Town.
“We carried on, and what surprised me was that the ship went a long way round the south of Cape Town, almost down to Caroline Islands, which as a matter of fact we could see in the distance. And then it took an easterly shot straight across to west [Western] Australia. In that distance we never passed a ship of any description. It took two to three weeks to cross – I can’t remember exactly. On the voyage we actually saw whales. Also on suitable days we put sails up. That was the only time I was on a sailing boat. The engine was stopped and the sails put up to save fuel.
“We stopped again at Perth and then on across the Australian Blight [Bight]. We saw whales again and called in at Adelaide, and another day again in Melbourne. I remember little bits about those days but nothing particularly special. An unusual call we did was to Hobart. If I remember we had a day or two days there before we came over to New Zealand.
During the voyage over, the great earthquake of San Francisco occurred. Of course there was no radio in those days and we didn’t know anything about it until we got right to New Zealand and read it in the papers, that it had gone past. The Prime Minister, the late Dick Seddon, was on board. He came over from Australia and died on the voyage. I never actually met him.
“I arrived on the 2nd June 1906 and we stayed in Wellington over night. The next morning an immigration officer came aboard to pick up the immigrants [that had] agreed to go and work on the main trunk line. Well, my cabin mate and myself kept ourselves out of the way. The Officer eventually went ashore without finding us, so thinking we might get into trouble, decided to clear out via a boat going up the coast. The boat was known to many as the old “Talune”, although she was practically new when this happened. There were lots of boats up and down the coastal routes then and she was operated between Wellington, Napier, Gisborne and Auckland. We came up as far as Napier for I had arranged to meet a so called uncle of mine who had married a very early settler, related to me by marriage. He was her second husband. She had come in very early indeed around about 1840 to Auckland.
“Got as far as Napier and stayed in a hotel there – my first night of sleeping on New Zealand soil. Next morning I took a train and came to Waipawa where this relative lived. We stayed a couple of days until I had contacted a local farmer up in the Wakarara at a place called Blackburn which is still on the map and I got a job working for him. Unfortunately, being a new chum, I didn’t ask about the wages before I started. I stayed a month and rather enjoyed it. The weather impressed me. I had left England in spring and it was now mid-summer here in New Zealand. I expected mild winters though it’s never happened since. During that first month it never even rained although there was snow on the tops of the mountain range.
“Most of the work itself was rather unpleasant. I was skinning dead hoggets all the time. I was unused to it and wasn’t over keen on it for a job. I didn’t even have the proper clothes to wear. Coming straight from home I hadn’t known what to expect, and I had already lost a pair of shoes, my Sunday boots, almost opposite Cape Turnagain. My cabin mate was in the top bunk and the only place to put one’s boots was under the bottom bunk with the tops sticking out. He used them overnight suffering from sea sickness.” [Chuckle] “Made a real mess of them. We sent them overboard. After a month at this farm I asked for my wages and he gave me £1/-. I said “look Mr So-and-so”, I said – I won’t tell you his name because his family is still about.” [Chuckle]
“He was Scandinavian by the way. “I would really like to have had all my wages now” I told him. “That’s all of them” he said. I said “what – for a month’s work?” He said “yes, you’re a new chum, you know, you’re only worth five bob a week”. “Oh,” I said “am I? Bless my soul I’ve been doing the same work as the other bloke on the place. As a matter of fact he’s been making me do most of it. He put me on to all the unpleasant jobs. Five bob isn’t so good is it?” “Oh well”, he said “that’s all we give a new chum. We only get five shillings”. “Well if that’s all you can afford” I said “you’d better keep it and buy yourself some tobacco”. The reason for my comment was that every time he had seen me on the place he would stop and light up a cigarette. He had papers, he had no matches, or if he had any tobacco he always begged me for something. I forgot whether he kept the £1 I gave him back or not. I think he did. At any rate I left there and then. It was my first job in New Zealand.
“I was hanging about in Onga Onga and Waipawa two or three months actually fed up. There was a bit of a depression on at that time in 1906. Wool prices were low, sheep were low – everything was low. There was a bit of unemployment. I did work for eight shillings a day shovelling stones out of the creek for the roads and that sort of thing. Eventually I swallowed my pride and decided to go back teaching. I applied to the Education Board for a school and within a very short time I was appointed as a teacher to Anaroa.
“Anaroa was just over the hills from Te Aute – from Te Aute hotel that is. There was a road going over a very steep hill and Anaroa was in there. Here was a patch of six hundred acres of the most beautiful native bush you ever saw, and it was being cut down and milled to make butter boxes. A gang of about thirty men I suppose was employed on this job. The bush was nearly all kahikatea and totara down in the valley in direct line of sight with the bluff at Napier. At night time we could see the lights of Napier. Trees were being felled on a very steep slope. On top of the hill was a winch with a steam engine which hauled up the logs out of the bush to the mill itself, which was situated on the flat at the crest of the hill. In fact I’ve been to that place and it’s still there. Bullocks were used to haul the logs to the tram lines which were used a mile long and ran the whole length of the valley through the bush. Logs were put on a small wagon on the tram line and were then pulled up by the winch. The biggest totara tree that I’ve ever seen was in that particular bush. It was nine foot through at sawing height. It was already down when I saw it but it must have been a terrific job felling it. I don’t know how many thousand feet of timber it cut. It was certainly a magnificent tree.
Where is Anaroa? Do you know?
Yes, I’ve been there. It’s just where he said it was. It’s back from Te Aute. It’s interesting because I have a friend that lives there on that farm where Dad worked, and he took me and showed me where the mill site was, and he’s still there.
“This bush camp consisted of a cook house, single quarters and married quarters. There were also single men of course, but about half were married and had families and needed a school. Education Board supplied a teacher, that was myself, on the condition that the owner of the mill supplied the school building and a residence for the teacher. When I arrived the school room was only half built and my residence was a single man’s whare with a wooden chimney lined with sheets of metal; a wooden frame bed with slats across and plenty of blankets but no mattress; a wooden table and a chair. There were four and twenty, I don’t know exactly how many children at the school. I had them all of course, from very junior because the mothers liked to be rid of them almost as soon as they could walk, right up to Standard 6. Some of the Standard 4 and 5 were bigger and heavier than I was, which caused a bit of trouble time and again as they would get a bit cheeky, and it was hard to handle. And they used to get in trouble with their parents because I would tune them up a bit occasionally. I was a school teacher there for eighteen months, and though I was only getting a £100 a year … less ten percent because I was under twenty one. Fortunately I would make a few bob after three o’clock by working in the saw mill for a couple of hours ’til five o’clock. I could never understand the regulation which prevented a teacher under twenty one from getting full pay.
“At the mill there was always some sort of job that needed doing even the yards, tiling out timber or something like that. This extra shilling an hour, the recognised wage then, was quite useful on top of my own salary. The time passed well. Although I did get to know all the men on the mill, I didn’t really make any friends as we really of a different class – something that has always annoyed me. Everyone called me Mr Longley in New Zealand. They always have and they still do. In England at school you were just known by your surname ’til your friends used your christian name. In New Zealand it’s different. Insult a man by calling him by his surname. Unfortunately I find Christian names hard to remember.”
And that is the end of that.
Continuing on from being up at Akaroa [Anaroa]:
The next job was teaching at Wimbledon school. The Wimbledon school was quite a small school and it was there that he met my mother. You can understand back in those days, she would be probably eighteen I would think, she was eighteen or nineteen when she went to school for the first time, and she met my father there and of course, what you’re not meant to do, but they fell in love.
And of course my mother was the daughter of Thomas Charles Hales and her mother was Amelia and she was a daughter of the Lambert family, which first came in Porangahau. My father, being fairly enterprising, he liked the idea of going ahead and doing things. He had the opportunity of buying the Wimbledon Store which I think he probably talked his father-in-law into buying for my mother. My mother took over running the store during the day when my father was still teaching. At that stage there was a coaching company that ran a coach from Herbertville to Dannevirke daily. My father being mechanically minded saw the opportunity of maybe making some more money so he saved and bought a Minerva car which was a big American open car and he also bought a Cadillac as well and he employed a driver who actually ended up working for my father for forty five years. That was successful. It was so successful that the wives liked the idea of it when hubby went in to Dannevirke to the sale and buy the stores that he could come home and not get into trouble while he was in town. It was costing a fair bit of money in those days on tyres, which was the biggest problem because tyres were not very well developed then, and the tyres on the big cars were fairly narrow and beaded edged tyres. They just didn’t like the wagon ruts which of course dried out in the dry weather and if they slipped into that it tore the tyre off. He was getting good money for that, so that business was running right.
And then his father-in-law said to him “look, I think at this stage you should be …” A farm came up about five miles away from there. He says “I think we should buy that for you and get that up and going”. They then bought the farm and they moved up there, and it was a thousand acres. My father called it Tawadale because of all the Tawa trees which were on it. It was in a big valley and the Tawa trees in there – ‘course ‘dale’ being English, so there came the name.
They moved to a small lean-to place there, at that stage I think they might have had about four children I think. And then the Education Board got wise of – he had all these other enterprises going, [chuckle] so they suggested maybe he should spend more time on [chuckle] … and not teaching, which my Dad thought may be a good idea. That’s what happened so the store was leased out and it stayed leased out all the time I used to ride to school. I always used to stop there and get a penny’s worth of licorice or something like that. And that got burnt down. My sister and her husband bought it off my mother and they ran the store for a few years … this was after the war because my brother-in-law was a returned serviceman so it was a start for him to get started. That’s what happened there. Then they moved on sold it and unfortunately it was burnt down a few years later. So the store is no longer there.
My father then built a big place at Tawadale and I was born and raised there as the youngest of six. And of course I went through the education and so forth at Wanganui because of the problem I had with pneumonia – think I’ve already spoken about that. From there I got married and then my mother and father they moved over to the old vicarage at Porangahau which was quite interesting because then – well he was involved with the vicarage so I suppose it’s understandable he’d like to live in the old house again. But it was interesting at that stage because none of the other vicars, the modern vicars, wouldn’t … it was too old and they didn’t want to live in it. My Mum and Dad got there and renovated it. The church had five acres of land there which he run his Romney Stud on it.
Was this after you took the farm over?
Yeah. And that is where he ended his life – right there at the vicarage.
That’s an amazing story you know. The Lamberts and the Longleys certainly have some history between England and here. Well now, after you took the farm over … what was the farm like? Was it fully developed?
Yeah, well if you can understand from when my father took it over it was all scrub. He employed a negro. They called him Big Jim, and he was about six foot six and my father had a hang of a job keeping slasher handles up to him. [Chuckle] Oh, he was huge. And he just … happy just to have a little tent and camp oven – which I’ve actually got – and used it to cook his meals on. And I remember as a child going there and I was real scared of this big dark man, you know? He worked there for years and then my father bought one of the first Fordson tractors to come into Hawkes Bay. The local farmers joked about it and said that, you know – slung off and said that you know, some sort of farmer he is, he’s going to fill all the gullies up with kerosene tins [chuckle] because ‘course the early one ran on … you started on petrol and not on kerosene.
That’s right, yes.
And then the war came and then of course all the men went to war and of course it was pretty terrible. I can remember it pretty bad in that area because there were only old people about trying to run their farms. So Tawadale had slipped back at that stage and my Dad was on his own and trying to do his best but it had deteriorated, so when I took it over it was in its second stage of being renovated.
Well just coming back to the old Fordson tractor that your father had. That would have been on steel wheels and it would have had one of those steel seats like they used to have on hay rakes to sit on and it would have shook hell out of you and cooked you, the heat that used to come from those motors.
The exhaust run under the back of it.
That’s right. So what did he do with the tractor on the farm? Did they plough with it?
He had a plough – he had a single furrow plough. I think it ploughed an eighteen inch furrow. It was either an eighteen or a twenty four, and I can’t remember, and it was big enough to get enough weight of earth to hold the … it would hold the manuka back – keep it down to rot down. But he had a number of Fordson tractors until – I remember he bought one from the Ford Motor Company in Waipukurau and they delivered it – or had it delivered – and dropped it off on the loading bank and eventually sent Dad a bill for it. So he wrote back, said he wasn’t paying for it until they came and started it. So they said “why?” He said “well it’s still sitting where you dropped it off. We can’t start it.” So they sent the experts out and everything and after days and days no one could start it and they had to take it back. And it was the one I remember – it had big spikes on the wheels.
They didn’t change it much. It was from there that … Dad had heard about these because being on the Waipukurau Council – they’d brought themselves a Caterpillar tractor with a blade on it and my Dad thought that’s what we need on the farm so he bought the Caterpillar. The first one which was a 22, it was a petrol run one.
They were great little tractors though.
Oh, I didn’t like it. You sat down too low on it and you bounced about – it was pretty hard riding. We followed with a D2 and that was much better. But when I took the farm over the D2 was still there and I did not like the starting procedures of it whatsoever. You go and decide you’re going to have an early start in the morning and you couldn’t get the starter motor going. [Speaking together]
… the little motor going, I know.
There’d be probably be more swear words made over those starter motors than on any dog I’m sure.
So when you changed did you have Allises after that?
Yes that’s when I bought the HD5 from Cable Price – they were the importers.
You had to do some more scrub …
I bought an adjoining Maori block – I think I might have told you how it was acquired – and that was in scrub so that was where a lot of the clearance work was done.
When I said that Dad passed away at the old vicarage at Porangahau he had some unusual gifts but he never spoke about it – nowhere. And I was one of probably only two or three in the family that knew. And he said to my mother, he said “I’d like you to get the family together. And she said “oh, what for?” And he said “oh” he said, “I think it’s time”. She said “Okay – when do you want them here by?” “Oh, he says “probably about Wednesday”. So the family arrived. Didn’t know any … just thought it was a family meeting or something. He knew I knew things, all right? He knew I was on the other side of thinking. “I was only …” he said to my mother, he says “tell them to come in at two o’clock”. They were all out having lunch, you know? I went in, and I went round one side of his bed and I knew what was going to happen. Mother took his hand on the other side, and right bang on two o’clock – that was it.
How would he have known that? That’s incredible isn’t it? That really makes your mind work.
I know. This was the sort of person he was. That’s why people were amazed and how they respected him and that, because he just knew things, you know.
You were talking about that painting of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and you made a comment that your family member that did that was able to do anything. Now who was that family member? Was that your grandfather?
That was my grandfather.
And your father was the same. Are you a painter?
But you had other talents. That’s fascinating isn’t it? People have said that they had a premonition of when they would … they actually did something similar, but not quite as … calling the family together and saying “well two o’clock’s the time.”
Well I think that probably pretty well covers everything that we need …
On my father. I think so.
Yes, so – thank you Ian.
Original digital file
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Interviewer: Frank Cooper