Ivan Douglas Grieve Interview
Ivan Grieve with me this afternoon. Ivan’s been in Hawke’s Bay – the name of Grieve has been with us for many years … great many years, and Ivan, good afternoon.
Good afternoon, Jim.
Now I’d like you to just talk to us about your family, and where you started, and where you’re up to today.
Would you like to know – my great grandparents, neither of them were born in Hastings, but finished up for the bulk of their lives in Hastings. Herbert Grieve – H J Grieve as he was known, or Bertie Grieve – he had a jeweller’s shop in Hastings and one in Napier. Before that he’d been in Wanganui, Gisborne and Auckland. And he had gone through the Depression, lost a lot of money in 1931 and then moved on to Wanganui, and then came finally to Hastings where he set up a very successful jewellery business.
My other grandfather, Jack Hennah, as he was known – he was one of those guys who just started off working on the land when he was fourteen years of age, and then he carried on through varying ways of making money. He managed to buy shops in Hastings and owned about thirty-odd shops in the peak of it in the main street of Hastings, which was a huge beginning from a chap who started without a cracker.
They both had quite large families, and my parents were one of six on each side. My father, Douglas Herbert Grieve – he started off working on the land and then he married Joyce Hennah in Hastings and finished up actually having six children himself. There was [were] five children in a little under seven years. It went boy, girl, boy, girl, boy, and I was the fifth. But unfortunately, [fortunately,] in those days there was no contraception or I wouldn’t be here today. But I can remember my mother saying when she told Dad that she was pregnant with me he didn’t talk to her for two days. I think he thought it was her fault, but I’m sure they were both involved. We had another afterthought eight years later – Susie, who was unfortunately killed at sixteen years of age. At the time she was head prefect, and in the singing and tennis team, and in everything you could go [do]. As well as that she was made Dux that year, after she’d been killed in the August school holidays.
What school was that?
Iona. Yes, and she was going to go on and be a doctor. She probably had more brains than all of us.
But we’ve all managed to get along pretty well in life. I was probably the dumbest without any doubt, but I didn’t enjoy school I would have to say. The best day of my life was the day I left school, and I managed to get a job on a farm – Mr Alec Stead who was a great Hastings name – and I worked out at Timoti there for my first two years of my working life, under Alec, and he was very good to me and he set me on the course of life.
And then I left there to go and work for Mr Bill Farquharson, who was the District Manager for Borthwick’s in Hastings there. And he sent me down to the Wairarapa as a cadet in 1967. And I spent two years in the Wairarapa as a cadet stock buyer, with Borthwick’s. And then – they had a job for me, but it wasn’t becoming available – to take over from Nelson Bramley who was retiring, in Hastings. So they sent me to Canterbury for twelve months, and I had twelve months living in hotels and driving a firm’s car and working with other stock buyers in Canterbury – a fantastic experience. And only a firm as generous as Borthwick’s could have afforded to spend that amount of money. However, I did repay them – I worked for them for seven or eight years after I came back here, taking over from Nelson Bramley.
And then – I could see Borthwick’s were not going too well as a meat company, and I could see a few problems. And I’d been approached to work for W R Richmond which is what it was called in those days. It was another meat company that was set up by a local man who was friends with both my grandfathers. So it was quite amazing. Even though W R was dead when I worked for them, I got a job with them and a couple of years later they made me Livestock Manager, so at twenty-seven years of age I was Livestock Manager for a company turning over about forty million, which in those days was a good medium sized New Zealand company. And I finished up as Livestock Manager for them for the next six years before I decided to retire, and go and have a go at farming on my own.
I’d been fortunate to make a few bob on the share market, and a bit of land that I farmed, and I’d picked up a bit of capital gain with a couple of lots of land. And I went down to Featherston and farmed there for nine years. And during this time, Richmond’s took me back on again as a commission buyer, so even though I had left the firm as Livestock Manager, they took me back on as a buyer and paid me a commission for nine years. And it was probably the only time in my life I’d really been paid for what I’d earned for the company, because you were paid on your results. It was a fantastic nine years.
And then we decided to come back to Hastings to live. I sold all my land interests in the Wairarapa, and we came back and bought a farm just south of Hastings at Poukawa, Glenogle, which was one of the Douglas properties, part of Te Mahanga Station from the old days, which was one of the big stations around here – like Te Mahanga and Maraekakaho Station. And I bought this eight hundred acres that had belonged to Ron Douglas. And we loved that, and I bought a couple of other properties out at Elsthorpe, up the Atua Road, off the Williams family, which was another very well-known place. I bought Aramutu and Papahope there, and then when Spring Bush came up I bought half of that and my manager bought the other half. So we finished up with three of the Williams farms.
But unfortunately during this time I had a few health problems, and one day I was in the yards drafting up some cattle one morning, and I just fell straight on my face. And my man ran over to me … he thought I’d died, and he was slapping my face, and he said “are you all right? You all right?” And when I came to I said “I would be if you’d just stop slapping me in the face”. But in actual fact I had passed out for a while, and it was not quite as funny as it was meant to be – they thought it was just a oncer, but unfortunately five weeks later I collapsed again, and I was out cold for five hours. And the specialist left me in no doubt that if I didn’t do something about my lifestyle and the pressure, I would have a major stroke and that would be the end of me – I’d be a vegetable. So it was a very easy decision to make, to start to sell the land and take things easy. He said “you’ve got five years to repair your body and prove to me that you’re right. If you can do that you can resume normal life”. Well I’ve more than passed the five years, and I think I’m back to normal.
With that, I’ve bought another place on the Taihape Road and one of my son-in-laws [sons-in-law] is running that, and … nineteen hundred acres … and I’ve still got three hundred acres at home. And I’m just enjoying a little bit of farming, a little bit of golf and relaxing with our three daughters who all live in Hastings with their husbands and our nine grandchildren.
We’ve been fortunate enough to buy a steel business – reinforcing steel and mesh business – in Napier, and one of my son-in-laws [sons-in-law] runs that, and the other business is Hertz Car franchise in Napier, and one of my son-in-laws [sons-in-law] runs that. He runs about seventy-odd cars. And then the other son-in-law is up at the farm on the Taihape Road. So that’s my life at this stage.
Now what about your brothers and sisters?
My brothers and sisters are interesting. David, my oldest brother – he qualified in Hastings with Selwyn Cushing and Corban and Esam, as an accountant, and then he went down to Wellington, and he never did public accountancy, but he was well qualified. Got his Australian accountancy exams and then he went share broking along with … he sold insurance at one stage, and he sold computers for IBM, and then he went share broking. And he did very well at the share broking, but unfortunately he had a very severe heart attack and was more or less forced to retire. But he’s gone on, and he’s got one of his sons on the land up at Maraekakaho. And he enjoys life now, playing a bit of tennis and … bit of golf, and follows the markets still, and he’s just a relaxed guy.
My next sister was Marie. She was married to [?Murray?] Ross. Unfortunately their marriage split apart, but they had four children. And she’d qualified as a pharmacist and worked a lot of her married life as a pharmacist, but now is retired in Taupo and married to a chap called Warwick McLean.
The next one, Peter, he started off on the land, the same farm as I … he worked for Alec Stead as his first job, and then he went on and became a stock buyer for Borthwick’s in the Taranaki, and went on buying land and stock buying for … oh, up until ten or fifteen years ago. But in between times he’s accumulated some very large blocks of land. He owns Mangatutu up at the top of Patoka; he’s got Laurie Lowe’s farm up the Raukawa Road, a very nice limestone property, and he’s bought several other blocks of land around him there. And he’s got two dairy farms in Patoka, so he’s in a big way on the land.
The next one was Jenny. Jenny was a school teacher for a lot of her working life, and then she sold real estate up in Auckland. And she went on and played squash for New Zealand and was a pretty handy sports person all round.
So that’s our family, from Doug and Joyce Grieve.
The family have done extremely well. Now, can we go back to your father?
Yes, well Dad started off on the land. He hated school, left at fourteen years of age, worked on a property up the Wanganui River, and he learned how to do the hard graft. And then he came over to Hastings to catch up with his father and he was working at the Works – at Tomoana Freezing Works – in the yards, when somebody spotted him as a bit of a talent and offered him a job with the Hawke’s Bay Farmers, which is the local Stock and Station Agency firm. And he was a very good stock agent, a very good judge of stock. Went on to be Manager of the … Stock Manager for the whole of the Hawke’s Bay Farmers. But his most … talent, if you could call it … he was a very, very good auctioneer. Apart from anything he was a great people’s person – he never earned a lot of money and he didn’t like the risks. He wouldn’t buy land or take any risk, but he just loved the hard work, he loved the stock business and he loved the auctioneering. And he lived to ninety-odd years of age, so he had a great innings really.
Yes, he certainly did, and you’ve taken after him, I might add Ivan, I think. Tell me – you’ve dabbled in horse racing?
Yes, yes – I’ve had an interesting time at racing. When we were first married we were broke as badgers, but one day I was up at my brother’s farm – Peter, at Te Awamutu – and there was [were] three fillies in the paddock. And as they galloped away I said “Peter, I’d love to take a share in that chestnut filly”. He said “oh well,” he said, “you can”. He said “it’s by ‘Showoff’ out of ‘Snuggles’”. And I said “oh yes”. Well, we finished up – Dad was with me at the time, and so we bought a third share off Peter, each, and we raced … it was my first horse. She was called ‘Braless’ – as the name suggests, by ‘Showoff’ out of ‘Snuggles’. I can remember the day we named her. I wrote ‘Braless’ down. It was the days when topless things and that were just coming in to vogue, and I thought it was a good … And it turned out later, it was one of the best named horses in New Zealand, they used to say. She used to go to the front and they couldn’t head her off. She could run a mile in about 1.33 – 1.34. She finished up winning nine group races in her life. And of course, it was my first horse – I thought ‘this is the easiest game I’ve ever struck’. And unfortunately I’ve raised probably a hundred horses since, or more, and I’ve never had one quite as good. I have had the odd one – we’ve won a group race in Australia, but not as good as ‘Braless’. It’s my life-long ambition to race a horse in the Melbourne Cup and hopefully win it, but there’s a few other people in the world who’ve got the same ambition, so I’m not backing my chances but that’s where I’d like to be.
Has John Bary always been your trainer?
No, no. John … what happened with me when I was in the Wairarapa, I got in touch with Murray Baker, so most of the horses that I raced by myself, Murray trained. And I used to have three or four … five horses in work at odd times, and I used to win about ten races a year, and that went on for seven or eight years when we lived in the Wairarapa. But when I came back to Hastings I still kept horses with Murray, you know, and we won our fair share of races, but never with a horse that could win more than three or four races.
And then I sort of got in touch with John Bary. Mainly, he would have been playing professional polo, and he came back on to the farm that I’d first worked on at Timoti. And he asked me one day if I would get involved – the farm hadn’t made a profit for many years, and he was dead keen to get it profitable. And I did get involved with him – I found John and I got on very well. And then – we got the farm profitable, and I’d have to say, pretty much our first year, and it was going very well. But he had this inkling … he always wanted to train horses. Well … I didn’t know that in the early days, and the day that he finally came to me and he said he’s decided he’s going to become a public trainer, he was going to be selling his farmland and going horse training … ach! I said “John, do you realise what you’re going for? This is a tough game – it’s the hardest game I know”. An old mate once said to me “if you’ve got an enemy, give him a horse”, and he turned out to be a very good judge. [Chuckle] So I felt obliged to support John, and I have, and we’ve had our fair share of success without any stars. We’ve had a lot of horses, you know – like the hombre we took to Australia and won a group race with. But John’s well and truly got on his feet I must admit. A lot of my connections bought him horses, and I think one day he’ll be a big time horse trainer.
Ivan, the other thing is that I think you’ve dabbled in a bit of golf over the years, and I understand that you were the President for the Centenary of the Hastings Golf Club?
That would be right, Jim. I’ve played a lot of sport – I’ve been fortunate, even though … I used to like duck shooting when I was young. I used to leave most of the ducks for breeding but I used to get a great thrill out of it. And then I’ve always played my share of tennis – when I was at school I was in the tennis team, and cricket and one thing and another.
But then when I left school … I’d been introduced to squash. I was a foundation member of the Havelock North Squash Club, and then I came back on to squash when we came back and got married in ‘69. And I played about ten years B grade squash, and I love my squash. But unfortunately I just gave it away because of the pressure on the old heart, and fitness.
And then I played golf, and I really love my golf at Hastings – both my parents were life members in their own right of the Hastings Golf Club. And at one stage there was a gap in the proceedings at the Golf Club. The Club Captains didn’t want to go on, and they were looking for a Vice-President. So they took me on as Vice-President, and I went on and I was President at the time of the Centennial. And I must admit it’s the most magnificent experience I’ve had, at the Hastings Golf Club. It’s a beautiful golf course and I hope it’s preserved forevermore.
Yes, you certainly made that Centennial well worthwhile at the Club, and it was thanks to you that it was carried off so well. Squash of course, you were a master on the squash court.
People used to be frightened of you, is that right? You had a big swing, and …
[Chuckle] No. [Laugh] I loved my squash, and we had some great battles. And I look at playing guys like Jim Vine and Pat Hinton – and yourself, Jim – John Ritchie – I’ve got many happy memories of great games of squash. And I must say the pinnacle of my squash career was I went up to Taupo Open one year. And I had been really playing a lot of squash, and I was pretty fit. And there was [were] about five or six ex A-graders in the field, and I thought ‘oh, I’ll get washed out here and I’ll be home in no time’. But I went on and actually won the Taupo Open, which was … [Chuckle] I came from the unknown. They used to put out a pamphlet on the squash tournament with all … a bit about every player. They had hardly anything on me that first year. I went back to defend my title the next year and never won a game. So that’s just the way it goes [chuckle] – I wasn’t quite fit enough to match it, and I got my just desserts.
Very, very interesting. Ivan, now you might just give us a run-down on the lives of your children? And also I’d just like to know your wife’s maiden name and where she came from.
My wife’s maiden name was Jane Caroline Lamb. She was an Auckland girl, an only daughter. Her parents were very old when she was actually adopted by her parents, and she went kindergarten teaching. She spent all her days in Auckland at Baradene College – right from the primers right through ‘til she left high school, and then she went on to Teachers’ College, became a kindergarten teacher. And her first job out of teaching was in Masterton, in the Wairarapa. She couldn’t get a job when all these people came out of Kindergarten College together – they had to apply for jobs, and her job that she got was in Masterton, and that’s when I was down there as a cadet stock buyer in ’67. I met … Jane was doing a bit of extra work at a coffee bar in Masterton to help pay off a scooter, and I went in there to get the ‘Eight O’Clock’ that used to come out in those days. After six o’clock closing at squash I went down to the coffee bar and met Jane and we started talking, and she’d seen me at the squash club, and things progressed from there. We were engaged at the end of ‘68 and in ‘69 we got married in Hastings. I was working for Borthwick’s as I said earlier, and I said to Mr Farquharson, the boss, “when would it be convenient for Jane and I to get married?” He said “oh … between Christmas and New Year, the works are closed down”. So [chuckle] that’s what we did. And we got married in Auckland and we had a three-day honeymoon, and came back to town for a chap and best friend – he’s still my best friend – is Rowan and Anne Sherwood, who were married three days later than us, and we’ve remained friends ever since. So that was our wedding side of it.
Jane worked for a couple of years as a kindergarten teacher. I think it was very important to do that. With my sort of job – the phone going at meal time and not always home for the children – and I think they were valuable years. We went on and had three girls, Susan, Mary and Philippa. These girls have all married. Susan and Philippa married Auckland boys and Mary married Michael Groome, another Hawke’s Bay name here, off the land at Argyll. They all live in Hastings now. We have nine grandchildren, and the boys actually work in businesses which we’ve bought and created. Peter and Susan … Peter Kitson … he runs Reinforcing Steel and Mesh, which is quite a big business in Napier. Mary and Michael Groome – he’s managing Sherenden Station. and Philippa (Pip) and Phil Kane run the Hertz Car Franchise in Napier. So we’re very fortunate to have them all in town – Jane just loves it, and to have nine grandchildren and varying occasions, it’s very easy for us on a Sunday morning to ring them and suggest they come for lunch, and the seventeen of us get together. And it happens quite regularly. So we’re very fortunate to have them all fit and well and living so close to us.
Okay, well – I think that covers it pretty well, and I thank you very much for telling us about your family.
And this interview took place on the 15 February 2016, and thank you once again.
Thank you for the opportunity, Jim. I hope I haven’t bored you too much.
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Inteerviewer: Jim Newbigin