Peter John Bate & (Lindy) Marilyn Kaye Bate Interview
Today is the 18th of October 2017. I’m interviewing Peter and Lindy Bate of Taupo. Peter is a retired District Court Judge and I now invite Peter to tell us something about the life and times of his family.
Yes – well let’s go back a bit. I was born in Hastings when my parents lived in Henry Street, which was a house they built when they came to Hastings in the mid-1920s. Prior to that, my father was born in Greenmeadows. His father was Peter Bate, and he was born in Kaiapoi after his parents came out from England. He later married – I can’t just remember the first name of his wife, my grandmother, now because I never met her. But they married and came to live in Napier where my grandfather, Peter Bate, was employed as some sort of adviser to farmers in the district. And I can remember him talking of going up the road to Taihape … towards Taihape to advise on farms up there. And of course in those days I think he was riding horses, and he had an interesting life doing that. But latterly he came to … well, he moved to Hawke’s Bay and lived there for the rest of his life really. His wife’s family were Broadleys and that’s about all I know about that, because I was born in 1939 and she would have died in about 1942 or 3.
He went on to live to a ripe old age, and died in the early 1990s … 1993 I think it was, by which time he was in a rest home in Wellington. But in the meantime, since his wife died he had lived with us for a period, and he’d lived with my father’s sister, Ella, who lived in Wellington, and he lived quite some years with her until he went into a rest home in the Lower Hutt area, and died in the early 1990s.
My father [Sir Edwin Bate] was born in 1901 and he died at a ripe old age because he died in 1999. My mother was born in 1900 and she died in 1988. Having married in … as I say, I think in 1923 … they moved to Taumarunui. My father had qualified with the … it was an LLM degree in law and he moved straight into a partnership with a person by the name of Simpson – I don’t know his first name. But I should say my father was a very intelligent person – he topped his class right through high school in just about every subject, and every year he was at Napier Boys’ High School. And when it came to doing his university degree for law he went down to Wellington, and he raced through that and even … I have seen in amongst some of the papers, letters of congratulation to him from the Dean of the Law Faculty and his lecturers because he was referred to as being such an outstanding student. And he paid for that a little bit because he qualified before he was twenty-one, but he couldn’t be admitted to Bar to act as a solicitor or a lawyer until you’ve turned twenty-one. So having qualified so quickly he had to twiddle his thumbs, and he got a temporary job as the Deputy Registrar of the Napier Magistrate’s Court, just filling in time until he reached the age of twenty-one. And almost on the day of his twenty-first birthday I think, if my memory serves me – I wasn’t there of course, but [chuckle] from what I’ve seen in the documentation he might even have been admitted on his twenty-first birthday, I think, in March, but I can’t be certain of that. Anyway, they then, as I say, were actually in Taumarunui for just a few years, but then for the reason I don’t know, but they moved to Hastings.
But the interesting thing is that he was in partnership with a chap by the name of Simpson in Taumarunui, and he joined in partnership in Hastings with that Simpson’s brother or cousin, I’m not just sure which. So it was Simpson & Bate, the name of the firm in Hastings, from the mid-1920s … from there on.
I should come back to family matters for a moment and say that they lived in Henry Street as I say, and they lived there through the Hawke’s Bay earthquake. And the only damage that the house suffered was that the chimney fell off and landed in the garden, and that chimney was intact – it didn’t break up into little bits. And it was used as a pedestal for a sundial from there on, and we’ve actually got the sundial out in our driveway now.
But I of course don’t remember anything of the Henry Street property very much, because … let me think, it would have been … oh, I’d be guessing. But anyway, I do just have a faint memory of one or two things that went on. But one very significant incident occurred when they were there. My brother, Roger, being their first child was born in October 1930, and we all know about the 1931 earthquake. Well, that happened at eleven o’clock in the morning, and of course my brother then was only a few months old. And my mother has told the story of experiencing the earthquake, and she grabbed my brother in her arms and ran down the hallway to get out of the house, because it was so violent that it was all she could do to stand up. And as she went out the back there was a tremendous cloud of dust or something in the air, and she thought that the quarry at Pakipak [Pakipaki] … just getting the name right … it turned out to be the dust arising from the quarry at Pakipaki slipping, and she could see it from the back door of the house. She thought momentarily, this was the end of the world.
But added to all of that, once she got outside and settled down she was bleeding profusely from both her elbows, and the reason was that as she was carrying Roger, my brother … the little baby that he was … as she was carrying him down the hallway she was being rocketed from one side to the other of the hallway …
… and it damaged her elbows and they were just bleeding profusely, which was an interesting little event – pretty distressing for her at the time. So she got outside safely and the house wasn’t destroyed in any way apart from the chimney.
So anyway, that went on and six years after my brother was born they had another baby and that was my sister, Alison. And I’m not quite certain why, but … she was born in 1936 … can’t quite think why now, but they moved to a house in Robert Street … a two storeyed house there, and that’s really the first house that I have any great memory of. I was born in 1939 so there’s three years down to my sister and nine years down to Roger, my brother. Now they stayed in the Robert Street house only for a short time because … I understand the reason given for it was that my sister had not very good eyesight, and the two storeyed house required going up and down stairs to the bedrooms and she was having trouble on the stairs. And anyway, for that and perhaps some other reasons might have been under consideration, they decided to move and they built a house at 204 Knight Street in Hastings. In the meantime, while that house was being built, they sold the Robert Street house and we lived for a short time in a little house that they’d built in Westshore, intending it to be a little holiday house. And in those days going to Westshore was regarded as going quite some distance from home, and that was their holiday house. So we lived there and I can remember that quite well, and in fact I started my primary school for a brief period at the Westshore Primary School. Because while they were there for about I suppose a couple of years it probably turned out to be, the house in Knight Street was built and we moved in there. And that was during the war, the early part of the war, and we lived there from there on.
We were growing up of course, and my brother Roger … going back to him for a moment … completed his secondary school education at New Plymouth Boys’ High School as a boarder. Now New Plymouth from Hastings in those days was quite a trip because of course there was no direct route. And at that stage I can remember quite well, they had a little Hillman Minx I think it was, motor car. It was just a little four-seater car, and my parents used to drive over as required to New Plymouth to see him, or what-have-you. And he used to travel home by bus and train I think, at the holiday times and so on. But that was some distance away.
And I was there to witness all of this as I was coming up through primary school, and I attended the Central School in Hastings then. And then from there I went to … oh, that’s right … and then Roger finished his secondary schooling in New Plymouth and went on to university at Wellington … did a law degree. And he came back to Hastings and joined the firm in Hastings of course which was only natural. And when it came to finishing my primary school I beg your pardon, it was naturally suggested to me that I go to New Plymouth Boys’ High School. Well I was going to have none of that, and I’d seen what had happened with Roger with all the travelling and one thing and another, and I dug in on that. And subsequently my parents told me that they did fall into line with me – they said that between the two of them they only agreed to let me go to the local school because they felt that for a kid to go away from home was a good experience, and Roger had had that at high school. But they expected that I would try and get a law degree in the course of time, and so I would spend my time going away in Wellington at university, so they let me go to the Hastings High School.
But in those days to get a law degree, one of the compulsory subjects you had to take at university was Latin, the language. Now the first thing my father did was go to the headmaster at the Hastings High School and get an assurance that they would be able to teach me Latin right through to qualifying to go off to university. And that assurance was given, and I can remember quite well the teacher who taught us our Latin was a gentleman by the name of Mathieson … lovely guy, but he only had I think it was four or five members in the class because Latin wasn’t the most popular subject in those days but it was a necessity for me. But he retired when I was in the fourth form. And from there on the headmaster and he arranged to fulfil the undertaking given. And I used to go up to his house in Havelock North to be coached in my Latin to take me right through to University Entrance and so on. So I then followed in my brother Roger’s footsteps of course and went to university in Wellington, Victoria, and struggled through doing the degree. I was not the brightest student and I didn’t get anywhere near through the law degree in the record time that my father had, but I struggled on.
Down in Wellington I met my wife, Lindy, and her father was working then as Deputy Manager … I think might’ve been what he was called … to my uncle. And this uncle was the husband of my father’s sister, Ella. And he was the head sherang in what was I think then C & A Odlin Limited, the timber company. Well, Lindy’s family had lived up in Auckland and her father had gone through several managerial positions, and Odlin’s wanted a replacement for their Deputy Manager and he applied and got the job, so he was working with my uncle. And after they’d been there for a little while, my aunt – that was Hughie Hill, was the Odlin manager – my aunt Ella spoke to me, and I was aware that every Christmas … ‘cause I was actually boarding in Karori, fairly close to where my aunt and uncle lived … and I saw quite a lot of them. And I should say that at this stage, that my grandfather, Peter Bate, was living with Ella and Hugh in Wellington over quite some years. But I did know that Ella and Hugh used to have a Christmas evening function at their home for the management staff of Odlin’s every year. And of course the Christmas that came up after Lindy and her family had moved to Wellington – and Ella and Hugh had had quite a bit to do with Lindy’s family in all of this – and Ella said to me, “you know Roy Buckett”, which was Lindy’s father, “Roy Buckett has a delightful daughter called Lindy”. And she said “I’d like you to meet her”. And I sort of went along with this, and so I was invited along with all the Odlin management, to this Christmas party. And Lindy was invited to the party to come with her parents. And we met at that party, and I was sort of very much out of my depth – I’d never done anything of this sort. But anyway, we met there … a very formal sort of atmosphere, and I learned later from Lindy that after that meeting her father had said to her at some stage that he’d like her to meet me again. I think we might’ve already met again … no no, we hadn’t, because Lindy’s response to her father was, “if you make me meet Peter again,” she said, “I’ll kick your shins”. [Chuckle]
At that point I need to ask you, did you play any sports at school?
Oh well that’s another thing. [Chuckle] I have not a single gene in my body that leads me [chuckle] to play sports. And I must confess that all through high school I don’t know how I got away with it, because Hastings High School was very keen on football … rugby football and so on and so forth. But whenever the sports period came up I slunk away and went up to the library at the school, and sat in a corner out of the way and read books in the library, and I never did take part in any of the sports [chuckle] throughout the Hastings High School period. I really don’t know how I got away with it. I did in fact play a little bit of tennis here and there, because the Knight Street property that I mentioned that my parents had built was quite a big property, and it had a house on one half of the section and a tennis court on the other half. And from time to time some friends came round and we played a bit of tennis, and I held the right end of the tennis racket and played a bit of tennis. So I’ve never played any sport in my life.
So anyway, coming back to Wellington, Lindy and I did in fact see a lot of each other, and we met regularly on a Friday evening I think it was, and went to a milk bar in town and had a milkshake and a sandwich together, and did one or two other things of course. But I’m greatly indebted to my aunt and uncle.
Aunty Joy was my father’s sister, born on his twenty-first birthday actually – it was an unusual event – and she had married Lachie Mackenzie, and they lived in Karori only a few blocks away from where I was boarding and equally, a few blocks away from where Ella and Hugh lived. And when we were going out on a Friday night, Lindy and I, Joy and Lach very generously let me drive their car, so we could drive to the pictures or whatever it might be, and drive Lindy home – they lived in Lower Hutt. I’ll never forget the generosity of Joy and Lach in lending me their car.
And so life went on in Wellington and I struggled my way through – I took about six years to get my degree ultimately. But at some stage through there, my parents were aware of the extent to which Joy and Lach were lending me their car, but I think for about the last eighteen months in Wellington my parents bought me a little Morris Minor car so that I’d be mobile to take Lindy out and what-have-you, and drive up to Hastings and so on. And I lived in Karori as I say, with a very lovely couple – oh, gosh, their name escapes me just for the moment. But they were very English and I can remember I was paying four pounds [£4] per week for my board, and I boarded with them for about four years. I should say for the first eighteen months I was in Wellington I lived in Weir House and then I went boarding with these folk. And they were a lovely couple, and she used to … by this time of course I was also working as a law clerk in a law office, which was the practice in those days with law students – I don’t think it happens so much these days. But she would always cut me some sandwiches to take for my lunch. And the one thing that I had difficulty with was that every now and again she would give me a sandwich with very strong cheese that she liked, and this sandwich was slathered in cheese and I just couldn’t manage it. And I never confessed to her because I didn’t want to upset her of course, but on those days I went and bought myself a sandwich in town. [Chuckle]
Well at that point I think we’ll just pause and we’ll get Lindy to come in and tell us her story.
Lindy: I met Peter through his aunt. They met me in Auckland. My father was moving to Wellington; he was joining Odlin’s. He’d been with New Zealand Forest Products as I grew up, and then we had a change of direction, and we left Auckland and we came to Wellington. And they met me and they invited me for the Christmas dinner. And I said that … I was supposed to be good, and I said I wasn’t going to be good, and my father said that he would kick my shins under the table. Oh yes. And it was an arranged marriage, so we continued to see each other, then Peter went back to Hawke’s Bay and finished his degree in the family firm. During that time the house we were to buy came on the market, which is this house in Nelson Street.
What were you doing at that stage?
Well – oh, you want to know ..? Before that, I grew up in Auckland … only my secondary school years … I was born in Christchurch because my parents were living in a very isolated place which was Tokoroa, and my mother returned to Tokoroa. Then we went and lived in a mill town called Pinedale, and then we moved to Auckland. And in Auckland my father’s job continued, and he was making good of his life and we ended up going to St Cuthbert’s in Auckland, and I went on and did my university degree – I’ve got a science degree. And I then came to Wellington, met Peter, and then I had to have a job and I worked at the industrial lab at BP out in Seatoun … Seaview. I was getting married, and so then Peter’s mother said to me that she didn’t think there would be any work for me such as I was doing in Hawke’s Bay – I should go teaching. So I ended up going and working at Hutt Valley High School for a year, and I taught. And I did what was called the ‘pressure cooker course’, and I then went to Hastings Girls’ High School after I got married. At Hastings Girls’ we were under Connie Miller and Miss Trotter and Mrs Tier and all those people … many people you’d know. So I taught there and then I had our first child, and by then Peter’s work had taken off and it became uneconomic for me to work, because it was a time when they added the two salaries together. And I wasn’t prepared to go back full-time, so … and part-time wasn’t going to pay – taxed out of the system.
If you could tell me the full names of your children and when they were born …
Okay. Do you want my father’s name?
My father’s name was Mervyn Roy Buckett; my mother’s name was Gwyneth Marion Gest Buckett, but she was a Pascoe before that – came from the South Island. Then we marry in 1963 … November 1963. David, our oldest child, David Ross Bate was born in 1966, in February the 15th … must make sure I’ve got my dates right … 15th February.
What a clever way of recording your birthdays. Lindy was looking at a little charm bracelet she has with shields on it, with obviously the children’s birthdays.
Yes, yes. And our daughter, Catherine, was born the 20th November 1967; and then Graham is Graham John, and he was born in 1971 – he’s Graham John Bate. So those are our three children. They grew up and went to school in Mahora, and Havelock since. David has a degree in electrical engineering and a degree in commerce. Our daughter Catherine has a PhD and is a specialist in medicine, and our youngest son has an electrical engineering degree as well.
Gosh, it’s a house of academia isn’t it?
Well it was important, because if you knew where I came from …
Peter: [Chuckle] Mostly Lindy’s genes.
Lindy: … if you saw the mill town where I came from, and the fact that I went to Putaruru School … and I met somebody recently who knew me when I started school, and I found out she was in Standard 2A so I must have been in Standard 2B. So one way and another it’s amazing how your life turns out. My older sister is married to a Knight – she is a Lady – so we have had a family that’s … accomplishments have been important to us.
Then as I say we got married, and I lived there for sixteen years. I did pink flowers for the women at the hospital, and I did … I was in Jaycee wives, I was President of Jaycee wives for a while. I taught Sunday School at the Methodist Church along in St Aubyn Street – it’s been sold and become something else. What else did I do? I worked at the school; I taught things … I did electives at Mahora School in the afternoons and I took cooking as part of the electives. What else did I do during those years? I walked everywhere – I didn’t have a car; and I used to push them up to the town from Nelson Street where we lived. It was straightforward living, and we came to Taupo fairly regularly on Friday nights. Our daughter said … now she’s grown … but Friday night was a time you didn’t trouble Mum, because she was busy [chuckle] getting away. And other than that, we lived there and the house that we lived in was subdivided and it’s still there, and we go back and have a look every now and then – nostalgia, it’s called.
Peter came [to Taupo] with Jaycee. He used to bring a Jaycee party. And just recently we had … some people came and went out again, on our boat here. It belonged to the Jaycee group that Peter used to take out.
Wonderful, yes. Yes. I’ve tried to revive … to try and get the history, because it’s …
Oh, they had that, and we had a big meeting about that. What finally happened about the Hastings Jaycee information? Warren Duff had it, didn’t he?
That’s right. It’s really quite important because Jaycees was a …
… developmental place for young men.
Peter: It was really their aim, wasn’t it?
It was training and speaking … public speaking and all that sort of debating.
And it’s sad that it’s slipped away now.
Now you were going to tell me about the house?
Lindy: The house. We bought that six months before … our house in 631 Nelson Street North … we bought it six months before we married. And it was very overgrown, and nothing really had been done to it very much at all. We bought it in the Easter of ‘63 and we moved in in the November of ‘63. The first thing we had to do was replace the roof, and we were told it would cost us about £80 – it cost us something like £230, because it’s one of those roofs that has lots of bits and gables and things.
D’you know what it would cost you today?
Peter: Yes, that’s right.
Lindy: Don’t worry … don’t worry. It cost us £5,000, this house – you wouldn’t buy many houses for £5,000.
It would cost you £25 [thousand] to replace the roof.
[Chuckles] I would think that would be about right. You multiply everything at least by ten, and maybe by more now. So the house needed quite a lot doing to it. It took us sixteen years to finish it inside. I don’t know what the new owners have done to it, because to me it was always a very pretty house.
Peter: Corner of Kitchener Street and Nelson Street.
Lindy: They took off the front tennis court so it doesn’t have the tennis court on it any more. It was bought by a doctor. And at the time when we bought it Wattie’s was not even on the northern side of King Street.
Brook Taylor used to live in that street too, didn’t he? The vet.
Peter: Oh, that’s right, they were diagonally opposite us.
Lindy: No – diagonally were the Newsomes.
Peter: Straight over the other side.
Lindy: He might have lived there, because the Newsomes’ house has gone too. Quite a lot of the houses now’ve gone, but that house is still there. And the house next door belonged to … what was the name of the car people that David used to go and play with? ‘Cause that house I thought would stay and we’d have a bit more of a buffer. Oh I know – the vet guy was on the corner – oh yes, he was further over, yes. David used to go and they used to call him ‘the little general’ ‘cause he was so bossy, [chuckles] until Rich said that I was pretty bossy. But the house was a very pretty house. It was quite cold – it had no insulation – and it had two fireplaces and … well it had three, and we took fireplaces out and we changed the house not very much at all. We don’t alter houses much. And it was not fenced, and the children understood that the fence was the line in the drive – that was inside the house, and that was outside, and you didn’t go past that line. but there was no, you can see it was quite open. As I said, David was the little general – I wonder why? [Chuckles] Our children had to do as they were told – we’re that generation. And yet it’s done them no harm.
And so when the children left home did you go back to any ..?
I didn’t work in Hastings. When I got to Wellington … we had five years in Wellington … and then I was picked up and went back teaching. And I taught at a school called Aotea College in Wellington, and then I came up here and we moved to Taupo and I taught at Tauhara College here for five years.
Peter: Just one thing there – you said five years and we’ve had …
Lindy: No, but the first five years I didn’t work. The second five years, I had five years at Aotea, then had five years up here.
And were you a sporting girl?
No. No, not particularly. I played netball and I played basketball at primary school – I’ve got a picture of me. But at secondary school, one of the things you don’t realise, when you go to an elite school like St Cuthbert’s College for Girls, a lot of the girls came from very privileged homes. We didn’t really. There were six children in the family, and I didn’t have any extra lessons like music or … my mother didn’t drive, so I wasn’t taken places. It’s only been in recent years I’ve realised why they had advantages in a different way to what you might expect.
You would have had experiences that they wouldn’t even have understood?
I had to work. If I hadn’t passed School Certificate I wasn’t going back to school. If I hadn’t got University Entrance I wasn’t going back to school. So academia became quite important. In my seventh form year I learned to do fencing and I also did archery. And those are the sort of privileges that these elite schools give you that you wouldn’t have got in a State school at that time.
Peter, you haven’t felt under threat being married to a past Robin Hood?
Peter: Oh, yes – yes, it worries me, I keep an eye on it, don’t worry. [Chuckles]
Lindy: For a while we lived … when we moved first to Auckland we lived in Howick when Howick was rural. And then we moved into … just off Victoria Avenue in Remuera, so that’s why I say if I’d gone back to Hawke’s Bay … if I’d gone from Hawke’s Bay to Auckland I would have found it very difficult to live in some parts of Auckland because I had found it very convenient to live in Remuera. It’s very pleasant.
Yes, well Howick was very interesting in those years, because it’s the 1940s, early ‘50s I’m talking about, and it was just a little ribbon street round the top. And we lived in Wellington Street, and Wellington Street now … the top end of Wellington Street you can now see the big airport at Mangere – because I have a friend who’s got a townhouse there. And you can see right out, and Wellington Street looks right out that way. And the school at that time in Howick, which is not important in this, had been amalgamated between all the other little schools all around, and so I went to the District High School. And from there I went into school, and we had to go in by bus.
Back to Taupo … are you a keen boatie too?
I guess if I hadn’t been married to Peter I wouldn’t have ever gone boating. My father had a boat but girls weren’t allowed on the boat. But being married to Peter, it was inevitable. I made sure that everybody … that the children were safe, and the food was done and everything. And I don’t know whether Peter trusts me with the boat, because I ran it into the rocks once, but never mind.
[Chuckles] Rocks are not very fine.
But anyway, so Taupo played quite a major part in relaxation for Peter because …
Peter: And the family of course.
Lindy: And the family, oh yes – they look back on it quite pleasantly. And funnily enough, we brought the children up … we never travelled overseas, but our children have all lived … been all overseas.
But I can see why you don’t leave here, because it’s the most fabulous view looking across to Acacia Bay. Well, I think that’s probably … yes. You can go back to your knitting …
No, no, no, I just …
Peter: I’d better not say things like that – I’ll get hung!
Lindy: [Chuckle] … this modern age. I remember when our daughter was eleven – we had her out on the boat and they said “you’re bringing up one of the modern young women”. And that’s exactly what’s happened, because you know, she has studied and … she’s not a feminist by any means, but having a good job and everything, and that’s important. And for me, my education has made a huge difference to my life. And it was one of the things when I was teaching, I wanted to give to other children the opportunities that I had that was brought about by my education. Because if you look at the photograph of me in Standard 2 with all the children from the mill town – you know, it wasn’t the highest of society. And education has made the difference.
Yeah – it’s a key.
I think it stops you being tricked by someone who can read. And when you can’t they can fool you, so you need to be able to do these things – and have a good sense of number and things like that – I think that’s important.
We’ll go back to the saga of …
Of what Peter knows about the family. Did he talk to you about the family that ..? I was lucky that the aunt, this Aunty Win, came over from Napier every day and helped with the children. And that’s Peter’s mother’s sister.
We hadn’t even scratched that surface, but now we’re going to.
Peter: Well we got to the stage …
You had met and courted and married.
So we came back to Hastings and I was … of course naturally I went into the family firm, which then consisted of my father, my brother and Tony Wayne who did Court work. And then I joined the firm and went on from there. Okay, so … let’s think now … Tony Wayne must have joined the firm I think in about 1958 … perhaps it might have been as late as 1960.
But in all events, I joined the firm in 1963 which was when we were married and moved to Hastings. But while I was law clerking in Wellington – I was Law Clerk to a firm in which George Kent was one of the leading criminal lawyers … it’s always a description that intrigues me … is the lawyer the criminal? [Chuckle] He did a lot of criminal work and I was his law clerk, and he was as I say, really the leading Court man in Wellington in those days. And he said to me straight away, he said “Look, if you’re taking documents down to the court to file them or anything of that sort and you see an interesting case going on, don’t hesitate to sit in the back of the Court and listen in”. And he said “that’s part of your training”, and so on and so forth. And he was wonderful, he was really just wonderful. And when I came to move to Hawke’s Bay and join the firm, as I say Tony Wayne was the Court man in the firm until he accepted a position as a Magistrate in Singapore. So I just naturally just filled in his shoes with the family firm and took up the Court work in Hastings.
And then in 1979 I had the approach to go on the Bench, and I accepted that invitation and that’s when … the option was to go to Wellington, or possibly Auckland. And in a mischievous sort of way I can remember saying to Lindy, “look, let’s go to Auckland”, which is where she was brought up of course for quite some years. And I said “the big attraction in Auckland would be that we could live in Devonport on the north side of the harbour, and that would give me the opportunity of getting a twelve foot dinghy and an outboard motor, and I could travel to work by dinghy each day”. And [chuckle] ‘course it wouldn’t have worked at all, but it was a dream.
So anyway, we moved to Wellington and that was in 1979. And life continued on down there until ten years later as I was mentioning to you earlier, I was never leaving Rotorua[?]. And the call came up, “would I be interested in settling here?” [Taupo] And they’d pay my transport each day to go through to Rotorua or Tokoroa, and occasionally Hamilton and once or twice up to Tauranga, but that was all from when we were settled here.
So we’d bought a house here [Taupo]. The family incidentally had in the meantime sold the army hut holiday house, and they built in about 1962 a holiday house just along the road here when this subdivision opened up … Number 53 Rainbow Drive, and that house is still in the family – my nephew, my brother’s son and family now own that house. And when we came to Taupo we looked around and we decided ‘well, this is one of the nicest spots in Taupo’, and we actually bought the house next door which came on the market at the appropriate moment, and we leapt in and bought that. And we stayed there for five years until the owner of this property we’re sitting in now came on the market. And the house had been removed and the owner was planning to build, but he and his wife, within a few months of each other, died before they got to building it. So the estate put the property on the market and we bought it and built this house here now. And we’ve stayed here ever since.
We’ve had a great interest in boating because my father bought our first boat just after the war, and since then we’ve owned several boats for one reason or another and when the children were at the appropriate age we had a yacht. We thought that was a good change of boating which would be a good experience for them, and we did a lot of yachting around the lake and went over the other side for Christmas holidays, and so on and so forth. But when they’d grown up a bit and they were moving away, we decided ‘well, they were doing all the donkey work of hoisting sails and all that sort of thing – it was time we got back into the launch, where you just turn the key and off you go.’ So that’s what we did, and we’ve still got a launch here.
What is the name of the launch?
The name of the launch is Winifred Mary. Now what prompted you to ask that? Just curiosity … right. Now there’s history behind that, because the first launch we had was a converted open boat with a little wee air cooled engine in it. And for some reason or another my father, who was – apart from all his other qualities – was a brilliant academic, and from his Latin days he’d decided he’d call the name ‘Gaudeamus’. Now I don’t think I’ve ever seen a boat around with a longer name than ‘Gaudeamus’, [chuckle] which translated means ‘let us rejoice’. And it was a lovely boat … little boat; but a few years later another lovely little boat, about a twenty footer … a boat called ‘Wairiki’ was on the market and he bought that, and we sold ‘Gaudeamus’. And going on further again, my brother and I decided we’d get a bigger boat – ‘Wairiki’ was too small to have any bunks, but it was a little launch. But we sold that and got a thirty-six footer called ‘Hinemoa’. And that was quite a decent sort of a boat with six bunks and a bridge deck in it – a very elegant boat that had been built in 1912. So it was quite an old boat and is still around – it’s been reconditioned and just the other day I got a photograph from a friend who saw it on the Tauranga Harbour, and she’s looking beautiful, this boat. But anyway, that was ‘Hinemoa’. And then we … my brother and I bought that between us. Now, coming back to ‘Winifred Mary’, when we bought that boat it cost us £1100, and my brother and I bought it jointly between us. But Winifred Mary, who is my mother’s sister, lived in Napier and she gave us £500 towards the cost of this boat. And we used to call her our Honorary Vice Admiral. [Chuckle]
Naming rights as well?
That’s right. So time went on, and my brother and I about ten or twelve years later decided we’d sell ‘Hinemoa’ and that was … yes, I can’t just remember the dates, but in all events that was when we decided we’d get into a yacht, because our family were young and active and we thought it would be good experience for them. We had the yacht for a little while during those times … about eight years I suppose it was … eight or nine years. And that was when we got to know about this boat we’ve now got, which is a boat that was originally designed by a family by the name of Logan, years ago up in Auckland, who built quite a name for designing very fast yachts from about the late 1880s onwards. And although it was exclusively yachts to start with, he then got into designing launches in the early 1900s. And the one that led to what we’ve now got was called the ‘Logan 33’, designed by Logan and thirty-three feet long. And the first I saw of this was just down at the jetty at Two Mile Bay here in about 1999 it would have been I think, and I saw this lovely looking vintage boat coming into the jetty at Two Mile Bay. But there was quite a wind blowing and I can remember as well as anything, thinking ‘the angle he’s coming in, he’s not going to get onto the jetty – this wind’s going to blow him away’. And then all of a sudden as I was standing watching him, a bow thruster … I could see the bow thruster working with the thrust of the water out the side. I said “hello, this is strange”, in an old boat like that. But in fact it was one of the first Logan 33s that had been built by a fellow up in Whangarei who’d been building fibreglass boats for quite some years. And he bought the original Logan 33 which was a wooden boat of course, which was originally built in about 1910 … yes, 1910, by the Logan family. And this guy in Whangarei saw it on the market, loved it, and decided he’d buy it. And he bought it. And having bought it he decided ‘gee whizz’ – as I say he already had a boat building business – he decided to take a mould off it and he built these Logan 33s, and he built a total of about forty of them, and this was starting in the late 1990s.
And another interesting detail on that is that once he got going on this he kept one of his reproduction boats for himself, and he put the original Logan back on the market. And the owner from whom he had bought that boat, jumped in and bought it back off him. And he said to this guy that from the day he sold it to him he regretted it, and so he bought it back. [Chuckle]
So anyway, we got wind of it starting with what I’d seen down at the jetty. And so we had them build our boat and we’ve had that now since about 1991.
It’s got classic lines, hasn’t it?
A beautiful … beautiful boat, and when you’re on it you see the thinking of the yacht hull in it. She’s narrowish in the beam and so on, but she really is a lovely boat.
One interesting detail is, the boat we had before this … immediately before this after we got rid of our yachts … was a Sterling 33. Now that’s a very capable boat … hardshine configuration, weighed about eight tons, but had about six berths in it and so on, and we had that for about ten years before coming into the Logan scene. But an interesting thing to illustrate the element of yacht design on this boat is that that Sterling 33 had a one hundred and twenty horsepower engine in it, and you could get eight knots out of that. This boat, which is exactly the same length, has a forty horsepower motor in it and it will do eight and a half knots. [Chuckle] Anyway …
Design, isn’t it?
Yes – amazing. So anyway, we’ve loved our …
So that’s ‘Winifred Mary’?
That’s ‘Winifred Mary’ yes, and we decided to remember Win by giving her that name.
Yes. You’re operating as a District Court Judge?
And commuting between Hamilton, Tokoroa, Rotorua and Taupo?
Okay, so … yes, so we settled here in Taupo and we’ve been here ever since. Now I went on with the judging, and many aspects of it I enjoyed. There were some aspects that were a bit tough to take, and after I’d been a Judge for twenty years I decided to retire in the year 2000, and that’s when we settled into retirement, and we’ve been here ever since.
Now going back, what was I thinking of? On my mother’s side, her mother’s side had the surname Pitt. And they and her father’s side both came from England, but they stopped in Australia during the gold rush and her father got involved in that – I gather for quite a short period. But that’s what brought them to Australia, and she was born in Hobart in Tasmania, so technically she was an Australian. But anyway, they must have come over here pretty soon after she was born. And they came to Napier and they had a house which was built at 25 Napier Terrace, up on the hill. And he was a saddler by occupation, from there on. I really don’t know anything about the gold digging and how involved he became in that, but it can’t have been for very long.
He came to Napier and was a saddler. They had four children, her parents – there is in order, I think Winifred was the eldest child, then my mother was the second child, then they had a son John and a son Henry. My mother married of course and had our family; Winifred and Henry – neither of them married, but both of them lived together after their parents had died, in the old family house at 25 Napier Terrace. From there on they just lived together there, and we saw a great deal of them because we were in Hastings. And she spoiled us – the money she gave us towards the boat was part of it. She used to come out regularly to Hastings both when I was a child, and coming forward another generation, when we had our children she came out to Hastings and babysat for our children and so on, a great deal.
Henry died from asthma in the early 1950s at quite a young age. Winifred went on, and she died in about the late 1970s, I think it would have been.
John Jordan, the other brother, had a little farmlet out of Palmerston North from the time I knew … could remember. He was married but they had no children. Had this little farmlet, but he died in … again, a bit like Henry … somewhere in the early 1950s and Anne, his wife, survived him for some few years, but not very long. Now that’s on my mother’s side.
On my father’s side, he had Ella, who I’ve mentioned, who was older than he was. Then there was him. Then the next one was Joy, who was born actually on my father’s twenty-first birthday which was always something the family smiled about. Joy married Lachie McKenzie, as I’ve mentioned and I had a lot of fun with them in Wellington … very generous to me. And John settled in Palmerston as I’ve mentioned, so that takes care of her side of the family there.
So now we’re at a point of where your father and mother met.
We’ll branch out and follow that track of the family and that will encompass Ed Bate as part of the …
Okay, well they married of course in 1923 I think it was, and he was admitted to the Bar in 1923. And my mother had done a Home Science degree in Dunedin. And she was a wonderful mother, and she was a wonderful cook. And when my father became the Mayor of Hastings she was wonderful support for him, and she undertook all sorts of related activities. I can remember she generated interest in supplying two chairs for the mayoral chambers. I think from memory I caught a glimpse of them at some stage … just an ordinary sort of chair for people to sit on.
But anyway, she had contact with several women’s groups in Hastings. One of them I remember played bridge, and there were one or two others – I can’t just put my memory to what they were. But in all events she had contact with a number of womenfolk, and between them they bought two rather nice chairs and they all joined in doing a tapestry covering for the cushions on the chairs – or for the upholstery on the chairs. And they all did a bit, and she finally finished that and as far as I know the chairs may still be there, I don’t know – it’s a long time of course – but they could easily be worn out by now. But my father was Mayor when the city was declared in 1950s – he was Mayor I think from 1953 to 1959, and he took a very active interest in so many things. He was involved with freemasonry and was the Grand Master for the Hastings Lodge … the Haeata Lodge; he was then Grand Master for the region a bit later on; and after that he was Grand Master for New Zealand for several years. His Hospital Board work was very long lasting. He was Chairman of the Hawke’s Bay Hospital for about thirty years – I could dig out the dates, but it was about thirty years he was Chairman of the Hawke’s Bay Hospital, until – I think the date he relinquished that post was 1976. And that was after he had stepped up the ladder and been the Chairman – might have been the title – of the New Zealand Hospital Boards’ Association for some years also. He was involved with the Boy Scouts; he was involved with St John’s and they gave him a decoration – I’m not quite sure what they called it, but he was deeply involved with St John’s. There were several other … they’re on that ribbon.
Yes, he was very much a giver to the community, wasn’t he?
Yes, he was enormously involved … oh, and he was on the Law Society, and he was involved in the Community College project out at Taradale. He was the first Chairman of the Hawke’s Bay … Trustee Savings Bank. And he gave addresses – I remember he went to Australia one time to give an address to one of the Law Societies, or something like that, over there. How he managed to fit in all of this work with the law practice, which was a very busy practice, and found time for all of this is amazing, because he was also a wonderful father. And we three children had the benefit of two parents who both had busy lives, but they couldn’t have devoted … their responsibilities as parents was just exemplary.
Now, your sister?
Yes, Alison is living at the moment in Summerset at Havelock North. Now she’s three years older than I, and she went to Central School … primary … then she became a boarder at Woodford House, even though we lived in Hastings with my parents, she wanted to become a boarder. And she then married Brian Frank.
Was he a [an] accountant?
No. he wasn’t an accountant. They married and they moved to Wellington. He was employed with what was then the Evening Post newspaper, and worked there for some years. They had three children, two girls and a boy. One of the girls is Helen, the next one was Ginny, and then Simon, the boy. Helen has had six children and Ginny has had two, I think. And Simon, who hasn’t married, has had no children. He lives in Tauranga; the other two live in Wellington. Alison as I say, is in Summerset Village. She wasn’t academically at the top of the list. She enjoyed her time at Woodford … Woodford House … and then took up nursing at the Hastings Hospital. In those days they had a nurses’ accommodation, and although we lived in Hastings she lived at the hospital. And she completed her nursing qualification, and it would have been some time after that that she married Brian and moved to Wellington. But after that she didn’t … I don’t know whether nursing didn’t quite fulfil her interests. And she started having a family and finished up in Wellington and had several jobs briefly. Maybe she worked for the Post Office at one stage, and one or two other jobs. But she and Brian divorced after the children were … sort of growing up a bit, and Alison came back to Hastings where she sort of rejoined the family so to speak … the family that she’d come from. But one way and another, her health wasn’t wonderful – she wasn’t chronically sick or critically sick, but she finished up living in and selling up the house she had in Hastings for a while, and moved to Summerset Village in Havelock North where she still is. And that move was in 2003 I think.
She looked very much like your mother, didn’t she?
Yes I think so, yes. Yes, that’s right.
And Roger did too.
You look like your father … [chuckle] very much. Can’t hide that, Peter. [Chuckle] There’s nothing wrong with that, though.
That’s how you remember people.
Likenesses do … oh, yes. Interesting in that regard that our two … I haven’t spoken about where our three kids went. Let’s just touch on that – mention of likenesses clicked in my mind.
David, our eldest, as Lindy’s mentioned, did an engineering degree in Christchurch. And he lived there in one of the student hostels while he was there, and when he finished he took up a position with IBM. And he’s had a long connection with them – he’s only just this year retired from that. But he’s been all over the world – he lived in New Zealand for a while and flew all over the place; he lived in Japan for five years and flew all over the place. He’s lived in Singapore … oh, he lived in Singapore before he went to Japan … for a while, and then Japan and back to Singapore, and he’s been there I think for about another seven years now probably, since Japan. And we’d been a bit worried – he’s been on top of the job, but he’s been managing – I don’t know what they call them, but sections of their staff spread right round the world. And he’s been flying to and fro; we’ve been worried he’s been doing too much flying for his good health. Just not so long ago he said in the last fifty-two weeks he’s been away from home, which has been Singapore latterly, he’s been away from home for thirty-seven out of fifty-two weeks. And that away from home has put him flying over to America, to Africa, to Europe, to China, to New Zealand and Australia, and on a number of … IBM do quarterly summaries on how every region and every team manager is going and he’s topped the list on many occasions.
But we’re very pleased that he’s now broken away from that and he’s bought an olive orchard in the Esk Valley just a couple of years ago, and he’s sort of managed by remote control while he’s finished off the last couple of years in Singapore – he’s had contractors doing the work and so on. But they … just back in about June of this year I think it was, they’re settled in there now and he’s enjoying it.
Catherine who’s our next down the list in age, is a very very bright kid and very artistic. And she was doing art in school and selling it, and she’s been great. One of things, now that I think of it, that she painted was just an assignment or an exercise I perhaps should say … an exercise at school to do a promotional picture or what-have-you, and she decided with her imagination Lake Wakatipu has a kink in it like a chair, and this poster that she created followed the shape of the lake to depict a Maori Chief in the sitting position. It was a beautiful thing. Anyway, she simply did it and it was handed in at school for her project and that was that – she didn’t think too much more of that until after she was married. She and her husband did a bit of a trip and went through Wakatipu, for no particular reason other than they wanted to go and have a look at Wakatipu and other South Island areas. And to her astonishment, in the Information Centre – there was her picture, and it was really an outstanding thing. But there are plenty more things that she’d done in the arts side which are quite stunning.
But at all events, she qualified with a PhD in medicine, and she specialises in endocrinology; does a lot of general work in Melbourne. She’s got a private practice with two other partners there, and she also does work in three of the Melbourne hospitals and is a very busy lady. But she’s a lovely kid, and she’s got two boys who are now about … one’s thirteen I think, and the other’s ten.
And then Graham followed in David’s footsteps down in Dunedin and lived at the same student lodge in Dunedin. And what just brought all this is your comment a moment ago about people looking alike. When he was down there David visited him on a couple of occasions and on both occasions he ran into people who called him Graham [chuckle] … “Gidday Graham, how are you going?” … sort of thing, they look so alike. But Graham did a very similar degree to what David did but during the holidays … term holidays while he was at university … he went over two or three times to work with the … don’t know whether they call it Telecom … the telephone people in Melbourne. And he enjoyed that work, but as it got towards the end of his degree he got a letter from the telephone people in Melbourne offering a position – quite spontaneously – they’d seen him working during his holiday period. So that’s what put Graham in Australia … when he qualified he went over there and worked with them. And he married – Chris is his wife, and she was working in the area … this was some few years later, but in Melbourne after some few years he saw an advertisement in the paper from – not Mitsubishi, one of the other Japanese companies – for a position in Sydney. And it specified in the ad apparently the qualities that were required and the experience that was required, and his experience with the telephone people in Melbourne hadn’t been quite long enough to meet those specifications and perhaps not quite in the same area. But he thought ‘oh’ … he said it looked a good sort of an idea, and he applied for the position and got it. That required him to move to Sydney, which he did. And very soon afterwards he found that his former boss ,in Telecom had also applied for the job but didn’t get it, [chuckle] which really tickled him. So he settled in Sydney and that’s where he met his present wife Chris. And they married and they have a delightful little kid … not little, he’s now ten … and very bright, and is growing up; and that’s where they are.
Okay. Now we only have one family member, your late brother Roger. If you could just go back to Roger as a boy, and growing up.
Lindy: He was good to you, wasn’t he? Boy, was he good to you!
Peter: Oh yes … yes. Well, anyway … yes, Roger now. As we’ve already noted he was nine years older than I, and to describe him as caring is the only word I can apply to it. He was … not smothering in any way really at all, but from the family pictures and things you can see that – from my point of view at a very young age – he was very, very thoughtful and kind and considerate, and looked after me. But coming up to when we were all a little bit older and in practice and that sort of thing, he was wonderful the way he introduced me to the firm when I finished my qualification and so on, and he held my hand the whole time on that. Over the years we’ve had a number of family trusts and such like. He arranged the building of the law offices that we had in Karamu Road, and when we moved in there from the corner building just down the road. And the family trust was involved in that, and then the building in Havelock North, similar thing. And during the latter part of all of this of course we’d moved to Wellington after my appointment on the Bench, and he used to look after these family trusts. And he had his own family trusts too, but of course I think those family trusts were built up partly in the era of splitting income for taxation purposes and suchlike. But at all events, he managed the whole thing right the way through, and I can’t speak too highly of Roger.
He met Jenny … Jennifer … of course, and they married. And Roger finally died at a youngish age in 2002. Pancreatic cancer got a hold of him and he died, which was very sad, and I can remember he spent quite some time … his cancer was diagnosed in July – must have been July 2001 I think. Anyway … did he last nine months or a year and nine months? I think it was only nine months … one or the other, a short period, and in the latter stages he was in Cranford. Yes that’s right, and I buzzed up and down from Wellington to see him as much as I could at that stage – oh no, sorry, I’d retired then – and went up and down plenty to see him. And you could see he was losing the battle. And I can remember [sobs] … it’s sad even now. The night before he died I was with him, and as I was just about to leave he reached out and took my hand [sobs] and he said, “Peter, you’ve been a wonderful brother” … he obviously knew that he was going. And I said “Roger, it pales into insignificance”, I said “you’ve been the most magnificent brother I could imagine.” And the next morning we learnt that he’d passed.
Well, it was lovely that you were able to exchange those feelings for one another, wasn’t it? He seemed to always have feelings …
… about other people.
Yes. That’s right, he was very … out of the box.
Now, okay – that’s pretty well the whole family done. This window is the greatest distraction …
… it’s incredible! It’s just like a mill pond, as if someone’s been out and smoothed the water for us.
Yes. Yes, well as I mentioned before, when we knew we were going to come here and live here, we came up and stopped off at the holiday house here a number of times and looked at various areas around town and decided ‘really, Rainbow Point’s got a lot going for it’. And we were just so lucky that this house came on …
Lindy: No – next door one.
Peter: Oh, next door, yes. And you know, it’s a view to be …
Lindy: See we hardly notice it.
Peter: [Chuckle] It’s also …
Lindy: Just thinking about Roger … before you finish with Roger, he was quite sickly as a little boy. And the older sister Win, took him … he had a year in Napier with their older sister, because he was poorly.
Peter: His mother’s older sister.
Lindy: My mother’s aunt. And he also – the other story I like about Roger was when he was born, it was just before – he was about four months old when the Napier earthquake was there, and Peter’s mother ran down the corridor … the elbows … and she sat on the back step and thought it was the end of the world. Then after that he went to school, I presume at Central just as you did, didn’t you?
Peter: No, he went to …
Lindy: Raureka …
Yes, ‘cause you were in Henry Street at that stage.
Peter: Yes, that’s right.
Lindy: So he was in Henry Street and he would have gone to Raureka, and then he went over to New Plymouth.
So that’s pretty well covered most of the things, but can you think of anything else that we may not’ve …
I sort of feel I’ve rambled a little bit … yes. Well speaking overall of our family, as I’ve said – our wider family, not just the three of us, Alison, Roger and myself – but I’ve been terribly lucky really, to have landed in that family – there was never any divisions or bickering or frictions within the family. We had wonderful parents who despite their busy lives, were devoted to bringing us up. And since then Lindy and I have had a very happy marriage, we’ve been now married for fifty-five years, and also enjoying a reasonably long spell of life. I had a theory on this, that my mother died when she was eighty-eight; my father’s father, grandfather Peter, died when he was ninety-three; my father died when he was ninety-eight. And on that, if you carry that trend forward, I’m counting on living ‘til about a hundred and fifteen.
Well it’s quite unique for a family to have seen almost every point of the law.
Lindy: It was voluntary – it wasn’t paid. Legal training too – this is what happens with it. Makes you think logically – not like me, not flibberty-gibberty.
Peter: One thing I haven’t mentioned is that he [Sir Edwin Bate] was actually approached on two separate occasions to accept the appointment as a High Court … well, it was Supreme Court in those days … Supreme Court Judge. And he scratched his head over that, but he decided not to. Why? Because he wanted to be around to bring us into the practice – Roger and me – and support the family.
Lindy: He was very ambitious though. His family came from very modest beginnings. His father worked in the woolstore, and it was his mother who pushed it. He went to Napier Boys’, and she went a long way to make sure he got a scholarship, and she made sure that he was going somewhere. And he was … part of his work was also to see that it improved his practice if he worked in these areas. And Roger was the same. Roger felt that belonging to Rotary helped, and that’s why Peter was supposed to join Jaycee[s].
Peter: Well of course … yes, that’s right, it was part of it. But in those days the Law Society imposed absolutely rigid restrictions on the prohibition for lawyers to advertise, even to the point where … remember Hallam Dowling, in Napier? They had – I don’t know whether they’d moved office or whatever occasioned it – but they had their signs on their windows repainted at one stage on their Napier offices. And they were required by the Law Society to scrub that off and re-do it, because they’d measured the size of the letters …
… on the window, and it was too big. It was too much a brash piece of advertising. But I remember my father saying a number of times that that’s why lawyers and … you know, that’s why you do … lift up to make a successful practice. And you’ve got to be made visible in Society but not many had done it as much as he did with the energy he put into all his other interests.
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Interviewer: Frank Cooper
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