Ramsden, Graham Frank Interview

Good afternoon. It’s 10th June 2020, and I’m at Westshore, Napier, with Graham and Sally Ramsden. Good afternoon, Graham.

Good afternoon, Jim.

Now I think you might have quite a story to tell me of your life; when you first came to Hawke’s Bay, and your parents, when they first came to New Zealand. Tell us a little bit about that and I won’t interrupt you.

[Microphone interference] Thank you, Jim. It’s a long story as far as I can remember, without referring to the papers which I have left with you to peruse. But our family … the first information I had about them was there were two families, Ramsden, and … the other ones were Scottish. Our memories started off with the Battle of Culloden in Scotland in the late 1700s I think it was, where there were three Nairn brothers who fought for … I think it was for Bonnie Prince Charlie. Two of them were killed at the Battle of Culloden; one escaped, and it took him twelve months to get down to London and he there lived for [?worked as?] a gardener. It was his children – I can’t remember the names of the lady that he married – but it was his children that emigrated to New Zealand, as far as I can remember, in [the] early 1800s … 1842, I think it was … and they landed in New Plymouth. Although I don’t know this for sure, the Ramsden side of the family and the Nairn side came on the same boat, because the [a] Ramsden married a Nairn after they got to New Plymouth … later on, about 1849 or so … they married in what was then, and still is I think, St Mary’s Anglican Church in New Plymouth. And he being busy as a [an] orchardist, if you like, he planted the trees round this church, some of which are still there to this day in the cemetery part of it.

Anyway, with the Nairn brothers he went farming; this is about 1849 down at Wanganui. What I’m going to say just now is only surmising what happened; but they were always arguing, and the Ramsden one had enough of it and so he rode back to New Plymouth to sell whatever assets he had there. On his way back the Patea River was swollen through flooding. He crossed it, but then disappeared. Now a couple of theories go with this; [the] first one was – because of the unrest with the Maori at that time that he was killed by the Maori. But what I think probably did happen – the person that he sold his assets to in New Plymouth, mysteriously disappeared at the same time on a ship back to Australia. And I think that he was probably murdered by this fellow to get his money back, but that remains a mystery.

And anyway, his wife was pregnant with my grandfather, and so she went back to the Nairn brothers and she helped looked after the Nairn brothers. So at that stage I think they were still single, although one may’ve just been married; and she kept house for them. Her son, James Ramsden I think it is, was born and grew up amongst the Nairns. They sold there south of Waverley and came to Omakere in Hawke’s Bay; and she still looked after her brothers, one of which [whom] went home to England and married somebody there, and came back. And anyway, that was the rest of her life probably. I think the record of that is in the records I’ve given you at the Knowledge Bank. She died; I think she’s buried at Omakere near the homestead, and her son, my grandfather I guess it must’ve been, went to school in Napier.

And his name was ..?

Dan … Daniel. Now until recent years the school he went to in Napier was still visible, but it’s been pulled down now, and there’s a big new modern building put up – industry-type building. The records show that it took them about a week to get from Omakere up to Napier on horseback; and there was a young Maori man that when he was small – this is a ten-year-old or thereabouts – young Maori boy was in charge of getting him up here. The horses would be grazed out somewhere, and he would stay here for the term then ride home again.

Anyway, when he became an adult he married Shirley Andrews. Now Shirley Andrews was the daughter of the Andrews family that ran the Andrews Hotel in Dannevirke. They were the original owners of the Andrews Hotel. How they met I just don’t know, but being fairly local it’s obvious that they would meet some time. And they married in 1930, I think it was, and I was born 14th of August 1931, and I have two other brothers and a sister who are still alive. My grandfather died at Kumeroa, [Manawatu Region, Tararua District] just before the First World War I think, and he is buried in Woodville. My grandmother then came back to Havelock North, and she is buried I think – I’ve never seen it, but I think it’s in the Havelock North Cemetery.

Now my father, Alfred Ramsden, and his brother, Frank Ramsden, went away to the First World War. His brother was killed at the … a big battle in France, I can’t remember it … but my father went to Gallipoli. He was wounded at Gallipoli, and wounded again in France before the end of the war. I talked about his brother Frank. They had a sister, Marion; she never married, and she continued looking after the family at Kumeroa, Woodville, and I well remember her. She was a lovely kind lady … small; but she looked after my grandmother until she died, and she’s down in the Woodville Cemetery, and Aunty as we called her, I think she also is there. Marion, her name was. I mentioned Frank being killed in France in the First World War. My wife, Sally, and I went to Gallipoli; we’ve been there. We went there for their centennial, and that was huge … just huge.

What year?

It would have been 19… what year did we go?

1917, wasn’t it?

It must’ve been, Jim.

Oh no, the centenary would be 2017.

2017, yes. But it was huge … it was huge. It’s the only time in my life that I’ve gone forty-eight hours without sleep, because we had to go there by bus because we flew to and stayed at some place in southern Turkey. The accommodation was very limited at that point, and it took us two hours by bus … bus full of Australians who looked after us very well. We got to Gallipoli – I had my father’s medals on, World War I medals, and so luckily we were given premier seats because of that; tiered seating, and we were up at the top but still we had a good view. We got to Gallipoli from the bus at daylight [dawn] in the morning, and there were thirty-odd thousand people there from all over the world. To get on the bus of course, it was a three hour trip so we had to get up ‘bout one o’clock in the morning to get going. Anyway, the day was … very honoured if you like, to have been able to go there. We went to where the Australians were – their base; and we went to Chunuk Bair which was where the New Zealanders fought hard and lost a lot of lives; and other places too, the twenty-four hours that we were there. So you can imagine how exhausted we were when we came home.

But when we were farming at Kumeroa – my grandfather, Daniel, bought the farm when he left Omakere – and Dad took it over. He died in 1952 I think, but I took over the farm after him; fifteen hundred acres of hill country, very little flat, and a lovely old homestead too, which we lived in. And I farmed there ‘til just over the year 2000, when my youngest son, Hamish, was destined to take over the farm from us. He had a bad accident; he was tagging a calf’s ear in the paddock and the mother was just standing in front of him; and the calf must’ve called out, as they do – ‘berrr’, sort of thing. The cow charged him, hit him here and broke his neck. And so that was the end of farming for him, and also for me.

And my eldest son, Andrew, who is still very active – he took over a farm that I bought in connection with Aototara, the main farm in Kumeroa. And I paid for a lot of the improvements; it was covered in manuka scrub, and fences were down and blackberry was everywhere; and I paid for a lot of that development. When we retired initially to Dannevirke, he lived in the homestead. He wanted to go out on his own more so, so he sold all that part of the farm. It was about … oh, a thousand acres I suppose, and left; and now he has a little block of land, but he lives at Wanaka. And he along with a number of other businessmen have instituted the making of face masks; he produced a breed of sheep down there which will be recorded in my records which produced wool which was ideal for the use in face masks, fine wool. It is known worldwide as the superior face mask. They currently have orders for over sixteen million I think, and they’re flat out making them in Auckland. He’s coming up to stay with us here next week I think, after he’s been to a business session up there; he’s very, very busy and we are very, very proud.

Our second son, Jeremy – well before I start on that, the three boys all went to Hereworth School, following on from me and my father. My father went to – it was then Heretaunga School, initially. And so we all … I was at Hereworth ‘42 to ‘44, and then went on to New Plymouth Boys’ High School ‘45 to ‘48; then I was a cadet at Smedley Station, Tikokino, before going to shepherd at Castlepoint Station; and then coming back to manage Aototara Station which was my father’s because at that stage he was old and falling ill.

Now Andy, the eldest boy, he’s now in Wanaka in a beautiful home there made from macrocarpa wood, which I helped prune and my father initially pruned, before he went down there over the years, so it is lovely … lovely. Anyway, that’s what he is doing at the moment.

And Jeremy, our second son, has had an Army career. He initially went to an Army Cadet school in Melbourne … oh, I can’t remember the name of it …


Yes, Duntroon. Passed out there one of the top cadets, and since then has worked in most of the trouble spots in the world. He is now a Colonel, sixty years old and due to retire soon. But initially when he was younger, he was an ADC [Aide de camp] to two Governor-Generals in Wellington; and continued with his farming [army] career to this day. I think he does a lot of secrecy work which we’re never told about. [Chuckle]

And Hamish, our youngest son, after he had his bad accident, the breaking of his neck, now lives in Christchurch. And we are very proud of him as well, because he has undertaken a job working at St Andrew’s College, Christchurch. He takes on students on a one-to-one basis who are having trouble with some aspects of their work, like spelling English, or mathematics, or something like that. He’s got nearly twenty students at the moment, and he’s got his own office at the College because he lives on the boundary of the College. It’s a wonderful job for him, a wonderful job. Unfortunately, when he married, the marriage didn’t last. After he had his accident, a year or so later, his wife left him; and I can’t blame her for it really, but it just left a bit of a sour touch in the family. They had a daughter who is now working with the TV studios in Auckland, and she’s doing well but she’s still single. Sadly for him, he had this accident before they could increase the family.

My sister, Jillian – she married a lawyer who became a Supreme Court Judge in Hamilton for some years. And she’s got three children, two boys and a girl, and they now live in Christchurch; he’s retired, and that’s where they live.


Well – my name’s Graham, and I was the eldest son of Alfred and Shirley Ramsden. Sally [Shirley] was originally Shirley Andrews of Dannevirke, who [whose family] had the lovely hotel in Dannevirke. And we’re a farming family. When I was ten … 1942 … I went to Hereworth School … prep [preparatory] school in Havelock North, and I was there for three years; finished up being a prefect; in the First XV and the First XI which was very nice, which I enjoyed. And from there I went to New Plymouth Boys’ High School as a boarder, and I was there for four years, 1945 to ‘48, just after the war. I well remember the end of the war, ‘cause we paraded up and down the main street of New Plymouth with all the Girls’ High School [chuckle] and others in the district; while all the teachers who were mainly returned servicemen, disappeared into their clubs to celebrate.

Anyway, finishing at New Plymouth Boys’ High School, I was lucky – I was again in the First XI and First XV; I was the runner up middleweight boxing champion; and I passed my University Entrance exam in 1948. Following that I was a cadet at Smedley Station at Tikokino, where we learned the farming methods and got experience there. Two years there, and I went further than that; I went down to Castlepoint Station, whose manager was Stewart Harvey who used to live in Waitahora out of Dannevirke, and had been at Smedley; also later became the manager at Smedley. But twelve months there gave me a lot of good experience shepherding. I was obliged to go home at the end of that time because my father was not well and he needed me to be at home working on the farm. And since then until I retired that’s where I’ve been.

Now I married in 1956, Sally St Clair-Ingles. She had been to Woodford House Girls’ College in Havelock, and was my sister’s best friend which was a nice way to be involved with them really. Anyway, we married in 1958 I think it was, and have lived together ever since. We’re lucky that we had three boys, Andrew the eldest, Jeremy next and Hamish, the youngest. Their records are, I think, with you; but we’re very proud of what they’ve been doing in their lives, and they are all now approaching retirement age so we have a lot to reminisce on.

I finished up farming in the early 2000s, and we retired initially to Dannevirke. We bought a lovely two-storeyed house in Dannevirke which was great to be in, but it was large; had a swimming pool which I seldom used; and a lawn which took about two hours to mow; so as I was in my senior years then I didn’t want all this work to do. We sold it after being there about eight or nine years. While I was there though, I used to go out to help on the farm with driving the tractor or something like that – helping Andrew and later Hamish, which was good; it was good, ‘cause I was useful. However, after Hamish’s injury and Andrew left to go to Wanaka, we had no real reason to stay in the area and in a house which was too big for two of us. We sold up and went to Napier … Westshore. And it’s no bigger than a retirement home in a retirement village, really. Got a little bit of lawn, which takes me longer to get the mower out to mow than it does to mow the lawn. But there’s enough garden there – Sally was a very keen gardener, and she [it] keeps her happy; and we are close to all the amenities that you really need in Napier within walking distance so you can’t do better than that. That’s about it, really.

My professional … I was a member of the Federated Farmers in Dannevirke, and initially was nominated to go on the board at Smedley Station, but the manager at the time was a man called Graham Lunt. We were both mates as cadets at Smedley and I was not going to be in a position where I had to be part of a decision which may’ve been detrimental to him, and so I regretfully turned down the opportunity to be on the board. However, I was on the board of Federated Farmers in Dannevirke, Southern Hawke’s Bay, and also on the board of Manawatu Farm Improvement Club, based in Palmerston North. We were member[s] of it for about twenty years, and it was a good organisation to be involved with. I think that’s about all I can say, really now.

We always come up with something … our brain just ticks over and …

I know. You skip something and then you remember it later.

But anyway, that’s an interesting talk, and I thank you for the time that you’ve given us and for your material that you’ve left at the Knowledge Bank as well. And we’ll make sure that it’s all returned to you.

That’s very good. My decision to give it to the Knowledge Bank was as we are now in our final years of living, and I wanted to pass on our family history to our family who are really in a dispersed area these days, it was a golden opportunity to be involved with the Knowledge Bank and their ability to calibrate all these things.

Well, thank you for those kind words, Graham, and I’ll pass it on to the bored [Board]… [spells]

And that’s my wife, Sally – her family. Her father was a St Clair-Ingles … well known Hawke’s Bay name, and her mother was a Brodie … another well [known] Hawke’s Bay name from Hastings.

We were at school with a Brodie …

You would be.

… at Hereworth.

Malcolm. Yeah, well Sally keeps in touch with Malcolm; he’s got a farm or a business – I’m not quite sure what it is actually – down in the Wairarapa. Anyway, they’re her immediate family. And Sally’s father was a World War II veteran and he was wounded at Cassino in Italy, and spent the rest of the war, I think, on General Freyberg’s staff in Egypt. And so that was their history in the sense that her family is involved; yes.

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Interviewer:  Jim Newbigin

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