Scotland, Anthony Ernest (Tony) Interview
Today is the 28th June 2019. Today I’m interviewing Tony Scotland, retired farmer, on the life and times of his family. Tony, would you like to tell me something about your life.
Morning, Frank. Yes. My early life was … I was born in Wellington on the 28th July 1938. Schooled in Wellington. [Interference on recording] My father and mother were both born in Wellington and I lived in Wellington until I left home at the age of about eighteen and went to varsity. I was schooled at Scots College in Wellington from 1943 to 1955, in which time I achieved Higher Leaving Certificate and all those sort of things. Played a lot of sport at school, and then went to Victoria University for a year in 1956 to do a medical Intermediate.
I always wanted to be a farmer. I was fortunate enough to spend a lot of school holidays on farms in my more older school days, and I always hankered to be a farmer. My parents didn’t have a farm; my father hated animals – he had no affinity with animals whatsoever, but I just wanted to be a farmer. My mother thought that I should do a little bit more academic so I went to Victoria University to do a medical Intermediate, which I actually achieved; I got three of my passes to qualify to go on to the next year. However – the girlfriend I had in Wellington at that stage and I decided that we’d seen enough of each other; and one of the reasons I was wanting to stay in Wellington to go to university was I had a very, very nice girlfriend.
So the following year I went off to Massey College. I took my Higher Leaving Certificate bursary with me to Massey College, which managed to pay for my living expenses at Massey, and did a Diploma in Sheep Farming. Massey College was a lot of fun. It wasn’t a great educational thing, but I was in the boarding establishment at Massey with forty other similar young men. And I was there for six months and then went off and did a six-months practical on a farm; back the following year for another six months; back to the same farm after that because I enjoyed there, and I really enjoyed working in the Rangitikei. And in my time in the Rangitikei I met some very, very nice young men; I played a lot of cricket – I played for Rangitikei; I played cricket at varsity; I played senior cricket in Wellington while I was still at university. So I carried on and my cricket and tennis and so on were real passions of mine at that stage.
My years in Rangitikei were very good. I was working on a very nice little farm there; not very big, but fortunately I had a very good … not a good boss, but the man who worked for the boss was a very practical farmer who taught me how to shear and fence while I was working there. So that gave me a very good practical insight into farming as well as the academic side of it, which I’d learnt at Massey College.
After two years in the Rangitikei I decided I’d better move on, and I moved on and I took my shearing skills and my fencing skills down into the Horowhenua area. My parents had a beach house at Waikanae Beach in the Horowhenua for some years, and I established myself in that for eight or nine months, in which time I did some contract fencing; I did some casual farm work; I milked cows during the winter in a town supply milking operation. And then in September of 1959 I took a stand in a shearing gang, and shore sheep under contract arrangements for three months of the year until the end of 1959.
Funnily enough on New Year’s Eve of 1959 I went to a party, and … or no, I didn’t really … I went to an earlier party, which I left early and went to another party. And at that party I met my wife. I met my Jan at this party, and that was on New Year’s Eve of … well, I suppose it was New Year’s Eve of 1960. Yes, it was New Year’s Eve of 1960. And after working in Waikanae on the farm, I realised that I had to do something a little bit more – not because of meeting Jan, but just as time went on I knew I had to sort of do something a bit better.
And I always loved working with animals; I had had a heading dog when I was working on the farm in Rangitikei; it was a pretty useful dog. And I applied for a shepherd’s job, and I was employed by a man in Martinborough who had a two thousand five hundred acre farm, and I realised then I had to very quickly get a team of dogs together. Fortunately one of my Massey mates had given up shepherding, and he had two very, very good dogs; he’d been shepherding up in Gisborne. And I got his two dogs, my heading dog, plus another one – a dog someone lent me – and I went shepherding on this two thousand five hundred acre farm. I was the only shepherd there, so I was the only man with dogs. There was another employee, a general hand on the farm; the boss didn’t do anything at all – he was a gentleman farmer. So I was the stockman on this farm, so I very quickly had to tidy my dogs up and get a very good team of dogs. It was twenty-five hundred acres of very nice country. A lot of it had been ploughed by horses, but it was big paddocks; there was only twenty-odd paddocks on the whole property. And the boss also leased another three thousand acre farm of hill country that was only in three or four paddocks, so I had to develop my dog skills very quickly, which I absolutely loved.
So you had five thousand-odd acres to look after?
Yes. Twenty-five hundred acres to look after with five thousand ewes on it. And I was the only shepherd. In those days that was an unheard of number of animals to look after, but the boss did say to me when he employed me, “I used to have two shepherds doing your job – would you be able to do it on your own?” And I said, “Yes, I would.” Well he did say to me, “If you can do it on your own, I’ll pay you two shepherds’ wages”, and I said, “that’ll do me – thank you very much.” So I did that, and I loved it. I loved it; I spent three years on that farm and developed a very, very strong team of dogs; virtually stock work the whole time. I didn’t play any sport at that stage because the boss said to me, “If you get hurt, Tony, at rugby, I’m afraid your job is unavailable for you.” And that was the way it was in those days. It was virtually a seven-days-a week job, particularly once lambing started and so on, it was seven days a week and lots of early mornings, ‘cause not only was I running a twenty-five hundred acre farm, but I was also helping to muster on this other farm for all the major stock work on that farm.
So what … breeding farm dry stock, cows?
We had five thousand ewes and they were all to a fat lamb sire, so we didn’t winter any hoggets; and about five hundred fattening cattle. So it was a pretty easy operation, and the boss said to me … the farm was in possibly twenty paddocks or something like that … hundred acre paddocks … and he said to me, you know, “That paddock there, you lamb three hundred and fifty ewes, and that one there you lamb two hundred and twenty”, so I really didn’t have a lot of control, but I called myself a stock manager. But I was told what to do.
Fascinating though, that you did the work of two shepherds; you would’ve been a pretty tough boss to have worked for later though?
Well I certainly probably demanded quite a lot, and I knew if somebody didn’t toe the line then I wasn’t very …
And who was the man that [who] owned the farm?
A fellow called Bruce Wall from Martinborough. He and his brother owned the farm that I was on. The Wall family owned several other properties in Martinborough; Bruce Wall supervised two of those, one [for] his stepmother, and this leasehold block which was three thousand acres of steep scrub covered country out on the southern side of Martinborough. But it was just a thrill for me … it’s an absolute thrill to get out in the morning, daylight; and get on the top of a hill as the light is breaking, and you can run your dog and see your dog do a good run in difficult country. And … absolute thrill of that, and that was the thrill I got out of it.
Yes. Yes, you were born to farm obviously.
I think so. Well my father as I said, was a stevedore, not interested in farming, and I think in a way that was probably quite good because I didn’t have any emotional ties to farming. I was able to make my own decisions farming in my lifetime without any thought about the rest of the family or whatever, and it allowed me really to do what I wanted to do; the direction I wanted to go in.
So that was in Martinborough; and meeting Jan; and I didn’t play any sport as I said down there – oh, I played tennis – a lot of social tennis. No, not in Martinborough – it was really in Rangitikei that I played my club cricket and social tennis.
Where did Jan come from?
Jan was born in Christchurch, but I met her in Wellington.
You were all moving north.
Yes. Funnily enough, latterly, I ended up with my brother coming to Hawke’s Bay, who’s still here; my sister coming to Hawke’s Bay – she and her husband farmed in Hawke’s Bay and they’ve now moved to Taupo; so two other siblings ended up in Hawke’s Bay as it was … but my parents stayed in Wellington … heading for the sunshine.
When Dad said to me in 1963 … well it wasn’t really Dad, it was Sir Clifford Plimmer who was CEO or Managing Director of Wrightson’s; [he] was a friend of my father. He said to my father, “Alan, I think if your son’s going to go farming” – 1963 – “you’d better make a move, because things are going to take off a bit.” So Dad said to me, “We’d better go farming son”; and I had – fortunately Dad had settled a trust fund on the four of us children – I had my share, and I had made some money from my shearing and my shepherding days; surprisingly enough, I was getting two shepherds’ wages – it was still only £15 a week in those days. But I was able to save quite a lot of money. And I didn’t have a lot but I had enough.
And in the middle of 1963 … no, I’ll go back before that. I was shepherding as a single shepherd on this farm in Martinborough, and then I met Jan of course, as I said. And after being there for about six or eight months, Jan and I got engaged, and I said to the boss, “Well I’m engaged now, so I’ll have to move on.” He said, “I think we would like to build you a house.” So Bruce Wall, probably himself, made the decision that they’d rather have single shepherds, ‘cause he was a bachelor, and he had a cook; and the cook used to feed me and feed Bruce. And he decided that they would put a little Lockwood house on the back end of the farm. The farm went through to another road on the Carterton-Martinborough highway, Ponatahi; so they put a little Lockwood house on there which Jan and I moved into. We got married in 1961, and we moved into the house after it was finished in the middle of 1961; the first couple of months of our married life we were still in the shearers’ quarters. So then we were then a married couple on the farm in Martinborough. That was good; we met other young people there, but as I said I still didn’t play sport, but … I couldn’t, I didn’t have time for sport, I was just flat out working, working, working, which I loved. While there, at the end of 1961, Andrea was born, so she was our first child … she was born there.
And then in 1963 as I started to say, I started to look for a farm. Martinborough was bounded by the Ruamahanga River. The Ruamahanga River almost ruled my life, because if I went anywhere I had to be on call in case of flooding. So if I went anywhere at all … down to Wellington to see Jan … I had to be on call so that I could get back to shift the stock. Also, on some of the easier country they had a little bit of tile draining; and as well as shepherding I did a little of repairing tile drains; and I thought, ‘I don’t want a farm that floods, and I don’t want a farm that needs draining.’ And I started looking for farms in the Wairarapa, and I looked at a great big farm. And Cliff Plimmer said to Dad. “This [is] probably coming up for sale.” I said to Dad, “We can’t afford that, Dad, that’s ridiculous.” I didn’t know really what I could afford and what I couldn’t afford at that stage.
Anyway, I ended up looking; and we came through Hawke’s Bay. I looked at quite a few properties in Central Hawke’s Bay; finally came on to a property on the Napier-Taupo Road, about twenty miles north out of Napier, and before we got to Te Pohue. And this property was a thousand and ninety acres; five hundred and ten acres on one side of the road, five hundred and eighty acres on the other side of the road. So the main Napier-Taupo Road ran right through the middle of my property. This was in 1963. So anyway, we bought it with the help of my father; AMP mortgage – AMP were rather loath to lend money on the property because they didn’t like the area; didn’t like the area at all at that stage, and I must admit it wasn’t a very attractive farm, but it was an interesting farm … a very interesting farm. The five hundred and eighty acres on one side of the road was cut up with gorges; three gorges and no fences whatsoever, just the boundary fence. But three gorges gave it some minimal degree of stock control. The other side of the road was five hundred and ten acres, and that had about eight paddocks on it … might be ten paddocks … but four of those were cut up with a pretty ineffectual electric fence. So virtually a property that was ring-fenced on both sides of the road, and not much else.
Great stock control!
Great stock control. And I had fifteen hundred ewes, eighty cows and five hundred-odd hoggets and I suppose I had thirty or forty eighteen-month cattle, or something like that. I think from memory the cost of the property was around about, in 1963, £20,000, of which my mortgage was pretty major. However, at that stage our farming costs were very low, and I just worked – I worked and worked.
And so we moved onto that in 1963; Queen’s Birthday Weekend we were met with a flood. The flood came down; the Taupo Road was blocked; the Esk Valley Road was blocked; I couldn’t get in or out – I managed to just get in. A friend of mine from Martinborough came up with a horse float with my dogs in it. He managed to just get back out before we got flooded in; we didn’t see anybody bar the neighbours for five days. Fortunately the neighbours brought some bread and food and things down. And that was the welcome to Te Pohue.
However … yeah, that was a starting farm for me, and I owned that from … well first of all we’ll go back … when we got down there in 1963 in September, our second daughter Julie was born. And [of] course the first thing I had to do on this farm was get a few paddocks. The first year before this … must’ve been the second year we were there … in June I shore the hoggets – I can remember this as clearly as anything – I shore five hundred hoggets. And we had torrential rain in June, and I thought I was being clever by shearing these little hoggets early … give them a chance to grow out a wee bit. And we had this torrential rain, and I was trying to get the hoggets back into this tiny little woolshed I had. I got the hoggets back into the woolshed; I got hoggets into the car shed; I got hoggets into here, [there] and everywhere. And I remembered about the fencers; I had two fencers that started work, and I can remember them coming to give me a hand to try and get these sheep under cover. We didn’t lose a lot, but we certainly lost quite a lot at that stage, it wasn’t a good start.
Just whereabouts relative to Te Pohue were you?
Glengarry Road corner was my southern boundary – that’s the Napier end boundary – and I ran through to Eland Station which was about a mile and a half up the road, I suppose. So this main road was my main access through the property, so every stock movement I had from one side to the other on the road, I had to go onto the road and move it down the road, to come up to where my house and woolshed was. [Throat clearing] And we had an old house there which was a suitable old house, but it was an old villa house; and there we were in this property.
So we started fencing, and I used to fence a lot during the day and then shear at night. And … started, and Jan could come down with the children; after we’d had a meal at night she’d come down with the children, and I’d do a bit of shearing for two or three hours, and then off we’d go back. And that’s what my first couple of years were really doing. And then I decided I needed a man to help me on the farm; a boy. So I got a young single boy, Tom Dalton, who left school, and Tom came and worked for me and Jan … had a meal with us in the house. And I eventually built a little ablution block down beside a couple of huts that I’d put on the property, and Tom slept down there and could shower and toilet down there and come up and have meals with us. And Tom was a wonderful boy, he really was. I taught him to shear, I taught him to fence, and I could leave him on his own. He and I’d work away there and we achieved quite a lot.
So was he one of the Daltons of Napier?
He was Doug Dalton’s son and Bill’s older brother. And Bill did come up, and gave us a hand at docking at some stage when Tom was working for me. I remember Bill being on the farm and … cheeky young bugger he was … coming up and working.
I worked away on there and built the stock numbers up. Every time I had any spare money at all, I’d think, ‘I can get someone to disc a few more acres and sow a bit more grass.’
So it was in kanuka, manuka ..?
A lot of scrub. Yes, a lot of scrub. The four paddocks we had to cut up with electric … well, the one paddock had been cut up with four electric fences had been giant disc’d and developed a wee bit, but basically there was still quite a bit of scrub on the block. And the big block of hill gorgey country, that was a lot of kanuka and so on in there.
Who did your contract work?
A very well known man called Barry Simmonds. You’d know Barry Simmonds – Barry Simmonds had [a] couple of old HD5 Allis Chalmers tractors which were very, very broken down; and he needed two of them in the paddock because the [chuckle] tracks would come off one, and he’d have to use the other one to straighten it up and get the tracks back on. But he’d go onto very steep country; and at that stage I’m pretty sure I was getting country giant disc’d and sown into grass, which would be two cuts with the disc, sown with the roller for around about £4/8/- [shillings] from memory. And my first paddock … the paddock nearest the woolshed was the first paddock I got Barry to do … was pretty steep. It had a dam in the middle of it so it had water; and I got Barry in there and I can remember his tractor getting stuck in view of the Napier-Taupo Road, on a very steep bit of country and I thought, ‘Well I’m not going to drive the bloody thing out of there.’ And he wasn’t either, until he got another one of his old HD5s on the job to pull it. And the country that was too steep for him to get the roller back over, I sowed by hand, and we did that on all the cultivatable country on the farm. Probably took three or four years or so; I can’t really remember. I did it pretty quickly, as soon as I could get a bit of money; stock prices were very low but our costs were minimal.
And I can remember buying a TV set early on, and I said to Dad, “This is going to be one of my biggest expe[nses]”, and I think from memory a great big console TV – it might have been £1,300. I can’t remember – it was a colossal price. Black and white TV; we had to put coloured paper over the front of it to make the [colour] [chuckle] and get something out of it.
But here were Jan and I in the old, old house, cold as cold, but with a fireplace in the lounge. Tim was born there in 1966, so we had three children there in the old house, and I realised then that I needed a new house. So we made some plans; we drew up some plans, and further up the road was a very nice building site. And at this stage I knew I wanted a married man – I couldn’t do it all on my own. I had single men … with three young children … Tom was wonderful. The next boy I got in the house wasn’t quite as good, and he used to sit round at night and it’d annoy Jan and so on, so I said to him, “John”, I said, “this is not working out. You and I are going to start working at seven o’clock in the morning, not eight o’clock; you’re going to have breakfast with me at six o’clock so we’re out of the house when Jan gets up with the children; and you can come and have your dinner after Jan’s got the children to bed at night.” Which was pretty tough, but it worked out. And he stayed for a little while until he and I had a little bit of a disagreement, and I said, “It’s time you moved on, John.”
However, I built the new house; we moved in 1967. I built it myself. I bought myself a little Oliver OC-6 bulldozer. Our neighbouring group had gone to a clearing sale on a timber mill, and we’d bought an old grader. So I had this little tractor and I had my grader, so I quickly had to make a building site because the builders all of a sudden said to me, “We can start.” [Chuckles] And this was, I’m pretty sure in 1967, D-Day, dollar day, [Decimal Currency day] 10th of July or something like that, that all rings a bell, because my contract price to build this house was $17,000. Ennors were the builders from Napier, and they built this; it was a four-bedroomed home but little bedrooms, but it was a lovely, lovely home, on a site looking down the valley out towards the sea, down towards Napier. And this house was $17,000 which I financed … I don’t really know how I financed it, but I didn’t get any more money from AMP – not at that stage. I did later. Dad might have helped me; I really can’t remember. I did a lot of it myself anyway, with somehow or another. And the builders said to me, “That’ll be a fixed price as long as we don’t have any alterations to our building plan.” They didn’t have any alterations. So the house was finished almost Christmas Day; we got into it just before Christmas of 1967. So that was there, and that was up the road further. So I had the old house with the woolshed; up the road a mile or so was my new house which I was very, very proud of.
But in the meantime we were moving. [Of] course we still had the stock; we probably got up to two and a half thousand ewes or something at that stage. Cows had increased in numbers, so I was using the road – I had more paddocks on both sides of the road – so we were using the main road more and more for stock movements. And the traffic was still pretty good, I didn’t have any major altercations; I had some small altercations. I can remember an instance where I was putting cows and calves up the road and I had a big horned Hereford bull. And I was on the road, and a cow had pushed a gate back on me in the cattle yards and I’d cut my eyebrow, and I had blood coming down my face. And this car came through this mob of cattle I had on the road, pushing through tooting, and one of the calves jumped on the bonnet; and this guy got out to remonstrate with me. And I had a big stick, and I whacked the stick on the top of his car and told him to bloody get on his way, and he was a nuisance. He very quickly got back in his car and took off. But that was one of the only things that I can remember on the road really, apart from … we had a very good traffic cop called Hec Adams. And Hec had been a shepherd, and he used to patrol that part of the road and Hec would often see me on the road and he’d say to me, “You go up and take the lead, Tony. I’ll stay behind the mob and I’ll just trickle along behind them”, which was good. But there was no major alterca[tion]. I didn’t ever lose any dogs on the road. I used to ride my horse mostly up the middle of the road … so traffic had to stop or slow down … rather than on the edges.
You know, we had some interesting times. I had one logging truck came through and bowled five cattle beasts when Tom had the five cattle beasts on the road. [Chuckle] He had to dive over the fence ‘cause he could hear the truck coming, and the truck cleaned up the five cattle. But that was really the only major time I lost any stock on the road, which was quite extraordinary. I was on that farm until 1975, so that was from 1963 ‘til 1975.
You’d wonder what the hell was happening if you were out of vision of the traffic coming.
Yes. Yes. Well at that stage, Frank, I didn’t have to put anyone in the front of the mob. I had a sign – I used to put signs out, ‘Stock on the Road’; just a little sign which someone pinched in the finish, but however, I put that up; no-one in front, no-one behind. I mean Jan couldn’t help me on the road. When I had a single shepherd there, possibly I had someone on the front but normally one man could do it.
I think people respected stock.
People knew how to drive through stock.
Today, I’d hate to take a mob of stock anywhere.
Yeah. Well [of] course we left Te Pohue. After building the house, I had a tiny little woolshed … three-stand woolshed. The water came down through the sheep yards and filled up so the back of the shed got full of mud. That become [became] unusable, so I built a new woolshed. That was a couple of years after the house, and that was definitely out of income. I think from memory it might have been $8,000; four-stand woolshed, Bullaway [Woolaway] woolshed. I’d always had good sheep yards; the previous owner had built good sheep yards which we used, but I ended up having to build new cattle yards and so on … built the woolshed. So by that stage I had re-fenced the property, I’d re-grassed the property, I’d cut the scrub; new house, woolshed.
And about that time – Jonathan Avery was the neighbour on Glengarry Station – and he came to me and said, “Would you like to buy part of my property?” And I said, “What, Jonathan?” He said, “Well we’ve had a look, and we can probably subdivide off four hundred and fifty acres on your end of the property. Would you be interested?” And I said, “Certainly.” So we agreed on a price, and I think again, that price from memory was $25,000. Four hundred and fifty acres, of which two paddocks remained as two big paddocks – they were up the main road further; and one paddock was some easier country – bounded my property on the top, on which I could put a woolshed and get some hay country on. But most of it was in scrub still.
And I went to the AMP and they said, “Yes, we will increase your mortgage.” I think this reminded me again that my original mortgage rate was five percent; I think when I renegotiated the mortgage it went up in interest. And here we are now with mortgage rates at three and a half or four percent, and I thought I’d never ever see five percent again in my lifetime.
Amazing, isn’t it? So we bought this bit of land next door, which very quickly, as I said, I put in an air strip and fenced up a bit of hay country on top of it; and put in Barry Simmonds again to giant disc some more country and blade some more scrub down, and got as much grass as I could.
And I got involved in the Te Pohue area. I was secretary of the dog trial club; I was on the school committee long before our children even went to school, and ended up chairman of the school committee and all those sort of things.
You were in King country, weren’t you?
Well and truly.
Dog trials, golf club – oh, we established the golf club up there in 1968 or 9. Tom Cranswick was a neighbour of mine and I [was] sort of involved with that, and we took our little bulldozer and trucks and things up there and got the golf club going, of which I’m club captain. And altogether, it was a very pleasant time of my life. It was probably one of the most enjoyable times of my life, was that 1963 to 1975 at Te Pohue. It was a very pleasant area; we had the little pub; we had the school. There was a number of young farmers such as me who went into that district at the same time. There was a block of land – I’m not sure if it was called Brookfields or what, but it was a balloted block of land – and possibly six or seven or eight farmers went in there on the Ohukura [Ohurakura] Road; all young farmers with young families. Our school roll went up to ninety. We ended up with a three teacher school from a two teacher school when I first got there … or even – might’ve been [a] one teacher school when I first got there. A three teacher school; had to get another classroom on. We had school bottle drives, we had firewood drives to so … we could get the school grant for firewood, but supply it ourselves. So we did all that. And it was just a very, very good district of young farmers with young children to work in. It really was. School buses … the whole set up. And social tennis; Tom Cranswick had a tennis court. The Mitchells on the other side had a tennis court. Plus Eskdale cricket – we had the Eskdale Cricket Club going on Eskdale Park, and we played cricket against Puketitiri and Kaiwaka; and probably even second or third Sunday in the summer we’d go down and have [a] cricket match down there.
Was Eskdale Park in Eskdale?
Yes. It’s down by the river where France House was. So yeah, it was just a very pleasant time. The ladies were involved with the – we weren’t churchy people, but our children were christened there at the church there in Eskdale – and Jan and the others were in the church Young Wives Group, with progressive dinners and all those sort of fun things together. Yeah. Lots of fun. So that was … well, my good time at Te Pohue. By 1972 …
Did it have a name?
Northlands. And it’s still called Northlands. And then the Whirinaki [Pulp & Paper] Mill came into being; Duncan McIntyre got the [?], and the logging trucks came on the Napier-Taupo Road. And this caused me great concern, because I didn’t think the road was good enough at that stage. And I was certainly concerned ‘cause it was my main access … was now being disturbed by bloody logging trucks coming through, as well as the traffic building up.
It was your stock lane ..?
My stock lane. However, I put up with it, and the original truck drivers – I can still remember them – they had big Whirinaki trucks … orange and green trucks … and they were marvellous – really, really good.
But I had a brother-in-law who worked in television in Wellington, and I forget the name of the programme, it was one of those … comes on after the news. And I got him to get another fellow whose name I can’t now … it’s on the tip of my tongue … to come up, ‘cause I was concerned about the road; the traffic on the road, the logging trucks, my children on the school bus, and all these sort of things. So he bought his camera up and we did a doco. [Documentary] It was.
So I put three thousand ewes on the road and I put a dog at one end of them and a man on the other, and we blocked the road with these logging trucks and things, and all the traffic coming through. The films were going … the cameras were going flat out. I got John Mills down who was chairman of Federated Farmers, and he spoke, as well as we were interviewed about the road, and so on. And this was probably in 1972 or ‘73 or thereabouts. It would’ve been.
Anyway, the net result of all that was that nothing was done about the road of course; but the truck drivers started to toot-toot when they were going past my place [chuckle] at half past four in the morning on their way to Taupo. It didn’t worry me, ‘cause I was ready to wake up anyway. And then if they could … not the Whirinaki ones but some other trucks; more trucks got on the road … and if a truck could get in behind the lead of my mob on the road, they’d use their air brakes and give the mob a hurry-up down the road for a few hundred yards … they would do it. [Chuckle] So life on the road became a little more difficult.
But I had virtually finished with that farm – I’d re-fenced it, I’d re-housed it, I [had] a woolshed, I’d stocked it to its capacity. I was overstocking it, but I was running probably six and a half thousand stock units on fifteen hundred acres which I had at that stage … six thousand stock units anyway, on that … and I thought it was time to leave. I’d done my stint.
My brother was working for Hawke’s Bay Farmers, and I was discussing with him; and he said, “There’s a property down at Argyll – a man in Argyll wants to sell his property.” Funnily enough, I’d worked down in Argyll which is in Central Hawke’s Bay area, as a schoolboy, for Mick Groome doing a lambing beat; tagging lambs for Mick Groome at Te Onepu. And Mick Groome said to me when I was there, “This is the best hill country in the world, Tony.” And here was my opportunity to get a bit of the best hill country in the world. So, I virtually swapped my Te Pohue farm with Ross Bramwell for his farm down at Argyll, with a cash difference which gave me enough money to buy a house in Havelock North, which I did. I had a shepherd on [the] Te Pohue farm, and I thought, ‘I don’t want to go and live at Argyll.’ So I bought a house in Havelock North; put my shepherd down on the Argyll farm. I had just started before I left Te Pohue, doing a little bit of farm supervision. I was asked if I would supervise a farm, and I said, “Yes”, just before I left Te Pohue. And this farm was down in Central Hawke’s Bay. Jim Zohrab was my solicitor, and he said, “This is a family property, Tony – would you be interested?” And I said, “Yes.” So they employed me as a farm supervisor. So I had this little string up [to] my bow as well.
Braemar. So I had Braemar there, which was [the] Morrison Estate, a beautiful farm down in Central Hawke’s Bay … Onga Onga … to supervise, and I moved into Havelock North. I had my farm at Argyll; I lived in Havelock North; my children were going to school at Nga Tawa [Wellington] so we carried on with that. Tim went to Hereworth and then on to Rathkeale after that, as boarders; the girls, even though we lived in Havelock North, the girls stayed at boarding school and so on. So we were there.
So that really started my time at supervision, Frank, which was another stage of my life. The Argyll farm – I used to go down there, and I had the shepherd down there – and he was only a shepherd – I’d go down there and work, work, work. I did some more fencing down there, cut up the paddocks. It wasn’t as good hill country as I thought it was; it was a cold farm … it was a cold wind coming up off the Ruataniwha plains … it was a long narrow block; it wasn’t anywhere near as good as what I thought it was. However …
It was out of the rain belt as well.
Yes, [chuckle] yes. And not living on it I didn’t sort of get to know the locals. I was travelling down from Havelock North by day and coming back at night. I moved a little bach off of the neighbouring farm; I thought I might sleep down there, but I didn’t ever sleep in it but I moved a little bach off the neighbour. But anyway, I kept that farm, and while I lived in Havelock North and travelled down there I started to get involved a wee bit more in farm supervision, and I ended up being asked if I would supervise Ngamahanga Station which is out at Fernhill – a Lowry property – and [a] very good property again. So I had two very, very good properties that I’d been asked to supervise, [to] which I said yes. And then I got asked to supervise more properties and I ended up supervising possibly six properties; some just very briefly … I’d give an opinion on … others I’d get more involved with. And I probably was being involved paying the bills and so on, and fully running these properties as if they were mine, five or six properties in the Hawke’s Bay area. A couple came up in Dannevirke, which I did down there, just briefly. There was a family situation, and I did that until the family … the father would not give his sons the rein that the trustees thought they should have, so I went down and I sorted that out; and those sort of things. So that was good; I had the Argyll property; I could play golf on Thursday afternoons; we lived in Havelock North so I had the social life of living in Havelock North; Jan was happy – she had plenty of other people in Havelock North; we had lots of friends, and it was all good fun.
And I was supervising. I thoroughly enjoyed supervising; one of the things about supervision, Frank, was that you had to have a manager that you really enjoyed working with, and you relied on. And in a couple of instances, particularly in the first two instances, the first thing I had to do was change the manager. And I employed the person that I wanted to employ, who worked with me; didn’t have any fixed ideas of what should happen on the properties or whatever, and I could do it. And Ngamahanga was a sheep and cattle hill country property. Braemar down in Hawke’s Bay was dead flat, but was running with breeding ewes and not cows at that stage, but fattening bullocks at that stage. But that’s another story; we’ll get into the Braemar one a wee bit later on, because I only retired from supervising Braemar two years ago. I supervised Braemar for forty-odd years, and that’s a very interesting story, the Braemar story.
So where are we, Frank? We’re living in Havelock North. And then I realised I wasn’t very happy with the Argyll property, although it was easy country and I cropped some of it and everything, but I just wasn’t comfortable. And it got very valuable … it got too valuable. [Throat clearing] I can’t remember what I paid for it ‘cause I sort of swapped farms – it might’ve been $300,000 or something. And I thought I could sell Argyll; now in the meantime [chuckle] I was nearly forty years old. I thought, ‘I’ve got to do something before I turn forty.’ Riverina in Wairoa – the auction came up, October 1978. I still had the Argyll property, so at auction, with still having that one, I bought Riverina, October 1978; eight hundred and something thousand dollars. Everyone thought I was mad; I thought I was mad myself. Athol Hutton was Hawke’s Bay Farmers’ manager; he said, “Don’t you worry about it, Tony – let me worry about it.” I said, “Okay.” So he had Jim Zohrab at auction; we went in at auction, the property was passed in to me at the auction. I went in with Jim and we sat down with the auctioneers and the vendors and had a bit of negotiation and they agreed to bail me most of the livestock; and I’m not sure if there was a second mortgage came with that from them. Anyway, between it all and with Athol Hutton’s assistance and the Hawke’s Bay Farmers’ obvious help, I bought the place. Had to buy it. Ten percent down at auction and that was it.
And I still hadn’t put Argyll on the market at that stage, so of course as soon as I bought Riverina I put Argyll on the market, but it didn’t sell … and didn’t sell, and didn’t sell. So the man I had at Argyll, I put him up to manage Riverina, and I ran the Argyll property from … I think the time I took over Riverina was February, so I managed – I went down and ran it from here until it eventually sold in June or July of that 1979 year … I eventually sold the Argyll property, which managed me to sort out my financial affairs.
The beauty of Riverina was that it was about $55 a stock unit, as against selling Argyll for $155 a stock unit. And I wanted to get back into the big hill country and the big stock again. But I remained living in Havelock North; that suited me. I put a shepherd I had at Argyll up in Riverina, up [in] Wairoa. That wasn’t a good move unfortunately – he couldn’t handle that, so that didn’t last for very long. So I headhunted a stockman who was working in the Ruakituri Valley to come and manage Riverina for me. I didn’t want to go up there myself; I was enjoying my supervision days. Supervision … I sort of thought, ‘As I get older this supervision life will suit me – I’ll do this as a career, and live in Havelock North. I’ve got my lovely big hill country station up there that I can go up and work on and help with docking and shearing and all these sort of things”, which was what I did.
How big was Riverina?
Riverina’s close on seventeen hundred hectares, running when I went up there, probably about twelve thousand stock units or something like that. I couldn’t afford to buy the young cattle; I bought most of the cows. I couldn’t afford to buy any of the other cattle, so they were sold in the Wairoa sale yards. But I took over most of the cows ‘cause that was the bailment stock, a lot of it. So to stock it I ended up having to buy a lot of ewes, so I ended up buying a couple of thousand two-tooth ewes from Lochinver, three thousand ewes from another property that was sold in Wairoa, and increased the stock on Riverina from … might’ve been four thousand ewes to twelve thousand ewes, or something like that … because that’s all I could afford; that’s the way I had to stock it.
And those days the wool was very good – I was cutting a bale of wool a day for the first couple of years, so all was good – here I was living in the joys of Havelock North, playing a bit of golf, socialising and having fun; and supervising the farms. Things tightened up a wee bit in the mid 1980s, and the manager on the farm was a very, very good stockman … very good stockman, and he employed a couple of good guys; got rid of a couple of fellows that I had taken over from the original owner who were very set in their original old ways; weren’t doing the things right.
And I was all very happy, everything was going … but I thought, ‘I’ve got too much at stake up here in Wairoa.’ Things were getting a little bit tight in the farming scene, and I said to Jan, “I would like to sell the house” … we had a nice home in Havelock … “and build a new house on the farm in Wairoa. What do you think?” And she said, “Yes, fine.”
So round 1985 … ‘84, I put a four-bedroom Lockwood house on the farm at Wairoa, sold my house in Havelock North and moved up to Wairoa on the farm there. And I still kept the manager on ‘cause I still had supervision jobs, so I was coming down – I was supervising Ngamahanga; I was supervising Braemar; I had a couple of smaller places down here that I was supervising. And I kept that thing going until things happened. One of the farms I was supervising was sold; another one decided they didn’t want me; I sorted out one or two other problems as things go. But I still had Braemar down in Central Hawke’s Bay; I still had Ngamahanga; I took on another one at Te Pohue; then I took on two properties at Raupunga for Graeme Lowe which I could handle from Wairoa. So I carried on with my supervisionary life and farming in Wairoa. I went up there, and – I only had a couple of dogs when I finished up, but as we moved up there I sort of thought, ‘Well I might as well get …’ so I sort of built up a team of dogs again so I could be more of an asset on the place than just a liability. But I left everything to the manager really, who with me living there, was more of a stock manager rather than a station manager, but we did discuss all sorts of things.
To just digress a wee bit, Riverina was a very, very good property; very well known, well considered hill country in Wairoa which I was bloody thrilled to get hold of. It had a few little drawbacks … not much at all, but when I bought it it had been well fenced – ridge fenced; it was still pretty big paddocks. Well-tracked because the previous owners had a bulldozer and bulldozer driver, so it was well-tracked; and yards and so on. So I didn’t have to do a lot on it, apart from I built myself a house; I built some stables for our horses ‘cause it was all horse country; built a couple of little hay barns because I had bought into a South Devon cattle stud, which I started down at Argyll – I actually started at Te Pohue with inseminating a lot of cows with South Devon semen. And then I bought some stud cows; I had a couple of them down at Argyll, then we moved to Wairoa and I ended up buying a dozen South Devon stud cows from a stud breeder down in Marlborough, [to] bring to Riverina.
Was that Bruce Jans’ ..?
Bruce Jans was involved with the South Devons, so he and I were original … what do you say? First members of the Hawke’s Bay South Devon Society, New Zealand South Devon Society, and all those sort of things, and Bruce and I had a lot to do with each other. I tried to bring in stud cows from Britain; I’d borrowed some money from the bank and I’d negotiated to buy four stud South Devon cows from Britain. They were selected for me – this was possibly 1972 or ‘3, and somehow all of a sudden the demand for these exotic cattle – as I call those – got up, and the cattle were sold from under me by somebody else who paid more money than me, so I didn’t get those. But I bought a couple of cows from Bruce Jans who’d imported them. Yeah, and that was my start into purebred South Devons.
But we took the South Devon stud to Wairoa. I bought in purebred cows, so we started to breed cows. By the time I finished in Wairoa we had a … I’ll talk about the stud cattle now. We built the stud up to eighty cows in the finish … eighty or ninety cows. It was one of the largest South Devon studs in the country; it also was one of the higher performing studs because of our bull selection. I ended up buying an American bull on a share basis, which was a bloody … really good move. We got very high IB figures and so on. Then we carried on with the stud in Wairoa.
In my supervision days, seeing I thought so much of South Devon cattle I ended up putting South Devon bulls on to a number of the farms that I was supervising. [Chuckle] Whether that is absolutely ethically correct or not, but in my eyes they were the best cattle. I was running them myself; I was getting magnificent returns and growth rates and everything from them. So I put South Devon on to Ngamahanga where they absolutely thrived, and they’ve still got South Devon cattle on Ngamahanga. I put South Devon cattle on Graham Lowe’s properties at Raupunga where they also increased the value of the cattle we were selling. And Riverina, I had South Devon cattle as well. So you know, I had a ready sale for a number of my bulls, but because of my involvement in Wairoa, and selling cattle in Gisborne and Wairoa sale yards, I also had a number of Wairoa and Gisborne farmers came and bought bulls. So in the end I was actually selling at auction. I started off with just selling privately, and then I said, “Why don’t we go to auction?” So we had a combined breeds auction sale in Wairoa – Herefords, Angus, South Devons and whatever – and I was putting fifteen or twenty bulls into there annually, and getting remarkably good results … really, really good results, to the tune in 1995 I sold a bull at auction there for $17,500. And we were selling bulls for $5,000, which … pretty good money in those days.
Just trying to picture Riverina – did it rise from the road back to the ridge and then down to the river?
It runs from the Wairoa River at the front on the Tiniroto Road – and I had to cross the river to get to it – up out of sight, and then over the back, out onto the Ohuka Road and back, on the way to Waikaremoana.
Yes. Not right to the back of Ohuka Road, but the Ohuka country coming in off the Waikaremoana Road was my access to the back of Riverina.
Good Lord – the Ruakituri finishes at Te Reinga, doesn’t it?
And then goes into the Wairoa? [River]
And that’s the one that ran along the …
Yes, the Wairoa River.
Well that’s a huge … it must have been almost a dogleg ..?
It was a long block out to the back. From the front to the back was probably … well it would take us an hour and a half to ride a horse out there in the morning to start mustering out there. And I thought about putting a hut out there and staying the night and all those things; you thought of those sort of things as the old timers sort of did, but we never ever did. Well we had stockyards out the back, and we used to leave horses out the back; and we’d load the tractor up with dogs and men in the morning and out we’d go at daylight in the morning, and muster all the back country, and work out there and so on.
I’ll stick with the stud in the meantime, to finish with the stud. So we ended up with a herd of very high performing cows; well recognised in the South Devon world. I was actually elected President of the World South Devon Society in …
Good Lord! [Chuckle]
… 1995. Jan and I went over with some other New Zealanders to a conference in the States, and I was elected President of the World South Devon Society. I didn’t do anything in the meantime; the next world conference was going to be in New Zealand, and there was a little bit of downturn in the cattle industry at that stage. I wasn’t getting a lot of enthusiasm from the New Zealanders to hold a world conference, so I thought, ‘I’m not going to risk having a conference without getting support from the world people to come here’, and so on.
So eventually I decided to disperse the stud. This was in 1999 I decided to disperse the stud; and my son Tim had come in – I’d brought Tim into partnership in the stud. He was a vet, and he was working for the vets in Wairoa. And he came in on the stud as sort of my adviser and we did embryo transplants and all sorts of things like that; we were sort of getting a bit high tech. And South Devons were just starting to lose out in favour a wee bit. Farm advisers … like, they weren’t pushing for South Devon cattle, we weren’t the top of the popularity in the collar and tie farmers. We weren’t popular – everyone wanted to be an Angus breeder or a Hereford breeder, not a South Devon breeder. So I could see the writing wasn’t good so I dispersed the stud. We sold two hundred-odd cattle which included the calves … might’ve been a hundred, I might be exaggerating … might be a hundred and eighty cows, calves, bulls; a hundred and eighty cattle at auction on the property in April 2000. Sold the whole lot; the money was spread right throughout New Zealand, pretty well. So that was the end of my stud.
Fortunately, at that stage I also had put Riverina on the market, and not long after the stud sold a man came along and offered to buy Riverina. If I hadn’t organised the sale of the stud at that stage, no way I could’ve sold Riverina. But I was able to sell Riverina so in 2000, so in May 2000 or thereabouts, I sold Riverina.
And at that stage Jan had moved down to Havelock and I was living in Wairoa, so it wasn’t the best time of my life either. And I moved back down here and Jan and I set up house again back in Havelock North. So then, back to this stage.
And Frank – what were we talking about? Oh, Riverina. I had ten acres on one side of the Wairoa River, and fifteen hundred hectares on the other side of the Wairoa River with a cage going across; but a single road bridge had been put in in 1963. So that road bridge was put in so that they could get stock in, because the neighbouring property, Mangaaruhe, was sold at that stage, and that had no access. Both properties had cage access across the river. And that was put in, so I had access. I had road access to the main part of the property. I had a cottage which I first lived in, and two station houses on the main roadside; woolshed and one house on the other side of the river. And in my time I ended up selling the ten acres on the one side, moving one of the houses round onto the other side, burning the cottage down, and building my house on the big side of the river. So I ended up when I sold it, with three houses and the woolshed on the main block. And a kiddie got injured on the wheel on the cage … put his finger in the bloody pulley after being told not to … and I thought, ‘Ooh, OSH [Occupational Safety & Health] … there’s getting a bit of a problem here.’ So I decided, ‘I’ll, discontinue with the cage, sell that block of land’ … ten acres … and move the shepherd’s house round onto my side. I did that before I sold it.
Was the cage big enough to move stock in?
Not cattle, but they took a tractor over on it at one stage, and wool; two bales of wool. Well I think, from what I was told, cattle were sort of either walked down the river through the neighbouring property, or the sheep possibly were; but small numbers of sheep were taken across. It was [an] electrified cage, but it was wobbly. But I had two shepherds with their dogs on one side, and me on the other side and that carried my daughter, Linda, she’d go to school across – when we lived there – on the cage and go across and get on the school bus and so on. It was a vital access.
Cyclone Bola, 1998, came up and it wiped the cage out. Bola came up and I was on one side of the river, my shepherd and the manager on the other side. They were on the Marumaru pub side of the river, so they were all right; I was on the other side. We had a low level access bridge to get into Riverina – the water came right up over that of course, as it was designed to do, and the logs came down and took the cage out, down the river. I resurrected it after that and we carried on using it, but it was a pretty major sort of a thing. But the manager I had there, he got ill in 1998; he was there about the Bola time … just after Bola, because he was on one side of the river; I was on the other. Jan and I couldn’t get out from where we were; I had a young married shepherd in the house on my side; he couldn’t get out either, but the manager and him – they could go to the pub up the road but I couldn’t. [Chuckle] They thought it was a great joke. But it was funny, the river was roaring … roaring down there, and right up, and we could talk across the river. Voices must bounce off the top of the water somehow; we could make ourselves heard yelling at each other across the river. So we were isolated in there for five or six days after, and we resurrected it and so on.
But Riverina was, you know, it was a lovely bit of hill country. It was just exactly what I wanted all my life, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I probably should’ve gone up there and tried to manage it myself, but I was doing these other things. I’ve always had a very great affinity for livestock and the buying and selling of livestock. And one of my attributes I think, as a farm supervisor was, I used to have a very big say in when they sold the stock, how much they sold it for, and the purchase of stock. And I wouldn’t let the managers do that without me being involved unless I had [a] considerable amount of faith in them, as I have now with the manager we had on Braemar, who’s been there now for twenty years. And he is better than I would ever be at doing that, so you let them have it. But the other guys … you know, the money is made in farming out of livestock and if you do [make] the wrong decision, sell it at the wrong time or at the wrong price, that’s possibly a year’s things gone. And that’s always been one of my sort of real things I’ve insisted upon in a farm supervisor.
When you were talking about the Bola storm … up the top end of Papuni [Station] was a big bridge; it was about fifteen or sixteen feet above the water. We saw the river come up eighteen feet while we were there.
I’m not sure how high the cage was above the river, but in normal instances it was a bloody big drop down from the cage to the river. It was probably … cricket pitch, twenty yards … down, and the river just came up.
But it was the sound in the river – I don’t know whether it was the shingle, or boulders coming down or what; I’ve never heard anything like it.
No, the river was roaring; it was coming down. And I saw a tree come down and this great big branch off a tree came down and just wiped … took the cage. The cable on the cage was a two inch [???] – took the whole thing down, bang. Gone. Yeah. And all the tow ropes – there was a double-ended rope thing that went round – they all ended up tangled up down the river, we had to resurrect that and do all sorts of things. The joy of farming. And hill country farming of course, every time we got a major rain we’d get slips, and we’d have to get a digger in to open it up. But Riverina was very well fenced when I bought it, and I did subdivide the back country with electric fencing, and I did subdivide some of the front country. And I did put a laneway virtually from the front to the back of the country which meant that our stock movements were much easier.
I’m not sure whether this is correct or not, that Douglas Twigg’s family – back in the dark ages – had Riverina?
Could’ve done. Well I bought it from a company which was Bill and Jim Richmond. McCulloch Butler & Spence … whatever McCulloch was. Mary Dawde[?], who was a Richmond – that’s who I bought it from.
We know very little of Wairoa history, especially from Tutira north. It’s as if it never happened.
Well I ended up … a son-in-law of mine came to manage Riverina for me. Jock McInnes who I had there, who I said became ill – he got cancer and died in 1989. I kept him on ‘til he died; I wouldn’t replace him. I said to my Māori shepherd, I said, “Jock’s dying … Jock’s ill. I’m not going to …” Jock was in the farmhouse, the manager’s house – he lived there. I said, “I’m not going to put him off the property; he’s going to remain in that house for as long as he’s still alive.” And I said to him – Mark, little Maori man, “You and I are going to have to do a bit more work, Mark.” He said, “That’s all right boss, no trouble to us.” So that’s what happened, and Jock ultimately died. And I put a son-in-law of mine in there as the manager, and he said to me after a while he didn’t want to work for the Scotlands. So he and my daughter bought an orchard in Wairoa and went in there, which might be just as well because that marriage has folded up; but … beside the point. [Chuckle] But his name came up because he said to me, “Why don’t you plant some pine trees?” And I said, “That’s a bloody good idea, David.”
And at that stage I had a bit of country that was on the southern end of Riverina which was probably the poorest bit of country, which at one stage I was running a lot of goats in. I put a hot wire round … six inches off the ground … round the bottom of it, and we had fifteen hundred goats in there at one stage controlling blackberry, and shearing for cashmere which was a bloody disaster; but still it was very interesting. And through the 1980s … late, mid-eighties … we were mustering goats off Riverina in big numbers of goats, and selling them for up to $160 a head, and I took the income from that; I didn’t give the shepherds any of it; I kept it, they were working for me. I might have given them a bit of a handout, I don’t know; but basically I was selling, you know, a hundred and fifty goats for $130 a head. And we’d go and show up in a back paddock and they’d all come in off the Ohuka area; and I’d go and muster another five hundred goats in. And they probably helped us get through that 1987 downturn, and I was very pleased I was on the farm in that 1987 time ‘cause it wasn’t an easy time. I did have an interest rate that went up to sixteen percent – not the twenty-odds. I had to finance, and I can remember getting involved in trying to finance things, and I don’t know quite why, I possibly had a mortgage that tipped over on me … something; I don’t know why, but whatever I had ran out. ‘Cause I started with the AMP … a mortgage with the AMP, and then they wanted me to take out more life insurance when I bought Riverina. I didn’t want to, so I ended up with Trust Bank. And so it goes on. [Phone rings]
It’s quite unique to have a five-thousand-acre property like Riverina; the culmination of your dreams.
Absolutely. Absolutely, Frank, it was. Yes. I just … I thoroughly enjoyed living on it. It’s just a pity that Jan and I had a bad time together and she decided to move out of it. But that’s all right; that was not her fault, it was my fault. The children enjoyed it up there; we had a wonderful time up there, and they’d bring their mates home. Two of the girls were married in Wairoa, and so on. Yeah, it’s just all good.
You bounded Ohuka?
Yes. Yes. No, it’s quite a long way out to the back of Riverina – we just looked at the Waikaremoana hill, just straight at it. But it was good.
But also, I got involved up there a little bit with the A&P Society and those sort of things. I steered clear of any schools and those sort of things. Federated Farmers I steered clear of, but I did get involved with the Wairoa Electric Power Trust as chairman of that when we took over the 1996 power thing; we actually sold our shares to Eastland [Network] … Gisborne Power … rather than distribute money to the subscribers.
Frank, I did mention Braemar – what was the Morrison Estate, now the Abernethy property in Onga Onga, which I started supervising in 1975. As a young farmer myself on the Te Pohue road with not having any knowledge of cropping land or anything, I was asked to supervise this property. And I went down there and just … it’s a magnificent three hundred and ten hectares of dead flat country on the Ruataniwha Plains and as a starter it was run in an old-fashioned way. As soon as I got involved the manager decided he’d resign, which was good; I put a manager in there who wasn’t really good, but we did start to do different things. We started cropping the property, and still had lambing ewes on it; but fattening cattle and so on. And then he left and I got another manager, and we were starting to farm bulls. But he didn’t like the big bulls; [chuckle] he wanted to sell yearling bulls.
And then he resigned as well of his own volition, and twenty years ago I got another manager in there called Bruce Parker, who … absolutely magnificent, and he was just a joy to have as a supervisor. He did not do anything wrong; he would talk to me about the property, we altered the whole policies [policy] – probably mostly me, but with his agreement. And we’ve now turned that property into a little factory fattening bulls, fattening four hundred and fifty bulls a year, cropping up to a hundred and sixty hectares a year; and then when the crops go out and the new grass gets sown in the autumn, fattening lambs on there until the plough goes in again in October, they do it. And it’s been run like that for the last twenty years, and I’m pretty sure if we’d ever had the time to enter Farmer of the Year or something, that that property could well have featured very, very well.
But what I just must emphasise, if you can get a good farm supervisor … totally reliant on the farm manager. If you get a bad …
Someone has to carry out …
… both ways.
And as I said that, I resigned from that; I thought, ‘You can’t have an eighty year old bloody farm manager any more!” [Noise on recording] I resigned from that [a] couple of years ago.
But the other aspect which I haven’t spoken about – once we moved to town here, my accountant was … and Abernethy’s accountant and so on … was John Davidson in Coffey, Davidson & Co. [Company] And his wife Anna was working there; and they’ve been doing my books since Selwyn Cushing’s days in 1965 or ‘63. And Anna said to me, “What are you going to do with yourself now you’re retired, Tony?” And I said, “Oh, I don’t know Anna, I’ll play a bit of golf, and I’ve still got a little bit of farm supervision”, ‘cause Ngamahanga had gone at that stage, I only had Braemar. Graeme Lowe’s farms were sold in 1995 or ‘96; they went into forestry. Ngamahanga was sold in 19 … similar time, so I really only had Braemar left.
And Anna said, “Hastings Alzheimers Society are in desperate straits – they haven’t got anyone on their committee. It’s being managed really by a Public Trust person” – I think it’s Public Trust – one of those sorts of other organisations … some public organisation, anyway. “Would you be interested?” I said, “Oh yeah, okay. When’s the AGM?” [Annual General Meeting] So she told me when the AGM was and I went along to the AGM and introduced myself, and said I’d been chairman of this and that; and … “Ooh! Ooh, hell!” I don’t think I really needed to do that at all.
However, Maggie McGarvie, Donna Hedley, Andrew Kirkpatrick and I all attended this meeting and we were all elected as the committee, and we had two old ladies as well, on the committee. So Andrew took on the chairmanship … president. At that stage we were renting a little wee house in St Aubyn Street, and we had six clients three days a week, and that was it. And Andrew took on the chairmanship; the existing manager decided she’d finish or she took a better job- whatever; and Donna – we employed Donna Hedley as the manager. And Donna was magnificent; she’d been a nurse, and she was very interested in care for old people.
And that’s how it started, and with the four of us, we got it cracking. Andrew got involved as far as getting the constitution all up to date and doing that sort of thing, and got the finances right. We had no money; we didn’t have a thing. And then we moved from Heretaunga Street [St Aubyn Street] with six people three days a week, or whatever it was; Donna got the numbers up, so we had to go somewhere bigger. So we went down to Railway Road, we rented a villa down there and got the numbers up to fifteen. In the meantime, Andrew only did three years; that’s what he did, that was his intention right from the start. So I became chairman … president, whatever you call it … and Maggie McGarvie and I and Donna stayed there for a number of years. We increased the numbers; we had the villa down there with fifteen per day. Then we grew out of that, so – “What are we going to do?” So Donna came up; she said, “There’s a house in Windsor Avenue that I think’ll suit us”, so I went and had a look at it. I said, “Well we’d better buy it. How will we buy it?” Maggie at this stage was all into grants – you know, you get grant money here, you get grant money there; you get grant money … this and that. [Speaking together] And we had negotiated prior to that a very good contract with the District Health Board for our care that we were giving, which was based on a daily attendance. And I thought that when I was at the negotiations with Donna, and we negotiated with Mary Wills who was part of the Health Board – when she came up with what she offered us, I actually thought she’d made a mistake. She virtually gave us a lot more than what we thought we could get. But it absolutely set us up, and we were able, with the funding from the Health Board, to build our numbers up to the stage where we got twenty-five, full time.
[Recording interrupted; ends at this point]
Now have you got anything else you want to ..?
I don’t think so, Frank, no. I think that’s it now.
Original digital file
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Interviewer: Frank Cooper