Turnbull, Primrose Interview

This is Jennifer Vierkotten about to interview Primrose Turnbull who lives in Napier. The date is 11th February 2020, and I will hand you over to Primrose to start telling her story.

I was born in New Plymouth where my great-great-grandparents settled in 1852. They may have arrived in New Zealand in ‘51 but they didn’t get to New Plymouth ‘til 1852. They met each other; as one arrived from a ship the other one went to meet them, not knowing them before.

And my parents met in Nelson, probably through golf; and after getting married they shifted to New Plymouth and lived in a tiny cottage right at the seaside of Fitzroy Beach, and I was born in 1938. Then of course, the war started in ‘39 and my father eventually went as the Adjutant to Ngaruawahia, and then shifted from there to Waiouru. Wives and families did not go, so my mother was left in New Plymouth with one small child, and being quite a patriotic sort of person, thought well, she had parents in Nelson who would be quite happy to look after their only grandchild at that stage, so I was more or less taken backwards and forwards according to when my mother was able to look after me; ‘cause she joined the Air Force at Bell Block, in transport. And she said by the time I was ten I had probably crossed Cook Strait a hundred times. So I was backwards and forwards with members of the family; even a godmother and a great aunt, who came and got me and took me backwards and forwards on the ferry.

My first flight in an aircraft was either VE Day [holiday to celebrate Victory in Europe, World War II] or the day after, and my mother took me to the plane at Rongotai; she was living at that time in Wellington, and I was most impressed when she knew the pilot, ‘cause it was an Air Force pilot was doing the ferrying across from Wellington to Nelson.

And I arrived in Nelson not knowing at that stage that my grandfather had died just before I left to go to school at Queenswood in the beginning of February 1945. My mother brought me to Queenswood in early February … actually it was the 8th February, because it was one of the girl’s birthdays when I arrived. And prior to going my grandfather had told me that everybody walked backwards in Hawke’s Bay because it was so dusty, and when I sat down at the evening meal I said to the girl sitting next door to me, “When do we start walking backwards?” [Chuckle] And she looked at [me] most peculiarly, and I thought, ‘Well, I don’t see anybody walking backwards’, so I never said anything more. Anyway, I talked about my grandfather all that term, and the headmistress was his first cousin; and she never ever said anything. But I said he was going to come and see me, but of course he couldn’t – he was dead.

Anyway, my first instance of being interested in flying was the first flight I took across Cook Strait from Rongotai to Nelson; by the time I arrived in Nelson I was absolutely rapt with flying. I was seven, and the first thing I said to my grandmother when she came to meet me, “I’m going to fly when I grow up.” ‘Cause I’d also seen lined up outside the main hangar there, a tiny little yellow plane with what must’ve been a muster of Air Force there – not many. And so I went backwards and forwards from Queenswood in Hastings to Nelson. And then my mother shifted to Auckland, and I went by service car, and occasionally flew to my grandmother, from then Paraparam [Paraparaumu] to Nelson, and my fixation over flying continued. By the time I was about fourteen my family got sick of me saying, “I’m going to fly”, and said, “Don’t be so silly.” And that was still there until I went nursing.

I forgot to mention that I went to Queenswood because my parents had separated – probably about when I was five or six – and it was an experience I thoroughly enjoyed. And then I went from Queenswood to Woodford, and from there I left school and went to Auckland. I was already sorted out with a good friend who I’d met at Queenswood when we were seven, to go nursing at Hastings, and I started there on the 1st April 19 … hmm, can’t remember … but anyway, I was eighteen. But in the meantime she’d already been asked to start in the class before, but we remained friends and we’re still friends today.

But anyway, while nursing I met up with people involved with flying, and of course I found that all very interesting and got taken on the odd flight by some of them. And then a scholarship came up at the Hawke’s Bay East Coast Flying Club at Bridge Pa, and I decided to see if I could be part of that. And I did – I ended up in the last six people out of sixty-five entrants for the scholarship, and I came third. Well, I sort of half-wondered if it was because I was a girl that they felt obliged to give me that position, so I spoke to one of the instructors and said, “Well look, you know, I really would like to learn to fly, but have I really got some ability?” “Oh yes, you have.”

So when I finished my training as a general nurse I started to fly, and I was able to use some of the inheritance that my father had left me, ‘cause I was by this time twenty-one. And I just loved it – absolutely loved it. I bought a second-hand car and I was out there every moment I could spare. And I had in the meantime also started my six months training as a maternity nurse, because at that time the maternity training was not incorporated in general nursing; it was later, after I’d started doing the course, that it was. So I took my nursing finals for general, finished in one day, and started maternity the next day, and I missed out on my annual holidays of a month. So I was pretty exhausted, but I still found that flying was my interest; and I’d come down after flying and felt I’d had my holiday – it was so different from anything else I’d ever experienced.

And then I got to the stage where I was getting ready to learn to fly properly, and take my test to fly. And I’m not a particularly keen matty [maternity] nurse, and the Matron was pretty wild with me; she didn’t think I was doing anything, and I probably wasn’t – I was far more interested in learning how to pass flying exams. And I said to her, “Look, as soon as I’ve got my flying exams over I’ll have a whole month, and I promise you I will then put my head down and study.” Anyway, I got through my flying, written and the test, and [by the] skin of my teeth, I passed the matty exam as well. [Chuckle]

Then of course, in those days a lot of ambitions of young people were to go to England, because a lot of us had connections. And so I thought, ‘Oh yes, yes – I want to go’, and I kept on organising to go with one friend or the other. They either went too soon or were going long after, and I thought, ‘Well, I’ve just got to make a decision’; and I went.

What year was that?

1960. And 1960 it was that I landed in England; went and saw a great aunt who lived at Torquay, and I then started as a nurse at Marlborough College, a big boarding school called a public school, second only to Eton, with eight hundred and twenty boys, all boarders, and two other trained nurses under a doctor who was the one to employ me. And I got this through a friend who’d also been a nurse there.

Then of course, I was thinking, ‘Well I must do some flying’, so I found out where the nearest place was to fly, which was Thruxton in Hampshire – I think it was Hampshire. And I went there and I started to fly there, and the only plane that I had to fly was a converted Tiger Moth, which was what I had trained on back at Hawke’s Bay East Coast Aero Club. I had to gain my British licence; I had to pass an exam on British aviation law, which I managed to do after a second attempt. They weren’t that fussy about whether I took it a week or two later; I could have a couple of hours to study and have another go.

But I also had to do a cross country. Well, at that time all the normal routes that the pilots took from Thruxton were all inundated with water, and because the Jackaroo, their converted Tiger Moth, had a skid and not a rear wheel, you had to land at a place with grass runways. So I was supposed to then find where I should go, and I was directed to go to Luton, and from Luton to Kidlington and then back to Thruxton. And we had nothing more than an ordnance survey map for guidance, and you had to take whatever the instructors there remembered of the airfields you landed on, which was contrary to what I had learned in New Zealand – we had a manual which showed every airfield we could land on and what the configuration of the airfield was, where you went to refuel, and where you went to a control tower to report in. But there was nothing like that in England, nothing at all; I was absolutely amazed. All I had was this ordnance map, and I had to do all my coordinates; and the only instruction I got was, “Don’t land on concrete runways.” Well of course I knew that, because you can’t land a plane with a skid on a concrete runway, you’ve got to land on the grass.

So I found Luton no trouble at all, but I still didn’t know where to refuel. I could see the control tower and stopped by that to be told that the refuelling was the other side of the airfield, and so I had to get somebody to swing the prop and trundle over to the other side to refuel.

And then my next stop was Kidlington. Well of course, none of them had told me that Kidlington didn’t have any concrete runways, it was all grass; so I wasn’t looking for an airfield that was all grass. And with no indication what else I could be looking for, I probably flew right past it and ended up at Little Rissington which was the RAF [Royal Air Force] training school; and I landed there on their grass. And when I finished taxiing they all said, “Oh, we were all terrified! We thought, you know, you could land up in a rut.” But of course I just said, “Well, where am I?” [Chuckle] And they told me, and I said, “Well I’m not meant to be here, I’m meant to be at Kidlington.” And they said, “Oh well, go over to the control tower and report in”, so I did. They were very sympathetic, and then told me that Kidlington hadn’t any concrete runways; and they gave me all the coordinates from Little Rissington to Kidlington. And when I got up to do the flight, [background traffic noise] I got to a certain point and the coordinates didn’t mean a thing because the wind had changed completely. And I thought, ‘Oh my goodness! What am I going to do? I’d better go back to Little Rissington.’ I had seen in a [the] distance another big airfield, but I knew it wasn’t the right one because it had concrete runways. So I thought, ‘Oh, I’ll just go back to Little Rissington.’ When I turned around Little Rissington was all covered in mist; I couldn’t see. And I thought, ‘Oh my goodness!’ Anyway, I kept on looking and I saw this airfield; and I did lots of steep turns round to see if I could land somewhere, and it was all muddy paddocks, and I knew I had to go for this other airfield which I could see in the distance.

So I flew there and did a circuit. By this time it was getting quite dusky, and I did a circuit at five hundred feet, and you’re meant to do it at a thousand. I went round and they gave me a green light, and I landed on their grass. And as soon as I landed I was confronted by military police on the American Air Force base, which was the top-secret one. At that stage it was called Brize Norton; nowadays it’s where the Queen’s Flight is kept, but at that stage it was their top-secret aerodrome, and nobody landed there without very strict permission to do so. Well of course, I couldn’t fly on from there because it was dark, and I had these military police come up to me and they had guns. I got out and was a bit astounded to be confronted by gunned people. They asked me what I was doing there, and I said, “Well I had to fly here because I couldn’t land anywhere else”, and explained. And they said, “Well you’ll have to come to the base and explain this to them, too.” So I said, “Well I’ll have to let somebody know where I am”, so they had to let somebody know in the authorities. And I went off to their police base and explained what I’d already explained to these military police that had come up. [Noise from power tool in background] The first thing they said to me when I got out of the plane, “Oh, it’s a gal.” [Chuckle] And then they said, “Well, you’ll have to go to the station’s headquarters ‘cause they want to see you too.” So off I trotted and came out with my spiel about why I was there; and I was still accompanied by this military policeman who had been the first person to see me.

Finally they said, “Well, oh yes, we believe you. What’ll they think about this when you get back to New Zealand?” I said, “I can’t imagine.”

Anyway, this military policeman said where did I come from, and I told him; and he said, “Well I can take you back there”, which he did. And so I contacted the Thruxton people who must’ve by this time heard all the story, and I said, “Oh well, I’ll go back tomorrow, but I’ll have to go with my car.” “Oh no, no. No, no – we’ll have to go in and get that plane; we’ll have to get permission – you won’t be able to fly it out.” So I said, “Okay.” Anyway, I went back to Thruxton and the chief flying instructor said to me, “We’ll have to check you out because we’re wondering about your qualifications for flying.” I thought, ‘Blimey!’ Anyway, so he said, “I’ll take you up and we’ll do a circuit.” We did a circuit there at eight hundred feet because we were in the same circuit as Boscombe Down; they flew their circuit at twelve hundred, so we overlapped a little bit and sometimes got buzzed by Boscombe Down, who thought it was fairly funny to buzz us a bit. So I was pretty cross at this ‘cause there was nothing the matter with my flying; it was just that nobody could give me the right instructions of where I was supposed to land and the conditions. Anyway, I did a beautiful circuit and a beautiful landing, and he looked at me and he said, “I want you to do that again” – he obviously thought it was a fluke. By this time I was fairly ropeable, and I thought, “By crikey! I’ll show you.” So I did another beautiful circuit and another beautiful landing, and he looked at me and he said, “Oh no, there’s nothing the matter with your flying.” [Chuckle]

But that to me was not what I wanted. I belonged to the Association of British Women Pilots, and I wrote to them and said, “Look, I’m not very happy with what I’ve had happen to me; can you recommend somewhere else close that I could fly from?” “Oh, you fly from the best place.” I couldn’t believe this because there was so much that wasn’t right; not what I’d had back in New Zealand where I’d had wonderful instructors, and very strict criteria for flying. I thought I was very lucky.

I came back to New Zealand and did the six-month orthopaedic course for graduated nurses; that was at Middlemore, and it was very close to Ardmore. I wanted to fly again, and found I was very lucky ‘cause I got to Ardmore, and there was one of my flying instructors. So I said, “Well look, I’ve been this long far away – I’ll have to start all over again in some ways”, and he said, ”Yes.” He took me up in a Cessna 150 which was the first time I’d ever flown in a tricycle undercart [undercarriage] aircraft … a tricycle undercart you land on all three wheels instead of landing with your skid, or wheel at the rear. That was all on a level.

So I did a few circuits with the instructor, Jim Bergman, who’d been my first instructor when I started to learn to fly. He was the chief instructor at Ardmore, and he took me up in the Cessna 150 which was a two-seater alongside each other, with a rear vision window which was unusual for me to fly in. And around we went on several circuits and bumps, and he said, “Oh well, when you come out next time we’ll do another circuit with you and then you’ll be able to go solo.” So I went out again and he wasn’t there, but his offsider, a woman, said she would take me up for the circuit. I didn’t feel completely comfortable because I had never flown this sort of aircraft before. Anyway, up we went, and I came down and I landed all right, and she said, “Right; off you go, solo.” And I thought, ‘Oh, oh, oh!’ So off I went, got up in the air – that was no problem at all; I did a circuit and then I came down to land, and as I got to about fifty feet I started to shake. And I shook and shook and shook, and wondered how I was going to land. Anyway, I landed all right, but I shook for about an hour afterwards at the shock of it all. But I came out again and I did another circuit and landed, and only shook for about ten minutes.

But then I came back to Hawke’s Bay after finishing my orthopaedic course and started flying again at Bridge Pa, flying a Piper Cherokee which was very like one of the planes that used to be flying, a Whitney Straight; and I loved it. Anyway, a week before I was due to sit the flying test, blow me down if some fools went and crash-landed at Waipuk. [Waipukurau] They didn’t hurt themselves, but that was the end of taking my licence again in that aircraft; so I had to reconvert to a Piper Cub which I hadn’t flown for four years. Anyway, the instructor took me up and yes, I seemed to be all right; I did about an hour’s flying on my own, came down and then I went up again for the test. I had to do steep turns, and they were a bit hairy; and then I had to do compass headings. By that time I was getting used to the aircraft all over again, and I did the headings no trouble at all, doing all the steep turns. And we came down, and the instructor, who was a pretty tough instructor … Inspector for Licences … we started walking back to the clubhouse and he said, “Mmm – I began to wonder about your flying for [with] the steep turns, but once you started doing the headings they were right.” I had to hand him my logbook which he had to look at, and if he looked at it carefully he would see I’d only done one hour solo for four years. Anyway, I got through, and the poor instructor … when I told him, he said, “Oh my goodness! I wouldn’t’ve let you go.” [Chuckle] I said, “Well don’t worry, he had my logbook to look at; he knew.”

In the meantime I met up again with my husband-to-be, and the start of my life began as a married lady living out at Kaiwaka, at the top of the Devil’s Elbow. When I got married, there was [were] all sorts of organisations that Brian’s mother had been part of, and of course I had to join them all as well. One was Women’s Division of Federated Farmers; another one was Red Cross; and so I joined both of those. Meantime I had our first child, which [who] I hoped was going to be born on our wedding anniversary; but no, although he was due the day after, he was eleven days late. [Chuckles]

You married Brian Turnbull, his name was?

Yes. My husband was Brian Turnbull, and he was on the family farm, the youngest of four boys. And his other three brothers were all farming in different areas. He was also an aviator with his commercial pilot’s licence, and although he only used it once as a commercial pilot, he didn’t fly airlines or anything like that, and he didn’t go topdressing like two of his brothers. Only one brother didn’t fly, and that was the eldest one who lived at Tutira. [The] last time we both flew was flying from Hawke’s Bay East Coast Aero Club to Bell Block over in Taranaki, to introduce our son who was three and a half months to his two great aunts, who met us out at Bell Block. [They] were thrilled to bits to think that we’d flown all over that area, and I even fed our son as we were flying over Lake Taupo. Anyway, that was the last time we ever flew. I said I would give up flying if Brian continued, but with family coming on and commitments to the farm, that never happened, so that was the last [time] we both flew.

And then of course we had other family, two girls. In the meantime I got a bit swamped with joining all these different organisations, and at one stage, I think it was just about before I had our second baby, I ended up as the president of the local Red Cross branch, never having been on a committee in my life before; and got all tangled up taking meetings and goodness knows what. I did that for three years, and felt I couldn’t carry on at that stage, and I said to Brian, “I think I’ll have to give up some of these things, it’s just too much.” I said, “Perhaps I’ll give up Women’s Division.” “Oh, you can’t do that, because my mother was the Hawke’s Bay vice president”, [chuckle] “of Women’s Division.” So I thought, ‘Oh well …’ I just soldiered on and belonged to goodness knows what – school Old Girls’ Associations, and – you name it, I seemed to be part of it; and I loved it.

The house was at sixteen hundred feet, and every winter we would get some sort of snow; sometimes it wasn’t very much, and sometimes it would get up to about a metre and a half on the top, with drifts of three metres. And it would stay around a few days, and it was lovely. [Of] course it was in a place where you had the most wonderful view from the house of the Hawke’s Bay, and Napier; and if you just climbed a bit, out of the garden on to a bit of a hill beside, you could see Mahia Peninsula. It was a wonderful place to bring up children, and Brian got sorted out with a tennis court when our eldest was two, and got a local Māori fellow to come and bulldoze the site; and this Māori fellow was so good – he was only half an inch off the level when Brian measured it all up. And then when our son was six we had put in a swimming pool beside it. It was pretty cold there ‘cause we’d get some winds off the sea, and so Brian built a shelter right round the pool with high fences with barbed wire, but windows facing the sea; and that kept the shelter. We’d have lovely barbecues by the pool, and lovely parties. Our children had a wonderful upbringing on the farm.

But of course we were far too far for them to go to secondary school without boarding, so all three went to boarding school. Brian had been at the local school when he was little, and when he went to Boys’ High School he couldn’t work out what was going on when the bell went. And he couldn’t see ‘cause he wasn’t tall enough, so he said that our son would have to go to school somewhere before he went to Boys’ High.

What school did the children attend?

Well they went to Tareha School, which was six miles from us; and because the school bus only came so far, we had to pay for the bus to come the rest of the way. So when Brian decided that our son would go to Hereworth for the Intermediate, we got a boarding allowance. But in actual fact he went in Standard 4 because he ended up as the only child in Standard 3 after the first term; and that wasn’t good enough, and so he went off to Hereworth; loved it there and did very well. Went from there to Rathkeale in the Wairarapa, and it was all very good for him. Our daughters went to Woodford in what was then Form 2 and they had six years there, and they did very well having gone there.

Brian’s father was a great gardening person, and he developed a windbreak right round the house which had originally been up at the top of the farm, which was two thousand feet. To get there they’d to have pack horses – there was no road. And then they surveyed a road that came up quite close to the edge of the farm; developed wind shelters right round the garden, and it made it quite a big garden. He must have been a friend of Guthrie Smith because a lot of the trees were special, which he had raised from seed which we think he must have got from Guthrie Smith, ‘ cause he was a friend of his. So we had some special trees in the garden that Brian’s father had put in.

And he grew rhododendrons. One was ‘Robert Peel’; we never knew what the other one was, but I think we finally found what it was called. But it began with Brian being given ‘Unknown Warrior’ for having been a pall bearer at Brian’s mother’s best friend’s son’s funeral; she’d been a Gordon-Glassford from the Manawatu; also known to my family because of their racing association. And that was ‘Unknown Warrior’ which he planted, and then unfortunately sheep or rams got into the garden and ate it. But it sprouted again much to his relief, ‘ cause he was wondering if his mother’s friend would ask after it. Before we’d got married he’d also planted other rhododendrons; and a local woman who had proposed me as the first president was very keen on rhododendrons. She rang up one day and said, “I’m ordering a whole lot of rhododendrons from Taranaki, from Mr Huthnance; would you be interested in ordering? It would make it a good idea to get them sent at the same time.” I said, “Oh well, I’ll have to ask Brian.” So I said to Brian that Mrs Bain had mentioned all this, and he said, “Yes.” I said, “Well how am I going to work out what to order?” “Oh”, he said, “I don’t know.” But I’d given him a book on trees and shrubs, so I looked that up and found some names that sounded quite nice. So I said, “How many shall I order?” He said, “Oh, about half a dozen.” And so I ordered all these ones, and Mrs Bain said, “Where’d you get these names from?” I said, “Oh, from the Harrisons’ book.” [Chuckle]

Anyway, they all came, and that started my interest in rhododendrons, and Brian of course, had been interested. One of my aunts knew the main gardener at Pukeiti over in New Plymouth, and it was quite hard to become a member of the New Zealand Rhododendron Association – you had to have all the right people nominating you. Well anyway, she got organised to nominate friends of hers to nominate Brian as a member, and so the first conference we went to – it was in Hawke’s Bay – was ‘72, and I went along as well. We had a lecture of [by] somebody from overseas talking about species rhododendron. ‘Cause they were all slides and of course all in the dark; and I had a pencil and they’d mention some species, and I’d say to Brian, “How do you think that’s spelt?” And a voice on my left would give me the spelling, you see. And I thought, “Oh dear!” Anyway, so I wrote it down, and I can’t imagine what it looked like. But then another one came up, and I thought, ‘That sounded nice’; and I again said to Brian, and this voice beside me said how to spell it. And after all that I thought I’d better not ask anything more; this poor man! And then this Mrs Bain said, “Oh, do you know who you were sitting next to?” And I said, “Oh, I have no idea.” “Victor Davies from Duncan & Davies in New Plymouth.” I said, “Oh, the poor man!”

Anyway, Brian by this time was a member; and the next conference … I’m not sure, ‘73 I think … and we went down to Timaru which was the first conference we went to in the South Island. Next to us in the same motel was Ian and Bessie Gordon – very high up in the rhododendron hierarchy. And they gave us all the lowdown on what happened at these conferences, and became firm friends. I then joined, and we went to all these conferences. Then ‘bout 1999 I think it was, we went to a conference in Wellington, and some of the South Island ones said, “We need a vice president from the North Island – would you be interested in doing it?” And I said, “Oh, I suppose so.”

I had meantime got on the Council, which was quite an elite thing too because we were having a conference in Hawke’s Bay. And one of our members who dearly wanted to be on the Council said, “We should have somebody but my husband’s not well enough, so would you do it? I’ll organise people to nominate you.” Well! I said, “Oh, well, I suppose I could.” I didn’t really feel I had enough clout or knowledge; anyway, I got on. At that stage you were not representing any area, you just got on it; and I remember after the meeting was over a woman who’d been on the Council before me – she was no longer on it – said, “And about time”, that I was on the Council, and I couldn’t believe it. She was Janice Wallis, Sir Tim Wallis’s mother; a lovely lady.

Anyway, I got asked in Wellington at a conference if I would take on the job of vice president ‘cause they needed a North Island person. I said, “Oh, well, I suppose so.” I mean I wasn’t ambitious in that area at all, but ended up three years later as the president of the New Zealand Rhododendron Association in Blenheim. Because I got told after I became vice president, “You’ll have to go on and be president; we don’t want a vice president who’s not going to do it.” I thought. ‘Ooh!’ [Chuckles] That seemed a bit much; at the time I had really three years of quite difficult times with various members, and I think I was pretty lucky to get through it all. [Chuckles]

Brian felt that as our son wasn’t interested in farming, the best thing was to sell the farm and he would retire, and we would enjoy doing some travelling together.

Unfortunately, at the same time I developed breast cancer, and I had surgery, radiation and chemo[therapy], which were all successful. And we had a lovely time travelling to Europe, particularly to Gallipoli where his father had served. We did a lot of cheap accommodation; we had a European train pass, and we were forever running to catch trains. We had a wonderful time until we got to Paris – we were about to get to England, and Brian said, “I’ve had enough of foreign languages – can we get to my friend in London a day or so early?” And I said, [background traffic noise] “I’ll contact her and see”, and she was quite good.

And then of course, we spent time catching up with all the people I’d met when I was in England. I was very lucky; I met on my ship going to England, the head of British Red Cross, a lovely woman, and the only person higher than her was Lady Louis Mountbatten. This particular lady was the first woman into Belsen [German Concentration Camp] after the war, and she was a Commandant there for nine months, repatriating people in Belsen. She invited me to stay quite regularly. She lived in Northamptonshire, and she was a widow at the time of my meeting her. She was going to meet up with Lady Louis Mountbatten in Singapore when we got there, but before she left Lady Louis Mountbatten died in Indonesia somewhere. But she still was going to meet with other Red Cross people in Singapore. And from then onwards I used to have breakfast with her every morning on the ship, and she then invited me to go and stay with her. She was also a judge of cattle and pigs … well known throughout the world. She went on a farmers’ trip to North America and met a Scotsman … ‘cause she had already met and married a Scotsman, and she had Scottish blood in her. I used to visit her in Scotland, and she came out and stayed with us many times with her second husband. And when he died she still came and stayed with us, ‘cause she had a lot of relations. A very interesting person that I was very privileged to have met.

And I also used to go and stay in Scotland with friends I made through one of my nursing friends that I did matty with. I spent a lot of time in Scotland with my school holidays I had; and I travelled to Greece … had three weeks in Greece on one of my school holidays. I went around Ireland with the same nursing friend; we went there and had New Year’s Eve in Dublin, and we went to Cork and kissed the Blarney Stone, and went all the way round Ireland and met wonderful Irish people who were very good to us.

And then I went on another trip with another friend of one of my cousins, to Scandinavia, which I enjoyed; met up with all sorts of interesting people. That picture there with the horses, at my cousin’s wedding – he was a New Zealander, and a cousin on my father’s side – and he was to’ve met me when the ship called in to Southampton, but he was stuck in bed with a broken leg after skiing, up some weird place like Obergurgl. Anyway, his girlfriend from New Zealand came over and they got married; and I met at the wedding his girlfriend’s first cousin who was a horse trainer; and [it] turned out he was only five minutes away from where I was at this school. And he asked me, did I ride at all, and I said, “Oh, sort of.” “Oh”, he said, “I’d be interested if you could come and ride out in the winter, ‘cause I need an extra rider.” So I said, “Oh, I’ll have to ask the doctor if that’s all right.” And he said, “No, if you’re not busy you’re very welcome to go out one day a week.” And I went out, and this painting was of his grandsons … quite a well known painter in England.


Well from retiring off the farm, we went to a lifestyle block at Poraiti which we were on for twenty-five years. Then we decided that probably we should go to a retirement village. And that was decided mainly because Brian’s eldest brother and his wife had retired to the same village … actually next door; not when we were there. It’s all gone. So we’ve been here over three years, and it was a good move.


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Interviewer:  Jennifer Vierkotten

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