William (Bill) James Ward Interview

It’s the 4th May [2017]. Today I’m interviewing Mr Bill Ward. Bill for many years ran the Waikare Hotel at Putorino which is half way between Napier and Gisborne, and Bill’s …

Half way between Napier and Wairoa.

Sorry – Wairoa. Bill’s father, Artie, was there for a great number of years as well, so it was virtually their area that they controlled. They farmed there as well, and now Bill has retired. Bill, just nice to hear your story on your time and your working life as well, so I’ll leave it all over to you.

Well, do you want me to start with the grandparents? The grandparents on my mother’s side – they came from the West Coast of the South Island originally, and my grandmother was born in Durham in England, and my grandfather, Jim Fisher, was born in a place called Notown on the West Coast. I don’t know whether it still exists or not. This was going back to 1865 and 1869 … James and Ellen Fisher. They were married in 1891 in Inangahua, which is just out of Westport. They had eight children. The oldest was Tom Fisher – he was born in 1891 – and they had five daughters and then two sons. They owned the hotel … owned a couple of hotels around Westport.

James Fisher – this is part of his history – was the first Chairman of the Denniston Hospital Board, a position which he held from 20th February 1909 to 5th May 1913. The hospital was opened on 16th May 1910, for which he was given a gold key to the front door.

James had the Royal Hotel in Denniston from 1912 to 1916, then the Alpine Hotel at Burnett’s Face from 1916 to 1919. They left Burnett’s Face in 1919 and became the licensee of the Starborough Hotel in Seddon, Marlborough, in 1920. From there they purchased the New Zealander Hotel in Wellington in 1924, and the New Zealander Hotel is now the Regent Hotel. James Fisher … he died in Wellington in 1925 … he was only fifty-seven, and then in 1926 Ellen Fisher bought the Waikare Hotel without even seeing it. I was told that if she’d seen it she mightn’t have bought it. [Chuckle]

She moved most of her family from Wellington up to Waikare in 1926. Tom Fisher, the oldest in the family … he bought the Provincial Hotel in Upper Hutt in 1934 and sold it in 1955. Stan and Margaret Evans – she was the oldest daughter – managed the Waikare for Ellen Fisher until 1942 when they bought a farm at Whirinaki, which is out here, and that’s when Eileen, the youngest daughter, and Artie Ward went up there to manage it for Ellen Fisher. They lived in those days at Awatoto.

Artie’s father, Bill Ward, owned a building business in Awatoto. He also owned the Shamrock Hotel about the turn of the nineteenth century.

Which was where?

Straight across the railway line by the Maraenui Golf Course. I think there was a shop there afterwards, and I don’t know when they got rid of that. And Eileen Ward – she died in August 1954, and they had four children and I was the eldest.

Artie carried on with the hotel until 1971 when Bill and Heather took over. Bill got married in 1966, and Heather was from Wairoa.

The year that you were born?

1938. 7th April 1938.

Artie and Eileen had four children of which I was the eldest – two boys, two girls.

When did Artie move to Waikare?

1942, when Evans’s left. See Margaret Evans was the oldest daughter – she was second in that family. And the old girl rang my mother up, because Artie had never been in a bar or never run a pub so it was all new to him, because his father had that hotel in Awatoto before he was born. He was born in 1904.

Artie retired to Taupo in August 1971, and Bill and Heather took over the hotel from him. Then we sold it in December 2001.

The Waikare Hotel was destroyed by fire in 1938, and rebuilt … public bar was extended in 1956 and a horseshoe counter was installed. 1959 a new storeroom was built including a new coolroom for tanks and packaged beer. The old storeroom was changed into a private bar. 1965 the public bar was extended with pool tables and bar leaners. October ‘67 it was the introduction of ten pm closing. 1982 we combined the old dining room and the tea rooms and part of the verandah into an open restaurant plus a toilet.

When we went to Waikare the draught beer was Speights, shipped to Napier in kegs. They stopped doing that in 1948, so we changed to Gold Top from Gisborne, and when Gold Top closed down in 1966 we changed to Waikato. In 1981 we changed to Lion and DB.

In the early days Stan Evans had a soft drink plant making and bottling all brands of soft drink, and Artie took over when he went there until 1964, and I think we were the last hotel in New Zealand to have their own soft drink plant – that was according to Jack Gallagher from Long & Barden’s. And the only reason he chucked it in was he went into hospital for a knee operation. I didn’t know how to work it, and also the health inspector was getting on his back about the condition of the shed. [Chuckle] So he decided to chuck it in.

Bill, did you buy your farm around about the same time?

The farm was with the hotel.

How many acres did you have?

Ninety originally, but I bought bits and pieces. In the latter years I finished up with a hundred and thirty-two. Yeah, the farm was with the hotel. Milked cows and ran sheep. I’m back into that blue car just drove in out there.

So did you look after the farm on your own?

Oh no, I usually had somebody working there ‘cause we milked a few cows and ran sheep – in the early days. And then we gradually went into just about all cows – I was milking over one hundred in the finish.

You were known as a real hard worker up there, so I’m told by your neighbours.


And a very likeable man as well, and did a lot for the community. And if I remember rightly, didn’t you build a gymnasium there as well?

Oh, that’s Sportslab, but I didn’t build it.

You were behind it, though?

Oh yeah – I got it started. I was the President of the rugby club, and it was the rugby club that got it going. And then another crew wanted to start a squash club, and badminton. They had badminton at Tutira, and so it finished up a pretty big job.

But it was a big asset for the district.

Oh yeah … yeah. That was 1980. It was opened in ‘83, and it was paid for in 1986. Even had a party when they cleared the debt. [Chuckle]

And did you have somebody who officially opened the ..?

Yeah – he was the President … McInnes … was Bob McInnes. Is it Bob? Yeah. Yeah, well he officially opened it, 1983. His son was working up there at the time.

Now your clientele in the hotel … lot of passing traffic?

Yeah. And quite a bit of local … some were a bit rough. [Chuckle]

I remember calling in there on the way with some friends of mine – Horrie Webb, Royston Harper who you’d know …

Oh yeah.

Ian Nimon …


… and we were off to a hunt at McArdle’s.

Oh yeah – Wairoa.

Yes. Took us a while to get out of your hotel.

[Chuckle] Yeah.

They were good days.


I can always remember your father always sitting behind the bar, and he had his own special corner …


… that he sat. And he had some great stories. Now was your father tied up in boxing in any way?

No. No.

Very nice gentleman.


Bill, were you tied up in any other clubs during your working life? Organisations or clubs?

Well, it was mainly the rugby club, but from the time I left … I went to the Sacred Heart College in Auckland from ‘51 to ‘54, and soon as I came home they had me lined up as Secretary’s job at the rugby club, and I did that for seventeen years until I took over the hotel. And I played for seventeen years in the junior competition. And … I don’t know what other clubs …

Now you were tied up in the liquor industry golf of course – you were one of the big organisers behind that.

Yeah, yeah.

And very successful too. Can you tell us a little bit about it, and where we went?

We played from … went from Dannevirke to Wairoa, and different venues. And you know, I used to do the programme for the year, each year for the last fifteen, twenty years I suppose it was.

And you had quite a good team behind you, didn’t you?

Oh, yeah. Basil and Des Walsh, Charlie [?] from the start …

What was the name of that man from Dannevirke?

Charlie [?].

And there was Robin … now was it Robin Daly’s brother?

Oh yeah – he played, but he didn’t … Mike – yeah, Mike Daly.


Yes. All good friends though, that you met, and …

Yeah – oh, yeah.

… they became life-long friends, didn’t they?

Mmm. Yeah, well after I sold the hotel I kept the farm to keep myself in a job, and I was milking the cows then, ‘cause my son had gone truck driving. ‘Cause he was doing it before that. And I carried on doing that ‘til 2009.

Now you haven’t mentioned your family – how many children did you have?

Oh, four. One boy and three girls. The boy – he’s a truck driver.

His name is?

Steven. He’s with Stephenson’s Transport in Hastings at present. He drove the local transport for a few years and then he went to logging trucks at Whirinaki in the late nineties, and then he went to Farmers’ Transport.

The eldest girl – she worked in Wellington in an office. She’s back here in Napier now. And the second one – she’s with the MPI [Ministry of Primary Industries] in Wellington. She’s been down there about … must be twenty years or more I think. And Natalie, the youngest one, she’s a caterer here in Napier. Well, she was at …

Napier Golf Club.

… Napier Golf Club. Yeah. She left there about three years ago and set up from her house in Onekawa, and she’s been doing that ever since – she’s still doing it.

So they’ve all been very successful?

Yeah. Natalie just bought a property out on Loop Road in Meeanee … shifted in there on Friday. Got about four acres and a house … big house, too. So she’s pretty well set up.

It’s good to see family all set up …


… for the future years.


And – what are you doing in your retirement?

Nothing. [Chuckle]


Play bowls, yeah. Now and again.

And where do you play bowls?

Bay View. Yeah, I joined up there beginning of this year, because I know a few out there.

And what little I know about bowls, apart from when we sponsored the MacLeay Duff Tournament in Taupo, are you a skip or a lead?

No. I’ve been a lead – lead with a number two. [Chuckle]

I didn’t like leading, because they all bowl your ball out of the way.

And you’ve got nothing … nothing much to aim at except the jack.

[Chuckle] So you’re enjoying that?


And what’s your feeling about the liquor industry now that you’re seeing it from a different angle, now that you’re out of it?

Well …

What we went through in the early days …

Just after I got out of it they brought in that ‘no smoking’ business. I was pleased I wasn’t there then, not that I smoked but I would’ve inhaled a fair bit of it. [Chuckle] I remember many times when the bar was chocka on a Saturday night, and … could hardly see the front windows for smoke. But – what do they call it? Second-hand smoke.

And when ten o’clock closing came in that didn’t worry you, because you were later than ten o’clock anyway?

No, we didn’t. No, we applied for … we did six months of that, and we applied for a nine o’clock closing and ten o’clock opening because the bus from Wairoa used to pull up at our place at ten o’clock in the morning. Well legally we couldn’t serve them, so … that was the excuse we used anyway, and we applied for ten o’clock opening and nine o’clock closing. ‘Cause there wasn’t much call for later than nine o’clock. Well I found if you sent them home later than nine o’clock, they were all full anyway. [Chuckle]

So it was a good vocation for you?

Oh, yeah.

Carried on the family tradition …


… right through.

Had a few headaches [chuckle] but … got over them.

When you started off with the hotel, did you have casks?


Like wooden casks …


… for the beer? And then it changed to stainless steel …


… about what year?

Oh, the aluminium ones they were. Be the early 1950s I think that they started with those aluminium kegs. ‘Cause the Golf Club used to rail them down from Gisborne. And then they put two tanks in in 1959, so we used a full one every week. And then when Waikato came along, they put another half tank in so you could blow the beer from one to the other, and if you wanted to you could fill two at a time. That was a good move when we went to Waikato. The first twelve months the beer consumption went up from two hundred and ninety gallons a week to four hundred and twelve.

Was that because of the taste of the beer? From swamp water?

[Chuckle] The flagon trade was getting big then. We used to do a hundred flagons on a Saturday. It was about the time when the flagon trade was booming, ‘cause things were pretty affluent around 1960s, as you’d know. [Chuckle]

Spirits … over the bar?

Oh yeah, we went through a fair bit of spirits. Artie used to deal with about eight wine and spirit merchants. [Chuckle] I don’t think he liked turning them down.

Yes, he did turn them down – he turned me down.

Oh yeah … yeah. [Chuckle] Oh, we had too many then.

I wasn’t on the list.

No. There was Dalgety’s, Williams & Kettle and …

Murray Roberts?

Murray Roberts. Yeah, those were … those three, and then there was D & W Youngs, Hardwick & Robertson, and of course they all used to call – even Jim Griffin, Levin & Co. If he didn’t call when he came to Napier and he wasn’t coming up here, he’d ring. And if he didn’t ring he usually sent a case of VB anyway. I said to the old man, “if you don’t stop that VB we’ll have more than them soon”. [Quiet chuckles]

I remember working in Wellington with Reid & Reid …

That was another one.

We had a sales rep …

Blackerby. Len Blackerby. Black as a bee. [Chuckle]

That’s him.


Yeah, used to tell me about how he used to go up to Wairoa and …


… yeah – some great stories.

There was [??] He was another one … Reid & Reid. Yeah, we went through a fair bit of spirits in those days, and there was none of this … like today, you know, doing double headers in big … I know they started bringin’ that rum and coke in in jugs. Knocked that on the head after a while. I think I knocked it on the head. Gettin’ too many fights and [chuckle] too many car accidents.

Now what else have you got to tell me? Anything you can think of? What year did you get married, Bill?


What was your wife’s maiden name?



Wairoa. She was a nurse in Napier here when I met her, and then she went back to Wairoa to work in the X-Ray Department.

Thank you, Bill, for your very interesting talk on your life in the Waikare area. And you’ve had a full life in the liquor industry as well, and nice to hear about your father, too. So on behalf of the Hawke’s Bay Knowledge Bank, this is Jim Newbigin signing off.

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Interviewer:  Jim Newbigin

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