Yarlett, Ian William Interview

10th September 2020

On behalf of the Hawke’s Bay Knowledge Bank, I’m with Ian Yarlett, old-time resident of Hastings; in the barbering business; very successful business, formerly in Wellington. I’m with him in his home in Havelock North. Good morning, Ian.

Good morning, Jim.

Now if you’d like to tell us a little bit about your family and your history in Hawke’s Bay, we’d be very interested.

My grandfather on my father’s side was actually born in Australia. My great-grandfather came out and fought in the Maori Wars apparently, in the Bay of Plenty. Didn’t take up the option of the land which they were offered – [of] course they had to offer that to the troops to get them out here – and went back to Australia and got, as they say, de-mobbed there.

My grandfather apparently was the youngest of four from what I can gather. He had an older brother and two older sisters, and he came to New Zealand to try and see if he could claim the land which his father never took up the option on. And obviously when he came out here he met my grandmother, whose name was Jessie Mariah Key – a well-known family in Wellington, the Keys – and obviously got married; and as I say, that’s where it all started.

My mother came from Scotland. She was about fourteen, I believe. Her father’d died quite a few years earlier. She was the youngest of fourteen, of which ten survived; and she came out here with her mother and two or three of her siblings. Couple of her brothers were already out in New Zealand apparently; came out and settled in Wellington, where she actually met my father through one of her brothers who was friendly with my father. And my father and one of his friends apparently used to be quite friendly with my Uncle Marshall, and he introduced them to the girls in the Mackie family – my mother’s family. And apparently my Uncle Jim reportedly said to my father, “I’ll take the fat one, Les, you can take the thin one”, and they both eventually finished up getting married to those two girls.

As I say, my mother came from Scotland. I don’t know a lot of about her father; obviously she was the youngest of fourteen, She didn’t know too much about him, but she actually came from Banff. I’ve been back to see the house, ‘Cornhill’ in Dufftown where he was born, which was just over the fence from Glenfiddich Distillery. And apparently James Grant was a good friend of my grandfather according to my mother from what she can remember; he came round regularly to see my grandfather – I don’t know whether he was a whisky drinker or not.

Anyway, he was a tenant farmer for quite a few years, as his father was before him in Dufftown.

My father was Leslie William Yarlett; my mother was Irene Thelma Yarlett née Mackie, and I was born in [on] 16th September in 1945 in Wellington. I have two older sisters – Alison, who is five years older than me, and Beverley who is two years older than me – both who are now widows. Alison lives in Wellington, where Beverley lives in Auckland. They both have two children – my older sister has a boy and a girl, and my younger sister has two boys.

I grew up in Hataitai in Wellington and went to school there, Hataitai School, which probably were the best years of my life. I lived in Ariki Road up on the hill; they had a hundred and twelve steps to go to school and a hundred and twelve steps to come back, but used to do that regularly. Kept me fit, I guess. And though I loved Hataitai School, I then went to Rongotai College.

Had a bad accident once they’d sorted us into our classes, and missed the first six weeks of my class work at Rongotai College, and teachers were quite unwilling to help me catch up. So I can understand how these kids sort of drop by and sort of give up, which I did. Waited ‘til I was fifteen, and instead of becoming an accountant I went and worked for my father, who was a hairdresser in Wellington; originally had a shop in John Street, and then had one in Courtenay Place. I went and got apprenticed to him in December 1960. And they say it’s karma … kismet … whatever it is; but I’d only worked for my father until May 1963, and [when] he died after an operation. So it was meant to be. I had to take over running the shop and help my mother. And so I finished up buying the shop off [from] my mother and ran that for a few years.

Now the shop in Courtenay Place was 52 Courtenay Place; [it] was actually a very lucky lottery shop. It was the second biggest seller of cigarettes in Wellington, so you can imagine we had quite a big business. But a lot of you might remember the old Art Unions that used to be in Wellington … two and sixpenny [2/6d] one. Well the third to last Art Union that was ever won in New Zealand was sold in that shop; and also the very last Art Union sold in New Zealand was also sold by my father’s shop. And in fact at one stage they gave us a big sign, when my mother and I were running the shop, that it was the luckiest lottery shop in New Zealand with the prizes we used to sell. I must admit, once we put the sign up I don’t think we ever sold another prize, so it was the kiss of death. I bought that shop off my mother and ran it until I was … I guess about twenty-seven, twenty-eight. And I was fed up with it so I actually sold it and went and worked at the airport in Wellington as a loader for eighteen months, just to have a break. And I enjoyed that.

And in between selling the shop and going to the airport I got married to my wife, Deborah Morgan, whose father was a crash fire officer at the airport in Wellington. We met through a blind date, which was arranged by one of my aunts who worked in the blood bank in Wellington Hospital; Deborah worked as a laboratory technician there, and she’d just recently shifted down from Auckland with her parents. And the long and short of it, it was a blind date, and for better for worse as they say in marriage, we finished up getting married.

I worked at the airport for the best part of eighteen months, two years, and quite enjoyed it. There were some pretty rough diamonds out there, but I got on well with them, and [a] bit of hard work didn’t do me any harm. But one day I was speaking to one of the chaps that was there who was a professor or something, and he’d worked there for a while, and he said, “You realise you work here too long, you become a bit brain-dead?” His name was Ian Smith. I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “You just sit here and wait for the aeroplanes to come, and talk, and wander round.” And I realised that’s what it was, so I thought I might as well go back to my trade; and I saw someone advertising to lease out a hairdressing salon on Lambton Quay – a guy called Bruce Uridge – which had been the Duncan family hairdressing business. He bought it off [from] them. So I finished up going back into hairdressing.

[It] was at this time I became involved in the Wellington Provincial Hairdressers’ Association, ‘cause my father up until his death had been president of the New Zealand Hairdressers’ Association; also president of the New Zealand Hairdressers Retailers’ Association, and had quite a high profile. One of the things he always wanted was [that] no one should be able to work as a hairdresser unless they’d done an apprenticeship; those days you could start up without doing it. In fact I always remember as a young person he went to see Walter Nash at Parliament to see if they could do something about it; and he said oh, it was too hard to implement. And they never did it, much to his disgust.

It was quite interesting while I worked in that shop and owned that shop; and more when I worked for my father in the shop, as we used to have to go and work in the shop selling cigarettes and that sort of thing, which I liked doing; I enjoyed meeting people. Made you very good with your mental arithmetic ‘cause you used to add up about ten different items in your head. They were always questioning you … “Look at this snotty little kid behind the counter. That’s not right, sonny, write it down.” So I’d write it down, and I can honestly say I never made a mistake, so … not bragging, but … just you used your mind.

It’s quite interesting, during that time people say, “Why did blade shaving go out?” And people say, “Oh, it was the advent of the electric razors.” Now most barbers as they were in those days ‘cause they shaved, didn’t like shaving, but it was part of the job. But the thing that finished off blade shaving was when Wilkinson Sword bought out the stainless steel razor blades; because with the old Blue Gillette and Seven O’Clock and that sort of thing, they couldn’t get a decent shave with those razors. They were very thin, the blades. And once they brought out these Wilkinsons we actually had to sell them from under the counter, there was such a demand for them. And that really brought about the demise of blade shaving, contrary to the belief that it was electric razors. That was not what caused it.

And also long hair came in, and the first ones that grew their hair long were not the sixteen, seventeen, eighteen year olds; they were kids of about thirteen, fourteen or fifteen. We used to get the teachers bringing them in to get their hair cut, and you were always the meat in the sandwich because the teacher wanted it cut short; the kid didn’t want it cut short; and we bore the brunt of it. But however, that’s when long hair came out. It was that mid-teenage years that started it, not the older ones; they were still indoctrinated with the short back and sides … the old school. And looking back on it, [of] course the teachers were all returned soldiers, and to them long hair was abhorrent. I mean, everything was wrong with the world. So anyway, it’s changed a lot since then.

As I say, I worked at the airport, and then I finished up seeing someone advertising wanting to lease a salon in Lambton Quay – Bruce Uridge – which I did once again for the best part of two years. Then Bruce decided that he wanted to get rid of the hairdressing part ‘cause he wasn’t a hairdresser; turn it into a gift shop and tobacconist shop.

And I was friendly with a guy, Johnny Mangan, who worked across in Kirk’s. Kirkcaldie & Stains had a hairdresser; so he was keen for me to go there. So I went over there and worked over there for two years. He was pretty shrewd ‘cause he wanted to go away for a holiday for six months, so I had to run it by myself. Anyway, that was quite interesting; and he came back, and I guess I was there for the best part of two years and really enjoyed it. And that’s where you sort of met the Who’s Who of Wellington as far as Supreme Court Judges, politicians, you name it; heads of Police, armed services, everything. I did enjoy that; in fact I was a bit reluctant to leave but the weather in Wellington was starting to get to me. And I actually got invited up to Bellamy’s for a meal and a few drinks at the end of it which was quite enjoyable, ‘cause I got on quite well with some of the politicians … not all of them.

And it’s quite interesting; people don’t know, but the guy that took us around and gave us a meal and showed us around and had a few drinks with [us] was Mick Connelly. He was MP [Member of Parliament] for Lyttelton, and he told us an interesting thing – a lot of people don’t know, but he had to arrange for the carpet to be put down in the Beehive. So he organised it from the plans … the drawing plans. And when they came to put the carpet down there was eighteen inches left over. So the Beehive is actually eighteen inches less in width than it should be … the circumference. And I said to him, “Mick, the Aussies built this, didn’t he [they]?” He said, “That’s right.” I said, “They probably sold the other eighteen inches.” [Chuckles]

So anyway, I came up here. I’d originally come up to buy Brian Desmond’s shop, but they sort of mucked me around about the lease. They said they had a run in with the State Insurance next door, and he wouldn’t give them the lease, but at the time I was actually cutting a chap’s hair who was the secretary of the State Insurance; so I asked him and he gave me the number of someone to ring in Napier. And I rang them and they said, no, they weren’t renewing the lease. Because at that time, a lot of you might remember, ACC [Accident Compensation Commission] had been set up and State Insurance were taking over the ACC, and they wanted the extra shop ‘cause they wanted to expand into the salon. They already had half the shop.

So anyway, I was about to leave Hastings, and I was driving down Heretaunga Street and my wife spotted Dave Youngson’s shop … said, “Why don’t you ask him?” So I went and popped in and explained the situation to him, and he said to me, “Well, I’ve got ill-health.” He said he’d had valves put in his heart, Dave, and he was thinking of giving it away, and I said, “Look, if I can sell my house, I’ll buy your business.”

So we came back and got the house set up, and we actually sold it ourself [ourselves] on the weekend. And the long and the short of it was we came up Christmas Eve in 1980; and I actually opened the shop myself on Wellington Anniversary Day 1981. I still have the business there after all those years.

[A] chap worked for me in Wellington, Kevin Gibbs – I worked with Kevin for quite a few years and he had actually shifted up and come to Havelock North. And I said, “Don’t open there”, ‘cause I’d been told in those days Havelock North wasn’t a good place to open a business. Anyway, he did it and found it very quiet.

And I had a girl apprentice, Barbara Perry, and she’d finished her time. I don’t believe in keeping apprentices on once they’ve finished; they should strike out on their own. So I got Kevin to come in with me; so he came in and away we went. We have similar interests … rugby, racing and beer to a certain extent in those days. So we worked together for, I guess the best part of thirty-odd years of those forty years I’ve been there … best part of forty years. He’s now retired, Kevin. I just work Saturdays, but I have three girls who between them run the shop, and I just come in on a Saturday morning just to let people know I’m still alive.

Buying a house … well originally [when] we came up here we rented in Alexandra Street; then we rented a house in Glenpark Place, and then we rented a house in Kaponga Road – a very strange house … strange goings on. We believe it was haunted; all the things that happened to everyone that stayed there … it was quite incredible, really – including myself. Something I never really believed in but it certainly convinced me. Anyway, the long and the short of it is we eventually bought a house at 45 Duart Road. Good neighbours apart from the chap over the back fence called Jim Newbigin … used to be terrible. [Chuckle] No, good neighbours; I really enjoyed living there, but the house became too big in the end. I had two sons, Darren, the oldest who was born in 1975, and Justin who was born in 1976; and they had both moved out. They both were educated at Havelock North Primary and Lindisfarne College.

Darren is now a [an] aircraft certifier and has worked for fifteen years in Europe; very highly qualified, but unfortunately at the moment of course with the lockdown, he’s shifted back to New Zealand. His job’s on hold. But he had an interesting life; worked for Lufthansa as an engineer on the plane, fixing their new onboard computer entertainment systems and everything like that. Then he worked for five years in Toulouse, wiring up those big giant Airbuses; and we were fortunate to go there two or three times and see him when he lived there. And then he finished up working for a place called Amac, who fixed or serviced aircraft for Russian and Arab moguls – their own private 737s, jumbo jets, you name it. “A bit obscene”, he said, “what went into the planes.” But he was very successful. He actually … he doesn’t sort of blow his own trumpet. But after he finished in Toulouse, as I say, he was … I think it’s an avionics engineer, does all the electronics on planes … he decided he wanted to become an aircraft certifier.

So he went to Zurich in Switzerland to study for three months. Always paid for himself; was never beholden to any company. And these exams were particularly tough; lot of them drop out as you can imagine. To certify an aircraft you really have to know what you’re doing. And there was a Boeing sent over; this whizz kid from America who was just the cat’s whiskers. They paid for him, and my son said he kept questioning the tutors and everything, really tested them. Anyway, they had one big final exam, and – with Yarlett being a ‘Y’ you’re always at the bottom of the list – and they read off the names and this American got ninety-four percent; and he was high-fiving everybody and this sort of thing. And anyway, they came down to ‘Y’, and he got ninety-eight percent; the highest marks ever recorded since that aviation academy had been going. He’s [a] systematic studier in exams. I said, “What did the American say?” He said he came over to me; he said, “How the shit in hell did you get ninety-eight percent?” And I said, “What did you say?” He said, “I just winked at him and said, ‘Not bad for a Kiwi kid, is it?’” [Chuckles]

Anyway, he worked for Ryanair for a while, ‘cause he had a job offer to go to the Seychelle Islands and work for some Saudi prince as a flying spanner. ‘Cause [as] I say, he’s not blowing his own trumpet, but I certainly blow it – he’s exceptionally good at his job and solves problems no one else can solve. But he found he flew too much and it affected his hearing flying with Lufthansa, so he turned it down and went to work for Ryanair for a while as a contractor there.

Eventually he’s come back to New Zealand and he works for Core – I think they service Qantas and Jetstar planes. But they want him to stay on line because they obviously need him, ‘cause he has all the licences as an aircraft certifier.

My younger son, Justin, he also left school, went to work at Hill Country Beef at Awatoto there. He got his exams as a meat grader; decided he didn’t want to do it, so I said, “Well, go and do something else.” So he went to EIT [Eastern Institute of Technology] and became an electrician. Anyway, he went and worked for twelve years in London; went over there to get engaged … girl from Havelock North … and finished up meeting a girl from Russia; he’s now married to a Russian girl, Svetlana. Very nice girl. And they have one son, Zarl, who’s the apple of my eye, ‘cause my other son’s not married. And they came back when he was six months old; so he now works for himself as Electrick [Limited], his own company, and is now a [an] electrical inspector. Seems to specialise in these solar panels; seems to go round the bottom half of the North Island doing a bit of work with that.

As I say, my little grandson – they live in town; he goes to school at Te Mata School here, which is just across so I can walk over and pick him up. My daughter-in-law, Svetlana, is a graphic designer; contracts. She’s doing quite well – she worked for a few big magazines in the UK [United Kingdom] in London. Lovely girl, anyway. So, that’s it.

As I only have one grandchild I now lead a life of semi-retirement. I’ve shifted from Duart Road, which had a large section and as I say, with only two of us we were rattling round in it, and I bought a house which is the last house [in this street], which only has one neighbour over the back fence as we have the park beside us, and the Havelock North High School rugby field’s on the other side of us. And the only noise we get is the noise of kids playing which I really enjoy. But that is basically my life.

Ian, one or two things I’d like to ask about – travel overseas?

Yes, we travelled to Thailand quite a bit; [in] fact we had a trip to go before lockdown and I paid for it, but of course just got a credit. But we went quite regularly to the UK, I think we went … must’ve gone about five times; and Europe. That’s only since the 1980s, since my sons were living there. And the first time I went over and went up to Scotland; I have one cousin still living … was living there, Norman Allen, who was a very clever man; Professor of Gynaecology at Ottawa University. He left Canada ‘cause the winters were cold and went back to [chuckle] north east Scotland; so they must be pretty tough there. I met him once; he came over as ship’s doctor in the 19 … I guess it was early 1950s I think, and saw a bit of him then.

But went and saw the house, as I say, where my mother lived after my grandfather came off the farm. The ‘Lettoch’ was the name of the farm in Dufftown, and actually my cousin showed me the farm where my great-grandfather were [was a] tenant farmer. But he said he was tenant farmer to a Scottish laird but he sold the farm to some English Lord, and he wasn’t going to work for a Sassenach, so he came off the farm. Yeah.

And it was quite interesting going to the house; big house, and we were actually looking at the house from the outside and the lady came running out. “Oo-oo”, she said, “are you from New Zealand?” We said, “Yes.” [Chuckle] So my oldest son, Darren, my wife and I and my cousin, Norman, went inside the house; and he was very interested ‘cause he’d been in the house as a young boy, and he knew a bit of the layout of the house. We only went into the lounge; Norman was a bit of a nuisance, ‘cause I wanted to have a look around the house. He said, “Oh, we’re in a hurry, we’re in a hurry.” So we just spoke to this girl … I forget her name, but her husband’s name was Colin. He was Scottish, she was English; she was an air hostess for British Airways. And anyway, he took us for a drive round the back of the house, and there were three distilleries there. One of them was a Glenfiddich distillery which apparently Grants own, and according to a friend of mine, still the only family-owned distillery in Scotland. The rest are all owned by corporates.

And to see Dufftown was quite interesting, and Banff of course, is not far from Dufftown where my mother went to school, and it was quite interesting. My cousin actually lived … the house was like two together. They were all in a row – brick house and there’s a brick wall … it’s that last house and there’s a brick wall. And the sea was there; I said, “Norman, do you swim in that sea?” He said, “Oh, in the summer, in wetsuits.” I said, “Oh – you mean it’s cold?” He said, “Yes.” And he took us for a meal up at a big restaurant up there owned by a Canadian couple apparently; but then the wife took on with the Spanish waiter, so he told me there was a bit of scandal there. But it was quite interesting because we both ordered the same thing for the meal – perhaps it’s that blood thing. And I told him, “Norman, we’re whanau now.” He liked that word, whanau. [Chuckle]

Anyway, he’d played a bit of rugby. He actually played rugby with Karl Mullen who was a friend of his, who was the captain of the 1950 Lions team to New Zealand, because he was a doctor also. Unfortunately, I just found out about a year or so [ago], he’d died, Norman. But I sent him over a [an] All Blacks scarf which he told me wore round the village. I said, “Well you’ve got connection with the All Blacks”, ‘cause he got sick of going to Edinburgh, down to Murrayfield, and seeing the All Blacks clean up the Scotsmen. But anyway, he’s since passed on.

And at that time I think we mainly just stayed in … I had my nephew living in … Isle of Sheppey, and he was a vet. So we went and stayed with him, and he actually lent us a car so we could drive up to Scotland.

And I think we went to Paris – that’s right – on the train with my daughter-in-law, my two sons and Deborah and I – went to Paris and had a look round there, which was very good; on the Chunnel, and came back.

And then as I say, my son worked on the aircraft – he went and worked in Toulouse. It was quite interesting – he was saying that he always contracts, he never works for people; he contracted to the people in Toulouse, and Airbus; and he worked for the German side of Airbus. And he said they all spoke English so he was pretty lazy, he didn’t learn much French. But he didn’t like the accommodation they gave him, so he was walking down the street in Toulouse and he saw this … ex-pats who need a hand with language and things like this … difficulty. So he went into the office, and the lady was there and he started to speak. And she put her hand up and said, “Stop!” She said, “Where are you from?” He said, “New Zealand.” She rushed round and embraced him; she was from Morrinsville … lived in France for twenty-nine years. [Chuckle]

So anyway, the long and the short of it – she took him under her wing and she took him out to this [?Valisville?], just out of Toulouse, and to this château called Labarthe. Madame [?Leblanc?] was a friend of hers and owned it, and her husband had died, and she was a with an artist. And she had a couple of apartments in Toulouse itself … Capitale. And anyway, so in the finish she said Darren could rent it, and he could have … I think five, six other people in the château with him. Now this château was on I don’t know how many acres; it had a small lake, small forest; it was all fenced and you could go through electric gates.

So anyway, he took it on; and this place was incredible. We actually stayed there twice while he was there for three or four years. And it was something like out of a dream. And my sister was staying with my nephew in England, and she actually came over. And we were sitting out there at night having a barbecue out the back there, and throwing peanuts in the air ‘cause the bats used to sweep down and catch the peanuts – they thought they were insects. And my sister lives in Karori; she never thought she’d be staying in a [chuckle] … in a château with her nephew in the south of France. That was quite an incredible experience.

In fact my nephew, Gordon … so he’s my oldest nephew … and he’s very successful, like a lot of Kiwis are. He used to be a bit of a hippie, but he finished up owning … I think eight or nine vet practices in England. He actually bought the buildings and the vet practices, and when he sold them he sold them to corporates, but he kept the buildings. He was quite shrewd in a way; I don’t know what he’s done with his money since, but he actually employed sixty people. He used to try and employ either New Zealanders or Australians or something like that, ‘cause he said – that class distinction in England – they could never place an Antipodean, whether lower class or upper class. And he said, “Plus, they got on with everybody.” So he was very successful, Gordon, yeah.

Anyway, my sister came over, and I think at that stage – that visit or it might’ve been the next – well that time we went down to Spain, to Barcelona, that’s right, and had a look around Spain, and came back. And next time we went over my son took us up to Nice, Monte Carlo, Genoa; had [a] look around, and Monte Carlo was interesting. Came back, and then the third time we went over he was out of the château ‘cause he had to go to Germany for a while, so he relinquished the lease. This time he took us up to San Sebastian in Spain; and that was quite interesting too.

So we did quite a bit of travel, but mainly through my son. And I think the second time we were there, that’s right – we actually went to St Petersburg to see my daughter-in-law … her mother, her uncle and aunty and her cousin came to St Petersburg, and that’s the most beautiful city. I really enjoyed St Petersburg, I’d like to have more time there. But my son said, “Oh, if you stay more than three days they took your passport off you.” Put all this fear into us. So … could’ve done with more; it’s a beautiful city, St Petersburg, and the history of it all. But we did manage to see the Winter Palace and do the canals, and all those other sort[s] of things.

It was actually Navy Day while we were there, so they had a big navy parade. It’s quite interesting how small the world is, because my wife, Deborah, was in real estate for fifteen years when she came up here, and then she got into selling jewellery, and at that stage she was working for Pascoe’s in Napier. And the cruise ships came in, and these people – my wife picked them to be Russian – actually came to the door of the shop. One of them spoke and just came over … ‘cause I think they wanted to look at watches which apparently are cheaper here than they are on the ship. My wife said to them, “You’re from Russia?” “How do you know that?” this lady said. This was in November, and we were in Russia in August. And my wife said, “Oh, we’ve just been to Russia; my daughter-in-law’s Russian.” “Oh! Whereabouts were you in Russia?” “In St Petersburg.” And she went back and talked to these people that were at the door, and they [were] highly sort of vocal, talking. She said, “They’re all from St Petersburg.” “When were you there?” My wife said, “I can’t remember the exact date, but there was a big naval parade, and we watched it from the big bridge that rises at midnight.” Apparently ships come in, ships go out; they have to go at midnight.

Anyway, she went over; highly animated conversation with these people; next thing they were all over, kissing my wife and shaking her hand. And you wouldn’t believe it, but they were on that bridge watching the same parade on that day. Now there was a lot of people on that bridge – it was a big bridge; but it just shows you how small the world is – within sort of three months or so of us being on that bridge, here are these people that were on the same bridge watching that same parade, in Napier; yeah. So it shows a small world.

Yeah, so Deborah likes travelling ‘cause [as] I say, she was actually born in Plymouth. Should give a bit of a plug for her. She came out to New Zealand … I think she was about … eight, that’s right. Her father was a Royal Marine commando for twenty years; a big robust sort of man. And when he got out of the Royal Marines they came to New Zealand and lived in Auckland. He became a crash fire … literally a fireman. Got badly burnt in a big fire pouring water on hot tar at a rubbish dump. They didn’t know there was tar underground and it exploded; and [of] course hot tar sticks to you, and he got quite badly burned, Derek. But however, he seemed to bounce back; he was a pretty big robust sort of guy.

Yeah, so that’s one visit – we actually went to Plymouth; that might’ve been the first visit, I get confused now. She had an aunty still alive. Her father only had one sister, Aunty Gloria; and Nicholas and Stewart, which [who] were her two cousins who she remembered as a young child. It’s quite interesting seeing them get together again, it’s like the years were turned back the way they all went up the road to the house where they used to live. I stood and watched them, and it was very interesting. And actually the highlight of that, her Aunt Gloria was taking us out on to the moors to some hotel for Sunday lunch, which once again I thoroughly enjoyed. A very nice publican ran the pub, very interested; and a roaring fire. The house was across the road … there was [were] about twenty houses in this little place in the moors … I said to my wife, “[If] that house is for sale we could easily shift back over here”, but [chuckle] course she wasn’t keen on that idea.

So yeah, I have travelled quite extensively, mainly since about the 1980s and mainly because I had two sons living in Europe, and that sort of enlarged my vision. Yeah.

Ian, when and where were you married?

I was married 23rd of May in Wellington, at All Saints Church Kilbirnie, which is actually a family church; I think my mother and father married there, think my two sons were baptised there, and I think two of my nephews and one of my nieces were baptised there. Only one nephew was baptised in Auckland. So it has become sort of a family church – my father was buried there; I just remember the funeral, 1963. They say the younger you die … But he was a very popular man, my father; very popular man, got on with everybody. The funeral was held at All Saints Church, and I still remember there was [were] crowds outside the church; they couldn’t fit in … couldn’t fit inside the church, couldn’t fit in the creche area in the church; they had to broadcast it outside, such was his popularity.

It’s quite interesting – though it’s called All Saints Church Kilbirnie, it’s actually in Hataitai. [A] lot of people don’t know, and Kilbirnie School’s actually in Hataitai. ‘Cause those of you who know Wellington, actually Hataitai ends in Wellington Road, which is the road you come up Ruahine Street from the tunnel and go down past Kilbirnie Park; that’s actually the boundary for Hataitai, so Kilbirnie School and All Saints Kilbirnie are actually in Hataitai.

What was Deborah’s maiden name?

Her name was Deborah Morgan.

Your parents … when did they actually come to New Zealand?

My father was born here, ‘cause my grandfather came over; but I think my mother was about fourteen or fifteen when she came. So she was born 1911, so that would’ve been about ‘25 or ‘26 she’d have come here; 1925, ‘26.

Well your grandfather and grandmother, when did they arrive in New Zealand?

Well my grandfather on my father’s side of course, came out trying to get the land that his father never got from when he fought in the Maori Wars. Obviously with the name being Yarlett, they’d come from England.

What part?

Well, they might’ve come from Yarlett. I don’t actually know; as I say, because my father died when I was seventeen and my grandfather died when he was fourteen. So you don’t sort of ask these questions. I couldn’t honestly tell you.

Quite interesting, my grandmother’s side, on my father’s side, Key … I went to a family reunion and they traced it back; they came out, I think it was … oh, I can’t remember the year, but they came out – two families, the Keys and the Devonports. And through that I found that Barrie Devonport who swam Cook Strait … one of the sons married one of the daughters, so there’s quite a family link there. I think it was about the 1870s they came to New Zealand. At the family reunion – my great-grandfather and great-grandmother lived in Tasman Street in Wellington – and they had newspaper clippings. They had a sixty-year wedding anniversary; and he worked for Odlin’s timber yard for a number of years apparently, my grandfather Key. And they had something that … one of the family was a heroine. A lot of people might not remember the ‘Penguin’ was a ship that sank … I remember my father used to tell me this. Sometimes he’d drive down, when you come into Brooklyn, drive down towards Red Rock; [there] used to be a big propellor, or the remains of part of a propellor sticking out of the sand. He used to tell me that it was from the ‘Penguin’, which I think might’ve been … until the ‘Wahine’ … the biggest loss of life in maritime history in New Zealand. Anyway, there was some relation of ours, and she had two children and she was pregnant; and anyway, the long and the short of it – her children drowned, but she saved one or two people swimming. Yeah. And she was a heroine. Apparently it was a big tragedy; they had photos of the horse-drawn hearses going through Wellington with all the bodies on them, and coffins. But she remarried and had two other children who both died. The only child that lived of the five children she actually bore was the one that she was pregnant with when the ship sank.

And anyway, that was part of the Key history; but Keys are quite a well-known name in Wellington. But my grandmother was Jessie Maria Key, and she used to hate the name Maria, but apparently that was the midwife that delivered her was called Maria. But she had quite a few siblings; I don’t really know too much about them, but there’s quite a few Keys, I’ve met a few of them over the years. In fact one of them was living in Hastings. Yeah, they were quite a well-known family; they came in the 1870s, but where her mother came from I’m not entirely sure, to be quite honest, yeah.

There’s a David Keys in Havelock North.

Yes. Key without a ‘s’. ‘Cause they used to think we were related to John Key. [Chuckle] Who knows? Quite a well-known family. So that was my grandmother and my grandfather; that’s their family history as far as I know. Yeah.

I think you’ve covered a pretty good lifetime there, Ian – you’ve sort of filled it in, and travelled the world, and …

Yeah, my Yarlett grandfather, so William Yarlett – William’s a common denominator in the names. Yeah, my father-in-law’s middle name was William; my name is William, and he was called William. But it’s quite interesting, he had an older brother and two older sisters, but none of them had children. So I’ve actually got an old photo upstairs of my father when he was a baby – they went back to Australia. Yeah, but none of them had children, so as far as that Yarlett side [that] came to Australia, there’s only my father, and he had one sister called Aunty Thelma, and she didn’t have any children, so they were pretty light breeders on the Yarlett side.

Thank you very much for that talk; one of the most interesting ones that I have had the pleasure of interviewing. And just thank you.

Oh, it’s been my pleasure.

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Interviewer:  Jim Newbigin

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