Yule, Brian Phillip Interview

Good morning. I’m Justine Bruce and I’m going to interview Brian Yule; we also have his wife, Suzanne Yule; [Jess Kyle] and George Kyle. Now Brian, where did you live in Eskdale, and what was your job?

I lived at the end of Yule Road on the northern side of the river and I was brought up on the family farm and then I bought it and ran it. Sheep and pigs.

And your father, what was his job?

He ran the farm before me and his father ran the farm before him.

What kind of person was your father?

He was very locally minded, and helped out in everything local like park, hall, school and all that.

And what are your memories of Eskdale Park?

My memories of the Eskdale Park was a piece of riverbed full of willow trees and rubbish, and the river used to flow through on occasions. And then it was developed by the Park Committee plus the Hawke’s Bay County to the state it’s now in. And we poured two concrete strips to play cricket.

What does Eskdale Park mean to you?

A lot; Eskdale Park means a lot to us because I’ve bounded it, the total length of the park. I was across the river from it and it wasn’t fenced, so it was a very convenient access for us when the river crossing at the end of Yule Road was not available because the shingle bottom was too soft. We could go up the river and cross into the park and come out on now Shaw Road, and that was an emergency exit. And also, we unloaded cattle that came down from Gisborne by rail. We unloaded them at the Eskdale Railway Station and walked them through the park from the station to our place, kept them there and then farmed them on, and then they went walkabout. We drove them to Hastings to Stortford Lodge to sell them, and when I was about fourteen on [when] I did the first stage, which was the top of the Newstead Hill from our farm. Then the Hastings drovers would take over, and it took them two days to get there by Wednesday.

What are your memories of flooding events within Eskdale, particularly ones that had an impact on Eskdale Park?

My first memory in life is the 1938 flood; that’s my first memory of life for me, and it is very vivid because of the sheer size of it; and the seeing the houses at the railway station, corner of Yule Road down past the store, all with silt up to the roof of the house. It was very sort of impressive for my age.

And you would have been a pretty young boy at that stage?

I was three.

Who repaired Eskdale Park after the flood? Prior to the Hastings District Council becoming caretaker?

Well the district formed the Park Committee. So the Park Committee was just an improvement, and my first memories of the Park Committee in action – I would’ve been a primary school or high school boy – and the Rannoch Orchard which was the Robinson brothers at Bay View, Mr Neil Wallace, my father, I think Les Thompson, John Tait – we planted the birch trees from the entrance; we planted two rows of birch trees. And Dad and I and Neil Wallace, and probably Max, we cut the drums out to put round the trees so that the sheep didn’t eat them, and we planted an avenue. Now what happened is the Railway Department decided they didn’t like the avenue on their side and they burnt them or cut them down on us, and that caused quite a bit of controversy between the Eskdale Park and the Railway Department.

Was that because of visibility?

Yes. So in those days they had steam trains which caught the railway line alight regularly – very regularly in the summer, and so they didn’t hurry to put the fire out.

What has been your family’s involvement in the development and the maintenance at Eskdale Park?

Well my father grazed it to keep the grass down at times, realising it wasn’t fenced on the riverbank. And we also used it as an emergency access to the farm depending on the softness of the shingle in the river where we crossed it. Quite often we would cross it and end up going through the park after a flood, any flood. So the access of Yule Road, once it hardened off with taking horses across and walking, became usable again.

Why were the tree species chosen and planted?

Well the riverbank was always full of willow trees, natural, just there; and then the ones round the cricket oval – I built my house and I happened to have these Chinese poplars – and Mr Goldsack and myself, and I think Peter Payne, we planted those trees to create the oval. And the trees were chosen because they were possum-free; possums wouldn’t go near them, and they grew quickly. And they were known as Chinese poplars or Yunnanensis.

That’s why they were specifically chosen?

No, it was just because I had them surplus. [Chuckles]

What issues did the park face, and how were they resolved?

One of the issues would’ve been having big, organised picnics in the park. So a committee was formed to take bookings for the park so that you didn’t have too many big picnics coming on the same day. The weekends were very, very busy in the summer; there was no charge, and as far as I know a small donation was expected – whether they got it I don’t know. [Chuckle] But the biggest picnic in the park was the Railway picnic, and they had a train come from Waipawa, a steam train, stop at Eskdale, and there’d be a thousand people in the park. And as a neighbour they were the bane of my life because of the dry conditions and fire. And we had a steep hill called Magog which was a mini mountain, and everyone wanted to climb up there so it would be nothing to have three hundred people going up our hill.

And it would’ve been terrifying in the summer …

Farmers would know in Hawke’s Bay you had certain sort of reserves to try and combat the fire before it got going. Fortunately for us we never had one.

And that was an annual event, the Railway picnic?

Yeah, well there’d be probably about twenty-five – we called them ‘organised picnics’ – be about twenty to twenty-five a year. And the Park Committee, and I think it was Bert Goldsack, they used to have to take bookings, and they could have three small picnics or one big one. The park was there and it was used for that.

What improvements and developments were successful, and what were failures?

The failures to an extent were purely administration or lack of organisation. The success – [it] was very well run when a Park Committee was organised under the auspices of the Hawke’s Bay County Council, and they took over running the park from the County on a daily basis. And having the likes of Mr Goldsack, Mr Ellis, Mr Tait, my father – all those people contributed to improving the park so that people from outside Eskdale could come and enjoy it. And the major attraction of course was swimming in the Esk River.

Please explain the Yule Road extension and Eskdale Park acquisition as you see it.

Well, our property and the Yule Road end of Eskdale Park was part of the bigger station, the Waipunga Station, once. And then my grandfather bought the home block which is at the end of Yule Road, and it was a land subdivision in 1918. Now my grandfather bought it about 1924-5, and my father farmed it. And the only access that we had to anything legal was Yule Road, which got us to the Taupō Road and that was why it was formed. I understand that [the] original Yule Road was formed by people droving stock down the Taupō Road or up the Taupō Road, and taking them down there as a track to give water to the cattle or sheep. But as far as we were concerned as farmers, we had to cross the river and walk across it every day to get out. And in the end we built a car shed on the Taupō Road side and kept a car in it, so our only access to Yule Road was to the railway line, which then joined the public road.

What is the history and significance of the apple tree?

Well this’s seemed to’ve reared its head in the system. And my grandmother in particular, who I remember very well, whatever farm the Yule family bought – and we shifted a bit – she always planted trees. A few, and one of them is this apple tree which basically was planted there just because, probably, she thought it was a nice place to put it. Yeah.

Brian, you donated some of your land to become part of Eskdale Park?

Yes, four hectares. With the apple tree. [Chuckle]

And what are your wishes for Eskdale Park?

Well I’d like just to see it redeveloped. And Suzanne and myself donated that land for the express purpose – to make it a public area of very much a non-commercial system. And we certainly would not’ve donated it if we thought it was going to be commercialised with shops or houses or something. But we were following in the footsteps of Mr Thomas Clark, under exactly the same directorship that he stipulated; we just followed his thoughts.

What a wonderful gift.

[Break; continues mid-sentence]

… was the Hawke’s Bay Children’s Home, France House, which they all came down from it. And the cricket wicket got covered in the ’38 flood, and so was not available; so in the end the cricket club reconstituted and they poured two concrete wickets in the Eskdale Park for organisations to play cricket on.

And we had quite a strong cricket club ourselves, so we had many games of cricket in the summer in the Eskdale Park including against stock agents, and the biggest battle, fun battle, was Kaiwaka v Eskdale for a cricket cup. And Kaiwaka have got their own cricket pitch next to the Wairoa Road – it’s called the Pudding Bowl. [Chuckles] So it was the Pudding Bowl v the Eskdale Park in a game of cricket.

And was there a good bit of rivalry?

Yes. And we’re all pretty good mates, all up past George’s, right up there – they all came down. We probably started about one o’clock, twelve o’clock; we played cricket and then all went home.

Would you go to Kaiwaka and play?

Yes, we were regular attendants of the Pudding Bowl as they call it, [chuckle] and the ambition was to hit the cricket ball up on to the Wairoa Road; I couldn’t do that but others could. [Chuckle] So there were three or four or five locals who were very capable of some very loose bowling … of landing the ball on the Wairoa Road.

Oh, they would’ve been great days for the community.

We had a cup, and we had a cricket pavilion eventually. As soon as you get into the park it was on the left; it’s not there now and I don’t think there’s a cricket club now – in fact I’m sure there’s not. And so the cricket club was there and we kept the mats and the bats and that in the pavilion. The pavilion came from the paddock next to Clark’s wool shed, and that’s where the cricket wicket was once. I could show you where it is, but it would be just …

That would be great.

… it was just a level – it was under the lavenders at one stage.

And everything was just kept in the pavilion, all the gear, and ..?

Yeah, everything. And the France House boys, one or two of them – well, quite a few of them – would play cricket with the cricket club, and one or two of them had the key, and [would] keep an eye on our ancient old cricket bats and what-have-you.

The park would’ve been like a big extension of their backyard for the boys growing up there, wouldn’t it?

Well it was really, but they had fifty acres of their own land which is three times the size of Eskdale Park.

And did they farm?

Yeah, they farmed it.

George Kyle: They milked cows.

And all the boys would’ve been involved?

Brian: Yeah. Well in those days some boys didn’t get to high school, and so they stayed and milked the cows and they grew very good citrus fruit trees, potatoes, carrots, and supplied the other homes with those products, milk and cream. And the boys that stayed home – I could name a few of them – they were called the farm boys. And like all the boys from that home, when they turned sixteen they were found a job, given a suitcase full of clothes and £5 in their pocket, and they went into the world.

My goodness!

And the high school boys, who went to [Napier] Boys’ High mainly, caught the bus with me and all the others. And a lot of them did apprenticeship[s] at the Boys’ High School and become [became] electricians, and plumbers, and … The Navy attracted quite a few; the Railway attracted quite a few; and the Forestry which was fairly young then … Forestry Department attracted quite a few. So those were the sort of occupations they got.

So I live in Knightsbridge, Taradale. We as farmers owned three blocks within the Waipunga Station, and of the three blocks, one of them had access and land up to the railway line which formed Yule Road in the end. The ’38 flood changed the actual bottom end, or the river end of the road, so Yule Road was there as an access for us and it is, I believe, the start of a paper road [undeveloped legal road] that was going to be the Waipunga Road. The paper road went right up through, and came out four ks [kilometres] up the Waipunga Road. The paper road – it’s the Waipunga Road, and that was the original concept of the Kaiwaka South Settlement of the First World War. And on reading about it in Dr Dine’s book, the Kaiwaka South residents wanted a better access. They used to have to come, I believe, down to the Esk River, down the river, to get to town and get out; and so the Waipunga Road with the concrete bridge built in 1940 was instigated to give settlers access, and to give them a motor vehicle access.

The two low-level bridges, in [to] my knowledge, was [were] the Ellis Wallace Bridge and the Waipunga Bridge, and the Ellis Wallace Bridge is still a low-level bridge. The Waipunga Bridge – I can just remember it being built, and I read just the other day it cost £8,000 [and] something, and it was built by a company called The Rope Company, and they won the tender for building that bridge. And the whole bridge was due, I believe, to pressure from the Kaiwaka First World War settlers for access.

How did the 1938 flood change where your land boundary was?

The ’38 flood straightened the river from above the Eskdale Park, or the Waipunga Bridge, as it’s known. It changed course and took fifty acres of our flat land, and it went straight through more or less to the sea. So in doing that it cut off the four hectares, Yule Road, from the rest of the farm in the sense that you couldn’t farm it. So our neighbours, Mr & Mrs Jack Swain, farmed it because they bounded it, and it was on the southern side of the river as far as we were concerned. All the life of our owning Waipunga Station – Suzanne and I – we paid the rates on that land across the river. Mr & Mrs Swain had quite a small block, and it just wasn’t worth our family having to fence it and look after it at that stage, when we had a hundred acres of land affected by the ’38 flood on our own side of the river. So the legal surveys show for approximately five hundred metres we own the river; it’s in our title. I’ve got a map with a title of the Esk River; we owned it, and anyone that went down there, [it] was just because there was no gate across Yule Road. It was for no other reason than that. If we’d fenced it and put a gate across Yule Road we would’ve stopped people going swimming, would’ve stopped the County getting shingle; and it was left like that; it was all interpreted after the ’38 flood. We just left it well alone, and that’s how Waipunga Station home block had four hectares which we donated to the park in 1972. Suzanne and I donated it to be used as an extension of exactly what Mr Clark wanted; we just helped it along a little bit. And if we were still there we would probably still do it.

How does river accretion apply to the ownership after the 1938 flood?

Well an accretion is ownership by right because you bound the river, in this case the Esk River. But accretion does not apply if it changes its course so dramatically that it puts fifty acres of your land on the other side of the river, and so the Accretion Act does not apply to that. And as far as we were concerned we were very happy for Mr & Mrs Swain to farm the land, and Waipunga Station or the Yule family paid the rates and everything on it. And Mr & Mrs Swain used it for their dairy cows, and Mr & Mrs Blair used it for their dairy cows, and it was very marginal land. The most interesting thing was that one or two rare birds used to nest on the shingle and I used to go and find their nests and see them hatch; they were the sandpipers, which are quite rare. There was a strip of about ten acres of sheer shingle which the Hawke’s Bay County would shovel on the back of their truck to keep our roads going; and I’d go and find these nests which are very hard to find in the shingle, and it was great to see the little chicks wandering around.

Along with Billy Thompson from Whirinaki and Jock McKay’s son, young Jock, we used to terrorise the district with our shanghais. [Laughter]

You would’ve had no shortage of stones?

No, we had a big choice of stones.

And my grandfather and father bought three blocks of Waipunga Station which included the big old wool shed, all the station buildings, and there were lots of them; and the boundary for Waipunga Station includes the four hectares of the bottom of Eskdale Park and so that’s how we ended up owning the bottom of the park. Now because of the ’38 flood we weren’t particularly interested in farming it, and also the railway line had an effect. Also, part of Swains’ property, which [who] were our neighbours, was our land. To take that land off them would’ve made it completely uneconomic for them, and as we had Waipunga Station home block we just let things happen.

So when we sold Waipunga Station home blocks to Pan Pac in 1972 we had to tidy up the boundaries. And we’d already built the camping ground, and then we donated that four hectares to be used as a park. So the river itself plus the railway line created a different boundary from what it was in 1920. The biggest single influence was that the East Coast railway line had to be protected at all costs against floods and earthquakes, and being a big government body they didn’t really care much about the individual landowner. So [it] had a profound effect on what we could do as a farmer, so as for bounding the railway line, it’s probably the best use for the Eskdale Park; it created a barrier.

Jess Kyle: From a farming point of view, how did that affect you – the railway line?

Brian: It didn’t really affect us greatly except the laws of driving stock – you could not carry any goods parallel with the railway line by commercial enterprise or your own truck. So as a farmer, stock – cattle and sheep to go to the meat works – had to be loaded on the railway trucks, carted to Hastings and unloaded at the meat works. You weren’t allowed to put them on the local carrier.

Jess: So you were forced to use the railway for carting stock?

Brian: Yeah, it was just a law of the land. So if you sold – and I’m referring more to stock – if you sold cattle to someone else, or bought them from somewhere else like Southern Hawke’s Bay, Gisborne – the East Coast line ran right through. You either had to walk them or put them on railway wagons, and that was the law of the land. Hence the railway station[s] with stockyards all the way on the East Coast line; there were stockyards at Bay View, there were stockyards at Westshore, there were stockyards at Eskdale, there were stockyards at Waipunga, there were stockyards at Tutira – all along the East Coast line so you unloaded or loaded at the nearest point. And the only other way was walking them; you were allowed to drove them. Mmm. And that’s why the big mobs of cattle came past your place and my place. They walked them, which they were allowed to do, and a lot of them went to Hunterville. They’d buy them from Gisborne north; make up the mobs, and they were up to probably six mobs a year; and they’d winter them on the side of the road and get them to Hunterville for the spring. And that was the sole purpose of buying the stock and fattening them up round Mangaweka and Hunterville. The landowners there would buy these mobs, of cattle particularly, not sheep so much, and walk them, and pay the drovers’ wages to spend three months on the road with them … or two and a half months. And if you want to get into stories about drovers, [chuckles] I can tell you quite a few. [Chuckles]

Very strong supporters of the Eskview Cricket Club was [were] Mr & Mrs Karl Ruddenklau and the Ruddenklau boys; and latter, towards the end of them were the Cranswick family, and so they made up part of the cricket team. And one of the reasons for this is they were one [some] of the few people in Eskdale, or associated with Eskdale, that went away to secondary school and were taught to play cricket properly. So we had a nucleus, same as the Kaiwaka families – nearly all the children would’ve gone to a secondary school somewhere, and they were taught rugby and cricket just because of the school curriculum. I was a bus boy; so when I started playing cricket – I ended up being a form captain – and then of course half way through the game after school I’d have to catch the bus, and so I got the sack fairly quickly. [Chuckles]

But it would have really strengthened the teams too, when folk went away to secondary school and then came back with these new skills?

Oh, well they formed the nucleus of enthusiasm and professionalism for our local cricket club. My father played for them in 1926; and he played rugby for Hawke’s Bay until he got the farm going and had to say to Mr Norman McKenzie who was the selector, that he was not available to play for Hawke’s Bay. And that was the big era of Hawke’s Bay in 1921, ‘22, ‘23 when they held the Shield. [Ranfurly Shield] And Suzanne’s father captained the Hawke’s Bay team and my father was in the scrum. They played together and they never met again until we met. So Suzanne’s family background in Eskdale goes back a lot further than mine.

Can you explain that?

Well Suzanne’s grandmother married Mr Frank Lopdell and they had two daughters, and one of them was Suzanne’s mother. And they lived then where the winery is at Van der Lindens. [Linden Estate] And on the wall there they had a [picture of] big two-storeyed house by the Taupō Road; the ‘quake demolished the top of the house but the main house is still there, and that’s just before you get to the winery restaurant. Now that was all Lopdell land – well actually, Suzanne’s grandmother Neill, land – from there to Thomas Clark on the Seafield Road, so I would say it was about a thousand acres then. And then Suzanne’s grandfather and grandmother made some of the land available for the other branch of the Lopdell family, and so that’s how you got [cough] the Lopdells on the Seafield Road. Lopdells are on the Taupō Road, and they also went over to Seafield Road and right down Onehunga Road if you like, ‘til the subdivision there. So Mr Frank Lopdell moved from Eskdale to Seafield Road approximately 1940, and they sold the block there.

The winery was sold to Mr Jock McKay, and he came from Āpiti which is out of Feilding, and Jock McKay was part of the Park Committee and everything else. He raised five children in Eskdale and they all went to Eskdale School, and high school, and the boys all ended up friends of mine.

Next door here – Jock McKay’s great-granddaughter is married – their grandmother’s just next door.

It’s a very small world.

And she’s Mrs Good. So Jeanette Good who’s the mother, was Jeanette McKay and was brought up in Eskdale.

Yes, a very good friend of my old neighbours in North Shore Road, Heather Harrop.

Heather Harrop was brought up at Bay View, wasn’t she? Lou Harrop had the nursery at Bay View.

George: Yep.

Jess: Now yesterday you mentioned the bonfires at Eskdale.

Brian: Fires.

Jess: Fires … do you want to explain that one again?

George: No, that was cleaning the park up.

Brian: Well basically, Hawke’s Bay County along with the Park Committee – and it was very much a [an] integrated system – we made the top end of the Eskdale Park; the Park Committee as it is now. And in doing that that whole strip that’s clear was full of old willow trees, and they’re self-sown – there’s nothing sown or grown, it’s just what rivers did. So they cleared it, and then along came the idea of the cricket wicket and the Eskdale Cricket Club poured the wicket. It’s just a concrete pad, and then you put a flax mat on it and played cricket. Now the flood waters which periodically went through there, the overflow, just went across the top of the wicket and it just stayed there. And you brushed the silt or shovelled the silt off it, and played cricket again. So it got very popular for public picnics as we called it, and the Park Committee then had to have a booking system; and in that case they’d want big end where the wicket was because some of the picnics wouldn’t want to play cricket. And then demand got quite hot and so the Park Committee poured another wicket, so that two picnics could play cricket on it. The second wicket, they had to supply their own mats; first wicket was supplied by the Eskdale Cricket Club, which weren’t cheap. But it was a very good use of a flood plain because the water could go over it; you might have to clean a little bit out and then you had your park again. It never changed and it grew couch, or Indian doab, which was a very, very good surface for things like parks because it doesn’t grow very high but it also doesn’t get washed away. And so couch, if you like to call it that, is a very good surface for an all purpose sports field.

When did you clean the park, and how did bonfires come into that?

Well I’d have to say that my guess – and it’s a guess, it’d be about ’47 onwards – it was a progressive thing. The reason I say that is because I was still at the Eskdale Primary School, so it could’ve been 1945 onwards that systems started to develop the park. And then there used to be what they call the Petane-Eskdale Sports Body, and the sports, which was horses, chopping … what else was it? Oh, tossing the sheath; but the big part were [was] the horses. [It] used to be held on private property. And ‘bout the time the Domain at Bay View came available the sports body went under financially – it was Bay View-Eskdale Sports Body. So the Young Farmers of the time [of] which I was one – Jim Tait, David Mitchell, Cranswicks, Ruddenklaus – got keen on the cricket, and we also ran a gymkhana once a year in the Eskdale Park and it was always called the Top End. So to say that horses weren’t allowed was a lot of nonsense, because we used to have up to thirty horses, maybe more, and it was run as a professional system. And there’s a photo around I can’t lay my hands on at the moment – Jim Tait’s trying to find his – of our fathers all watching the horses and smoking their pipes and cigarettes on the bank of the Esk River. It’s a very good photo so it’ll turn up. But at that point of time the Park shut the gates and charged an entrance fee to get in; so it might’ve cost you £5, or £4, to get into the park with your car and your family and participate in the gymkhana if you wanted to, if not, an observer. And it was very successful; truly amateur in the sense that the horses had to be [from] within a certain area so we didn’t get – which sent the old sports body bankrupt – we didn’t get what we used to call the ‘pot hunters’; in other words the professional horse people coming, paying their entrance fee and then cleaning out all the prize money and getting none of it back.

Now one of the big supporters for this was Charlie Cawston from Taradale, the local blacksmith. And Charlie would have a string of horses, quite good ones, and he’d form the background of the gymkhana horse part of it. But Charlie always gave a donation back to the Park, and so he was not in the same category in our view as some of the others. And they cut out the chopping from the old sports body because it was quite a big job cutting the blocks for professional chopping. It was very successful in the sense that we had choppers from all round the world – or New Zealand anyway – coming and competing. And it was fascinating, but the blocks were cut in the main out of France House [land] and Eskdale Park; hence, when you fell the poplar trees you made the blocks.

The rubbish helped form the Guy Fawkes, and so the whole cleaning up process was used to have a local Guy Fawkes night, and that went for quite a large number of years. So every year there was a heap of rubbish probably half the size of this house that was stacked and drying ready for Guy Fawkes. And that was the other time that I think they could charge at the gate. And we all took crackers along and a cup of tea, and let her rip. [Chuckles] And we had rockets and goodness knows [what]. [Cough] One of the interesting incidents of that was the fact that the Eskdale Park had couch ‘bout that high; and the crackers set the couch alight [door closing] so it burnt down the telephone lines. And young people would have paper bags or boxes of crackers sitting on the ground, and the whole bally lot got caught by the fire, so I had all sorts of crackers going all over – it beat Napier any time, I can assure you. I let a rocket go – they were very expensive; I had one. I let it go, the beer bottle tipped over as I lit it, and George Hill, who lived at Eskdale opposite the Eskdale Store, and his family which was quite large were coming in the front gate and my rocket hit his windshield fair and square. And he came to a sudden halt, there was sparks and goodness knows what; so that was my one episode with one rocket. [Chuckles] I ran into one of the sons at Ray Blair’s funeral; they were quite a large family, and George Hill worked for Suzanne’s grandfather and then drove a truck for Kirkham Transport.

Swains, which is next to the store … oh, that’s a big lifestyle farm … and Mrs Swain milked the cows; I’m not sure how many, fifteen or something, and they ran pigs to use up the skim milk. And when you went to their place, or the back of it where the piggery was, the whole place was alive with fleas, and if you walked through there you had fleas from here [chuckles] … like plagues. And so when I walked through there I wore the wader gumboots that we used to oar across the river in, thigh waders; I’d wear those – spray them with petrol or anything I could find [chuckles] and the gumboots would get black with dead fleas.

But the Waipunga official entrance was on the right of the Eskdale School when you looked at it, right through the camping ground to our house. Yule Road was not an official access at all. Yule Road came about because it was the shortest point between the Taupō Road and our house. In fact probably hanging up is [are] still the keys to the double white gates to get across the railway line, so that was the official entrance to Waipunga Station. That’s where all the wool went out, the wagons with wool from Waipunga Station, and where all the goods came in. And then of course, 1924 they built the railway line to Eskdale, and then it stopped until ’31 I think; so the railway line ran to Eskdale from about 1926, but it never got north until the mid-thirties.

Jess: When we were talking previously you mentioned something about the fleas and the flood?

Brian: Well the fleas and the silt were a great combination. Fleas like it warm, and the silt’s warm so they hatched like nobody’s business. And all the station buildings had fleas because of dogs; so you know, shepherds that [who] worked at Waipunga, and I can’t name any of them really, now … but that [who] worked at big stations would have two teams of dogs. So they could have twelve dogs each, no trouble; and dogs have fleas. So there was [were] no modern chemicals to solve the problem, and the nearest chemical you could use was the sheep dip for dipping sheep for ticks and lice.

George: And that was too strong.

Brian: And it was an arsenical dip which was highly poisonous. But you used to hold the dog’s head and swim them in the dip to get rid of the fleas, [speaking together] and hold their head up so they couldn’t lap the water. It was terrible stuff.

Jess: So fleas were quite a big issue when you were farming?

Brian: Oh yeah.

Jess: And would the park have been affected by fleas?

Brian: No, I don’t really think so because, I mean it was bare land. Sure, I guess the picnicker went home with [speaking together] a flea, but anything that resembled a building or dogs or shelter, fleas [had the] run of them. And the only remedy I can remember was spraying with sheep dip which was an arsenical powder, and it was shocking stuff to use. Later on modern dips came and it certainly helped solve the flea problem, but before that it was really because we had the old station buildings and wool shed. Dad and I and my cousin who worked for us for a while, we would get undressed in the bathroom and stand in a bath of cold water and kerosene, and shake our clothes plus ourselves; and the top of the bath would be quite black with fleas. And the bit of kerosene in the water was to try and stop them getting all through the house, which we were pretty unsuccessful at. But I can still remember the bath – white bath being coated with …


There was three – oh, well I think my mother was involved too – three or four of us getting ready for bed and having a bath, and we’d have to shake the fleas off in the bath. Ooh!

[Chuckles] My goodness!

Plus we got the townie relations coming out [chuckles] and they’ve got to be jumping all round the bloody place; we sort of got used to them, you know. And of course a flea shows up on a white sheet, and then you’d squash the flea or they’d bite you, and the sheet would be bloodied from the fleas – whether it was your blood or their blood didn’t matter, you know. You’d grab the bedclothes in the morning, especially on wash day, and rush outside with them and shake them on the concrete, and you know, they’d be jumping along the concrete. So that and rats, which plagued the farm buildings. And of course I was at primary school when the rabbit era came, but the rabbiters didn’t have a hope in hang of controlling the rabbits. George’s uncle went to vet school in Australia through poisoning rabbits on Rocky Basin [Farm]. To be a vet you had to go to Australia then. Max, who was a …

George: He flew to Australia in a sea plane.

Brian: Yeah. And he did it all through selling rabbit skins, [speaking together] to try and keep the rabbits down off Rocky Basin. Next door was a [?], and then us.

George: And Taits …

Brian: It was just a …

Full time job?

Oh, it was the farm or you. The rabbits sort of ruled the farm. And it was not a joke, it was a plague.

George: They’ve got a log book … how many they got a day; and they skinned them all as well.

Brian: We were allowed to skin them and sell the skins to give us an income, because our sheep numbers dropped by two-thirds at least.

Because of the rabbits?

George: And it was very dry back then, where the rabbits increased as well.

Brian: And they’ll rear their head[s] again in the South Island, you know, governments and people forget about the rabbits. I’ll never forget about a rabbit; it ruled my life. I used to bike home from Eskdale School – I rode a horse for a while – and I’d arrive back at home at half past three, quarter to four. I’d have something to eat and a drink of something, and Mum would say to me, “Oh, Dad’s out putting [a] poison line down for rabbits”; which I knew he would be anyway, and Mum said, “there’s a hundred and fifty rabbits in the wool shed for you to skin.” So at the age of eleven or twelve … got to get this right … yeah, prior to high school, yes, I could skin a hundred and twenty rabbits an hour. So the system of surviving was, poison the rabbits; you dried the skins and sold them. It gave an income to the farm which we certainly didn’t want, and it changed your farming life completely. And it was sheer bloody hard work for everybody. There was no let-up on it; it went day in, day out, and it just carried on. Then, if you had enough money you could get people from town – well, you could come and shoot rabbits for the skin money. So we had those sort[s] of people, and some of them were professional. I know there’s one still around I remember, and they’d actually poison the rabbits for the skins. And you used to let them live in the shearers’ quarters, and that gave just a little bit of relief to the landowner. So, well one story is, the river rules your life; the other story is the rabbits ruled your life, and in my experience both were very, very true.

Jess: So how did you end up getting on top of the rabbits?

Well in the end the Rabbit Board was formed, and it was taken over by the government. And every ten thousand acres the government provided a house and a rabbiter full time. Mr Eagle, who you referred to, was a lot earlier than that, and he may or may not but I think he would’ve been, paid for by the government when it was a job.

George: Brian, you got paid by the tail, too – how did that come about?

Brian: Oh, well what really happened, in the marketing of rabbit skins they all went to Dunedin; and you had to pack them in sugar sacks and then take them down to poor Miss Murray at the Eskdale store, and she’d post – [speaking together] there was a limit to the weight – a hundred and fifty rabbits skins in a sugar sack to Dunedin to be used for coats, and commercially. Now a female rabbit that had a young had an udder, and that skin was absolutely valueless. But by killing the mother you starved the youngsters, so the government would give us [the] equivalent of 10 cents for that skin. So to identify the skin, when you dried it you left the tail on it and that was what we called a ‘milky doe’. A milky doe was a mother of …

So you still had to do the skin, but it was worthless for you?

George: You got paid by the tail.

Brian: Yeah. So if for instance you sent away a hundred skins in poor Miss Murray’s sugar sack, or your sugar sack – [a] sugar sack was a common carrying thing – a good skin was worth 2/6d, [two shillings and sixpence] which is what? 35 cents [25 cents]. A poor skin was worth nothing; a milky doe was a poor skin so the government gave you one-fifth [two-fifths] or a shilling, [10 cents] a third of it because you’d killed all the little youngsters that were down the burrow as well. And so the skins were actually dumped, but to identify the skin you left the tail on it; so when you were skinning them – they were sods to skin, milky does – you had to make sure you left the tail on, otherwise …

You wouldn’t get anything?

Yeah. Now you’ve got to remember that …

George: When you skin one you did the hind legs and you just tore it off so the tail quite often stayed there, so you had to cut the tail …

Brian: So when the skins went away commercially you didn’t want the tail, but you had to have the tail to get your shilling for the milky doe. And they were terrible things because tails didn’t dry and they were filled with maggots.

Oh, my goodness! [Chuckle]

And the stink at Eskdale store in my memory was of rabbit skins, and there’d be one milky doe with maggots in it in the bag, you see.

So Miss Murray at the store, she would’ve been doing that for all round the district … she would have been sending off the skins?

Well, you went to the nearest Post Office. [Chuckles] One way of getting the skins to Dunedin was to post them, and I think it was 28lbs [twenty-eight pound] was the limit of weight. Now a good heavy skin was half a pound – a really good one – and a really good one was a buck skin, and that’s when you got about three shillings [30 cents] for it.

And when you went straight out after school and skinned you could be out there for hours … ‘til dark at least?

Yeah, well we had no power in the wool shed so you couldn’t see. But you’ve got to remember, the rabbits with strychnine poisoned, so when you finished skinning and you had to dig a deep hole by shovel so nothing could eat them. Because strychnine … the dogs’d eat the strychnine and it would kill the dog.

So you had to dig them deep, bury them?

Yeah, we had no tractors or anything. I mean I can remember heaps of four or five hundred rabbits in the wool shed; now you had to gather them up from where the poison was laid, cart them somewhere and either dump them or skin them, so you skinned them for the money. So you’d make a poison line, and some people – and I think your family had one – they had a thing called a rabbit plough, and you pulled it with a tractor or a draught horse. And it was just a grubber, and you held onto that like grim death and made scratches for say a mile or half a mile; that disturbed the ground.

George: ‘Cause the rabbits wanted to come to fresh dirt.

Brian: They’d come for the fresh dirt because that’s how they defecate. So you’d then mix apple jam in four gallon tins from the orchardists with a bit of raspberry, maybe, essence from the grocer, and a sachet or cup of strychnine and you’d mix it all together. So the procedure was you’d scratch the ground – now that in itself was a big job. The other way was to make a spit [split] with a spade, and it’s what we would call a poison line; and then you fed it – this is when all the work comes in. You fed it twice with unpoisoned jam, and you had a thing like a plunger on it.

George: And it poured it out …

Brian: And it’d put a squirt on a bit of that bare ground that you created. And you’d do that twice; and you’d look at the line and you’d see the bait had been eaten and the rabbits were scratching. Then the third time you put the poison in and … well there’s so many stories, but it was no effort to pick up five hundred dead rabbits, or three hundred … depends how long the line was. Now that took nearly all day out of your life, just doing that.

George: You actually put the turf back on the poison, too, because the dogs when you go mustering would die.

So as well as all your other farm work, you had to try and ..?

Brian: Well the other farm work just about went.

George: Yeah. No grass for the stock.

Because they’d taken over?

Brian: So seven rabbits were equivalent to one sheep, so if you had forty thousand rabbits on your place – well, how many George? Well, we’d have ten thousand rabbits.

So the sheep would be starving, there’d be just nothing to eat?

And the South Island was a lot worse.

George: Mum said the hills used to just move with rabbits.

Brian: And then, oh, 1942 …

George: Apparently right up near the end of the fifties before they got rid of them, you know. And then there’s scale, you know.

Jess: When would the rabbits have been worst?

Brian: Well, it was probably about 1946, ’45, and the hardware … you’ve got to remember the war was on, and firearms were unobtainable. And I can still remember going to Hastings Street to Henry Williams, which was a hardware shop, and they’d rung up to say that they had a .22 rifle for us. It cost fourteen quid, [£14] – I can still remember that, which is $28, and it was a Remington. And Dad got the rifle and one box of .22s – fifty in a box. And the first real novelty for everybody – and I was dying to have a crack at this. [Chuckle] The first night or day he got it he sat on the verandah of our house, and in the front lawn was a tennis court. It wasn’t much of a court because it was full of rabbit diggings and everything. And he missed a few, but he ran out of fifty rounds of ammunition shooting black rabbits and piebald rabbits, and the odd ordinary rabbit. So there would have been twenty black rabbits; now, there’s one black rabbit to every thousand other rabbits, or something like that. And he wouldn’t let me have a shot.

And then he managed to get a carton of five hundred rounds of ammunition and we kept the rabbits down round the low country and the houses, and it was a bit of a let up from the poison. And then when I was allowed to and when I could, I’d come home from school – and I [had] a fox terrier and two or three old sheep dogs – and we’d go rabbit shooting and I’d shoot twenty or thirty rabbits no trouble; and the dogs would chase the wounded ones and get them. And we had a thing called cynagas which is very lethal gas and it looks like pellets of steel, little wee flat steel. Now cynagas was invented as part of the First World War; they gassed people in the war. We got allocated a tin of cynagas so when you went out with your dogs and your rifle – or no rifle, didn’t matter – the dogs would chase the rabbit into a hole. You put a teaspoon of cynagas in and blocked the hole off, and that was another lot of rabbits dead; hopefully there were several in the same hole. And you’d go back out of curiosity a day or two later and … stink! You know, by God! You’d take the turf away and you knew you had rabbits in, so cynagas was a useful tool in the latter part.

Jess: Who gave you that allocation?

Brian: Somehow you got it through the Rabbit Board, and I think I can remember going to Bay View where in the end the rabbiters all lived. But I think I can remember getting ammunition and a can of cynagas, which looked a bit like a treacle tin, from them; they brought them up, I took them home.

You’d get an allocation every so often?

Well, yeah – I’m not sure quite how that worked but it was government based in the end. Cynagas was deadly on fleas, so [chuckles] we spread it round the buildings, and rats wouldn’t come within cooee; it had a very strong smell …

So it helped a lot?

… and lethal, so we solved the flea problem and the rat problem to a degree, and the rabbit … well we didn’t solve it, but we helped with cynagas. Now even when I left Waipunga and went to Porangahau farming I still had half a tin of cynagas, and I took it with me. Now cynagas was ideal to preserve your horse covers.

Keep all the lice out of them?

And you’d put them in a bag and a teaspoon of cynagas, and you wouldn’t get a rat or a lice within cooee of them. And if I didn’t do it, I heard of bachelors actually putting a couple of pellets in their bed; and of course you had the smell of it, and … But we treated it very casually. I got caught … oh, I had a bulge in my pocket at Eskdale School. Anyway, Claude Holyoake who was Keith’s brother, taught me and, “Brian”, he said, “what’s in there?” It was sticking out; and bugger me dead it was a marmite jar full of cynagas. Well! [Chuckles] He just about [chuckles] … here was I at eleven, or ten, walking round Eskdale School with a Marmite jar full of cynagas … [in] case I wanted it.

Cynagas was invented in the terrible deeds of the First World War, and it’s a hangover of that. But boy! You know, modern pest control people come round [but] if you just walk round the house with a wee bit of cynagas, which you can’t get now – you’d fix everything. [Chuckles] It was great stuff, ‘cept when it went through the washing machine. [Chuckles] So that was just another aid to [for] getting rid of rabbits and rats. Boy, it certainly gave them a shake up; and of course all the old buildings had rats, so the sheep dogs turned into rabbiting dogs; and we got some rabbiting dogs.

George: So even in my time they were still trying to get rid of rabbits.

Brian: Yeah.

George: So everyone had these stoats and weasels as pets, and they decided they could put them down the burrow to clean the rabbits out. The only thing is a rabbit burrow has two entrances so you had to find where the two were, and if you didn’t find the second one you never got your weasel or stoat back. And our farm’s still got stoats and weasels that come in through the rabbit holes.

And did they breed up quite a lot too?

Oh yeah, they come in now and again and kill all your chooks.

Jess: We got one only a couple of weeks ago.

George: They’re still on the farm. I went out with the rabbiter, he was a young fellow, and he was doing it and he come [came] home with no stoat or weasel ‘cause he lost it [chuckles] in the rabbit hole. Yeah, ‘cause the under-run is underground as well, which means even if the rabbit went in there he could be in an under-runner where the water flows underground.

Jess: So the other unintended consequence of that, Justine – with all the extra weasels and stoats lost in the area there were actually patches of native bush further north that were full of kiwi; and it knocked all the kiwi numbers out. Unintentional consequences of trying to …

Of trying to get rid of the rabbits?

Brian: That would be right, yes.

Jess: And we’re not talking very far up the valley; we’re talking not much further up the Esk Valley there was [were] big patches of native bush full of kiwi.

George: The last kiwi in our area was about Pākuratahi back in the sixties, and it was found dead, the last kiwi, yeah.

Jess: But the kiwis were [kiwi was] quite surveillant even then, but with the consequences of the rabbits and all of that and trying to manage it, the increase of the stoats and weasels that were brought in knocked those numbers back.

Brian: And cats.

Jess: And cats.

Domestic cats?

Jess: Because they were trying everything to get …

Brian: All the domestic cats went wild because they got the baby rabbits – we called them runners – about that big. And they wouldn’t be hungry so they wouldn’t come home again. We tried always to keep a pet cat, and finally one of the ones we got was from a minister in the middle of Hastings, Presbyterian Church, and we called the cat ‘Amen’. Amen was our pet cat ; well even Amen went wild on rabbits so even the man upstairs couldn’t keep the cat …

Jess: [Speaking together] So the rabbit situation had quite a big impact [on] everything that came with it.

Brian: And people would say, “Oh, cats won’t swim.” Well cats do swim. My story is, where Suzanne’s grandparents were brought up the Jock McKays live, and Mrs Jock would talk on the telephone and they’d meet at local functions as well. Anyway, our cat called Amen was black and white, and when you cleaned the fireplace … open fire … the cat would always come and sit on the hearth while mum cleaned the fireplace. And when mum cleaned the fireplace and rang Mrs McKay or vice versa, Mrs McKay said, “You know, a strange thing happened to me today”, and Mum said, “Oh, yes?” She said, “I was cleaning our fireplace and a black and white cat came and sat on my hearth.” Mum said, “That’s our cat!” Now to get there it had to swim the Esk River [chuckles] and it was a regular feature. The cat [chuckles] helped Mum clean the fireplace and then go across the main Taupō Road, the railway line to McKays, sit on her hearth and it was just part of a joke. Anyway, I thought, ‘Well I’ll try this out’; so I used to have to walk across the river every day to get the paper and the mail and the groceries at the corner of Yule Road and the Taupō road, and in the summer months I’d take the pets – dogs and pet sheep, lambs, and the cat – and I’d walk across the river, and the whole bally lot swam across the river with me. And the river’d be about that deep.

Jess: About a metre deep.

Brian: Yeah. And we’d get up to [the] Taupō Road and I’d have to make sure they didn’t get on the Taupō Road – or crossing the railway line was another thing because of trains – and then back we’d go. The cat would get in …

So you knew that it was definitely capable?

… it voluntarily swam the river.

George: Brian’s pet sheep had to guide the rest of the sheep across the river when they needed it, and he used to be late for school ‘cause they needed his sheep. [Chuckles] Sheep had to be taken across the river to get sold.

And your pet would guide all the others across?

George & Brian: Yep.

Brian: What happened is, the sheep used to be loaded at Kirkhams’ sheds, which was the local carrier. The old sheds are still there; we had to drive them to there, and they had, say, to be there by seven o’clock in the morning to go to the works. George is quite right. Now at six o’clock in the summer when the sheep were being sold – or lambs – the water reflected the sun. Now, the sheep looked at the water, and they could see the sky on the riverbed under the water, and you didn’t have a hope in hang of getting them to walk across the river because it looked like they were looking at the sky. So I’d be going to school and Dad’d be having a hang of a job getting these sheep across; and he said, “You’re going to be late for school – go and get the pets.” [Chuckles] So I’d go home and get the pets who [which] were dying to come to school with me anyway, [chuckles] and I’d lead them across the river and stand them in the water – they’d stand with me – and the other sheep would follow them. And that’s how we got them across the river. You could have the best dog team in the world and you still couldn’t get them over.

George: If you can get one sheep, the rest’ll follow.

Brian: Yeah. Once you got one or two across you were … We also had a log in the river, and I could tie one of the pets to the log and the sheep would get to there. Once they’d started you were right; but man! You could have some fun. And it’s all to do with sunlight … daylight.

Reflecting in the water?

Yeah, it reflects. Now our holidays we spent a lot of time at Taupō water skiing, and you get that same effect on Lake Taupō when it’s dead calm. Sixty metres down below you is the bed of the lake, and you could see it as clear as anything; you’d actually see the fish, and that was the same thing that the sheep saw trying to cross the river. If the river was slightly muddy or there was a ripple, you were right; that was when it was dead calm, so the nicer the day the worse time you’re going to have.

And I taught quite a lot of local children to water ski and boat; I’d take them out a mile out from the shore on Lake Taupō on a calm morning, give them a life jacket and tell them to jump overboard. And several wouldn’t because they could see the sky. I had ropes out on the boat so they could get in, and I said, “Well if you can’t jump overboard I can’t teach you to water ski.” And most of them did jump. But Rosemary used to close her eyes because she couldn’t bear thinking, you know, what was down there you see, and she could see it. She was a pretty good water skier, she could barefoot water ski … Rosemary, my daughter. It’s the same effect that George is talking about, the reflection on the water. Now the Esk River when it was low was just a gentle flow; you got that reflection and there was no show of getting the sheep across voluntarily, you know, it was a real job.

You would’ve been late for school a few times?

Oh, quite a bit. [Chuckle] And then when I went to high school and it rained, my form master who I got friendly with after school at high school, he would just put a cross by my name. “Yule won’t be here for the day, it’s raining.”


Suzanne Yule: I remember him saying, “He won’t be at school today.”

Brian: Yeah. That’s high school. I went by bus

Jess: ‘Cause you still had to cross the river to go to school, so …

Brian: Oh yeah.

Jess: … every time it rained would you have to miss school?

Brian: Yes, most times, or there were ways; we used the horses.

George: They had another way, [speaking together] they’d go to Uncle John Tait’s … had that way. That was before the Waipunga entrance came into it.

Brian: Yeah, Mr & Mrs Tait, our neighbours, they bounded the Wairoa Road so to speak, through the Petane Pa; they let us drive right through their place on the riverbed. And it was rough, you know, in the car, so if my parents who probably went to town every Wednesday because it was sale day – just about every Wednesday – if they couldn’t get home by car ‘cause we had the car across the river, they could …

Go around?

… around; and there were seven gates and it took about an hour, but we got home. And then about ’48 to ’50 we bought the hill called Maygold and we put a private road through from my parents’ house at the end of Yule Road through to Waipunga Road. And I can remember, just remember, that concrete bridge being built. We then put a private road through which cost us £900.

George: That was about the sixties, wasn’t it?

Brian: Yes, and we joined the farm up with Waipunga Road, so Yule Road was something you didn’t worry too much about, and you drove out

It would’ve been life changing?

Yeah, massive for my parents. And we got married and built the house on the Waipunga Road so that the children could go to the Eskdale School over the Waipunga Bridge instead of having to do what I did. We had two children and they both went through the Eskdale School, and then they went to boarding school, both of them.

[Break before continuing on different topic]

The wool shed was bigger than the Maraekakaho wool shed. You’ve seen a photo of it? I was going to show you … I’ve got a couple of photos in the garage.

Jess: Right – so just explain this one; this is the wool shed photo?

Brian: Yes. This was taken before my time, and it was painted white as you can see. In our time – I’ve got to be ‘ours’, Suzanne and I bought the farm – the wool shed was painted barn red; I never knew it as a white shed. Now in 1951 a tornado or strong wind came down the valley and put those three poplar trees through the wool shed, and that’s how we got the new wool shed which there was quite a bit of publicity about, because the Wool Board orchestrated the building of it and Robert Holt [& Sons] built it. And it was a wool shed built for everybody – it’s like a design of a cow shed – a cow shed can be built any size for anybody. So this wool shed, which got burnt down, was opened by the Minister of Agriculture in 1952; and about how many there? Four hundred people came. Duncan MacIntyre was Minister of Lands and Talboys was deputy leader, and they all came to the opening of the shed and Mum put on a hot lunch for them.

George: Brian, how big was the shed, the old one?

Brian: Now this one held a thousand sheep, what farmers call a ‘night pen’, and its built like a ‘T’, so there’s a T here and a T there and each T had nine blade shearers, so it had what we call eighteen stands. Now we had it as three stands with a Lister engine – we weren’t in the blade shearing era, but we still had the use of the big shed as a night pen, so part of it we stored hay in. We only had seven hundred acres then and so the shed was far too big. The loft up here could hold three hundred bales of wool, and the Ruddenklaus and the Browns and the early settlers would store the wool in the shed until the price in England was right, and then they’d ship it to England. So apart from the fact there were wool stores at Napier which the wagons used to take the wool to, big stations had their own storage. Now that bit there would hold three hundred bales of wool. [Showing photographs]

And they would store it?

So far as we were concerned it was just a bare space for us. I used to play up there.

Would’ve been a wonderful playground …

But the maintenance on the shed was colossal, and it never got done properly; we only did what we needed. And behind the shed here there’s a creek; and they talk about the ’38 flood – well this creek was a mini version of the ’38 flood, and it flowed right through the back of the wool shed when it flooded, and so we had grating rotting because of the silt. And then when Dad got married he converted the other end of that T, that one, and milked cows for a while using the wool shed. I think he milked about [cough] twenty cows; hand milked them, no machines, there was no power. We put the power in just prior to the new shed being built, so ’51. We put the power from the house so we could build a new wool shed, and it was just like a toy box compared to this one. Yeah. The new wool shed [would] be about that big.

So half?

Oh, quarter. Well it’s like George’s. Well, like the Ruddenklaus’ one.

Jess: Both were the same design.

Brian: Yeah. But because of ministerial activity over the wool shed it ended up that all round New Zealand they built wool sheds …

George: Same design …

Brian: … that were economic, and you could make them whatever size you could afford or wanted. But it was the Wool Board’s design, and a Mr Montgomery who lived at Westshore designed the whole shed and it was done on economics. He went to the Boys’ High School …

George: And built one there.

Brian: And the Boys’ High School wool shed was an old classroom and he got several of the Wool Board shearers to go over a period of time to the Boys’ High School, [and] shore [shear] some sheep. And he drew circles on the class[room] – it was a classroom remember, old classroom – floor to get a time and movement study, and he was only interested in the shearers who could shear more than three hundred sheep a day. He didn’t want the learners like me so he had this piece of chalk in the catching pens and he shifted them.

At the same time Godfrey Bowen became the best shearer in the world and he was an accountant from New Zealand; and they were called Bowen sheds or Bowens – no, Bowen style, wasn’t it? So the Māori shearing population weren’t too keen on Mr Bowen, because he was Pākehā and an accountant, but he broke the world record; beat them all, you see. So out of it all, the Bowen style of shearing became used. The Bowen style of shearing was just slightly different, and I think from memory, that he could shear a sheep with forty-eight blows of the handpiece; the Bowen style – so four to take the belly off, one brisket, and then the long blow. And the Wool Board then put people through shearing schools, so just produced people – quite a lot of Māori – who could shear three hundred sheep a day, Bowen style. And New Zealand sold the Bowen style shearing all round the world. It was like an export commodity; we even had Russians in our wool shed.

Suzanne: It was amazing, really.

Brian: What was the local fellow …

George: Leo?

Brian: … from Bridge Pa? Oh, Leo Sutton was one, and there was a Māori from Bridge Pa … George … and they’d come up and I had to try and find sheep for them to shear because it’d be a short notice job. And there’d be the Embassy from Russia or someone from South Africa, and we’d have to put them through this new shed – your sheep – and they’d shear some sheep. And that commodity system was then exported with the wool shed style to all round the world. And it’s what was known as the centre-board shed, so it’s sort of like a modern dolls’ house. And the days of great big night pens and high-cost buildings, which in those days was probably affordable to the big run holders, made the wool shed available just like a cowshed is available to dairy farmers.

And our wool shed got burnt down after we left, by some druggies, I’m told. But my parents were alive and it was a real thrill having a small shed to keep clean, and it was two-storeyed, so there were sheep up top and sheep underneath, and my mother used to go up with a broom and clean it out; bring the smoko up all the time. And our shearing gang were from Bridge Pa – a person by the name of Maaka – and other than the demonstration by Leo, he was the first shearer to shear in the new shed. He put up with the old one for God knows how long. So it got away from the storage; in other words, you didn’t build to store bales of wool, you built to shear the sheep, and either transported the wool to another shed or got the carrier and his truck and straight into the wool stores. So it was a completely different era. In those days wool was worth thruppence [3d] – 3 cents – a pound, and so you couldn’t afford to sell it so they’d store it in the top of their shed until it was worth sixpence [6d or 5 cents] a pound, and then they’d get a telegram from England. Where was the big wool centre in England, George? George: I wouldn’t know.

Brian: Birmingham, is it? Word would come through that wool had brought so much; so all of a sudden the wagons’d be loaded like that – or later years, trucks. And traction engines would load Matapiro wool with a hundred and fifty bales and toddle them off to the wool store, and then to England. And the mode of pulling them – after the horses – was traction engines.

And that would get there in time, and the price would … ‘cause it would take a couple of months to ..?

Well, it would be forward sold, I guess. And it was what you call ‘selling on owner’s account’, and you could do the same thing with lambs, sheep; lambs in particular, you could sell your fat lambs such as they were, on owner’s account. So they paid you two-thirds of the money and then when the sheep arrived or the wool arrived and they’d tested it, they would pay you the rest. So that’s how quite a lot of people managed to get cars, ‘cause cars were an extremely rare commodity; a new car was like gold, and one way of doing it is you had to have overseas funds. [It] was one way of getting a car, so a lot of the bigger places would hold part of their wool clip back and get overseas funds and bring out a … well we had a Humber Hawk, not because we wanted a Humber Hawk; it was the only damn car we could get … new one. Couldn’t get a Holden because we weren’t clients of the Hawke’s Bay Farmers [Co-operative Association]. Hawke’s Bay Farmers, as well as stock and station agents, were agents for the Holden car, which was a damned good car for a farmer, and we couldn’t get one. The only way you could get one is [was] to sell them their [your] wool and become their clients; and then there was what you’d call blackmail … ‘I’ll give you my wool, you give me a car’; and that was literally what happened.

Anyway, my grandparents were very loyal to Murray Roberts. Murray Roberts didn’t sell cars, so no way would they change to Hawke’s Bay Farmers, or Williams & Kettle who didn’t sell cars either but they were very good East Coast stock and station agents. And probably seventy percent of the farmers up the Coast were with W&K … Williams & Kettle. But my grandparents came from Featherston in the Wairarapa, and they were loyal to Murray Roberts our whole farming life. Right through ‘til we finished farming [and] Murray Roberts became Wrightson’s, they were our bank; they were our everything. But it cost us dearly, and when you look back on it, it was the wrong move but that’s just life.

Jess: The loyalties are quite strong in that farming background. You didn’t change frequently without justifiable reason.

Brian: Yeah; well there’s all sorts of stories about farmers double-dipping. George would promise Williams & Kettle his wool because he was a farmer, and then along would come Murray Roberts, Hawke’s Bay Farmers, and they’d say, “Oh well, we’ll guarantee you so much if we can have your wool clip.” And that was called double-dipping. Now the farmers’ finance [in the] hill country was basically on the wool clip … the cheque from the wool; so it was like playing silly buggers with the bank, because they were a bank as well. Now my parents were extremely loyal to Murray Roberts. We were a Hastings family after the Wairarapa – both sides. Murray Roberts kept the farm going in the slump; they lent my parents second mortgage finance so that they didn’t have to walk off their farm, ‘cause that was the alternative, and a lot of people had to. And no way could you shake my parents from Murray Roberts. You might go and buy something from the other stock firm, and you’d book it up to Murray Roberts. It was an inbred loyalty.

George: It was very strong, because we belonged to Kettle, and we had the Williams & Kettle cheque book. I remember being in the car with Dad and a stock agent, and the stock agent said, “Oh, wait a minute”, and just leave him in the yard, you know. He got out and said to the farmer, “Your credit’s finished here”, because he knew he’d double-dipped somewhere along the line. So they just dumped you straight away.

And that would be it?

George: Yep, that was it.

Brian: You’d be very lucky to get a second chance, too. You’d have to go to the bank, glove in hand. So we as a family of farmers didn’t do much with the bank. The bank may be on the edge for personal living, but otherwise, like George, Suzanne did the books for the farm, and she had a Wrightson cheque book. Now for a stock firm to give you their cheque book …

There was a huge amount of trust.

George: My grandfather[‘s] name was George Thompson [Kyle], my father’s George Thompson and I’m George Thompson, so we always had the cheque book and signed it; and I asked Kettle whether Jane, my wife, could sign a cheque … when I’m not home she can sign a cheque. And they said, “Oh you’ve got to fill out the log book in [at] Kettles.” So they opened the book up in Kettles and my grandfather was the last one to sign it because it was always the same signature; [chuckles] and they’d never looked in the book. [Chuckles] So there’d been false signatures …

Jess: But the loyalty of [for the] company – they just keep it through the family, and it’s that strong; and that’s where what Brian’s explaining is the loyalty to their agent, even when they amalgamated with Wrightson’s, you moved your alliance with the company …

Brian: I didn’t like Wrightson’s that much, and when they managed to sack the stock agents who we liked and I went to Porangahau, I changed to the bank and that was the only reason.

Jess: It’s just when some of those loyalties started to dissipate …

Brian: Yeah, they did.

Jess: … and when Wrightson’s started amalgamating and everyone started [banding] together that changed that.

Brian: I never really thought much of Wrightson’s.

George: Wrightson’in 1955 didn’t even exist in Hawke’s Bay, they were a South Island company; so there was [were] five companies in Hawke’s Bay here, but Wrightson’s wasn’t in it in ’55, and now it’s only Wrightson’s and that’s it. They bought them all out.

Brian: So [the thing] for farmers, hill country farmers like George and myself, was to have a stock agent or agents who you got on well with who understood your farm; and you were loyal to the stock agent so as long as the stock agent was W&K or Murray Roberts and you liked them, you dealt with them. And anything you sold or even bought … well I did … I would do it with the stock agent. He was our friend, our everything. And …

You built a good rapport?

… George is slightly astray. You weren’t allowed a cheque book but it was called an order book. Now there is a distinct financial difference – a cheque book is realised by the bank; an order book is realised by the stock firms. And George is quite right about whose signature’s on the bottom, so my name is Yule and I’m B Yule, and Suzanne did all the books, paying the accounts with an order book which is the same as a cheque book. And she paid the accounts and everything and she would sign my name. We didn’t ask Murray Roberts, [chuckle] – we just did it. Anyway …

George: That’s a dishonest neighbour … [Laughter]

Brian: About ten or twelve years later [chuckles] I wanted to send the children to boarding school, and it cost roughly then, $2,000 for a year at boarding school. So I went to Murray Roberts and said, “I want to send my children to boarding schools and we have to arrange payments and things. And I said, “Can we just carry on using the order book?” – which was a cheque book. And they said, “Yes, and tell Mrs Yule she makes a great job of signing your name.” [Chuckles] And I said, “I didn’t know you knew that.” [Chuckles] They said, “We’ve known ever since you got married.” [Laughter] So there you are.

Jess: It’s the relationship that makes

Brian: My mother did the accounts for Dad and she had the same system, and we never used the bank except for personal living.

Otherwise it was all through the stock firm?

I don’t know how much, George, if you owed the bank £5,000 … in our case we probably owed them a £1,000 just for personal carry on like family benefit things. But I wouldn’t divulge how much we owed Murray Roberts; it was all just part and parcel of the wool cheque, and there was phones and … So we operated hand in hand with the stock firm. And George was with Williams & Kettle and they were a very, very good stock firm; but you can’t split a small business. So because my grandmother who was a pretty staunch sort of lady like George’s grandmother – same build, same everything – my grandmother [was] very determined; when the slump came, the family story is she got on the express in Hastings, put her best hat on – Murray Roberts’ then headquarters were [in] Wellington – she went by train to Wellington, had an appointment with the manager of Murray Roberts, and she evidently walked into the manager – it was by appointment – and said, “You’re not going to take our farm are you, Mr Murray Roberts?” And Mr Murray Roberts said, “Mrs Yule, we wouldn’t dare.” [Laughter] And that was the end of it.

So when Wrightson’s came along and played silly buggers with us, I went to Wellington from Porangahau, had an appointment with the boss at Wrightson’s, and he wouldn’t even give me a cup of tea. So I said, “Well I’m not giving you my business.” And I walked out and I financed through the bank, and that was it. We still had a loyalty to Wrightson’s for certain things, but the attitude was …

Things had changed?

So much.

George: So my father got on with the manager of Williams & Kettle quite well, and I was only a young fellow and my father died quite young.

Brian: Was it Bob Rolls?

George: No, Philip Giblin.

Brian: Oh yes, yes.

George: And they had a big Kettle do at Marine Parade in the big room, and I sneaked along ‘cause I thought I better go along, and I’m sitting in the background. And it come [came] to sitting down at the table, and Mr Giblin stood up and said, “George Kyle – where are you? Here somewhere … you’re sitting alongside me.” And it was only because of their loyalties … he wanted to know who I was.

Brian: Yeah. That’d be exactly right.

And you sat down beside him? [Chuckles]

George: Yeah, well it was my father – he knew him all his life, and that’s what it was coming down to.

Brian: Yeah, we had the same. We didn’t have a dinner but we had the same sort of thing with Murray Roberts; and then the thing completely changed with Wrightson’s, and so you’d pick and chose. [Choose]

It’s a very different world today, isn’t it?

Oh yeah. Yeah. I can talk to oh, several farmers – there’s not too many left, but one or two – and they were all Murray Roberts or associated with Murray Roberts, and had the habit. My daughter went to Iona [College], and you’d buy something, a uniform or something, and you’d say, “Oh, Brian Yule – book it up to Murray Roberts.” And we carried that on. And it became Wrightson’s, you see, and Wrightson’s took a dimmer view of it sometimes.

But I could still go round and say, “I’d like to buy this” – I bought the boat; I said, “Book it up to Murray Roberts.” Well I didn’t quite, but procedure was the same; Murray Roberts paid for the boat out of our account, and we’d go to Murray Roberts in Hastings and they had groceries; we’d buy our groceries. I’d go to the sale and I’d take Hamish with me; Suzanne would take Rosemary with her and go up town in Hastings, and Murray Roberts always had a cool drink in the fridge for the kids, and us. Bill Hill ran the tobacco and sweets side of things, and he always had a pocket full of lollies for my kids. And we’d go in there and get the groceries … put the order in and then go up to the sale. And you’d [he’d] dive in with my kids, come out with a handful of lollies; and he said, “I’ll make sure the fridge has got an orange drink at the back when you come back.” Yeah. So that was the sort of – Williams & Kettle would’ve done the same – it was the sort of …

George: Yeah, they were quite a strong firm.

Brian: But Murray Roberts also knew that we wouldn’t sell our wool to anyone else.

Oh, they knew that loyalty was …

Yeah, yeah.

George: And if you did, as I said, they’d …

Brian: It was called double-dipping. Once you’d double-dipped you had to go to the bank.

Jess: Yeah, it was very hard for even Dad to adjust; we had to move with the new times of walking away from people who were not doing things in our best interests.

Brian: Yeah.

Jess: So in the more recent thirty years we’ve had to do a lot more changes, because all of that loyalty’s disappeared; but you still have a loyalty but it’s not like it used to be. It’s quite different.

Brian: Yeah.

And it would have been a very big shift in your mindset to have to change?

Well I think in the long run, if you look back I think possibly you’d have been better off with the bank, but we liked what we did.

George: So my uncle balloted a farm, and he went to Murray Roberts; and his friend come back and got a farm and he went to Kettles to get some money to back the farm up. And Kettles wouldn’t back him, see, so my uncle didn’t like that. And Kettles kept coming to my uncle saying, “Come with us.” He said, “No, you didn’t back my mate – no way I’m going to you.” He never touched Kettles because he didn’t back him; even the farmer was the same way.

Brian: So who was that, George, which one?

George: Jack.

Brian: Oh yeah – so where did Jack end up?

George: He stayed with Murray Roberts all the way through. But Sam Brooks is the one that didn’t get backed by Kettles. [Background whispers] He was a friend of his.

Brian: Yeah, I know.

George: Sam was a nice guy.

Brian: Oh, hell yeah. I always remember that he had a green Land Rover – everyone that could afford one had a green Land Rover – and they used it to go to town in, and they used it on the farm. And one day he was talking to someone … fellow farmer or … I think it was the one that’s just up the Glengarry Road – Martin, is it?

George: Oh yeah, Gerald?

Brian: Yeah, the father. And he said, “How are you getting on with your Land Rover, Sam?” “Oh, great!” So he said, “You’ll want to watch the oil level, you know, with the dipstick”, and Sam said, “Oh, where’s that?” [Laughter]

I’ve got a friend I was at school with – Boys’ High; his name’s Brian Leadbetter. They had Leadbetter Transport on the Napier-Taupō Road, the family, and he became the head mechanic at Tourist [Kelt Motors], so in no small way he was the one that influenced us to be able to get a car eventually. But Brian Leadbetter – I bought an old army truck and he kept it going for me. On the weekends he’d come out and check it over. Bloody thing was all rattle-bang and no hood, and you know. But one day I went in; my parents had just got this Humber Hawk, and they couldn’t afford it. And the garage who Brian Leadbetter was foreman for said, “Oh, don’t worry, Rob” – that was my father – “just pay for it when you can.” Well that doesn’t really help a person that’s [who’s] been through the slump – I mean it’s great, but it doesn’t get the car. So in the end it was a ’52 car, brand new, and it cost twelve hundred quid. [£1200] A Holden was worth £900, but we couldn’t get one, second hand or new. So Morrie Blake of Tourist [Kelt], who we dealt with, said, “I’ve got a new Humber Hawk coming for the Hawke’s Bay Show” – which is some car. They’re nearly chauffeur-driven – not quite, but nearly. And he said, “Rob”, that was my father; he said, “you can have that on the last day of the Show – it’s yours.” And we drove it home from the Show. Anyway, the long and short of it, Dad said to Morrie – they all played rugby in Hawke’s Bay in the twenties together – “I can’t afford this.” “Don’t worry, Rob, just pay for it when you can.” Now have you ever heard of a car dealer saying that? And that was ’52. So to afford the car – I’d left school; I had a third of the car with the savings in my bank account. It was in pounds; I took it out and paid the car off with my third, so I had no bank account, no savings, and I was eighteen and a half, so I had third ownership of the car; and as long as they didn’t want it, I could have it. And they weren’t great social people, so I’d go to rugby matches in the Humber Hawk car, which was some car, I can tell you. And John Tait – [as] soon as Dad bought the Humber Hawk, he went and got a Super Snipe, a bigger and better car …

George: They’re the same design.

Brian: Only because Dad got a Humber Hawk, you see – a bit of rivalry.

[Break – interviewer has another appointment]

Thank you for coming.

Thank you very much, Brian, it’s been most interesting; thank you very much for your time on 10th August 2022.

George: [Did you] ever learn any history about the boats going up the river in the early days?

Brian: Oh, the only one I know is Marshall’s Crossing. The timber went up the Esk River. And the other one I know of is The Grove, King’s old house. And the Wairoa Bridge, just above that – Harveys owned it, built the house. Now Harveys also have got a connection to north of Tutira, but in the history of Dine’s or someone’s book, it said that the Harveys rowed up the Esk River from Napier Port and established their place there, and they were chased up the river by a whale. Now that’s just a historical documentation; it’s a little bit hard to believe, but because of that rowing up the river and building a house, and Marshall’s Crossing – I’m not sure where the house was built at Marshall’s Crossing but I presume it might’ve been Wally Hunt’s, or before him, but there. That’s how they got the building material up, so that then gazetted the river that you could navigate it. Once you can navigate it, it changes from a creek to [and] you can claim the land on the other side; otherwise us [we] wouldn’t exist as a camping ground. That land by the Eskdale Park that we gave, we wouldn’t own it; it’s because the river in the early days was navigated, so you could claim. It’s a legal reference to how big or small a river was. I think you could probably get away with a Māori canoe going up it if you could prove it, which’d be very hard. Yeah.

George: Well Peter Payne regularly rowed up to …

Jess: He was it was navigatable up to Munn’s Bridge.

Brian: Well if you’re talking about the Paynes, my understanding is that they came over the hills in the ’38 flood, Frank and Mrs Payne, and settled where Peter is. Peter’s [a] couple of years younger than me and I thought they walked the hills and she was carrying Peter, but his age doesn’t sort of quite work out like that.

George: No. No, how it went is, Frank already owned the property and when he got married his wife … the flood had come, so the wife had to walk around the hills to get to the farm.

Brian: Well, I thought they both did, but there you go.

George: Yeah, that’s how they got it. But Peter said to me they used to trade to their farm with a boat and back down again in the early …

Brian: So he came from India; how did he come to own the farm?

George: You might have to ask the Paynes that, but I think he had the farm and went overseas as well. Brian: So he had an engineer[ing] business in India; I’m not sure where. And his wife was his partner’s daughter, so Miss Barbara Payne, Peter’s mother, was his partner’s daughter.

George: There’s a big age gap between them.

Brian: Yeah, there is. So my knowledge is they walked onto the farm.

George: I thought it was ’36 he came to the valley, and she came later but she had to walk up the hills.

Brian: Yeah. So I can’t tell you who owned the farm before them, but at some stage you presume it could’ve been Clark land because they owned Beattie Road.

Jess: I have some very early maps of the Clark family so I can check it that way; so early survey maps that occurred from early 1900s; before then, yeah.

Brian: Yeah. Well they came out about 1910 …

Jess: Earlier than that I believe – 1890-something.

Brian: And they brought the support with them, like the ploughman, Ted Butcher; Ralph Connors’ father, old Ralph. They brought them out from England to assist them.

George: Ralph Connors had the piggery block.

Jess: So Brian, just before we were discussing how that river ruled your life. Can you try and repeat that again for us – how the river was after a flood? How soft it was?

Brian: Well the respect of the river rules your life is the river had a very short transition. It’s only twenty-seven miles long or something, and you could cross it in the morning and you couldn’t cross it at night. And the County who were our authority, would not put a bridge in. We couldn’t afford one, and if you did put one there it’d get washed away anyway. So we crossed the river with horses and on foot, horse and cart, most of my early life. And then we managed to buy the property next door in 1948 and put a road round to connect to the Waipunga Bridge. Once that’d [been] done it just made Mum[‘s] and Dad’s life absolutely … I mean I could cope with the river, I was used to it, but my brother until he was twenty-one – so he was about as big as you are, [a] bit thinner – we carried him across the river. So as a fourteen-year-old I could put on wader gumboots and carry my brother across the river. I could carry weight, so I could carry a bag of sugar and a bag of flour, one in each hand, across the river; because you got used to it.

And I had younger cousins who were later in life, and there were four of them and they were all girls; and they used to come and stay and visit us, and there’s a photo of me carrying three of them across the river at once. [Chuckles] And they were all five and three and that; one’s hanging around my neck, and I had one on this arm and one on that arm; one was hanging on my back. So the sense was that you used the river like that.

Now the problem was when you got visitors, relatives or otherwise, who weren’t used to the river and they’d come and see you on a Sunday afternoon for the cup of tea and sponge cake which was baked for mum to have visitors, the river would come up and it would be pouring with rain. Now you take a person from the middle of Wellington or Auckland or somewhere – we had relatives at both ends – and never been in the river, you’d get hold of a girl that’s my age or a bit younger and you saddle up the horse to get them back across the river. They were as nervous as kittens, the whole family; they can’t get out of there quickly enough. “Oh well, the river won’t be high yet – you can stay another hour and have a cup of tea.” Well! You can imagine the cup of tea [chuckles] [nervous murmuring], you know? And I still remember second cousin of mine came from Wellington on one of her rare visits with her parents, and Dad said to me, “Oh, go and have a look at the river.” And it was raining heavily, and I said, “Oh, we’ve got another hour or half an hour” – I was a good judge of the river – and while I was there I’d catch the horse and put the saddle on, you see. Well! To tether two horses outside the front door or back door of our house with these Wellingtonian city-ites, and Dad would say, “Oh, you’re all right for another hour”; and to think the river was coming up – I think they thought they were stranded there. Well we no more wanted them stranded than they wanted to be there. [Chuckles] So in the end the nerves got the better of them, and Dad said to me, “Oh, we’d better get them back.” And I grabbed the girl who was nearly my age and lifted her up and plonked her on the wet saddle in the pouring rain, and she went, “Oooooh!” [Chuckles] You can imagine how uncomfortable it is sitting in the wet saddle, and I said, “Don’t worry about it”, I said, “just hang onto the saddle; I’ll get you over the river.” Well you know … how old was I? Twelve, fourteen? [Chuckles] Dad was [a] country yokel telling a city-ite with all the lipstick and God knows what, that I’d get them across the river. [Chuckles] So when you read Mona Anderson’s book about the river rules your life, [‘A River Rules My Life’], having visitors is quite a thing weather-wise. Visitors is [are] what my parents particularly needed – I went to school so I was all right – because of just social interaction.

Now the locals were all right because they understood the river, and even the Miss[es] Perkins would come in their knee gumboots and get swamped out – that’s Bill Perkins’ sisters. But the local schoolteacher would come and have the schoolteacher’s cup of tea on Sunday afternoon, either Miss So-and-so or Miss So-and-so; they taught me at school. Well I hated having the schoolteacher there [chuckles] – you had to sit there and be on your best behaviour. One of them boarded with Ralph Connors. Had to get her across the river and the weather was a bit iffy, and of course it could rain at Te Pohue and not rain at Eskdale, so you’d think, ‘Oh, that’s all right’, and no one would worry. But in the meantime we had a sort of sixth sense about the river, and I’d say to Dad “I’d better go and have a look at the river”, and he said, “Oh, you’d better.” And I could time it to within half an hour when you could get across and couldn’t get across, and so in that sense it’s isolated.

I mean, you were talking about the power pole pulling your house down; well one flood that was quite big – it was later than ’38, probably ’44 or something – Dad stood on the verandah of the house about ten o’clock at night with a slasher and a pair of wader gumboots on, pouring with rain, and slashed the power lines because the power lines washed the poles away and they were pulling the front out of the house. And I still remember holding the torch. And Mum was like a nervous kitten ‘cause we didn’t understand power, and to try and insulate yourself … and I can still see this hook slasher coming down and sparks everywhere; and Mum … you know, she damn near fainted, and I wasn’t too keen myself. [Chuckle] The barge board was being pulled out of the house, so to solve that the Power Board was very good – they put a pole next to the house, anchored the pole with just a short line, and you could tell by the line’s tightness what was going on. You could read the fence line or the power line and you’d know damn well there was a pole [which had] been washed down the river. And all the poles would be doing this, and in the end the house was insulated. We had no power, but you know …

Before they did that, even ducks and swans flying up the Esk River would hit the power lines and the whole house would shake, just with the [chuckle] … Yeah. So as about a ten year old on the draught horse pulling a power pole across the flooded river, sitting on the back of the draught horse was the spider harness attached to the heavy hardwood pole and then Dad – we had another draught horse who was double-footed – so these three Power Board men got on Darky, the horse, and Darky tripped over a bulb and put the whole bloody lot in the river. [Chuckles] They were all dressed in Dad’s so-called work clothes of various shapes and sizes to get the pole in and get the power lit. It also happened with the shearing gang; a big Māori shearer trying to get in Dad’s pants because the river … [Laughter] So they were the humorous sides of it.  Yeah.

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Interviewer:  Justine Bruce


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