In one review, “All Shook Up,” was a memorable item, closely followed by “Fairies.” Complete with costumes, the pair stood one each side of the proscenium arch doing “rather interesting things” with their wands.
The 1958 show Nylons and Nonsense was another star billing. In hindsight, Des believes he takes after his mother, who was also an outgoing personality.
‘Telephone’ the vicar
His road to the church may have been long, but the foundations were laid at an early age.
The altar boy with the cheeky grin remembers with affection the Rev. Rupert Hall, vicar of St James, known behind his back as “Telephone”, because he was deaf and carried his hearing aid in a box.
Rupert “Telephone” Hall was English. His descriptions of the large, ancient buildings, the church tradition with the ritual and pageantry, fascinated the young Des who confesses to an “attraction for symbols”
“He set me on a path,” Des says with gratitude more than 50 years later. It was the Rev. Hall who told Mr and Mrs Britten that “I can see a priest in that boy”.
Des recalls that his parents were rather taken aback. Those were the days when sons of farmers were expected to take over the family property. He went to Napier Boys’ High School, returned home and gave it his “best shot” for two years.
‘Farming not for me’
“But I knew farming wasn’t really for me, and my parents accepted that too.”
After a stint with the radio the rest of his career is well known and throughout his days as a chef, restaurateur and television personality, Des has continued his involvement with the church.
He was ordained 10 years ago and has been in a self-supporting ministry based at St. Barnabas Church, Roseneath, Wellington.
He has been out of the restaurant trade for three years.
Commissioned as Wellington City Missioner last month, Father Des says he “really enjoys” his position.
It brings to the fore all the qualities that have made him a success in other ﬁelds, he admits with some humility.
A ‘people person’
It draws on his ability as a people person, and even his catering contracts are not wasted.
The markets that were once visited in daily forages for fresh fruit and vegetables in the “Coachman” days, are now depositing quantities of their produce on the mission doorstep.
He receives the offerings – 266 pumpkins, 150 cabbages – with gratitude, using the skills that once enticed the upmarket Wellington “foodies” of the 1960s and 1970s, to bulk feed the needy. “And there are many,” he says.
Tomorrow’s church service at St James has the promise of a happy occasion.
For the parishioners it will be the pleasure of seeing and hearing an Otane son who has become a national identity.
And for the preacher a chance to relive the memories that “I know will come ﬂooding back”.