Newspaper Article 2003 – Ex-councillor ‘a real character’

Ralph Charles Beamish


Ex-councillor ‘a real character’

Former Hastings district councillor and well-known community leader Ralph Beamish died in Hastings on July 2, aged 74.

Mr Beamish was elected as a Kaweka ward representative when the council was formed amid the reorganisation of Hawke’s Bay’s local government in 1989, and served for six years before retiring.

His replacement was neighbour Lawrence Yule, now the mayor, who delivered a eulogy at a public memorial service.

Mr Yule described Ralph Beamish as a leader, a real rural character, astute businessman, with a personable manner.

The Beamish family has been synonymous with the areas west of Napier and Hastings for more than 125 years dating back to the first settlement by Ralph Beamish’s great grandfather, Irish immigrant Nathaniel Beamish, at Whana Whana.

Ralph Beamish lived there almost all of his life, farming Awapai, apart from when he studied at Massey University for a Diploma of Agriculture.

Consequently, areas such as Whana Whana and Crownthorpe, and the condition of the roads around them, became familiar around the council tables.

Mr Yule remarked particularly on the ability with which Mr Beamish handled the council role which he took up at the time of the merger of the urban-based Hastings City Council and Havelock North Borough Council, and the rural-based Hawke’s Bay County Council.

Mr Beamish was generally regarded as one of life’s gentlemen, and attacked the rating system to make it fairer for his constituents.

Townies spent it, and rural people earned it, he would say. All a farmer wanted was a good road, he said.

Crusades at the council table were, however, only a part of his community commitment, which also included more than 20 years as an elected member of the Hawke’s Bay Pest Destruction Board, and a firm allegiance to the National Party, although ultimately he supported Act.

Elected to the Hawke’s Bay A and P Society’s general committee in 1960, he was its president from 1983-85, succeeding his grandfather, George, who had been president in 1918-20 and his father Noel in 1951-53.

About a year after completing his term he took up the role of treasurer which continued into the 1990s.

In 1983 he also became a member of the executive of the Royal Agricultural Society, the parent body for what was then a total of more than 140 A and P societies throughout the country.

He was on the executive, serving the last five years as treasurer, and he was also a member of Commonwealth Agricultural Society.

The Hawke’s Bay society’s recently-retired long-serving chief executive, Eddie Hayes, said Mr Beamish introduced computers to the running of the show, and to the accountancy system of the national body.

As a farmer, he was passionate about caring for the land and breeding sheep, especially when it related to the Romney breed and more latterly with the Rissington Breedline development.

He was for 12 years a member of the Board of Trustees of Woodford House, which was attended by daughters Melanie and Clair, and was particularly instrumental as chairman of a committee which built the school’s new gymnasium in the mid-1970s.

A large smile, a strong interest in people and a dominating positive mental attitude, even in the worst of droughts, epitomised his larger than life character.

He is survived by wife Joy, son Simon, daughters Melanie Harper and Clair Engels and 10 grandchildren.

A private family funeral was held at Crownthorpe and the public memorial service was held at St Matthew’s Anglican Church, Hastings.

Photo caption – Ralph Beamish

Original digital file



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Date published

28 July 2003

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