Book a chance to relive his idyllic past
History of stock and station firm aims to appeal to a wider audience
It’s possible that Ewan McGregor never saw himself as a writer or historian. Its just that time caught up on him.
Thus appears The Price of Success, a history of Hawke’s Bay and East Coast stock and station firm Williams and Kettle, published late last year and possibly headed for a second print.
It’s the retired 74-year-old Central Hawke’s Bay farmer, former Federated Farmers provincial president, harbour board and regional council member’s fourth book, sparked by what was effectively his first, a Hawke’s Bay A&P Show book commissioned by the Hawke’s Bay A&P Society for its 150th anniversary in 2013.
There’s been a family history, based on Kopanga Station and published in 2014, and a biography with A&P society past-president and now patron Hamilton Logan.
Simply, the man loves it, and admits through the writing, and filling gaps in Hawke’s Bay’s pastoral history, he is reliving the childhood he had growing up on the Hautope settlement block his father drew after World War II.
“Reliving the childhood,” he says. “Absolutely. They were great days.”
He says the same about the stock and station industry, and in writing it may be the only way possible to relive some of those days, especially in what he recalls of the heyday of the stock and station firms, effectively the forerunner of the supermarket for farming families when they came to town, whether it be on the day of the stock sales, show week, Christmas or other occasions.
“The stock and station business was humming for the best part of a century,” he says. “It was a wonderful thing. The stock and station firms were the one-stop-shop for farming families.”
Times have changed
As times changed, the firms – about 40 nationwide including six in Hawke’s Bay – had to change, and amalgamations became the platform if [of] survival in the 1980s, for all except that affectionately known as W and K.
McGregor says that was because of the client and staff loyalty but, founded in 1891, it went through a tough period of unprecedented re-structuring and cutbacks before ultimately being bought by Wrightson in 2005, when it still had 36 branches.
While there was already a company history, McGregor was commissioned by former CEO John Nott to do what McGregor sees as not so much a “clinical history” but to bring out the character and characters of the industry over the era of the company.
“We wanted the potential readership to be not just W and K clients,” he says.
There was a first print of 500 which has been available at PGG Wrightson stores throughout the region.
Photo caption – Ewan McGregor with his latest book, The Price of Success.