While one of my original objectives in setting up my “Wharepuke” website was to document as comprehensive a family history as I could, it soon became clear to me that I should separate any chronicles of my genealogical family from my own personal story.
In “My Family Chronicles” I have tried to put some flesh on the bare genealogical bones of some at least of the inhabitants of my family tree – and hope to continue to do so.
As a complement to that, in “My Recollections” I set out to document my own personal story. I hasten to add that it is not an autobiography in the strict sense of the term not least because it covers only what I can remember and is not much reliant on the input of others. I must stress here that what I am relating are my memories, and I understand completely that others might well have different recollections.
I should emphasise also that I have been writing “My Recollections” primarily for my own pleasure – and had little or no intention of “going public” with them. That’s not to say however that I’m averse to sharing them with those who may be interested. So if you are, and would like to dip into them as they are posted, please email me for the access password you will need to do so.
And if you do take that dip and can relate to and enjoy some of what you read, that will be for me a bonus rather than the aim.
Finally, I must say that while enjoying the satisfying process of recollecting and recounting my story, I have come to realise what a full, wonderful and fortunate life I’ve had – and can only be grateful to all those who have helped make it so.
Baptised, Slieverue Roman Catholic Church, Waterford, Ireland
Marriage: 5th March 1848 Stephen Butler and Jane Jago
Chapel of East Stonehouse, Devon, England
Death: 26th June 1863 Stephen Butler
10 Cannon Street, Devonport, Devon, England
My great grandfather, Stephen, was baptised the first of five sons to James and Mary Butler (nee Connery) in Slieverue, Waterford, Ireland, on 25th December 1819.
He had an older sister, Ellen, baptised on 16th January 1814 and a younger one, Johanna, baptised on 1st November 1834.
His younger brothers were Edmund (baptised 1st May 1822), John, (24th February 1824), another John (born 4th February 1824) and James (21st August 1828). Although I have yet to find any evidence to that effect, it seems likely the older “John” may have died soon after his birth.
I was fortunate enough to visit Waterford in August 2017, and guided by Michael O’Connor of Waterford Heritage Services was able to explore the area around Slieverue where the family lived at the time of Stephen’s birth. Although there is no way we can be sure exactly where, we do know that it was in Councillor’s Road between Larkfield and Peafield about 6 km north-east of Waterford – as is shown on the map below:
We have little knowledge of Stephen’s early life, but he would have to have undertaken an apprenticeship at shipyards in Waterford, (where there was considerable shipbuilding at the time) or, later in England, to have gained employment as a Shipwright with the Royal Navy.
That he probably completed his Apprenticeship in Waterford and was recruited by the Navy appears to be supported by the following extract from the Journal of the Old Waterford Society’s Journal “Decies” of Autumn 1992:
“Between the years 1806 and 1880, ship-building was Waterford’s chief industry, and the five firms previously mentioned repaired or built all kinds of seagoing craft at their respective yards. Ships of sail or steam designed by Waterford’s craftsmen earned the reputation of the port, unequalled by any in the British shipyards. At times the local yards experienced difficulty in keeping their staffs of skilled tradesmen at home, so keen was the canvassing of their English and Scottish rivals to grab the Waterford workers. The employers had no fear in this regard in their own country, for in no part of Ireland was there a ship or repair yard to compare with the up-to-datedness and the efficient equipment of the local builders. At the beginning and well beyond the middle of the last century, Waterford held the signal honour of being one of the principal ship-building centres of western Europe, and the clang of hammers, roar of furnaces, and dull thudding sound of boiler-making, with the ‘heaving’ and ‘hauling’ associated with the life of a busy shipping port, were heard all day, and sometimes all night – making music for the ears of the old-timers of ‘Waterford of the Shippes’.”
In trying to get a better understanding of the role of a shipwright and the training needed to qualify as one, I came across the following excerpt from “Dockyard Shipwrights” by Bert Shardlow and Dr David Penney.
I’d be surprised if you do not find it as informative as I did.
This is the link: http://www.djbryant.co.uk/dockyard/links/index-links.htm
I have, so far, been unable to establish when he emigrated to England, but it was probably in the late 1830s or early 1840s.
He married Jane Jago, the daughter of Richard and Elizabeth Jago (née Cross) in the Chapel of East Stonehouse, Devon, on 5 March 1848. At the time of their marriage, Stephen was 28 years of age and Jane 38.
They had a son, Richard Jago born on the 11th December 1948 and another, William James Jago, on the 29th June 1850.
An entry in the 1851 UK Census was the first indication I had that Stephen was born in Ireland and Waterford in particular. It is from this Census that we learn that the family lived at 7 Cannon Street, Stoke Damerel, Devonport, only about a mile and a half from the Royal Naval Dockyards where he was employed. From recent reading, I learned that Cannon Street was one of the earliest laid down near the Devonport dock when, in the early 1700s, residential buildings were first allowed to be built in the vicinity of the dockyard.
Thus far, I have been unable to trace any record of his service at the Dockyards either through the National Archives of the United Kingdom or the Devonport Naval Heritage Centre, but will keep trying.
Whether or not as a result of advancement at the Dockyard and/or an accompanying improvement in income, the Census entry for 1861 tells us that the family had by then moved to another property in Cannon Street, namely No 40.
Stephen passed away at home on 26th June 1863 at the age of 44. According to his Death Certificate, the cause of death was consumption, a condition he had suffered for twelve months. A copy of the entry in the Stoke Damerel Anglican Parish Burial Register is included in the Evidence section and, for Latin scholars, a transcript from the entry in the Church register that I obtained on a visit to Plymouth in 2005 is shown below.
According to one article I have read, there were few Catholic churchyards – and the Catholic Church at Stoke Damerel certainly did not have one – so the majority of Catholics were buried in Anglican ones. This may explain how Stephen came to be buried in a churchyard associated with a neighbouring Anglican church – and that his burial is recorded again in the registry of the Anglican Parish of Stoke Damerel. I wonder how many other Catholics are “blessed” with entries in the registers of two denominations.
This left Jane a widow, possibly but not certainly with a pension, caring for the two boys, Richard aged 15 and William, 13.
Whatever the circumstances the family found itself in, Jane must have been instrumental in ensuring that her elder son, Richard, at least, continued his education. My evidence for this belief is an item from the “Journal of the Society of Arts” dated 12th June 1868, where we learn that as an engineering student at the Devonport Mechanics Institute he won 1st Prize (valued at £5) for Conic Sections and 2nd Prize (valued at £3) for Principles of Mechanics.
Whether or not as a result of her widowhood, the Census for 1871 shows that Jane had moved to 12 Albert Road, Devonport, where her occupation is listed as Housekeeper. Her second son William, who by this time is aged 21, is shown as a carpenter.
Perhaps he was thus able to provide her with the economic support she needed. In fact, as far as I can ascertain, she lived with him for the rest of her life – and being as long-lived as she was, this was not until 1902 when she was 93 years of age.
Register: B/1801-1836 VOL. P.191
Priest: Fitzpatrick J.
Church: Counsellors Road(Research):According to the 1851 census, your Richard was the son of Stephen & Jane
Head: BUTLER, Stephen Neighbors 75510
Name Relationship Mar Age Sex Occupation Birthplace
Stephen BUTLER Head M 30 M Shipwright Waterford-IRE
Jane BUTLER Wife M 36 F --- Plymstock-DEV
Richard BUTLER Son - 2 M --- Plymstock-DEV ******
William BUTLER Son - 9m M --- Devonport-DEV
Address: 7 Cannon Street, Devonport
Census Place: Stoke Damerel Stoke Damerel, Devonshire
PRO Reference: HO/107/1882 Folio: 31 Page: 57 FHL Film: 0221031(Medical):Certified copy of Death Certificate (dated 15 June 2005) held.
Birth: 29 November 1929, Whangarei, Northland, NZ.
Dick was born in Whangarei, Northland, NZ, the eldest of three boys on 29th November 1929. When he was born, his father, Peter, was 32 and his mother, Mary, was 31.
Education: St Joseph’s Convent, Whangarei, Northland, NZ.
1935 to 1942 St Joseph’s Covent, Whangarei, Northland, NZ.
Education: St Patrick’s College, Silverstream, Wellington, NZ.
1943 to 1946 St Patrick’s College, Silverstream, Wellington, NZ.
Work Life: 1947 – 1983
Cadet reporter, reporter and correspondent, “Northern Advocate”, Whangarei and Maungaturoto, Northland, NZ.
Marriage: 18 January 1958, Whakapara, Northland, NZ
He married Gwen Forsyth on 18 January 1958. They had five children during their marriage – Maurice, Kerry, Kathy, Judy and Paul.
Retired, aged 60.
For his services to royalty, Mr Butler was vested a member of the Royal Victorian Order of the Queen in 1974.
Work Life: 1984 to 1989
Journalist, Tourist & Publicity Department, Wellington, NZ. Media liaison officer involved with the Internal Affairs Special Visitors Branch, Wellington NZ.
Death: 20 April 1998 Richard Butler
Dick died on 20 April 1998, in Whangarei at the age of 68.
Dick was born in Whangarei, Northland, New Zealand, on 29th November 1929. When Dick was born, his father, Cuthbert “Peter” Butler, was 32 years of age and his mother, Mary Butler (née Somner), 31.
In his Birth Certificate, he is named Richard, but he never used the name, preferring to be known as Dick – and always was.
He was the eldest of three sons born to Peter and Mary. The two younger boys were – Norman John “Norm” (20 August 1933) and Peter (11 July 1940).
According to the 1925 and 1928 Electoral Rolls, the family lived somewhere on Kamo Road, Whangarei, but according to Dick’s Birth Certificate, they were living in Mill Road at the time.
They later moved to Jessie Street, Whangarei, New Zealand, which his parents bought from his maternal grandmother, Maria Somner in 1932. Maria had purchased the property three years earlier. The called the property “Wharepuke” which, before you ask, is Maori for “house on the hill”. The property which would then have been described as a farmlet shared a boundary with Mackesy Bush Reserve and was overlooked by Mount Parahaka, an old bush-clad volcanic cone that is a Whangarei landmark. Whether she moved there when she bought it or later when Dick’s parents moved, we do not know, but she certainly lived with them until at least 1935 and perhaps up to the time of her death in 1937.
At a little over two acres, there was certainly room enough for Dick and me to roam free as well as for it to be run as a small poultry farm from which we sold eggs under the Wharepuke name. If it was required or not at that time, the eggs were individually rubber-stamped with an oval-shaped “Wharepuke” brand mark. It is likely that we also sold dressed poultry but, whether we did or not, one of my mother’s specialties, roast chicken with thyme and onion stuffing, appeared on our dinner plates on most Sundays.
As was the custom of the day, separate from the house was the gable-roofed “motor shed”, as it was then called, to house our black box-like Austin Seven. Back then in New Zealand anyway, the term garage was used only for the place where you took your motor vehicle for service or repair. As was not unusual Da did his own “grease and oil changes” and used the trench-like pit in the floor of the garage to do so. When not in use, the pit was covered with what I remember as very oil-stained planks, that my brother and I were warned never to go near – but we did, of course.
Dick also had his first car, a rather handsome pedal car – on which I was allowed a ride from time to time.
Apart from roaming free, we also played “Cowboys and Indians” as boys did at the time and for which hand-made bows and arrows were essential.
Both Dick and I attended St Joseph’s Convent while we were still living at Jessie Street, but I have no knowledge of how we got to school. There certainly would not have been any school buses and, as it was too far to walk, I presume our father drove us there in the Austin.
It would have been about this time that Dick received his First Communion, an important event in the religious life of every Catholic child. Its importance was often recognised with a medal or a certificate or both, This is a copy of Dick’s Certificate dated 4 October 1936:
At three, I would have been too young to remember the event – and, shamed as I am to admit it, I cannot remember mine.
Nor have I any memory of the Fancy Dress Party reported below, but if it was in the paper it must be right!
The photo that follows is of all the school pupils in 1939 and was published in the “Northern Advocate” on 6 July 1993 announcing the planning of a forthcoming reunion :
In January 1940, Dick was one of the fortunate 600 Northland children who were able, courtesy the Northern Advocate’s “Kupe Club NZ Centennial Exhibition Trip”, to make a week-long visit to Wellington to view the Exhibition. That the Trip was well organised is clearly evident from this excerpt from the “Sailing Instructions” published in the “Northern Advocate” on 9th January 1940:
And, as the following clipping from the “Northern Advocate” of 2 April 1940, the trip was worthy of a report as far away as Britain:
Another item from the “Northern Advocate” reports on Dick’s prize-winning scholastic achievements at St Joseph’s Convent in 1940:
In July 1941, we moved closer to the centre of Whangarei, where my father built an office to accommodate his growing accounting and secretarial business. I daresay that it was no coincidence that this just happened to be conveniently next to our new home – and within walking distance of the primary school, Dick and his brothers attended.
There was great excitement in Whangarei in 1941 when it became the base for a remarkable salvage story – to recover gold from the “Niagara” sunk by German mines. Although I cannot be sure how we managed it, but both Dick and I somehow managed to get down to the wharf where the salvage ship “Claymore” was moored and watch as she was being prepared for the operation. The salvage itself is quite famous and well-worth reading about. But, we were there!
In 1942 Dick got his first bike. He didn’t keep it long, however, as having ridden down to the Whangarei wharf he somehow or other rode it over the edge of the wharf and broke his arm seriously enough to require a plate and pinning!! The event was reported in the “Northern Advocate” of 27th April as follows:
Our parents acknowledged the un-named Rating’s assistance in this notice in the Personal column of the “Northern Advocate” on the same day:
I had always understood that he had hit an RNZN Patrol Boat on his way into the water but, given that it was wartime, “a small vessel” might have been a more secure description! Anyway, this is what the Patrol Boat looked like.
That the fracture was serious enough to need pinning was doubtless because of an earlier break that I found out about recently from my discovery of this report in the “Northern Advocate” of 19th March 1941.
My bedroom at our Bank Street home faced the street and Dick’s was between mine and my parents whose bedroom was at the rear of the house. When grounded for whatever reason, Dick found my bedroom window a convenient, silent and secure exit and entrance when he was out “on-the-tiles” – or whatever!
All three of us completed our secondary education at St Patrick’s College in Silverstream. Thanks to the Archives there, we have copies of the school magazine, “The Blue & White” for the years we were there. Some of these make quite interesting reading, including this intriguing entry about Dick, from 1946:
“April 25th–Anzac Day. Uniforms: Solemn Requiem Mass at 9 am. Father Ward was the preacher. At the end of Mass, the Last Post was sounded by Brian Hasler. Football practice in the afternoon. Dick Butler has many enthusiastic helpers in his new hobby.”???
The only other evidence I have of Dick’s attendance at St Pat’s and of his academic record there is this copy of his School Certificate awarded on completion of three years study and the associated examination:
After leaving St Pat’s, Dick started with the “Northern Advocate” as a cadet reporter and continued to live at home. This photo of him is likely to have been taken in the early 1950s – and certainly before 1953:
Dick moved with the family when they bought the Kamo property in 1947. Always interested in sport, it was while he lived in Kamo that he was able to further that interest, playing both Rugby Union Football (of course) and Table Tennis with local Kamo clubs. He was also a member of the Kamo Athletics Club where he competed mainly in longer distance events. And, according to this report, did so successfully, at least once:
It was during this time that he also joined the St John’s Ambulance Service as a volunteer and got to drive the rather “posh” Austin Princess Vanden Plas Ambulance. I got to get a ride in it too, once, when Dick and his fellow “Ambo” were in Auckland having brought a patient down from Whangarei.
Sometime in 1950 Dick bought a semi-derelict 1934 6 cylinder Vauxhall car and rebuilt it. He later drove it to Wellington and, after a few days catching up with friends there, picked me up at Silverstream for the return trip home. I’m not sure what the route was or how long the trip took but, as one of the photos below will testify, we certainly drove over the Rimutaka Ranges, which not being the usual route north must have been to prove his “rebuild” would make it. We must have stayed with friends of his on the way home but apart from a vague recollection of a stop near Hamilton – and a party there – my memory banks are empty.
This a much better photo of the results of his handiwork, found recently by Judy:
Dick was still living at home in Kamo at this time and, I think, continued to do so until he went overseas – of which more, later.
There had been some thought that part of the Kamo property could be cultivated to grow vegetables and, to this end, this Trusty Tractor was bought.
I don’t think the market garden idea ever came to fruition, but I do have clear memories of Dick ploughing and harrowing “the top paddock” with the trusty “Trusty”!
In 1953 Dick took some time off or was granted leave of absence from the “Advocate” to travel overseas and left on the “Rangitane” from Wellington on 3 November.
On the Passenger List of the “Rangitane” on which he sailed to England, he entered 7 Duart Avenue, Prestwick, Scotland, (where lived his Uncle Richard Jago Butler) as his proposed address in the United Kingdom. As a sad aside, Richard J. died of a heart attack less than twelve months later.
I had assumed that he and Gwen Forsyth, a nurse from Whangarei, who he was later to marry, travelled together to England. Gwen, however, did not arrive until August 1955, travelling on the “Rangitiki” also from Wellington.
Dick and Gwen’s engagement in England was announced in the “Northern Advocate” as follows:
While away he wrote frequently to his parents and younger brother Peter. I was privileged to be able to compile the hundred or so aerograms, letters, postcards and the like and these have been published in PDF format under the title of “Dick’s Travel Journals – 1953 to 1957”. They are available via email or Dropbox on request.
A significant event at the Centennial Highland Games in 1953 was the opening of a “House of Memories” – now known as the Waipu Museum – and where is found the following family item originally left to my mother by her great-grandfather, Francis Somner, and passed on to the Museum by Dick.
And what is a stack ventilator, you ask? Well, not having seen or heard of such a thing, I deduced from its name that it was a device for cutting holes in a haystack to cool it down and prevent spontaneous combustion. And, what’s more, I found a photo to prove it.
How wrong was I? What Francis had invented was a little more complex than just a simple hole cutter. In fact, on the 7th April 1852, he registered the design of his “Stack or Rick Ventilator” with the UK Designs Office.
And, courtesy, the UK National Archives, this is a copy of that registered design:
On his return in 1957, he rejoined the Advocate and this photo of him at work was probably taken about then:
Dick married Gwenyth “Gwen” Julia Forsyth at Whakapara, Northland on 18th January 1958.
The reception in the Whakapara Hall was what I assume must have been a traditional country one. The men gathered around a keg – or more – of beer in the basement while their wives, mothers, and daughters shared cups of tea upstairs in the hall proper.
I do not recall there being a wedding breakfast as such but there was no shortage of “eats” on trestle tables on one side of the Hall. My recollection is of the friendliest gathering of family, friends and neighbours imaginable with little if anything in the way of formalities. In fact, the only clear recollection I have is of Dick and Gwen leading the dancing with Bridal Waltz, whereupon they were joined by couples of men and women, women and women and children of all ages. It was a truly happy occasion.
During his 17 years with the “Advocate”, he honed his journalistic skills both in Whangarei and, for a time, as the rural correspondent for the Kaipara district. Here, commissioned by the Maungaturoto Centennial Association, he wrote This Valley In The Hills, to celebrate the centennial of Maungaturoto. Although long out of print, it is still available through libraries both in New Zealand and Australia.
In 1966 he joined the NZ Government’s Tourist & Publicity Department as a Media Liaison Officer initially in Auckland. Here he and Gwen bought a house in Mount Albert at 7 Stewart Road, to be exact. It was here that their youngest, Paul, was born, the older children, Maurice (1958), Kerry (1959), Kathryn (1961) and Judy (1963) being born in Maunaturoro.
A promotion within the Tourist & Publicity Department required a transfer to Wellington to which the family moved in 1978. Here, after a short stay in a motel in Johnsonville, they bought in Tawa at 6 McLellan Street, where they lived until his retirement.
One of his personal responsibilities was to provide media liaison for distinguished visitors, including the British Royals who visited many times during his 23 years’ service.
During the 1983 tour by Charles, Diana and Prince William, he was to become the centre of media attention himself because he introduced a truck with tiered platforms to transport photographers speedily from place to place. It was dubbed, appropriately enough, the Dickmobile.
He was one of a select band of people who received an honour from the Queen at her personal request. For his services to the family, she made him a Member of the Victoria Order in 1974 and promoted him within the order in 1981.
During the Royal visit of Charles, Diana and William in 1983 Dick rated a mention in Hansard, as you’ll read here:
I have yet to find the Dominion article quoted, but I’ll keep looking.
Dick retired in late 1989 and he and Gwen returned to Whangarei to live, building a unit at 2a Princes Street, Whangarei. They had bought a property in Cable Bay, in the far North, much earlier than this and there had been some thought of making this their final retirement nest but while they visited and holidayed there frequently, the move never eventuated.
In mid-December 1997 we had a letter from Dick to let us know that Gwen had been diagnosed with bowel cancer earlier in the year. Despite surgery, it had spread to her liver and was inoperable.
Having been told that she was not expected to live until Christmas the planned family Christmas gathering was brought forward. As a result, their children, Kerry, Paul and Kathy flew in from overseas to join Maurice and Judy for a mid-November family Christmas celebration, the first time they had all been together since 1981. Gwen passed away on Christmas Day.
Regrettably but not unexpectedly, Dick did not survive her long, dying of a heart attack on 20th April 1998. I flew over for the funeral and was touched to be asked to deliver a funeral reading, namely, “Death is Nothing”, by Henry Scott-Holland.
Death is nothing at all. It does not count. I have only slipped away into the next room. Nothing has happened. Everything remains exactly as it was. I am I, and you are you, and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged. Whatever we were to each other, that we are still. Call me by the old familiar name. Speak of me in the easy way which you always used. Put no difference into your tone. Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me, pray for me. Let my name be ever the household word that it always was. Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it. Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was. There is absolute and unbroken continuity. What is this death but a negligible accident? Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight? I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just round the corner.
This I did even if a deal more nervously than I had hoped, though if anybody noticed they were too kind to mention it.
Both Gwen’s and Dick’s ashes were originally placed under a pohutukawa tree they had planted on the Cable Bay section. When the section was unexpectedly sold, the ashes were recovered and scattered near the Capitaine Bougainville Monument at Whananaki where, as Judy, wrote ” they still look out over the ocean”, as they had at Doubtless Bay.
“The Evening Post”, 7 May 1998, Edition 3, Page 5.
By: Ewan Audrey
Respected media minder for kings, queens and jokers.
Richard (Dick) Butler, State media liaison officer: B Whangarei, November 11, 1929; ed St Patrick’s College, Silverstream; m 1958 Gwen Forsyth 3s 2d; d Whangarei, April 20, 1998. Keeping an eye on the media when they’re chasing Royalty is not a job for the faint-hearted. Dick Butler was not faint of heart, and he knew how to keep bolshie press photographers in line. During the 1983 tour by Charles, Diana and Prince William, he was to become the centre of media attention himself because he introduced a truck with tiered platforms to transport photographers speedily from place to place. It was dubbed the Dickmobile, which he took in good humour.
Butler was on chatting terms with several Royal families, prime ministers and presidents.
His favourites were the British Royals who visited many times during the 23 years he was involved with media liaison for distinguished visitors. He was to have a little difference of opinion with Princess Anne over the number of times he helped with her tours. He thought it was four; she thought it was five. They sat down and worked it out, and she was right. He hadn’t included a half-hour stopover when she was on her way home from visiting Kiribati.
Prince Edward tried a prank on him once, and it worked well. He put his arm in a sling as he returned to Timaru from Mt Peel Station, and said it was worth it just to see the horrified look on Butler’s face. She made him a member of the Victoria Order in 1974 and promoted him within the order in 1981.
During his varied career, Butler worked as an ambulance driver and as a journalist on the Northern Advocate and for the Tourist and Publicity Department’s information and publicity services where he relieved as a ministerial press secretary on several occasions. He was chief information officer for Civil Defence for three years.
He wrote This Valley In The Hills, to celebrate the centennial of Maungaturoto and was particularly interested in historical research on Maori settlements in Northland.
When Butler retired in 1989 he returned to Northland where he alternated between his home in Whangarei and a holiday place at Cable Bay. In earlier days he worked with Jaycees, scouts and guides and participated in many sports. He was a rugby referee for 15 years.
Recent tragic events took a toll on him. His wife died on Christmas Day and a grandson was then killed when hit by a train on his way to school. He died suddenly as he was packing his bag for a trip to Cable Bay.
“The Northern Advocate”, Whangarei. NZ.
Journalist whom prince chauffeured dies.
A former Northern Advocate reporter who was once chauffeured by royalty has died suddenly.
Dick Butler, 68, of Whangarei, began his working career in 1947 at the Advocate. He became a media liaison officer involved with the Internal Affairs Special Visitors Branch from 1984 to 1989.
He died at his Whangarei home on April 20.
Mr Butler’s latter career involved frequent contact with the British royal family.
He was involved as media liaison officer with four royal visits, although he once recounted in a national magazine a conversation with Princess Anne in which she maintained it was five.
In the end I said, hang on, let’s look at this. And it appeared she’d counted a half hour stopover on her way back from Kiribati’s independence celebrations as a visit? Mr Butler was reported as saying.
A keen fisherman and sportsman, Mr Butler is survived by his children Kathryn Butler, Judy Ward, Maurice, Kerry, and Paul Butler. Mr Butler’s wife, Gwen, died last year.
Mrs Ward said her father who retired in 1989, used to recall various anecdotes from his career.
One incident in particular in the late 1960s stood out – an occasion when royalty decided to chauffeur Mr Butler instead of vice-versa.
Mrs Ward said the royal in question was Prince Edward, who was teaching at Wanganui Collegiate at the time. The prince decided it was time he drove Mr Butler about. On alighting from the car’s driver seat, Prince Edward duly opened Mr Butler’s door and fetched his luggage.
Mr Butler used to recall the prince as being? really down-to-earth? Mrs Ward said.
Mr Butler’s royal contact was the culmination of a career which included stints overseas and time as a senior press officer for government departments in the northern North Island.
For his services to royalty, Mr Butler was vested a member of the Royal Victorian Order of the Queen in 1974 and a lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order following a 1981 royal visit.
He will be remembered for the “Dickmobile”- a mobile platform he devised to allow photographers to get about without annoying crowds. – By Audrey Ewan
Other published material about Dick
New Zealand Woman’s Weekly, 15 Jan 1990
Other published material written by Dick
“This Valley in the Hills”
This Valley in the Hills: The Story of Maungaturoto, Brynderwyn, Bickerstaffe, Batley, Marohemo, Whakapirau
Maungaturoto Centennial Association, 1963
The introduction to this book describes it as “our tribute to the memory of our forefathers. to the early settlers of the district, who came not knowing what the future would hold, with prospects and markets uncertain, but armed with courage, determination and the will to win through.” To mark the centennial of the advent of those early settlers this fine history was produced and tells the story of the people who laid the foundations of the township of Maungaturoto and the surrounding localities of Brenderwyn, Bickerstaffe, Batley, Marohemo and Whakapirau.
Compiled by Dick Butler for the District Centennial Association it provides a comprehensive account of the many stages in the development of the district, beginning with a chapter on the pre-European Maori tribes of the area, first encounters with the European Missionaries from the 1820s, followed by permanent settlers from the 1860s. The story continues by covering all important aspects of development including the troubles that occurred between Maori and the colonials, land purchases in the district, the Kauri timber days, the gradual development of the area becoming an important dairy farming centre, local government and civic organisations, education, transport and communications and the community and sporting groups that paralleled the achievement of commercial, industrial and economic progress. To a large extent the evolution from pioneering to established community was similar to that in other parts of NZ, but throughout this record there are indications that “this valley in the hills” was always a close-knit, caring and progressive society.
These are copies of two articles written by Dick while he was based in Maungaturoto – “Kaipara Oyster Farm” published on 21 May 1964 and the “Ruawai Dairy Company’s Diamond Jubilee” on 11 August of the same year:
The Visitors’ Centre at Parliament House opens at 9:00 am. Individual tours cannot be booked ahead and as they are limited to forty and offered on a first come first serve basis, I felt I needed to be there no later than 8:30.
Helped by Ingrid who took me right into the underground public carpark (free) I made my way up to the entrance to be confronted with some hundreds of Asian tourists. I seemed to be on my lonesome and wondered how I could possibly compete with this lot. The doors opened on the dot of nine and I was almost first through for the airline type screening before being able to make my way to the Visitors’ Centre.
I must have looked concerned as an elderly gentleman with the look of a helper asked could he help. I said yes, I was hoping to join the 9:30 am tour but felt that I might be outnumbered. He said you are the first one to register for it as the groups have their own separate tours, and that the best thing I could do was to go up to the Café and enjoy a nice cup of coffee until 9:25.
And I did just that – and a beautiful large caramel latté went down a treat.
By 9:25 am there were no more than twelve of us, all properly badged, to be guided by Eric, the kindly gentleman who allayed my fears of missing out.
It was an excellent tour and Eric was an excellent guide. It is a magnificent building both inside and out and the Australian timbers used so extensively fit the décor of the building beautifully.
Eric gave us a sort of potted history of the House and its predecessor as well as a briefing on the workings and rituals adopted from the Westminster system but in a thoughtfully un-patronising way.
I enjoyed it thoroughly and am glad I postponed my departure so I could do it.
Although, as a non-sitting day, photography was not restricted in any way at all, I limited myself to only one. And here it is, a portion of the huge tapestry that hangs in the Great Hall, based on a painting by Arthur Boyd. I found it very appealing perhaps because I’ve become more Australian bush conscious. Certainly, it is very like some of what I have seen on my trek.
The tour itself lasted a little over an hour and I wandered about for perhaps another half, some of which was taken up waiting for a group to leave the Great Hall so that I could take my tapestry photo.
In much the same way as Ingrid had helped me through and out of Melbourne, she did so again out of Canberra. For whatever reason, there are no signs pointing to Sydney, or at least I saw none, but she got us out and onto the Hume Highway again, in what seemed like no time at all.
I complained about Hume Highway yesterday, but I believe the Canberra Sydney bit is about as boring as it gets.
I made a comfort stop, coffee break at the Service Centre at Marulan just north of Goulburn but couldn’t get back on the road fast enough. The traffic was heavy but being a Sunday there were, thank goodness, few if any trucks.
I checked into MGSM just after 3:00 pm and, thanks to Susanne, this time scored my old balcony room overlooking the lake. It was 30° on my arrival and I’m sure the closed-up room was closer to 35°. Thank goodness for air-conditioning. The restaurant here is closed on Sundays, as are two of my other favourites the Mediterranean and Basil’s in nearby Trafalgar Place.
So, on the recommendation of the young fellow at Reception I drove down to Macquarie Centre and tried one of “Grill’d’s” purportedly to die for hamburgers.
It may have been for him but not for me. The patty had the truly char-grilled look and flavour and was nice enough, but the bun had a soggy bottom and the lettuce and tomato were past their best. But it was what I wanted in the sense of fast-food and at $30.00 for the burger, chips and a glass of shiraz, it wasn’t bad value.
I have had much better at Mcdonalds and heaps much better at the Tuncurry Rock Pool Cafe. So I’m unlikely to be a return customer.
To mark this the final update of my Tasmanian Trek chronicles, I’ll finish what’s left in the bottle of McGuigan Red and “hit the hay”.
It’s been a wonderful journey, and I may do something similar again next year, perhaps Drake Village way.
A foggy morning though not particularly cold – which I guess is why it is foggy.
After another good filling breakfast to set me up for the day, I was all checked-out and off.
The first 40 km or so from the Lodge was on, perhaps not too surprisingly, Cradle Mountain Road. Of the roads I’ve travelled thus far this was by far the best maintained, thanks I guess to its being the route to one of Tasmania’s top tourist destinations. It was however not particularly scenic.
But after the turnoff onto C133, just north of Wilmot, suggested – or perhaps I should say directed – by Ingrid the next 30 km was better. As she has done on previous occasions, Ingrid took me on a convoluted country road but on this occasion instead of dense bushland, it was through the richly fertile agricultural land of an area called Castra.
Preston Falls, which I understand is on private land is reached by a series of steep but not impossible steps down, and through a lovely small pocket of rainforest. The Falls themselves were clearly suffering from the lack of rain in the area but were still worth the visit.
As was the case with all the Falls I’ve visited in Tassie, they must all be spectacular after rain.
A couple of locals who descended on the Falls as I was leaving, recommended I have a look at Penguin. I had originally thought I might get as far as Stanley but, although I didn’t have enough time to do that, I did have enough to have a look at the Penguin they were so enthusiastic about.
While an attractive village right on the beach, access is only over the freight-only railway line that runs from Burnie to Devonport. Having been spoilt with the ease of our access to Main Beach and others in Forster it was not a beach setting that could live in.
I moseyed further East, but the coastline and its sea/rail-side properties became increasingly less desirable. Still with time on my hands, I turned west again to the couple’s other recommendation, Burnie.
I knew there was a Bendigo Bank branch there and I hoped to make use of its ATM. I found Burnie easily enough though I had to resort to a shopping centre multi-storey car park in the absence of any available street parking. But, even with Ingrid’s help in walking mode, the Bendigo Branch bank eluded us. You’ll recall she did this to me before in Launceston when I was looking for the Museum.
I did, however, find a desperately needed public toilet and a Woolies where I could top up Eksy5’s tank and my dwindled banana and apple supplies.
I did not find the city of Burnie in the least bit attractive and not only because its inhabitants could easily have been shipped in from Taree about which I have similar feelings – or that’s how they looked.
One of the places on my list of “sees if you can” was “Home Hill” the former home of Joseph Lyons, his wife, Dame Enid and their twelve children.
The home is owned by the Devonport City Council but is managed by the National Trust.
It is only open for one-hour guided tours at 2:00 pm from Wednesday to Sunday so I thought if I stirred my stumps, I might make it in time. I didn’t, underestimating my driving time from Burnie because I wanted to have a look at what might be on the coast road between Burnie and Penguin. And despite the rail-line, that portion of the coast was more attractive.
But back to my Home Hill visit. I got there at 2:30 pm to be told by one of the volunteers that the tour had already started but that he would ask if I was too late. The guide, Penny, came to the door and said, yes, I was, but if I would like to join the Queensland couple for the second half of the tour, she would be happy to redo the first part for me. How nice was that?
It was a lovely home, large and surprisingly light for its time and full of family memorabilia. That it needed to be large became clearer when Penny explained that the couple had twelve children. Penny was an excellent guide, being as familiar with the house’s and the family’s history as if she had been a Lyons. Not knowing very much about Joseph or Enid for that matter, I learnt a lot in a short time and found it of real interest. An hour well spent.
And, yes, as you may have guessed if you hadn’t already known, Joe was a devout Catholic and Enid (although brought up a Methodist) converted to marry him. And according to Penny became even more devout than her husband. As you might expect, there were religious statues, paintings and crucifixes in almost every room.
This pleasant diversion meant that I arrived at the Ferry Terminal only 30 minutes before the gates opened for our 5:00 pm loading. As a result, I was in my cabin on Deck 7 again right at 5:15.
Although I had been able to access the Internet in my cabin on the trip down (and paid $20.00 for the privilege) I was unable to do so on the northward journey only to discover that access was only supposed to be available in the public areas. My first cabin, being quite close to the public areas, must have been in just the right place. I am not unhappy about internetting in public areas but to find a quiet spot where I could do my thing was just not possible on the Spirit of Tasmania. All of which may explain my doleful message that transmission would be interrupted.
Following Mortein’s good advice “when you are on a good thing stick to it”, I indulged again in the delicious roast pork with the requisite amount of crackling, roast potato, beans and broccoli. It was delicious, as were the tiny pavlovas.
And, before you ask, the trip was an even smoother one than last time – so sleep I did!!
22 March 2019
As anticipated the FILO rule applied and Eksy5 and I would have been amongst the last dozen or so cars to disembark, if that’s what cars do too.
Thank goodness for Ingrid. In the 7:00 am Melbourne darkness, I could never have found my way to the motorway I was meant to use to get out of the city without her. And she does it all with such aplomb. And, unlike another living navigator of recent memory, is infinitely patient with me when I either ignore her or turn earlier than she has directed!
Once out of the city and on to Sydney Road (aka Hume Highway) I soon became disenchanted both with the amount of traffic and a road surface that was very ordinary for an arterial route of this importance. So, after a couple of hours I detoured to Seymour for a comfort stop, a walk around the centre and a visit to Woolies to get my Coffee Milk Morning tea break.
From there I plotted a course avoiding the Hume Highway and enjoyed some good roads still – the Goulburn Valley and Midland Highways in particular. Ingrid however is “time-driven” and four or five times she tried to persuade me to return to Hume Highway and save xx minutes. But she also found me some interesting country roads on which there was little or no traffic.
I have to say, however, that someone should put the “climate change sceptics” in an un-air-conditioned bus and take them on a tour of the countryside. Today would have been a good day to do so not only because of the burnt fields but also the quite strong wind-blown dust clouds across the roads. It would too have been a day that farmers and “firies” both would hate.
At some point we had no option but to re-join the Hume Highway, but it had been good while it lasted. In the end the drive became a five hour rather than a three hour one but was none the worse for that.
At the Best Western Plus Albury Hovell Tree Inn (now there’s a mouthful) I have a large second-floor room with a balcony overlooking what is striving to be a green treed lawn. Parking is under the building and thanks to a lift I could bring my big wardrobe suitcase up to change my Tasmanian cool climate wear for that more appropriate to the summer-like days forecast for the rest of my trek.
Free and good internet access has also meant I was able to get my trek journal up-to-date and the delayed updates away. A good afternoon’s work.
The restaurant was serving only a Sunday Dinner Menu tonight because of a Public Holiday here. I could find nothing in the calendar so perhaps it’s an Albury-only one. The limited menu was fine and even this far from the coast I was still able to enjoy a fishy meal. In this case it comprised an entrée of Crumbed Calamari with Aioli and a main of Baked Salmon, grilled asparagus, new potatoes and myrtle thyme blanc. Both very good indeed.
Tomorrow I am Canberra bound and looking forward to re-visiting the National Gallery. And the reason for my visit is the Pre-Raphaelite Masterpieces from the Tate exhibition “Love & Desire”.
And wot? No photos. Not today I’m afraid. And there may none tomorrow either.
23 March 2019
I got away soon after 8:30 am and took advantage of the quite good diesel discount price here in Albury before hitting the road proper. As I wanted to get to Canberra in plenty of time for my Gallery visit, I had little choice but to brave the Hume Highway. I took a break at Yass, an almost quintessential Australian country town and one I hadn’t visited before, to get my morning coffee from Woolies and my McGuigan Red from BWS.
From there I headed straight for the gallery so that I could have the maximum amount of time there. Although I got to the Gallery at about 12:30 I then had to find parking. The National Gallery carparks were full but, on the off chance that the Portrait Gallery might have a spot in its underground one, we made the gentle descent to find we had a choice of twenty or more. The relief was palpable!!
Fortunately, it is only a short walk past the High Court to the National Gallery. “Love & Desire” was a terrific exhibition and one of the best I have seen.
The audio-visual guide had images and quite detailed descriptions of 20 of what I presume the curator’s thought were the best representatives of the 90 or so that made up the exhibition.
For me, there were some works that were included for I know not what reason but others that I thought should have been that were omitted. I guess that’s why I’m not a Gallery Director.
Standouts were, of course, “Ophelia” and “The Lady of Shallot” but one entitled “Work’ by Ford Maddox Brown that I had not seen or heard of was so full of characters as to be appealing. Depicting a group of labourers digging up the road for a new sewerage and drainage system it was as full of characters from the human and animal world as a Breughel.
Another that took caught my eye, perhaps because of the kilted figure was Millais’ “The Order of Release”. It depicts the wife of a rebel Scottish soldier, who has been imprisoned, arriving with an order securing his release. She holds her child, showing the order to the guard, while her husband embraces her, and his dog jumps up to welcome him back too.
I spent nearly three hours there and only gave in in the end because my legs and back were saying “enough, enough”.
But, having said that I didn’t think there would be any photos today, here’s one:
The four-metre high wax ‘candle’ sculpture, Francesco 2017, by Swiss artist Urs Fischer is continuously melting from the constant heat of a candle flame. The wick was only lit a week ago and will, over the next six months, according to the blurb, gradually melt into a mottled puddle all over the “refrigerator” plinth. You can just see the first drips close to his right foot.
At $1,000,000, which is what the NGA paid for it, it must be the most expensive candle in the universe.
The Best Western Garden City Hotel has seen better times. Having said that I was “upgraded” to a suite – but which scarcely qualified for such a grand description. However, it is very clean – just “tired plus”.
But the surprise of the evening was the in-house dinner. In a rush of blood to the head, and after having had more than a little seafood, I decided to try the ribeye. It was huge and beautifully cooked – as were the accompanying carrot, broccoli and truly buttery mash. I even braved the looks of other diners by gnawing on the bone. It was a Neanderthal’s delight.
As I have a little time in the morning, I am going to try and get on the first tour of Parliament House which longtime friend, Faye Heggie, for one, had recommended. It all depends on my waking and breakfasting in time and being early in the queue for the 9:30 am tour. We’ll see how we go…
An earlier start to the day than usual because I needed to check-in at Gordon River Cruises when they opened at 7:30 am and find out also what the parking arrangements were. Bushman’s doesn’t offer breakfast, so I restricted myself to my usual on-the-run one of maple syrup oat bars and, here, Moccona instant coffee.
The 6-hour cruise was scheduled to depart at 8:30 am – and the return by 3:00 pm left me with me ample time for the two-hour run to Cradle Mountain. Boarding was from 8:00 am.
As it turned out I beat even my own time target but, while waiting for Gordon River Cruises’ doors to open I was able to view the “Spirit of the Wild”. It is a big catamaran but with its dark battleship grey exterior not particularly attractive. It has two passenger decks and an open viewing deck as its third.
I checked in, got my boarding pass and a voucher for the “Council Pay and Display” car park around the corner 100 metres away. Soon after I got back from parking Eksy5 it was time to board.
It may have looked warship-like from the outside, but the interior is all swish comfort with on the premier upper deck angled leather reclining seats beside floor to ceiling windows. I have the window seat from which this photo was taken looking toward the bow.
As we were being shown to our seats we got to choose from a selection of Danish pastries and juices, which proved to be the first of a number of food offerings well-spaced throughout the cruise. This is a copy of the menu beside each seat:
The seat itself was beautifully comfortable and had an airline-like fold out table for dining. We sailed on the dot of 8:00 am and once out into Macquarie Harbour we were soon speeding our way to Hells Gates the 120-metre-wide entrance to the harbour. When I say speeding, she really was, at about 22 knots. Only launched in June last year the very powerful diesel engines with which she was fitted enable her to do so, as do the electric motors fitted for her quiet running mode on the Gordon River.
The impression that you are on an international flight is reinforced by large “follow your flight” type screens like this:
The passage to Hells Gates was as scenic as one could wish for – as this shot shows:
Hells Gates is apparently one of the more hazardous entrances on the Australian coastline and boasts two lighthouses one of which, the “Entrance” is shown here:
We ventured briefly into the Tasman Sea and were informed that if we kept going the next landfall would be in South America. Although warned about the possibility that the boat might roll a little, she scarcely did so in the very calm seas.
From there it was a non-stop and speedy passage of the Harbour to the mouth of the river. We did slow briefly as we passed the very extensive group of fish farms and a brief explanation of their importance to the Tasmanian economy and of the farming process itself. A less appealing aspect of this was the revelation, at least to me, that the fish feed contains Astaxanthin – a chemical that mimics the pigment salmon would normally attain from crustaceans in the wild. It appears that different markets around the world prefer their salmon a particular colour and to decide how much Astaxanthin should be added to the feed, there is such a thing as a “salmofan”, which looks like a paint chart. It shows a scale of different “degrees” of the salmon colour preferred from grey to dark pink. There was a copy of it on the boat.
During this passage we were served our mid-morning canapes – both were very good but the baby cup of potato and leek soup with parmesan crumbs was the standout.
On our entry to the Gordon River, the engines were switched to quiet mode – and they were. Our slower speed also made it possible to make good use of the expansive upper deck – and most of the passengers on what must have been a full boat seemed able to do so without crowding. It is a magnificent waterway and on such a fine, almost cloudless and windless day it could not have looked better. I along with so many others just took it all in in almost church-like silence.
We stopped and dismounted for a half-hour “Heritage Landing Nature Walk” with two guides from the boat pointing out the different tree, fern, and fungi varieties. It was interesting but not enthralling, or at least that’s how I found it.
On our return to the boat, lunch was ready and the buffet looked as inviting as the menu suggested. In an unusual fit of self-restraint, I limited myself to double portions of the ocean trout and the smoked salmon with a crusty bread roll. A gourmet feast deserving of a nice chardonnay but as the designated driver I limited myself to a Boags Premium Light. We kept being asked if we had had sufficient to eat but like most others near me at least, we had done very well.
After the briefest of open-eyed siestas, we were landing at Sarah Island for the second of our guided tours. This hour-long one was led by guides from the Round Earth Company. A penal settlement in the early 1820s it was another “hell hole” like Port Arthur – only worse.
As we moved around the ruins, for that’s all that’s left, our guide related the story of the island and some of those, military, administrative or convict, involving members of the group as some of the characters. In so doing he wove a fascinating if horrifying tale of the settlement.
I had been tempted to stay on the boat and extend my siesta. I’m glad I resisted the temptation.
On our return, we were welcomed with our desserts which, again, were “tops”. With no persuasion at all I chose the blue cheese, crackers and pear paste – twice!
It was a first-rate cruise in every way, and I could not recommend Gordon River Cruises more highly.
It was with some reluctance that I re-joined Eksy5 for the home run to Cradle Mountain. The quality of the road was excellent, though we gave our climbing, descending and wheel-turning a real work-out on the stretch between Zeehan and Rosebery.
On arrival at Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge, I was told my accommodation had been upgraded to a spa cabin which was much bigger than the standard one I had booked. I’m not sure whether they thought I needed the exercise because it is quite a distance from the Lodge and although I walked to and from it last night for dinner if it rains tomorrow as forecast, I’ll drive there. The cabin has everything I need and although not as fully equipped is cosier and warmer than Lake St Clair.
I was unable to get a booking at the restaurant which was no bad thing, given my extended cruise lunch, so I had a quite good Caesar Salad in the Tavern bistro. Lots of bacon but despite getting a mention in the menu, not an anchovy to be seen.
It was not a peaceful experience as that’s where families camping here eat – and last night they were out in marauding and noisy force. I’ll try and get into the restaurant for tomorrow night.
And after my climb back up the boardwalk to my cabin I had no difficulty in that most important of in-activities, sleep.
Wednesday 20 March 2019
A foggy then drizzly then showery morning providing the only excuse I needed to drive down for my included breakfast. A more than adequate hot and cold buffet from which I chose sufficient to get me through until banana time which, of course, it did.
The first really un-touristy type weather I have experienced was well-timed because I was able to complete yesterday’s update and do some washing, drying and ironing to see me through until I get home.
I had last night booked a one-and-a-half-hour tour of the nearest parts of the National Park. It was scheduled to leave at 1:30 pm by which time there was a hint of the sun of which I had high hopes would continue.
When Steve, our driver/guide picked me and one other passenger up from the Lodge it started to shower again and got heavier as we proceeded.
A long-time guide for Peppers, he was informative about the geology, flora and fauna and we were happy to join him at selected stops where he had examples of one or other to show us.
Cradle Mountain itself was almost completely shrouded in cloud and Lake Dove was looking dismally drearier than I remember it.
The lead-up to the highlight of our short tour was, however, our visit to Waldheim Chalet built in the early 1900s by Gustav and Kate Weindorfer, early proponents of the establishment of a National Park. The Chalet was built both as their home and a guest house but after their deaths fell into ruin and was demolished.
In 1976, the National Parks and Wildlife Service contracted a local builder to reconstruct it as it had been at the time of Gustav’s death in 1932 using the same materials. We walked through it and although the rooms had brief explanatory descriptions, it appears to be in need of a refurbishment and improved signage.
Steve then led us through the garden and across the creek up into as good a living example of rainforest I’ve ever visited. That it was now raining heavily and all three of us were soaked, dampened our spirits not at all. It was a short walk but one I won’t forget.
By some good fortune the cabin has a wood-burning heater already laid with kindling and plenty of wood. So even before my warming shower I had it lit and as many of my wet clothes as I could find something on which to hang them out to dry. It looked like the original Chinese Laundry – and still does.
With the heater seriously stoked up, they can continue to dry while I venture down to the Lounge so that I can get yesterday’s update away before dinner.
With continued good luck and the likelihood that the fire will last the night, everything will be dry enough for me to pack for the next leg of the trek.
At this stage, I have planned my route to Devonport and the ferry via Preston Falls and whatever else on the North Coast I have time for.
Dinner was a bit hit and miss – the entrée of scallops sitting on a slice of black pudding would have been better if the scallops were not so small – which may again have been the result of overcooking.
The main course described only as steamed “white fish” (which the waitress could not identify nor made any attempt to find out), was only orright!
How steamed fish fillets could end up tough is beyond me. The bok choy and buttered Dutch carrots were however delicious.
EOM – End of moaning!
Another gorgeously fine day to start me off on the North Western leg of my trek. By some miracle of organisation for which I am happy to take credit, I was awake, shaved, showered, breakfasted, packed and checked out by 8:30.
My first stop was New Norfolk just half an hour out and which would be the last place where I could get my Woolies Rewards discounted (?) diesel – $1.56 /L.
There was also an associated Woolies supermarket on a different site where I was able to top up my banana, apple, water and maple syrup oat bar supplies for the next two or three days.
I timed my arrival at Russell Falls well because I had no trouble finding a spot in the very small main carpark close to the visitor’s centre. Armed with my free “Seniors” Tasmanian National Parks pass, nor did I have any trouble checking in to do the walk, there being only a short queue at the registration desk.
Access to the falls was by a relatively level, quite wide, sealed and thus wheelchair and pram friendly path.
The estimated time of the walk was just 25 mins return but that must have been for a non-stop version. With a number of “wow” and photo stops it took me all of an hour. Ferns line the edges of the path and tall trees abound. These I understood from the pocket guide were giant eucalypts and myrtles though if the crepe myrtle is truly a myrtle, the only similarity would be the name.
Even without the falls, the walk would have been worth the drive on its own. It was beautiful and very photogenic. The falls themselves were blessed with a little more water than Lilydale but with their two-tier formation much more impressive. They must be magnificent after good rain or snow.
There were two other walks, but both involved steep and slippery steps, so I forwent the lung and leg testing challenge. By the time of my return, even with three Park staff manning it, the queue at the registration desk was out through the front door. And there was a grateful driver waiting to nab my parking spot rather than have to drive down the road to the overflow one.
According to the blurb, the Mount Field Park in which the Russell Falls is sited is one of the most popular of Tasmania’s Parks. Being so close to Hobart and very accessible I can understand why. And on as beautiful a day as today, I’m sure the Hobartians saw this a perfect day-trip destination.
To avoid another rutted gravel road experience, I opted to back-track to rejoin the Lyell Highway for my drive to Lake St Clair. This made it a relatively longer drive but an interesting one. I was again able to drive at my pleasurably leisurely 70 or 80 kph making it so much easier to take in what I was passing through. Today included a mix of agricultural properties, old-growth forests, commercial pine forests, vineyards, scrub-covered and obscenely bare logged areas. The road itself was of variable quality but eighty per cent of it would have been at least 100 km/h safe.
Thanks to Tasmanian Hydro I found a good if not particularly scenic lunch stop spot at Tungatinah Power Station next to the Nive River. It boasted covered and open picnic seating, good toilet facilities and coin-operated barbecues. The perfect place to enjoy my bananas, apple and sparkling spring water with a hint of lemon!
The drive weaves its way through the Lakes none of which I detoured to explore but doubtless will sometime in the future. I did stop briefly however beside the Bronte Lagoon where there is a memorial to Surveyors of old. The location was chosen because it is the geographical centre of Tasmania.
And so, to Lake St Clair. I have a so-called “wilderness cabin” at the “Lake St Clair Lodge” and it is. They all, including the waterside ones, look very much like the cabins in a down-market motor camp. But inside it’s a different story, tiny balcony, compact kitchen with fridge and microwave, gowns and slipper scuffs, a fully-tiled bathroom with very modern fittings including a huge shower AND a heated towel rail.
Perhaps intentionally emphasising the wilderness claim the drive to the cabin was something of a challenge as was parking nearby in unmarked and only notionally formed spaces. Having backed and filled I finally got Eksy5 tucked up, but she can stay there until I leave after breakfast in the morning.
Fortunately, the Visitors’ Centre and Restaurant are within walking distance, so dinner and breakfast do not pose a problem – even if the bees or wasps do. Luckily, the Parks Information Office sells a pocket-sized insect repellent spray called “Ouch” and it worked a treat both on the path to the Visitors’ Centre and, necessarily, the restaurant.
There is a café but the offerings there are basic.
The only appealing alternative was the restaurant which, as you will read has a limited menu and is seriously overpriced, but if I wanted a proper meal it would have to do.
From this I chose the Cape Grim Eye fillet which was as good a one as I’ve had in a long time with new potatoes, grilled asparagus and broccoli. Despite its ludicrous $52.00 cost, I savoured every bit of it.
Tomorrow, I hope to detour again to visit Nelson Falls, another purportedly accessible, attraction. I’ll let you know with or without accompanying promotional photographs.
The huge king-sized bed looks inviting, so that’s where I’ll head now….
Monday 18 March 2019
A bracing walk in the 12° cool of the morning to a forgettable breakfast which is probably why it was included in the tariff. An urn with sachets of Nescafe was the coffee offering, for which I substituted what tasted like watered down apple juice.
The 65 km run to Nelson Falls was another scenic but a surprisingly easy one. I was able to stop on one occasion to get a shot of what I thought was an attractive “cloudy mountains” landscape – and while not as attractive as I remember it, it will do:
The walk into Nelson Falls was said to be 20 minutes return – which, for me, was about half of what it actually took. While the pathway was not quite as attractive as yesterday’s, the falls themselves were stunning.
The early part of the road from there to Queenstown was easy and I was even able to saunter along at a really relaxing 60 kph. But the closer I got to Queenstown, even that was too fast to negotiate some of the bends. And the really steep bit down into the town gave Eksy5 and me quite a workout.
I had thought of stopping there but a circuit of the town centre confirmed that little had changed since I last visited possibly in the 70s and it is no more attractive now than we found it then.
Being surrounded by the stripped earth and quarry scarred hillsides, a legacy of the early gold and copper mining days, it has no appeal for me.
After the pre-Queenstown bends, those between there and Strahan were a breeze but even so I took a welcome break from them at the Rinadeena Access Road Lookout. I am glad I pulled in because the view was just beautiful and more than made up for the lack of them around Queenstown.
Despite this diversion, I still arrived far too early to check in to my deceptively-named accommodation site in Strahan, the Bushman’s Cafe. However, in my search for a quiet shady place for my lunch, I discovered the Peoples Park less than a km away. Here I was able to wind down and enjoy my bananas and royal gala apple at one of the many available picnic tables.
But there’s more to the People’s Park than “tables and shade” which sounds like one of those upmarket brand names. It is the home to the Hogarth Falls. The helpful Notice at the entrance to the path advised me that the walk was timed at 40 minutes return. Knowing my pace and that I had already done one shorter “walk” today I took some convincing that I could do it.
But do it I did, even if quite slowly at times. Again, it was worth the effort.
I was able to book in a little after 3:00 pm to one of three first floor “suites”. In reality, it is a most attractive split-level room which I guess could qualify for being described as a suite.
Dinner was on-site. The restaurant has quite a reputation and although heavily booked a couple of tables are kept for house guests. The offerings are quite pricy but as you will see, a bit different.
From this, I chose the “Salmon & Blue Eye”. Chargrilled, it was beautifully cooked and presented but on the night myrtle butter sauce had been substituted for the lime – and that suited me just fine. It comprised six quite large pieces of each fish all of which were moist and plain yummy.
As the distance to Cradle Mountain is relatively short, I thought I would have time to fit in a cruise tomorrow morning. Of the two companies offering cruises, I chose Gordon River Cruise more because their six-hour cruise left half an hour earlier and I thought that extra margin might be good to have to get to Cradle Mountain before dark. Even better was that I was able to get a booking on their new vessel, the “Spirit of the Wild” which, from the website, looked larger and, perhaps, more stable.
Indulging myself, I chose sight-unseen the “Premier Upper Deck” option. The fare was almost as expensive as that for the Bass Strait crossing but it did include two guided tours, lunch, morning and afternoon refreshments and an open bar. So I thought, why shouldn’t I?
I have no recollection of what the bed was like but I slept like the proverbial log which I put down more to my Falls’ expeditions than the glasses of wine at and after dinner.