Alister’s Early Life Memoires

Life was never easy on the farm. I watched my father struggle… and when he asked me if I was interested in farming as a career I had no hesitation in saying “No”! Knowing that, Dad sold the farm and found a job as a Manager of a farm near Dargaville. Father and I would take our pony and horses to the local shows where we would ride and hope to get noticed. That was always a long day as we would be up before daylight then set off with neighbors for venues up to 25 miles away. At the end of the day we would ride home. It would be a long tiring day but a lot of fun. Much time was spent grooming and preparing our horses.


We had two venues to holiday at [vacation]. One was with Mother’s relatives in Masterton [about 360 miles southeast from home as the Pipiwharauroa (shining cuckoo) flies]. We would stay with my Grandmother in Masterton, and also with Mother’s sister whose husband owned a large farm at Kumeroa near Masterton. I got on well with all my cousins who settled in the area and are still there today. These were memorable holidays playing tennis, doing animal husbandry on the farm and making friends with all my cousins. Today we are still good friends.

Baylys Beach

Baylys Beach

Our second venue was at Baylys Beach [about 7 miles west of Dargaville] where Mother’s great friend had a small holiday house on this west coach beach. Here there were lots of young people. We had to make our own fun but that was never difficult. Everything was very simple. A daily swim was a must as it was also our daily bath. We walked, fished, climbed the cliffs, fought with the older kids and fired rocks onto the roofs of houses in the neighboring gorge – they retaliated!!!

We spent our pennies at the store and took our smokes up to the cliffs or the sand hills. We also had to dig toheroas, a local delicacy, for visitors and for the family as this shellfish was a large part of the beach diet [the toheroa is a very large clam, ranging from 6″ to 12″ in length]. Toheroa soup has been a great delicacy over the years, but sadly the toheroas have been seriously depleted with over picking and are now banned unless one has a permit. Mary and I have a small cottage at the beach and we still spend time there.


From our small country school, I went as a boarder to Whangarei Boy’s High School, going home for the holidays at the end of each term. At the end of my school days I was immediately drafted into the Air Force and thus my childhood ended.

Bonus Note from Lady Mary

A wee note about the toheroa. Yes the Sennachie’s information is correct but I thought I would add to that. In early 1930’s, toheroa soup was served to the then Prince of Wales, who on finishing his soup asked for more!! Apparently the Royals never ask for more. This request hit the headlines and made Toheroa soup really famous. Thus the World knew about Toheroa soup.  Toheroa Soup Recipe