Home' Greymouth Star : May 23rd 2017 Contents Greymouth Star
Tuesday, May 23, 2017 - 5
oy Munn remembers fondly the days
when the Industries Fair was held
at Victoria Park, bustling occasions
when town and country folk jostled
He joined the fair committee
in 1962 and was responsible for the design and
construction of the new stage, which hosted the
countless acts and stage shows over the years.
“I joined the committee and along with Trevor
Harris, Shorty Nixon and Wally Messenger we built
the stage I designed. We used to put up a temporary
stage made up of tarpaulins and drums prior to that,
but they used to get blown over at times.”
“The Royal Fairs were real highlights for me,
meeting the royal family — lovely people and a
lovely family. We also used to have a ‘Pastoral Queen’
beauty contest, which was very popular. We had very
good contestants each year, judged partly on pastoral
knowledge, but looks had a big bearing. When the
racetrack got the lights on, it made a big difference as
we had to run our own lights before that, which was
a big job. In its heyday the Industries Fair had it all.”
Greymouth-born Roy has led an interesting and
productive life on the West Coast.
“I was born in the Grey Hospital in McBrearty
Ward in 1933. My father Fred was the manager of
Baillie and Neville, the fruit and veggie supplier
in Greymouth. There was my mum Eva, my older
brother Bill, my younger sister Joan and younger
brother Ralph. Joan eventually married Morrie Tuck
from Nelson Creek. We lived on Domett Esplanade,
along the beach road in Cobden.”
Roy attended Cobden School before going to the
Greymouth Technical High School for what he calls
a “rapid education”.
“I was 15 years old when I left school and went
and worked for Westland Construction Co as an
apprentice carpenter. That was where the old Shell
shop (Z service station) used to be in Whall Street.
I served my time, got my ticket and after a year or
so went and worked for Warner Hopkinson and
Jack Devenport. One of the jobs was putting the
service tunnel under the hospital. It went from the
south end to the nurses’ home. It was quite a big job
digging out the foundations, taking the spoil and
putting in the concrete walls and floor.”
Growing up in Cobden, the main means of
transport for Roy was either pounding the streets
with leather or riding his push bike, which he
preferred. The young Roy was the Marco Polo of
Cobden and along with good friend Trevor Harris he
put his pilgrims hat on and went exploring on two
wheels at every opportunity he could.
“ Trevor and I were probably 17 years old when we
rode our push bikes from Cobden over the Arthur’s
Pass and on to Christchurch.
“They were the old push-bikes, no gears and one
brake, and of course the road was shingle basically
the whole way in those days, until we got near the
city. We would bike in the ruts the car tyres made
but there weren’t many cars then, either. When they
came along we just moved off to the side of the road.
When we got to Christchurch we went right into the
city and went to a dance.
“The next day we set off again on our bikes and
came over the Lewis Pass. It was Easter time and I
remember we got three punctures between us on the
whole trip, which was pretty good I thought.”
At Christmas time they were off again and biked
to Christchurch, through to Kaikoura, Blenheim,
Nelson and Inangahua through to Westport and
down the Coast Road to home.
“ We did short hops on that trip, and did Nelson to
Greymouth in two days. Again we picked up three
punctures with the two bikes but it was gravel again
all the way. We had 26-inch wheels, not many cars
either on that trip and no trucks. We made up saddle
bags for our bikes and took our food with us, and of
course it goes without saying we raided the orchards
along the way — beautiful fruit apples, plums, pears
— forbidden fruit always tastes good!”
Another memorable trip was venturing through
South Westland in what could well have been a
forerunner to the television series Survival, or a
realistic impression of Grizzly Adams.
“ We took the bus down to Paringa, that ’s as far as
the road went back then and the bus would go down
there every second day. We walked from Paringa
to Q ueenstown, walked through the old Paringa
Cattle Track that the Nolans would herd their cattle
through from Haast once a year. It was pretty rough
terrain, I know that, but when we got to the Haast
River, Mary Cron took us by rowboat across the river.
She was a real hard case lady and just blended into
the South Westland environment.”
The food Roy and Trevor had with them early
on soon ran out but having ser ved their time in
St John and as scouts they were well prepared for
“ We had a .22 calibre rifle with us and we lived off
pigeons along the way,” Roy chuckled. “ When we
were hungry we would shoot a pigeon, pluck it, gut it
and boil it up in the billy, eat it and make soup with
what was left. We took matches with us and had
plenty of ammunition. Surviving was not an issue,
and the streams back then provided us with fresh
clean water — not like today.”
In their travels they met a number of characters and
one in particular left him with a lasting impression.
“His name was Joe Driscoll and we ran into him
along the track. He was a conscientious objector
from World War Two and had a little hut hidden by
Ship Creek. He was a lean looking man with a long
grey beard; he looked like a character out of a movie
but he was very pleasant.
“A boat would come down from Greymouth with
supplies to Jackson Bay and old Joe would go across
with his packhorse and pick up three dozen quart
bottles of beer, which would last him for a fortnight.
During the war he never got caught, no one knew he
was there except the locals, but they never talked.”
Walking along horse tracks, around bluffs, hopping
from rock to rock and along river flats, the intrepid
pair eventually reached Queenstown.
“ When we got there we went across to Kingston
in the old Earnslaw paddle steamer. The railway line
then went from Kingston to Invercargill and we got
on the train and headed to Invercargill. I had an
old uncle, dad’s brother Arthur, who worked in the
Ocean Beach freezing works (at Bluff ). We stayed a
couple of nights with him before catching the train
to Christchurch and then got on the railcar and
“ When I got home mum was so pleased to see me,
she had wanted to know where I was going when we
headed off so I drew her a rough old map of South
Westland and she seemed happy with that. Mum
and dad were very good to me. I had a very good
upbringing, they taught me the rights and wrongs
of life — I still hold their thoughts in my life
When Roy ’s father died, Roy took over his role
as manager of Baillie and Neville and so began an
interesting job in the fruit and vegetable trade.
“Dad died in 1957 so I went and took over the
operation and got my auctioneers licence. I was up
at four each morning auctioneering the fruit and
veggies. All the shops would buy what they needed
for their store. There were four grocers in Cobden
at that time — Lyndsay Abbie, Nimmos, Moores
and Albert Watkin. The Greymouth grocers would
be there as well, including Mintie Curtis, Peter
Sweetman, Kyles, the Richards boys, Con and Stan,
Stan Rogers and Charlie Mitchell and the Chinese
fruiterers, Dave Luey, Jimmy Luey, Stan L ei and
Tuam in Boundary Street — all bidding for the fruit
and vegetables which would have come overnight
from Christchurch. And today Greymouth has two
Roy next started work for Tasman Tyres in 1962
and was the original manager of the company. As he
recalls, the company came about when Greymouth
businesses were called to band together to focus on
creating new jobs.
“ When I started, the company was known as
Tasman Tyres Ltd. The mines were closing at the
time and mayor Fred Baillie wanted to get people
to provide jobs for the miners so he got various
committees together around town. One committee
was the retail motor trade and consisted of Ron
Cooks, from West Coast Motors, Roy Wylde,
who had his Runanga bus company, and Harold
Robinson, who was the manager of Greymouth
Motors at the time. Robbie Wright, who had
Burnside Motors in Runanga, came on board as well
and they started negotiations.”
The West Coast was canvassed from Westport
to Fox Glacier and more than £20,000 was raised
to form the company. There were 23 shareholders
originally, basically from the retail motor trade from
throughout the West Coast. The original building
was in William Street, facing Victoria Park, beside
the Shell Oil company. Mobil was on the other side
of the road.
“The establishing of the Tasman Tyre factory
revolutionised the tyre service on the West Coast.
Previously, tyres would be sent to Christchurch, and
there were always delays. We could ‘cook’ a car tyre in
one hour 10 minutes — we had 12 moulds, one for
“ We began focusing the operation on truck tyres
and sales, and as well we had procured the agency
for Firestone. Originally, we were a service to the
local garages and it was 100% local supporting local.
Tasman Tyres was lucky it came in at a good time.
We had the support of all the big trucking firms
“ We eventually got Beynons and Crofts on board,
because they originally had their traditional market.
We did all the loaders on the gold claims.
“I remember Max Birchfïeld needed a tyre. I was in
Westport when he rang and said, ‘I need a tyre by 6
o’clock the next morning’. I told him we didn’t have a
tyre in Westport and didn’t have one in Greymouth
but he would get the tyre he wanted. I drove across
to Christchurch that night, picked up the large tyre
and had it all ready for him at 6am. He was a very
good customer and you go that extra mile for your
“I treated my job at Tasman Tyres as my own
business and I had a very good team working for me,
which made my job a lot easier.”
Roy Munn married his sweetheart Janice after an
organised romance and says he and his late wife had
a wonderful life together.
“ We were married at the little church in Cobden
and we had two wonderful daughters, Raewyn and
Lynley. I have to give credit to Graeme Warnes for
getting us together,” Roy smiled.
“My cobbers all drank but I didn’t, I didn’t know
what a beer tasted like until I was 26 years old. A
group of us including Graeme went to a ball and
I said I’d drive them as I didn’t have a girlfriend
and they had all been drinking. Graeme worked at
Nancarrows Travel Co and said he’d soon fix that.
“Janice was working there so I ended up knocking
on her father’s front door and asked Janice if she
wanted to go to the ball and she said she would love
to. We went to another ball and that ’s how it all
These days Roy is a vestry member of the Holy
Trinity Anglican Church and while he may be long
retired, life is still busy.
“I do all the maintenance around the church and
don’t mind lending a hand where I can be a help. I
built the new hall at the Holy Trinity Church and
helped out when building the St John’s hall.
“I walk 5km every morning and walk 2.5km at
night. I can do it so I might as well because I believe
at any age exercise is very important.”
Roy gestures to a framed picture of the Q ueen
taken at Victoria Park.
“ You know, one of my highlights was meeting Her
Majesty the Q ueen on three occasions. I was even in
her bedroom with her at Revingtons (Hotel) in 1954.
I don’t think many men can say they were in the
same bedroom as the Q ueen,” he laughed.
“I was in military training at the time and just a
young fellow but because I was a driver I had to go
down to Hokitika to pick up the Q ueen’s luggage
when the plane landed. Only one half of the
highway had been sealed from Hokitika to
Greymouth on the side the Q ueen was to travel
on,” Roy said.
“I remember driving back to Greymouth but we
were running late and I took her bags up to the top
room with the balcony at the front, at Revingtons
Hotel. The Q ueen arrived while I was still in the
room. I stood to attention as she walked into the
bedroom, I was so uptight but she was so relaxed.
She was a real lady, she was absolutely beautiful,
typical English complexion, perfect skin and of
course, being a young buck I took notice of those
sort of things back then!”
Roy met the Q ueen again when on the Industries
Fair committee in 1970 and was in the front-line
once more at the 1977 Royal Fair.
“John Guerin was the secretary of the fair
committee and arranged for us to be presented and
meet the royal family.
“The Q ueen still had a presence and a confidence.
Meeting Princess Anne also brought back memories
for me. Princess Anne was young and as I remember,
she was very much like her mother was when I met
the Q ueen at Revingtons in 1954.
“It just seems like yesterday. Great memories for me
— they were so natural and such lovely people.”
Roy Munn was rewarded with the Q ueen’s Service
Medal in 2006.
PICTURE: Paul McBride
Roy Munn at the old Victoria Park site, in Greymouth.
Roy Munn shakes his head as he casts an eye over the neglected site which was once Victoria Park.
The venue holds bittersweet memories for this West Coast identity but now sits abandoned, to the
blackberries, gorse and rank grass that has invaded the park. “It’s a damned shame to see the way it is
now,” says Roy, who spent many good years helping out there with the Industries Fair. Before settling
down as a pillar of the Greymouth community, Roy was also a wanderer who explored most of the
South Island by push-bike, as he recalls to PAUL McBRIDE.
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