Home' Greymouth Star : November 26th 2013 Contents Greymouth Star
Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - 5
Retirement . . . too
busy for that at
as she prepares for
the 50km trip to
Rimu to visit her "old friend" and former top
pacer Happy Asset. More about the horsing
Customers to Merv's Milk Bar in
Greymouth can always expect a cheery
"hello dear" if Margaret MacDonald is
behind the counter, and it is not fake
a ection. Margaret's one simple mantra
about life is "be happy" and it is one that this
enthusiastic West Coaster --- she probably
quali es as a Coaster by now --- lives by on
a daily basis.
"I say, 'If you can't go to work with a smile
on your face then please don't go and ruin
someone else's day', and it's a rule that I
enforce on myself."
Who is Margaret MacDonald?
Well, she was born in Cashmere,
Christchurch, 65 years ago, and attended
the local primary and high schools before
enrolling in Canterbury University for an
arts degree in English literature and history,
but did not nish it.
" ere was no such thing as student loans
back then. Unless you had wealthy parents
you had to work to pay your way. I stuck at
it for two years but it just got too hard."
Her rst foray into full employment
was with NAC (later to become Air New
Zealand) selling international travel in
" at was when airlines put customers
rst and the world was fun to travel in,"
"We had associations with the Dutch,
Indonesian, Italian and Canadian airlines
and if you were selling travel you needed
to know about the places, so I travelled
extensively. You had to know the world so I
got to travel it for free."
Ultimately, she ended up in Air New
Zealand's central regional o ce in
Wellington, in the marketing division, where
she was in charge of training new sales sta .
It was at Wellington that she and her late
husband, Doug, started Market Impact
Ltd, New Zealand's rst direct marketing
"Initially it was just us stu ng letters
into envelopes in a room in our house, and
creating direct mail promotional campaigns,
but when we sold it in 1994 it had 56 sta
and was the largest of its kind in New
Zealand, and in its own building."
e MacDonalds blazed a lot of
technology trails, introducing PCs to the
business world with the purchase of a hard
drive, four screens and keyboards for about
$250,000 from a New Zealand company ---
long before the advent of IBM PCs --- and
they also also imported the rst database
compatible laser printers to New Zealand.
"We had to keep up with technology.
Doug had a saying, ' e rst person that
cuts the hole in the hedge gets the scratches,
while those that follow don't'. We got the
scratches," Margaret says.
"Eventually, the business got so big that
it was no longer fun so we sold it to our
partners and came to Greymouth, essentially
because Doug had an a nity with the
Few on the West Coast would have
known that because Doug, a retired army
major who saw ser vice in the Korean War,
was not one to blow his own trumpet, but
Arthur's Pass was the playground of his
youth. He climbed Mount Rolleston 25
times --- and by all the di erent routes
--- sat on the top of Mount Cook twice,
climbed with Ed Hillary and Harry Ayres,
and he even trained the huskies for Hillary's
trans-Antarctic expedition. " ey trained
the dogs on the Tasman Glacier because it
was as near as you could get to Antarctic
conditions," Margaret says. "Probably should
not say this, but he said that Hillary was not
enamoured by them."
Any thoughts of again roaming the alps
disappeared soon after the MacDonalds
moved to the West Coast when Doug's
health declined, but his interests in horse
racing gave him another hobby, and it had
its high points, particularly when the horse
he owned with Jack O'Donnell, Happy
Asset, won the Auckland Cup. e horse
was good to the MacDonalds and they were
keen to repay it in retirement and now, aged
22, it rules the roost in a paddock at Rimu.
Margaret makes the journey once a week to
e horse has retired but not so Margaret
"We came came to Greymouth to lay back
and do nothing but I got bored and took a
job pumping petrol, essentially as a way of
meeting people because we found it hard,
at rst, to make new friends. en we saw
that Merv's Milk Bar was on the market
and, because I had always had an interest
in retailing, we bought Merv's and to my
horror I still have it.
"I enjoy people, having sta and providing
a service to the community, but times are
very trying now."
Margaret also managed the Regent eatre
and was secretary of the West Coast eatre
Trust for ve years, establishing it as a
place to stage live shows --- sometimes at
her own expense --- with great success. e
independently produced and funded Joseph
and the Technicolour Dreamcoat was one.
She still gets frustrated as shows pass
Greymouth by, citing reser vation and
" ere's a spiritual malaise of the
performing arts in the local economy now,"
she says. "I am deeply concerned about the
lack of community spirit in Greymouth
and am envious of places like Hokitika and
Westport, which are attracting live shows
which pass us by. It's a great shame. Shows
in Hokitika always sell out --- and often
when you go to them you nd that the
audience is packed with Greymouth people
who do not support their own theatre. Other
West Coast towns get great community
support --- I just don't see that here."
Margaret, a Meals on Wheels volunteer,
said that lack of community spirit also
spreads to those sorts of organisations.
"We struggle for volunteer drivers. It
involves only about one hour out of your life
every few weeks, but it's a struggle to get
enough volunteers to keep a healthy roster.
It really makes me wonder."
It's not all doom and gloom, though.
Margaret, who helps with the annual West
Coast dancing competitions, sees much to
like in the youth of today.
"I enjoy the sheer pleasure of the youth
of the West Coast, their keenness and
enthusiasm, and the way that they approach
the dance, it's a credit to them. It's just a
shame that more adults are not red with
the same enthusiasm."
ere was, no doubt, much more to learn
about Margaret MacDonald but it was
feeding time at Rimu in an hour and Happy
Asset was waiting for his weekly visit, so
that will have to wait for another day.
PICTURE: Janna Sherman
Margaret MacDonald with "old friend" Happy Asset, at Rimu.
When Margaret MacDonald rst came to the West Coast about 20 years ago it was to rest on the laurels of a highly
successful business career in early retirement. Since then she has juggled being a businesswoman, district councillor,
theatre manager, promoter of live shows, and various volunteer roles. TUI BROMLEY asks, what happened to
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