New Zealand: Invercargill

Written by Harold McNeill on January 31st, 2012. Posted in Travelogue


South Tip of the South Island

While in Switzerland, Lynn and I struck up a friendship with Karen and Nobby, a couple who hailed from Invercargill — the very southern tip of the South Island of New Zealand (next stop Antarctica). Some weeks after the meeting in Switzerland, and just by pure chance, we ran into Karen and Nobby again in Venice, totally unplanned, in the midst of a crowd that must have numbered in the hundreds of thousands.  Can you imagine the coincidence?

Meant to be we figured and that we had best accept their invitation to visit their plantation in New Zealand! Well, that future came much sooner than expected when Lynn and I made the trek to Invercargill in late November, 2009.

So where does one start to tell the story of our visit with Nobby and Karen? Well, I suppose, I will do what Nobby would do in such a situation – just “tell it as you see it”. At one moment, Nobby is overwhelming a conversation with some witticism and the next he is in an engaging in conversation that demonstrates a wide knowledge of the world and of many interesting subjects.

In recent years, Nobby and Karen became incurable travelers heading to places where others fear to tread – like a recent trip to Egypt that turned into a trip on a rickety old bus across the Sinai Desert to Israel; all without the benefit of stamping a passport for fear of facing reprisals at one end or the other. Apparently the folks in those areas don’t always see eye to eye, except perhaps in hand to hand combat.  Or a close call when Nobby found a poison dart stuck in his backpack. (Karen assures us it was not her!)  Nobby thinks it must have been intended for Karen, but knowing Nobby, the dart was probably on target – we suspect his early life as a CIA agent is catching up with him.

Well perhaps not CIA, but for sure “Special Ops” as Nobby did a tour in Viet Nam attached to the US Military with the NZA (NZ Army Nobby says, but sounds very suspicious to me). We sense the man has no fear and firmly believe the credit for Nobby having survived this long in their world travels is entirely due to Karen.

Now on to other members of the extended family with its roots back several generations in the Southlands. At the time of our visit, Karen’s son, Shaun, and his wife, Roshni (from Fiji) were living with Nobby and Karen while they worked at getting their own home built on a nearby acreage. Two delightful young people.  Nobby and Karen are most fortunate to have a large family (many living within 20 km of their home) and we had opportunity to meet many of them.  Those we met are just  like Karen and Nobby, caring, welcoming, friendly folks.

One branch of the family (Karen’s Son-in-law) is firmly connected to the past century in an unusual way. It seems that the illicit distilling of that demon whisky during prohibition (a 50 year period in the early last century) helped many Irish families through some very difficult times. As in many other countries prohibition created an opportunity that was just to good to pass up. To find out more about his family we stopped by the “Whiskey Museum” in Gore which is dedicated in large part to the McRae family (Karen’s son-in-law’s grandparents).  (Note: Gore and Clinton are two towns near each other .. a third town called “Bush” changed their name a few years back. It is now called “Athol” – no kidding look it up).

Back at the Clarke home almost every evening we managed to get into a card or board game of some sort. The competitive nature of everyone at the table made for a lively evening (no holds barred). We sometimes had a round of that demon whiskey (Old Hokonui – in remembrance of the McRae Clan) just to steady our nerves during the intensity of the games!

Karen and Lynn picked up right where they left off in Switzerland and Venice in that they could wile away hours just chatting about “girl things” (we guess) while sitting around at home, shopping downtown or taking long walks.

Nobby and I would take off and hit the local pool hall or do a tour of some of his other haunts. After the first round of pool, things got very serious and Nobby even offered to buy me a drink (10 am no less) hoping beyond hope, I guess, that it would take the edge off my game. (which I must admit was not all that great but level with Nobby – did I say that right). I suspect Nobby is usually more selective in his pool challenges. It totally threw him off when one of his many friends (a woman of course) came over to say “hi” and told me how much she liked my “Canadian Accent”.  Ah, always nice to have one up on Nobby.  I had to let it go at that!

Having been deeply involved in community affairs throughout his career in social services and family counseling, Knobby knows simply everyone and always has an opinion (a strong opinion I might add) on any subject that may arise in conversation. I loved it, for, as many of you  know, I can BS with the best of them- and Nobby is one of the best.

Well the week in Invercargill, in weather that was just short of being miserable (not unlike Victoria in the mid-winter), turned out to be another highlight in the many highlights of our time in New Zealand. We met so many more wonderful folks and did a lot of crazy things that will provide many memories when we go home. The many friendships we made will last the rest of our lives.

It was a great way to begin the process of wrapping up our time in NZ, visiting with this wonderful couple and their extended family- living at the far end of the earth.  We will hopefully run into Nobby and Karen, or some of the kids, on our future travels.

Written in Victoria





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  • Harold McNeill

    January 13, 2019 |

    Well, my dear, it’s that time again. How the years fly by and the little ones grow but try as you may you will have a hard time catching up to your Daddy. Lots of love young lady and may your day be special
    Love, Dad

  • Harold McNeill

    January 5, 2019 |

    Guess what? My response went to the Spam folder. Hmm, do you suppose the system is trying to tell me something?

  • Harold McNeill

    January 5, 2019 |

    Thanks, Terrance. Your comment came through but went to the Spam folder. Have pulled it out and approved. Can you send another on this post to see if you name is now removed from Spam? I’m not sure why it does that. Cheers, Harold

  • Terrance

    January 5, 2019 |


  • Harold McNeill

    December 23, 2018 |

    Thanks Sis. I will be uploading as Hi-Def so the photos can be viewed full screen. Brother

  • Louise

    December 21, 2018 |

    Amazing collection of photos of the weekend ❤️❤️

  • Harold McNeill

    December 21, 2018 |

    Hi Dave,

    Not sure if you are the same Armit as was at Oak Bay PD or not. Interesting to see your comment on Danny Cain and your birthdays and family friendships. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 19, 2018 |

    Thanks, Lynn. It appears there was a problem with the comment system. Cheers, Harold

  • lynnmcneill

    November 19, 2018 |

    Hi Harold – looks great!

  • Maurice Smook

    August 13, 2016 |

    Hi Jillian,

    I don’t know if you are still checking this site but I had to respond again. February of 2017 it will be 72 years since this battle occurred.

    What caught my attention about this incident was on the Go Deep Documentary that aired on the History Channel. First of all I never known that this battle having ever occurred.

    According to my grade 3 teacher WW2 had never occurred. That grade 3 teacher stated that the WW2 and the holocaust was all propaganda. All of my classmates they believed her. I hate to say this but all I knew was that soldiers shooting at each other.

    I almost was expelled from school. My

    Mom my Dad my brother and my Uncle would have been arrested for propaganda. I paid the price. It was ironic a grade 5 teacher told me that Smooks are all commies. Dad was Conservative.

    All the Smooks that I known are all Conservative. If I had the money I would have loved to sue those two teachers.

    As I said I never heard of this Battle. If it were not for that program I would have never had known.

    I started to do more researching to find out more about the history of this battle. The narrator of Go Deep mentioned the names of the pilots who died that battle.

    I missed 20 minutes of that program but the camera crew had the camera’s pointed towards the sign with the names of the deceits. That is how I known.

    According to the narrator There are three who are still missing. W.J. Jackson, Harry Smook and A. Duckworth. A couple of months ago the staff of Go Deep have located Harry and A. Duckworths aircraft. This is on you tube. Harry and A. Duckworth craft is approx 650 feet deep in the Fjord. The individual who is heading this expansionary mission made it known he will not rest until all three of the missing pilots
    will be retrieved. I am sure that A. Duckworth’s kin are hoping for the same.

    What really puzzles me is that I have sent emails to the Smooks. Not one ever replying. I presume its the same with you. Sad. Dad rarely spoke about his family. It appears there is a big secret of the Smooks. I too assume Harry is a kin to my Dad. Harry maybe a 4th 5th cousin to my Dad. I too would like to know. Harry and A. Duckworth served and died for our country. The other is W.j. Jackson – who is also still missing – having died for our Country.

    In conclusion I still ask myself why is this a huge secret.

    If you are still checking this site please contact me. Maybe we may be kin.

    Take care.