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

    April 14, 2020 |

    Hi Rick,
    Great to hear from you and trust all is going well. Our family members are all doing well but it must be pretty tough for a lot of people. I had once heard you were going to do some writing but never heard anything further. I would be most interested, but do you think the OB News have archives back to that time. Any link or information you could provide would be greatly appreciated. Did you keep copies? Regards, Harold

  • Rick Gonder

    April 14, 2020 |

    Hi Harold
    About 22 years ago I spent several weeks going through the OBPD archives. I wrote several stories that were published in the OB News. Feel free to use if they are of value to what you are doing.
    Keep this up, I’m enjoying it and it brings back memories.

  • Harold McNeill

    April 12, 2020 |

    Hi Susan,

    Glad you had a chance to read. I decided to update these stories by proofreading as there were several grammatical errors in many. Hopefully, many of those glaring errors have been removed.

    Many of the stories carry a considerable amount of social comment regarding the way the criminal justice system is selectively applied. Next up involves a young woman from near Cold Lake, Alberta, who was abducted by an older male from Edmonton. Her story is the story of hundreds of young men and woman who have found themselves alone and without help when being prayed upon unscrupulous predators.

    Cheers, Harold

  • Susan

    April 8, 2020 |

    Great read, Harold!…and really not surprising, sad as that may sound.
    Keep the stories coming, it is fascinating to hear them.
    Love from us out here in the “sticks”, and stay safe from this unknown predator called Covid.

  • Harold McNeill

    February 17, 2020 |

    Update:  Times Colonist, February 16, 2020, articles by Louise Dickson, She got her gun back, then she killed herself,” and,  Mounties decision to return gun to PTSD victim haunts her brother. 

    Summary: I don’t know how many read the above articles, but they contained the tragic details about young woman, Krista Carle’, who took her own life after suffering for years with PTSD. While tragedies such as this play out across Canada every week, the reason this story resonates so profoundly is that the final, tragic, conclusion took place here in Victoria. Continued in the article.

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    February 15, 2020 |

    Testing the comments section after changes made. Updated: February 10, 2020

    Further to the update below (February 1, 2020), I note that since the government announced a “No-Fault” insurance plan for BC, Robert Mulligan is taking a slightly different tack, suggesting that no-fault will only increase the problems by taking away the right of an injured party to sue.

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    Statements like this appear to be simple fear-mongering. As was the case in the past, people who commit criminal offences, as well as other forms of negligence while driving, may well lose their insurance coverage and in all likelihood would be sued by ICBC to recover costs of the claim. (Link here to Mulligan’s full conversation on CFAX radio)

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