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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  • Mike Fedorowich

    September 1, 2023 |

    I have gone through the above noted text and have found it quite informative.
    I am a former member with several law enforcement agencies from across Canada.
    I worked in the First Nations service under the authority of the RCMP with the over sight of the OPP. My law enforcement service was conducted under the authority of the Nishnawbe – Aski Police Service in North West Ontario the Louis Bull Police Sevice in Hobbema AB, the Kitasoo Xaixais Police Service in Northern in side passage on Swindle Island, the Lac Suel Police Service North West Ontario and the Vancouver Transit Authority Sky Train Police Service. I’m presently dealing with an RCMP member for falsifying a report against me for a road rage event. Court case is finished and the charge was dropped but I have an on going complaint with the member and have forwarded to the WATCH DOGS IN OTTAWA FOR the RCMP review and consideration. I believe the said officer is in violation of his oath of office and should be held accountable for falsifying his RTCC all the while dragging me through the court system here in Nanaimo. RCMP continue to stonewall the appeal but Ottawa and the crowns office are still looking into the matter. if your able and find the time or the interest in this very brief introduction, I would very much like to speak with you and would be grateful to hear any wisdom that may come across from your end. I served with First Nations Police Services for ten years in isolation and six years with Transit Police out of New West Minster. I do value and appreciate any time you could spare to chat for a bit on this particular subject matter. Respectfully with out anger but an open mind, Mike Fedorowich Nanaimo BC 250 667 0060

  • Harold McNeill

    February 28, 2022 |

    Hi Robert, I do remember some of those folks from my early years in Cold Lake (Hazel was my aunt and our family spent many fond times with Uncle Melvin, Aunt Hazel and Family. I knew Lawrence and Adrian. Having read a half dozen accounts it is clear their were many false narratives and, perhaps, a few truths along the way. I tried my best to provide an even account from what I read. Cheers, Harold. (email:

  • Robert Martineau

    February 25, 2022 |

    Its been a long time since any post here, but its worth a shot. My Grandfather was Hazel Wheelers brother Lawrence, and son to Maggie and Adrien. Maggie Martineau (nee Delaney) is my great grandmother. The books and articles to date are based on the white mans viewpoint and the real story as passed down by the Elders in my family is much more nefarious. Some of the white men were providing food for the Indians in exchange for sexual favors performed by the Squaws. Maggie was the product of one of those encounters. Although I am extremely proud of my family and family name, I am ashamed about this part of it.

  • Julue

    January 28, 2022 |

    Good morning Harold!
    Gosh darn it, you are such a good writer. I hope you have been writing a book about your life. It could be turned into a movie.
    Thanks for this edition to your blog.
    I pray that Canadians will keep their cool this weekend and next week in Ottawa. How do you see our PM handling it? He has to do something and quick!
    Xo Julie

  • Herb Craig

    December 14, 2021 |

    As always awesome job Harold. It seems whatever you do in life the end result is always the same professional, accurate, inclusive and entertaining. You have always been a class act and a great fellow policeman to work with. We had some awesome times together my friend. I will always hold you close as a true friend. Keep up the good work. Hope to see you this summer.
    Warm regards
    Herb Craig

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Hi Dorthy, So glad you found those stories and, yes, they hold many fond memories. Thanks to social media and the blog, I’ve been able to get in touch with many friends from back in the day. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Well, well. Pleased to see your name pop up. I’m in regular contact via FB with many ‘kids’ from back in our HS days (Guy, Dawna, Shirley and others). Also, a lot of Cold Lake friends through FB. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Oh, that is many years back and glad you found the story. I don’t have any recall of others in my class other than the Murphy sisters on whose farm my Dad and Mom worked.

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Pleased to hear from you Howie and trust all is going well. As with you, I have a couple of sad stories of times in my police career when I crossed paths with Ross Barrington Elworthy. Just haven’t had the time to write those stories.

  • Howie Siegel

    November 25, 2021 |

    My only fight at Pagliacci’s was a late Sunday night in 1980 (?) He ripped the towel machine off the bathroom wall which brought me running. He came after me, I grabbed a chair and cracked him on the head which split his skull and dropped him. I worried about the police finding him on the floor. I had just arrived from Lasqueti Island and wasn’t convinced the police were my friends. I dragged him out to Broad and Fort and left him on the sidewalk, called the cops. They picked him up and he never saw freedom again (as far as I know). I found out it was Ross Elworthy.