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Roy Slack - baching on a Glenside farm 1960-1963

Interviewed by Claire Bibby in 2000 and in 2023.


These are the memories of Roy Slack, who, from the age of 20, lived for several years  in a remote farm house in Glenside. David Braid, a Scottish migrant, built the cottage sometime between 1866 and 1881. At the time Roy lived in it, it was owned by Cecil Mason, a renowned pioneering chemical scientist. The cottage was in a somewhat delerict condition and later underwent renovation by Cecil. The house is listed on the Wellington City Council District Plan as an historic building. 

Roy Slack 1962

Roy Slack on horseback at the old farm house in Glenside. 1962.
Photo: Roy Slack collection.

Rear of cottage

Rear of the farm house. 1962. Photo: Roy Slack collection.

Aerial 1861

Aerial photograph of the farm taken on 22 August 1961. The farm access was from the old main road (now Middleton Road). The motorway cuts behind the house. Today, the motorway off-ramp and Westchester Drive pass close to the farm house. Source: Retrolens SN 1388 No 19. 

Roy Slack

The photographer, Roy Slack at the Glenside farm. 1962. Photo: Roy Slack collection.


"My father was Eric James Slack (1908-1965). My mother was Florence Margaret Slack nee Borthwick (1907-1983). I was born on 27 November 1940 and my sister, Joan Enid Slack, was two years older than me."

"We lived at Waterloo, Hutt Valley. My father was a fitter and turner at the railway workshop in the Hutt. Before his marriage was stationed up the top of the Rimutaka Incline maintaining the rolling stock up there. One day he set off for Featherston on his motorbike and the wind was so strong it blew him off his motorbike. There is a place on the old incline called Siberia and I believe that is where it happened. The wind was so strong there it once blew a train off the line. He hurt his shoulder when he fell. When he was an older man, he was no longer able to do the heavy work as a fitter and turner because of this shoulder injury, so he became a laboratory technician, undertaking electronic testing on the railway lines and viaducts."

New Zealand Forestry Service days

"In 1959 I was working for the NZ Forest Service (NZFS). I was about 19 or 20 years old. I had started work with the NZFS at Ashley in Canterbury, as a technical trainee. The course was designed by Harry Orsman (1928-2002), then working in the training section of NZFS. He became a lecturer in the English Department at Victoria University and later wrote the The Dictionary of New Zealand English.

Most technical trainees became forest rangers or managers. In the NZFS there was the option of doing a forestry degree, finishing in Australia or Edinburgh. That was the theory, however my marks in science subjects were not strong enough for that option, and I was offered a position as administrative trainee based in the NZFS Headquarters, Wellington."  

"I remember receiving my last paycheck when I was living at Ashley and I went to cash it at a pub near the Railway Station. The lady serving at the pub wouldn’t do it and said I had to take it to the bank. I had a small cat with me and all my luggage - a tamed wild cat that I named Ashley. I asked her if she could look after my cat so that I could go into the city to cash my paycheck at a bank. She decided that if I was nice enough to care for a cat then I must be a decent person, so she cashed my pay check!"

"In 1960 I started a degree at Victoria University, Wellington. You could do the degree part time but I was granted a final year bursary. My degree was in political science and economics with English as a supporting subject. 

"In those days NZFS Headquarters in Wellington was the Beauchamp house, where Katherine Mansfield once lived. It was later pulled down and is now the site of the American Embassy."

Cecil Mason and the Glenside house

"In 1960 I met Cec [Cecil Mason] who was a chemical engineer for the NZFS. I think I met him at NZFS Headquarters. He wanted someone to cut gorse for him and plant pine trees on his farm at Glenside, so I took the job on with about half a dozen others, including Max Fuhrer, who operated Cec's factory down near the railway, making Borafume bombs."

Max Fuhrer burning gorse

Max Fuhrer burning off gorse at the farm. 1962. Photo: Roy Slack collection.

"This photo of Max burning off the gorse may have been taken to the north west of the house. I recollect burning off gorse there. Cec Mason used to keep the roots of the gorse for firewood. He called them 'gorse knuckles'."

"At that time Cec was living in Khandallah. The house at Glenside was empty and the house was almost derelict. I ended up living in the house. I had experienced the freedom of my own little hut in a series of forestry camps and I didn't want to go back to living with my parents."

The farm

The farm. 1962. Photo: Roy Slack collection.

"A local carrier, Bob Warren, grazed his stock on the farm - this photo could be of his sheep and dog. "

Robin Caro

 Robin Caro behind the farm house. 1962.  Photo: Roy Slack collection.

"Robin Caro bached in the house with me, he was another Forest Service guy. He had the front bedroom. I have no idea why Robin was dressed up in this photograph. Clearly he was going somewhere special as he is wearing a suit and polished shoes."

Robin Caro on horseback

Robin Caro and visitors. 1962.  Photo: Roy Slack collection.

"We used to have various young people visiting, friends of those of us cutting gorse and some girls used to come up to exercise their horses which grazed there."

Liz Teale 1962

Liz Teal in the gully behind the farm house, 1962. The house is in the trees top centre. In 2023 Liz was shown this photo. Liz said she would have been about 15 or 16 years old but didn't know Roy very well at the time. "He was the boy who lived across the road at Pinehaven."
Photo: Roy Slack collection.

Roy continues: "I don't remember much about our life here. I was the cook, but not very good. I probably only cooked sausages and mince. I probably ate many of my meals in the Student Union Building at Victoria University where I was studying part time for my BA and later my BCA in Public Administration."

"I remember the bath was in the paddock and the house was so derelict I pulled the bath in through a wall of the house into the bathroom!"

"My bedroom was at the back of the house. As I came in the back door I was facing the stairs. I turned left into my room and the bathroom was on the opposite side of my door. At night I could sometimes hear the trains passing through the tunnel under the house."

Roy Slack bedroom 1962

Bedroom of Roy Slack, aged 22. 1962. Photo: Roy Slack collection.

"This is my bedroom. A few of the pennants are from the Australian World Rover Scout Moot I attended in 1962, I still have these at home. There's also a pennant from a Scout Conference at Tatum Park. The scarf, which is green and yellow, is in the colours of Victoria University and was knitted for me by my sister. It's hanging off a mounted horned goat skull, it might be a horned sheep skull. There's also a braided stock whip from Australia hanging there. The shell lei hanging over the curtain is also from the Australian Scout Moot. A contingent came from the Pacific Islands and one of the Island groups was handing out shell leis."

"On the table is my camera, which I still have, a Yashica, single lens reflex.That binocular case holds my binoculars for bird watching. I have had it for years. There's a hair comb along with books."

"My firearm is concealed under the bookcase. I had a 303. Next to the firearm is a Ronson lighter - I never smoked, I probably won it in a prize at a Fair. On top of the bookcase are my study books. I studied Russian politics and there is a book about Stalin, and Marx Engels Selected Works Vol II."

The trees

"I am not sure where Cec got his pine trees from, probably from the Forest Service as he didn’t have a nursery out here at Glenside. They were only little trees, about a foot tall. We planted them from the bottom of the hill up to the house and across where the kennels now stand." [Dog boarding kennels].

"The macrocarpa trees were already here around the house and so were the firs."

"You ask what I remember of Cec. I do know I liked the guy. I helped him on a survey of builders opinions on rot in wood. When he was reading their answers on the survey return, he would mutter and grumble when they wrote of dry rot. He told me there was no such thing as dry rot. He said that for wood to rot, it must have got moisture in it." 

The farm road up to the cottage

Entrance to the farm 1962

Wilma Wishart

Wilma Wishart, Roy's girlfriend at the time, seated on the gate at the bottom of the drive up to the farm house, with Dirk, the dog. 1962. Photo: Roy Slack collection. 

"The road up to the house came in at the bottom of the hill. As you can see by the photo, Cec picked up an old Post Office pillar box and it was our mail box. That's Wilma Wishart on the gate. I am not sure what breed that dog is, a border terrier? It was a strange breed, very bristly. Wilma's father was an interesting man. He used to paint the ends of the gables on houses in a special way, to make it look like it was knotted wood."

"I once stood at the bottom of the hill talking to a water engineer. Our water came up from the bottom of the hill and he was fixing a leak in the tap. I was fascinated about how he could do it without switching off the mains pressure."

"I had a bicycle, a Raleigh with three gears with a dynamo to power the light. I used to take my bicycle down the bottom of the hill and cycle to the bus stop which is about where the intersection is now at the bottom of the hill [Westchester Drive/Middleton Road intersection]. I would then catch the bus into Johnsonville and store my bike in a shed at the north end of the railway station. I remember the shed because I remember Cec pulling some superphosphate bags out of there. I wasn’t involved in the community, as I was busy with study and part time work. I had a nodding acquaintance with the local community on the bus and a girl grazed her horses on the farm."

An interlude

"I stayed in the house for the best part of a year. Near the end of the University year I caught chicken pox and a friend offered me a place in their flat closer to town to convalesce to save my energy and reduce travel time getting up early and cycling to catch the train. The flat was in Kelburn, near the cable car and handy to University. I wasn’t well enough to come back to the house for some time, but I did return at a later time and lived there on my own."

"I finished my two degrees after eight years. I had watched people going ahead of me in work and I thought my degrees would help step me up into a good role in the Forest Service, but the Forest Service said it didn’t work like that and I would have to start at the bottom. As a result I took the first decent job advertised in the public sector and began work in the Education Department. This was the beginning of ‘careering’ through the public service, where I was bonded to work for three years on obtaining my degree."

"After I left Cec Mason's farm, I had saved enough money to buy a Ford Anglia from my parents."

A Pauatahanui connection with Glenside

"I now live at Pauatahanui and own two houses adjacent to each other. One of the houses I own there is the site office from the Glenside Railway Camp, and was probably moved there by Edward Goodban, who owned the Pauatahanui land from 1931 to 1964. The land on which the site office was relocated to, is where the Pauatahanui Police house and Station once stood and was formerly part of the Boulton farm."

"The other house, the one Judy and I live in, was relocated from Trafalgar Street in the Hutt. I know this as I had to produce house plans showing the structure of the building before it could be moved from the relocation site to Pauatahanui, so Judy went to the Hutt County Council and obtained a copy of the original architectural drawings. On two occasions people have called by saying they know the house and recognized it from the Hutt – one was my cousin who once lived opposite it and used to visit a friend who lived in it!"

Return to the farm house in Glenside

"After I left Glenside, I didn't return until you invited me back in 2000 and I have been back a few times since then. It's been interesting and has brought back memories. I wasn't lonely living there as a young man on my own. It wasn't challenging and it was a great place to live."