Taieri Gorge Railway workshop manager Peter Clark (left)
and KiwiRail depot worker Jim Kelly reminisce about their
collective 41 years at Hillside on the eve of its partial
closure this week. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
More than just a place of work, Hillside has been a
social, cultural and communal institution for its thousands of
staff and their families during its 130 years.
Long-serving former workers Peter Clark (57) and Jim Kelly
(65) shared some of their fondest memories of the South
Dunedin workshops with the Otago Daily Times this week.
Neither admitted to being a ''Fitzroy harrier'', but both
recalled how the name came about.
Some decades ago, ''in the dark days when you were allowed to
drink'', workers would venture along Hillside Rd for a beer
at lunchtime, Mr Kelly said. The Fitzroy publican would have
jugs of beer lined up along the bar in anticipation of the
Hillside crowd, he said.
A lunchtime ''hooter'' sounded at noon, then again at
12.27pm, warning workers they had three minutes to get back
to work. The 12.27pm hooter could be heard all over South
Dunedin and inside the Fitzroy it gave Hillside workers just
enough time to finish their drinks and run back to the
workshops, hence the name Fitzroy harriers, they said.
More family-friendly activities were organised by the
Hillside social club each year, including a Christmas picnic
in which hundreds of children enjoyed a train ride to a
The day was spent at places such as Wingatui, Warrington,
Middlemarch and Brighton where Hillside workers and their
families ate, drank and played games.
''We used to go around all the shops in the area getting
donated toys and gifts for the kids, and we had lolly
scrambles and fun races. It was a fantastic family day out,''
Mr Kelly said.
He and Mr Clark worked at Hillside in the 1970s and 1980s
when it employed about 700 people and operated a large
apprenticeship training school on Hillside Rd across from the
They said dances and socials were regularly held in the
training school hall, and a few romances blossomed on site.
One young worker fell for a girl employed in the Hillside
office, who happened to be the daughter of a Hillside
Hillside had its own branch of St John, two nurses and a
part-time doctor as well as basketball, cricket and rugby
There was hardly a person in South Dunedin who did not either
work at Hillside or know someone who did, Mr Kelly said.
''One guy had followed his father in, and his father had
followed his father. There were third-generation workers and
groups of brothers and cousins all working there - it was one
big family,'' he said.
Hillside workers shared a bond for life and staff funerals
were always well attended.
''It really is special. Hillside friendships last for years
and years,'' Mr Kelly said.
''It's the best job I've ever had.''
Mr Clark said no matter what hobbies or interests workers
had, there were always others at Hillside with similar
It was that camaraderie people remembered above all else.
''That really helped me when I first came to New Zealand and
Hillside,'' Mr Kelly said.
He moved from Scotland in February 1982, having worked for
British Railways, and started at Hillside in May that year as
a fitter working on locomotives.
Mr Kelly was made redundant from Hillside last year and took
a job repairing wagons at the nearby KiwiRail depot.
During his three decades at Hillside Mr Kelly was a key union
delegate, holding the position of national president from
1990 to 2011.
He recently took voluntary redundancy at the depot in order
for a redundant Hillside worker to have the job.
Mr Clark started his Hillside apprenticeship as a 20-year-old
in January 1976, alongside 31 other apprentices, at a time
when Hillside had about 120 apprentices in total. He spent 11
years as a fitter at Hillside before deciding to leave when
the company was ''downsizing'', but said the skills he
learned there had served him well throughout his career.
Mr Clark is now workshop manager for Taieri Gorge Railway.