The late fathers of Dunedin residents (from left) Graeme McKenzie, George Barbara and Daphne Batchelor are among the previously unidentified men pictured in a historic photo of workers on the Haast Pass road, published in the Evening Star in 1939. Photo by Gregor Richardson.
A 74-year-old photograph brought together a trio of Dunedin
residents yesterday who - though previously unknown to each
other - share the same sentimental link to a piece of Haast
George Barbara, Daphne Batchelor and Graeme McKenzie were
introduced for the purpose of posing for an Otago Daily
Times photo, just as their late fathers had posed for the
camera decades earlier, as colleagues working on the Haast
Pass road to Otago.
Their connection came out of an ODT story published on
November 20 in which the Wanaka Upper Clutha Lions Club was
seeking the public's help in identifying some of the faces
featured in a fundraising calendar of historic images.
One was of a crew of nine roadworkers on the Haast Pass road
which was published in the Evening Star in 1939, but had no
Mr Barbara and Mr McKenzie had already discovered the photo
when it appeared several years ago in an ''Images From Our
Past'' section of the ODT. They immediately bought copies
after recognising their fathers and had since filled in some
of the missing pieces for the Lions club after reading last
Mervyn McKenzie was unmistakable as the man on the far left
of the image, his son Graeme (66) said.
''I knew it was my Dad as soon as I saw him, the way he stood
with his hands on his hips. So I sent it to my mother and she
said 'Yep, that's your Dad.''
His father was in his mid-20s when he went to work on the
road during the Depression, after losing his job at the
McLeods soap works in Dunedin.
For Mr Barbara (64), a framed copy of the photo featuring his
father Nicholas Barbara had become ''one of my pride and
He had also noticed the photo on public display in an
exhibition at the Otago Museum last year, where it was
labelled ''Men at Work''.
''It didn't seem anyone was working,'' he joked.
His father appears particularly relaxed in the photo,
reclining against a rock at the front of the group.
''My wife said it was a typical Barbara.''
Nicholas Barbara was 31 when he joined the Haast Pass road
crew. He had previously operated a horse-drawn pie-cart at
Cargills Corner in South Dunedin.
The 1939 photograph featured prominently among family
memorabilia when Mrs Batchelor (63) and her twin sisters
Kathy Duncan and Gwen Miller were growing up in Dunedin.
The had always known their father, who died in his 50s, was
one of the men in the photograph, but had never paid much
attention to which one he was.
''As kids we never bothered to ask Dad,'' Mrs Duncan (67)
''It's sad, in a way, because you don't think that much about
asking ... and then it's too late.''
While there had been some suggestion their father William
(Bill) Jones could be the man standing next to Mervyn
McKenzie, the sisters are almost certain he is the worker in
the centre of the photograph, with his left arm holding a
shovel at an angle.
''We just look at him and think 'God, that's Dad','' Mrs
Mr Jones was aged 27 when he left his rabbiting job on a
small family farm at Cambrian to work on the road. After
reading his diaries from around that time, the women had
discovered he went there with his cousin Dave Jones, who they
believe is the hatless man standing at the rear of the group
in the photo with both hands on hips.
Wanaka Upper Clutha Lions Club secretary Pam Kane was
''really chuffed'' some of the missing names from the
calendar had surfaced after so many years.
''I couldn't have asked for anything more.''