Harking back to Ranfurly Shield glory days

Taken when Carisbrook was in its pomp. Another N. S. Seaward postcard from the early 1950s. I wonder which teams were playing that day? Photo: Supplied
Taken when Carisbrook was in its pomp. Another N. S. Seaward postcard from the early 1950s. I wonder which teams were playing that day? Photo: Supplied
Great to see the Ranfurly Shield has made it south of the Waitaki River for the first time in five years. I'm sure it will enjoy its time in the South - whether that is just for the summer or longer.

I'm not a big rugby fan, I have to admit. But I like the fact the shield seems tied to a time when it was less about money and fame, and more about doing the best for your province.

The only period when I would consider myself a rugby ''fan'' was during the early to mid-1980s, when Canterbury reigned supreme as holders of the Log o' Wood. That was an exciting period - the red and blacks snatching the shield from Auckland in September 1982 and defending it a record (then) 25 times, before losing it three years later to Auckland 28-23, in front of more than 50,000 fans on a warm spring afternoon at Lancaster Park.

That game on September 14, 1985, sticks strongly in mind because it was also close to the finish of my last year at the University of Canterbury and a chapter in my life was coming to an end. Somehow I never regained any interest in rugby after Auckland took the shield back north.

Anyway, here I am going on about Canterbury rugby success, and I nearly forgot I'm actually in Otago.

Night-cart fun

Liz Nom De Plume (what a posh sounding name) said her family lived in Balclutha when they were children.

''I recall all sorts of visiting delivery vehicles - the fish van, the milkman, butcher, grocer and Mr Doodyward, a hawker whose repeated sales talk was, 'I'm jus' jobbin' these out at a shill'n a piece'.

''They all delivered their goods, apart from the one regular man who removed goods - the 'night watchman' we called him.

''Friday nights around 9pm we stayed well indoors. We heard his 'clomp clomp' as he plodded past our living room towards the little house, but this was always preceded by a strong odour, which lingered long afterwards, warning us of his presence.

Gingerbread has been eating far too much of something, and visiting too many households, judging by his size. Photo: Monique Turner
Gingerbread has been eating far too much of something, and visiting too many households, judging by his size. Photo: Monique Turner
''There were six of us in the family and we had many a close encounter with him. He was feared by us as he wore a gas mask and, in the dark, was a very scary figure to be avoided at all costs.''

Thanks Liz. He certainly sounds rather sinister.

Annabel Cameron, of Brockville, recalls: ''My husband's uncle started a taxi business in Temuka, and one night he collided with the night cart. The resulting mess required the assistance of the fire brigade to clean the street.

''That man was John Ritchie, who went on to form a bus company which now covers the whole country.''

And a great story from ''Russ G'', of Albert Town.

''You know, I can't understand why so many of us are interested in the times of the night cart. It only shows how bloody old we're getting.

''True story. Years ago when I lived in Clinton a group of us young (little) fellas used to get together to play backgammon most Sundays, usually for a few hours. I don't know whose idea it was, but there was a fair amount of mischief organised while trying to amass a fortune in cash and property.

''So it seemed a good idea to wander down to the railway station to watch the 'Limited Express' come in at 8 o'clock in the evening. That was the train that left Invercargill for Christchurch.

''Now at the southern end of the station, there were the toilets. Four of them, side by side, and about 10 feet [3m] from the main building.

Max and Arlene Wilson's cat Stacey enjoying a bit of gardening at their Balaclava home. Sorry, Stacey, you're not very well camouflaged. Photo: Arlene Wilson
Max and Arlene Wilson's cat Stacey enjoying a bit of gardening at their Balaclava home. Sorry, Stacey, you're not very well camouflaged. Photo: Arlene Wilson
''Right on 8pm the train comes rushing in. A hiss of steam and a screech of brakes, and the guard jumps down, yelling, 'Clinton! Ten minutes for refreshments'. Then the hordes would leap on to the platform.

''Most of them tear straight into the tearooms and the rest make for the toilets.

''Four of us little fellas were behind the toilets, and had lifted the hinged flaps at the rear and were crouched there in the dark. Each of us had a branch of gorse ready in our hands which had been cleared of a few thorns so we could hang on to them.

''At a quick nod from the leader, we all shoved our bit of gorse up under the seat and then ran like hell. We learnt a lot of new swear words.''

Languid felines

I love the photographs Monique Turner emailed of the rather corpulent cat named Gingerbread.

''We too have a visitor. He made his presence known in the few months leading up to the end of our 18-year-old cat's life. The day we came home from the vet, he was waiting.

''He comes every day for breakfast and dinner, and everything between. Plonks himself down wherever he wants.

''We believe he is no stranger to some other homes, judging by his size. Our 6-year-old named him Gingerbread.''

A very relaxed moggy he looks too. I suppose Gingerbread is an easier name for a cat that likes his food than ''Lobster Thermidore, Carpetbag Steak and Bombe Alaska'', which looks closer to the truth.

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