How the navy ‘set me up for life’

Gore man Michael Macklin and his dog Juno are enjoying life in Gore. PHOTO: SANDY EGGLESTON
Gore man Michael Macklin and his dog Juno are enjoying life in Gore. PHOTO: SANDY EGGLESTON
People who move to Gore after a lifetime of living in other places often have interesting stories to tell. The Ensign reporter Sandy Eggleston catches up with one resident who has met many influential and well-known people in his time.

A six-year stint in the Royal New Zealand Navy after leaving school opened many doors, a Gore man says.

Michael Macklin moved to Gore in 2022 after about 40 years’ working in places including Government House in Wellington and the New Zealand embassy in Washington.

He grew up in Invercargill and after leaving school, enlisted in the Royal New Zealand Navy, Mr Macklin said.

"It really was an amazing move as it turned out.

"I flourished in the navy.

"It set me up for life really."

He trained as a steward, which included some chefing tuition.

In his last year in the navy he worked as a steward at Government House.

When he left the navy he stayed on as a footman and was later promoted to under-butler.

He served there under Sir Keith Holyoake, Sir David Beattie, Sir Paul Reeves and Dame Catherine Tizard.

While under-butler to Sir David, he was sent to Auckland to manage Government House while the Prince and Princess of Wales and Prince William stayed in 1983.

"I witnessed William’s first steps."

A well-known photograph of Prince Charles, Princess Diana, William and a Buzzy Bee toy was taken while they were sitting on the Government House lawn.

"I took the Buzzy Bee out to give to Diana to give to him."

When Sir Paul was in office, Mr Macklin served as his valet.

"He had such a good sense of humour."

In Dame Catherine’s time he moved to Auckland to manage Government House for a year.

About 2000 became the butler at the British High Commission in Wellington, and after a time in Sydney where he ran his own butler business, he applied for a role as the house manager at the New Zealand ambassador’s residence in Washington.

He was also the embassy’s event co-ordinator and some of this work involved organising formal dinners and functions for up to 500 people.

While there, he met some high profile and influential people, including Queen Elizabeth.

"I was part of history, really, witnessing it on the sideline."

When he finished in the United States after 15 years he planned to semi-retire in Christchurch but the cost of houses was too high.

"All I could afford was a unit that you couldn’t swing a cat in."

Some of his family members lived in Gore and when he looked around the town he found a house he liked and could afford to buy.

He started to feel at home in Gore last year when he started attending the Art for Leisure class at the Southern Institute of Technology’s Gore campus.

"It was amazing ’cause all the lovely ladies there took me under their wing."

He is a member of the Gore Garden Club and also helps to rescue stray cats.

He planned on starting a business where people could hire him to cook and serve food.

"I love entertaining; I love creating occasions."

Reflecting on his life, he said opportunities just seemed to pop up.

"I’ve just kind of fallen into the right place at the right time.

"I just feel very fortunate that I’ve been able to experience the sort of life I had."