History of the Currin Family – Neil John Currin

Neil John Currin was born Feb 2nd 1942

Neil John Currin (known as John) Born February 2nd 1942

Earliest photo of John being held by Ma (Grandmother) with Aunty Joan, Mum and Great Grandmother (Minnie Organ)

Neil John Currin was born Feb 2nd 1942 at Wakefield Maternity Hospital (later Dr Davis home and surgery) in Nelson, New Zealand.

My earliest memory is of living at River Terrace, Brightwater just up the bank on the left and Mum diving into the Wairoa River with me on her back. I was probably aged about 3 or 4.

We used to be visited by Canon Boyce who christened Helen and I. Neighbours were Ron Wendleborne who married a cousin of ours, Gwenda Borlase and I remember visiting them and playing over the road at their house.

My Father, Neil Currin would leave home on a Monday morning with a sugar bag on his back with a bottle of tea and some bread, sometimes returning that evening or, if mustering he could be away for the week.

I was nearing 5 when my father got a job as manager of the Matenga Block?? down at Delaware Bay, a very good job for the times. We spent some time at Kokorua living in Jimmy Baird’s home before moving to Delaware Bay



Early memories are of my younger sister Helen and I living in this rather large villa farmhouse with mum and dad. Dad would go out to work on the station mustering, shearing and fencing and he had some workers to help him. In those days a horse was the main way of getting around the farm and sometimes dad would pick us kids up and take us for a ride home followed by his dogs.

No school here so mother taught us via the Correspondence School which would send lessons and sometimes we could hear a lesson on the radio.

Neil and Pat Currin with Helen, Diane and John. c1949

This was not always satisfactory so Helen and I were sent to live with Ma (Mum’s mother – Doris Vivian Surrell) where we first attended Redwoods Valley School for just a few weeks and then Mahana School, near Mapua.

Helen and I lived with Ma and her son Bob for several months shifting from a mill house to a cottage in the middle of a pine tree block and then to one of Ma’s brothers (Bill Greig) cottage above his orchard.

While living there, things were happening at Delaware Bay, also known as the Maori Pa or just ‘The Pa’, a school was being shifted from Whangamoa to a site next to the sea on some of Alf Fullers land and this was to be our school until our next move.

Also, our father had developed an illness which required him to give up work so we had to shift house again to the ‘shearers whare’ and then to a cottage Alf Fuller had at the back of his farm.


Delaware Bay School with teacher Colin Baas, then Maunu, and Raha Stephens, John and Helen Currin, Paul Westbrooke and Keri Stephens.

Not a large school roll but later the family that took over our fathers job had more children and so the roll increased.

This included Peter Fuller who had been staying with his grandparents and attending school in Nelson and either Pooley or Franklyn families with two girls and a boy. (See photo below)


I remember life at the Pa as idyllic, from riding horses over the mudflats, swimming just over the fence of our school, swinging from vines in the bush and few complications for us kids.

Quite different for mum and dad, our father’s illness was not getting better and he was sent to Dunedin for an operation which may have had some success but he remained as an invalid for the rest of his life being able only to do some work at times.

Our cottage had super views out to sea but no running water, this was fetched from a spring in a dry creek bed at the back of the house, no power so cooking was done on a wood burning range and lights were lamps or candles, our toilet was a long drop up the back on a rise looking over the house and out to sea. Baths were weekly in a tin tub with water boiled in an outside copper. Dad bought a small generator which charged a battery so we had a radio from time to time and favourite shows were The Quiz Kids, Lever Hit Parade, Lost in Space, Dad and Dave and other shows from that era.

Another picture of Delaware Bay school showing The Shelter shed and Pop (Royston) Currin and Maunu and Raha Stephens, John and Helen Currin, Paul Westbrooke and Keri Stephens



It was with some sadness and excitement that we learned we were shifting again, leaving Delaware Bay meant leaving friends and a unique environment but we were moving to a new house in Spring Grove, about 15 miles from Nelson.

On the veranda of our cottage at Delaware Bay – the veranda was also the kids bedroom with canvas screens that were lowered at night and mother used to arm herself with a broom to chase out the possums.

Picture shows Mum and Dad with Diane, Helen and John, in front is Bob (mum’s brother) with David on his shoulders.

The move to Spring Grove had meant selling our car which at that time was a green and black Morris 8 having downgraded from a Dodge 6. Proceeds went toward the house and moving. The land had been donated to us by our cousin, Jack Borlase and was adjacent a well from which we could pump water to fill a tank.

Not sure how we moved to Spring Grove but David was not well and had to stay with Nana and Pop Currin in Richmond.


Morris 8 similar to ours, I am sure ours had only 2 doors
Arriving at our new home was memorable. We went around turning on and off lights, taps, flushing toilet, electric stove, our own bedrooms, all amazing.

Dad built a shed at the back and made some large gardens from which we grew all our vegetables. Bill Martins butchers delivered meat once a week, the baker was weekly as was the grocery van driven by Pud Palmer. Rural Mail was was delivered daily during the week and the road outside our house was graded about every 3 or 4 months.


We would be attending Spring Grove School which was about a twenty minute walk down the road.

This was a much bigger school after Delaware Bay where we had 6 or 8 and now there were sometimes 12 or 15.

There was an Army Drill Shed adjacent our school and contained several Bren Gun Carriers which I and some friends entered and drove these tanks around inside and include crashing into a wall. The dent still remains.

Spring Grove School with the school house and to the right is the Army Drill Shed.

The was no Intermediate School for us so we stayed until Form 2 and then it was off to Nelson College.

The first day of attending college included a bus trip into the city and all the new students had to sing a song, well I hid and was last and I sang God Save the Queen.

We had attended Wakefield School for Woodworking classes so knew some students from there. The bus carried students from Spooners Range through to Hope so we were all country bumpkins.

I had been working on a farm and so chose to study agriculture. I seemed to be a clever kid so they upgraded me to a commercial class where I studied both agriculture and commercial and did well from all accounts. But school was not for me and despite my teachers urging me to stay I left after 2 years and 8 months, before the school certificate exams


John and first day of starting at Nelson College resplendent in cap and roman sandals

After leaving College I worked on Colin Martins farm. It was a mixed farm so I milked cows as well as tended the orchard which was picking peaches and plums for market, also grew beans for freezing and seed crops as well. I was sometimes sent to help other farmers, picked tobacco and hops and of course making hay.

Decided that farming was not for me and having read a lot of books about travel and the sea and chatting with a school mate decided I wanted to work with him on the coastal ships.

He was on the Te Aroha, a scow which sailed between Nelson, Wellington, Whanganui, Blenheim etc. and that sounded like the life for me.

I broached the subject with Mum who told me in no uncertain terms that if I was going to sea I could do it in the proper navy. So I had to wait for the Naval recruiter to come to Nelson so to fill in time I needed another job which I found on the Soil Conservation farm over at Waimea West working with Lawrence and Ken Jermyn. Interesting work but my mind was set on travel and the navy so eventually did the exams and on May 13th 1959 arrived by train at Auckland and onto Devonport where we signed the dotted line to serve Queen and country for the next 8 years.

Our stay at HMNZS Philomel was short, after dental and medical checks and being issued with kit and a hammock it was off to catch a Fairmile to HMNZS Tamaki which at that time was on the very beautiful island of Motuihe, between Rangitoto and Waiheke Islands.

Life was very tough for all of us with no shore leave for several weeks, a minimal part of our wages paid with the balance saved and a lot of instructors with very loud clear voices and streaks of meanness ordering us around continuously. Looking back it was difficult but great training for our future.

As summer was approaching the Auckland ferry would bring many visitors down to the island including girls by the galore, well we could not believe our eyes and Sunday afternoons were spent down on the beach doing a bit of ogling and we were ogled back in return.

Eventually we got some home leave so Brian Nathan, from Richmond and I headed down to Nelson and of course we had to wear our uniforms and we knew everything.

Met up with Brian and Kelvin Neame (aged just 15 or 16) and found ourselves at the Railway Hotel. Well, I knew how to drink whiskey and soon the Neame boys were following suit. They were raffling flagons of beer and we won several. With 6 o’clock closing we were sent on our way staggering through Anzac Park dropping flagons as we walked and headed for Trafalgar Street.

I had a date with Barbara Grant and off we went, staggering even worse now to Peters Fish Shop for a romantic dinner. I remember ordering dinner and then found that I needed a toilet urgently, left Barbara and my dinner and went to a toilet down the street where I was violently ill for some hours, lapsing into sleep. Eventually found by Helen and taken to the Maitai river for a wash down I was taken home to face the music.

I had a few flagons left so after sleeping overnight my father insisted that he would see if I could handle a beer first thing in the morning but after emptying my stomach the night before it was not too much of a problem but I was not very lively for the rest of the day.

John Currin and Brian Nathan on our first leave while in the navy.

The Navy was tough but we were drafted from the training establishment HMNZS Tamaki to HMNZS Philomel for specialist training which was learning to be a gunner and then off to our first sea draft on the Loch Class frigate HMNZS Kaniere (F426).

This was for sea training and off we went on a Pacific Island cruise, just wonderful but learned about living in a tropical climate. We visited many islands, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and other smaller places in between.

Not long after this and a posting to HMNZS Royalist followed and as she was in refit it meant painting and maintenance day after day.

HMNZS Royalist in Guam

It was during this time I met Pinia Norman and we later married and had four children, Stephen, Deidre, Desley and Donna.

We bought a house at 6 Esmeralda Avenue in Avondale, Auckland and had a happy life until the strain of me always being away began to create difficulties and the last straw was when I was sent to England for another course and would be away for nearly a year. I found out I was a separated man but did not accept it well.

This is the only photo I have all children together, Donna, Deidre, Stephen and Desley and includes Darren and Paul sitting in front who were the product of a 15 year relationship with Linda.

So next was HMNZS Otago and over 15 years spent three trips of between 6 and 11 months long to the Far East and visited many countries. A lot of time away from family. Another four trips to the Far East on HMNZS Taranaki

I was on-board for this photo taken in Cook Strait and showing off the new ship to the politicians.

I did many courses at HMNZS Philomel and ended up as an instructor for new entries at HMNZS Tamaki which had been moved from Motuihe Island to Narrow Neck near Devonport, this was an army base and which was shared by both services

HMNZS Tamaki at Narrow neck, Devonport

This was interesting work and meant I would spend some time at home but it did not last that long and I was off to far places again.

HMNZS Taranaki and we are in Hobart

Other ships that I served on were HMNZS Santon, a minesweeper loaned by the Royal Navy and was used for patrols during the Indonesian Confrontation into Malaysia and briefly HMNZS Kiama, and older minesweeper used for traing purposes. HMNZS Santon below

And here is HMNZS Kiama

The navy offered travel and excitement visiting many countries, firing guns of all sizes but also stress of separation from family.

After spending nearly a year at HMS Excellent in Portsmouth, UK, I returned to new Zealand as single man was posted to HMNZS Tamaki as an instructor and soon after decided that I had had enough of Navy life and left for adventures in civvy street.

I sometimes regret doing this but here I am still alive and kicking.

Civilian life was spent selling insurance (not for me) and then selling and maintaining real estate for about 30 years. It was a way of life but not profitable in the long term.

During this time I lived with my partner Linda and had a happy life for around fifteen years and raised two boys, Darren and Paul. Both had the same birthday, 16th of December but two years apart.

But all good things come to an end.

Linda with Darren and Paul on a visit to Sydney

I found a job managing a couple of hundred apartments and stayed there five years. During this time I met many Asian students and helped them with English classes.

I quite enjoyed doing this and met lots of nice people.

I met up with a guy (Shane) from Hope, near Nelson and he had just returned from working in Anshan, China on a joint venture build LPG motors.

He had just married Kelly, a woman from Anshan who just happened to have a friend called Mei and I was told she would like to meet a New Zealand man.

Kelly and Shane who introduced me to Mei visiting us from Australia where they now live. Shane is very happy after one or two drinks too many.

I spoke with Mei via Skype and we got on well and I was invited to go to China for work. I asked what kind of work to which she replied, teaching English.

Her friend had an English school and I had a job, my skills as an instructor and the teaching methods I had learned in UK were accepted so off to China.

I met Mei and after some time we married in China, bought an apartment and stayed for nine years teaching English to students aged from about 18 months to older adults and was very popular with all.

Here is Mei about three months after we met and is very happy.

John with a class of High School and University Students – this is their summer holiday and it is spent learning English.

Mei and John brave the winter outside a local restaurant.

The winters in Anshan where we living were quite cold, -15c to -30c and the summers quite warm averaging 33c to 40c.

We toured many places in China and enjoyed visits from family including my Granddaughters, Leigh and Claudia. Claudia and Leigh in Beijing

I was getting older and Mei was missing her son George (Shi Youguang), who was studying at University in Auckland so we returned to New Zealand in 2014.

My brother David was off to Europe about the time of our return and offered some house sitting in his home in Palmerston North in return for looking after Charlie, his dog and mowing the lawns. He was away for around three months on that trip so it gave us an opportunity to settle into Kiwi life, particularly for Mei

We have stayed on in Palmerston North where Mei has found many friends but still has a lingering desire to be living near her son in Auckland, we shall have to see how things work out.

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