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About

Owen Ward

Owen Ward - Water Pump InstallerI served my engineering apprenticeship as a fitter & turner in the marine branch of the Southland Harbor Board in the early 1960. This involved a wide range of experience in pumping systems and general engineering welding steel fabrication, also steam and diesel engines. Machining and turning were also part of our training.

After finishing my time I took all this experience for a seasons fruit picking in Nelson and then onto the most fun part of my life to date when in 1964 I joined the merchant navy as a junior marine engineer. London was to be my home port for the next six years. We normally would do two trips a year to New Zealand carrying general cargo, cars and containers for NZ frozen meat & wool back to UK & Europe. The ships were old and prone to a lot of breakdowns as many as forty or fifty in each direction. Most of these ships had survied the second world war so really had done there turn, which made them extremely hard work to keep going,

One of the fleet, MV Suffolk had been torpedoed under the water line during the war the torpedo exploded in no 2 hold which was loaded with butter she made it back to the UK and was repaired with a concrete patch , Suffolk continued to service NZ to UK till we took her to scrap in ASIA in 1969 twenty years after she had been hit. The concrete patch was still in place!

Other ships I Served on were Hartford , Hurunui ,Haparangi, Ruahini, Rangtane. I Also took many other ships around the UK coast discharging NZ cargo. During this phase of the voyage we would strip down and overhaul almost any part of the operating system in the engine room, it’s here that I learned heaps about pumping systems.

On returning to NZ early 1970, I started work in the construction industry. My first job was at Tiwai point aluminum smelter. Then onto the hydro power stations round the central north island / Turangi area where I continued to follow through the Taranaki gas fields, Kapuni and also spent 18 months on setting up the Maui A production platform. All interesting work, pipework on a large scale and many pumping systems.

I also gained experience on jet propelled generator systems which was new stuff to me but all very interesting. After Taranaki It was on to Wanganui to the Eastown railway workshops. I enjoyed the work here as a locomotive maintainer for about three years. Then along came Richard Prebble. He decided we weren’t doing much so made most of us redundant. So it’s off to Huntly to work on the power station construction where I worked on this job till it was completed.

On that completion I had a stint at the Glenbrook steel mill construction. After this a contract a job became available at the Huntly east underground coal mine. At my interview for this job I was asked how come you have had so many jobs. My reply was that I had finished them all!!! I got The job.

Having installed plenty of pumps down the mine, 3 years later along came the government with “we don’t need the coal anymore so we will restructure”. That meant 500 of us down the road. No point in hanging around here with 500 men looking for work. So I had started to build our retirement home at Snells Beach. It was erected to a lock up stage, so we moved in and worked on completing it while living in it, not a great idea but we did it.

So what do I do for job now? No heavy industry in the Rodney district at this time, but I spotted a lawn mowing round. If work for myself I cannot be made redundant again LOL. This would be the hardest dollar I ever earned, having to run 180 lawns in a cycle. I just about burned myself out in three years of doing this. There has to be an easier way to make a dollar I thought.

I know, we will buy a dairy.

At the time there were three in Warkworth for sale we chose the Kowhai Dairy, Rae and I worked this for 15 years at seven days a week which was hard work for Rae, but better for me than mowing lawns. We sold the dairy after 15 years, and did the retirement thing and we did do a lot of travel for 18 months or so.

After being home from our travels for about a month or so, we thought we can’t stop now, so we went out and bought a business each , Rae bought Peggys Hat Shop in Warkworth and I bought H2o Pumps from Paul Randel. On most of my first call outs to pump problems I found most of my customers knew me from the Dairy. The first normal response was, “What would you know about pumps?” Most local people had only seen me behind the counter at the Dairy rolling ice creams. But as you’ve read when it come to pumps – I’ve got a whole lot of experience!