Mike Brosnan 22-02-1206
A Voice to the Soul
back on my life, I will never forget my Auntie Vall ( still alive in
Dunedin) Auntie, diminutive in statue, a
character, my mother’s sister, never married, I thought her too good
for any “ mere male, “ she was my inspiration, my female model. Known
for decades as “ Sister Butcher “ at Queen Mary Maternity Hospital in
Dunedin. This little ramrod of a lady, a terror to the
& revered by the mothers. I still meet mothers who remember
Butcher with affection
Auntie’s influence on my life is legend to
me. She encouraged me to read deeply early in life. Hiding from my
stern mother, my fantasy playgrounds were in Dickens, Scott, Steinbeck,
Laurence, Duma, Hugo, London, Sinclair Lewis, & the like.
& I became, & still are book mates.
By the time I finished primary school at age eleven, I was better read
than most teachers.
the top stream ,but a rebel , school was a bit of a joke to
me Conventional education, in it’s so called
believe it is promulgated to breed, work fodder &
fodder, & the more I read / study, the more I see this.
family was dysfunctional, to say the least, father being ejected from
the nest early on by my very strong mother. It was a matriarchal house,
& living amongst mother & three sisters, I was a
minority. Though fairly much alone, I was a born survivor,
could see this, & vowed to manifest it through life.
Foster, in Standard six at Macandrew Intermediate, was an,
ethereal academic, sort of lady, & though I was hell bent on
different & a rebel, I respected her
She was big on the arts. I
grudgingly liked this. & allowed her influence to foster my
& reading , & have a gram of respect for conventional
was always good with my hands so ,very early in life, I saved enough
from my milk run pay, six shillings a week,.( I had to pay three of
that to mum for board, which, in retrospect was good, as it taught me
the value of money..) to buy a whole set of second hand carpenters
tools, & became a good woodworker So,, was I to become a
We had three acres with our house, horses, & perhaps
a cow or goats. Was this “The Way?”
day a canvasser from an agriculture school came & talked to our
class. This wetted my appetite to try something different.
at Taieri High Agricultural Course was a total
time for me. ( I realised quickly that a structured education at that
stage was wrong, & a broader academic one would have been more
useful .) The work was so simplistic, while wagging two days out of
five, I was second top in the class. I bred ferrets, & would go
rabbiting, selling the skins, & unbeknown to me, this became
nucleus of saving to buy my own farm
Back to the story comes Auntie
Vall, as she started all of us kids with a Post Office Savings Account.
I still have that cherished little orange book.
On the 26th November
1946, Election Day, I answered an add in the Otago
times for a “ rousey “ job on Traquair Stn. away up on the top of The
Mungatau Mts. Above the Taieri Plain.
I was interviewed by a nice man at Wright Stephenson's, the
stock firm, who gave me a chance.
I had to be different to the mob, back at school I remember
saying to a friend Ernie Prattley, “look, we don’t need to wear long
pants to show we are men, lets continue with short ones,” &
these kids think it’s chic to smoke, we have been smoking for years,
let’s knock off “ I never again started.
off the bus at the farm at Woodside, I entered the house &
introduced myself to old Bill Reid, the father of my prospective
employers up the mountain. He took one look at this little lad in short
pants, ran to the phone, & to my horror, I could hear him
the agent at Wright Stephenson’s in Dunedin, that I looked far from
suitable. The nice man must have said “ oh give him a go”.
I knew I just needed a
The next day I picked up, rolled, & partly pressed for four
shearers, which today would take at least two people. I instantly
became hard old Bill Reid’s favourite, & he embarrassed me in
of all the shearers & musterers at smoko one day by saying, “
boy will own his own farm one day” ( that had not entered my head, but
in fact, nine years later he was proved right) I
“hum,, this life could suit me”
If onley he knew. Old Bill was
disliked, so the wily shearers made this naive kid put dags in his tea
and stir it
That first evening, after the boys had left for the pub, I wheedled
the loan of a spunky little piebald pony from the farm manager.
the golden gloaming of the evening, I rode & rode this brave
animal for miles across the rolling mountain slopes, until, as Banjo
Patterson, in the Man From Snowy River would say,, “ his sides were
white with foam “
Awed by where we were & both ultimately
fatigued, I reined her in, & flopped down in the tall snow
which clothes these mountain lands
Sitting there as evening crept
around us, my hair synonymous with the tussock, as the wind ruffled
& blew through us, was one of the most pivitable times in my
soul literally soared, & for the first time I saw a path for my
life. This was nature at its best, & I wanted to be part of it.
fact I knew I already was,, at one with the universe. I WAS CALLED.
PS : The hardest thing was how to outwit my mother in not forcing me
back to “ school “
I had done well at wool classing at Taieri. I told my mother “ I will
be a wool classer”
satisfied her, so I duly started in a job learning to class wool
rabbit skins. I did well, & was soon entrusted as a buyer in
slack season, Within a year my cunning plans came to fruition, as I
escaped from Dunedin for Central Otago, continuing my life in the
I want to end by saying “ The day I left school, was the day I started
at “My School”
which I love.