An interview with Bruce MacDonald, by Lisa Thomson
In recent weeks a new Facebook page has appeared, ‘Raglan Area Related Photos Pre 2000’.
It’s simple description asking for ‘Any interesting photos – landscape, people, farming, school photos etc’, has certainly quipped the interest of many locals past and present and to date has over 1300 members.
I caught up with Bruce MacDonald, the brains and Administrator of the page, and whose family has a long history and association with the greater Raglan area. Bruce is currently living in Australia and works as a truck driver.
- My connection with Raglan.
I was born in 1972 and raised in Raglan and am the youngest of 4 boys – myself, Terry, Rodney and Darren, and 2 sisters one of which is younger, Lana & oldest Carey. Originally we lived at Te Uku attending our first years of school there until we relocated to a farm in the Waitetuna Valley in the late 70’s and from there I attended the Waitetuna School. During Intermediate I did what was called Manual Training back then, which was when Te Mata, Te Uku & Waitetuna schools would send students to Raglan Area School to do Woodworking and Cooking classes every Tuesday.
Unfortunately I didn’t spend my high school years in Raglan but continued to play Rugby for them for a number of years. My friends at Waitetuna School were going to Fraser High in Hamilton so I was persuaded to go there instead. It didn’t really work out the way I wanted so I sort of wished I had gone to Raglan Area School.
My father Rob was a hard worker. He had been brought up ‘old school’ with a farming background at Te Uku. Taking on the family dairy farm as well as being a shearer and rearing 6 kids meant he had his hands full. He met our mother Nada in the shearing sheds and from that point on they were inseparable. Growing up and being the youngest I tagged along with my father everywhere in my early years. He contributed to a number of local events such as the annual Western Shears, which he had a huge hand in running and occasionally competed in himself. He was also active with the local Karioi Dog Trails, competing in the events as well as being a member of the Board. He was also an active member of our school committee. The list goes on and I still try and wrap my head around how much he used to do.
As kids we would go camping out at Aotea and Schnackenberg Bay. We’d tag along for the day at the Kauroa Saleyards and do the Te Mata Easter Sports, get onboard the Western Shears Float every New Years eve and spend days at the local Western Shears soaking up the atmosphere. In my early teens I started working for Dad, haymaking all around Raglan for about 10 years. It was a great time catching up with farmers and locals. Local schools would fundraise by picking up the hay for the farmers.
Brought up in a family of 3 older brothers and 2 sisters had its moments but overall our Mother & Father did a great job providing for us. I stayed in Waitetuna until moving to Australia in the late 90’s.
Overall looking back at my upbringing in Raglan I have nothing to complain about and I took it all for granted. As I no longer live there it actually stands out more now.
- What inspired you to set up Raglan Area Related Photos Pre 2000
Once moving to Aussie I used to come back to NZ every year and I noticed that all the family photos weren’t getting looked after. So I said to myself, “I’m going to digitally save these photos and history before they are lost!”. So I went on a mission and scanned every photo I could get my hands on and brought them back to Aussie with me with the idea to share. I have a similar family page but I was the only one contributing to that. Hence my idea to share, and who better to share them with than the people of Raglan!
I do admit the lockdown did spur me on more as I thought Aussie was going to follow suit with the NZ lockdown and it would give me something to do. However we didn’t go into full lockdown and I’m still working full-time driving trucks but that’s ok, I’m having to do a lot of the ‘Administration’ on my phone.
- What has the response to the page been like?
The response so far has been overwhelming and everyone has been so supportive of the idea. I have had so many people contacting me saying that this page is such a good idea and that its really helped them with the lockdown stage that NZ has been enduring. I’ve had people I haven’t heard from for years and people that know my parent’s contacting me and thanking me. It’s been amazing.
- What have you learnt from this page? What are people sharing?
I have learnt that people are willing to share their photos from the past and that there is often someone else that may know more about the photo shown i.e its location or someone’s name etc. So overall it’s connecting and reconnecting missing pieces of a memory people have. I also think people want to share pictures of people who are no longer with us. It’s a way of paying tribute to their memory and sometimes you hear a story that you haven’t heard before concerning a particular photo. It’s so interesting hearing them.
- Do you see it as connecting people or reconnecting?
Definitely both connecting & reconnecting people with the past. I think this page is already getting the Te Mata locals stirred up seeing all the old pictures of the Te Mata Easter Sports, which had had a long history in the district.
- Have you seen many changes in Raglan since you’ve been overseas?
Yes definitely. Naturally the population has grown. Back in the day you used to get caught up talking to all the locals that you’d see in the main street. It used to be a quiet place but it’s probably not now. In saying that I haven’t lived there for years.
- What are your fondest memories of living here?
Loved the farming lifestyle, the smell of the land and the air, hanging out at the beach, visiting friends and catching up with friends that you went to school with and riding motorbikes…. The list goes on really.
- How often do you come home?
Definitely not as much as I would like. The last time was about 7 years ago, though I did have one visit planned before this Covid scare took hold.
I know some would ask why am I doing what I’m doing with the Facebook page. It’s because of my connection with the Raglan area, my upbringing and the great memories I have and I think about the place often, almost everyday.