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WILFRED BROWN's story

This account has been adapted from "Browns of Kyeburn Peninsula" by Wally Brown - to whom many thanks




Wilfred was a man of many parts whose adaptability was second to none. He left school at 14 and his first job was driving a six horse team for his uncle Bert (Taylor) at Glenore. As a young man he had several jobs, including farm labouring, working at a threshing mill in Canterbury, sawmilling at Burke's Pass, head sawyer on a travelling sawmill, tractor driving for the father of the girl he was to marry - Jessie Gould - as well as shearing and driving a team of horses at Kokonga.

He enjoyed dancing, going to Milton, Glenore, Waitahuna and Manuka Creek. At Glenore he was on the dance committee - they had 22 dances per night finishing at 1 am, after which he would cycle the 14 miles home and be ready to feed the horses. Wilfred also went deer stalking at Dansey's Pass with a .44 rifle: he returned home with twelve skins as well as some venison. He helped his father build the first sod brick garage at Braeburn, the family home, and then World War 2 intervened.

Wilfred joined up and went overseas on 12th December 1942 he served in North Africa until 9th May 1943, having been in the front line only five and a half weeks. The truck which was carrying him from the fighting was hit by a shell, and a piece of shrapnel, a quarter inch long, entered his skull, severing the optic nerves. He was hospitalised and recovered all except his sight, and returned to New Zealand in August 1943. At some stage, presumably soon after his return he went to the Homai Rehabilitation Unit at Auckland where he was taught braille and how to move around, cook and type.

When he returned home he married Jessie Rosalie Gould at Timaru on 14th October 1943. Life could not have been easy for the young couple; Wilfred was unable to get a job and instead kept 100 hens - almost as a hobby. But he didn't give in - he learnt to peel potatoes, dig the garden, saw firewood and most homely functions, and they had two sons to bring up as well.. He played cards, using a braille pack and the only concession to his lack of sight was that players called out the suit and nname of the card they were putting down - at the end of each game, Wilfred could say what each player had had in his hand! His memory had improved so that it was better than any of the rest of the family.

Jessie was a keen fisherwoman, and fished for salmon regularly; Wilfred would accompany her. In 1955 he thought he had had enough of sitting by her and tried some fishing for himself. Before long he had landed a small salmon. The angler sitting next to them evidently was completely frustrated, for he broke his rod over his knee and vowed never to fish again. As with other pastimes, Jessie directed him in what he should do, and he continued his salmon fishing with her very successfully.

The game of bowls lent itself to assisted playing, and came to Dunedin in 1967. With Jessie's help Wilfred took up the game. Jessie would tell him the range and ensure that he was facing the right way to aim at the jack. After each bowl she would explain to Wilfred where it lay by calling out the time of an imaginary clock based on the jack. He did so well at the game that he won the New Zealand Singles Championship at Auckland.



Wilfred and Jessie with the trophy

Sadly, Wilfred suffered a stroke in 1985 whilst in Australia and lost the use of his left side as well as the feeling in his fingers, which meant that he could no longer read braille or use his fingers to feel as his eyes. He lasted for two more years before he died in 1987.

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