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Simon Gundry is a Devonport and North Shore identity, and character, who is known for calling a spade a spade. He is a director of contracting company Gill & Gundry, is an enthusiastic and active sailor (past crew-member of Ceramco New Zealand, Lion New Zealand and Shockwave) and is a life member of the North Shore Rugby Football Club.
Over summer, I spent a lot of time in Devonport, as most of my kids were away, in various parts of either New Zealand or the rest of the world, doing things. I find myself, these days, having to borrow other people’s kids to explore the wonders of the Republic of Devonport.
One particular summer’s day I borrowed Justin and Sam off their respective parents, and arranged for them to be dropped off at home early in the morning, about 8am. I cooked them up a hearty breakfast of bacon and eggs, fried eggs of course and sunny side up, and planned our day’s adventure. Part of this adventure was building the obligatory sail boats out of whatever we found in abundance on the waterfront.
We planned our day, a Three Peaks walk, that is top of Mt Victoria, top of North Head and the top of Mt Cambria, Devonport Museum, security gates at the Royal NZ Navy base, it’s always a mystery to kids as to why those men are standing there, guarding our nuclear super carriers. Then of course a stroll through Devonport, sticking our noses into the library, and the old second hand book shop where Farmers used to be. Down the Scott Mall to look at the old baking ovens where bread used to be made, and a quick look in the second hand Church shop.
Across the road, we called in to Kevin Johnson’s boat building shed, to see what was going on. Then into Devonport Chocolates up the road a bit further, to get a free sample and have a look at the chocolates being made. It was so hot, we had a little paddle in the Jack Scott Memorial fountain, which is on the corner outside the Devonport Hammer Hardware. I can’t understand why the Council haven’t asked them to fence that fountain, as the water is at least six inches deep.
Then we strolled across Clarence Street, and took that little hidden alleyway between the Chinese takeaway and the fruit shop, quite a mysterious alleyway for kids, it brings you out near the top end of Fleet Street and looking over the supermarket. I was explaining to them when I was a kid, where the supermarket is now was a ramshackle miggle of panel beaters, mechanics, car painters, plumbers’ shops and suchlike businesses. Where the carpark now is, there was J J Craig Ltd, a builders’ supply yard for sand, cement, builders’ mix and scoria. Right adjacent to it was the big old Devonport Bus Company’s bus barns, where the buses where stored. In the late 60’s Sir Tom Clark built his 73 foot Spencer design plywood constructed yacht, called “Buccaneer”. An ocean racing greyhound of the day, I remember seeing it on launching day, and being amazed at how a man could build such a big boat, especially in Devonport.
From there, we decided, to take the waterfront route to North Head, and maybe leave the boat building for later on in the day and maybe have a swim on the high tide at the same time. We walked past Duder’s Beach, Tainui Reserve Memorial and Torpedo Bay and made our way up Takarunga Road towards the summit of North Head. Exploring the tunnels was the first thing on the agenda, so we headed towards the southern tunnels and explored them without the aid of torches, real exciting for young ones. Finally, we found our way to the disappearing gun and down to the eastern tunnel to escape the bowels of the mountain. We took the eastern trail down to beach level, it’s the first time I’d been to that part of North Head for probably 20 years, and I was amazed to see what the Department of Conservation had done to enable people to explore North Head. When I was a kid, on the mountain, it was just a goat track of danger to walk the base of the Head. I showed them where the pipe was, called Perfume Point, where sewerage used to flow from the Devonport sewers into the harbour for many decades prior to the construction of the oxidation ponds in Albany. There was great fishing in those days, catching the giant Parores that used to feed on the outflow, and after catching them Mum and Dad wouldn’t allow us to eat them, for that very reason.
From there, we headed north and sat and rested on the grass adjacent to Marp Bay (named after, I think, an early settler’s family) and looked towards Kraaken Point (named after, obviously, the sea monster) – where there is still evidence of the defence systems erected in the Second World War. Now they are just short, rusting posts hiding all the evidence of the ferocious fortification to keep the Japanese away from our beloved Devonport.
After scrambling from Marp Bay around the flat sharp rocks, our feet settled on the beautiful sand of Cheltenham Beach. We walked the entire length, and backtracked to the North Shore Rugby grounds where I explained to the boys in huge detail, the amount of tries I scored there in my youth. Most of them were in 80 metre dashes to touch down under the posts, wearing the mighty green and white.
From there a quick dash through the Devonport Museum, where I think I found myself in an old photograph of Devonport School. The Museum is tucked under Mt Cambria - now tamed, a beautiful reserve where once was a myriad of Council buildings, with a tangle of machinery for working the quarry, the Devonport dog pound, and grumpy employees trying to chuck young kids out for no reason. A lot of wilderness to grow up in.
A quick jaunt up Mt Victoria to gather in the view, back to the Yacht Club for a swim and a driftwood boat construction competition. By this stage it was nearly 4pm, and yes I had fed the kids – we had a quick pie at Cheltenham and, of course, a can of coke. A great healthy lunch for two growing lads, after all that activity.
What a day, I loved every minute of it.
Channel Magazine: Issuu 63 March 2016