• A Good Man

    Writing a weekly column requires that one should keep a close eye on, with a view to commenting on, the major events of the past week. President Trump’s latest travails or mis-steps, the latest ups and downs of domestic politics, the risks posed by major developments like global warming, the deficiencies of major organisations – these are usually the stuff of a weekly column.

    But every now and again, events much closer to home – more personal and emotional – take precedence. And so it was last week, when I attended the funeral of my much-loved brother-in-law, Douglas John Weir Short.

    Doug died after a long illness as he approached his 82nd birthday. He was a dairy farmer and kiwi-fruit orchardist who had lived and farmed all his life at Te Mawhai, just outside Te Awamutu, until he eventually retired to Tauranga.

    In his earlier years, he had been a very good sportsman, playing rugby for Waikato at junior level and was also an excellent tennis player, as I learned after many hard sets against him on his family’s tennis court.

    As a young man, he took over the successful dairy farm developed by his father, Jack, and as a farmer and orchardist, he was superb. He had a lively and enquiring mind and was always seeking better ways of doing things. He was in many ways an engineer manque, and he took great pride and pleasure in the successful engineering career of his son, David.

    He was also the hardest worker you were ever like to meet. As a young man, he would spend the summer hay-baling for the farms in the district, putting in many long, hard, hot days when he would rather have been at the beach. He did everything at top pace and optimal commitment.

    But Doug was most of all a family man. To him, family was everything. As his children and grandchildren movingly testified at his funeral, he was a wonderful father and grandfather, always supportive and loving and, most of all, fun. His love and concern for family extended well beyond the nuclear family and embraced all those within the wider family; my son, Charles, on his “OE” in New Zealand from the UK, was taken under Doug’s wing, and my own grandchildren recall with pleasure and sadness the fun they had, when little, as they prepared him, by scattering herbs over him as he lay on our sofa, to be “barbecued”.

    I had been his best man when he married my sister, Ngaire, and it was undoubtedly the close relationship that my wife Gill and I, back home on holiday from the UK, developed with Ngaire and Doug, on memorable touring holidays together in the South Island, that was a major factor in our decision to come back to New Zealand to live.

    My excuse for writing on this theme is not just a wish to pay tribute to a good, kind and decent man. I think the story of Doug Short’s life and of the contribution he made and of how much he meant to his family and community has a wider significance.

    It is people like Doug, up and down our great country, who have been the bedrock on which New Zealand society has been built over generations. We all owe him, and people like him, a great deal, and that debt requires us to go on building, in their memory, the good society they helped to create.

    Unlike me, Doug had little time for politics, but he provided an object lesson for us all – on how to lead a life that was worthwhile and well lived. His last years were tragic, in that he could hardly move though illness. But it will be Doug Short in his heyday who will live on in the memories of all those who knew and loved him.

    Bryan Gould
    29 August 2018

1 Comment

  1. Sanctuary says: September 4, 2018 at 6:25 pmReply

    What a lovely piece.