Born in April 1946 in Taumarunui, Ray aged 20, married Lyn in 1966 “I was a friggin young 20 too”. Lyn had moved to Taumarunui to follow her career in nursing, “she lived in the nurses home, I made a few quick exits down that road”. They met after a blind date at Kings Picture Theatre, unlike much else, he doesn’t remember the film.
“I can remember a lot of things a long time ago, growing up as a kid it’s entrenched in your head I think, my daughter, Angela, she's very much the same, amazing memory for bloody phone numbers”
Growing up in the Ruapehu District there isn’t much Ray hasn’t seen.
“I just used to get up, cut the kindling in the morning and then I could go and play, Mum never knew where I was half the time.”
“In the summer we used to build little canoes out of corrugated iron and flog a two by two road marker to make the bow, or whatever was handy, we’d grab it, then we’d fill all the holes with melting tar off of the road”
“There was myself, Robbie Ferguson and his little brother Ian Ferguson (MBE), he used to follow us around everywhere and piss us right off”
Several years later Ray was listening to radio show, Off The Record, when one of our most accomplished Olympians was asked where he learned to canoe and he said “I used to follow my brother and his mates down the Whanganui river behind Matapuna school”.
Ray recounts that there was a lot more water in the river back then, pre power project, which took away most of the headwaters. Until 1960 there was no bridge across the river, just a rail bridge, with a gatekeeper.
“We used to climb in there on the duck walk while the trains were going across.”
In 1958 a six day flood completely severed all telecommunication between Auckland and Wellington for the first time in 98 years. Ray, aged 12, was too busy enjoying mate mischief to worry about that.
“We’d been swimming in the river and we lit a fire to cook some spuds, there was a hua of a roar and the whole cliff side came down and sent a wave of water probably 2 feet high, well, we were only kids, but it seemed huge to us and we ran along the rocks like nothing on earth, spuds went flying, the whole bloody lot.”
Leaving school in 1962 Ray was working as a builders apprentice before his national service in the army which led him to the Territorials for three years. In 1984 in “the good old days of bottles'' Ray purchased the Taumarunui milk run servicing Sunshine town, Hospital hill, the meat works and local dairies. In 1998 when the milk industry was deregulated and plastic came in “ that was the end of the home delivery system as we knew it, anyway in this part of the world”. So, Ray quit his town run but continued to supply Ohura, Ongarue, Matiere, Ohura and Tokirima. In 1987 when Rogernomics closed post offices, Ray took on the mail contract. Between milk and mail runs Ray has kept busy, building his own home and making the most of what New Zealand has to offer. From Deer stalking with his best mate Leigh and the odd bit of pig hunting as a tag along.
Ray and his mate Ray Allen were the first two boys to play in the King Country Roller Mills from Matapuna School. “Rugby’s always been my main sport, but I love all sports, played a fair bit of hockey and cricket, ran 2 Rotorua marathons, a Hastings marathon, untold amounts of half marathons.” Ray and Lyn were part of a crew that ran the multi-sport event the Kururau Krusher for 15 years.
He’s squeezed in some travel too, a trip with Lyn in 1999 to the Rugby World Cup, it was he says “a bit sad as far as the rugby went, but we were away for 7 weeks and we had an amazing time, we were staying 20 mins walk from the Tower bridge, I remember one day we walked about 24 kilometres.” He’s represented Taumarunui in Golden Oldies Hockey, travelled to Gallipoli, “not much of the South Island I haven't seen, not much of the North Island I haven't seen, I guess I’ve been all the way from Cape Reinga to Bluff.”
“Went to beachcomber island for a week, talk about a young guys bloody paradise”
This year marks thirty years since Ray and six mates kicked off their very first annual fishing trip, which has taken them all over the northern part of the North Island. “There's only four of us left now, of the originals, we've got the sons and son in laws coming now, they can carry our bags.” This year Ray and mates, plus their bag carriers managed to still get in their fishing trip, whittled down to 4 days instead of 8 when New Zealand went into lockdown.
In 2016 Ray sold his mail run and went to work full time at Forgotten World Adventures. It was bitter sweet as Ray’s first day solo as an FWA guide was Thursday 24th 2016, the day his mentor and “one of life’s true gentleman” Terry Gawith passed.
“ I just got told to guide that day, and I did, I had no idea that something had happened to Terry”. A tribute to Terry stands at Okahakura, home base of FWA in Taumarunui.
When asked if anything beats here, Ray says, “New Zealand’s an amazing place, we’re unique, there's no place like home”.
And now, after all the memories, the ups and downs, floods, snow, a volcanic eruption, family made, friends met, mail, milk and mischief, Ray is still up for another tale and plenty more adventures.