Obituary: Guy Shanks, 1918 – 2015

Guy Shanks, a fourth generation descendant of Gavin and Elizabeth Shanks, who emigrated from Scotland to New Zealand in 1863 and were among the first European families to settle in Kaukapakapa, died on November 20, aged 97.
Gavin Shanks made a living for his family of nine children cutting and selling manuka. Guy’s grandfather, another Gavin, was a road and bush worker and built the first wooden bridge at Makarau where the arched bridge is now. Shanks Rd in Kaukapakapa is named after Gavin’s brother, John Leckie Shanks, a farrier.
Guy attended Kaukapakapa School and in later years told the story of the day when, terrified he was going to be strapped by the fearsome headmaster Mr MacKay, he ran away and hid in a stand of kahikatea. He left school early and went to work for Frank Dye, skinning and bleeding carcasses in the tiny Kaukapakapa slaughterhouse that’s still, precariously, standing in a paddock near the village hall. In the mid-1940s he rented an army hut in a Wellsford paddock and worked servicing new rails for NZ Railways.On his days off he was a bullock driver.

Guy with some of the 355 bullocks he took to the opening of Wellsford Centennial Park (circa 1948)

Guy with some of the 355 bullocks he took to the opening of Wellsford Centennial Park (circa 1948)

Guy inherited his love of dogs, horses and cattle from his father Allen Shanks, who was a drover and farm manager, so it was logical that he would eventually become a drover. With his team of heading dogs he would pick up bullocks from Mangamuka that had been driven down from Te Paki Station near Cape Reinga. He job was to drove them through Kaitaia to Waipu Cove, down to Mangawai Heads and across the estuary through Tomarata into Wellsford, then down over Cleasby’s Hill to Riverhead, Kumeu, Swanson, New Lynn, Forest Hill, Onehunga and down to either Maramarua, Mercer, TeKauwhata, or Rotongaro, Huntly.
Usually Guy drove 400 cattle alone, but had a helper for his last drove, a 1001-strong herd. He was an expert in the business of droving and was very proud that he never lost an animal.

Tauhoa farmer Lynn Boler (left) with Guy Shanks (right), 2010

Tauhoa farmer Lynn Boler (left) with Guy Shanks (right), 2010

After the droving way of life ended in 1966 when trains and trucks took over, Guy spent many years mustering feral cattle around Port Albert areas like Okahukura, Wharehine, Tapora and Atiu Point.
Guy Shanks, who ended his days at Craigwell House, never owned a home and never married, but in an interview for a magazine five years ago (*) he said he had no regrets. “I was hardly ever lonely and droving was like a holiday. It was a good life.”

Guy Shanks interviewed by Helen Martin for Rodney’s Rural Lifestyle Magazine, November, 2010.

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