Bryan McLeod was 93 when he passed away in July. He was a great great grandson of Isaac McLeod Snr, who was born in Scotland and migrated to Canada before arriving in Te Awaroa from Nova Scotia in 1862 with his brother John and their respective wives Janet and Helen. The McLeod clan, many of whom still live in Te Awaroa, which was renamed Helensville by John in honour of his wife, are very proud of their heritage, as evidenced by the presence of the bagpipes and the number of family members wearing the traditional national garb of Scotland, including beautiful kilts, at Bryan’s well-attended Rautawhiri Park funeral.
MC Lawrence McLeod spoke of how Bryan’s father Vivian, son of Isaac Jnr., traded by launch and barge on the Kaipara. After serving in France in World War 1 Vivian was balloted a farm at South Head and Bryan and his siblings grew up there. There was initially no road to the farm, so Viv’s water skills became the mode of transport for the farming operation as well as general cartage, including metal, wool and cream, on the Kaipara. (Part of the farm and the family homestead, remodelled, are still in the family, owned by Viv’s grandson Graeme and daughter-in-law Janet).
Bryan attended Helensville Primary and Helensville District High, leaving school early to work on the family farm, which he bought from his father when he was 21 while it still had no electricity. With a team of horses, he set about clearing and grassing the land. He gave up milking a small herd of cows and stocked the farm with sheep, coinciding with the outbreak of the Korean War, a time when the Government wanted all the wool it could get for making soldiers’ uniforms. This helped Bryan make a good start to his farming career. He was proud of what he was achieving and wanted every piece of his farm to be producing. The steeper areas were planted in pines and the areas too wet to plough were planted in eucalypts.
He married Cynthia in 1950 after meeting her at a dance. They had five children, Graeme, Beverley, Raewyn, Kaye (who, sadly, died at 18 months) and Janette. When the family had grown the couple enjoyed travelling widely.
Bryan was eulogised as a good man who worked hard, played hard and loved a good practical joke. He had oceans of energy. He was on the South Head Hall and Waioneke School Committees, was a member of the Kaipara Harbour Search and Rescue Organisation and Cruising Club and began the country’s first commercial Christmas tree farm. This enterprise began almost by mistake. He was always interested in trees and was one of the founding members of the Farm Forestry Association. He realised there were more trees suitable for a Christmas tree in his pine plantation than just the one he needed for his family, and so it began, in 1967, with a few hundred, growing into a best year sale of 25,792 trees.
All those who spoke at his funeral told of his active life and great sense of humour. Like his Dad, Bryan loved the water and spent as much time as he could fishing, diving and water skiing, making his last scuba dive when he was 78. He had several boats. The first, a 12-foot open dinghy with a seagull outboard motor, was used for fishing off the end of the farm in the Kaipara. “Mare-ee-ann”, the 16’6’’ Carl Augustin-design runabout he built from scratch in the wool shed in 1964, was his pride and joy. Over the years his boat covered most of the Kaipara Harbour, attended many of the regattas at Helensville, Dargaville and Pahi, competed in off shore boat races out of the Auckland Harbour, went in and out of Mangawhai Heads fishing and diving, and to Lake Rototoa (known then as Ototoa) water skiing prior to the Council stopping motor boat use on the lake.
A chance visit to Ruapehu in his early 20s ignited a love of skiing and he became an early member of the Boomerang Ski Club. Skiing became a family passion, involving four generations of McLeods. On one memorable day seven years ago at Coronet Peak there were four generations skiing together. Bryan competed successfully in club races and on the Masters’ circuit throughout New Zealand ski fields. He loved his many overseas ski trips, often accompanied by family members. One of his proudest moments was being in Torino Italy in 2006 watching his granddaughter Erika compete in the Winter Olympics. He was 88 years old when he had his last ski run down the hill at Ruapehu.
Bryan’s marriage to Cynthia lasted 64 years. He missed her hugely after she passed away in September 2013. Not long after that he moved into Craigweil House in Parakai, where he was very well looked after and mostly very happy and where, for a time, he enjoyed mobility scooter races against Joe Donohue.
Bryan is survived by his children Graeme, Beverley, Raewyn and Janette, eight grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.