Surprise 90th birthday lunch at wharf for Raglan identity of old

Raglan was his “favourite place to live” – and Bob McNeil, who owned the Raglan West store back in the 60s, enjoyed an unexpected trip down memory lane recently when his daughter sprang a surprise birthday celebration on the sprightly 90 year old.

“Whose idea was it to come to Raglan?” a delighted Bob asked of friends and family seated at The Wharf Kitchen and Bar last Saturday afternoon.

“I’m surprised…it’s a big surprise,” he told the Chronicle, grinning broadly. “I’m overwhelmed!”

Despite not seeing so well any more, Bob had bussed alone all the way from Awakeri Hot Springs where he now lives to visit daughter Claire Andrews in Hamilton.

She’d talked of taking him out to lunch “but I certainly never dreamed of anything like this”, he laughed, looking around at 20-odd birthday guests including sister-in-law Ngaire Roberts from Te Mata and nephew Brad Johnstone (a former All Black) from Auckland.

Bob not only ran the Raglan West store for a few years – living with his family behind the shop – but was also a local fire brigade volunteer and a postie on a pushbike back in the day.

He was a wharfie too, and recalled responding ‘pronto’ to early-morning phone calls advising a boat was coming in. Bob also remembered the late Tex Rickard was  “in charge of getting the staff” to come and unload.

Nephew Brad, who hadn’t been back to Raglan since staying with his uncle here 50 years ago, reckoned this town was definitely Bob’s favourite place to live. He himself fondly remembered floundering up the estuary with a tilley lamp and spear.   

Edith Symes