Biography chronicles JJ’s rich and long life

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Community-minded . . . John O'Carroll is fondly remembered throughout the district. Photo: Amanda Bowes

By ROBYN BRISTOW

Writing the biography of Hurunui stalwart John J. O’Carroll has been a pleasure and a privilege, says Rangiora author, Gerald Sandrey.

In keeping with the huge amount of voluntary time Mr O’Carroll – fondly known by many as JJ – gave to his district, Mr Sandrey wrote the biography for free.

“I enjoyed writing it immensely. I told the family their father had given so much to so many, and if I couldn’t sit down and write his history at no cost, then what sort of person was I?” says Mr Sandrey, who also wrote The Legend of Mt White Station.

The book on Mr O’Carroll, who died on January 15, aged 98, will be launched at the Hawarden Hall on Saturday, April 6, at 10am. Everyone is welcome to come along and celebrate the life of a stockman, community man and family man.

It is hoped many from the bodies with which Mr O’Carroll served will attend, along with those who worked with him.

Mr Sandrey says Mr O’Carroll was a strong community man, and to help him write the biography he asked each of his seven children to write what it was they remembered most about their father.

“Their response was wonderful. It was a real pleasure dealing with them.”

Mr Sandrey first met Mr O’Carroll while working on his Mt White book. John had given him a wonderful rundown of his time at the station before leaving for war in 1942.

“He sat there and spun off stories. Everything about him was sharp as, and he was very, very familiar with all that happened.

“He never deviated, even when he told the same story again,” Mr Sandrey says.

Mr O’Carroll lost his parents before his 20th birthday, and worked hard to care for his younger siblings.

After two years war service, he was sent home to help with New Zealand’s food-producing efforts, returning to shepherding and mustering throughout North and Central Canterbury, gaining a huge knowledge of the region’s back country.

In 1947 he bought Waitohi Downs, a property he farmed for the rest of his life.

Mr O’Carroll and his wife Edith serviced on many district organisations, including the Hawarden A&P Show, where he took pride in never having missed a working bee since 1947 – more than 200 attendances.

Mr Sandrey says it had been hoped to have the book published before John died. “He beat us by a few months.”