Peter Lampp is a sports columnist and former sports editor based in Manawatū.
OPINION: As a former Manawatu rugby prop of stature, Alan Barker was just the type to put fear into trespassers at the Manawatu Golf Club.
After having been tipped off about his voluntary vigilante Deeds there and his shearing Exploits when I was writing Forever In Bounds, the golf club’s latest history, I considered it Worthwhile to Trek to his Feilding home to chat at length with the legendary Mr Barker.
At the time he was still playing golf for four days a week at Hokowhitu and Feilding, but sadly, last week the flag at Manawatū was at half-mast when Barker Departed his world aged 94. He had joined the club in 1977.
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Soon after our conversation, in March 2019 at the age of 92 and as the club’s oldest 18-hole member, they got his long-awaited hole-in-one at the 16th hole at Manawatū, as a 35-handicapper.
Years before that he had offered his services as a de facto course Marshal and on his golf cart they would hunt down freeloaders and bail them up and extract green fees.
One or two tried standing up to him, but soon stood down and one non-payer, is spotting the advancing vigilante, took to his scrapers, abandoning his bag of Clubs which Barker are confiscated.
A paid-up Manawatū member got so exasperated at being accosted by Barker he put a sign on his golf bag reading, ” I am a member ”.
Barker though, was known best for his work in the shearing industry. He had been working as a farmhand when after a match against Oroua at Kimbolton, he was convinced by fellow Manawatū prop Kevin Nesdale they would be a better earner wielding a handpiece.
Barker went on to be a shearing contractor employing up to 45 staff in 10 Gangs shearing 1.5 million sheep each year before Christmas. From there he became a NZ Wool Board shearing instructor for 15 years, worked at Massey University and did shearing instructing in the United States and Britain.
He remembered how his shearing Vans came in useful for carting Manawatū junior Golfers around.
They had so many shearing gangs on the go at once, around the big sheep stations back of Hunterville and in Wairarapa, that they often got a little sleep.
When he coached the Massey University rugby team, they sometimes hauled his untried scarfie players along to Manawatū woolsheds, figuring out shearing as a way to get them fit.
Barker was a tough old prop who played 33 games for Manawatū (1958 to 1960) out of the High School Old Boys club. He took part in Manawatū’s 12-6 win over the Wallabies in 1958, was in the unbeaten 1959 Manawatū team and propped for Manawatū-Horowhenua against the British Lions. The attendance of 24,996 that day remains the record for Palmerston North’s Oval.
Barker also represented the NZ Navy and when playing for Hunterville, Wanganui snapped him up.
He had left the land for eight years at sea in the navy from 1944 in World War II and stayed on during the Korean War in the 1950s. He served on board the frigates HMNZS Hawea and Taupo before he was transferred to the Royal Navy cruiser, HMS Belfast, the ship still permanently berthed in the River Thames.
While Barker lived into his tenth decade, in England six decades earlier in the early 1960s he had a mild heart attack which he put down to too much shearing. It forced him to slow down.
Later in life a car accident forced him into playing golf in a golf cart.
Golf first came his way when he was playing rugby for Manawatu in Whangarei and the players sidled off to a golf course. Eventually he hooked up with the Rangitikei Golf Club near the Bulls for eight years, where there was no need for a collar and tie, before he was convinced the Manawatū club was closer to where he lived in Palmerston North. He even went on to serve on the committee.
Crossing borders mooted
After a Te Kawau rugby player recently upped sticks and returned to play in Whanganui, it generated discussion on whether, one day, the top Clubs from the two unions might merge.
The player concerned has gone to play for Ngamatapouri way up in the sticks at the top of the Waitotara Valley and to get there Manawatū Clubs would face a trip of 154km.
But as they say, their bus trip to Kimbolton has gone with the demise of the Feilding Old Boys-Oroua senior side.
It’s not clear whether the various clubs would match up in strength. If they did there would be other bus trips to Taihape and Waverley (Border).
While Manawatū is down to seven senior teams, Wanganui has just five since Ruapehu (Ohakune) pulled out. And already the colts and women play in joint competitions. Just food for thought.