Willie Oliver & the African Queen

Willie Oliver & the African Queen

Willie Oliver & the African Queen – a great read

Last week waitematawoody follower Brian Cassidy sent me a chapter from his auto-biography which he wrote for his grand-children. The chapters tells the story of a wonderful salty character named Willie Oliver & the house boat / launch ‘African Queen’ he built on Waiheke Island in the late 1980’s. The story is riddled with anecdotes that Willie shared with Brian as they worked on the boat. To wet your appetite I have included three below.

Now the African Queen was not wood & not a classic, in fact she looked more like a block of flats 🙂 but this story entertained me more than anything else that has crossed my computer screen in the last 6 months. Make your self a cuppa or something a little stronger if its later in the day – then click the blue link below to the story + photos & I promise you, you will have a smile on your face at the end.

Memories of Willie Oliver – The Tiny, Tenacious Tornado

ps If anyone knows what happened to the African Queen, post a comment here as Brian would love to know.

The Governor General

Game fishing was Willie’s real passion, working out of Mayor Island in the Bay of Plenty.

On one trip Willie had the distinction of having the one time Governor General Sir Willoughby Norrie as his guest.

Instructing his excellence to be sure & not over run the big game reel, luck would have it that a big Striped Marlin was hooked & proceeded to run out the line.

His Excellency panicked & let the clutch off causing the reel to over run the line.

“You stupid bugger! I told you not to over run the line, now we’re in the shit!” bellowed Willie in the excitement of the fight.

The Governor’s Aide de Camp, stepped forward, commanding our nuggety little skipper,” You can’t speak to the Governor General like that!”

“I’m the skipper of this vessel, & will speak to him anyway I bloody well like.” retorted Willie, still struggling to untangle the snarled up line.

The Girlfriend

The man was a terrible womanizer, but I reckon he’d had more wins than losses over his lifetime.

His present live in companion was very much younger than him, & when she perceived that he was flirting a bit too often, stabbed him in the stomach as he lay in bed. The blow just missed a major artery. Willie lived & went on to finish the house boat.

Mako Sharks

By way of entertainment while out in deep water, mullet would be offered by hand to big Mako sharks that could be enticed up to the stern of the boat. The huge jaws full of ferocious teeth, were quite a spectacle, as the intrepid skipper hand feed the fearsome creatures. The trick had been done successfully many times before.

On this one occasion Willies was not quick enough, as the monster raked his teeth over the back of our shark tamers hand, causing blood to pour over the deck.

“It was not too bad; once I’d wrapped it up a bit.” Confided Willie, “But I gave up doing that display from then on.”

Now scroll back up the page & click the blue link to the whole story.

Harold Kidd Update

“Willie O” was a major character all right. He was born in January 1902 as Willoughby Grey Oliver, the son of Willoughby Henry (“W H”) Oliver who served his time with Bailey & Lowe and went on to work for many years for Caesar Roose at Mercer. WH died in Devonport in 1947 after giving huge service to Devonport Yacht Club and Wakatere Boating Club. 

Willie O and Ted Gilpin built those rakish gamefishing launches in Tauranga like LADY KAREN and NOELANI which were much admired and imitated. Ted Gilpin married his daughter.

Willie O died in 1990.

An extraordinary family.

HDK Update #2

PS However, large grains of salt should be applied to these tales; the two stories about Chas Bailey Sr (“Clawhammer Charlie) getting his beard caught and cutting the sixpence are old chestnuts and part of Auckland waterfront lore. The firm “Bailey & Lowe” wasn’t founded by him nor did they have a yard at Beaumont Street. These stories go back to the 1890s before Willie O was born, but I’m sure he was pleased to repeat them to an eager listener, putting himself in the action.

PS again. Apologies, Bailey & Lowe did shift to Beaumont Street after closing their Sulphur Beach Northcote yard in the winter of 1921. Charles Bailey Sr. died in July 1923. His son Walter, the founder of Bailey & Lowe, died in March 1927. Walter was clean-shaven.

5 thoughts on “Willie Oliver & the African Queen

  1. Willie also built several steel barges. Brian Worthington has a photo of one on a railway line with Willie sitting on an old” Cork” Fordson shunting tractor.This was on the banks of the Maungawara stream at Tahuna. It was commissioned by a group of flax harvesters backed by the Mercer flaxmiller, Franz Douglas.The tractor was onsold to Caesar Roose to work at his Kupa Kupa coal mine at Huntly.
    The other photo is The Pipiroa ferry barge which Willie had built on the banks of The Waihou beside the Pipiroa store.In this pic it is on its way to become a part of Tuakau Sands Ltd. dredge fleet. It is parked outside Reg O’Leary’s house at Pokeno. He built at least two barges for Waikato sand supplies,Hamilton, two for Smeed’s Quarries, Tuakau, and there are others too
    I think he built a couple of houses in his spare time as well.
    regards ray

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  2. Willies grandfather built the sternwheel steamer “Barstow” on the riverbank at Mercer in 1875 (after the railway arrived) for servicing the Kopuku coal mine.
    Willies father built the “Erin” and “Tunaeke” and others, in the same place
    Willies first commissioned build was the steam tug “Waipa” 45ft for the Raglan County Council in 1923 ? in the same place, about where the concrete ramp is now

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  3. PS again. Apologies, Bailey & Lowe did shift to Beaumont Street after closing their Sulphur Beach Northcote yard in the winter of 1921. Charles Bailey Sr. died in July 1923. His son Walter, the founder of Bailey & Lowe, died in March 1927. Walter was clean-shaven.

    Like

  4. PS However, large grains of salt should be applied to these tales; the two stories about Chas Bailey Sr (“Clawhammer Charlie) getting his beard caught and cutting the sixpence are old chestnuts and part of Auckland waterfront lore. The firm “Bailey & Lowe” wasn’t founded by him nor did they have a yard at Beaumont Street. These stories go back to the 1890s before Willie O was born, but I’m sure he was pleased to repeat them to an eager listener, putting himself in the action.

    Like

  5. “Willie O” was a major character all right. He was born in January 1902 as Willoughby Grey Oliver, the son of Willoughby Henry (“W H”) Oliver who served his time with Bailey & Lowe and went on to work for many years for Caesar Roose at Mercer. WH died in Devonport in 1947 after giving huge service to Devonport Yacht Club and Wakatere Boating Club.
    Willie O and Ted Gilpin built those rakish gamefishing launches in Tauranga like LADY KAREN and NOELANI which were much admired and imitated. Ted Gilpin married his daughter.
    Willie O died in 1990.
    An extraordinary family.

    Like

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