A Eulogy to Max Carter by Chris McMullen

MC Carter RIP

A Eulogy to Max Carter by Chris McMullen

Below I have reproduced the speech that Chris McMullen made at Max Carter’s recent funeral, a private funeral with only around twenty people attending. Chris commented to me that he was not sure it was entirely appropriate for the grieving family occasion, but he recognized Max as a boat builder, designer and businessman and knew very little about Max’s family life. Their friendship was formed through their mutual interest in boats.

An insight into Max the Boatbuilder.

Max was a very successful business man when he was a young man. His yard was at #36 Fairfax Avenue, Penrose, Auckland. His company was possibly the biggest most productive wooden boat building operation in New Zealand. He was responsible for the building of many of Auckland’s best known yachts and Launches. The yard closed about 1966 and Max leased his property in Fairfax Avenue. The previously successful Company just ran out of work. Rather like the 2015 closure of Alloy Yachts but in 1966 the NZ economy was in recession.

Max then managed Millers Ship Yard in Suva for a few years and on his return to New Zealand ran Yacht Spars for Tony and Chris Bouzaid

He continued to design boats and other than for personal satisfaction seemed to me, a shadow of the entrepreneur he had been.

Max was a great friend of Chris’s and a huge influence on his business life and helped him with advice when Chris was young and inexperienced. He was devastated that this previously strong person was confined to his bed and hardly able to talk. A few days later, Max sadly passed away.

It is always difficult to give a speech at a funeral, so Chris tried to make it on behalf of Max’s ex employees and friends. If you know Chris, you will know that he would have crafted over his speech for a very long time, I think his former boss & friend would have approved.

Below is the draft copy of Chris’s speech

“I and many of my friends are saddened by the passing of Mr. Malcolm Charles (Max) Carter.

I feel privileged the Carter family have invited me here today. Thank you all.

I am aware this is a private family occasion and my relationship with Max was that of a good friend with common interests.

In the early 1960’s I was working as an apprentice boat builder. I transferred to MC Carter Ltd about half way through my apprenticeship.

Thinking back, I was lucky to have been given that opportunity. Max was a good businessman/ boat builder and a great boss to work for.

He encouraged me and the other apprentices to take responsibility and that did none of us any harm.

As you will recall, Max, Valerie and family lived in a house on the boatyard site. Valerie did much of the all important book work and I am sure Max spent many of his evenings checking our work. It was a big operation and employed about 60 people.

His passion for what he was doing and his genuine friendship with his men and minimum management was the secret of his business success.

Every one worked hard for him. He made sure of that!

We built some beautiful boats.

Shortly after completing my apprenticeship I went into business with another of Max’s ex employees. The late Eric Wing and I copied Max’s business model and ran our small

Company the same way, it worked well for us in a very difficult industry.

Years later, I read an autobiography written by the well known English Boat builder and Yacht designer Uffa Fox. The 1966 book called “Joy’s of Life”

Uffa Fox was best known for his sailing exploits with Prince Philip and later Prince Charles. I have read (elsewhere) that Her Majesty the Queen considered Uffa a bit of a Larrikin.

The book reminded me of a remarkably similar person. My friend Max the Master Boat builder and Yacht Designer.

Max served his apprenticeship with Sandy Sands of SeaCraft Ltd and Sandy had worked as a boat builder for Uffa Fox at Cowes Isle of Wight.

Whether Max got his recipe for his business model from the book or Sandy or it was just coincidence, I will never know.

I do know, like Uffa Fox he gained a great deal of personnel satisfaction from his occupation (custom boat building and design) something, that few people find today.

On Max’s Coffin there are some shipwright’s tools. Included is an adze, I am sure our new health and safety regulations would not approve of this primitive but excellent wood cutting tool. It has to be sharp to work well.

Let me tell a short story about an apprentice boy and an Adze.

Working for Max I often got the job of shaping the Keel, Stem and Horn Timber (the backbone of the boats). I liked the opportunity of working with huge pieces of kauri and shaping them like a precision sculpture. An adze was perfect for this work.

I was sharpening an adze with an oil stone when Max and an owner came by to inspect construction progress.

Max said to me, words to this affect. “Chris, be careful you don’t cut yourself”.

My reply was “Mr. Carter I have already cut myself.” Fortunately, it was not a bad wound. He laughed at my carelessness. Lucky, I never dropped blood on the job.  

Max went to his tool box and gave me a round stone with a safe hand grip designed for the purpose. I had never seen one before. I have a similar sharpening stone to this day and never cut my hand again.

Well, I have a wealth of good memories working for MC Carter Ltd. Sorry, I can’t tell them all.

On behalf of Max’s past employees and his many friends who are can’t be here today. I am honored to have known you Mr. Carter.

Thank you for all your help, advice and years of friendship.

Malcolm Charles (Max) Carter.

Please Rest in Peace.”


4 thoughts on “A Eulogy to Max Carter by Chris McMullen

  1. So sad but he has left us a lot I myself have had two of his boats RIP boat builder Shane Johnson Whangarei


  2. Pingback: Max Carter & His Boats | waitematawoodys.com #1 for classic wooden boat stories, info, advice & news

  3. Very moving, Chris. Well said Baden.
    Wooden boatbuilders with long experience like Max Carter have a knowledge and a dignity from that knowledge that is utterly admirable. I doubt if we will ever see people with their skills and values again in these days of cellphones and similar gabbling toys.


  4. Well said Chris. I think your words and the few little stories you tell about your relationship with Max are an example of the true brotherhood that once existed in the wooden boat building industry. Very few, if no industries offer this type of environment and to me it is a major component now missing in the training of young people in any industry. I know for a fact that these relationships are one of the success components of the marine industry we now have.


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