Top National politician was a father first

ALEX FENSOME
Last updated 05:00 09/06/2012
Sir Brian Talboy
JOHN HAWKINS/Fairfax NZ

FOND FAREWELL: Sir Brian Talboys' sons, Drew and Guy, help carry his coffin from the Winton Salvation Army Centre after the former deputy prime minister's funeral yesterday.

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Sir Brian Talboys was a towering figure in New Zealand politics for two decades, but it was as a father and a man he was remembered at his funeral in Winton yesterday.

Sir Brian, a former deputy prime minister and Wallace electorate MP from 1957 till 1981, died last weekend at 90.

His son, Drew, said his father was called many things and had a lot of titles, but the only one that mattered to him was dad.

Mr Talboys recalled being chased by his father after he had caught him and his brother, Guy, throwing stones at his Beehive office. He also recalled a man who, on holiday, would swim at Riverton every day no matter the weather, who was a demon garden-cricket bowler and who had incredibly long legs.

"Many out there aspire to greatness," Mr Talboys said. "He would never aspire to greatness – he just was ... simply, great."

Deputy Prime Minister Bill English, whose Clutha-Southland electorate covers much of what was Wallace, spoke about Sir Brian's achievements in public life.

Mr English recalled meeting Sir Brian for the first time as a child, when he thought the MP was an astronaut. "I decided whatever he was doing was what I wanted to do," he said. "Almost 30 years later I ended up with his job."

Sir Brian brought his considerable charm, intellect and patience to his role as foreign affairs minister, but was equally good dealing with angry farmers as he was negotiating with diplomats, Mr English said.

During his career he had to deal with the debate over economic change, the Springbok tour (to which he was resolutely opposed) and the notorious Sir Robert Muldoon, Mr English said.

"Even this apparently mild man had to be tough," he said.

One source of toughness was his wife, Pat, Lady Talboys, who had been his constant companion, note-taker, proof-reader, and memory bank throughout his career, Mr English said.

Sir Brian was elected deputy leader of National under Sir Robert in 1974, when National was in opposition. After the party's victory in 1975, he became deputy prime minister and foreign affairs minister. He was involved in creating the closer economic relations agreement with Australia and was made a Companion of the Order of Australia in 1982.He was also one of the first New Zealand politicans to recognise the importance of Asian economies.

On the domestic scene, he was seen as a moderate and less divisive figure than the prime minister. He could have replaced Sir Robert in 1980, when he was sounded out for a leadership bid, but it came to nothing and he retired in 1981. He was knighted in 1991 and is survived by Lady Talboys, his sons Drew and Guy, and two grandchildren, George and Gina.

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