Retired farmer, 95, gets his kicks from bucket list

01:07, May 22 2012
Retired Gore farmer Norman Dickie
GETTING THERE: Retired Gore farmer Norman Dickie, 95, ticks one more thing off his bucket list in Queenstown yesterday.

At 95, retired Gore farmer Norman Dickie has only a few things left to tick off his bucket list, and one of them was achieved in Queenstown yesterday.

Mr Dickie endured cold winter temperatures perched on a deck chair with his walking stick, on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, waiting to see the historic TSS Earnslaw steamship winched up onto the Kelvin Heights slipway for her biennial maintenance makeover.

"I'm fulfilling a lifelong ambition," Mr Dickie, accompanied by his "minder", son Ross, said.

"I've done 28 trips on the the Earnslaw – the first one in 1922 – but I've never actually seen this happen." Mr Dickie was just 5 when he first boarded the old steamship on a Waimea Plains School excursion. The children travelled by train to Kingston where they caught the Earnslaw to Queenstown.

It was a pretty big deal back then: "Awh, it was by joves," Mr Dickie recalled fondly.

His last trip on the Earnslaw was in 1994 when he travelled to Walter Peak with some of the family's Canadian visitors.


Not one to sit at home in his final years, Mr Dickie, whose memory recall is as sharp as a tack, has one or two more things to tick off his "to do" list.

One of the longest-serving members of the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand, Mr Dickie hopes to be back in Queenstown in a few weeks to witness a rare and remarkable event – the transit of Venus, when the planet travels across the face of the sun.

The transit, which occurs in a series of two events, eight years apart, has been witnessed on Earth only a handful of times, the last in Queenstown by a group of American scientists on the Millennium Hotel site in 1874.

The event is weather dependent, but Mr Dickie said he was prepared to travel to Haast if necessary to find the clearest skies.

"Unfortunately my stargazing days are over due to a decline in eyesight." But he will be giving it a go and was grateful yesterday for a warm hat, bearing the society's name, picked up from the 2010 conference in Dunedin.

Those two lifelong ambitions crossed off his bucket list, that leaves only one more possibility as Mr Dickie heads full steam ahead towards 100: "Well, I've always had a hankering to be a railway steam engine driver." He has come close, with a brief moment at the wheel of a restored steam train in Mandeville, but driving the Kingston Flyer does appeal.

With his 96th birthday in October, the old Lady of the Lake has only four years on Mr Dickie, who reckons he is up for a joint birthday celebration cruise that month as part of the Earnslaw's 100th- birthday celebrations.

"Oh yes, I'd be interested in coming up for that," he said.

The Southland Times