Farewell to Fred

John Clarke died yesterday while photographing birds in the Grampians National Park, Victoria.  Only two years ago John’s mother died at Tamahere Eventide and his  memories formed the basis of this obituary on N8N’s sister site Tamahere Forum.


Gumboots, 1973, New Zealand, by Skellerup Industries Limited. Gift of John Clarke, 2002 Te Papa (GH014297)


Obituary: Neva Yvonne Clarke McKenna, QSM, 1920-2015

A woman whose life was the stuff of movies died in Tamahere last week aged 94.

Neva Clarke McKenna on her 90th birthday at Tamahere Eventide

Neva Clarke McKenna on her 90th birthday at Tamahere Eventide

War veteran, author, and historian Neva Clarke McKenna, who lived her last few years at Tamahere Eventide Home, was one of the first New Zealand women to serve overseas in World War 2 and experienced some of the worst war delivers.

Tragedy, including the loss of two much loved fiancees and being raped at knifepoint by soldiers (retold in the 1995 Gaylene Preston documentary War Stories Our Mothers Never Told Us), was not allowed to define her life which she lived well and creatively.

Neva Yvonne Morrison, born in Gisborne on April 20, 1920, was a happy, confident, and bright girl who was keen to do well but had to leave school during The Depression of the 1930s to find work.

She learnt to type, trained as a secretary and worked mainly in Gisborne and Whakatane until after the outbreak of the 1939-45 war.

…Neva was a modern woman. She was intelligent, capable, ambitious and talented. She had seen the world and despite her love for her family – son, John (the Melbourne-based comedian renowned here as ‘Fred Dagg’) and daughter Anna – the role of housewife in Palmerston North during the 1950s was not alone going to hold her interest.

She got involved with the local theatre group and began to appear in plays. She also started to write short stories and for the next 50 years she published them, wrote book reviews, appeared in radio drama, published a novel and even into her 80s had a weekly newspaper column.

Click here for the rest of the story on Tamahere Forum.


And click here for a lovely story from Te Papa’s Blog on curator Stephanie Gibson’s meeting with John Clarke in Melbourne to bring Fred Dagg’s outfit home.


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Number 8 Network - a community website for the rural areas northeast of Hamilton, NZ, is run by Gordonton journalist/editor Annette Taylor.

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