- by Murray Horton

Reg Duder

This is a sad first – namely having to write an obituary for a colleague on the CAFCA committee. Reg Duder, who died in January 2008 aged 79 (he just made it to a few days past his birthday), had been a CAFCA member since 1992 and had been on the committee for nearly all of that time. Reg had been getting sicker and sicker for several years and was housebound with frequent spells in hospital. We hadn’t seen him at a committee meeting outside his place for a good four or five years and the last time any of us saw him outside of his place for anything was when he attended Wolfgang Rosenberg’s February 2007 funeral. He was absolutely determined to attend that and pay his respects, despite being wheelchair bound and on oxygen. Sheer bloody pigheadedness kept him going for so long, indeed he hosted the final committee meeting for 2007, just days before Christmas, despite the fact that he had, by then, progressed to terminal kidney failure (and his legs were so swollen that he couldn’t wear pants, let alone any footwear. It made for a memorable meeting, and was the last time his committee colleagues saw him alive). It’s important to stress that Reg was more than a colleague, he was a good friend. I was very fond indeed of the old bugger.

It would be quicker to list what he didn’t have wrong with him rather than what he did have wrong with him. He had been a chain smoker nearly all his life – the photo of the dashing moustachioed young fellow in Air Force uniform on the cover of his funeral programme was almost unrecognisable except for the smoke in his hand. Until very recent years he used to preside over committee meetings at his place with his ubiquitous smoke (the rest of us being non-smokers). I used to get chastised by my ex-smoker wife when I tiptoed into the bedroom after those meetings because the smell of smoke on my hair and clothes used to wake her up. She always knew when I’d been to Reg’s. In the past decade CAFCA has joined an international network to fight tobacco transnationals and British American Tobacco NZ has been a regular Roger Award finalist, including in 2007 (when it was joint runner up; BAT has never been a winner yet). I think Reg reckoned that we were getting at him, although he did allow that he was the victim of an addiction whereby he had been hooked for the profit of the tobacco companies. To my astonishment, he did actually give up completely a couple of years ago, just went cold turkey. But the damage had been long done, and his lungs were absolutely buggered, necessitating him being permanently on oxygen. As long as I knew him, he had a smoker’s cough and accompanying hoick of truly Olympic proportions. But the old bugger would tell me with a straight face that smoking was not the cause of his multitude of health problems. One thing that should be made clear – Reg’s body may have been ruined in his final years but there was nothing wrong with his mind. He played a full part in what was going on around him, including the CAFCA committee, to the best of his abilities.

Once Met, Never Forgotten

Inevitably, somebody like Reg gets described as a “character”. In his case, that’s like saying the Pope’s a Catholic and does nothing to convey the unforgettable essence of the man. A “character” is a bit player in the drama of life. Reg was the full blown three act opera. Everything about him was distinctive, starting with his physical appearance – a lived in face that would have made a great Toby jug, with a boozer’s nose (which was strictly hereditary, as Reg didn’t drink) and a fearsome surgical scar that slashed across his bald skull (the result of the brain haemorrhage nearly 30 years ago that damn near killed him and sent him religious); his habit, winter or summer, of wearing only a flimsy short sleeved shirt, unbuttoned down his chest; usually in shorts, all the better to show off his knobbly knees. Reg was a classic old Kiwi joker of his generation. To use a very out of fashion phrase, he was a “man’s man” (with all that implies, good and bad). He’d give my late father a good run for the title of the most spectacularly politically incorrect old bugger that I’ve ever known (and I’ve known more than my fair share of them).

He’d done a four year Anglican community training course, in a midlife change of direction, but was not accepted for the actual training to be a minister. When I asked him why, he answered (in his unmistakeable gruff smoker’s voice): “Because I’ve got balls”. So that was Reg on women clergy. Ironically the vicar of his parish is a woman and after she’d conducted the funeral in his parish church I asked if he’d told her his views on the subject. She replied that he said “that he respected me as a woman”, leaving the rest unsaid. He used to stun CAFCA committee meetings, when it was an all male affair, with his unsolicited opinions on “sheilas, queers and horis” or some combination of all three. He was prone to regaling us with fond memories from his long ago youth, expressed in terms such as “when I was rooting sheilas in the sandhills”. Chairman Bill would then break the ensuing awkward silence by asking what was the next item on the agenda? Actually, if Reg had become a vicar (Rev Reg has a certain ring to it), I would have started going back to church just to hear his sermons. I guarantee they would have been priceless.

Cliches about rough diamonds and hearts of gold come to mind. Reg had plenty of faults, which he freely admitted, but despite all of that, he was one out of the box. He had a most unusual background for a CAFCA committee member. It was only after his death that his caregiver daughter Colleen told me that he’d been a member of the Young Nationals in his youth. He’d sworn her to secrecy, saying “ Murray will kill me” (actually I wouldn’t have as CAFCA contains all sorts. One current National backbench MP used to be a member and an unsuccessful National candidate in the 2005 election has been a member for a quarter of a century). Reg had been in the Air Force (including serving with the military who occupied the wharves during the infamous 1951 lockout of the wharfies); he had worked in finance and insurance and, as I’ve mentioned, trained to be an Anglican minister, which made him the odd man out in a determinedly secular committee (which wasn’t always thus. Years ago, before Reg’s time, the committee included a Catholic priest and we used to hold meetings in his presbytery).

Air Force Man, Salesman, Spiderman

William Reginald Duder was born in Christchurch in 1929, one of three siblings (obviously he didn’t like his first name; if he’d been born American he would have been known as W Reginald Duder). His father was a fitter and turner who had to constantly move to where the jobs were – this peripatetic Depression childhood exacted a price on Reg’s education. He never went to high school. In 1944 he started a five year apprenticeship as a motor mechanic. He completed it, but never worked in that trade. Instead, in 1949, he signed up with the Air Force for eight years, starting as an aircraft engine mechanic and rising to be a General Service Instructor. He enjoyed the military life and while in it he married Melva Tremberth and they had six kids, while moving around the country’s Air Force bases. Reg was offered overseas postings, to the various countries with which NZ was at war or was occupying in the 1950s (Korea, Malaya, Japan) but turned them down on the grounds that he was a married man with a young and growing family. He never went overseas.

But that military life soured for Reg the year before his term was up when he was charged with stealing some Air Force kerosene to fuel a heater for some of his fellow servicemen during a freezing winter. He was demoted in rank, so he left at the end of his eight years, rather than signing up for another term as he had planned to do. According to Colleen, he always regretted the cessation of his military career, although he was scornful of the modern Air Force, describing the officers as “pansies” when he observed them during a visit in recent years to Christchurch’s former Wigram Air Force Base. So, in 1957, Reg re-entered civilian life, as a car salesman. That lasted until the mid 60s when he went into selling life insurance, then, in the early 70s, he was headhunted for a finance company, as a sales representative travelling the South Island. It was in the 70s that Reg joined the former Social Credit, having moved on from the National Party of his youth. He was an active member and remained involved in that party and its’ differently named successors for the rest of his life.

Reg may not have been a political activist at this stage but he certainly had a keenly developed ability to thumb his nose at authority. In late 1974 he and a group of young blokes, including his sons, pulled off a series of daring escapades that fell squarely into the tradition of the Robin Hood urban guerrilla. The Police had launched the “Speak Up” campaign encouraging the public to report crime and had hung a huge 60 foot banner advertising that along the front of a former high profile hotel in Cathedral Square. It was duly liberated and turned up adorning the front of another central city hotel. The cops tied it to the top of the BNZ Building, then under construction in the Square and dared anyone to pinch it. The “Banner Boys” did just that, within a couple of weeks, using a crane to swing across to the building and cutting the big padlock securing the banner. Not content with that, the “Banner Boys” then also liberated the obscenely waggling finger of the huge Santa Claus that had stood on the former Haywrights department store’s central city awning every Christmas for decades and sent a letter to the firm saying that it would only be returned when a donation of $100 was made to an institution for handicapped kids, so that they could have a decent Christmas too (that sum seems ridiculously small these days, doesn’t it, but in 1974 I was paying $9 a week rent for half a house and was being paid $37 a week, to put it into perspective). The money was paid, the finger was returned, as was the Police banner. There was a flurry of Press and Christchurch Star articles (including an editorial) – Reg kept all the clippings, one of which was read out at his funeral by the vicar, to great merriment. Nobody was ever identified or charged with anything. Although he was by then in his mid 40s, Reg played a fully active part in this Spiderman adventure. Hard to imagine for those of us who only knew him in his old age.

Stroke Changed His Life Forever

By the late 70s Reg had become disillusioned with the financial world (so there’s nothing new about finance companies being regarded with distaste) and went back to life insurance. All was going along smoothly until one catastrophic health event changed his life, in many ways, for ever. In 1980 he had the brain haemorrhage and that changed everything. He took a long time to recover (many don’t survive a stroke, including my own late sister). He was devastated to be told by the doctors that he would never work again, that one knock to the area of his head covered by the scar could kill him. So he went from being a working man with a white collar job, supporting his family, and an athletic man enjoying an active life of fishing and camping (he used to regale us with tales of going to Lake Sumner when there were “fish as big as pianos”) to being a sickness beneficiary for the rest of his life. And that drastic change in his life circumstances was a contributing factor to the end of his marriage, in the 1980s, after 30 odd years. He came out of the bustup with just enough to buy his trusty Lada car and he moved in with his widowed daughter Colleen, who had been left a solo mother with a daughter (by a cruel coincidence Colleen’s late husband had died of a brain haemorrhage, in his early 20s). His ex-wife remarried, Reg never did.

The stroke sent him religious. He told me, many times, that during it, he’d had a vivid near death experience that had convinced him of the existence of God and Heaven and that he had nothing to fear when it was his time to die “because I know where I’m going, Murray” (in the interests of fairness, I should point out that we had just as many conversations about rugby, that other great religion of New Zealanders and a game which Reg had played as a young man. Unfortunately Reg couldn’t speak about the All Blacks with the same confidence as he did about the afterlife).

Christianity was a very central part of Reg’s life, which my committee colleagues realised to their surprise at the traditional religious funeral in his parish church. It was not a surprise to me, because of all of us I’d spent the most time with Reg and he had always been free and frank about his beliefs. I’m both a lapsed Anglican and Presbyterian, so we had many interesting discussions on religion, although he was neither a Biblebasher nor a proselytiser (but he would have been delighted that his death led to his committee colleagues having to go to church). Christianity gave him great certainty and comfort in his final years of dreadful sickness and pain. After he died, Colleen found his diary entry for his 79 th birthday, written just days before he died – in it he described himself as being “blessed” and at peace. As already mentioned, in the 1980s, he completed a four year community course of preparatory training for the Anglican ministry. He applied to be accepted for the official training for the ministry but was declined by the then Bishop at an interview – according to Colleen he had “a flaming row” with the Bishop about it, for which Reg later apologised.

Commitment To Social Justice

Church practices had been a steep learning curve for Reg – a couple from his congregation who spoke at the funeral cracked everyone up with their story of him exploding at a retreat because nobody would speak to him, and then being mortified when told that was because it was a silent retreat. Reg was very much a social justice Christian. In 1991 the various churches’ social agencies, including the Anglicans, were, disgracefully, among the very first employers to take advantage of the anti-union Employment Contracts Act to bash their lowpaid workers. Reg stood in the Cathedral in the Square and for a whole day, throughout the several church services held there, silently held a placard that simply read “You’re Wrong”. In fact, he stopped going to church altogether for several years in the 90s because of his disgust at this. He was never afraid to interrupt the vicar’s sermons at his parish church if he thought that s/he had got something wrong. Right to the end he delighted in stirring up his fellow parishioners – his coffin was led into the church by his five year old great-grandson holding a placard entitled “Reg’s Last Protest”.

And it was the stroke that made Reg into a political activist. As a sickness beneficiary, he had his first contact with the social welfare system and he didn’t like what he saw. Considering it inherently unfair, he got involved in beneficiaries’ advocacy groups and thence into the protest movement. He was a high profile activist in early 90s’ social campaigns such as the Coalition Against Benefit Cuts (which protested against the savage cuts to all benefits made in National’s 1990 “Mother Of All Budgets”, cuts which have never been restored by Labour) and, most particularly, the State Housing Action Coalition, which protested National’s imposition of market rents on State house tenants (something which Labour did reverse). He understood very clearly the class war that was being waged against the poor in those years and he got stuck into the fightback. I had been warned by someone who worked with Reg in those campaigns that he was a sconedoer but I can honestly say that I never saw any evidence of that side of his personality in any of his dealings with me or anyone else on the committee. I saw flashes of it in his dealings with those whom he detested (see Jenny Shipley story below) but even that was muted.

And it was that passionate commitment to social justice that brought Reg to CAFCA. Paul Watson, the Southern Region Secretary of the National Distribution Union (NDU), spoke at the funeral and told how he had first met Reg in the late 1980s, when Paul was an official of the former Clothing Workers’ Union, and Reg became involved in various union campaigns to attempt to defend unions from the pulverising they were taking from Rogernomics. Reg remained a staunch union supporter for the rest of his life, with his views reinforced by the experiences of Colleen as an NDU delegate for years in a clothing factory. He joined the former New Labour Party, when it was created out of dissatisfaction with the Labour Party of the Roger Douglas era, hence into the Alliance. He simultaneously remained in the Democrats (which left the Alliance and resumed life as a stand alone party) and stayed with them until his death.

I didn’t know Reg at all as a middle aged man, let alone a young one. He was in his early 60s when I first met him. So, “old Reg” really was old Reg to his committee colleagues. For the details of the first 60 years of his life, I am indebted to Colleen. Reg is my only obituary subject in memory for whom I had nothing in writing, he had flown under the radar all of his life (apart from anonymous escapades such as the “Banner Boys”). I interviewed Colleen for this obituary and she freely confessed that she is hazy about whole chunks of her old man’s life because very little of it was recorded.

Very Active CAFCA Activist

Reg played a very active part in all CAFCA campaigns through the 90s. We were instrumental in setting up the Campaign for People’s Sovereignty, a coalition which fought the manifestations of foreign control at local government level for several years. We campaigned against the corporatisation of the former Southpower, Christchurch’s publicly owned power company. Reg was in the thick of that, taking part in regular pickets of both it and the City Council (the owner), plus always attending Southpower’s token annual public meeting and haranguing the management present (Southpower is long gone, a victim of National’s electricity “reforms”. So is TransAlta, the Canadian transnational which bought it, winning the Roger Award during its short but eventful sojourn in Christchurch). CAFCA got involved in the Canterbury Health Coalition to fight hospital charges (the wonderfully successful Can’t Pay Won’t Pay Don’t Pay Twice campaign) and moves to corporatise hospitals. Reg was active in that one. CAFCA initiated another coalition, the Society for Publicly Owned Telecommunications (SPOT) to campaign against American-owned Telecom. There were regular pickets, meetings, and petitions, etc – Reg was in his element in that. CAFCA campaigned against the sale of Trust Bank to Westpac and the City Council giving its rubbish collection contract to French transnational, Onyx – Reg was on the front line in all of that.

Some of my most vivid memories of Reg involve CAFCA’s participation in the successful Dump The Dump campaign of the late 90s, which stopped a regional landfill, with heavy transnational ownership, being built in the foothills near Darfield (it ended up in North Canterbury instead). Reg and I had some memorable trips out into the Tory heartland of rural Canterbury. To quote myself in Watchdog 93 (April 2000; “Waste Management: Darfield Dump Dumped”):

“In the wake of the 1999 announcement of the preferred site, Dump The Dump (the Selwyn group set up to fight it) settled in for the long haul. On the Sunday after the November general election they invited the public to join them at a picnic at the dumpsite, so that the urban rubbish producers could see the future destination of their weekly black plastic rubbish bags and weekend trailer loads to the various refuse treatment plants around Christchurch. Several hundred people accepted the invitation and headed for the hills (the Malvern Hills, that is). CAFCA was represented by myself and Reg Duder. Once again, we took several hundred copies of our leaflet on Waste Management, the same one that Reg and I had handed out at the 1999 midwinter Darfield public meeting to oppose the dump (over 1,000 people had attended that). It has been well circulated throughout the Selwyn district, being included in Dump The Dump’s material at the annual Canterbury Show and at the picnic itself. Driving towards Darfield, on the West Coast highway, motorists couldn’t escape the plethora of Dump The Dump signs on the roadsides, farm gates, and in farmers’ paddocks. These people were angry.

“The three speakers at the picnic reflected the broad political opposition to the landfill. They were, in order: Sir Kerry Burke, former (Labour) Speaker and current Christchurch 2021 Canterbury Regional Councillor (now Chair of ECan, as the Regional Council is now called); the local National MP, Jenny Shipley, who was still Prime Minister, despite National having been defeated the previous weekend; and (the late) Rod Donald, Greens Co-Leader, and technically an ex-MP at that point, as the Greens had fallen short on election day (but ended up with seven MPs, once special votes were counted). Shipley said that one of the few consolations in losing the election was the time that was now available to her to fight the landfill…

“It was a very strange sensation for CAFCA people to be listening politely to Jenny Shipley from a few metres away, surrounded by her applauding constituents. Single issues definitely lead to strange bedfellows. It was all a bit much for old Reg, who had been heavily involved in the fightback against Shipley’s vicious benefit cuts and war on the poor in the early 1990s. He shouted out something (about those benefit cuts, from memory) and was promptly shoved by the rural Tory next to him. But the rain doth fall on Tory and CAFCA alike – the speeches were abruptly foreshortened by the opening of the heavens, everyone scattered and decided that while they were at it, they might as well go home…”.

Reg was very much the CAFCA activist until his health confined him to home for his final years. His was a very practical activism. He got stuck into to help at as many Watchdog mailouts as he could; and for years he was the CAFCA driver – picking up Watchdog from the printers; getting it to NZ Post; transporting banners and placards to each and every picket or protest; driving me (a non-driver) wherever was beyond bike range (such as speaking engagements, both in Christchurch and out in the wop wops); taking responsibility for delivering, quite literally at a coughing, spluttering stagger in some cases, Colleen’s magnificent suppers to the Annual General Meetings which he attended as often as possible. I have fond memories of Reg my chauffeur in his increasingly battle scarred old Lada (in which he’d been hassled by the far Right nutters who plagued the drivers of “Communist” cars in the 80s. Reg had made a citizen’s arrest of one of them when he got sick of the harassment). He was the only person to back into our letterbox twice – it would have been three times but he hit me instead. On one morning mailout trip to the Christchurch Postal Centre the bloody car stalled at every set of lights on the one way street in rush hour traffic. I had visions of having to get out and carry several hundred Watchdogs through the streets (the car made it).

My all time favourite Reg story involves the potentially disastrous combination of his driving and smoking. We were coming home across the Canterbury Plains on a pitch black midwinter night, having distributed hundreds of CAFCA leaflets at a huge public meeting in Darfield to oppose the proposed dump (see above for details). He suddenly announced that he could smell something burning, so we pulled over and discovered his jersey smouldering away in the back seat. He was prone to coughing and hoicking out the driver’s window as he drove, plus chucking out his cigarette butt for good measure. The latter had gone straight in the back window and started a fire. Many and wonderful were the motoring stories which explained his arriving late at various meetings – everything seemed to happen to Reg and his car.

Reg’s Legacy To CAFCA Lives On

As I’ve said, his illhealth rendered Reg housebound for years, nearly all of the first decade of the 21 st Century in fact. But that didn’t stop his political activism. Only a few years ago he joined the Anti-Bases Campaign and he valued his membership of that so much that he made a point of paying his sub the last time I saw him alive, just weeks before his death, even though he was obviously dying. CAFCA committee meetings are rotated around the homes of members, so every couple of months Reg would be our host, a task which he took very seriously because he was extremely proud of being on the committee (more than once he offered his resignation because he apologised that his health prevented him pulling his weight – we always declined and told him we valued his company and that he could have committee membership for life, which he did). There was nothing wrong with his mind, right up until the end, so he played a full part in those committee meetings held at his home - even when he could no longer wear pants because of the fluid buildup in his legs caused by terminal kidney failure (I’d seen the same symptom when my father was dying and knew that Reg’s death was imminent).

Reg was a man of forceful opinions, forcefully and frequently expressed. At meetings, he was prone to rhetorically bewail a perceived lack of public support for CAFCA’s good work. Whatever the issue under discussion, Reg would declaim “rampant bloody apathy” – which Colleen describes as his “favourite oxymoron” - as his explanation of where the masses were at (and I must say that I disagreed with him then and still do now). That became his signature phrase at committee meetings. He and I had another one which we shared and which was the last thing I ever said to him as I left his final meeting. I always used to jokingly tell him to “calm your shattered nerves, Reg”, to which he’d splutter and roar in reply “calm my shattered nerves is bloody right”. It arose because he always seemed to be in a fluster whenever I, or the committee, saw him. He lived life at full throttle, which does that to your composure. So, Reg, old mate, good friend, for one last time I’ll say to you “calm your shattered nerves”. You’ve earned a rest, sleep easy. We won’t forget you and, speaking personally, I’ll treasure your memory.

And Reg’s legacy to CAFCA lives on, quite literally, in the person of his daughter Colleen Hughes. As long as we knew him, he lived in her flat. Virtually every year we have a strategy meeting and the 2007 one (Reg’s final one) was held at their place. One item was suggestions for new committee members. Reg nominated Colleen and spoke strongly in her favour, because of her experience as a union activist. She’d been right under our noses for years and none of the rest of us had considered her in that capacity (blokes, you see). As a direct result of that, Colleen has become a valued addition to the committee, the first time we’ve ever had two generations of one family serving on it. But that was old Reg, he was always one for firsts.



As is the case with all too many CAFCA members, we knew nothing at all about Allan Yeoman. We didn’t even know that he had died (in September 2007, aged 93) until his December Watchdog was returned to us from his Katikati rest home, in the Bay of Plenty. We’d never met him and I’d only ever spoken to him once, on the phone – I had to ring him, at that home, because I couldn’t read his handwriting advising his change of address. When I said my name, he replied “the man himself”, so I deduced that he enjoyed reading Watchdog.

A quick Google search greatly whetted my appetite. Here was a man who turned out to have been one of NZ’s greatest prisoner of war (POW) camp escapers of WW2, having written a book about it in the 1990s and starred in the 2006 TVNZ series Kiwis At War. Nor was he one of those boring old buggers who dine out on their war exploits for the rest of their lives. Allan had lived a very full peacetime life and as recently as the mid 90s had managed to wedge himself firmly up the noses of the fundamentalists in his beloved Presbyterian Church (and the broader Protestant churches), by publishing a booklet which caused such a reaction that the hurt was never healed in his lifetime and he refused to have his funeral held in his parish church that he had served for decades. Then I realised that he was pushing 90 when he first joined CAFCA, in 2003. He remained a member until his death and he sent donations to both us and to the CAFCA/ABC Organiser Account, which supplies my income.

Having had a father who was also a POW escaper (although without any of the derring do of Allan’s multiple escapes) and being myself a lapsed Presbyterian from donkey’s years ago, I could relate to at least part of his life story. I set out to find out as much as I could and I am indebted to the staff of his retirement home and to Lauren Owens of the Bay of Plenty Times, who very promptly and without demur, supplied its October 2007 obituary and photos.

Fighting Fascism: Serial Wartime Escaper

“Mr Yeoman was born in 1914 in Opouriao Valley, inland from Whakatane, and went to school in the Eastern Bay before finishing at Auckland Grammar. He returned to the Bay to farm and also took up singing - a lifelong interest - and joined the 6th Hauraki Regiment, earning the rank of lieutenant in the years leading up to the ( Second World) war. The (Presbyterian) church was also a key part of his life and it was at Bible class that he met Nellie Reid. When war broke out in 1939 he left his sweetheart Nell behind and joined the 21st Battalion as a platoon commander. He served in Greece, Crete - he was evacuated on the last ship out after the ill-fated battle - and Egypt before being captured in Libya in 1941. He spent much of the next 3 1/2 years as a prisoner of war in Italy, Germany, Austria and Yugoslavia. As an officer, he was committed to trying to escape, and succeeded a couple of times before being recaptured. His escape attempts were retold in a television documentary (in 2006). More than once he faced death, recalling one incident in (the former) Yugoslavia where, after being recaptured following two months on the run with the partisans, he and his fellow POWs were told: ‘You will be shot in the morning. You are all dead men’. He lived to tell the tale and committed it to print in 1991 when he published his wartime memoirs, ‘The Long Road to Freedom’” (Katikati Advertiser, 9/10/07, Lauren Owens).

Allan Yeoman’s extraordinary feats as an escaper were the subject of an episode of the 2006 series “Kiwis At War” entitled “Allan Yeoman: The Man With Nine Lives”. The publicity blurb on TVNZ’s Website reads: “After a disastrous start to World War Two, Yeoman spent three and a half years inside, trying to get out. This episode of Kiwis At War runs the roller coaster of his capture and several bold escape attempts. ‘Standard book of field service regulations says that it is the duty of an officer in the British Army, once captured, to escape’, declares 91 year old Katikati resident Allan Yeoman. So he did.

“On more than one occasion he could very easily have been shot. Although he was imprisoned in Italy, Germany, Austria and Yugoslavia, Allan Yeoman never lost his determination to be free. He survived some rather dodgy escape plans, one of which saw him escaping from a four story building using little more than a rope of sheets. In a heart-wrenching moment, dangling 15 metres off the ground, Allan was spotted by the armed guard.

"’And the only reason I'm here today’, laughs Yeoman, ‘is that the sentry was late back for duty from the town, and instead of going to the barracks to get his rifle, he went past the armoury and grabbed the first rifle he could see, not knowing it was faulty’. Yeoman and his comrade got away, and spent nearly three weeks getting to the coast, only to be spotted by an Italian guard lurking behind a building. ‘We were sent back on the train - it took 19 days to get to the coast, and nine hours to get back’, he smiles. At the time, his escape was a record. He was met at the camp gates by the Commandant, who offered a warm handshake with one hand, but kept a pistol firmly gripped in his other. ‘There was a fair bit of fellow feeling between soldiers. It was as though 'we didn't start his war, and on the battlefield you are my enemy, but that's no reason why I should dislike you'.

“But his escapades soon got Allan bundled off to the Italian equivalent of Colditz (the German maximum security prison reserved for escapers and high risk POWs. Ed.), the imposing Gavi Castle. Now labelled 'molto pericoloso' - very dangerous - Yeoman was shifted around camps, and into Austria. He made another audacious escape by posing as a Frenchman and fled through the mountains, where he spent time fighting with the Yugoslav partisans. Captured again on his way back to Italy, Yeoman narrowly avoided a firing squad, and saw out the rest of the war in Germany. It was a tremendously long road to freedom, that makes Allan Yeoman one of the greatest Kiwi escape artists of the war” ( ). In Matthew Wright’s 2006 book “Escape! New Zealanders’ World War 2 Stories”, Allan detailed the escapers’ methods. “We had three fairly distinct approaches: tunnelling – slow, laborious but relatively safe; finesse – requiring disguise, acting ability and a quick wit; and surprise – often needing good judgement, physical fitness and a willingness to take a risk”.

“…By the time Mr Yeoman returned to New Zealand in 1945 with the rank of major, he had been away for six years and, as he recalled years later, he and Nell ‘met as strangers’. ‘ We lost all the years we should have had together’. The couple married and moved to Katikati where they bought a large dairy farm... Mr Yeoman was soon involved in local affairs, convincing the local catchment authority to raise the (local) stream's stop banks. The resulting walkway to the harbour now bears his name. His name also graces the pensioner flats… which he pushed hard for in the early 1980s. ‘ If anything is to take my name I am happy for it to be these units’, he said modestly at the time of their opening in 1983. By then Mr Yeoman was at the end of 15 years' local government service. He had joined Katikati Town Committee in 1968 and was elected to Tauranga County Council in 1977, serving two terms. Other than pensioner housing, his achievements included modernising the sewerage system and other infrastructure, and the purchase of Katikati saleyards to be the nucleus of the industrial zone. Mr Yeoman was also a long-time Rotarian, serving a term as president, and was involved with Federated Farmers, while Mrs Yeoman, who died in 1999, was a nurse during the war and later became patron of the Red Cross in Katikati.

Fighting Fundamentalism: A Breach Which Never Healed

“In 1989, Mr Yeoman was formally thanked by St Paul's for his 35 years' service to the Presbyterian Church, 29 as a session clerk. But more than 20 years earlier, around 1967, Mr Yeoman had already begun to question the role of the church, prompted in part by the heresy trial of Lloyd Geering. In a 2006 interview Mr Yeoman said, ‘I found myself agreeing with him and at odds with many in my church'’. It would not be until 1995 that he made his liberal views known widely, with the publication of the 48 page booklet, ‘Where Have All The Christians Gone? (And What Should We Tell Our Children?)’. Mr Yeoman was alarmed by changes in religious observance, particularly what he saw as the rise of charismatic fundamentalism, something he described as a step backwards towards pre-science Christianity. More traditional minded members of the church felt feelings of loss, grief and anger, he said. In the booklet, he predicted that by the year 2000 the church could become ‘an interesting relic ... a warm and loving service club with strange outdated beliefs and customs, an anachronism, irrelevant'” (Katikati Advertiser, 9/10/07, Lauren Owens). Lloyd Geering favourably reviewed the booklet: “….Yeoman has observed how ‘some fundamentalists… have set out to take over the structures of the established churches’, leaving many people grieving for the loss of the more open church they once knew” (Sea Of Faith NZ Newsletter 14, December 1995).

“The booklet prompted unprecedented debate in the letters pages of the Katikati Advertiser and accusations of heresy by at least one local minister. The rift that developed was never repaired and after Mr Yeoman died…, his funeral was held not at St Paul's Presbyterian Church, but at the Katikati RSA…. It may be argued now that Mr Yeoman's book had no long-lasting effect on the church, but the division affected him personally for the rest of his life. He continued to attend St Paul's until about 2000 before the differences between him and the session became too great and the breach became permanent. His daughter Judy, who is a lawyer in Auckland, said the controversy made him very sad, but he never wavered from his views. ‘ He was deeply hurt at how they treated him. He felt he could never go back to the church. Before he died, he said to me `I am not under any circumstances to have my funeral at St Paul's Church'. Instead, he aligned himself with the Sea of Faith, a global non-denominational organisation for liberal-minded Christians. ‘He had a huge faith, he never lost his belief’, Judy said. He read extensively and was reading the latest book by the Sea of Faith's most prominent figure, Bishop John Spong, just weeks before he died” (Katikati Advertiser, 9/10/07, Lauren Owens). That obituary concluded: “The controversy could not overshadow a lifetime of outstanding service to his family, his community and his country”.

It was only after all this that Allan joined CAFCA, in 2003, aged nearly 90, and remained a member until his death four years later. It never ceases to amaze me just what an interesting bunch we have for members. What a life, fighting fascists and fundamentalists (who have more than a little in common)! We never knew him but we owe him a vote of thanks for a life well lived and a fight well fought.


To describe Philip Agee, who died in Havana in January 2008, aged 72, as a whistleblower is a complete misnomer and altogether too mild. Agee was a metaphorical bomb thrower (and the enemies he made for life among his former colleagues and political masters tried very hard to libel him as a literal bomb thrower too). He was one of the real global heroes of the latter decades of the 20 th Century. By his courageous actions in exposing the names and operations of his erstwhile employer, the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), he will be forever remembered as a real American patriot (naturally he was vilified as a traitor, permanently stripped of his US passport, hounded out of his homeland and subjected to all sorts of threats).

His 1975 classic book “Inside The Company: CIA Diary” went off like a bomb during that turbulent era when the crimes of the CIA throughout the Third World and against its own people were being exposed. That book was absolutely essential reading for everyone at the time. Agee was not a one hit wonder. He went for broke, undergoing a profound political transformation that saw him spend the next several decades actively working against American imperialism throughout the world.

Born in Florida in 1935 into a comfortable Catholic family, Agee attended Jesuit schools and graduated from the University of Notre Dame in Indiana in 1956. “Agee had initially seemed perfect CIA material: bright, sharp witted, bilingual and cultured” (Guardian Obituary, 10/1/08; “Philip Agee: The man who blew the whistle on the CIA’s backing of military dictatorships”, Duncan Campbell ). “He told the New York Times in 1974 that the CIA attempted to recruit him while he was at Notre Dame, offering a package plan that included Air Force duty. He said no but reconsidered while studying law at the University of Florida. He served as an Air Force officer from 1957 to 1960 and then began his CIA career” (LA Times-Washington Post, reproduced in Press, Obituaries, 19/1/08; “Agent who lifted CIA lid”).

The Political Education Of A CIA Agent

Agee served as a CIA field officer in Latin America until he quit in 1969, profoundly disillusioned with what he had done and witnessed in the 12 years he worked for the Agency. "[The current attitude] is pretty much the attitude we had in the CIA during the 1950s. When we analysed the operational climate and all the political forces in any given country, we had our friends and we had our enemies. There was no one in between. The friends were centre and Rightwing social democrats, conservatives, liberals, in some cases all the way over to neo-fascists. The enemies were Leftwing social democrats, socialists, Communists, all the way to those advocating armed struggle.

"This is the way we saw the world. It was a strictly dualistic view of the political climate in any given country where we were operating. It was very much like what we are hearing today from Washington. It was not until I got down to Latin America that I began to get a political education. Whatever my ideas when I went down there, I saw things around me every day that influenced me. I saw the terrible economic and social conditions, and the injustices that could not be ignored.

"… The aim of our programmes was to support the status quo, to support the oligarchies of Latin America. These are the power structures that date back centuries, based on ownership of the land, of the financial resources, of the export-import system, and excluding the vast majority of the population. With all of our programmes, we were supporting these traditional power structures. What first caused me to turn against these people were the corruption and the greed that they exhibited in all areas of society. My ideas and attitudes began to change, and eventually I decided to resign from the CIA.

"… I was myself involved in some of these activities. I worked, for example, with the police in Latin American countries, and they were often involved in torture. I remember one Sunday morning in the office of the Chief of Police during a state of siege in Montevideo. My boss, the CIA Chief of Station in Uruguay was present, along with the local Army colonel in charge of anti-riot forces. We began to hear a low moaning coming through the walls and, at first, I thought it was a street vendor outside. But then it became clear that it was someone being tortured in another part of the building. As this horrible sound became louder and louder, the Police chief told the colonel to turn up a radio in order to drown out the groans and screams. There is no end to such examples, and Latin America was one of the places where the worst offences occurred. But it was not just Latin America… (Nordic News Network, 10/1/08; “Philip Agee: Let Us Now Praise An [In]Famous Man”, Al Burke. The Agee speech quoted was delivered in Stockholm, 24/9/01 and can be read in full at Appendix E at “In 1968, Agee ran CIA activities during the Mexico City Olympics. When the Army massacred student protesters there, Agee told me he was tormented by the fact that the survivors were taken away and tortured to death” (Los Angeles Times; “Agee’s Faustian bargain”, Tim Rutten; reproduced in Press, 18/1/08).

He was also a romantic. “’Why did I leave the CIA?’, Agee once asked himself at a public meeting. ‘I fell in love with a woman who thought Che Guevara was the most wonderful man in the world’” (Guardian Obituary, ibid.). She was “a beautiful Brazilian Marxist who had been arrested and tortured by her country’s military, which was then cooperating with US intelligence” (Los Angeles Times; “Agee’s Faustian bargain”, ibid.). Together with his two young sons from his former American marriage, they moved to first Paris and then London in the early 1970s where he worked with the magazine Time Out and other publications to expose the CIA.

Bombshell Book

It was his bombshell 1975 book “Inside The Company: CIA Diary” which immortalised Agee. It detailed what he had done and what the CIA had done during his career with it throughout the 1960s in Latin America. Published in 20 languages it came complete with a 22 page list of 250 Agency operatives (all perfectly legal at that time). In 1978 he wrote “Dirty Work: The CIA In Western Europe”, followed up by a similarly titled book on the CIA in Africa, which exposed a total of another 2,000 CIA agents. He told the Guardian in 2007: “It was a time in the 70s when the worst imaginable horrors were going on in Latin America. Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Guatemala, El Salvador – they were military dictatorships with death squads, all with the backing of the CIA and US government. That was what motivated me to name all the names and work with journalists who were interested in knowing just who the CIA were in their countries” (Guardian Obituary, ibid.). “’I did not write the book for the KGB’ (the intelligence agency of the former Soviet Union), he told the New York Times in 1974. ‘I wrote it for revolutionary organisations in the United States, in Latin America and everywhere else’” LA Times-Washington Post, reproduced in Press, Obituaries, 19/1/08; “Agent who lifted CIA lid”).

Ironically, Agee died the same month as Indonesia’s former dictator Suharto, the genocidal kleptocrat who was one the 20 th Century’s worst mass murderers and whose 1960s’ slaughter of anywhere up to a million “Communists” was actively aided and abetted by the CIA. For the details of this still unpunished crime against humanity, check out the Anti-Bases Campaign’s newsletter Peace Researcher 25, March 2002, Special Issue, “Ghosts Of A Genocide: The CIA, Suharto And Terrorist Culture”, by Dennis Small (a writer who needs no introduction to Watchdog readers). It can be read online at: .

“’Inside the Company’, though published in 1975, remains a basic reference on the methods and procedures by which the United States pursues and maintains its interests in the countries it seeks to control. In fact, I happened to be re-reading it a few years ago as Venezuela was being subjected to a classic destabilisation campaign whose evident purpose was to soften up the country for the coup against President Hugo Chávez which in due course took place a few months later.

“The basic procedure was all laid out in Philip's book: One could read his detailed account of how he and his colleagues had organised the downfall of Ecuador's President Velasco in 1961, and in the daily news follow the same tactics and procedures as they were being applied in Venezuela 40 years later. Then as now, the mainstream media played a central role in creating the necessary pre-coup atmosphere of diffuse anxiety, widespread malaise, and seething rebellion against a ‘dictator’ who happened to be democratically elected. Now as then - despite the numerous subsequent revelations of Philip and others who have followed his example - the same media have divulged little or nothing about the shadowy figures and agencies who orchestrate such processes. For the most part, the CIA and other instruments of US domination continue to operate behind a media smokescreen of wilful neglect and obfuscation” (Nordic News Network, 10/1/08; “Philip Agee: Let Us Now Praise An [In]Famous Man”, Al Burke).

Agee was and remains the CIA’s only ideological defector. He didn’t do it for money or to live in an enemy country (it wasn’t until his final years that he moved to Cuba, where he died). Other ex-spies have written books which have caused ripples (in 2001, the Anti-Bases Campaign hosted Mike Frost, a former Canadian spy turned author, on an NZ speaking tour) but none provoked the fury that Agee did, which lasted the rest of his life. He wasn’t a whistleblower and despite being libelled as a traitor (meaning one who betrays one’s country to an enemy), he was nothing like a traitor. If he was, that means the CIA sees the American people, indeed the world’s peoples, as their enemy, because that’s to whom Agee “betrayed” the CIA. He had become a political enemy to his former covert world, one who could do very real damage to it (which he did, as much as possible for as long as possible) and it, in turn, became his lifelong enemy.

The Price To Be Paid

He was never charged with anything because he hadn’t done anything illegal. In 1982 Congress passed the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, specifically to halt Agee’s revelations. He didn’t name any more names after that. His 1987 book “On The Run” detailed the unrelenting campaign waged against him by the US government during and after his writing of “Inside The Company”. I reviewed that book in Watchdog 62, September 1989 (things moved slower in those pre-Internet days. The book was not available in NZ and I had to import a copy from Australia). Here’s an extract:

“By deliberately choosing to live in the West (not in Cuba, where he could have been set for life), he exposed himself to the full retribution of the open and covert arms of the US government and its satellites. Agee was hounded out of Britain (because he exposed joint US/UK intelligence destabilisation of Michael Manley’s government in Jamaica). He was subsequently expelled from Holland and France, and had a real hassle getting permission to live in (the former) West Germany. More than once he was arrested or held at airports. As a result of trumped up accusations at the time of the Iranian hostage situation (when US Embassy staff were held hostage from 1979-81, and CIA records found in the building made public) he was stripped of his US passport (which was never returned to him). He then travelled on first a Grenadian one and now a Nicaraguan one (the first one ceased when President Reagan sent US forces into Grenada, in the West Indies, in 1983 to overthrow its Government; the second one when the Sandinista government was electorally defeated in 1990, after enduring years of Reagan’s and Bush Senior’s contra war waged by the CIA and its local death squads). He has been subject to constant physical and electronic surveillance. He has had spies planted on him, and found their tools of trade (the famous cover photo of the bugged typewriter in “Inside The Company”). “On The Run” includes a photograph of Agee confronting one of these spies when she was found at her next deep cover assignment. She fled the scene on the spot. He has been called a KGB agent, a Cuban spy, a traitor and a murderer” (all of which were dredged up again in 2008 in mainstream media coverage of his death).

“Under the US Freedom of Information Act, Agee was able to discover the CIA had accumulated 18,000 pages of information on him. Agee was repeatedly blamed for the death of Richard Welch, the CIA Station Chief in Athens who was assassinated in 1975. ‘George Bush's father [George Bush Senior] came in as CIA Director in the month after the assassination and he intensified the campaign, spreading the lie that I was the cause of the assassination. His wife, Barbara, published her memoirs and she repeated the same lie, and this time I sued and won, in the sense that she was required to send me a letter in which she apologised and recognised what she wrote about me was false. They've tried to make this story stick for years. I never know what government hand or neocon hand is behind the allegations, and I don't pay too much attention, but I know I haven't been forgotten’" (Guardian Unlimited, 9/1/08; “Renegade CIA agent Agee dies”, Fred Attewill and agencies).

To return to my 1989 Watchdog review: “’On The Run’ is the aptly titled human record of his life in the CIA, whilst writing ‘Inside The Company’, and as an author, activist and fugitive in the years since. It is a life that has exacted a personal toll – the CIA encouraged his ex-wife to use their two sons as bait to lure him home. The constant pressure has broken up more than one subsequent relationship. He is now married to a ballerina/teacher – he found her totally different world an antidote to the paranoid, secretive one of spy and counterspy” (and marrying a German citizen had the added advantage of entitling him to a German passport).

“Life would have been much easier for Agee if he had been what he has been accused of – a defector and traitor. He could have had a Moscow dacha (this was written before the collapse of the Soviet Union just a couple of years later) or a Havana villa. But he chose to stay and fight, and take the heat. The world owes him a debt of thanks. Nor is he a wishy-washy reformer, who wants to clean up the CIA of a few bad apples. There have been several other agents who have gone public since Agee, written books, toured NZ in one case (Ralph McGehee, in the mid 1980s). They live in the US. But Agee is treated as an implacable enemy, because he has come full circle. He actively espouses revolutionary socialism, with Cuba as the model…He can be accused of naivety and paranoia (with great justification, in the latter case). But he has never swerved from his hard fought principles - that the secret world of US intelligence must be exposed and that the imperialism it serves must be fought worldwide. Read as a straight autobiography, ‘On The Run’ is riveting – as a chronicle of growing political awareness from someone in a position to hit his former masters very hard, it is invaluable”.

In the 1990s Agee set up an online travel company to bring visitors to Cuba. Most of his clients were Europeans or Canadians but many were Americans who risked hefty legal penalties for defying the US embargo (which, among things, prohibits US citizens from visiting this enemy pariah state just off its coast) that has been in place for nearly as long as Fidel Castro has been in power. “ Agee was a great supporter of what he regarded as Cuba's progressive policies providing universal healthcare and education, and he regarded the current US President as the ‘antithesis’ of those achievements. Writing in the Guardian in 2007, he said: ‘All Cuba's achievements have been in defiance of US efforts to isolate Cuba. Every dirty method has been used, including infiltration, sabotage, terrorism, assassination, economic and biological warfare and incessant lies in the media of many countries’" (Guardian Unlimited, 9/1/08; “Renegade CIA agent Agee dies”, Fred Attewill and agencies). So it was fitting that Agee died, following surgery for a perforated stomach ulcer, in the country where he most felt at home. It is doubtless a matter of surprise and regret to his many powerful enemies that he died of natural causes.

Agee On “The War On Terror”

Agee remained an extremely astute analyst of US imperialism right up until the end of his life. Less than a fortnight after the September 11, 2001 terrorist atrocities in the US, he gave a fascinating speech in Stockholm. "There has been some reporting, but not very much, about the fact that Osama bin Laden is a product of the United States. He is a creature of the CIA, having gone to work for it in Afghanistan. It was the largest operation ever carried out by the CIA, and its purpose was to bleed the (former) Soviet Union. Bin Laden was one of thousands who volunteered to fight with the mujahedin against the Soviets. As I recall, there were seven different groups. All seven were basically fundamentalist Islamic forces, who felt that the Soviet invasion defiled an Islamic country. Bin Laden was among those who did not stop fighting after the Soviets were expelled. In fact, he started laying plans for the future while the (1979-89) war against the Soviet Union was still going on. He was able to develop a worldwide network which today is operating in 60 countries or more. Very little of this background on bin Laden as a creation of the United States has been brought to public attention during the past two weeks. Most of what we have seen and heard is related to the 'solution', which is war. How much have we read or heard about those voices calling for alternative solutions to the problem of international terrorism? How much reporting have we seen on analyses of what has driven these people to such desperation that they carried out those attacks on September 11th?

"… Since the attacks on September 11th, I do not believe there has been any serious effort by the US mainstream press to review the history of US involvement in and support of terrorism. The news is monopolised by those who want to go to war. For that reason, I do not think it will be very easy to avoid this 'war on terrorism'. The US media are so powerful, and they fill our minds every day with what they think we should know and how we should interpret it. They are working hand-in-hand with the Government, and they share the same values. This is what makes it possible for them to earn a lot of money by selling advertising. After all, these are privately-owned institutions whose capital is supposed to yield a return for stockholders. They have to keep this constantly in mind, like any other corporation, and so they go along with the Government.

"…But in the decade since the end of the Cold War until September 11th, the US security establishment - the political class, the CIA, the people who fought the Cold War - had no real enemy to focus on. True, they had (the late) Saddam Hussein for a while, and they might have had a minor enemy here, another one there. But there was no real worldwide threat similar to that of the Cold War. Well, now it seems that they have one again. What this means is that the United States is going to be in this for quite some time. I have feeling that it is going to go on for ten or 15 years, because they are not going to wipe out international terrorism or something like bin Laden's group overnight. During this period, they are going to be doing the same things they did in the Cold War. We can already here it in such expression as: 'Whoever is not with us is against us'. They are going to be trying to use every bit of power they have to bring countries in line behind the United States.

"It also means important changes within the United States, because the war on terrorism will serve as the justification for restraints on civil liberties. They are building a huge crisis in the United States. They are building the psychological climate for broadbased acceptance of an ongoing war, for which there will be no quick resolution. There will be no great battles, either. During this period, there will be very little room for alternative views and alternative solutions in US news media. What are the alternatives? Well, one is obviously to address the question of why these people are doing these things: What are the roots of international terrorism? How does US foreign policy create this type of reaction? How does US support of everything that Israel does, including the oppression of the Palestinian people, influence fundamentalist Islamic groups?

"…Unfortunately, I suspect that there will be greater self-censorship by US media in order to line up behind the Government, however its policy of war may turn out. There is already talk of a personal identification system of some kind for the entire country, together with large-scale surveillance of the population -- especially immigrants, and Muslim immigrants in particular. There will be some opposition to this but, historically, the courts have usually gone along with the Government, even though they are theoretically supposed to be the guarantors of civil liberties…So, it will be possible to restrict, and even infringe upon, civil liberties and human rights in the US.

"It is early days to draw any conclusions about how all this is going to develop, since it is still in the planning stage. But in my opinion, if they carry out this military solution - with an attack or a series of attacks, or the establishment of military bases in Islamic countries - they will be doing exactly what bin Laden wants them to do. It would turn more and more people to fundamentalism and to his organisation… Certainly, the CIA and the other components of the US intelligence apparatus will be using all available technical means to locate and attack these groups, wherever they may be. They should certainly know where all the training bases are located, since they were established by the CIA, itself. But that will not be nearly enough" (Nordic News Network, 10/1/08; “Philip Agee: Let Us Now Praise An [In]Famous Man”, Al Burke. The Agee speech quoted was delivered in Stockholm, 24/9/01 and can be read in full at Appendix E at Agee was spot on with his analysis and predictions, delivered right at the very start of the endless “War On Terror” being waged by the US and its faithful satellites, such as New Zealand.

The 1980s’ CAFCA Speaking Tour That Never Was

Readers might be forgiven for thinking that this is all very interesting but what’s it got to do with us? Rest assured that there is a CAFCA connection. To return, one final time, to my 1989 Watchdog review of “On The Run”: “For three years (1984-87) CAFCA worked to organise an Australasian speaking tour by Philip Agee. We put in a lot of work, raised several thousand dollars (one member gave us $1,000, which was serious money in the decade where I bought my present house for $25,000), and generated the kind of media controversy that attends anything to do with Agee. It all ended with a late night call from him in Madrid (no e-mail or faxes in those days), cancelling the tour to concentrate on a North American promotional tour for this book. It was his first trip home to the US in nearly 20 years, and it was fraught with peril for him. It was only after he cancelled that the servile Australian government announced that it wouldn’t have given him a visa anyway. Ironically, this book is not, and apparently will not be, available in NZ. I had to import my copy from Australia. If it had been available before I got involved in organising the abortive tour, it would have explained a lot more, indeed I would have been forewarned. Agee is a man under enormous pressure, who undertakes more international commitments than he can possibly fulfil”.

We invited him to tour NZ at that “tipping point” in NZ’s history, at the height of the “ANZUS Row”, when there were documented examples of the CIA working to destabilise the anti-nuclear Lange government (such as the notorious Maori Loans Affair, for instance), precisely because Agee would have been able to expose the modus operandi of his old employer at work in this country. It was never to be (Agee was incredibly apologetic in his cancellation phone call – not even lapsed Catholics lose the guilt) and all I’ve got to show for it is the fat pile of letters that he and I exchanged during those three years - the stamps recording his various temporary European homes as he was kept on the run - plus the publicity photos he sent us for the tour that never was. We had no further contact with him in the past couple of decades and I never did meet him, although Jeremy Agar, my CAFCA committee colleague and Watchdog reviews editor, did get to hear him speak at a Hamburg conference in the 80s. Agee prioritised his US return and, indeed, he was subsequently able to visit his homeland (where his two sons still live) several more times, without incident, and he was even able to revisit Britain, the country which cravenly expelled him in the 1970s.

Working on that tour was an exercise in fascination – for example, in the course of a trans-continental Australian rail holiday, I stitched together a network of usually bitterly opposed Left parties and groups who were prepared to work together on the Agee project – and frustration, which saw it postponed once by him, then finally cancelled. I don’t deny that I was monumentally pissed off when he pulled the plug on what had been three years work by me (his call came right on the eve of my birthday; the next day, out of the blue, my late father rang to announce that, as his present, he would, unsolicited, pay off my mortgage. That birthday, 21 years ago, is definitely right up there in my memory for its emotional rollercoaster ride). But you learn from such setbacks and life goes on, just as they always say it does. There was even a silver lining. CAFCA devoted one whole meeting to writing and posting refund cheques to donors, a significant proportion of whom told us to keep their money (so we actually made a profit on the tour that never was!). Looking back now, I marvel at how everything was organised then by good old letter, including complex international tours involving two countries and a speaker on the other side of the world who had no fixed abode.

An Invaluable Legacy

Philip Agee left an invaluable legacy. Not only did he write those several books exposing the CIA and thousands of its agents, he was also a founder of the wonderful US magazine Covert Action Information Bulletin (which later renamed itself Covert Action Quarterly). CAFCA holds nearly a complete set of these, filling three file boxes in my office, dating back to the second issue, in 1978. Agee himself featured in a lot of the early issues (e.g. number 8, in 1980 had a photo of him on the cover and was headed “The CIA Vs Philip Agee”). Sadly, and without explanation, Covert Action stopped publishing with number 78 in 2005. Its Website is still there at but it hasn’t been updated since 2005.

Philip Agee is owed an enormous vote of thanks from all the peoples of the world, including New Zealand. Where is his like among the kidnappers, torturers and murderers of today’s CIA?  In Agee’s day the crimes of the CIA were confined to the Third World and hidden from its own people. Now, the culture of imperial impunity means that these crimes are brazenly committed in full view of everyone. So, the need to oppose and expose this criminal enterprise is greater than ever. Right up until his death, Philip Agee did more than his share in striking blows against the Empire. The struggle continues!


Deaths In The Family

CAFCA expresses our condolences to Lynn Baird for the death of her mother, Betty whodied suddenly of a stroke, aged 75, in November 2007, in Auckland. This was a hell of a shock not only to her family but also to me. I’d visited her and Lynn at their Waiheke Island homes, and the three of us had gone out for a very pleasant lunch together, just the weekend before the stroke which led to her death a few days later. It had been five years since the death of Betty’s husband, Ken (see Watchdog 101, December 2002, which can be read online at and at that lunch I’d had her on about being a merry widow. She was, too, not being one to let the grass grow under her feet. In those five years she’d travelled in NZ, all over Aussie and as far away as Barcelona (she was one of the Kiwi contingent who went there in 2007 for the America’s Cup).

Over the years, various members of the Baird family, including Ken and Betty, have been members of CAFCA and they were both very pleased to be present at our 25 th anniversary celebration, in Christchurch, in 2000. Betty was an extremely vivacious and gregarious woman, who both brought up four daughters and worked all her life, in a variety of working class jobs. Her political activism went back decades and went up a notch during the epic struggle against the 1981 Springbok Tour (she got hurt at one Auckland protest).

Berry and Ken lived life to the full, travelling overseas, touring New Zealand in their campervan, or going fishing from their second home on Waiheke Island (which became their home proper once Ken retired). During the nearly four decades I’ve known the family, I ran into Ken and Betty all over the place – in Christchurch, at their Papatoetoe and Waiheke homes, and in Sydney (three of their four daughters have lived there for long periods; one still does). I have vivid memories of one particular Sydney occasion in the 1980s, when their family got together with that of my then partner (the Bairds and the Birds). They got on like a house on fire. Both families were matriarchies and the men were forced to trudge around, bringing up the rear, while the women emptied the Cronulla shops. Ken and I ended up squatting in shop doorways, sitting on a chilly bin of beer that we lugged everywhere with us and steadily consuming its contents (nobody batted an eyelid, this was Australia). We all had a great day, with a boat trip across to the beautiful beach at Bundeena and more than 20 of us had an uproarious night out in one of the monstrous clubs of the Ocker suburbs, where Warren Mitchell did his Alf Garnett act and brought the Aussies to their feet every time he told New Zealand jokes (the bastard – they were funny though). They were game for anything – we all spent one boisterous New Year’s Eve at a Darlinghurst gay bar in central Sydney.

I’ve still got photos of the long ago day on the beach at Bundeena and, ironically, Betty and I were reminiscing about it over that Waiheke lunch in November, not realising that it would be the last time we’d see each other. Betty Baird was a memorable woman, good fun and sparkling company. She will be sorely missed by her four daughters, Sharleen, Lynn, Sandy and Julie, four grandsons and all her friends, me included.


CAFCA extends our condolences to Jim and Robert Consedine for the death of their brother Mike. Robert wrote the following:

Mike Consedine, a former tenant, decades ago, of the Horton house in Christchurch’s Addington (small world, eh? Ed.), and eldest brother of Robert, Jim, Noel and Marie Consedine, died in January 2008 from cancer, aged 67. His funeral was held at the Sacred Heart hall in Addington and was attended by more than 500 people.

His life’s vocation had been as a psychiatric nurse and he always proudly described himself as that, even though he had graduated to becoming an internationally recognised trainer of supervisors and facilitator of psychodrama. He also had a heart for social justice, had marched regularly against racism in South Africa in the 1970-80s and stood with other family members in their struggles over treaty issues, prison abolition, poverty, economic and Church reform. At his threehour vigil, play-back theatre friends acted out many scenes from his life, acknowledging him as a true pioneer in his field. Besides his siblings, he leaves his wife Julie Mernick and adult children Nathan, Seth and Anna to mourn his passing.

It takes a lot of work to compile and write the material presented on these pages - if you value the information, please send a donation to the address below to help us continue the work.

Foreign Control Watchdog, P O Box 2258, Christchurch, New Zealand/Aotearoa. April 2008.


Return to Watchdog 117 Index