Michael Mellon

- Murray Horton

Michael Mellon was a CAFCA member continuously from 1996 until his death in June 2017 (he was in his early 80s when he died, in Christchurch). He was a very generous member, regularly topping up his sub with a large donation. Over the course of those two decades he was also a very generous and regular donor to the CAFCA/ABC Organiser Account, which provides my income. Between CAFCA and the Organiser Account, he donated a total of several thousand dollars.

He came to the odd CAFCA Annual General Meeting to make his views known to us in person; he would ring me up to do likewise. He sent me material from all manner of sources because he thought it would be of interest to me and CAFCA (for example, in recent years he sent me sermons from the vicar of the Christchurch Anglican church he was attending). He was always unfailingly optimistic and enthusiastic, despite the very serious health problems that he suffered in his final years (diabetes cost him a leg and he ended up in a home).

He was very clear about he liked and didn’t like. He definitely didn’t approve of the Organiser Account being with Westpac (it’s a long story, which we’ve regularly been called upon to explain. Trust me, there’s a good, and very pragmatic, reason why that Account is still held there). To give another example: although he approved of my CAFCA work, he told me several times that he didn’t agree with the Anti-Bases Campaign.

He sent the Organiser Account a donation one year because he approved of what I said in a Press article on a subject that had nothing to do with CAFCA. It was accompanied by a handwritten letter (he didn’t do e-mail) saying that he normally made a donation to the City Mission but as they were holding a fundraiser in the Christchurch Casino, of which he strongly disapproved, he would give the money to the Organiser Account instead.

Michael was a political gadfly who had been a member or supporter of a number of parties – names that come to mind from my conversations with him over the years include the (long gone) South Island Party, New Zealand First, and the Democrats. He had a wonderfully eclectic range of interests, all of which he pursued with great enthusiasm. For example, I can remember him telling me all about his love for music and opera, which included very hands on involvement (see below).

I’ve always said that CAFCA is a very broad church. Michael Mellon is the perfect illustration of that. He was an unforgettable man in appearance and personality. He told people that the way to remember his name was that: “I’m loud like a mike and round like a melon”. After I learned of his death, several months after the event, I asked his widow Pat if she could write something about him. Here is what she describes as “partly my eulogy plus”.

Michael Mellon

- Pat Mellon

Describe Michael in a few words?  Impossible! “I hope people will remember me as a fighter!” Every time Michael stared death in the face he would say this to me. I always assured him that I would. During my time with him I have always said I will never know all the things Michael has done in his life and if he hasn’t done it yet he probably is about to do it.

He was the most enthusiastic person I have ever known. An entrepreneur, innovator, intelligent, enquiring, inquisitive, charming, a battler, bossy, stubborn, lover of food and wine, outspoken, sometimes pig-headed but overall a loveable, “Boy” - “My Boy”. To him life was a big adventure. He loved it with a passion and lived full steam ahead for most of it.  At our wedding I said I was looking forward to adventures with Michael. The last 22 and a half years have certainly been that - some more hair-raising than others.

Battles: Korean War – At 19 he was an Adjutant in charge of Regimental Police, HQ British Commonwealth Force Korea from 1953-4 based in Kure, Japan. In Hong Kong when Communists were in the Harbour Michael was on board the tug they rammed! When no one from his company would go up to Canton (now Guangzhou) because the Red Guards had arrived Mellon was the one who volunteered.  After the 1995 Kobe earthquake in Japan who was on the first ship in?

Some years ago, we were staying in Mosgiel and invited an elderly couple for a meal. The husband had been imprisoned by the Japanese in Singapore during World War 2 and had suffered greatly. They told us how they had shares in Whitcoulls and had gone to a meeting in Dunedin where they expected their meagre shareholding was going to be taken from them. They said: “Then a man stood up and spoke. He had taken out an injunction on the company which prevented their plans and rescued us small people”. I pointed at Michael and said: “This is that man!”  He did the same for Alliance Textile shareholders.

During the 1981 Springbok Tour Michael was marching in Wellington. On the 1998 Hikoi of Hope march to Parliament Michael could only walk a short distance but he followed the marchers from Christchurch to Wellington and provided Bush Road Salads to feed them each night! More recently he joined a local protest against the Christchurch Casino and pokies. He was told not to go near the Casino. Of course, he went and stood outside the Casino and they were on the phone to the police when I drove up in the car to rescue him.  At the end of the march he was hailed as the hero!!

Jobs: After war Michael joined Dodwell in Japan, and worked there for nine years, introducing new products and training Japanese staff. He immersed himself in the culture becoming very fluent in classical Japanese. Moved to Hong Kong to work for Swires and Coca Cola. Senior Lecturer in International Trade and Marketing, Lincoln and Canterbury Universities. Adviser to companies such as Untouched World, and Ashford Handicrafts where he was able to use his knowledge of Japan to help develop markets there.

Boards: Barker’s Fruit Processors, Bush Road Salads Ltd, NZ Fruit Wine Growers, Wool Equities Ltd, Precision Fibre Measurements Ltd, New Zealand Yarns Ltd.

Farming: Michael did manage to fulfil his lifelong dream of owning a beautiful farm in Geraldine but he was too busy to ever live on it.  Instead he had to be content with monthly farm visits to plan with manager, Sally Mallinson, and friend and adviser Kelvin Coe.  Occasionally he would spend life-threatening days pulling thistles which he found a very satisfying pastime but frightening for me to watch!

Social concerns: Never spent money on self. Starved during WW2 in Britain and never forgot that. He was always looking to help people financially and otherwise.  When he first came to New Zealand he stayed with his friend Dr Norman Honey’s aunty. He soon discovered she did not own home and worked with her family to ensure she did. He rescued several companies from receivership - Bush Road Salads being the most successful. He turned it into a Japanese-style cooperative and many of the staff benefitted from that when it was sold.  He wanted to provide jobs for people.  Sometimes lost a lot of money but he did not mind if he had tried to better someone’s lot.

Innovator: Barker’s Blackcurrant Juice was one of his proudest products which he advertised as the world’s first natural blackcurrant juice. Ribena threatened to sue Anthony Barker but Michael replied that when they made a natural blackcurrant juice he would withdraw the claim of being the world’s first.  He knew, what some New Zealand school girls discovered recently, that Ribena had added sugar to their product. He also won an award for fruit pastes made from potential waste fruit such as cherries which he sold to Movenpick Ice-cream.

Sports: He travelled throughout Japan breathing new life into rugby in that country and helping to set up Rugby Sevens. He and NZ friend Dr Norman Honey set up the first rugby club in Kowloon and they were part of the planning group for what is now the Hong Kong Sevens.  He also set up hockey teams and they played all over Asia.  He became an international rugby referee as well.  Rugby in New Zealand:  Refereed the local Ellesmere competition. Started hockey at Lincoln.

Music: Started up a choir at the Hong Kong Anglican Cathedral, set up a light opera company and stage managed many productions. Member of the Christchurch Harmonic Society Choir, Chairman CSO Friends, Chairman Christchurch Music Centre, main sponsor enabling Chris Doig to set up Southern Opera to provide quality opera to the South Island of New Zealand. Sponsor of Christchurch Arts Festival. In spite of the difficulties with his health over the last years Michael was never sorry for himself, he enjoyed a laugh, and was always grateful. Michael knew that life IS wonderful and each new day is a gift.   

Gillian Caradoc-Davies

- Ben Caradoc-Davies

I think Gill Caradoc-Davies must have the record for the shortest membership of CAFCA. She joined in April 2017 and died in June. But her life sounded interesting, just from the one e-mail we ever received from her: “I am interested in joining your group. I have read your charter and support the movement. As I am a retired psychiatrist and psychotherapist, I can sometimes offer an interesting perspective on situations tactically. I left South Africa in 1978 for political reasons. I had actively opposed apartheid there. I am now a Kiwi and proud of that. I am 72 with limited mobility, but I can write”. An abridged version of this obituary, by her son Ben, was published in the Otago Daily Times in August. 2017. MH

Racist & Sexist Society

Gillian Caradoc-Davies (née Joubert) was born in 1944 in the small town of Elim, Northern Transvaal (now Limpopo), South Africa. Born into an Afrikaans-speaking family and the stern Calvinistic Dutch Reformed Church, with a grandmother who survived a Boer War concentration camp, nonetheless Gill like her mother was given an education in English (see “Bonds Born Out Of Strife”, Gill Caradoc-Davies, Otago Daily Times, 14/10/00). Although she enjoyed the privileges of being of the white race in apartheid South Africa, this was a profoundly patriarchal society in which married women were minors in the eyes of the law.

Gill showed her talents from an early age (“Plumstead Girl Will Act In Her Own Play”, Cape Times Weekend Magazine, 30/11/57). While at Wynberg Girls High School in Cape Town, Gill was one of only four South African school girls to be awarded the honour of representing South Africa at the Fourth International Youth Science Conference held in London in 1962.

Gill’s father suffered from ill health and could not afford to send his daughter to university, so Gill paid her way through the University of Cape Town Medical School with two scholarships. Gill met Tudor Caradoc-Davies when both were at medical school and worked at a student clinic in the slums of Cape Town. They shared many values, wanted social justice for blacks, and fought the system in an active way by talking, demonstrating, and meeting with black medical students.

The apartheid regime was in full swing; there was censorship and imprisonment without trial. Gill excelled at medical school, was awarded the class medal for anatomy in 1964, and graduated with honours in 1968. Gill and Tudor lived in Oxford in the UK for a year, while Tudor studied and Gill worked at Churchill Hospital. They were married in 1969 before returning to South Africa.

As a woman, Gill was not permitted her first choice of specialising in surgery, so she obtained a specialist degree in general practice. In Cape Town she worked at Woodstock Hospital, Red Cross Children’s Hospital, as a police surgeon, and established her own private medical practice. Gill volunteered medical advice and forensic services to Cape Town’s newly established Rape Crisis Centre. Realising the complete absence of counselling resources available for victims of sexual abuse, Gill became a pioneer of specialised sexual abuse counselling for victims of rape and incest.

In 1978, Gill and Tudor emigrated to New Zealand with their three young children, living for a year in Tokoroa before settling in Dunedin. New Zealand was an enormous culture shock for Gill. To her great surprise, New Zealand women enjoyed equality that she had not imagined. At one dinner party she was aghast when a wife contradicted her own husband and even got angry with him.

Women drove trucks. Gill’s cleaner used her own vacuum cleaner and drove a red sports car. From that point on, Gill saw New Zealand as home and a place where she could enjoy the gender equality she had never before experienced. Gill made friends in the Maori community and built a cultural sensitivity that would mark her work and her life.

Psychiatrist And Psychotherapist

Gill worked as a doctor at Tokoroa Hospital and then at the University of Otago Student Health Service, and as a locum GP. While the family lived for a year in Hastings UK, she started her study of Gestalt psychotherapy, and once back in Dunedin, began medical specialisation as a psychiatrist. Gill qualified as a Gestalt psychotherapist in 1986, and in 1987 became a Fellow of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, combining the holistic discipline of Gestalt psychotherapy with the medical specialty of psychiatry.

Gill was jointly appointed as a consultant psychiatrist for the Otago Area Health Board and a clinical lecturer in Psychological Medicine at the University of Otago. Gill was clinical head of the Psychiatric Services Centre, established the Emergency Psychiatric Service, and was director of the Substance Abuse Service. She worked at Dunedin Hospital, Wakari Hospital, and Cherry Farm Hospital. Gill was also a trustee of the Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Trust.

An expert in the treatment of substance abusers, Gill advocated the decriminalisation of drugs and a focus on harm reduction. In 1994, Gill left her position to enter private practice as a psychiatrist and psychotherapist. Gill was a founder and senior faculty of the Gestalt Institute of New Zealand from 1990, and was responsible for the development of professional standards for Gestalt psychotherapists. Gill was an active teacher and mentor for many years.

Dunedin Gestalt psychotherapist Maria Bowden remembers Gill: “I have witnessed her working with the seriously psychotic and she was a master in her deliberate and respectful actions. Of particular note and one which I would award her huge applause for was her dedication and passion for bridging psychotherapy and psychiatry. This was not an easy path nor was it paved with compliments from her colleagues. There was a great deal of resistance to this, particularly amongst psychiatrists”.

“She inspired a number of psychiatrists to train in psychodynamic psychotherapy and formulated a special examination entitled ‘The Interface Between Psychiatry and Psychotherapy’. This became a special and national feature of Gestalt psychotherapy in New Zealand and one which many of us are grateful for”. After developing chronic pain as an adverse side-effect of radiotherapy for otherwise successful breast cancer treatment, Gill retired in 2002.

An Activist Retirement

Gill loved to create, and had a particular interest in Celtic and Chinese art and mythology. She embroidered a full set of dining table chairs with Celtic designs. Her fabric and papier-mâché dragon hung above her staircase, the four corners of her property had tiny statues of the Four Symbols, the guardians of Chinese mythology, and her Chinese garden had several penjing. Gill sang in a group and played the harp (she had two, one Celtic), and even went busking with a harp larger than herself.

A natural storyteller, Gill joined a writing group and discovered that she could write. She finished her first novel “Tides”, the story of the relationship between an older woman and a young opiate addict, set in Portobello in 1990. In addition to several short stories, she was working on her second novel, and with her essay “Tok”, was a finalist in the 2015 New Zealand Heritage Books Awards. Gill was a keen gardener and with Tudor established a collection of trees and shrubs at their Broad Bay property, often open for public tours (see “Garden’s Focus Trees And Views”, Otago Daily Times, 31/10/08).

Gill was a regular contributor to the opinion pages of the Otago Daily Times. Concerned by the marginalisation of members of the community and the unpaid work of carers, especially women, Gill advocated a universal basic income, an idea that is gaining increased traction. New Zealand Superannuation is an example of a successful (but not universal) basic income; proposals for a universal system offer a solution to inequality and disadvantage caused by social injustice and technological change.

Gill also wrote and protested against the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), its impact on health services, the environment, and the sovereignty of our democracy. Gill separated from Tudor in 2016 and moved to a cottage in Broad Bay. She died suddenly of a stroke at her home on 1 June 2017. She is survived by three children and five grandchildren.

Death In The Family
Marian Ring

CAFCA expresses condolences to our long time Committee colleague, John Ring, for the death of his mother, Marian Ring in September 2017, in Nelson, aged 83. John wrote this short summary of his Mum’s life: She was originally Marian Esther Coutts and was born in Blenheim, but only because that's where the nearest hospital to Seddon was. She was brought up in Seddon. Lived briefly in various places (Wellington, Auckland, Havelock), and spent most of her life in Richmond, just out of Nelson. Married Patrick Michael Ring in 1957, had five children (Patrick died in 2007).

Went to Wellington Teachers’ Training College at the same time as James K Baxter (they weren't close friends, but were acquainted). Spent one year as a teacher, but then quit.  Became a policewoman at a time when policewomen didn't do much actual policing (escorting female prisoners between police cells, prison, and the courts; informing people that other people were dead, and returning lost children to their parents, mostly).

Became a full-time housewife. Did a small amount of writing, some of which got published. Originally satirical poetry for the Tablet. Odd pieces in special interest publications read by dog owners and horse owners. A piece called "Don't Kick Cabbages, They've Got Hearts Too" was published in the Nelson Evening Mail. Started doing other work. Fruit picking, then jobs in market gardens, then occupational therapy aid in first a geriatric ward in a hospital, then in an old folks’ home, then selling Avon products, some of this at the same time as breeding Australian cattle dogs.

Involved in a lot of organisations. At one point she was teaching in an Anglican Sunday School while at the same time being a Presbyterian, but she later converted to the Catholic Church, and was active in the Catholic Women's League. Never joined the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child (SPUC), but they treated her as if she was a member.

Involved in riding for the disabled, helped run dog obedience things (as well as very successfully competing in them), also kennel club. Later U3A. Dogs that she trained for obedience work, and later agility work, became show champions (they have to come first at five dog shows to get that title), and some of the dogs she bred also got the same title based on however they judge pedigree dogs.


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