EPISODE 742 Andrew Skeoch…head on collision in New Zealand, 1991

EPISODE 752  Andrew Skeoch…head on collision in New Zealand, 1991

alan skeoch
Feb. 27, 2023

This is the story of a head on collision of two cars near 90 mile beach , North Island, New Zealand.
By pure accident I discovered an undeveloped film that Andrew BRought back from his ‘walkabout’
in New Zealand in 1991.   This actually happened.  I know it sounds inflated.  Subsequent letter 
followed the story.  So here is the complete picture of a terrible car accident where everyone lived
although it seemed nip and tuck for a couple of the girls who retired  a rescue helicopter to get
them to Auckland fast.  Other survivors were rushed to hospital by ambulance after waiting for
two hours with their wrecked vehicles.

Let me tell the story in three parts.   


EPISODE 7452 Andrew Skeoch…head on collision in New Zealand, 1991


(Andrew Skeoch and Keith Merker)
ghost written by  Alan Skeoch
from interview with Andrew Skeoch
      (North Island,  New Zealand, winter 1991)
      The  road was empty.  Or, at least it seemed  so.   Keith was driving and I was in the passenger seat reading.
The two girls were in the back dozing.  We had  been surfing on 90 mile beach, a vast expanse of hard  sand and
foaming waves.  Wonderful place.  So huge that other cars are few and  far between and the hard  sand allowed 
us to park at the water’s edge.  We had a  great time.   
But that was  about to end.  Suddenly.
“Car! Coming at us head on.”  Keith yelled but probably never finished  the sentence.  I looked up just in time to see
a white car with two boys coming at us on the wrong side of the road.  A blind curve.  No time to think or act.
Kaboom!  Both cars were welded together and  both came to a  dead  stop in showers and gas  and metal  fragments.
None of  us had seat belts.  The moment after I looked  up from my book…milliseconds…I flew from my seat right through
the front window. Head first.  Something on my head  was  torn as  Ihit the crumpled hood of our  car. Blood. Lots of it.
My nose  was severed badly and would not stop bleeding.  It felt like a flap of meat rather than part of  my body.
Initially I was the only person who cold stand, however.  Keith’s chest had  hit and  collapsed the steering wheel while
a stiletto like piece of metal impaled his knee.  he was pinned.
The girls?   I tried to get the back door open on Jo Anne’s side.  Hard to do.  Blood pouring down my face. Finally 
the door was wrenched  open.  Jo Anne look like she was dead.  A limp body.  I placed her on the ground and
tired to revive her but feared the worst.  Then her eyes opened but she could not talk.  Her jaw was broken dead  centre.
But she was alive.  The other girl was mobile by then but badly cut in the lower torso.  She was stretched out on
the highway beside Jo Anne.
By  that time Keith had  freed  himself and  took a look at me.  Something had  to be done.  I was losing so  much  blood.
So he wound my head  and  face with tape…looked like  a mummy.  But the tape stopped  the heavy bleeding.  Keith
could not walk.  He hobbled.
The boys in the other car were in a state  of shock.  We pulled our camping gear from our car and  laid out 
what we could  right on the road.  
No car came.  We hoped and prayed but no car.  After two hours I decided to try to walk  and get help.  I was
the least hurt although my bloody clothes  looked  terrible.  And the making tape bandages were sinister looking.  Who would stop
to help once they saw me at the side of the road?  Just as I started,  a  car full  of  tourists came
around  the bend.   They had  phones.
A helicopter arrived in short order with a medic who bandaged us up and loaded both girls aboard for
the flight back to Auckland.  
Keith and I  had to wait for an ambulance and then faced a miserable six hour drive to the same hospital
in Auckland.   My nose was bad.  I feared the worst.  What would life be like without a nose?  The windshield
had lived my nose  across he bottom and up the right side.  So it was just hanging by he flesh on the left side.
What followed was wise than the accident as far as I was  concerned.  It was  night when we arrived but
there could be no delay so the surgeon began  stitching immediately.. Freezing kept the
nostril bridge from hurting but the rest was  sheer agony as the doctor had to reach up inside my nostril
to get the stitches to take hold.  And there was no freezing up there.  This was not a nice experience.


There was, however, a rosy ending.  Archie Clarke, the investigating police officer came down to
Auckland with us.  He was  responsible for policing the Northern Territory so that was  some distance
from his home base.   As far a the accident was concerned we were in the clear.  the other car
was in our lane.  Their fault.   Some comfort but not much for our car had to be written off and 
we had  very little money left.
Then a weird thing happened.  Archie Clarke volunteered to take us all…two boys and two girls…to his home up
north while we recuperated.  
In the end  we had a two week all expenses  paid vacation with a terrific family who loved and shared
their outdoor life.  We even went out hunting for wlld pigs in the wilds of the North Island.  I wonder how many police officers in Canada would do that?
Andrew Skeoch (almost verbatim)
April 2018
(The accident happened in 1991)
P>S>  Andrew never told us  how bad this  accident had been.  By pure chance I found
these pictures  while converting 35 mm slides to digital pictures.

This  picture  gives  a good  idea  of the impact.  Both cars are welded  together
like husband and  wife.  We never really got to know the boys in the white car.  They were
in shock.  Guess they knew they were also in big trouble.  Wrong side of the road. Nobody  had  been drinking. I say
that just in case you think four males and  two girls were violating the liquor laws.  Bad  
things happen to good people.

The gas tanks were not ruptured. That is cooling fluid on the ground.  If fire had  started
I don’t know if three of our people would have got out in time.  I might have been the
only survivor.  Cars  explode often in this kind  of collision.  We were lucky.  If you look
closely on the right side, you can  see the girls  wrapped in sleeping bags awaiting aid.

Notice that Keith Merker can  barely stand up.  Also this  gives a good  idea  of  what it was  like the fly through the windshield of our car.
What windshield, you say.  Precisely my point.  Lucky my nose is not attached to that last remaining glass shard.  Notice the bent steering wheel

  pushed  up against he dashboard by Keith’s  chest.

Help arrived.  Red car.   We had made the girls as comfortable as possible as we 
awaited the helicopter.


This is from Joanne the girl lying in the sleeping bag.  

Begin forwarded message:

Very sobering read Andy. It really is incredible that we all survived that crash. Thank you for taking such good care of us. I remember struggling to stay conscious, you kept telling me ” dont close your eyes Jo, you mustn’t go back to sleep” and you told Claire to make sure I didn’t.

There was another girl in the car with those boys who came in the helicopter with me. Claire went in the ambulance with you and Keith to Kaitaia hospital.
It was on the 6th of Dec so we stayed at Fran and Archie’s for ages, we left after Christmas just before new year as their son drove us to Auckland where he was going to a party! So so good of them to out us up like that.
Oh remember we had that amazing smoked fish, what was it, a snapper, trout or something? 
How is your nose? I cringed at that bit of the story!! I am surprised Keith didn’t break any of his ribs, good job the steering wheel gave way instead.
Claire still has trouble with her legs. She walked some of the Sacramento way last year and couldn’t walk for a while after she got home.
 I had to have my jaw rebroken a few years ago to realign my bite it wasn’t successful first time so they had to break it again and still its not great but my bite is much better. My nerves got damaged though so I can’t feel my chin or lower lip but my girls help to point out when I’ve got food on my face!!
I dug out a few pics I’ve got for you.
We should arrange a chat on skpe tog with Claire and keith sometime. Does Keith live close by to you? Claire and i live just a few mins away from each other.
Take care x

December 2020 – Alan SkeochDecember 2020 – Alan SkeochDecember 2020 – Alan SkeochDecember 2020 – Alan Skeoch



alan skeoch
feb. 25,  2023

I hope these New Zealand pictures cheer readers up, especially this living here in Ontario where
winter winds and driving snow have kept so many housebound. 

This episode deals with Camping…New Zealand style


As soon as we landed in Auckland we bought new sleeping bags and two gigantic bath towels 
No need for hotels in our trip.  The towels served as extra blankets if we got cold.   Felt a little resentful doing so.
As it turned out that was all we needed.  Our first campsite was
unbelievable.  Small cabins No need for a tent.  Each campsie had a communal kitchen fully stocked except for food.

These communal kitchens meant that meeting new people was automatic.  Easy to make new friends
and get ravel tips.  Showers, clean washrooms…all part of the New Zealand camp experience.

Enough…take a look at the picture above.  Says all that is necessary.

(John Lennon said imagination is  “easy if you try”)

While readers are freezing in Canada, let me warm you up in New Zealand.  Pretend you are with us…an
imaginary trip.  Not meant to make you jealous.  Just for the joy of those of you with an active 
imagination.  And so let Marjorie and I remember something special in your lives.”


Imagine a pitch black night.  We had booked a campsite en route to Wellington and from
there to the South Island.  Shadowy people drifted past us….  Then I got a glimpse of a man in a Boy Scout 
leaders uniform. Never did see his face.  Let me recreate the dialogue.

“Hi there, what troop”
“Wellington Scouts.”
“I’m a Canadian Rover and ASM, 38th troop back in Canada. Nice to see you.”
“Where are you headed?”
“Wellington,,,then ferry to South Island”
“Why not stay in Wellington for a bit of time”
“No campground near.
“Take our house…we are heading north to the 90 mile beach for a few days.”
“Are you kidding?”
“No, take our house…the key is under a pot…beer in the fridge.”
“We couldn’t do that.”
“Sure you could.  My brother is nearby.”

So we did.
Hard to believe that happened but it did.  And we spent a night in
Windy Wellington and next day Andrew dove for Abalone shells
from a rocky shore.

“Dad. stop the car…. now backup…”
“I feel like a swim…a swimming hole “
“You cannot dive there…could be rocks.”
“ will check first then dive.”

And so Andrew did.


Education in Ontario was in turmoil.  The Ministry of  Education was about to drop the Grade 13 year.
  The President of our Teachers union, Margaret Wilson,  asked me to serve on a
committee to look into the issue.  Others there as well.  I applied for a short sabbatical leave and flew south to examine how
Australia and New Zealand high school functioned.  All at my own expense.  No public or union money
involved therefore I was free from any red tape.  Yes, I did get a reduced salary for which I remain grateful.
Signed agreement to come back to teach…no guarantee where but thankfully back at Parkdale.
Turned down job offer at Facutly of Education that time.  Preferred to teach just like most of my friends.

What was the result?   I do not remember.  Blank.   The Ontario government did away with the Grade 13 year.
There was a hue and cry that students were too young for higher education such as University or 
Community College.   But it was a done deal   Grade 13 was gone.  No one asked my advice.  What would 
I say if someone asked?  

What did i learn?  As I sit here in 2023 I must confess I did not learn much.  Sad to say.
I knew we would need strong evidence to save Gt. 13.  Did not find ilt  The only strong memory is
that Australian and I also believe New Zealand High Schools took a mid morning break so the
teachers could relax with a cup of tea.     Enough said.  Not every change in life is earth shattering.
I rather liked the tea breaks.  Impressed to say anything about eduction I would say that kids…students…
all seemed the same to me bo matter where I had a chance to teach…Canada, England, Slovakia, New 
Zealand, Australia.   Throw out a big question…a question that is not some phoney pedagogical trick…
throw something that triggers their curiosity….and they seem to have sudden energy that explodes
like a rocket .

What question?  Here is one question:

“Let’s suppose we are living in the year 2050, how will our lives be different?”
I asked that question once while teaching at Forest Hill Collegiate to a bunch
of tough demanding…take no prisoner…students.   One answer remains in my brain.
“Sir, in the year 2050, we will have sent spaceships throughout the solar system and beyond
and we will discover one thing.”
“What is that?”
“We will discover that we human beings are absolutely alone.” “ALONE, ALONE, ALL, ALONE” 
Samuel Coleridge came to mind … 

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

“Alone, alone, all, all alone, 
Alone on a wide wide sea! 
And never a saint took pity on 
My soul in agony.”

― Coleridge, Samuel Taylor, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

That is a treasure.  Earth is a treasure.  Our place on this earth should be treasured.

“But, sir, isn’t this history course about the 20th and 21st centuries?”

“So, I guess my big quieten is irrelevant, right?  A waste of time.”

Now is a good time to take a break for a cup of tea…

How did I answer the question?   Took the whole class t o see DOCTOR STRANGELOVE



alan skeoch
Feb. 25, 2023

This will forever be my New Zealand Cricket Team…athletes all.

This is a short episode .  A  stand alone episode.   Do you see the Cricket bat?   There is a warm story here.

Marjorie, Andy and I did not have a lot of money.  Enough to rent a car but not enough to stay in hotels.  So we went
camping as lots of New Zealanders do.  Many many campgrounds are available which I will talk about in my next
episode.   This is devoted to my team…cricket team.  Take a moment to look at each face.  Ignore the beer bottle.

Characters all.

At one campground Marjorie and Andy were invited to go fishing by a couple of fellows with a boat and some spare
fishing rods.  So while they were being buffeted by ocean waves, I was just lying around watching a very professional 
cricket team batting a ball around a sand beach.   Super athletes.

“Hey,, we need another player..join us.”
“I don’t know how to play cricket.”
“Good, we’ll make you the pitcher (they had another name for the position)
“What do I have to do?”
“Throw the ball over hand at the wicket…
“The shovel in the sand”
“Batter will try to hit it.”
“Never done it before.”
“That’s why you are the pitcher.”
(the guy with the beer bottle never let go of the bottle as he walked into field.  

So I Spent the afternoon with a bunch of guys and I think one female…find her if you can.   They were much like our curling team back in Toronto.
Lots of fun…good natured…not taking the world too seriously.  And looking forward to a pint of
beer after cricket.  Some may want tea but I did not notice that.

Our experience of New Zealand was just like that.  Easy to meet people.  Actually people who were
genuinely interested in tourists.   As you will see in the next episode.

The Secret?  Touring New Zealand from one campground to another.  Never staying in grand hotels
whose costs were the same the world over.  High.   Campgrounds were cheap…almost free.   We could 
tour New Zealand without starving just to pay hotel bills.  And we could meet super athletes like
my New Zealand Cricket Team.

This is a short story so take the time to look at my team members.


P>S> That happened years ago.  Is New Zealand the same today?  Molly Skeoch , 17, is there right now
and seems to be having the time of her life.  

Fwd: grandpa



alan skeoch
Feb. 24, 2023



alan skeoch
Feb. 23, 2023

That is a picture of Molly and Roberta Skeoch taken yesterday near Rotorua, North Island, New Zealand.
(February 21, 2023).  Today’s story is devoted to my cousin Roy Skeoch who is buried in a Maori gravesite
surrounded by the ornamentation characteristic of Maori graves

So Molly and Roberta are cousins.

Let me tell you a bit about Roy Skeoch.  This will probably be the only such testimonial.  It will not be complete.
Those that knew Roy could add a lot more.   Roy made a mark wherever he went.  He was a character that
I will never forget.  I liked him.  Here are a few fragments of his life.


Roy Skeoch was a devil.  You may remember he substituted horse radish for apple sauce at a Skeoch 
Christmas celebration because he knew mom would say , “Now Eric, be sure and eat all your dinner because
Aunt Mabel has worked all week to get it ready.”  Roy had prepped most people at that dinner except Eric and

Roy Skeoch got booted out of Fergus District High School along with Owen Townsend (another cousin).
Owen got back to school.  I am not sure that Roy ever did.  His crime?  Somehow he was able to get the
master keys to the school and have them duplicated which gave Roy access to the gymnasium any time
he wanted including the times reserved for girls sports.  When the principal noticed Roy and Owen playing 
basketball in a locked gym he called the boys to his office.  Roy admitted his guilt right away and 
got expelled.  He had a streak of genius that not always served him well.  Owen was also expelled.  But Owen

returned.  I am not sure that Roy ever did.

  NOTE: (My father, Arnold ‘red’ Skeoch had also been expelled deep in the past (1917?) for a more serious offence.
Red and a friend threw snowballs up under the girls outdoor backhouse.  “Bring your father if you want back
in school,”  Dad, like Roy, never returned.  Whose offence was worse?)

Roy Skeoch was quick with a rifle.  One day we were walking together through Aunt Mabel’s two acre
garden when something moved …. big thing.  “What’s that?” I asked.  Before Roy could answer he fired his cradled rifle and
then answered , “that was a rabbit”  He blew the poor creature to pieces.

Roy Skeoch and another cousin, John Skeoch, loved patrolling the side roads of Nickel Township hunting ground
hogs with the help of a car and a couple of rifles.   In the 1950’d there were lots of ground hogs.  Not so today.

 They were the closest of friends. Can you  imagine meeting two teen agers with rifles doing the today?

Roy Skeoch made secret tunnels by carefully arranging new mown bailed hay in the gigantic Skeoch barn.  The tunnels led
to a hidden room under the hay bales.  “Crawl in here…I have a secret room.”   Crawling was frightening.  What
if the bales collapsed.  Some dead cousins would be found.  Sure enough Roy had his very private fort.

Roy Skeoch developed a taste for beer about the time..  Hence the need for a secret room.  

Roy Skeoch was creative.  One summer day we went for a swim in the huge Bellwood Quarry.  Roy was
there ahead of us floating on a tractor tube with a long rope attached to it.  Why a rope?  Roy liked cold beer.
So he had a pail full of beer hanging deep down in the ice cold quarry water.  When needed he pulled up the rope.  We spent the
afternoon diving under the tube to reach Roy’s beer supply.  We never succeeded.   
Roy had a devil may care smile…especially used when up to his usual tricks.

Roy Skeoch had sisters.. Lots of them…Margie, Pattie, Sandy, Joan and Janette.  He was the only male
sired by Uncle Archie.   As such he may have been spoiled a bit by his mother, Aunt Mabel.
  He was certainly his mothers pet.  She ignored  all his devil may care activities,

Roy Skeoch loved hunting and fishing rather than working nine to five.  “Alan, do you want to see my big
fish tank….I keep big trout there.”  And sure enough there was a dark room in the stable with an immense 
fish tank where Roy kept his huge trout alive…a dark room where Roy showed me the trout with a flashlight.
They were over two feet long…or seemed so.  And Angry. 

Roy Skeoch was not a farmer.  Had he been so he would have inherited the Skeoch home farm.  But he had
no interest in the endless back breaking work of farming when the return was near the poverty line.  He helped
Uncle Norman when there was a critical need but only when it served Roy’s interest such as building the hay bail hideout/

Roy Skeoch never seemed to have a  steady girlfriend until he got to New Zealand and met Anna.
Perhaps girls realized that Roy was just a little too unconventional.   

Roy Skeoch left school early as mentioned earlier.  The job market in Fergus was limited.  One of his first 
jobs was with the Tweddle Chicken Hatchery where Roy had the unpleasant job of ’sexing chicks’.  I asked
him how to sex chicks,  “Farmers only want hens,  Roosters are no good.  My job was to sort males and
 females.”  What happened to the males.?  “I threw them live into the furnace.”  Was this true? Or was
it just Roy telling a story?  Perhaps you can tell me if this story is true.  What happens to the male chicks?

Roy Skeoch did find a good job in Fergus working for a company that made heavy industrial cables.
I am not sure what he did for this company…perhaps a machinist.    When the company shifted business
halfway around the world to New Zealand he was told he could keep his job if he could get to New
Zealand at his own expense.   Uncle Norman gave Roy a one way ticket.  

Roy Skeoch thought New Zealand was a bit of heaven on earth.  He could hunt and fish as much as he
waned.  I am not sure how long he remained employed making industrial cables.

Roy Skeoch met Anna and they married.  Roy loved the Maorii lifestyle.  I am not sure if he
became a dancer with tongue extended as Maori males were won’t to do.
 He probable would rather go fishing with his fishing rod and a pail attached to a long piece of rope.

Roy Skeoch is buried in a typical Maori gravel.  The surname SKEOCH  is given prominence.
So much so that tourists must think Skeoch is Polynesian word.

Almost 30 years ago, Marjorie, Andrew and I booked a flip to New Zealand.   Part of our purpose was to
connect with Roy’s New Zealand family.  We met his wife Anna who showed us around Rotorua including
Roy’s grave.  Roy’s daughter took a day off school to meet us.  Roberta may have been 14 or so at the
time.  She and Andrew got along very well.  When we left Roberta gave Andrew a necklace with a tooth or 
bone attached.  Andrew wore the necklace for some time.

 Sadly Roy’s son, Richard was crushed while working under a car.  The jack slipped I Believe..

Roberta Skeoch and her daughters met our granddaughter Molly yesterday. (February 21, 2023)


In my mind I can see Roy clearly.  He laughed a lot in the face of adversity.  The course of his life
was changed by an error with a skeleton key.

I am not sure how much they know about their father, Roy Skeoch, so I have written some of the
fragments of his life that I remember.  just fragments but perhaps enough for the girls to
be amused by Roy.  He was certainly amusing.   For me he was a cousin I could never forget.

I believe that Roy found his little bit of heaven with the Maori people of New Zealand.

Molly Skeoch from Canada with Roberta Skeoch of New Zealand…Maori heritage.  Also picture of Roberta when we visited decades ago.

A History of the Māori People: Indigenous Arrivals Between 1250 – 1300 and Settlement in New Zealand

manchesterhistorian.com/wp-content/uploads/Diorama_of_Maori_life_Canterbury_Museum_2016-01-27-3-768×512.jpg 768w, manchesterhistorian.com/wp-content/uploads/Diorama_of_Maori_life_Canterbury_Museum_2016-01-27-3.jpg 1280w” sizes=”(max-width: 317px) 100vw, 317px” style=”box-sizing: inherit; vertical-align: middle; border: 0px; height: auto; max-width: 100%;”>

The Māori are the native Polynesian people of New Zealand. The ancestors of the Māori originated from south-east Asia. Some historians trace these early settlers as migrating from today’s China. However, more commonly, the indigenous Māori are believed to have come from Haiwaiki, an island or group of islands in Polynesia in the South Pacific Ocean. Thor Heyerdahl, a Norwegian ethnographer and adventurer, noticed that the kumara, or the sweet potato, originated in central South America. This was the staple cultivated food crop of the Māori. Along with the very distinct similarities between the Māori language and the culture and those of Polynesia, such as the Cook Islands, Hawaii, and Tahiti, scholars were led to believe that the Māori came from Haiwaiki. It is not possible to locate Haiwaiki on a modern-day map, however.


According to tradition, the first explorer to arrive in Aotearoa, the Māori name for New Zealand, was Kupe. This mythical Polynesian navigator used the stars and ocean currents as his directional guides, and ventured across the Pacific on his voyaging canoe or waka hourua. Ethnologists estimate he arrived in Aotearoa around 925 CE. The first mass arrival of Polynesian settlers, known as the Great Fleet, brought the Māori to Aotearoa in several waves. Modern scholars estimate this happened between 1250 and 1300.


After living over several centuries in isolation, the Polynesian settlers established a new culture known as the “Māori,” with their own language, mythology, and arts and crafts. The Māori were expert hunters and fishermen, so their most notable crafts include making stone adzes (cutting tools), weaving fishing nets from flax, and carving fishhooks from stone and bone. Tribal groups were also formed based on Polynesian social customs. Warfare between these tribes was also common. Māori warriors were fierce and fearless – they built numerous weapons from stone and bone to be used in hand-to-hand combat. Training occurred from a young age to prepare children for future conflict, which was usually over territory.


It is when the Europeans arrived in New Zealand from the seventeenth century that enormous change was brought to the Māori way of life; they began adopting aspects of Western society and implementing them into their own lives. At the beginning, relations between the Māori and the Europeans were solid – the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840, allowing both cultures to live alongside each other amicably in a British colony. Tensions began to rise over disputed land sales some two decades later, which led to major conflict. It was only by the twentieth century that the Māori began to recover.

Roberta’s daughters
second from left to right..Hinepau, Teina, Amonhia  


Yes the hot pool is called the Hirere- which means waterfall.  It was and still today, is a communal tribal bath. Stand under that waterfall and be treated to a hot thermal massage like no other!  
Dad loved the hirere.  We used to go most evenings- preferring that to the bath in our house. It played an important role in keeping everyone in touch as we would meet different uncles and aunties, cousins etc,  everyone catching up, sharing news, making plans, laughing, arguing, gossiping more laughing and basically keeping connected.  Dad was also very useful, being so pale of skin- he glowed in the moonlight  which helped me find my towel and clothes 😄  (no electricity or roof on the bathhouse )

As for me, I am still living in Rotorua.  Sadly- my Mum passed away just 5 weeks ago.  We buried her next to Dad on the first day of our national lock down so it was extremely intimate and nothing like the usual 3 day tangihanga/funeral ceremony which would have been held had circumstances been ‘normal’.  It was unexpected as she suffered a stroke.  She has had health issues for almost two decades now so I am relieved that she suffers no more and she will be glad to be reunited with Dad and Rich. 

 Me, I have three daughters: and one grand daughter who all live with me and their father Te Rama.  My eldest daughter was supposed to be moving to London next month however that is obviously on hold for the while.  My middle child is a Mum to our 3 year old moko (grandie) and my youngest daughter is just outta high school studying Marine Science.  I work as an education lecturer at the local Polytechnic training teachers.  This lock down has forced us to go online and together with the fact that I was on bereavement leave for the first two weeks- I am extremely behind and super busy learning new technology to turn my face to face classes into engaging online learning..  A challenging time for all of us.  

My brother Richard has two sons- one who was born 6 months after he died. Lincoln is older and Richie is the younger one.  Surreal to think that my birth family- the one that I learnt what it means to be a family- have all moved on to the next stage without me- but fortunately they left me in good stead to love and care for my own family and I expect them to provide me with great fanfare when I get there!  😉

Gosh- I can hear my email going crazy in the background.  I apologize for the brevity of my email.  I loved your story about Dad and look forward to finding out about all the family. Just fascinating and a great idea!   

As you my have read- I was able to come to Canada a few years ago.  I spent a week with Aunt Sandy in Calgary before flying on to a conference in Toronto.  I was able to hire a car and squeeze a  trip to Fergus in to spend a few hours with Uncle Earl.  The trip was a very short one and I was due to return to Calgary this June. I would love to come back to Ontario and spend sometime hearing your stories in person.

I have just found Andrew on facebook and added him.  Don’t know why I never thought to do that before? I don’t post much but still be good to hear from him.

Well I have a zoom meeting (a sign of the covid-times) in 25minutes so I’d better get ready to allay some student fears about assessments and cancelled practicums.  Yay for me! hehe

 Here are a few more pics (cos they are much more fun to look at!)


(Small events often have big consequences)


Yes, Roy and I  had lots of back & forth visiting & sleepovers in the high 
school years

The story that springs to mind happened at Fergus High maybe in grade 9 
or 10 ?

Our favorite way to spend noon-hours was playing basketball in the gym

The rules called for boys & girls to get the gym fo noon hours on 
alternate days

– 2 doors leading to gym from boys dressing rooms & girls dressing rooms

– either boys or girls door locked depending on the alternate day

But girls did not often use the gym at noon & Roy had a skeleton key

– so we used it, not sure how many times before we got caught ?

And I was the 1st one to be called into the principle’s office

– Mr. Stewart (or was it Stuart) was an ex 2nd world war army officer 
(very strict & rules based)

– so he grilled me & asked where I got the skeleton key

– and I confessed that Roy had the key

– I was sent home, until further notice 

Then Roy was interviewed … admitted he made the key,

can’t remember when Roy quit high school, but might have been at that time

I don’t imagine Roy ate humble pie & asked to be readmitted




alan skeoch
Feb. 21, 2023

Taking life easy in New Zealand….too easy

Well we did not see the warning sign.  Just not paying close attention when we parked
our rental car near Mount Tauranga on the east coast of the North Island ofNew Zealand.

“Alan, I think the tide is changing.”

We lived in Ontario, Canada…interior of North America.  No tide.

“Alan, the path we took to get in here is gone.”

   We had to move fast.  

Cyclone Cody: Swells could continue tomorrow around North Island | RNZ News

Beachgoers brave rough seas off Tauranga despite warnings - NZ Herald




alan skeoch
feb. 16, 2023

New Zealand surprises:  This month our 17 year old grand daughter is touring New Zealand.  Back packing and Bus Touring 
alone and making new friends along the way cautiously.  Decades ago we did the same thing,  Carefully most of the time but
not all the time.  I am dedicating this Episode to Molly Skeoch whose adventures are yet to be told.

For the sake of other readers I hope the pictures and stories will encourage your travels.

TOURING  New Zealand a few years ago 

Story 1:  We were told it was very unlikely we would ever meet a Kiwi bird.  They are nocturnal and their numbers have been reduced
due to the presence of stowaway rats.   So it was a big surprise when we were having a beer and sandwich along the way when
a live Kiwi popped out of the brush and tip toed over to see us.   

Story #2:   New Zealand offers spectacular scenery without the crowds.   In this case Marjorie is taking it easy at
the mouth of a South Island glacier.  Nobody around but us.

Story #3:  How many sheep does it take to disguise a two lane highway for as far as the eye can see?  LOTS!  Count them.  Travellers who are in a rush  to get
from point A to point B will be frustrated.   We rather enjoyed driving  at a sheep’s pace.

If you look beside Marjorie’s head in this photo you will see a man jumping off a bridge.  Suicide?  No, this was  (is?) the famous
(infamous?) South Island New Zealand Bungy Jump.   And the man is our son Andrew doing the death defying jump with an elastic
rope around his feet.     The drop is terrifying and each jumper has a guesswork length of rubber band.  A wrong guess would be fatal.

“Dad, this is a once only chance.  I want to make the jump/“
“You’li smash your head on the rocks below.”
“These guys know the exact length needed to jump and live.”

Andrew jumped and lived needless to say….about a 300 foot free fall before the elastic 
rope takes hold and bounces the jumper up and down.  A perfect jump happens when the jumper can touch the
water pool below.   Andrew made a small splash before he was yanked backwards.   Why do young people do this?  I have no answer

Story #5:  This story is a bit embarrassing.  Makes me look like a ‘chancer’…a fool…a rule breaker.  We were speeding along an empty
south island highway.  totally at ease with Andrew’s feet on the dashboard while I drove .  Rental car prohibits young drivers.   That was made
clear when we rented.  “If violated the car will be taken away….”  Which means the young driver and passengers would have to figure
how to get back to Christchurch on their own.  No joke.

“Dad, I can drive this stretch of highway.  No traffic whatever….except occasional flocks of sheep.”

So we switched divers.   Sure enough all went wrong. 

“Police car coming towards us….lights flashing….pointing to road shoulder.”
“Quick Andrew, we’ll change drivers….it will take the cop a while to turn around…time 
enough for me to get in the drivers’ seat.”

The switch was messy. It looked like we had an octopus in the front seats as we tried the switch…entangle ourselves.

“Damn…damn,,,The cop is right  behind us.”
“Must be a sport driver…can wheel around while moving.”
“He saw us doing the change.  He  knows.   We are in big time trouble.”

“Would you mind getting out of your car?   Just what were you trying to do…change drivers?”
How old are you son?”
“Are you aware of the driving violation?”
“Yes sir…sorry”
“And you, sir,  you are the father.   Just what do you do for a living?”
(An odd question)
“I am a teacher.”
“A teacher?  Really?  And just what do you teach young people?”
“Well aren’t you a great example for young people.  Dangerous driving.  Ignoring the law.  Trying to
fool a police officer….”
“Sorry about …”
“Are you aware of the penalty?”
“Yes sir…Sorry about….”

At this point the officer chewed me out.  Nicely though.  He kept bringing up the fact that I was
expected to be an example for young people.  Not a law braver.   He seemed to be enjoying himself.
He was telling me off so much that I knew he had no intention of going me a ticket and taking the
car away from us.   Just too much talk for that.  

“Sir, I will let you off.   Perhaps next time you will become a better example for your own son.”

And he drove away.  Did Marjorie and Andrew think less of me while I was being raked over
the coals by the officer?   No they were as relieved as I was that the officer has a sense of humour.,

“Alan, don’’t you  dare try to take a picture of the officer.”
“Need it for the story”
“Forget about your stories”
(So there is no proof that this happened except for Andrew’s feet
on the dashboard of the car.)

alan  (see below)



alan skeoch
eb. 18, 2023


This story was written so her memory will remain as long as we live and breathe

This is our big pan where Failla was exploring when she heard Woody’s ‘Death Cry’

Failla ran with the speed of summer lightning down the grass trail to our small pond where Woody was crying.


She was a grand dog.  Loyal, loving and intelligent.  Failla knew Woody was in trouble
before the rest of us did.  And she acted faster than the rest of us.

“Alan, come quickly…TROUBLE!”
“Woody has fallen through the ice….in the centre of the pond.”
“He’s crying…knows he is in trouble….CRYING! …”
“FAILLA has arrived..;racing from back field…heard Woody crying”
“Now Failla is on the ice…both will drown.”

By the time i got there our dog Woody was half submerged trying to
get back on the ice.  Flailing.  Crying.   But Impossible to reach.

Then a wonderful thing happened.  Failla acted immediately …. began breaking
the ice until she had created a water trail for Woody.   She got out on thicker ice
and circled the hole around Woody.
Then she actually shepherded him to shore using the open water trail she had made
for him.  She acted fast….seemed to know what to do and did it in the twinkling of
an eye.

“Failla saved Woody’s life.”
“And she did it in an instant…she knew what to do!”
“Could the rescue have been accidental….could both dogs have drowned?”
“I think it was a conscious act…sort of a knowing reflex.”
“Hardly possible…hard to believe.”

“They are both in the truck now.  Woody is flat out exhausted.”
“But look at Failla…look into her eyes.”

“She knew what she was doing.”
“And she is proud of it.”
“And her eyes are saying she would do the same for one of us.”

“Look into those eyes!”

Note: How did Failla get her name?  Not because she was a ‘failure’ that’s for sure.
She was named after a fine wine.


That heroic rescue occurred a few years ago.  Time flies by.  Failla has aged and lately
has had trouble even getting out of her bed.   

“TIME HAS COME,” said Dr. Jeff Edwards, our veterinarian.  Julie and Andy delayed the
inevitable as long as possible.  Even longer than possible.  Failla was aware of her failings
and knew her time had come.   She could no longer walk.

“I had to carry her from her bed to the truck and then
into see Dr. Edwards who assured me her death would be
painless and fast.”

“Julie was crying.  I held back my tears but only just able to do that.
Crying on the inside.”

Marjorie and I drove Woody down to Andy’s place later.  Woody nosed
around here and there looking for Failla.  I think he knew she was gone
as he sniffed around her empty bed.

For most of us it is easy to love a dog and difficult to accept the loss
of one.  Doubly more difficult to lose Failla for she seemed more than a dog.

Look into Woody’s eyes. (below)

This is Woody. He knows Failla is gone.



alan skeoch
Feb. 18, 2023

This car story 

This does not look like a wilderness.  It is a big clearing in the bush where there seems to have been a farm long ago
and the hay field is cropped still.  The track is narrow. Rasy for our company Land Rover,,,and also our 53 Meteor

This car story
about the 53 meteor may not get by the email censors.  I know that is true
for Aidan’s office in Ireland where bad language is filtered out.

But I will tell the story anyway. Perhaps reduce the foul language a bit.  But those curse words
are so much a part of the story that I am reticent to be a censor.

So here goes:

The life of the 53 Meteor was coming to an end sadly.  But not quite.

“Beautiful June day”
“Would be nice to go on a trip”
“Let’s do it.  I would like you to see what my job is like….mining geophysics
means nothing until you see the field work.”
“Not unless you consider black flies dangerous.”

So mom, dad, Eric and marjorie piled in the 53 Meteor and we headed north east towards Kinmount.
Dad was a bit grumpy because he would miss a few horserace at Woodbine racetrack.  But he came 

We started on 4 lane highways, then two lane paved highways, then tailored gravel side roads…then
no road at all just a faint indication that a vehicle had pushed its way through the brush into
a deep dark forest.  A bull moose rises its head and lumbered out of the way.  This was wilderness.

Leafy branches slapped the windshield and bent the car aerial back.  Mudholes.  Deep ones that shook
the car.  Filtered light.  But the 53 Meteor was able to push its way through to a small clearing where
we had been testing our instruments before flying to a job in western Alaska.  All very exciting to me
and I wanted the family to share my excitement.

“Goddamnit, Alan, you are going to wreck the car in this bastardly bush.”

Dad was was becoming a defence attorney for the 53 Meteor
who could only groan but not speak.

“Turn around, for “”@#$%$”   sake.”
“Only place where we can turn is up ahead…that clearing.”
“You will wreck the goddamn car, Alan”
“Taking it slow.”
“Too goddamn slow…I want out of here now.”
“There is a track…just can’t see it.”
“You are nuts, Alan!”
“Here we are.”

“There is a magnetic anomaly deep under this topsoil.”
“So what?”
“So that is what we will be looking for under the Alaskan tundra.  Now we know
the instruments work fine.”

Hunting Technical and Exploration Services were paying me $400
per month to criss cross a wilderness near the Bering Sea where there was
evidence of a huge mineralized anomaly.    Dad was unimpressed.

“Too bad about the flies.”
“Too bad!  TOO BAD!  The little sons of bitches are drawing blood”
“Can’t be helped.  Biting flies are a fact of life here and far worse in
Alaska I am told.  Just have to tolerate them.”
“You are a fool, Alan…must love misery…

And that was when Dad came up with a ring of swear words that had
never been put  together before.  If you have a sensitive vocabulary then
do not read the next line.  He was very creative …

“Turn the car around and get me out of this “g—————,s———————,b———— bush”

For that line Dad became famous.

Note: SECOND THOUGHT AMENDMENT:  I did not quote his famous string of words.  They may give a bad impression as they
did sometimes.  Suffice it to say Dad never ever used the F word or any other suggestive
sexual term.  He had principles that seem to be lost today.

End of story


PS  The worst time for fly bites is from May 24 to early Jully.  I should have
thought of that.  Even mom was glad to get back in the car with the windows up.
This family outing had not been a good idea.

Let me apologize for the bad language.  Did I have to use it?    yes.  The story
would not have deep meaning without Dad’s creativity.   Without the use of strong 
expletives the anomaly at Kinmount would be forgotten and the clouds of
flies would be left to torture the bull moose.

PPS    A few years ago I was invited to speak to the U of T Women’s Club and decided
to recall Dad’s influence on Eric and me.  One woman was overheard saying
“those poor boys”.   We never felt that way.  Actually we were a very happy family.
Dad provided lots of entertainment which made up for his lack of financial
support.  Would we trade him for a more saintly father.  Not a chance.
By the way, that speech was not well received by the U. of T women’s club.
Marjorie said “They will not invite you again” which seems to be true.



Ontario Highway 400 Photographs - Page 1 - History of Ontario's Kings  Highways

Highway 400 in 1960…not much traffic heading for North Bay….”Marjorie, better slow down
you are getting close to that northbound car.”  “Why?” (which is the point of this story)

Western Motorsports - Jim's 1953 Mercury Meteor

alan skeoch
Feb. 18, 2023

I should not tell this story as it will only invite criticism.   When we bought the 53 Meteor in 1956 we
had no idea that cars required maintenance.   Not just oil and gasoline.   We had very limited resources
most of which depended on mom.  Eric, dad and I were unlikely to put money into maintenance of
the car.  And mom had never heard of a Master Cylinder.  Nor had we really.

So here’s the story.

Marjorie was driving me north on the newish 400 highway on one of our trips to North Bay….about 220 miles
north of Toronto.  Why was Marjorie driving?  Because she was a good driver and had her licence before I got
mine.  A point which she reminded me about occasionally.

So we were zipping along at the speed limit, perhaps 70 or 80 or 90 km per hour.  The Meteor was on the
open highway and seemed to be enjoying itself.  Burning off any sludge in the engine.  Largely empty highway.

But there was another car that we were overtaking.

“Better slow down, Marjorie.”
“No need, that car is a long way in front of us.”
“I would slow down all the same.”
“When I get close.”
“Close now I would say”
“Don’t be silly…gently apply the brakes when we get close.”
“Close to me….I would slow down….ease foot off the accelerator now.”
“No need yet…maybe we’ll pass him.”
“Apply the brake.”

Not sure if the crisis was all my fault.  I assumed Marjorie knew that brake cylinder was leaking.

“Brakes don’t work right away.”
“Why not?”
“Need to pump up the maseter cylinder….hit brake pedal gently a couple of times.”
“Why didn’t you tell me that?”
“Forgot…did tell you to apply brakes early.”
“Alan, we could get into an accident.”
“Not if you baby the brakes.”
“No body ‘babys brakes’, Alan.”
“We do.”
“Costs money to replace the master cylinder.  We don’t have money for repairs if they
can be avoided.
“Alan, the 53 Meteor should not be on the road.”

So I took over the drive.  Took about four hours to reach North Bay and then
return.  Braking?  All that was required was a bit of pumping on the brake pedal.
As I remember we got the leaking cylinder repaired even though not entirely necessary
as long we slowed down in lots of time.

I probably should not tell this story.  In normal city traffic it was easy to slow down with
a little pumping.   A lot harder on the open highway.   Today…February 18, 2023, …Marjorie
put her car in for route maintenance as she does regularly.  The cost will be around
$1,000 as tires are worn down.  Back when we got the 53 Meteor we never thought 
about maintenance.   Never had  trouble with our brakes since that incident because
we can now afford to maintain vehicles.  Maintenance back in 1950 depended on mothers
speedy stitching of dresses for Eaton’s catalogue where she was instructed to “make the
front look good….the back of the dress doe not matter…speed it up.”


P.S.  It was a very sad day when we had to send that 53 Meteor to the scrap yard.
Almost as bad as when we had to put grandma’s Scotch Terrier down.

There is one more car story to come.  Short story.  But the story revolves around
Dad’s use of choice language one summer day when I wanted the family to see
a real mining anomaly in the dense bush east of Kinmount , Ontario.  Dad really
cut loose and I am not sure it is safe to quote him that day.

Ontario Highway 400 Photographs - Page 1 - History of Ontario's Kings  Highways