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The Ups And Downs of Jeremy James

Feilding, Manawatu (1958-1959)


In late 1958 James and Dora moved to Les Gandar’s farm, which was at Colyton, near Feilding, in the Manawatu.  Dora was by now pregnant with her second child (Jeremy James, i.e. me) but the move went well, and they were very pleased with their new house which was much larger than their Pihama house.



1958: The Valley House, on Les Gandar’s farm at Colyton, near Feilding


Les Gandar was an incredible person.  He had graduated in Science at Victoria University and during World War II he had been in the Royal NZ Air Force and had been part of the war effort in the Middle East.  By 1958 he was well established on his sheep farm and in his spare time he was becoming very active in local politics.  Much later he progressed on to become a Member of Parliament (1966-1978) and he finished his political career as the NZ High Commissioner in London (1979-1982).

Les was a lovely person to work for and Dora remembers him, in the shearing shed, showing her how to throw a fleece.  She still thinks about it whenever she throws her duvet onto her bed.

I arrived at midnight between 7 and 8 March 1959, being born at Feilding Maternity Hospital.  Our family had now grown from 3 to 4 (Mum, Dad and 2 infants).


1959: Jeremy James Heath-Caldwell, age 10 days.


While James had been relatively settled working on the dairy farm at Pihama, he found working on a sheep farm to be difficult.  One would have assumed that working for a person like Les Gandar would have been a dream job, a great opportunity to learn a lot very quickly but for James this was not to be the case.  Dora noticed that whenever decisions needed to be made, James was very hesitant to just make the decision and get on with it.  Instead he was continually hesitating and waiting for further guidance from Les.  This must have been quite frustrating for Les, as he would have noticed that progress was slow and not a lot of work was actually getting done.

Things eventually came to a head when James had an accident on the tractor.  He had been using the front loader to pick up wet hay bales, which he was dropping into a gully where they were going to be left to compost.  Somehow James and the tractor tottered down into the gully, joining all the hay bales.  This could have been quite serious, but James survived, and they also managed to recover the tractor without too much of a problem.

Les Gander was an exceedingly switched on person and he did not see how James could have crashed accidentally.  The whole situation made him extremely uncomfortable and a question at the back of his mind, was whether James was actually suicidal.  Les decided that there was no long-term future on his farm for James.  Apparently he was very gentle when he spoke to James and told him that he was terminating his employment.  He told James that there was no hurry and he could continue to stay and work there until he had found a new job to go to.

By now James was aware that he would soon have some money from his late grandmother’s estate but the cash had not yet arrived, so he decided it might be best to head back to Taranaki and find another job milking cows.