An Unfortunate Loss

December 19, 2011

NZ Hannah Photo 1Our esteemed IFCR colleague and New Zealand secretary, John (Jock) Hannah from Nelson died on December 9 as a result of an accidental fall while tramping in the Kahurangi National Park.

John was negotiating difficult terrain when he fell 20 metres to his death. A little earlier in the day another member of his party had been airlifted by helicopter with a suspected broken ankle.

He joined the Sealord firm in 1988 as business development manager and was said to be responsible for the company’s successful move into aquaculture. He subsequently took charge of the NZ School of Fisheries as the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology’s marine studies chief. He was on a number of boards relating to the mussel industry. He was described as the father of it in New Zealand.

Visiting Vapi in India for the 2012 Rotary cricket world festival had been high on John and Hetta’s agenda. They were coordinating NZIFCR’s trip.

John is remembered by fellow Rotarians and friends as a community minded family man with a great interest in tramping and cricket and promoting NZ mussels.

The funeral was held in the Nelson cathedral on Thursday 15 December amidst the Nelson floods on that day which prevented many from getting into Nelson.

Despite this, the cathedral was overflowing, and the mourners heard high praise of Jock from his three children, a fishing industry representative and two of his fellow tramping mates who were with him when he died.

And the last over was bowled to him by John Dean, NZIFCR retired Hon Sec, who bowled as directed by the Dean Emeritus of the cathedral, a fellow RC Nelson member, Charles Tyrrell. So it was like a good slow red wine.

For the fifth and sixth balls of the over, John recited a poem especially commissioned from Fraser Paterson, and then sang Leopold’s Last Stand; before calling over and time.

John Dean’s Eulogy for John Leo(pold) Hannah

I am very proud to have been asked by Henrietta, whom I have known for some 46 years, to give you some thoughts about my times and life with my great friend John – Leopold to me – Hannah, who I have known for only about 41 years.

It is a rare privilege for me to able to bowl the last over of the day when on any other day the rain would have kept us in the pavilion. To me, this is Leopold’s Last Stand. If you hang on to the bat for long enough you were called a Leopold. 551,880 thousand hours of life compressed into as long as it takes to bowl the last over.

Ironically I have had number of calls from those who have not been able to land in Nelson this morning because of the rain still pouring down. Of course Jock was great planner. He would have come over the night before. That’s what he was like.

He would have said to me “this weather is a tad disappointing”. Often things were a tad disappointing, but only momentarily. And when the Gods are crying on behalf of Jock, it’s only momentarily.

Like a good vintage Tyrell’s wine, the Very Reverend Charles Tyrell’s name sake, I will try to remember to be slow – that’s how Jock bowled mostly in his latter years…. …..

Why was he called Jock? It stems I believe from those whisky tinged Glen Morangie coloured student days in Dunedin – “Drink your whisky Jock!”  I’m not allowed tell you about the sheep inside Selwyn College at Otago University and other stories……

You have heard from Rachael and Fiona and Richard – my godson – I could hear his father saying “take your hands out of your pockets boy” – about the important things in life- the family, and how Hetta met Jock

And from his mates – the recreation he enjoyed: man alone with mates in the solitude of the mountains and tarns.  And from his work: the quiet achiever and leader that we know Jock was.

And then there is most important part of all – how you lead your life;  and that is how you play cricket and understand the game. A way of life….

So it falls to me to tell you about the most important part of a life well lived. About a tuneless bloke who found music in the lady he loved and about some of Jock’s early days in Wellington.

How a boy who shared a bedroom with his younger brother in their formative years, worked hard as lad in school and university, and honed his back yard sporting skills by trying to beat brothers and sister at all the usual backyard games – honed them into being a useful squash player, tennis man, cricket and golf. And not bad at chess as well.

A great left handed bat in his early days, and who developed into a very useful opening and then latterly change bowler. A quiet student of all sports; and an excellent fisherman.

Then I need to tell you about his leading cup-a-soup in the early 1970’s, when he worked at Unilever, to where it was some years ago….  Our flat members tested every flavour – breakfast lunch and dinner. That’s why it became a market leader. Like the young marketing man who worked on it.

Some of us are old enough to remember Mad Magazine – Alfred E Neumann. Look at the service sheet cover- L & G I give you the Alfred E Neumann of the Upper South Island. What me Worry – Its satire on all aspects of life and popular culture, politics, entertainment, and public figures was what Jock quietly emulated; whilst learning to promote a good cup of coffee to all who would listen to him.

Then came an interest in shares. I take some credit for that…about 1972 or so. .  A tip in the Dalmuir House lift –was it some oil coy? – Jock bought some and they plummeted soon after. He learned to pick them a bit better after that! He still asks me when will he get those $$ back!! He revelled in pouring over the share columns of every paper. He revelled in a share club.

So as I wheel and turn to toss up the third ball of this over I need to tell you about Jock’s love of the game. Over the many years I have known Jock – his reading of any game of cricket whether he was watching it or playing in it was very astute.

I know he and Donald spent hours on the finer points of the game. I will miss his texts and calls when we discussed with each other how our local and international teams could have done it better.

I will miss the 5 day test Jock and I spent in Brisbane a few years ago. Talking to the Poms along the riverbank. Coffee on the way to the Gabba. Coffee at the Gabba, a beer or two and coffee and a wine on the way home each day. The ebb and flow of the game so enjoyed. All with that squash bag which doubled as his cricket bag.

This reflected his view on people. You play cricket how you live your life. The shame of it is these days that there are not enough of us who understand the nuances of the game and who can live their lives accordingly.

Jock and I returned to cricket in the last 15 years or so through Rotary.  IFCR is the best fellowship in Rotary. We have been on numerous tours to many countries. Played on Test grounds we dreamed about playing on when we listened 50 years earlier on our transistor radios. Our playing skills seemed to be better than they were when we played for VUW in he 70’s.

What wonderful friends we have made in so many places. And we ate mussels everywhere we went. What wonderful experiences we have enjoyed. And still were to enjoy – with Jock having taken over the Hon Sec’s role from yours truly, and so ably assisted and prodded by Hetta, his computer skills have blossomed. He had the next 3 years of inwards and outwards tours on the drawing board for us.

I have received 100s of messages of condolences to give to Hetta and Fiona and Rachael and Richard from our IFCR friends in the UK. From every state of Australia, from India, South Africa, Pakistan, and all over New Zealand. Jock has drunk a lot of coffee all over the world. Hetta and Jock have great friends all over the world.

Rotary and its ideals appealed to Jock’s innate sense of goodness. A way to contribute to make a difference towards a better world for everyone. He started with a small step when we returned from India in 1999 and got a joint project underway which benefited a small village. I know he has been a much valued member of RC of Nelson. He was awarded a Paul Harris Award for his significant contributions to Rotary; supported always by Hetta.

Jock knew how to lead. He was an opening bowler. He knew how to bat. The middle order for him, or the tail when he preferred to give someone else a go first.

That was why he was so successful in business. He was a team man..