Chapter Three ...A Fighter for the Under-dog

Few newborn babies survive stomach blockages at birth and live to tell the tale. One who did was Bruce Whiteside, first-born son of an out of work painter in Invercargill New Zealand, during the height of the Great Depression.
The story goes that he was fed diluted Highlander Condensed Milk, to supplement his daily intake. The milk coagulated forming a blockage that the doctors could not move. As fate would have it, the Superintendent of the hospital, had the same problem with his son. Bill, Bruce's father was called in to discuss the problem of his son with the medical staff. The recommendation was to surgically remove the blockage. He asked to discuss the matter with his wife Garcia, before he came to a decision. On the way out of the hospital the Matron button-holed him and told him that in giving the matter thought he should take into account that Dr Turner-Jennings own son had the same problem. In other words Bruce was going to be a guinea pig. Bill refused to allow his son to be operated on. For nine months the battler was nursed in a Karitane Hospital.
Karitane Hospital  . The Plunket Society's founder, Dr (Sir) Truby King, while superintendent of the Seacliff Mental Hospital, became concerned at the avoidable loss of infant life, and he considered that the chief causes of infant mortality were maternal ignorance, the decline in breast feeding, the use of unsuitable artificial foods, and a faulty regimen generally in the nurture and care of infants. (extract from NZ Encyclopaedia 1966)
 

The Plunket Society Motto; To help the Mothers and Save the Babies


By the strangest of circumstances and forty odd years later Bruce was paperhanging in a home in Papanui Christchurch. He met the owner who was a Dr Turner-Jennings and asked him if his father per chance was Superintendent at Invercargill. When the doctor had replied yes, he then told him his age and the problems that he had at birth. So stunned was the good doctor that he called his wife in to listen to what the tradesman was saying. Both were agog with disbelief. When the circumstances were related the doctor confirmed the story to be true. As to the suggestion that one baby or the other was going to be operated on first was a subject that was not discussed by either.
When baby Bruce was able to leave the care of those great humanitarians at Karitane, Bill took the family to Christchurch where the possibility of work and the advent of a first Labour Government in New Zealand promised much. In the early days Bill worked on the Summit Road, above the City of the Plains', often called the Garden City, but characteristically the 'Most English city outside England'. With its Avon River, banked by Oxford and Cambridge Terraces, along with the Christ College students in their punts wearing boaters, its Armagh, Gloucester, Worcester and Manchester Streets, to name a few and its Gothic Cathedral in the heart of the city, it is easy to see why. Established by the Church of England, it does to this day have a strong heritage of English traditions and culture.
The tide of the Great Depression had reached its nadir in 1935. Later that year a new era of social justice came about with the advent of the First Labour Government

Rt Hon M J Savage, first Prime Minister of New Zealand. Born in Tatong, Victoria Australia

 

Michael Joseph Savage leader of the Labour Party, became Prime Minister on 6 December 1935 marking the beginning of Labour's first term in office. The new government quickly set about implementing a number of significant reforms, including a reorganisation of the social welfare system and the creation of the state housing scheme. Labour also pursued an alliance with the Maori Ratana movement. Savage himself was highly popular with the working classes, and his portrait could be found on the walls of many houses around the country
 

The picture above took pride of place in Bruce's home. It was a coloured full page feature in sepia colouring that was an insert in the old pink Weekly News, read by possibly every New Zealander. It was an icon of the media journals for its time. Bill Whiteside was like many of his times of the underprivileged class. Intelligent, philosophically astute and a reader of men, he became a close friend of the then Mayor of Christchurch, the late Dan Sullivan. Sullivan ran a relief fund and was deeply respected.

 

Elected mayor in 1931 after an unsuccessful bid in 1923, Sullivan strove to alleviate poverty and maintain order in Christchurch during the depression. While supporting a conservative financial approach by the Labour-controlled council, he worked hard, typically with non-Labour notables, to raise funds for the relief of distress, interviewing thousands of people and frequently helping them personally (excerpt Dictionary NZ Biography)
 

Bill instilled the disciplines and virtues of his Anglo-Irish upbringing into his son. Later when he was taken from school because he was not considered bright enough to pursue his chosen bent, that of architecture, he was apprenticed to his dad. A hard but fair boss Bill taught his trade as a painter and paperhanger, to his son. He was also because of his close working relationship with his father schooled in the subject of politics, which in those years of the early fifties was quite topical among tradesmen. To Bruce it seemed incredulous that some tradesmen could align themselves with what his father always called Tories with a decided touch of irreverence .
It was also a period where his dad wrote much of the poetry that you will find on this website. Whilst much of the philosophical value of Bill's poetry was lost on a youthful son, Bruce was observant enough to realise that his father intense and passionate as he was about the subjects he wrote on failed to nail them in a public place.

In 1949, a National Party Shadow Minister spoke in the Regent Theatre Whakatane. In the lead-up to the meeting Bill had convinced his son that he was going to have 'a go' at the man who was affectionately known in the town as Big Bill. A man who was a timber merchant, builder and local member of Parliament, Big Bill Sullivan (no relation to Dan) was on the other side of the Whiteside fence politically. Primed to believe that his Dad was going to hold Big Bill Sullivan to account, this did not materialise but Bruce all of 16 years old did and for his efforts was nearly thrown out by the police who always were on guard at National Party meetings.
To Bruce's chagrin, his father took him to task in front of his mother, but she only laughed. "the kid was only doing what you have been telling him for weeks.' It was a lesson that young Bruce was not to call on until 1988, when he uttered the unutterable about Japanese land ownership and upset the politically sensitive politicians from both sides of politics. Naive and honest perhaps, but to the parliament it was like drinking hydrochloric acid. It would kill Japanese trade, they whinged.
Years later after a failed marriage of 14 years and the family all but grown up, Bruce met an Australian from Adelaide and after an on again, off again engagement, tied the knot in the Salvation Army Citadel in Christchurch. Just after this he gave away his trade as a painter and paperhanger and became an estimator for a Christchurch painting company , with a staff of 12 permanent tradesman. His ability to handle this job was quite extraordinary. A student who failed mathematics in a big way at school, was now involved with large contracts involving thousands of dollars with aplomb and dexterity. It was a job that he enjoyed and often admits that it was the only time in his working life he felt fulfilled. It was with a sense of lasting resentment that he was persuaded to move to Australia. His wife Iris missed the family, yet in the years since 1979, she has hardly seen them as most parents do. The hardest part about this is the missing of the grand-children growing up.
Bruce often to his wife's annoyance quote's his father who told him as a boy that Australia was a land of con-men. Whilst his father made that judgement on the experience of his mother-in-law, who spent many years in Australia, Bruce has experienced this for himself. It has been his experience in Australia with his first two employers, one who went on to spend ten years in gaol for setting up a contract killer to take out a business partner.
One day in 2000, while Bruce was visiting his general practitioner, he sat in the consulting room whilst the doctor studied him. The doctor said to him, 'You know I find you an interesting case study. There are thousands of patients that come to these rooms and I know of no-one who would take that extra step, that you make a habit of. It amazes me that someone can be so passionate about social issues and are prepared to take so many untouchable political subjects into the public arena. Most people would not dare to talk openly about such touchy subjects but you seem almost fearless.' In truth whilst he learnt that valuable lesson about acquiescing to fear, from his father, he also took great comfort from two poems that he wrote in the late forties;
Apathy and I am Fear. Both of these are to be found on the website.
 

There was another valid reason for the stand that Whiteside took in 1988 and again in 1996. Whiteside's dislike of Australia and his anger about the apathy of his wife's countryman toward their own country challenged his sense of patriotism as a New Zealander. He used the Anzac tradition to bait the Australians into some sort of action, by calling them a pack of gutless apathetic crawlers with no sense of pride nor shame. It was provocative, yet thousands of Australians knew damned well that he was right. The more he was attacked by the media and gutless politicians, the more he relished the challenge. But as people are want to do, they asked for his support when they were being tossed out of their businesses on the Gold Coast and got it, only to back away when he wanted those same people to show a united front. The media and Channel Nine in particular tried to set him up on a few occasions; like the time they flew him to Cairns for the Sixty Minutes Show, on the understanding that would be debating the issue with 'Bungo' Robert Ishizaki. At the last minute producer Stuart Goodman, decided to place Bruce in the audience, but he was having none of it. Richard Carlton tried all his persuasive skills to entice Whiteside to take part, but he was wide awake to the scheme to set him up. As a final assault they asked Ishizaki to speak to him. but after Bruce told him what they were up to he graciously understood. Ishizaki as with most Japanese media that Bruce came in contact with, treated him with respect. On the other hand before the night was out Carlton had vented his spleen and abused Whiteside for costing Channel Nine a $1000 for nothing. The Australian television journalists are among the rudest in the world.
For those who wish to have a look at the workings of big business, when people like Bruce Whiteside and Pauline Hanson take on the established and comfortable course of prescribed action, read 'Yen for Australia', on this website.
A few years after this Whiteside went into the public domain again, this time in defence of the renegade politician Pauline Hanson. The combination of Whiteside, more politically astute and Hanson with the gold plated appeal to the people as a whole, would have been an interesting exercise in changing the face of Australian politics . The combined effort of refusing to be intimidated, would have been riveting to watch as the media being the bearers of anything that stirs the pot, would have continued to fuel the fire and upset the establishment. The ingredient that soured the relationship was twofold. Whiteside refused to eulogise Hanson as she bathed in the tide of euphoric goodwill, when she was novel value. He saw her weaknesses and like a true supporter tried to get her to ignore the adoration and get her feet back on the ground. Hanson on the other hand was smitten with false admiration and went on to pay the ultimate price of humiliation and finally put through the mincer of a corrupted court charade. Sadly naivety scarred her whilst two clever and cunning shysters escaped the punishment of justice. The system from top to bottom was encased in practices that the average man in the street, has no idea of. .
 

Whiteside is a difficult man to put into a category. He is shrewd, but not from academic achievements, but from studying his fellow man. He hates injustice, but here again he differs from your average bloke. He'll start thinking of ways to arouse the public and if possible to engage them. He can be argumentative, but given a forceful demonstration that he may be wrong, will acknowledge his error of judgement. He has always been something of a battler or helper to those who need help. Whereas many will not see the need, he often does and if there is a tinge of injustice, then he will often go into bat for them. Thus it was in 1999.

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