Rural life set the scene for love

Diamonds . . . John and Ida Burgess celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary. PHOTO: NICK BROOK

On March 17, 60 years ago, two youngsters from opposite ends of New Zealand were married in a kauri church in Whangarei.

Ida MacDonald (22) was home for her wedding with fiance John ‘‘JR’’ Burgess and 25 friends and family from his country home in the Catlins.

‘‘It was a wonderful mixture, our people from Owaka meeting Ida’s family in the north — we had different pronunciations. It was a great union of two families,’’ Mr Burgess (83) said.

‘‘It was a real journey, almost an overseas experience back then,’’ Mrs Burgess said.

Mrs Burgess grew up in Whangarei and went to Owaka in 1960 for country service after graduating Teachers’ College in Auckland.

Mr Burgess, a third›generation farmer, grew up in Tarara, near Owaka and both were involved in the lively rural social scene.

Country Girls’ and Young Farmers’ concerts featuring dancing and theatricals were hugely popular and toured the district.

‘‘I was right into rugby but a friend put me on to indoor basketball and that’s where I met Ida,’’ Mr Burgess said.

While the couple were courting, Mr Burgess bought his first farm and nearly two years after meeting they were married ‘‘up north’’ on St Patrick’s Day 1962.

‘‘We got on well and we’ve never argued in all this time. Ida’s easy going, she has a wonderful nature,’’ Mr Burgess said.

‘‘There’s no sense in arguing with the one you love,’’ Mrs Burgess agreed.

‘‘You discuss, just talk things out.’’

A shared love of horse riding and community has characterised their companionship.

Mr Burgess is a Lions Club life member and was chairman of the fundraising committee for Owaka Museum .

Mrs Burgess volunteered for her local pony club for decades, participating with her husband in countless cavalcades, rodeos and leading horse trail events such as the Catlins Canter.

Working life was farming Tarara Downs before moving into Stenning House, an 1890s cottage in Pounawea, when their son Barry and his wife took over the reins nearly 20 years ago

The couple have three daughters and a granddaughter.

The Owaka family farm, The Ponderosa, which has been in Burgess hands for well over 100 years, is now part›owned by grandson Martin.

Mr Burgess continues to look in on the cattle but spoke about moving to a property long held in Wanaka

‘‘It’s a plan, but we’ve shifted about 10 miles in 60 years . . . There’s no hurry.’’