Sentimental journey for 90th birthday

Peter and Alison Carruthers set for a helicopter trip to Mayor Island. Photo: Bruce Barnard.

Peter Carruthers came up with a unique way to celebrate his wife Alison’s 90th birthday this week.

After turning 92 himself on Wednesday, he devised a plan to take Alison to Mayor Island for the first time in 70 years - by helicopter.

They enjoyed a picnic lunch and a chance for Alison to renew some wonderful memories on Tuesday.

“We have been together for 40 years and just celebrated our anniversary,” says Peter. “Alison speaks about Mayor Island from time to time and about the good times they had there.

“I thought a bit of a sentimental journey, perhaps.”

Alison has clear recollections of summer days and nights spent on Mayor Island during her late teens in the 1940s.

Alongside her family, she travelled all the way from Wellington with her father, Cyril Dentice, who became a life member of the Tauranga Big Game Fishing Club. In 1949 he caught 28 striped marlin in 11 days, with a four per day limit in those days.

The largest fish he caught was a blue marlin that weighed in at 669lb (303kg).

Alison remembers the epic journey from Wellington to Tauranga on hot summer days on rough roads, before the boat trip to the island.

“Our hair would be like chalk, because the roads were all pumice,” she says. “It wasn’t an easy ride from Wellington in those days.”

Alison shared her father’s love of hunting big fish, and was one of the few teenaged women to land a big marlin back in those days.

“I always said I would like to go back to Mayor Island. It is a long time ago and I would never go sword fishing again.

“I did actually catch a swordfish. I had a silver badge that says ‘I caught a fish’, and I also caught a shark one day.”