Walking the talk
The great New Zealand sports photographer Peter Bush compares travel notes with the great New Zealand sports commentator, Keith Quinn
Keith Quinn and myself go back more than a year or three. Our paths first crossed unrecorded back in 1956 at Athletic Park, Wellington, where the South African Springboks and the All Blacks were facing off for the second test of that momentous tour. Keith was a 10-year-old sitting among the thousands crammed up on the terraces, I was in my 20s and covering the game with a Rolleiflex and a Canon 35mm.
Since those far-off days our paths have crossed countless times, on various continents, during which Keith covered 37 sporting tours overseas and numerous others within New Zealand. So when we met at the Quinns’ midcity Wellington apartment it was a mutual walk down memory lane.
Inevitably, my first question to Keith was to name his favourite country to tour, to which “France” was his firm reply. For the next 20 minutes we swapped notes on why that happens to be.
We mutually agreed food is a big attraction, and this stirred Keith’s memory of a meal at a vineyard in South West France back in 2007, when he and Anne were leading their first big All Black supporters’ tour for Williments travel company.
By the time they had both retold the story of this simple but tantalizing meal of smoked sausages cooked over a fire made from the clippings of the vineyard’s robust vines, accompanied by lentil salad, finished with a true chocolate mousse and finally washed down with the vineyard’s own impressive house wine, I could practically taste the mouthwatering experience myself.
We let rugby sit on the back burner for most of our interview as we exchanged memories of countries and occasions. As a tour-leading team, Keith and Anne complement each other particularly well, and this has led to their continued popularity and demand as tour leaders over a number of years.
“Anne is such a hard worker and a good organizer and she knows how to keep the show running and on an even keel,” Keith says.
“She operates not quite with a whistle around her neck, but she makes sure everyone on a 36-person tour is being personally involved, and she is a whizz at organizing the luggage transfer from the bus to the hotel and vice versa.”
Anne explains there were certain rules she felt kept the show running smoothly, the first of which is simple but effective: no one late — everyone on time. It made me think of times in the past while touring the UK with the late Sir Terry McLean. Terry, a former army Major and top sports journalist, was an absolute stickler for punctuality, and he abhorred the casual attitude some members of the 1972–’73 press corps had towards game-day bus departures.
On another tack I asked if they ever have time to catch up with reading or other personal pursuits. “Not much,” is the reply but Keith outlines how he is able to organize entertainment on the longer bus journeys. One of his more popular moves is to interview different members of the group about their lives and careers back in New Zealand. On other days he organizes contests and debates between opposite sides of the bus ensuring, along with his inimitable commentary about the areas they pass through, there are always lively ways to pass the hours.
Finally turning to rugby, Keith names South Africa in 1995 as a favourite World Cup tour, also a favourite of mine, during which was witnessed what we both consider the greatest rugby try — Jonah Lomu’s truly legendary try against England at Cape Town where he ran straight over the defending fullback and sidestepped two other defenders to score. Two English photographers, Russell Chain and Simon Brutey, captured that try in all its glory, and most English papers ran the try picture on their front pages.
Among Keith’s most memorable interviews was one he did in 1999 with South African forward, Jap Bekker, for the TV feature, Legends of the All Blacks, in Pretoria, South Africa. The interview with Bekker, who was deemed the hard man of the 1956 Springbok team, reviewed an incident from the fourth test at Eden Park in which All Black lock Tiny White was kicked in the spine by Bekker. The giant South African lock was condemned worldwide for his action, even in his home country, and Tiny White never played for the All Blacks again.
In the interview with Keith, a tearful Bekker expressed how sorry he was that he had been the guy who had kicked White. “I have lived with that shame,” he said. Keith remembers it as one of the most emotional interviews he had experienced.
I should have mentioned at the beginning of this article, along with his many other accomplishments Keith is also a very keen, talented photographer. Sharing shelf space with his scrapbooks of published pictures are boxes full of negs and prints waiting to be filed (like my own). He is on his third Canon point-andshoot camera, and no prizes for guessing who first gave him a few lessons on the noble art of picture taking.
Keith and Anne Quinn