Walk­ing the talk

The great New Zealand sports pho­tog­ra­pher Peter Bush com­pares travel notes with the great New Zealand sports com­men­ta­tor, Keith Quinn

The Shed - - Column -

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

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