For many years the face of Drummond & Etheridge, Peter Etheridge talked to Spirit Mag’s Niamh McCarthy about family, fishing and farming.
The first thing that strikes you whilst having a yarn with Peter Etheridge is his modesty. The 74-year-old has accomplished many things in his life, but he’s not one for blowing his own trumpet – he’s far more interested in showing me around his gardens and talking about his grandkids.
Nevertheless, Peter is proud of being a cornerstone of Drummond and Etheridge, one of the most successful machinery dealerships in the South Island. In typical modest fashion, he laughs when he remembers how, at age 16, he was ordered by his father Arthur to begin a mechanic apprenticeship “I was the laughing stock of the company for five years!” Next came an electrical apprenticeship. “I was a bit better at that,” but admits he found his calling when he started selling tractors. “ I absolutely loved it – my mother came from a farming background and I had the gene. I loved farming and farming people and I spent the next 46 years selling tractors in the county.”
These days however he avoids the sophisticated new machinery. “All that electronic stuff drives me mad.” His passion for the industry is obviously hard to leave behind but he is immensely proud and confident of his own family who are taking D&E into the next generation.
Peter and wife Lois have three children, eldest daughter Nicola is based in Christchurch, son Mark is now CEO of the family firm and youngest daughter Suzanne is H&S manager for the business. He clearly dotes on his eight grandchildren and describes wife Lois as “one of the best grandmothers on the planet.” The couple celebrated 50 years of marriage last year having met in Christchurch many moons ago. According to Peter the local Ashburton ladies didn’t want a bar of him as he was “a bit of a smart ass” and it was his MGB sports car that Lois originally fell for, not him! “It took me five years to wear her down but it was worth it…”
Peter was also one of the original pioneers of the Lake Hood recreation area. The Etheridge family have always had a love of the outdoors, hunting and fishing, and Peters’ old photos of fishing and hunting trips are impressive. He has many fond memories of summers spent at Lake Camp in the family bach – the timber sourced from an old picture theatre on Burnett Street “Myself and Jimmy Ackerley built two baches from those old 2 x 4’s – I was the brawn and he was the brains!”
Peter’s son Mark thrived on the water and went on to become one of New Zealand’s most talented water skiers. It was during those cold mornings on Lake Camp training with his son that Peter decided there had to be an easier and closer option for water skiing in the district.
One day Peter and a friend took a helicopter and had an aerial scout of the Ashburton River and spotted a suitable location for a lake and that’s when the idea for Lake Hood was conceived. Today it is a top class water ski facility – one of the best recreational areas in the district and Peter is very proud of his contribution “I spent 19 years on the committee and it was often hard work but I fought hard all my life to have the lake free of charge to the community and that’s the way it remains today.”
These days Peter enjoys a slower pace of life and has made a move away from hunting and now prefers looking after his animals. “I love my animals and enjoy breeding them all and I’ve plenty girlfriends out there on the paddock!” Peter and Lois share a passion for nature that can be seen in their amazing gardens, ponds, streams and woodlands around the property. There is also a host of wildlife that is lovingly cared for by Peter, with a little help from his grandkids. He breeds quail, partridge and different varieties of pheasant on the grounds and made headlines a few years back when his hand reared geese started flying alongside his truck whenever he headed to town!
At 74, Peter has plenty of observations and is impressed with the changes he has seen in Mid Canterbury. “The change in the district is phenomenal – the amount of produce we grow, the things we do with irrigation and crops, we have the ski fields and the lakes. We are very lucky.” He admits though, that things are hard for young people nowadays. He firmly believes that you should always pursue your passions and have the drive to succeed – or as Peter puts it “you need a bit of go gas in ya!”
When asked about his greatest achievement Peter says his greatest pride and happiness comes from raising a wonderful family with wife Lois “It’s been a great journey and I’m delighted to say I have no regrets at all.”