STEVE RENDLE

steve.rendle@age.co.nz

Masterton lost one of its characters last week when Eric Lowery died after a short battle with cancer on 19 May, aged 90.

In his later years, Mr Lowery was well-known for his extensive travels from Kurapuni to the north end Masterton on his mobility scooter, accompanied by his long-haired fox terrier Gilly.

His long-time friend and designated next-of-kin Ray Wallis recalls a “real character” who retained his strong Geordie accent despite leaving North Shields near Newcastle, in England long ago.

Mr Wallis said over the years Mr Lowery had spoken about his background, including being sent to the Channel Islands in the English Channel, after the Germans on the islands had surrendered.

“He was sent there when he was 14 to work in vegetable gardens so they could feed the German prisoners-of-war.

“They were basically treated like serfs — he talked about having a very basic lunch outside, while inside the prisoners were getting three-course meals.”

He went on to work as a miner of tin and coal in Cornwall, in tunnels that extended under the sea.

“The water would be dripping down from the ceiling of the tunnels and he said you could hear the waves breaking above — that must have been quite frightening,” Mr Wallis said.

He went on to join the merchant navy, eventually reach New Zealand where he spent time as an orderly at Silverstream hospital, completing most of his nurse training before another change of profession as a petrol blender in Seaview, Wellington.

When he lost his home as a result of a relationship-breakup, he found a house Nireaha, Eketahuna, continuing to commute to the petrol-blending job.

In later years he walked 14m each way to help on a farm in the area.

Eric Lowery with Gilly. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Mr Wallis described him as a “demon driver” — something that, with his eyesight and hearing failing, eventually cost him his licence.

“He pulled out of Chester Rd on to the Norfolk Rd in front of a policewoman.

“When she pulled him over, he was a bit forthcoming. She was forthcoming back, and took his licence off him.”

Evidence of his ‘driving by touch’ was clear when Mr Wallis came to sell the car he had only recently helped find for Mr Lowery.

“I asked him why there were a lot little dents all over the body — he told me kids in supermarket carparks kept hitting the car with trolleys.

“I think there were probably a lot of other cars nearby with dents from ‘trolleys’.”

Mr Wallis met Mr Lowery through the Ruamahanga Ramblers harrier group, with whom Mr Lowery began walking but eventually became timekeeper.

“He ended up legally blind. . . so there was a bit of guess work on times at the end.”

Mr Lowery was buried after a ceremony in Clareville on Tuesday, with a kilt and sporran.

He had no family in New Zealand, with this sister Betty in England the sole beneficiary in his will.