They say it’s hard to find locals in Queenstown. Bucking that idea are Ruth Jones, who turned 80 this week, and her hubby Russell, who’s
almost 83. They talk to PHILIP CHANDLER about their early days, how their farm got urbanised and what they’re up to these days
Two genuine locals, celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary next month, paved the way for two of Queenstown’s biggest subdivisions.
Lake Hayes Estate and half of Shotover Country were formerly part of Ruth and Russell Jones’ Douglasvale farm.
Fittingly, the couple kept ‘Jones Hill’, a 12-hectare block from which they oversee those adjoining subdivisions.
Amazingly, Russell, who’s turning 83 soon, has lived on the original farm for all but the first three months of his life.
He was born in a midwife’s home at the top of Queenstown’s Ballarat Street, which acted as a maternity home till one was built.
He then shifted to Douglasvale after his parents, Olive and Bob, bought the farm in August, 1940 — prior to that they’d leased a farm on Littles Road.
Russell was educated at Arrowtown School then, after a year at Queenstown District High, at Southland Technical College.
He met his wife-to-be when it was suggested he take her to a dance at the Lower Shotover Hall after mutual friends paired up for the same
Ruth, who turned 80 this Monday, was born in the same home as Russell.
Her dad, Albie, who was married to Gertie, was in partnership in a hardware/grocery store in what’s now The Mall, before buying a dairy/greengrocer’s on the Rees/Beach Sts corner.
‘‘We lived on the premises,’’ says Ruth, who attended Queenstown Primary and Queenstown District High.
‘‘The best years of my life were growing up in Queenstown, everybody knew everyone and everybody was supportive.’’
She and Russell married on April 20, 1963, at St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, at the top of what’s now The Mall.
Russell went into partnership on the farm with his dad that year, then took over after he died in 1970.
He’d been a keen rugby player but stopped in ’64 after his dad, who wasn’t very well, advised him ‘‘if I got injured in rugby, or anything, it could be all over’’.
The farm was originally 156ha before another 61ha, where Bridesdale Farm is, was added.
The Joneses originally lived in a stone house where Walnut Grove is, then on a hill over looking Lake Hayes.
They grew barley, then moved into sheep and a few cattle.
Ruth, who raised three children, Graeme, Brian and Debbie, recalls the latter sitting in a stroller while she plunged-dip sheep, stacked hay and tailed lambs.
In ’87, they were approached to sell what’s now Lake Hayes Estate by Dunedin-based developer, the late Howard Paterson.
‘‘The farm wasn’t producing very well back in the ’70s and ’80s, and he produced bloody figures you couldn’t sort of argue with.’’
They then moved to Jones Hill, where Graeme built their current house.
In about 2012, the couple were also approached to sell what became part of Shotover Country.
Ruth says it’s been ‘‘mind-boggling’’ watching these subdivisions grow below them.
‘‘Where would these people be living now, otherwise?’’
Ruth, who recalls making toll calls just to talk to her mum in Queenstown, says ‘‘I couldn’t wait till we got a Briscoes and what have you’’.
‘‘Now we’ve got all those shops, I don’t go to them, they’re too big for me, I can’t find what I want.’’
She says they’re very happy living where they are — quaintly, still on rural delivery.
‘‘Nothing was really planned, it just evolved, and here we are left here, and we couldn’t wish for anything better, really.’’
Russell, who’s well ‘‘after the last two or three years haven’t been brilliant’’, does a bit of tractor work and mowing — ‘‘that’s about it, the rest of it’s all in forestry’’.
Ruth: ‘‘We’ve got a big veggie garden and heaps of pruning to do, and just keeping up with weed control as best you can.
‘‘Apart from being caretakers of the land we have left, we do have a campervan, which we tootle away in, periodically.’’
Another interest is ‘‘eight lovely grandchildren — three are living and working in the district and a fourth is coming home later in the year’’.
‘‘Russell now says he’s going off the hill in a pine box, so I hope he gets his wish.’’
He quips: ‘‘I always said a wheelbarrow’s easy to push downhill.’’