New Zealand Law Society - Accidental American with a taste for off-road adventure

Accidental American with a taste for off-road adventure

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Keith McLure
Keith McLure

Pilot, racing driver and intrepid off-roader Keith McClure came straight to one Carterton law firm “as a child” and stayed there.

At 65 – and as chair and as he describes it “titular head” of WCM Legal - Keith says he is probably working harder now than he ever did.

He was a principal in the firm – which has offices in Wellington, Masterton, Greytown and Featherston - from 1978. Based in the Carterton office, he also visits the Featherston office.

Keith Andrew (Keith) McClure
Entry to law
Graduated LLB from Auckland University in 1975. Admitted in 1976.
Chairman and consultant at WCM Legal, Carterton.
Speciality area
Property and commercial work, trusts and asset planning, employment law and civil litigation.

With no other lawyers in the family and his American father from an accounting background, Keith followed “the herd” from Auckland Grammar school into law.

“It was not with any particular conviction. I always had an interest in the idea of being a lawyer but little idea of what it actually involved. But what else could I do???

“My skills and strengths were in English and the arts. Law seemed to be a good use of them and it was what my mates were doing. It was the year probably 200 of us went through law school.

“The millennials will be shocked, because jobs were easy to get and I was able to get enough money working, pumping gas, etc. And we didn’t pay to go to university.

“When I went through with these others in 1971, it was the first year of academic screening, everyone had to be interviewed and had to have an A Bursary to get in.”

“With an A Bursary we were paid in those days. We got cheques and all tuition was paid. I think the bursary cheque was $60 or something. It arrived two or three times a year and we all went to the pub.”

Auckland via the United States

He secured his private pilot’s licence at 18, doing flight training at Ardmore with the Auckland Aero Club and building up several hundred hours of trouble-free flying. Flying is something he is keen to do more of.

Keith’s parents met during World War II, when his American father was attached to a small intelligence corps unit in Auckland. His mother went to the US as a war bride and lived in the US before the couple returned to New Zealand in the early 1950s.

“I am an accidental American and have an American passport.”

Keith’s wife Adrienne is a retired primary school teacher, their daughter Sarah McClure is a senior policy analyst with Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) and their son Stuart is a business manager in Auckland.

“I always wanted to go farming and spent my formative years on a family dairy farm in the school holidays.

“At the end of recession in the late 1980s I managed to put a group of investors together to buy a hill country coastal sheep property of about 680 ha, on the south Wairarapa coast.

“We had that for 29 years and it’s just been sold this year. It was a very successful syndicate and rewarding for everyone.

“As a family, we and many of the other partners and their children have many happy memories of crayfishing and paua collecting there.”

Keith has developed an interest in the arts over the years.

“I knew nothing about art and in the early 2000s there was a group interested in collecting art, so we formed a 16-person group called Wai Art. Everyone contributed $1,000 each per year and it ran for 10 years.

“The criteria was contemporary New Zealand art and a set of criteria for purchase was drawn up. There were purchase groups of three or four people, so you have three goes each year to go off and buy something, present to the group and justify the purchase.

“We had some good, bad and indifferent art. We had a really good selection of the more renowned New Zealand artists - Shane Cotton, Elizabeth Thomson, Nigel Brown all featured.

“There was a silent auction at the end when it was wound up. It was a lot of fun and we learned a bit along the way.

“Some members formed a sculpture group along similar lines for six years. We ended up with a very nice Elizabeth Thomson piece called Aviatrix. I like Nigel Brown and Toss Wollaston, Grahame Sydney and Gretchen Albrecht. We are fortunate to have a Pat Hanley print.”

The wise wauzer

“I played social tennis until I buggered my knee a couple of years ago, and don’t have a lot of time for hobbies. We have a 21-month-old grandchild and another one due in December, so your interests shift and become family focused.”

The family dog is a wauzer called Hana – a miniature schnauzer/West Highland terrier cross. “Hana is a very wise dog and gives good counsel at the end of the day.

“We like to travel a lot and have been fortunate to have time to travel.”

In July this year Keith and Adrienne did an eight-day, eleven-vehicle four-wheel drive guided expedition from Adelaide across Australia’s Simpson Desert – which has the biggest sand dunes in the world.

“We crossed the desert along what is called the Madigan Line. It is wonderful and eerie, and the sense of the desert stays with you. We camped on the way and came out at Birdsville, in Queensland – a 4,300km round trip.

“Minus 4 was the coldest, bloody cold. There is peace, isolation, night skies, flora and fauna, and the desert is alive with life.”

A keen four-wheel driver, Keith has a Jeep Cherokee XJ. “It’s the last of the true Cherokees with a front beam axle, three or four years old when I got it, top of the range, very well spec’d and in beautiful condition.

“I’ve played with it and it’s a bit higher off the ground, has all the bits and pieces and less than half the price of a Landcruiser. When you break bits there’s a man at the end of the phone who will send new bits from the States.

“We have done a lot of off-road driving in the South Island, including station to station from Lake Coleridge, coming out north of Cromwell, across the Dunstan Range, through Bendigo Station. Another one went from Greymouth behind Lake Brunner to Reefton, the Denniston Plateau then out and back down through Nelson. On that trip our leader got his Landcruiser swamped in a river.”

French battlefields

Having family from Iowa in the mid-west of the United States has meant a few road trips through the Rockies, the Grand Canyon, Yosemite and all the grand national parks. “And a week in New York is the best fun you can have.”

As keen walkers Keith and Adrienne have walked the Heaphy Track, Abel Tasman, Lake Waikaremoana and around the Whanganui River including the Matemateaonga and up the valley from the Bridge to Nowhere. Keith says they hope to get back to completing some more great walks next year.

In the mid-2000s the couple visited their daughter Sarah in London, got in a car in Paris and did a 6,000km circular route around WW1 battlefields.

“I had a great uncle at Passchendale. We went through Holland, Germany, Austria, Italy on a fantastic trip, over six weeks. And I have always enjoyed driving on the wrong side of the road.

“Driving yourself you do your own research and being able to visit art galleries and places of culture is great. People want to help and as long as you have money there’s always someone who wants to look after you.

“I am sadly not musical but in the firm Ed Cooke would be a concert violinist and Juliet his wife is a flautist. Mark Hinton plays the guitar but I don’t. I like listening to a full range of music, classical, jazz, some rock and roll. And would go to Australia to listen to Van Morrison.

“I recently read Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari and have read the usual John Grisham and Lee Childs’ novels. I like autobiographies and history and collected books by Alan and John Mulgan - relatives on my mother’s side.

“We go to the cinema and only watch television for rugby – when I can – and Wimbledon, which I enjoy.

“Apart from the Jeep I have had a series of Ford Falcons – the last one a 4 litre G6E turbo. I now have a Lexus and Adrienne has a Mazda 3.

“I have a motorsport club licence and a close friend shares with me the driving of an early 90s Honda Civic hatchback with a fairly grunty Honda Integra motor.

“We race at club and track events, on the Manfield race track and street events.

“It has a full roll cage, racing suspension and the best brakes and harness money can buy to protect the aged. I am self-taught and have been doing that for a number of years. My times are slightly above average and I get round Manfield in a low 1min 23 or 24secs.

“David Lange would be interesting to hear at dinner, and I enjoy pottering in the kitchen so there would be the best fillet of beef. With a good strong South Australian McLaren Vale shiraz with a bit of age and a good Martinborough Pinot.

“Who knows what alternative career I might have pursued. I would have liked to have tried farming or journalism.

“All my cousins who went dairy farming are retired now. I’m not.”

Over a long career in journalism Jock Anderson has spent many hours in courtrooms and talking to members of the legal profession. He can be contacted at

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