New Zealand Law Society - Palace gossip for ‘Compo’ among the beaters, butlers and Billy Cokes

Palace gossip for ‘Compo’ among the beaters, butlers and Billy Cokes

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Ken McKenzie
Ken McKenzie

Timaru lawyer Ken McKenzie’s tale of being “in service” to British toffs has a whiff of Herbert Farjeon’s 1927 hit I’ve Danced with a Man who’s Danced with a Girl who’s Danced with the Prince of Wales.

Except Ken met, and his wife Jude cooked lunch for, not the Prince of Wales in the song – King Edward VIII – but his sister-in-law, the Queen Mother.

It happened when Ken and Jude, then in their 20s, not long married and on a two year OE in the UK, answered an advertisement for “a couple required for cooking and cleaning in a north Norfolk country estate for the (pheasant) shooting season”.

Kenneth Francis (Ken) McKenzie
Entry to law
Graduated LLB from Otago University in 1980.Admitted in 1980.
Director at RSM Law, Timaru.
Speciality area
General commercial, rural and residential conveyancing and property issues.

“We drove up there in a little Citroen 2CV to be interviewed by Lady Mary Harvey,” says Ken. “She was a lovely and eccentric upper class woman directly related to the Earl of Leicester.

“Lady Mary and her husband Major Tom Harvey lived near Sandringham House, the Queen’s private residence.

“We went for the two-month shooting season and stayed a whole year ‘in service’. It was a magnificent and wonderful experience. Jude cooked for Lady Mary and I was the estate gardener and chauffer and ‘what have you’ at their home, Warham House.”

Ken and Jude lived in converted stables on the estate.

“I would potter in the garden and talk to Lady Mary every day. She would give me the gossip from the palace. She went down to Sandringham for dinner and met that ‘ghastly Koo Stark’.”

American photographer and minor actress Koo Stark was a girlfriend of Prince Andrew in the early 1980s.

Lady Mary, who died in 1993, was the youngest daughter of Thomas William Coke, the 4th Earl of Leicester.

The Coke family estate was built up by Sir Edward Coke, Lord Chief Justice at the Kings’ Bench under James 1st of England. The substantial Holkham Hall was built by Thomas Coke, the 1st Earl of Leicester and is now occupied by the 4th Earl.

The shooting season

“They asked us to stay on after the shooting season. The Major was a director of Lloyd’s of London and club captain of St Andrews golf club. I would chauffer him and do the garden and Jude would cook for Lady Mary and the landed gentry, which included the Queen Mum.

“The Queen Mum came for lunch one day and we met her. I had to come in from the garden and spruce myself up. What a great experience. The Major and Lady Mary were top shelf people - they’d go across to Sandringham for dinner with the Queen and Prince Philip.

“I was asked to play cricket for the village on the green at Holkham Hall and went out for an inglorious duck. I fielded on the boundary for the rest of the game. But there were lovely cucumber sandwiches and Pimms afterwards.

“Lady Mary told me a wonderful story about Edward Coke, the 2nd Earl, who – in order to protect estate gamekeepers’ heads from low-lying branches – invented what we know as the bowler hat.

“Those in the know in high places refer to them as Billy Coke hats, available from a certain hattiers in the Haymarket, London. They are still worn on pheasant shoots at Holkham Estate by the beaters to protect them from wayward buck-shot.

“Towards the end of our stay, a dentist friend from London – Roger – visited and Major Harvey asked us to come out on the shoot. I thought we would be carrying the picnic basket. Jude piped up and said it would be a lovely idea, but the Major said ‘Oh no, not women – just Roger and Kenneth’.

“Each shooter had chauffers or butlers loading their guns for them. I was honoured to be invited to watch but not to shoot. Roger and I leant on a Range Rover and watched it all.

“About the end of our two years away we wanted to come back home for family reasons and we are still here.”

The Raymond clan  

Ken joined what is now RSM Law in Timaru in 1984, where he has been a partner since 1987.

RSM Law (formerly Raymond Sullivan McGlashan) was the old family firm of Raymond Raymond Raymond and Raymond, founded in 1883. Wynne Raymond, a former mayor of Timaru, is Ken’s uncle. Wynne’s son and Ken’s cousin, Richard Raymond, is a prominent lawyer in Christchurch.

“At school I had a love of history and English and was in the school debating society. So I think I had a natural bent for law. I was considering medicine until I got my School Certificate science results, which put paid to that idea.”

Brought up on a mixed South Canterbury farm – his 84-year-old Mum still lives in Geraldine – Ken showed little interest in farming.

“In those days there was not much option at university. There was basically law, medicine, dentistry, engineering. Not the myriad of options available now. So law seemed a natural bent.

“I went to Dunedin to study and met my wife Jude, a teacher, who is from south Auckland, and is now head of geography at Craighead Diocesan School. I don’t think we had visions of living in Auckland. Big cities weren’t for us.

“My Otago law school contemporaries include Queenstown lawyer Graeme Todd – a good friend – Justice Graham Lang and Justice Christine French.

“I worked for a year in Dunedin after graduating. Jude taught and we decided to get married at the end of 1981 – the same year as Charles and Diana. In those days you got married before you did your OE - unlike the young of today.

“Then we went overseas for two years, mainly in the UK and London. We purposely didn’t pursue our careers, and worked in pubs and the like. Then did four or five months driving through Europe in a VW Kombi van with another couple from Otago days.

“We camped at all sorts of weird and wonderful places. Before going into service.”

The couple have three grown-up children.

“Rosie, our oldest, is a dance teacher in Auckland. Tom, the middle one, has a PhD in chemistry and has gone down the science track. David, the youngest, is a roving freelance food writer.

“Tom – who we named after Major Tom Harvey – went to Victoria and David and Rosie started law degrees at Otago but chucked it in after two years. David has told his young lawyer mates in London to get into food law because he reckons there will be countries going to war over food. Point of origin issues and big intellectual property cases. Food law is the big thing to get into over there.”

Life on the slopes

“I like pottering in my glasshouse, listening to Radio Sport.

“I’m a keen skier and Mt Dobson ski field – which also happens to be a client – is just up the road, so I can sneak away during the week and say I am at a summit conference.

“One of the pleasures of South Canterbury is to come to work till 11 o’clock, go home, throw skis in the car, be skiing by half past one till 4 o’clock, come home and walk the dog on the beach.

“I tell my Auckland friends I can do three hours work, four hours skiing and still walk in the balmy waters of the South Pacific.

“As a lawyer you get involved in a lot of community activities, particularly in smaller provincial areas. I think as lawyers we almost have a duty to make sure our communities are vibrant and active and have all the facilities they need, with a bit of help over legal issues.”

Ken’s activities include involvement in a South Canterbury athletic track, the Otipua wetland trust, and honorary solicitor and part-time thespian with the South Canterbury Drama League.

Ken McKenzie
Ken McKenzie

“I enjoy a bit of theatre and have had many and varied roles, including in musicals such as The Hunting of the Snark and in smaller farces and comedies.

“I played Compo in Last of the Summer Wine, after someone phoned me and said I would be the perfect scruffy little git. I enjoyed that, it was good. I like theatre, you can be another person for a little while.

“I sang in The Hunting of the Snark, but I am more of a shower singer and a chorus person. I love music, bought a clarinet once and had four lessons. Then my son Tom, who became a New Zealand junior trombone player, picked it up, never had a lesson and played it.

“I thought ‘stuff that I’m never playing that again’.

“I’m a 70s child and like Dire Straits and the Eagles. One of the greatest pleasures people of our generation get is that our children, in their teenage years, discover our music. They discovered that Bob Dylan and Neil Young were pretty good. We have always had music in the house.

“Jude missed the North Island beaches so a few years ago we bought a little place on the Coromandel at Whiritoa, south of Whangamata. We go up for summer and Easter.

“We say to our Timaru friends, who take three-and-a-half hours to get to Wanaka, we can get to Whiritoa – if we time it right – in three hours: one hour to Wellington, one hour to Tauranga and one hour in the car.

“I’ve done a lot of tramping and hiking and my favourite walk is the Routeburn. I love the Glenorchy area, and the Heaphy is beautiful. Central Otago is still one of my favourite places in New Zealand.

“I love getting up into the mountains. It’s one of the joys of the South Island, and locally there’s walks at Peel Forest and Mt Peel.”

Netflix binging

“I like American writer Jodi Picoult and Lee Child’s Jack Reacher. I got stuck into John Grisham a while ago but got Grisham-ed out. But there are so many law journals and legal stuff to keep up with it’s not easy to read a book for pleasure.

“Regular TV has nothing for us so we got Netflix. We are guilty of binge watching Netflix in winter, with a bias towards British or Scandinavian crime thrillers, and any good British comedy, such as Monty Python.

“I’m a fan of Michael Palin, he’s a great raconteur and wit – so he and Churchill would be interesting dinner guests. And we’d serve something simple my wife had prepared earlier. I do a very good cheese sauce and I make a very good plum sauce. Maybe macaroni, or a very good weiner schnitzel. With merlot or shiraz.

“I’m a Francophile when it comes to cars and have a Renault Koleos SUV, and a Renault Megane.

“We always have dogs from the SPCA and currently have a nine-year-old border collie called Missy.

“An alternative career would be something in travel - travel writing.

“If I have a legal ambition it would be for easier access to the system, not necessarily legal aid or duty lawyers, but demystifying a lot of the mystery that still surrounds the law. Such as plain English letters and documents.”

RSM Law was embroiled in the South Canterbury Finance (SCF) collapse, which was a “memorable moment” of a negative kind, and included the prosecution for fraud of one of Ken’s former partners and SCF director, Edward Sullivan.

“It was a major disruption and there was a lot of media hype to deal with. We came through the debacle of the SCF fallout and the media maelstrom over that.

“A more positive highlight or achievement to look back on is being involved from day one – and to see come to successful fruition after many years – the Opuha Dam irrigation and water supply project.

“That involved substantial negotiations regarding land purchase, easements, consents, and some early farmer opposition and doubt. It has proved to be a key part of and contributor to the farming success of this region.”

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