Ian Blackman on the wharf where he arrived in Nelson 50 years ago. Photo: Jonty Dine.

Ian’s trip down memory wharf


As an 18-year-old fresh out of boarding school, Ian Blackman boarded a fishing vessel in England, skippered by his father and bound for New Zealand.

It was November 14, 1969, when he started working as an unpaid deckhand on board the MV Boston Seafire, one of Sealord’s North Sea trawlers.

“It was a heck of a voyage,” he says. “She was an old rust bucket and I was violently seasick.”

The vessel took a tiki tour through the Azores Islands and Panama Canal, which Ian says was “incredibly eye opening” for a very young 18-year-old.

They eventually docked in Nelson where Ian fell in love with the country.

The plan for Ian was to visit his family in Nelson before joining the Royal Marines back in England. However, he never left.

After receiving his first pay packet, Ian decided to continue to work on the trawlers, to the disgust of his father.

“My dad fired me and told me ‘when I come back from my next trip you better not be home.’”

So, Ian went to the Army Office on Nile St and signed up, beginning a lengthy career in the service.

Ian did 21 years in the New Zealand army, then worked for 16 years at Waimea Intermediate as a support staff member, running the school’s outdoor education programme.

He now works in a local vineyard.

Last week Ian celebrated 50 years on from his arrival in Nelson, with a visit to that same wharf he stepped off in 1969.

Sealord staff were on hand to show him around and give him a tour of how the industry has changed.

Ian says it’s part of commemorating what he says has been a “great run”.