Keep reading 

Sold on the men’s shed and a sunny apartment

Going to sea has taught many young men the ways of the world. So it was for John Beauchamp, when he enlisted on the Royal New Zealand Navy, serving on the last of the great British battleships, the HMS Vanguard when training in England.

“I did three years as an ordinary seaman, but I soon learned that the officers had smarter uniforms and attracted the better looking girls,” he recalls.

Thus began a journey up through the ranks of the British and New Zealand navies, ending with Beauchamp’s retirement 23 years ago at the age of 60 as Lieutenant Commander. And yes, along the way he did manage to attract a beautiful bride, Kathleen.

Throughout his career, Beauchamp had an engineering bent. His hobbies were model engineering and wood turning.

“In the early days, the ships had reciprocating steam engines so, although I was the Captain, in quiet times I would invite the chief engineer up to the bridge and I could go down and watch the fascinating machinery in the engine room.”

Retirement has enabled Beauchamp to devote more time to his hobbies, including model steam engines. This in turn led him to build a scale model of an 18-foot classic steam boat.

“First I made the model from scale plans bought from the UK, then I scaled it up and made a full-sized one, manufacturing everything except for the pressure gauges. It was amazing, there was no difference in the two boats, apart from the scale.”

When you’ve build a real steam boat, what do you do?

If you’re like Beauchamp, you encourage others to do the same. Then, you get together with those others and set up the classic and vintage boat show, now held in early March each year at Lake Rotoiti in Nelson Lakes National Park.

Those first 21 years of retirement were spent in Christchurch, where Kathleen had family links. But following her death in 2015 there was little to hold Beauchamp in the Garden City.

“During my career we had spent several years in the Capital where our children went to secondary school. With two of them now living there, it was a no brainer to come back to Wellington and to live independently in a community where I am close to them and have the opportunity to make contact with people who are at the same stage of life as me,” he says.

“I looked at the retirement communities on offer. But it was the men’s shed that sold me on Woburn Apartments. That – the boutique scale of the development – and my north-facing apartment with all-day sun.”

It’s thanks to Beauchamp that the men’s shed is very well equipped. About 90% of the gear is his, with the Apartments providing a drill press and small tools as required.

“Personally it is great to be able to assist other residents with the maintenance of their personal possessions. Also, I can make the minor repairs or do the refurbishment needed to turn spare furniture into a saleable item for the Red Cross,” he says.

As for the model boat that’s currently the centrepiece in the men’s shed, Beauchamp says he’ll get it going again now he’s settled into his apartment. The boiler needs some repairs and then independent testing and certification before it can be used in public.

As for building another full-sized boat … no, that’s not on the cards, though a model steam engine might be. That leaves one unanswered question: Is a railway engineer’s uniform as attractive to the pretty girls as a naval officer’s uniform?

John Beauchamp may be about to find out.

Footnote: John is distantly related to Katherine Mansfield (nee Beauchamp), but claims he has not inherited any of her literary talent!

Photo: John Beauchamp and his pride and joy, in the Woburn Apartments’ men’s shed

Comments are closed.