Kiwiosities: Backyard Sheds

The author Barry Crump said ‘a man needs a shed’ when introducing me to one on his farmlet at Waihi, during the making of a film for television. The phrase struck me as summating all the features of a ‘man’s own place’, on the farm or in suburbia. There is room for old sports gear and tools he might get round to cleaning up some day. A man’s tools ought to be safe in a shed, where children aren’t allowed to pry, nor others borrow them. In the days when motor registration plates were changed every year, the beams of the shed were a good place to hammer up the old ones. It was also a place for the odd risqué calendar from the tyre company and a place to keep an old harness, a show ribbon or a bike.

My grandfather kept his old business records, dating back to the 19th century, in his shed. My father-in-law used his when he fancied smoking a pipe after dinner. Labour MP the Hon. Trevor de Cleene spoke in a television profile of taking the occasional nap in his garden shed, listening to the rain on the roof and remembering days out hunting in the bush.

A man’s shed soon begins to reflect the character of his life and interests in a way the Front Room never does.


Excerpts from Kiwiosities, a book by Gordon Ell on the traditions and folklore of New Zealand.

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Gordon Ell, a former journalist and wildlife film-maker, is the author of many popular books about New Zealand's historic and natural heritage.