Ngaio Marsh Retirement Village resident and botanist Brian Molloy can reminisce about a series of royal encounters – most recently with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
But he also likes to look forward, and says he has a cupboard full of new writing projects, based around his career in the world of plants.
Brian has also met with Prince William and Queen Elizabeth II, and he has a decades-long association with the QEII National Trust. The trust was set up under an Act of Parliament in 1977 and was named after the Queen to help mark her Silver Jubilee in that year.
Not so long ago, in October 2018, the Ngaio Marsh resident was seated between Prince Harry and Meghan. They were having a chat, as you do, about subjects including not only the trust but life and family in general.
The occasion was the dedication of The Carol Whaley Native Bush to the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy. The bushland is located at Redvale, on the northern fringe of Auckland and not too far from Torbay and Browns Bay.
Brian was a trust director and high country field representative and remains a life member. While, like other residents, he has been in COVID-19 lockdown he has not been idle. Approaching his 90th birthday he continues to write about his main field of expertise. Even in the last year or so he has published a new scientific paper.
Brian has had plants named after him, including the Cook Strait kowhai (Sophora molloyi) and the hidden spider orchid, (Molloybas cryptanthus).
His favourite however, is the rare Marlborough Rock Daisy, which grows exclusively in the Haldon Hills in behind the township if Seddon. What makes this daisy unique is that unlike other New Zealand rock daisies, its stems and buds are red, he says. The daisies primarily grows on the properties of Angela and Stewart Kennington, and Charles and Claire Waddy, and he loved getting to know them. He described and formally named this rock daisy in 1987 and even has some of these plants growing at his townhouse.
Brian loves the New Zealand high country, but especially Central Otago, which has a great climate: “It’s the driest part, it has the coldest temperatures and the hottest temperatures in the country.”
When he was a Massey College student in his late teens and thinking of a farming career, Brian worked for four months at Mt Nicholas Station on the far side of Lake Wakatipu from Queenstown. He remembers helping load wool bales at the station, and helping tourists disembark, when the steamer, the TSS Earnslaw, arrived.
He says there is still a great deal of work to do in terms of the conservation of the New Zealand high country. “The QEII Trust by in large was set up to help farmers protect values that they thought were wonderful and which people like me, with expertise, could tell them that: ‘yes, that is an amazing thing’.”
The QEII Trust works in partnership with New Zealand landholders to protect and help manage natural and cultural features on their properties forever. The landholders retain ownership of the land the trust helps to protect it. The QEII Trust also provides the necessary protection through its legal or statutory covenants, he says.
The Trust has established a special class of covenant (QCC) to protect significant areas of native forest, including a Turnbull property in North Canterbury, and the Carol Whaley Bush of the North Shore. Crown pastoral and other-lease land is another area the trust works in, he says.
The biggest covenant the QEII helps protect is an amalgam of four on the Otago high country stations of Coronet Peak, Motatapu, Mt Soho and Glencoe, known as the Mahu Whenua covenants. This land is leased by an American, Mutt Lange.
“He’s doing the right thing – he’s grazing the country but he’s looking after it. He’s making walks available to the general public.”
Closer to home, Brian has had a very long, 43-year, relationship with the Riccarton Bush Trust, which was established by an Act of Parliament in 1914. During his career, which stemmed on from a MSc with first-class honours (obtained in 1960) and a PhD (with most of the work done at Lincoln), he worked for the Department of Agriculture, the DSIR and Landcare Research.
Before the end of his tertiary studies he was an accomplished sportsman, having toured Australia with the All Blacks in 1957. One of his tour room mates at the time was Alister ‘Ack’ Soper, now a resident at Ryman’s Rowena Jackson village in Invercargill. His favourite ‘team’, he played as part of, however, was the New Zealand University team that faced up to the mighty Springboks team of 1956 and beat them 22-15.
He keeps in touch with his three daughters and grandchildren, with two of his children living in Christchurch and one in the North Island. His wife and son passed away within the last seven years.