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New wheels . . . Jim Quested rides his e-bike to the hen houses. PHOTO: SALLY BROOKER

Jim Quested knows his eggs.

The 96-year-old still works every morning on the Georgetown egg farm where he grew up.

Mr Quested’s grandfather settled on the site in 1875, having come out from lowland Scotland.

Mr Quested’s father worked on the railways before serving in Gallipoli in World War 1.

He returned blind in one eye and when he could not get his old railways job back, started keeping hens on his 4ha plot – a common practice in the district in those days – along with a horse and cows.

“The cream lorry came from Dunedin. There were cream cans at nearly every house,” Mr Quested said.

“They made money from lots of things.”

Mr Quested, who had a younger brother and sister, said he was the one who was “stupid enough” to take over the egg operation.

He played rugby and cricket for the Georgetown teams when he was single, and attended lots of dances at local halls on Saturday nights.

Back then, Oamaru was “dry” – alcohol was prohibited – so pubs in outlying places including Georgetown were highly popular.

Mr Quested said the buses that came out from Glenavy would head back with their noses on an angle because of the “all the grog in the back”. The illicit cargo would be sold for about four times the price to thirsty Oamaruvians.

Mr Quested spent time away from Georgetown in World War 2. He was a driver in the army then volunteered for the air force, where he became an air crew trainer. He finished his time with the 16th Battalion in Japan.

Mr Quested and his late wife, Mary, brought up three children at the Georgetown farm: Christine, Stephen, and Peter.

“They’ve all got degrees,” Mr Quested said.

“It didn’t worry me if the children took over the farm.”

After Mr Quested had been “on the farm for a while”, the economic conditions of the time created such anxiety that he developed a stomach ulcer. He shut down the operation and did 11 seasons at the Pukeuri meat works.

“Stephen took it on about three years after I started at the works.”

Mr Quested retained ownership of the land and chattels, and Stephen rents the business from him. Stephen’s youngest daughter, Lydia, also works on the farm.

Meanwhile, Mr Quested bikes the short distance from his house to the hens in the mornings. When his knee got too sore for pedalling in recent times, he bought himself an e-bike.

“That’s what happens when you let him loose on the internet,” Stephen laughed.

“As far as I’m concerned, I’m more mobile than ever,” Mr Quested said.

“Without it, I would be stuck. You’ve got to get out sometimes.”

He said the work he carries out is “not too strenuous or laborious”.

“I can do egg grading. I go round and check the machinery’s OK. I don’t really do much.

“Machinery is very important now. The biggest problem is when it breaks down. The hens still need to be fed and watered.”

In between tending the hens, Mr Quested spends a lot of time reading.

“I watch TV a bit, but not during the day.”

Mr Quested lives alone, dining on frozen meals topped up with cooking delivered by daughter-in-law Geraldine.

As for his longevity, although his mother died of meningitis at the age of about 50, his grandparents lived into their 90s.

Mr Quested is still a member of the Georgetown Cemetery Trust, and in 2014 was one of 40 men to travel in a New Zealand party to commemorate the Battle of Cassino in Italy. While there, he placed a poppy on the grave of Georgetown man Tommy McPhee, who was a signalman in the 26th Battalion. Mr Quested had attended Mr McPhee’s 1942 send-off in the Awamoko Hall at Georgetown.