Sixty years ago a Ngamatapouri bush-farmer married a Karitane nurse from the city. Their story is far from ordinary.

For the first decade of Pam and Graeme Annabell's married life they lived without electricity and only ventured into "town" once a month to collect the mail and stock up on supplies.

It was a life they loved and one they reminisce over fondly as they mark their diamond anniversary.

They met the way many young farmers did in those days, at Whanganui's notorious Rutland Hotel.


After being stitched up on a blind date by Graeme's sister, who nursed with Pam, it wasn't long before the pair hit it off.

At 82, Pam smiles at her 87-year-old hubby and rolls her eyes, "he was a real bushman, God knows why I fell for him", but that she did.

After a series of farmer balls, Pam was invited for a ride in the "Rover" up the Moeawatea Valley, also known as "Moe" for short, for a grand tour of Graeme's sweet humble abode.

The "Rover" loaded with wool bales and up to gunwales in mud on Moeawatea Rd. Photo/ file

A few years before the young loves met, Graeme had moved off his parents' farm in the Waitotara Valley to nurture his own land in the neighbouring valley.

He bought 485ha of unforgiving steep bush land for £1000 and spent three months at a time out there cutting scrub before walking four hours over the ridge back to his parents farm.

"I survived on a diet of Weet-Bix and canned beef having little to no vegetables."

Graeme worked hard to clear the rough bush land and do up the weatherboard home that would eventually become the couples lovable homestead.

On January 11, 1958 Graeme and Pam were married at St Mary of the Angels in Wellington.

Their Taupo honeymoon was cut short two days in when Graeme's father called to tell them the "sheep needed dipping" and for city-girl Pam it was a farming life she learnt to love.

"She was happy enough once we got the radio going," Graeme said.

Every morning and evening Pam would communicate with Graeme's parents on the radio. Graeme would run leads from the Rover into the house to power the radio up.

Unlike the meaning of Moeawatea, "a place where you sleep in the daytime", their lives were "all go".

Pam learnt to milk the cows, feed the chooks, bake the bread and grow enough vegetables to feed their family of five, while Graeme worked hard on the farm.

In 1964, Graeme's father died and their busy lifestyle reached another level with Graeme running his parent's Ngamatapouri farm as well as the Moe land.

By then, the four-hour walk over the ridge was made easier once Graeme gained his pilot licence - a mission that would seem impossible to a man whose right eye was blinded by a bow and arrow when he was a child.

"I remember stirring the gravy one night and looking out the window to see Graeme landing the plane after picking up it up from Auckland."

Pam also gained a licence of her own, driving the Waitotara school bus for seven years.

Eventually they sold both properties and moved to a 607ha farm inland from Hawera before packing up "farming life" in the mid-90s.

Pam said it wasn't until Graeme's health gave in three years ago that he truly stopped working.

When she received the couple's letter from the Queen, along with a note from Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy and Minister for Seniors Hon Tracey Martin, she had this to say: "I'm sure not royal but boy am I loyal".

The diamond couple are celebrating today with a small group of friends and family.