Sid Harling


Blenheim mayor and ideas man

In around 1950, the Harling family, Sid, Mary Grace and their daughter Wendy, settled in Blenheim, having migrated from Canada. New Zealand was not entirely new to Sid, as for a few years during World War I, he and his mother had lived in Nelson, which was her own birthplace.

Sid Harling. Marlborough Archives: Marlborough Museum
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Sid opened a business in Blenheim as a watchmaker, jeweller and engraver. For a time he operated from Queen St premises, shifting to Market St and then later again returning to Queen St.  Memories of the original business was supplied by a local historian:" I remember them in their Queen St jewellery shop. He with a lens on his eye and she (the Canadian wife) with black hair and quite modern make-up and hair-do (for the 1950's). Outside was their Studebaker car (c.1950) with triple grills at front like three large spears, with a left hand drive." 1

Soon after settling in Blenheim, Sid began to take an interest in local affairs, firstly by taking up the cause for a new public swimming pool. He was very active in helping raise the necessary capital and the Olympic pool was opened in November 1958, becoming a great asset for Blenheim.

The present-day roll-on roll-off ferry service across Cook Strait is considered to be Sid's brain-child. First mention in local media was on 5 December, 1952 when Sid approached the editor of the Marlborough Express and outlined the idea. From that time on, he was an advocate of a roll-on roll-off ferry replacing the "Tamahine" which was coming up for retirement on the Cook Strait run. A committee was formed to promote this idea and in May 1953 a delegation (including Sid) went to Wellington to discuss this proposal with USS Coy, which ran the Cook Strait ferry at that time.

Finally, in August 1962, the roll on roll off ferry Aramoana made its first crossing from Wellington to Picton. At the opening of the service it was stressed that this new service would open wonderful opportunities for industrial development in the South Island and bring a new relationship between the North and South Islands. Freight rates would be 25% cheaper than previously. The then MP for Marlborough, the Hon Thomas Shand  said he would not single out names of those who had been instrumental in obtaining this new service but it would be fair to mention three, one being Sid Harling, a long advocate of the service.The Tamahine had been farewelled from Picton the previous day.   

Sid Harling and family (1950's) Marlborough Archives: Marlborough Museum
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Sid Harling first stood for the Blenheim Borough Council in 1953 and topped the poll, thus becoming deputy-mayor. He continued on Council and unsuccessfully stood for mayor in 1959. However,  ]he succeeded in becoming Blenheim's mayor at the next election in 1962 and continued for the following 15 years.3

Sid Harling's time on Council, and as mayor, saw many improvements in Blenheim. One of particular note was the filling in of the river "loop" around the RSA Rooms, with the extra land thus acquired being made into an extensive car-parking area for shoppers as well as RSA members.

 As the new mayor of Blenheim, Sid and his second wife, Betty, welcomed the Queen on a visit to Blenheim in 1963.

Sadly, Sid died in tragic circumstances in  December 1977, but his funeral service at the local Church of the Nativity was witness to the real esteem and popularity in which the local people held him. The church was filled to capacity and another 100 people stood outside. He had given 25 years of service to the community.

2011. Updated May 2020

Sources used in this story

  1. Personal communication: Barry Holdaway, 2011
  2. Marlborough Express (1962, August 11)
  3. Marlborough Express (1971, June 12) from Marlborough Archives holdings

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