THERE'S a new voice talking sport on Radio 1XX these days but the tone remains familiar.
Seasoned listeners will have noticed the difference between father and son but it’s possible casual listeners will have been initially fooled; especially those who had no idea Tony Kirby was planning on handing over his microphone to his equally sports-mad son, Paul.
After 33 years of talking sport – bowls, cricket, rugby, golf and everything beyond and in between – Tony recently decided that it was time to give it up. He’d continued with his radio duties remotely, after moving to Papamoa three years ago but it was time to spend more time on some of the other joys of retirement like travelling, photography and watching cruise ships arriving and departing the Port of Tauranga.
“Thirty-three years is long enough; it needs a new direction, a new voice,” he says, readily admitting that you can “lose touch” when you live outside the area. Although, in saying that, Tony is a regularly visitor, sometimes travelling backwards and forwards three or four times a week in his role as the Eastern Bay’s junior cricket co-ordinator.
Backtracking almost a lifetime, Tony was born in London in 1942 and came to New Zealand in 1953, settling with his family in the back blocks of Rotorua. He remembers the transition from a city of eight million to a rural area with nine families where he was the only non-New Zealander at primary school.
They were there four months before moving to Tokoroa where there were 72 children – including nine that didn’t speak English – in one prefab class. “We relied on kids being away so we could all sit down,” he says.
It was here, at primary school in Tokoroa, that he first met his now wife Mia. They went on to be “kind-off an item” in the early 1960s but went on to marry and raise families with other people.
Years later, widowed and living in Hamilton, Mia was going through old photo albums and found several photos of herself with Tony and got to wondering how he was doing. As Tony says, “the rest is history”.
Tony’s secondary education began in Putararu because Tokoroa didn’t have a high school at the time and ended in Whakatane, at Whakatane High School. So began his lengthy affiliation with the Eastern Bay. After completing his teacher training, and teaching at various schools, including a sole charge position at the remote French Pass in the Marlborough Sounds, Tony returned to Whakatane in 1976 where he spent 14 years teaching at Whakatane Intermediate.
Then, between 1990 and 2001 he worked at the Whakatane Information Centre, which was a job, he says, he “absolutely loved”.
Nine years after reconnecting with Mia, who had sold her home in Hamilton to come and live with him in Whakatane, retirement was approaching and they started looking at what that retirement might look like, and where it might be.
Tony says they looked at the Waikato, Katikati and other small towns before Mia suggested a retirement village. Tony can still remember his response, something along the lines of “F**king hell, I’m only 70.”
But, convinced by his wife, they had a look around Papamoa and saw Papamoa Beach Village in the process of being built. “We bought off the plan and moved in in May 2014 so have been there coming up three years.”
Having suffered a heart attack 10 years previous, and undergoing a bypass operation at the end of March before the move, it was a stressful time. “We were moving in May and we sold our house the Wednesday before I went into hospital. I came out and I wasn’t able to lift anything.
I felt so sorry for Mia – but I did make her lots of cups of tea.
We moved in and it has been fabulous, he says. They are surrounded by active retirees, like-minded people, some older and some younger, some who were high-powered executives in their working lives, others who were workers. “There is no demarcation at all,” he says.
He’s recently scored himself a paper delivery job delivering the Papamoa Chronicle to 2300 homes in his neighbourhood, on his scooter – which he is quick to point out is a step-through model not a mobility machine.