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Obituary: Owen Tracy Gough

Obituary: Owen Tracy Gough

Owen Gough, the former head of the family firm Gough, Gough and Hamer and son of its founder, Tracy Thomas Gough, has died in Christchurch aged 83.

Born at Sumner on Christmas day 1919 and educated at Christ’s College, Owen Tracy Gough was a gentle, courteous businessman who, always well dressed and unfailingly kind, typified the ideal of the gentlemanly family company chairman who has worked his way up through the ranks.

In 1929 Gough’s father, along with uncle Edgar Gough and their friend Harry Hamer founded what has become in recent years one of New Zealand’s largest and most successful privately held companies. By 1939 Tracy Gough was the sole shareholder and the company’s core had become its Caterpillar dealership, acquired in 1932.

Feeling that his school fees were too much of an imposition upon a father trying to build a business, Gough left Christ’s College after his fifteenth birthday and joined the firm as a mechanic.

When war came, Gough enlisted in the Royal New Zealand Air Force as ground crew, based at Wigram.

Just before the war Gough’s father had bought Mona Vale which was enlarged through incorporation of the neighbouring Mill House estate to create the property that today remains largely intact in city council hands. Shortly after the family’s move though, Gough lost both his mother, Julia Daisy, and sister Alison in consecutive years.

In 1942 Gough married his childhood friend Avenal Holcombe. They were to remain lovingly married until Avenal’s death in August 2000.

Following the war, Gough rejoined the company’s service department, and worked at both the Nelson and Wellington airport projects. He eventually rose to become service manager in which role he visited Antarctica to negotiate on site maintenance agreements for the Caterpillar machinery of both the New Zealand and United States Antarctic programmes. Damaged equipment had previously been left on the ice floes to disappear in summer and this new contract began a beneficial connection between Gough, Gough and Hamer Ltd and the Antarctic that has lasted to this day.

In the 1960s Gough became Executive Director and then finally Chairman of the Board, before retirement in 1979. These latter years coincided with the development of Australasia’s first nationwide computerised distribution network and, in 1974, Gough oversaw the move of company headquarters from the centre of Christchurch to the current purpose-built Hornby site. Gough’s tenure also set the stage for the expansion and diversification that the company has engaged in over the last fifteen years.

Away from business, Owen Gough was a keen sailor and a longstanding member of both the Banks Peninsula Cruising Club and the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron. He maintained a knowledgeable personal interest in machinery of all sorts, even keeping a Caterpillar tractor at the family bach in the Marlborough Sounds. Together with his wife he was a dedicated member of the Anglican church throughout his life whilst his charitable interests included being active within Birthright.

Owen Gough died peacefully at Fitzroy retirement home, Merivale, on 24 March. He is survived by his half brother, four children and seven grandchildren, his other sister, Beryl, having died in 2001.

Alexander McKinnon (grandson)

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