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Attached document is a copy of Corrie's obituary that was published in The Horowhenua-Kapiti Chronicle on 15 October 2005. The text of the obituary is as follows:

Community mourns loss of historian

Francis Corrison (Corrie) Swanwick who died on September 15 aged 94 was an expert on things local.
He was born on a kitchen table and spent much of his later life cooking and preserving his own fruit and vegetables.
The house of his birth and where he spent the first six years of his life has outlived him and is still standing at the corner of Winchester and Bath Streets in Levin.

His only daughter Janice Swanwick says her father described the early days in Levin, when the local children would play in the flooded gravel pits which were a feature of the town centre.

“Corrie vividly remembered Levin’s first motor car and (Sir Charles) Kingsford Smith landing his Southern Cross plane near Levin in the 1930s.”

His childhood was short.

He left school at 11 or 12 to work for his father who was building Hokio Beach Road with a horse and dray. When he was 18 he started work at a nursery, which later became Blacks Nursery, in Fairfield Road.

It was there he probably developed his interest in history as he helped clean up some of the old Maori weapons and tools the Blacks recovered from the edge of Lake Horowhenua. The artifacts are now in Te Papa.

Mrs Swanwick said her father served in the Pacific during World War II as a gunner in the artillery but his forte was cooking.
He was soon established as head cook for his regimental headquarters on Norfolk Island and became known for his innovative problem-solving techniques.

Having no success through normal channels in a quest for better cooking equipment for his team he told his men to feed the fire with green branches just as the top brass were about to inspect the camp kitchen.

The cooking area soon filled with choking smoke and it wasn’t long before he had a new camp oven.

And it was there his fascination for ropes and pulleys was first put to good use when he devised a hoist to lower men to the beach below and later hoisted them up when they had caught some fresh fish.

After the war he married Lillian (Lil) Pickering, the sister of his old hunting mate Bert Pickering, who himself collapsed and died at Mr Swanwick’s funeral on September 19.

The rest of his working life was spent at his small nursery and market garden on Main South Road.

He retired into town in 1974.

When the Horowhenua Historical Society started in 1976 he became its most active and enthusiastic member.

Fellow historian Anthony Dreaver said Mr Swanwick loved to tell stories and had written more about the history of Levin that anyone else.

He described Mr Swanwick as a man with a voracious appetite for facts.

“Every time he arrived at the society meeting he had armfuls of papers,” he said.

“The information he has collected, a combination of his own memories and facts he has unearthed, was of enormous value to the society.”

Society founder member Mary MacKay knew Mr Swanwick for over 30 years.

“I always had a lot of admiration for Corrie. He was very intelligent and it is a pity he had to leave school when he was so young.

“He had a great presence – almost alarming if you didn’t if you didn’t know him - rather unusual looking eyes and all his life he suffered from seizures. It was common for him to keel over in the middle of a public talk.

“He would stop talking and just disappear from view and a short time later he would pop up, apologise and carry on as if nothing had happened.

“He loved talking and would always have a lot to say for himself. If you met him in the street it would be half an hour before you got away.

“He was also a prolific writer with 160 articles about the history of Levin for The Chronicle.“It was a curious thing, although everybody called him Corrie he always signed off his history articles Francis Corrison Swanwick.”

Mrs Mackay recalls one incident when the old Regent cinema was demolished.

“Corrie remembered when he was a boy the kids used to play in the flooded gravel pits which were there before the cinema.

“They used to make rafts and boats and the Levin Borough Council placed life-preservers nearby when one of the children nearly drowned.

“The Regent was considered an earthquake risk. They were right as soon as they started to remove the bricks it collapsed into a heap. Corrie went along later and found one of the old life-preservers still in the rubble.”

Mrs Mackay described Mr Swanwick as a caring family man.

“He was devoted to his wife and when she became ill he looked after her for many years.

“They only had one child and the couple often used to foster children – the last one when they would have been old enough to be her grandparents.”

Fiercely independent and self-sufficient all his life he preserved a lot of the produce from his own garden.

“He was always very thorough and took great pains to get the facts right.”

His fascination for ropes and pulleys surfaced again later in life. Mrs Mackay explained how he set up his own system of remote control at his home with wires and pulleys so he could turn things on and off without getting out of his chair.

“The place was criss-crossed with these contraptions to the annoyance of the caregivers.”

History was his favourite subject yet he was forward thinking in his ideas and always after the latest gadgets.

He was in his late 80s when he extended his kitchen to make room for dishwasher, microwave and food processor.

Even when he was in his 90s he tried new experiences giving up smoking at 92 and having his first road accident – on his mobility scooter – at 93.

No longer able to tend his own garden he reluctantly employed a gardener and was so busy supervising the pruning of a bush at the front of his property he didn’t notice the wheels of the scooter getting dangerously close to the kerb till he was thrown onto the road.

Mrs Swanwick said her father was active to the end and managed to have his say in the last election by casting a special vote just before he died.

“But his biggest regret will be missing Levin’s centenary in 2006.”


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Corrie's Obituary


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October 15, 2005

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