The death of Alan Sayers last month, at the age of 101, was felt around the community.
He lived by the motto Carpe Diem (seize the day) and was remarkable not just for being fit and healthy well into his 90s, but for being a World War II veteran, journalist and author of two books – Fred the Needle and Deadline. He was working on a third at the time of his death.
Alan was a passionate advocate for Arkles Bay where he lived for more than 30 years. In his honour, a minute’s silence was observed at the beginning of Auckland Council’s August 24 meeting, and Cr John Watson read out a tribute.
Alan’s family, which includes Rodney Cr Greg Sayers, says that his final days were very much as he wished. He remained at his home, passing away peacefully in the company of loved ones. A small private blessing and cremation has taken place, with a wider celebration of Alan’s life to be held for close friends and family on the Arkles Bay waterfront on Friday September 15 at 2pm.
Tribute to Alan Sayers of Arkles Bay, by Cr John Watson
Alan Sayers was born in 1916. He first came up to Whangaparaoa as a child in 1922. His family had a bach overlooking the wharf at Little Manly where he and his brother would watch the small, single funnelled steamers unloading the holidaymakers and supplies off the long wharf that stretched out into the bay.
At Auckland Grammar School he excelled at a number of sports including athletics. In fact he was the senior athletic champion while at school and was one of two Grammar boys invited to attend the British Empire Collegiate Games in Melbourne in 1934. It was at these games that Alan became the second fastest quarter-miler in the British Empire. Four years later in 1938 it was the full Empire Games (later to become the Commonwealth Games) where he picked up a bronze medal as part of the NZ quarter-mile relay team.
When Alan left Auckland Grammar he went to work at the NZ Herald. He started in the copy room for 6 months before being sent downstairs to the sports department. After a year in sports he moved to the general reporting room and also spent a year in the photographic department where he learnt press photography.
Alan didn’t just write about sport, he played it, representing Waikato at rugby union and scoring 7 tries in one game at Carlaw Park when he switched to rugby league, an Auckland record that stands to this very day.
In the late 1930s he suffered a serious car crash that put paid to his top class athletics career. Instead he turned his hand to coaching and with considerable success. He went on to coach a number of NZ athletic champions such as Ron Agate, seven times national sprint champion, as well as Barry Robinson and John Tayor, both NZ quarter-mile champions and record-holders.
Alan’s coaching came to an abrupt end in 1939 with WWII. The war rekindled his contact with the Whangaparaoa Peninsula when he was seconded into naval intelligence for the duration of the war.
After the war Alan took up a job with the Auckland Star where he went on to become a prominent feature writer and chief photographer. During his career he covered some of Auckland’s most notorious and bizarre crimes including the Bassett Road machine gun murders and the Eric Mareo wife-poisoning case.
Retirement’ wasn’t the right word to describe Alan’s life after settling permanently in Whangaparaoa in the 1980s. He became commodore of the Manly Sailing Club, commodore of the Weiti Boating Club’s Youth Division, president of the Manly Bowling Club and chairman of both the Auckland P-Class and Starling yachting committees. He also helped several young sailors who would later become world champions including Russell Coutts and Chris Dickson.
In 2000 he was awarded the NZ Order of Merit for his services to sport and journalism.
Into his 90s Alan became something of a local hero when he took on a gang of set netters who were plundering fish stocks, including killing dolphins and intimidating the Arkles Bay community. For five years he fought the RDC in a saga that was to acquire both local and national notoriety and which eventually ended with a set net ban in the bay.
At 96 years of age he wrote his own autobiography entitled ‘Deadline’ having a few years earlier co-authored the national best seller biography of famous All Black coach Fred Allen, a life long friend. It was Fred who said of Alan:
“Throughout the years, I have come to know Alan Sayers as one of nature’s gentlemen with impeccable integrity. He is a man who cares about people and his contribution to his country has seldom been equalled.”