Jack and Madge Callaghan

Ross's parents were Jack and Madge Callaghan.  They met in Egypt during the Second World War and married soon after they returned to New Zealand.  Jack and Madge had two children Ross and Brian.

Jack and Madge married on the 12th of May 1945

Jack Callaghan

John Riddell (Jack) Callaghan was born on the 31st August 1919 in Gisborne. 

His parents were John Henry (Jack) Callaghan, and Frances Lucy (Fannie) Callaghan (nee Riddell).  See Our Grandparents.   They had four children: Mollie, Jack, Margaret, and Tui. 


Jack, aged 4 months                                               Mollie, Jack and Margaret

The family settled in Takapuna, on Auckland's North Shore.  Jack's childhood was not particularly happy as he didn't get on with his father, who was apparently quite abusive.  His mother, though, was lovely and held the family together.

Jack attended the local Catholic primary school, but when it came time to go to secondary school he refused to go!  He often said how he became a successful businessman without having any secondary education.

When the Second World War broke out in 1939 Jack lied about his age and enlisted.  He was sent to Egypt and worked in a field hospital there.  This period of his life was pretty traumatic and later on he would never talk about it. One bright spot was that he met Madge Tyson in Helwan, Egypt.  They played tennis together and became part of a close group of New Zealanders whose friendship lasted long after the war.


Jack, Madge and friends in Egypt

Jack and Madge got engaged in Egypt.  Madge returned from Egypt in 1944 and returned to her family in Runanga on the West Coast of the South Island.  Jack returned on the 23rd of April, 1945.  His father died while he was still on the boat as it waited to enter Auckland Harbour.

Jack and Madge were married in Runanga on the West Coast on the 12th of May, 1945, and settled in Narrow Neck on Auckland's North Shore while their new house was built. This was a 2 bedroom brick house at 14 Burns Avenue, Takapuna, not far from where Jack's mother lived. Ross was born in 1947 and Brian in 1948.

Jack trained as a bacteriologist and soon set up his own company, Callaghan and Aitken Ltd, Bacteriologists, along with a friend, Rex Aitken.  They did bacteriological work and pregnancy testing (using frogs gathered from throughout the country). When Rex died the company became Biological Laboratories Ltd, and its focus widened to include production of blood grouping products, peat-based rhizobium inoculants for stimulating plant growth and distribution of medical equipment and supplies.

The company prospered under Jack's entrepreneurial leadership.  Later on it was Smith Biolab, and then Salmond Smith Biolab, which was listed on the NZ Stock Exchange. Jack was an outstanding businessman and was widely respected for his business acumen.



Jack worked extremely hard in his business but also found time for many other interests. He was a long-time Rotarian; supported the Takapuna Rugby Football Club (and coached teams that included his two sons); travelled a lot throughout the world, and especially enjoyed his golf.  He was a left-hander and got down to a 7 handicap, playing at the Takapuna Golf Club and then at the North Shore Golf Club.  He was well-known and respected at North Shore and was responsible for both of his sons taking up golf.  He taught me (Ross) to play and we often played in "Father and Son" tournaments.  He was very proud of my later golfing successes.

One major result of Jack's business success was that the family was able to buy a bach at Martin's Bay, north of Auckland and spend regular holidays there, where Jack especially enjoyed his fishing.

In the late 1950s Biological Laboratories moved to a new building in Northcote, and in 1962 our family re-located to a new house at 54 Raleigh Road, just up the road.  Jack designed this house and it had a pool, games room and a lovely outlook over to Auckland City. Some years later we moved up the road to an even bigger house at 96 Raleigh Road which was on a large, secluded section and was really palatial with four stories, a pool and spa, more bedrooms, and an even better view of the city. The quality and size of this house reflected the success that Jack had achieved in his business.

Jack retired at the age of 55 but continued as a director of Salmond Smith Biolab.  In his retirement he took up a new interest: carving.  He was blind in one eye but was still able to produce amazing carvings out of mahogany and kauri.  He did carvings of stylised animals, Maori faces and wall hangings.  He produced a special carving for each of his grandchildren which are still treasured today. The bear he made for Sarah was especially noteworthy as he was hit in his good eye by a golf ball and completed the carving while almost completely blind.

Unfortunately Jack had a serious stroke soon after he retired.  He set about regaining his strength in a way that was most impressive, but from that time on he was not able to do as much as he had throughout his life and he found this very frustrating.  In the last few years of his life he had a succession of other strokes which debilitated him even further and frustrated him even more.

After the boys left home the house in Raleigh Road was too big to manage so Jack and Madge moved to a small 2-bedroom house, in Rata Road, close to Cheltenham Beach. This was an ideal place to live and Jack established a small garden and tried to continue his carving and his golf but the strokes hindered this. 

Brian and his family lived close by and Ross and his family visited often from Snells Beach, Tawa and Lower Hutt. "Grandad", as he was called, enjoyed seeing his children and grandchildren developing and was obviously proud of their successes.


Grandad and Grandma with Debbie, 1977        

40th wedding anniversary, 1985

Jack died on June 5th 1991 at the age of 71.

Madge Tyson

Madge Tyson was born on the 23rd of May 1914 in Runanga, on the West Coast of the South Island.  Her parents were Isaac Tyson and Clara Jane Tyson (nee Graham).  See Our Grandparents.   

Isaac and Clara had three daughters: Madge (23 May 1914 - 5 May 2001); Joan (27 April 1918 - 1 March 2006), and Norma (27th August 1920 -).  They were the famous Tyson girls!  They grew up in a small house on Mills Street, Runanga, about 10km from Greymouth. 


              Clara, Norma, Madge, Joan and Isaac Tyson 1921.                          Madge aged 4

It was pretty tough living on the West Coast but the Tyson girls had a happy childhood.  Madge, as the eldest, had to do much of the housework.  This included a daily bike ride to a local dairy farm to get milk for the family.  When she was 6 the family moved to Reefton for two years, and while there, electricity came to New Zealand.  Reefton was the first to get it!

Madge was a bright student and did well at school.  She was dux of Runanga Primary School,

Her mother, Clara, insisted that the girls attend Church regularly and demanded very high standards in all they did. They didn't have much of a social life but enjoyed special outings whenever there was a Church picnic.

Madge learnt to play the piano but said she wasn't very good at it.  One time she and a boy entered a talent quest with Madge on the piano and the boy singing.  They were so bad that they came second, even though they were the only ones entered in their category!  Later on Madge played the organ at Church.

Madge went to Greymouth Technical College and her favourite subject was history.  Click here to view her 1932 school report. 1932 report  She joined the local tennis club and the tramping club.  Sometimes she would go on a 20 mile tramping trip then come home and play the organ for Church.  She got very tired!

When she left school Madge got a clerical job at the Runanga Cooperative but the Second World War broke out and she was accepted as a volunteer and sent to work in a hospital in Cairo, Egypt.  In her spare time she was able to visit Palestine and Italy.


Madge met her future husband, Jack Callaghan, in Egypt.

They married at Runanga Presbyterian Church on the 12th May 1945, went to Christchurch for their honeymoon (along with Madge's parents!!).  The hotel they stayed in was so horrible they left and went to Madge's parents house for their wedding night!  Jack and Madge and settled in Takapuna, Auckland.

Madge was a great mother for her two sons, Ross, born in March 1947, and Brian, born in December 1948. She didn't have a separate job and so focused all of her energies on bringing up her boys.  Sometimes we were quite demanding eg.  when Ross wanted an after-school doughnut from Lanes, and Brian from Hales!! This meant every day Madge had to go to the two shops to buy us a doughnut!

Jack was away often on business and occasionally Madge was able to go with him.  They visited many countries in the world, sometimes as holidays, sometimes on business and sometimes as part of Rotary activities.  Madge always considered herself very fortunate to have traveled as much as she did.

Madge played tennis after she returned from the War and then took up golf, along with the rest of the family. She played to a 14 handicap at North Shore Golf Club.  Her name is on the Honours Board there for winning the Junior Championship.  Later in life she played croquet.

Madge was responsible for setting up our homes in Takapuna (14 Burns Ave); Northcote (54 and 96 Raleigh Road); our bach at Martins Bay, and later on their retirement home at 1a Rata Road, by Cheltenham Beach.  She always kept these homes tidy and welcoming.

Madge was a strong Christian woman and attended Church regularly throughout her life.  She was an elder at St Georges Presbyterian Church for a number of years. She was loyal, loving, positive, caring, honest and long-suffering.  A wonderful example to all!

In her 60s Madge was diagnosed with polycythemia, a blood disease in which her red blood cells multiplied more rapidly than they should and stayed immature.  The treatment for this was to 'let' blood from her every few weeks or months. This meant that Madge was often tired, had fuzzy heads and felt poorly.  Bad blood circulation meant that her toes got black and were extremely painful.  She was amazingly uncomplaining and
positive throughout her illness and lived life to the full.  The expected life span for someone with polycythemia is only about 10 years, but Madge had the disease for over 25 years, a testament to her stickability. 

Madge was a wonderful grandmother to her 7 grandchildren:  Debbie, Sarah, Philip, (Ross and Kathy's children)  Stephanie, Natalie, Andrew and Jamie (Brian and Margaret's children).  "Grandma' as we called was loved by all.  She got so much pleasure from taking them to the beach, looking after them, and seeing them develop.  The latter stages of her life were considerably brightened when Brian's daughter, Stephanie, had her first child, Taylor. Taylor was the light of his great-grand-mother's life!

Jack and Madge with Debbie, Sarah and Philip, 1982

  Madge with her two boys, Brian and Ross, 1998                                                "Grandma" 2001                 

After Jack died in 1991 Madge lived on her own in their small house at Cheltenham, and then moved to the Torbay Rest Home where she was very content for the last part of her life.

Madge died at the age of 87 on the 5th of May 2001.  We were so sad when she passed away.  Her favourite saying was "If you give some love, you'll get it back"  She certainly gave a lot of love during her long life!

Madge continued to be close to her sisters right throughout her life. 

Joan married Bob (Robert Edward) Williams on the 12th May 1945 and settled in Greymouth, and later, Timaru. Joan and Bob had a son, Lex, and a daughter, Pauline.

Norma married Mick (Boyd William) Bayly on the 4th May 1946 and settled in New Plymouth.


The three Tyson girls were very close right throughout their lives. They wrote to each other regularly, visited each other, and went on overseas trips together.  All were wonderful Christian women, an inspiration to their families, and were very much loved.


                                                              Aunty Norma's 90th birthday

We recorded extensive interviews with Madge and Norma in 1981 and 1985.  You can listen to these interviews by clicking on the links below, then clicking on 'Download' on the page that opens up. The interviews contain lots of interesting information about the 'Tyson girls' and also about Ross and Brian as we were growing up!


Madge Callaghan and Norma Bayly 1981

Madge Callaghan and Normal Bayly 1985

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