South Island of New Zealand – Autumn 2014
New Zealand is such a beautiful country and the people there are warm and welcoming. Of course Australians and New Zealanders have many things in common with their historical British links and being part of the British Commonwealth but the scenery of the two islands of New Zealand – particularly the South Island – is breathtaking. It doesn’t matter what time of year you visit New Zealand you will find it’s scenic beauty equal to, if not superior, to almost anywhere on earth. Best of all you can drive around New Zealand’s South Island scenic grandeur easily within 2 to 3 weeks – all the time feeling safe and ‘at home’.
This trip was our fourth to New Zealand and our third to the South Island. However, we were on a bit of a mission this time – keeping a promise to an elderly lady of 93 that we had made some years ago to return and see her again. The lady is Mrs Barbara Peryman, the Great Grandmother of our Granddaughter who is living here in Australia. We had promised to return to pick up an antique silver tea set made in 1806 (the year before the death of Admiral Lord Nelson at the battle of Trafalgar) and deliver it back to our Granddaughter in Australia to be kept in the family as an heirloom for future generations.
I mention Mrs Peryman here because I want to tell you about this remarkable lady – the widow of a survivor of Stalag Luft III and the ‘Long March’ from Poland to Germany during the second World War. You will recall that Stalag Luft III was the prisoner of war camp that the famous movie the ‘Great Escape’ starring Steve McQueen (and many other stars) was based on. Basil Peryman, Barbara’s husband, was a New Zealand airforce pilot who was captured and imprisoned in Stalag Luft III by the Germans and survived the war to eventually return to New Zealand. Not everyone in the prison camp was selected to be part of the escape party and many of those that were selected did not actually get out that night but Basil was there and Basil suffered the harrowing ‘Long March’ out of Poland during one of the worst winters that Europe had experienced in more than 40 years – a tale of great courage and endurance.
Meeting with Barbara Peryman was just as memorable for us as the rest of the scenic trip (and in many ways more memorable), I couldn’t post our photographs of New Zealand without mentioning this dignified and wonderful lady. The scenery of New Zealand leaves an indelible impression on you that you will take with you forever and, for us, similarly the stories Basil and the living dignity of Mrs Peryman will stay with us forever also. We also met up with Mrs Peryman’s son Gerald in Invercargill and was enthralled with the story of his father Basil and his extraordinary connection with the famous ‘Great Escape’ prisoner of war camp and the Long March. I feel privileged to have met Mrs Peryman and doubt I will ever meet another person in my lifetime that will be of the calibre of this truly beautiful lady. Despite her age she is articulate and can hold a very intelligent and engaging conversation.
Yes, the tea set is now in the hands of our Granddaughter and the story will go on.
Today, 22nd June 2014, we were shocked to learn that Barbara Peryman had passed away after suffering a severe stroke at the age of 93.
I have spoken to Gerald, her son, and passed on our family’s condolences. Sometime before she died she had an opportunity to see my blog entry about her and her husband and I am glad she did.
There is a lot more to tell about Mrs Peryman – she was a very interesting person. For now though Colleen and I would like her family in New Zealand and Australia to know that she will be missed by many others as well as those of her close family.
If there is any possibility of Barbara once again being re-united with Basil, I’m sure it is already been arranged and nothing would make her happier – of that I am certain.
Love to you Barbara from all of us in Australia.