Bull Paddock adventure

By Clyde Williams

The whole area enclosing the radio station, the antenna farm and the meteorological enclosure at Raoul Island was ringed by fence. It was quite a large area and was shared with two draughthorses (both mares), four cows and one bull (Percy – a most irascible creature). It was called the Bull Paddock, largely through the need to recognise the potential in sharing space with such a creature.

Shortly after my arrival I walked over to the nearest patch of Pohutukawa trees to examine them. I noted that the foliage had been stripped to a height of about 6 feet from the ground and while musing on this I became aware of the sound of thundering hooves accompanied by much snorting. I looked around and found the four cows and the bull bearing down on me. I took off and the animals stopped. Later I learned that the cattle loved the taste of the foliage and would strip it to the level they could not reach. Occasionally one of the people would go over and pull down a few branches so the cattle could have a feast, and the beasts obviously thought I was going do this. I wished someone had told me before.

Percy the bull and Floss the mare, at Raoul Island c1950

Percy and Floss. Photo: Clyde Williams

The two draughthorses had been brought to the island shortly after reaching adult status and been on the island for some years preceding our arrival. There were no stallions. Percy the bull, on the other hand, did have a natural outlet for his “needs”, though with only four cows his opportunities to exercise his rights could sometimes be few and far apart. One unforgettable day he decided to do the decent as it were with one of the draught horses.

At first she was not unresponsive but due to height differences it soon became clear that fruition was unlikely. Percy however clearly wished to continue. Finally the mare reared up and let fly with both hooves catching Percy right where it would hurt the most. He sat on his haunches with his hind legs spread far apart and literally howled. I do not think he ever approached a mare again. I can report that later in the year he got a heifer in calf so any damage was not permanent.

We had pigs and sheep also on the island so we ate pretty well. There were lots of wild goats and we were encouraged and provided with the necessary equipment to shoot them whenever we wished. I myself used a fair few packets of ammunition during my time there.

Clyde Williams and two of the Niuean men out hunting for goats. Note the density of the local jungle; most shooting was at virtually point blank range

Clyde Williams and two of the Niuean men out hunting for goats. Note the density of the local jungle; most shooting was at virtually point blank range. Courtesy Clyde Williams

Clyde Williams was a radio operator at Raoul Island 1949-1950.