Remembering Nick Jennings and Fraser Walls

In early December 2019, WTMC life member Nick Jennings and former WTMC member Fraser Walls passed away.

Nick died on 5 December 2019 in Palmerston North from colon cancer, aged 89. Fraser died on 6 December 2019 from a heart attack, aged 78.


20 FEBRUARY 1941 – 6 DECEMBER 2019

Fraser Walls at Rakaia River in 1963
Fraser Walls at Rakaia River in 1963

One of Fraser’s four daughters, Anna, said this about her father, who was WTMC’s Chief Guide in 1966 : 

Today my father hung up his tools forever. He was a remarkable man with academic and artistic talents that he used in creative ways. He taught me to have the confidence to design and create what I wanted. He was always busy innovating and it is fitting that he was busy being active at the time he passed out, dying peacefully soon afterwards. He was also deeply principled, and valued people not for their background but for themselves.  I feel very lucky to be his daughter. He was a maths/physics/science/photography teacher for many years and I know he stretched many more minds than just my own. A celebration of his life will be planned probably later January.

Fraser Walls (front with glasses) at Manuka Station, Rakaia River
Fraser Walls (front with glasses) at Manuka Station, Rakaia River


 25 MARCH 1930 – 5 DECEMBER 2019

Nick Jennings, Whanganui Kayak trip, 1960s
Nick Jennings on a Whanganui kayak trip in the 1960s

A few memories of Nick, written by WTMC member Norm Whiteside:

Nick Jennings has served as an officer of WTMC in many capacities. His wide experience with outside organisations has been of benefit to the club in many ways, encouraging greater safety, good judgement, and – above all – the learning skills to make the most of the bush and mountains.

His contribution to the club’s strength was to set members on the track to becoming competent trampers through his enthusiastic organisation of Bush Craft and teaching instructor courses. Nick’s leadership of Christmas trips for the younger newer members has enabled them to participate in the highlights of tramping activities.

Nick is the only member to have been President five times, and his contribution to the club was recognised in  1982 with his appointment as a Life Member.

Nick Jennings in 1962 at Mt Tapae-O-Ueneku
Nick Jennings in 1962 at Mt Tapae-O-Ueneku

Bruce Jefferies discusses Nick’s life:

Sure, I’d be happy to say something was my reply to Norm and Jacqui Whiteside, when asked if I would scribe a few words about Nick Jennings’ passing – that was the easy part. The challenge is to think of something meaningful to say!

It’s an even bigger challenge – at least we found it so – when you’re saying a final farewell to a fellow mountaineer/tramper, colleague, and, more importantly, a person who probably helped shape Marg’s and my life.

Various Facebook, text messages and emails all commented on Nick’s attributes – a few included:

  • Nick was a very kind man especially to us younger members of the tramping club
  • He always impressed with his integrity, honesty and capability – a man you couldn’t help but respect
  • He was a gentleman, respected public servant, valued by all
  • Nick has been a great and positive influencer on many of us who later worked in the National Park and Protected Area activities
  • As a teenager growing up running around the Tararuas, I found Nick to be a legend and mentor

Our recollections of Nick go back into the early 1960s – his forays into the dark depths of the local hills, and longer trips to the South Island. BJ reminisced that as a teenager I don’t remember passing him on the Baker track during the trampers’ marathon – but I might have!

I’m sure, helped by Nick’s influence, BJ joined the National Park system in 1966 and was based in Tongariro NP at Whakapapa. That was probably about the time that we lost regular contact with Nick apart from a few dinners at the club hut.

Later when I was involved as an advisor during the setting up phase for Sagarmatha National Park, I remember seeking Nick’s advice about the possibility of taking on Mike Edginton as part of his Lincoln University studies. Mike needed to undertake one year of practical work and he was keen to do this in Nepal. It was Nick’s endorsement that convinced me that this idea would work – and it did extremely well!

I could ramble on about various trips we did with Nick – such as the 16 hour Sunday trip down the Waiohine Gorge with Norm, Easter trips to the Kaikoura Mountains, Alpine instruction courses – the list could go on and on.

A short whakataukī  (sayings),

‘Kua hinga te tōtara i Te Waonui-a-Tāne.’

The tōtara tree has fallen in Tāne’s great forest.

 A saying that carries the message that someone of great mana has died.

Nga mihi nui

More info on Nick’s outdoor involvement:

Nick’s service to WTMC and NZ mountain clubs:  (taken from our club’s journal)

Appointed Life member; 1982

Joined WTMC, 1950

Chief Guide, 1960, 1961

General Committee, 1964 – 1969

Vice President, 1965, 1968, 1975

President, 1966, 1967, 1972, 1973, 1974

Extra activities connected with tramping and mountaineering:

Search and Rescue Convenor 1974-1977, Committee 1977-1987

NZ Mountain Safety Council Chairman

Ski Patrol Ambulance Driver, 10 years

Wellington Associated Mountain Clubs. Secretary-Treasurer-President

Federated Mountain Clubs of New Zealand, Executive Committee 1964-65 and 1977, Vice President 1966 – 68 and 1976, and President 1974 -75

Member of:

NZ Forest Park Policy Committee, 1964 -67

Firearms Safety Committee, 1965

Conservation and Environment Committee, 1973

Mountain Guides Committee, 1974

Mountaineering Promotion Committee, 1975

Administration and Finance Committee, 1974 – 1975

Tongariro – Taupo National Parks and Reserves Board

Honorary Ranger of Tongariro National Park

Honorary Ranger in NZ Forest Service

3 thoughts on “Remembering Nick Jennings and Fraser Walls”

  1. I did a few trips with Nick and he made these trips more enjoyable just by being on them.
    I recall a trip to the Garden of Eden in May 1972 when Nick, a good 15 years older than the rest of the group most V.U.W.T.C. members, did a fine job of organising the rest of us when one member was late back from exploring the Great Unknown. He ensured that the mountain radio co-ordinator in Christchurch stayed on air after all the other parties had called in. He also realised that we would need to melt more snow for whatever might be required. (We had already spread Condy’s crystals on the route to Perth Col. Fortunately all worked out OK.

  2. Nick was a great friend of mine in the club, We did many trips togeather. I will allways remember him.

  3. Yes I remember and benefited from Nick Jennings involvement with the club when I was a teenager. He raced after Ken McNatty and myself from Vossler hut when we were doing a Neil Whichcomb to make sure we made it. Later he arranged a nose operation so I could pass the aircrew medical for the RNZAF.
    A real outdoor stalwart.


Leave a comment