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Interview

ALISTAIR SOWMAN INTERVIEW

Relinquishing the chains of mayoralty After 12 years heading Marlborough local government, former mayor Alistair Sowman decided it was time his life headed in a different direction. Lynda Papesch reports.

T

he voting is done and dusted, a new mayor is in training in Marlborough, and the former mayor is enjoying a new lease on life. That’s nothing new for ex-Marlborough mayor Alistair Sowman; he’s re-invented himself numerous times already during almost three score years and 10. Having devoted himself to the people and region of Marlborough for more than a decade, Sowman decided not to stand for re-election last month and to instead devote more of his time to new ventures. A Marlburian to the core, he was born and bred in the region and can trace his ancestors back to the first settlers there in the 1860s. Those early settlers set up a funeral parlour and today – although not in the family any more – the business still bears the Sowman name. The eldest of three sons born to Geoffrey T Sowman and his wife Rita (nee Ashton), Sowman ‘did time’ in the family business, 22

Photo: Peter Burge

working with his parents. “I remember I was considered quite young to be a funeral director,” he laughs. His younger brothers Philip and Terry Sowman also worked in the family business at various times, and, like Alistair, they too still live in Marlborough with their families. Young he may have been, but his time in the funeral business taught him many things that stood him in good stead for his time on council; things like empathy and how to relate to people. “What I learned then had a huge influence in the latter years, especially helping me to understand people.” From tending the dearly departed, he moved to tending garlic, forming Wairau Products in 1970 to grow and export garlic. Self-taught, Sowman built his business up to be New Zealand’s major exporter of garlic, pioneering new markets throughout the Pacific and eventually putting his expertise into working for all of Marlborough’s garlic growers. In the early ‘80s, his life expanded to include a wife and later a family. Thelma was at that time a Marlburian living and working overseas. He met her while she was home on a family visit. “I persuaded her to stay and the rest is history.” The couple’s son Ben now lives on Australia’s Gold Coast – proud parent to their grandson– while daughter Jessie calls Wellington home. In addition to growing and selling garlic, Sowman diversified

Wild Tomato November 2016  

WildTomato is Nelson & Marlborough's magazine. We focus on inspiring journalism, stunning photography and beautiful design. www.wildtomato.c...

Wild Tomato November 2016  

WildTomato is Nelson & Marlborough's magazine. We focus on inspiring journalism, stunning photography and beautiful design. www.wildtomato.c...