John was born in Island Bay, Wellington, on the 7th April 1930. His family, who have a fishing heritage, moved to the Chatham Islands when he was five years old. He remembers walking along the beach and bush track each day to the tiny school which had a dozen students at most.
At the outbreak of war, fishing at the Chathams was curtailed due to government concern about the potential for attacks by German raider ships, so John and his family moved to Castle Point, Wairarapa. Due to adverse weather there, they were only getting around 3-4 days fishing a month, so his father decided to move to the Port in December 1941. John attended the Port School, then Napier intermediate. During the war years, he helped make shutters for the air raid shelters/tunnels at the Port.
When he had spare time, John would kick-around with his friends at the Port, especially enjoying going sailing. He has fond memories of playing on the beach, and joining the ‘Boys Club’ at the Presbyterian Church; and remembers the retired, elderly men that used to pass the time of day sitting at the Iron Pot.