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Drinking with the All Blacks – and the Pope

Nov 12th, 2009 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News, Sport

IT’S hardly surprising to learn New Zealand’s best known rugby photographer, Peter Bush, has tales about drinking with All Blacks – but drinking with the Pope?

It happened on a flight while he was covering Pope John Paul II’s world tour in 1986, said Peter at the launch of his autobiography, A Life in Focus, in Wellington this week,

“After [I mixed] a giant jug of vodka and tomato juice, a huge bloody mary, a voice behind me said ‘that looks good’. I said it sure is, mate…standing behind me was his Holiness. He was such a good sport, he actually had a drink with us.”
Peter Bush signing a copy of his new book

Peter Bush signing a copy of his new book at the launch in Wellington.

The book launch at the Temperance Bar, organised by the charity organisation Carillon Club and hosted by veteran TV commentator and friend Keith Quinn, was attended by nearly 100 friends, family and media colleagues.

Among the guests were former Listener sports columnist and current Wellington editor Joseph Romanos, NZPA picture editor Ross Setford and former All Blacks Graham Mourie and Murray Mexted.

Keith recalled meeting Peter at Wellington City Library to plan the book and discuss how many chapters it would be.

“I think we stopped at about 37,” he said. “I went home, printed them off and sent them to Peter and said ‘good on you, mate, get on and start writing. It’ll be a big seller’.

“About three months later I saw Peter and said ‘hey mate, how’s it going with the writing?’. He said ‘listen, I’ve lost the chapter headings. Can you send them through again’?”

Later he admitted he left them on a bus on purpose: “I thought I’d try and reinvent what Keith told me.”

Mr Bush (81) shared a number of colourful tales during his career, which has seen him running the touchline with his camera in hand at most All Black games since 1949.

He recalled visiting a farm in Toulouse with the All Blacks during the 1977 tour of France.

“Before we left the farm, the farmer was quite intrigued with the All Blacks and he suggested we have a toast,” he said.

“He poured it into a glass. It was colourless and he put a cube of sugar and handed to each of the All Blacks.

“They threw it down. When you use the term firewater, I really expected to see it come out of their throats, because they really staggered around. Here I was laughing my head off.”

The farmer then offered him a drink: “I said ‘come on mate, top the glass up. We don’t want any girls around here’.

“He dropped in the two cubes of sugar and I stirred it with my finger. I tossed it down – and never spoke again for 48 hours, much to the delight of the All Blacks.”


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is a graduate from Whitireia Journalism School. He is as well rounded as a beachball, with his interests including rugby, sport, politics, business, tertiary education, social issues, sticking up for the little guy, investigative journalism, cooking, music, shooting the breeze, telling jokes and having a laugh. After a short stint as a general news hound at the Kapiti Observer, he now works for Rugby News in Auckland.
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