Page 3: Later life
Farmhand, bush worker, deer culler, writer, character
This biography, written by Brigid Magner, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 2011, and updated in November, 2012.
While travelling in India in 1973, Crump stayed in Kashmir with a local family. He credited this time as being revelatory to the development of his spiritual life. The journey reinforced his anti-materialist views and led him to question the wastefulness of the New Zealand lifestyle.
Spirituality became increasingly important to Crump in his later years, particularly the Baha’i faith, which he officially joined in 1982. His 1992 autobiography, The life and times of a good keen man, charts a shift from being a keen hunter to being much more sensitive about the value of all life forms: ‘I do notice that the hand that once drove the harpoon into the neck of a saltwater crocodile, now reaches down to pluck aside a worm before I ram my posthole.’1
Crump appeared in Toyota advertisements for four-wheel-drive vehicles in the 1980s, along with his nervous sidekick ‘Scotty’ (Lloyd Scott). These advertisements introduced him to a new generation and Crump's song, ‘Side by side’, featuring Scotty, was used as the theme song for Team New Zealand in the America's Cup challenge in 1992.
Talkback radio and later books
In the 1980s Crump also began an Auckland-based talkback radio programme called Bush telegraph with his then wife, Robin. He also wrote a few works about places he had visited or lived in briefly: Shorty (1980), Puha Road (1982) and Bullock Creek (1989).
Crump played the role of the bushman convincingly, complete with a weathered face, bushman’s clobber and a supporting cast of animals. A seemingly endless succession of female companions further enhanced his image as a ‘lovable rogue.’ In this way, Crump physically embodied the legendary ‘man alone’ stereotype that he repeatedly invoked in his writing. This came to be a trademark style that he never varied, becoming increasingly ironic in his later life. Crump followed his 1992 autobiography with another, Forty yarns and a song (1994).
Crump was awarded an MBE in 1994 for services to literature, joking that it would be ‘hardcase’ pinned to his Swanndri bush shirt. This kind of bathetic humour was typical of Crump, who liked to juxtapose high and low culture for comic effect. Full of contradictions, Crump performed a kind of public persona that was mirrored by the characters in his books. Simultaneously mythologised as a media personality and considered an ‘ordinary’ bloke, Crump embodies a kind of ‘New Zealandness’ which is anachronistic, yet still appealing to a wide audience, precisely for this reason.
Barry Crump died on 3 July 1996 at the age of 61, surrounded by family at Tauranga hospital after suffering a heart attack. Tribute to Crumpy (1997) came out the year after his death with a selection of his poems and prose along with reflections by his friends and family.