The Beatles in New Zealand

Page 5 – South Island

The South Island was the last leg of The Beatles' whistle-stop tour of New Zealand in 1964. The concerts in Dunedin on 26 June were some of the wildest of the New Zealand tour. Police were out in force. Fans used police helmets as footballs, kicking them up and down the aisles.

Beatlemania also gripped the normally staid city of Christchurch. Massive crowds lined the streets. A 13-year-old fan threw herself at the bonnet of the car, bouncing off unhurt. As the cavalcade crawled into town, The Beatles made rude comments about the sexual availability of waving fans.

Jock Phillips, then a sixth-former at Christ’s College, recalls being halfway through lunch with prefects and the headmaster at a raised table and the rest of the school down below.

Suddenly the whole place went silent, everyone looked up to the high table and it was obvious something was going to happen. The headmaster suddenly twigged and said to me, 'Go and say grace fast.' Minutes later everyone burst out of the school dining room onto the street where the Beatles were passing … people were listening to The Beatles’ progress from the airport by radio. It was the only time I ever saw the ritual in a formal Anglican school completely overturned; the headmaster was powerless to resist.

There was an ugly side to the Christchurch visit. Rotten eggs and tomatoes flew at the band when they appeared on their hotel balcony. A banner in the crowd carried the cryptic message: ‘We like Elvis, Cliff, Castro and Mao Tse Tung but not The Beatles.’

The final performance of the tour was one of the shortest: The Beatles were on stage for just 26 minutes. Maybe that was why fans threw marbles and jelly beans at the band.  One fan seated downstairs remembers looking up at the support beams on the gallery that were swaying dangerous­ly as fans upstairs stamped their feet.

Two thousand people watched The Beatles leave their hotel for the airport; another 2000 crowded behind wire fences out at the airport. The band stood on the steps of their plane, bound for Australia, and waved to sobbing fans, the scene eerily illuminated by mercury vapour lamps used to service aircraft at night. A teenage boy dashed onto the tarmac as the doors closed. Police pulled him back. It was all over.