A better yarn was never had than that over the bar at the Cardrona Hotel in Central Otago. Proprietor Brian Gilbert could spin with the best of them, including  Kiwi icon and legend, Barry Crump. Crump was a regular at the Cardrona and Gilbert soon became a good mate – and he has Crump’s old hat to prove it.

Gilbert’s six years at the Cardrona gave him time and space to indulge his love of poetry. Pen to page was his thing.  He spouted of few of them to his mates from time to time but never much in the public arena.

“Nah,”  says Gilbert, I was never one for public speaking and the like. But I loved writing, both poems and yarns. That’s how come Crump gave me his hat. The deal was, I could have the hat provided I wrote my own book. That was 37 years ago but the book hasn’t been written yet!”

Garrick Tremain, another of the ‘Cardrona’ friends, has captured the rough exterior of this good Kiwi bloke in an engaging portrait that hangs proudly on the wall of his home in Ferntown. But beneath that surface, there is a depth of writing talent that showcases an understanding of the human condition and every-day emotion that, Gilbert admits, is not often shared outside of a tall glass.

But in spite of that, Gilbert’s delivery is calm, paced and quietly confident. His phrasing digs out all the shades and hues of the words and you find yourself ‘leaning in’ to capture every morsel of his poems.

This  former electrician, who has served his time in a number of adventurous ‘trades’ returned to the Bay 16 years ago. His Jade carving is exhibited in his Drift n Jade Gallery in Collingwood. And that long-promised book? Well, it may be a step closer after this, Gilbert’s first public performance of his poems.

Brian ‘The Sheriff” Gilbert
featured guest at this month’s
Acid on the Microphone