Charles Michael (Michael) Gordon Interview
It’s 16th April 2015. I’m interviewing Michael Gordon for the Hawke’s Bay Knowledge Bank. We’re looking for a living record of the people and events of the region for a digital archive for future generations, and I’m talking to Michael about the family’s settlement in Hawke’s Bay since the early 1800s. Good afternoon, Michael.
Good afternoon, Jim, and I would like to give the opportunity of thanking the data bank for this opportunity, and to thank Jim for coming out … visit today and finding out all about our family connections with the Hawke’s Bay.
I will start off by mentioning James Gillespie Gordon, the founder of the Kidnapper block. He came out from England, but first of all he was born in 1794 in Dumfries, Scotland, and was married at [to] one of the Don family, Janet Don, who came from a very wealthy family. They had spice and silk in India, and James Gillespie used to merchant those items until the mutiny. He had two sons – one was Thomas which [who] was my great-grandfather, and he was born in 1828 … I think he must have been born up in Dumfries, because there’s no mention of whereabouts that was. The other son was William Cockroft Gordon. They were both in the British Army over in India. At one time they were both bought out of the Army, and James Gillespie brought William out to New Zealand to look at more land as the bank in India had collapsed, and he’d lost an awful lot of money there. He sailed out in his own boat and came to the Kidnappers, where he thought it looked promising, so he enquired. This was back in 1859. He bought the land and then went back to England again – or India I think it probably was – because in 1862 he came out with teak as ballast for his new house, to be built at Clifton.
At a later date, Thomas had married and came out from Devon. I don’t know whether he was schooled in Devon or not but he did spend a lot of time at the North Devon Golf Club as I have numerous cups won by him from that Club. The North Devon Club was called …
Was that a farming club or ..?
No, no – it was a golf club – it was Westward Ho, and I have numerous cups and trophies from his golfing days there. When he came out from England … I will go on and mention that he married into the Campbell family. There was quite a family of them – his father-in-law’s name was Michael Scott Campbell. That was where my father got his three names – Michael Scott Campbell Gordon. On the wedding of my grandfather and the second daughter of Michael Campbell, who was Elizabeth, they gave the family bible to them as a wedding present, or to keep it for reference.
Michael Scott Campbell married Ellen Lucy Templar on 21st November 1869, and my grandmother was born Elizabeth Helen Campbell on 15th December 1873 in Christchurch. My grandfather must have been down there – I think he might have been at Lincoln learning to be a farmer, but in 1896 they were married.
The house that Taurapa stands today was brought down with logs from Auckland. The kauri was put over the side of the ship at Ocean Beach and was floated in on the tide and brought up to the Station by Bill Lamb, the bullocky. It was a one-storey home, and the Gordons had three children, and one was my father, one was Patrick Gordon and one was Ian Gordon. Patrick – he was still at school and he was going through a fence with a loaded rifle and accidentally shot himself.
At that stage my father, Michael Scott Campbell Gordon, was ready to go to war. He’d just left Wanganui Collegiate – they all went, and Ian as well, and went to school in Devon. My father saw the war out – he became a Flying Officer and fought over in Ypres in Belgium. There are numerous pictures given to the data bank of different aeroplanes, and a logbook etcetera.
At the end of the war they came back and my father went to Lincoln for a small term to learn a bit of farming. He then did a lot of climbing up Mount Cook. He met my mother, Daisy Pratt. She had been at Rangi Ruru for her schooling, and they were married in 1922.
Going back, the Pratt family had four children. Pa Pratt … I can recall my mother telling me as a child … he was born on the first four ships that came into Lyttelton Harbour. His names were Alfred Lyttelton Pratt. When he married – I don’t know what his wife was named – but they moved to the Wanganui district, up the Waitotara. They farmed there for a small time, and I would imagine the Maoris worried them to the extent that they moved down to Southland.
Ken was the only boy in the family, and he eventually bought a farm. There was two other sisters – one did not marry … her name was Cicely … and the other one was Sybil, and Sybil married one of the Lawrence family, and they were stockbrokers in Christchurch.
Cicely went on to … she was more a person who enjoyed looking after people and doing great things. She enjoyed her Toc H. At one stage during the second World War she looked after a small boy whose mother had lost her husband. And she was a nurse and wanted this boy, Peter, to be looked after for about a month, just so that she could get her feet. Well in the end, she looked after Peter for seven years. I met Peter when I was down there as a young child, and it happened to be Peter Sinclair, who was a radio disc jockey and what-have-you.
My parents became engaged, and married. At that time of the marriage, my grandfather had moved up to Holly Road in Papanui. From there – I don’t know quite when they moved to Winchester Street in Merivale, and that is where I used to go down and see the grandparents.
Now I’ve got a lot of ground that I have not mentioned, but before I was born my parents moved up … after they were married at Merivale … they came up and took over the Haupouri block.
D’you know how they got up to Hawke’s Bay – how did they travel?
They would’ve come up by boat, yes, steamer. Yes, I don’t know whether they – they probably came up to Wellington, and then a train.
Oh, possibly to Napier.
Yes. Haupouri was being managed during the war by Perry Wilder. And Perry then moved on when they came … at that time when my parents started to have their family. And Angela was the first-born – she was born in 1924, then there was a boy, Patrick, born in 1925, and Jean was born in 1928. Jean and Patrick used to go to Taurapa quite a lot to visit the grandparents, and that was the time when Patrick was four and a half – he had been looking after Jean – Jean was only crawling at that stage. And the mailman came and – he had been warned by the previous – I will go back. The mailman who usually did the mail had the day off, so he got another chap to go and do his run. He warned the mailman “be careful of the children at Taurapa”. Patrick ran out from behind the coal shed to look for Jean on the back driveway where the mail car usually dropped the mail, and I’m afraid he was hit by the vehicle and was killed. At that stage they were still at Haupouri and Jan was born 1930.
1933 – that’s when … well prior to that I think Taurapa and Haupouri were developed to one of more or less equal sizes, and the grandparents moved to Havelock North, to Duart Road, up near the Greenwoods’ at Duart. They built a home up there and settled in.
Prior to all this there was a two-storeyed … added on to the homestead – I would imagine because my grandparents thought a two-bedroomed house wasn’t big enough for all the Gordons at Haupouri, so they built this two-storeyed building on the end of the old Taurapa, and I was born in a lower bedroom. That lower bedroom eventually was found to be very damp. A spring from across the road – on the Maori land across the Ocean Beach Road – was running right through underneath that part of the building, so my parents moved up a level and used a room that we had as a nursery, and we moved down to their bedroom and had that as a nursery.
Dad was very fond of photography – he took lots of photography, and under the stairs there seemed to be a space, so he built himself a darkroom, and he used to develop a lot of films and that sort of thing under there.
And did he show them? Just on a slide …
Oh yes, yes – they were slides more than everything … they were pictures, yes – not movies. He did have a cine camera, and he took many, many pictures of us as children.
I was upstairs with my two sisters. Angela was a lot older, she was away at school.
Where did she go to ..?
She went to Woodford … I don’t really know where she went as a primary school … The girls went down to Christchurch to Rangi Ruru for their primary school – this was during the war. Then they came back and went to Woodford.
I can remember being in a cot up in this bedroom – we did have a fire escape coming out of the room. The top bathroom had a lead floor to it so that any spilt water would never go through [chuckle] and there was a linen press with a hot water radiator up there.
Now when I was very young – I was four – I used to go to the Woodford running sports, and at that time we did have a cook and housemaid, and she had a boy and he was round about my age. His name was Sholto – Sholto Cook … Mrs Cook and Sholto Cook. They had a car that had a door that swung back, and this fatal day I pulled on the handle which was a chain, to pull myself up to look at something – this was on the straight by the Te Mata Vineyard, and I’m afraid the door pulled me out and I was on the road. I ended up in hospital for a few days.
Who was your doctor?
Doctor Sandy White. Doctor Sandy White – he brought me into the world. He brought everybody into the world in those days.
He did … he did.
He was the doctor. Doctor Wilson was … but that came a bit later … he was a surgeon – I came to grief again. Now that was at the Woodford sports and I used to be pretty good there, at running. I used to win a few of those races.
Did you go to Woodford?
No, I started school – Correspondence School, and my mother taught me Correspondence School when I was five. And I would have to listen to the radio on Monday mornings, and listen to the broadcast on 2YA, the broadcaster for Correspondence School, and do all the actions and do … and oh dear, what a performance. Then we would have to do the school work. And the school work would come … every Friday you would send your school work in, and there’d be another load to start off on the Monday. So it just went on – on and on like that. Now that was the school work. I wanted to try and work the different years. That was 1930s.
Now in the thirties my grandparents used to come out, particularly … well, my grandparent – my grandfather had died in 1934 just after I was born so I missed seeing him. That was Charlie Leith Travers Gordon. But my grandmother had her maiden sister Rose – Rose Campbell – and she stayed with my grandmother for many years. But they would come out periodically and have lunch, and the girls would go down to the river and swim.
Another one of our visits would be to Mokopeka, to the Chambers. I did meet old Johnny Chambers when I was very young. And I would go down to the old lighthouse – the power house – and sometimes he would open – well, it wouldn’t be him, it would be Irene Chambers – would open the door and we could go in and have a look at all the workings of the power house.
Which is still operating today.
It is. It’s operating. And there used to be a bathing shed there with all these peculiar old bathing togs – most of them were pretty close to rags by the time we were looking at … [Chuckle] But the thing was that old Mrs Chambers used to make the clothes for the girls, and they were always terrible old-fashioned looking clothes, my mother used to tell me.
And Irene used to have pet lambs, and they’d get up to pretty big sheep – she would just keep them on. And Irene was a wonderful woman really. She rode a horse all round Mokopeka, and she would drive over to Taurapa in her great big Austin 14 or whatever – I know it was a huge car, and she would drive at about five mile an hour all the way. Most infuriating to other motorists. But we enjoyed those days.
Another thing we had in those very early days – Dad started – well, the war started. So I was five … six and we would start collecting ergot from the …
Ergot – what is it?
It’s the bad seed from the fescue grass. And we would go along the creeks and we would pick cigarette tins full of this ergot, and it was used for medicine for the war effort.
Another thing we used to do was make mats out of camouflage nets, and nets out of binder climb. And Dad would make these spools so we could make these nets, and we had them strung up on the verandah. And that was another thing we would do.
There was always Red Cross, and that was always set up in our dining room on the dining room table, and the Fields from Waimarama, the MacNeils from Waimarama, the Tongs, the Smalls – I don’t think … can’t remember the Parkers and the Palmers coming down, but they could’ve. But I know there was a hive of industry, and they would make this and make that, and there’d be tins made, and cakes put in the tins, and then the linen put over the top and all sealed. Dad would get in and solder.
Then he had a spinning wheel. He thought he would build this spinning wheel, so he built a spinning wheel and put a little electric motor on it, and he spun wool. And that prompted me. In later years I started spinning and I spun for our children, and spun for … made jerseys and that sort of thing.
You were talking before about the cakes and everything, and sealing them – did they go overseas?
They went overseas.
To the troops?
In the early forties I started school in Havelock – 1940 … ’41 did I start? At Mrs Doyley’s. Now Mrs Doyley had a twin sister – I’ll speak about her now. Mrs Doyley’s twin sister was Miss Atkinson. Now Miss Atkinson was my governess, and she would either come to Taurapa and look after me as a very young child, or I would be taken … she would pick me up and take me through to Feilding to her parents there – they lived in West Street in Feilding. Now her father was a farmer over in Taranaki, and I think he got caught up with the Maori Wars. He had a most beautiful mere, and I thought ‘I’d love that mere’. It was a whalebone one, but it must have gone to one of the Doyley girls.
Oh, yes okay – it wasn’t a female Mary?
No, it was a most beautiful … beautiful mere.
Anyway, from Feilding, sometimes we would go up to Rotorua, and I would stay at Brett’s Hotel with … I called her ‘Batkin’, ‘cause I could never say ‘Atkinson’. And we would go all around the different sights – the waka, and Hell’s Gate, and up to the buried village. We’d do all the sights and we’d spend about a week to ten days or so and stay at Brett’s Hotel. And that … that was fun. And at that sort of time, I started to learn to drive. She would get me on a flat piece of road and I would lean over and steer the car. It was a little Austin 8, I think it was – it was a bigger version than the baby Austin, and that sort of gave me more confidence in driving.
When I came home I was about seven, my job was to back the old Chev out of the car shed, pull it up to the bowser, and then fill it up with petrol, drive it round to the front door. And that was my job, and then after we’d come back from town I would take it back and put it in the garage again. And of course by the time I got to fifteen I got my licence within about ten minutes or more. I didn’t have very many early driving lessons at all virtually, from the driving instructor who was at that time a chap by the name of …
Wasn’t Herbie Green?
No – oh no – before him. It was … oh, I can’t remember his name for the moment anyway. But, yes – so those were those early days. Mrs Doyley’s … I was there until 1943.
The van Asches had moved from Craggy Range … Mrs van Asch had moved from Craggy Range to next door, in a big two-storeyed house, with Mary. And Mary used to come across and help teach quite a crowd of us. I slept in a tent which was through the Doyleys’ bedroom – Mrs Doyley and her two girls, Robyn and Judith were there, and I used to climb through the window with two other boys, Ian and Peter Longstaff. There were three of us in the tent and we were there all the time we were at school.
To get to school they had a turn of driving from Ocean Beach. We had a car pool – the McNeils … the Alec McNeils from the top of the road past Waimarama, up the … can’t think of the name of the road, but it was pretty close … next door to the McIntoshes … I don’t know what the road was called. There was [were] two lots of Fields – there was Maurice Field’s two girls, Joan and Nancy, and there was Frances Field who was Frank Field’s daughter; and Gonda who was my cousin from Haupouri. We were all bundled into one car to go in on the Monday morning and come back on the Friday, and then there’d be another changeover for the next week. And that helped through the war.
Then of course came the worst part of my life. Hereworth. Couldn’t stand it. Although old Buck Buchanan and Dad were quite friendly – they used to go down to the beach and pick up Maori curios. Dad had a very good collection of Maori curios and so he helped Buck. And Buck got a number of Maori curios he had down his passage, which we weren’t allowed to venture. But Buck was one of those who I’m afraid was a bully. [Chuckle] He was a real bully. He had a son who would pimp on everybody, and of course Buck would follow it up.
His son was Duncan.
And that was Duncan. Anyway, I seemed to get over that. I didn’t really enjoy it. I learnt dancing there with Miss Ballantyne. On numerous occasions I wasn’t able to get to dancing because I was on detention, [chuckle] but I did get to dancing from time to time. And we started up an old golf … there was a paddock behind, so we decided to make it into a bit of a golf links, so some of us were able to play golf there. Then Bay Delatour and the Longstaff boys decided to dam up the creek. And they made a very good job of the dam and it stayed there for many, many years.
NL [Norman Lascelles] Elder was one of the teachers. He was excellent. He would come and sing at night round the dormitories. He was really very … he was a delightful man, I enjoyed him. And there was another chap, Jim Donald. Jim Donald used to go to Christ’s College, and he came up from there and he taught for a number of years. Remember Jim?
No, I don’t.
I’m looking for a photograph of Jim Donald and his 1911 Daimler outside the new block that was built, and it had the school press, and it used to put out a few bits of paper, and times and different things. He just died – last year he died … not very old.
We had a bloke Collins there …
Oh, John Collins – now he lived down next door to Hank Grant. Yes, and the next house on the corner which was Pat Robertson … old Uncle Pat Robertson – he’s mentioned in the family book ‘Shadow of the Cape’. But the Turner-Williams’ bought his house – old Mrs Turner-Williams and Marjorie.
So how long were you at Hereworth?
Four years … four years and …
Four years of hell.
Four years of hell – I did get into the running team, and we went down to Wanganui, and ran against Huntly and St George’s. I went down with Buck – at that time we had chicken pox at Hereworth so we were put in the San. And there was Peter Rathbone, Ken Thelwell, myself and a chap by the name of Simcox – were the four of us. And I’m afraid we didn’t do at all well. I think it was probably because, you know – we’d had this epidemic at Hereworth of chicken pox.
The next thing was the Sandy Lane, and I was fortunate enough to come second in that to Ken Thelwell, and then there was David Hunter and Gilbertson from Pipi Bank. I do have a photograph of that.
Following Hereworth – where did you go then?
I went down to Christ’s College. Now I was booked into Wanganui Collegiate because Dad had been there. He’d won the Selwyn Cup there in his time. What that was for … probably for running, ’cause we were all fairly quick – even our grandchildren are pretty quick at running and sport. And he had booked me in, and that particular weekend was … I’d never been so frozen, and cold, and miserable as anything down in Wanganui, and I said “I don’t want to go to Wanganui Collegiate. Can I go to … somewhere else?” Anyway, we wrote to Christ’s College and there was a vacancy, and I got into Christ’s College. It wasn’t too bad. The first term I was there I was never hit. I wasn’t whipped. I thought I’d made it. [Quiet chuckle] I couldn’t believe … I couldn’t believe it. Anyway I continued, and of course they caught up with me. [Chuckle] They always catch up with you.
Michael, the whipping and the caning and the things that we had to go through, like the Seniors’ study and what-have-you as well, who could thrash you around.
We’ll start off in 1940 at Taurapa. A girl came from England called Hazel Warry. She was a land girl. She came out to different properties and she was put on to us because there were young girls in our family and she thought ‘oh, it’d be nice to meet some other…’ of her own sort, because she had been on different farms with older people and no children at all. With her she brought her piano accordion and she would play, particularly at Christmas time, different carols.
Christmas time … at that time we used to decorate the heads in the hall. They were all shot from South Africa – well, Africa and India – by E R Gordon – he was a great man for these safaris. Clifton of course had a great collection of heads as well. But we would decorate our heads up, particularly at Christmas time, with hats and Christmas wrappings and put red paper in the skulls’ eyes. Some of them, the wildebeest particularly, had – we did have one wildebeest that had a skin on it ,but there were two other wildebeests which were skulls. There was a badger that Dad got while he was in England, and that would always had a hat on it and a pipe coming out of its mouth. I can remember there was … numerous other ones. And in between each head would be a big bamboo pole all with leaves on it. I know it made a terrible mess when we cleaned it up at the end. And on some of the pictures we would put holly, and we would go down to the vegetable garden and pick redcurrants and put those in the holly so that it made it look more like a holly from England. And also the Salvation Army used to come out and give quite a number of tunes underneath a big oak tree on the corner of the drive. They would always come in every year for quite a number of years.
In 1943 the Americans started to come to New Zealand to recuperate from the Islands, and we had two that came. One was called Wally and one was called John and they were really very pleasant people to have in the house. They were there for a fortnight, and I know we used to go down to our swimming pool where there was a big bank, and they would have shooting practice with their pistols into the bank. And I can remember them … because I was only a small child they would always hold my hand so that it wouldn’t buck back. And when they left they gave us small presents. I know the girls got a badge each, and I can’t remember what I actually got but my father got a holster for his pistol which he had already … he’d bought a pistol for himself from the First World War. His one that he was issued with – he didn’t like it at all and he put that away. But he had this pistol and used the holster for it. He was allowed to keep these pistols until he died. The Police allowed him to have them.
Now I will go back to Mrs Doyley. In the war years then, they built two trenches down in the paddock. It’s now all covered in houses, but it used to go from what was Fitzroy Road down to Joll Road. There was quite a big paddock and in there they dug two trenches for us children. I think that was about all that I can recall.
Now I could go back to the twenties … it would be the early thirties … when my father was at Taurapa. There was a group of Woolworths’ employees decided to come out to Ocean Beach for a picnic. They were very lightly clad from what I gather, and they thought they would come out and have this picnic on the beach. Well – at that moment when they arrived at the beach the tide was out, so they thought this was good. They put their cars on the beach. Well they forgot about the tide coming in and they were swimming around in the sea. And anyway, the tide came in and swamped the cars and they couldn’t get out. Well they arrived at Haupouri in a great state, to see if anybody could pull them out – well, they were well stuck. Anyway they got word back to Hastings and they all went back to their homes in Hastings and left the cars where they were. Well Dad and my uncle thought this was pretty good, so they wrecked the cars that they couldn’t get out … well I think there were two cars that were stuck … and they took the wheels off them and they took a chassis off and they built a sand yacht. Now the sails were made by Piper & Son which is still going in Napier. And they had this sail which was gaff rigged. I have a photograph of it which will be given to the data bank. It seated two people, one behind the other, and the mast I think was made of oregon. But they used to run it up and down the beach at low tide, until one day when they were turning around to come back, a gust of wind tipped them over and it broke the mast, so that was the end of the yacht. The yacht was pulled up – I can only remember the chassis well embedded in the sand dunes.
We used to go down to Haupouri quite a lot as children and surf … well, play in the sea and the older ones used to have these great big wooden surfboards and they would come in on waves with them lying on the front. They were very heavy surfboards. While we were picnicking down there Dad would always go off into the sand dunes looking for Maori curios. He used to find all sorts of bits and pieces – Maori needles, the axes, chisels, egg shells. He actually picked up at one stage a whole moa skeleton which was put together and put in the Napier Museum.
The Maori curios … I used to enjoy looking at them … he always had them in drawers behind his radio in what we called the smoking room. There were about four drawers of different things.
After that there were lots of tennis parties. We used to have lots of tennis parties. The Palmer’s from the top of the Maraetotara, and the Parker’s used to come down … the Poultens, and of course there were the odd … one would come in from Havelock North – friends of … I can’t think who they were now, but I have seen on movie pictures that Dad took at the time, numerous other people. We would go up to them in reciprocation, with tennis – it was a big thing in those days. Dad had this tennis court they made with a pick and shovel and horse and – it was really a scoop – to level it off. He used to get Mercury Bay weed and plant that along the back lines and anywhere that was going to be worn – he tried to stop any wear and tear of the court. Actually the court was in very good condition right up to when the Station changed hands in 1967.
Another great thing we used to do was go fishing. Dad was a great fisherman. He made his own flies and taught me how to make the odd fly. And he would take me down to the river as quite a young boy, and sit very, very quietly while he caught the odd trout. We would go down about seven o’clock in the morning or before the wind started to get up. We didn’t have to walk very far, just a few hundred yards from the house down the river and back again. He knew exactly where to go.
When I got a wee bit older and I could swim he taught me how to catch crayfish – the fresh water crayfish – and that was with a fescue grass. He would show me how to tie the noose at the end and we’d go down, and we would try and hook these crayfish out. And you’d have to put the noose over the tail of the crayfish, otherwise if you put it over the flipper they would let that go and the crayfish was gone, back into the water. I used to spend hours catching crayfish down at the river. Then I used to catch quite a lot of trout too. Learnt how to catch them.
Eeling … not a great sport.
Was that at Kinloch?
No, Maraetotara. On the Maraetotara.
Eeling – that was great fun. There was quite a deep pool below … we had a swing bridge which held the water pipe coming from the neighbouring property – probably a mile or so up in a gully on the Smalls property. We had a spring there that never went dry, and it would flow down into a tank on a knob which broke the fall – the pressure – because by the time it got to the house it was 60lb pressure anyway. Well, the pressure was very good because it went on from there to Haupouri, feeding troughs and station houses on the way. But below that was this quite deep pool, and we would go down and we would catch quite a lot of eels. We’d go down at night … and our bamboo rods with a bit of string on the end and a hook, and that was it. And we would haul these eels out and just leave them on the bank to die, and the cats or rats would eat them by the time the next morning came.
Can I just butt in there? Can I ask you … Eric Gordon. Where does he fit in?
He’s been in this book.
But that’s a Clifton book. It’s a Clifton book, and towards the end there’s a section of Charles Leith Travers [Gordon] with Taurapa in it, and that’s us.
Now in the early days of course, the fat stock pickers would come when we lambed, and the fat stock picker was … I’ve lost his name at the minute.
I’ll go back to the war years. Dad belonged to the Craggy Range Rifle Club. Now that was up at the old van Asch home at Craggy Range, which changed hands, and it was called Belmount. But out in the paddock they had quite a team of men. There were the Field’s, the Van Asch’s, Jock McIntosh, Dad – oh, there was quite a number of them but I will get that photograph out. And that was quite something.
And then during that particular time there was the Home Guard at Waimarama. Now Dad had a horse called Starlight and the girls used to ride this horse when they came home from exeat. And then – they hated the horse – it wouldn’t do exactly what they wanted it to do. But Dad would take it down to Waimarama – ride it down to Waimarama – for the Home Guard. Now the Home Guard consisted of quite a number of people – there was the Field’s and the McIntosh’s, and an awful lot of Maoris belonged to it, and Percy Parker. He was the Commanding Officer. He was the one that was out in front with his charger. And at times he would be galloping along in front, and of course most of the Maori horses were racehorses, because there was the Gillies, and the … I can’t think of some of those others that were down there. But they would be all hanging on behind, and then old Percy P would be out in front and galloping along, and then suddenly he would say “Halt!” And there’d be a flurry of racehorses, uncontrollable, hurling past and probably three or four hundred yards to pull them up. And poor old Percy would get rather annoyed about that.
But Waimarama Hall and that sort of place … was a wonderful community in those days. We used to go down and have dances there, and there were films shown and all that – it was amazing, it was a great community.
That horse of Dad’s – the girls wouldn’t ride it when they came home so what he decided to do was just to cut the tail a bit shorter and the mane and he called it Gerry. Well, he said to them … the girls when they came home from their exeat “I’ve got a new horse. His name is Gerry”. Well, they couldn’t stop riding the thing. They thought it was the most wonderful horse. [Chuckle] So it doesn’t matter what you do, you can always change a horse a little bit, and make it look a little bit different and call it a different name. And anyway, he used to play tricks on them that way.
Another thing he did one day was we had this swing bridge with the pipe running over it, and a cousin from Christchurch arrived up – Tim Lawrence – he used to go to Christ’s College – and Julian Walden. They must have just left school. Well, they got on this bridge and being a swing bridge it moved a lot, and they thought they’d do a bit of an act. And this particular day they lost all their money and there it was in the river. “How on earth are we going to get our money back?” It was nearly up to their waist deep, so they weren’t going to get wet. “How can we get it?”. So Dad said “All right. You’ll have to get a long bamboo pole.” So they decided “righto”. We had this very long bamboo in the garden so they went and cut a bamboo pole and then they tried to fashion a tin on the end with a scoop and everything, and while they were doing that Dad had already cut a big bamboo pole and had gone down there and had got all the money up. There were two and sixpences and shillings – all this shiny stuff. And the way he did that was he cut the bamboo to a knot and then put fat on the inside of the knot, and all he had to do was poke it down and prod, and up came the bamboo. So easy. Very, very easy. And they came down “where’s our money? It’s all gone”, and they were quite upset. Anyway they were eventually given their money back, but there are ways and means of doing very small things.
Dad used to do an awful lot of woodwork in his workshop. He was a great man for making things. He used to make tables on his lathe. He’d just cut things out – he had a treadle jig saw and he would make jigsaw puzzles with that. I used to use that too, and cut out jigsaw puzzles as well. He made all his decoys for duck shooting. He would cut them out on this jig saw – it was a treadle jig saw. It is now housed down at the big woolshed at Clifton. I gave it to Ian Richardson for safe keeping.
Another thing I forgot to tell you – the Second World War – Dad never flew again, but he was made the Commanding Officer for No 11 Squadron ATC in Hastings. He was the first Commanding Officer for that. He worked extremely hard. He set up in his dressing room a camera affair with an enlarger, and he used to draw aeroplanes at different angles. This was for the ATC boys for aircraft recognition. I can remember him … oh, spending hours doing that. The Government took away his vehicle – his truck – for the war effort, so he only had a car. And so he bought a little James motorbike – two stroke motorbike – and he used to go backwards and forwards on that into town to his meetings. So that was quite an ordeal until the end of the war, and then he was able to be given back a vehicle and he sold that and got a better truck for the farm.
In the early days when Mum and Dad moved up from Haupouri to Taurapa in 1933 before I was born, they brought up their fencer and shepherd – at least a shepherd came up with Dad. Now Pat McFaull was the fencer and he stayed on Taurapa for many, many years. It would have been in 1933 he came up, and he was sent off back to Ireland where he came from to his twin sister in I think it was 1957. He was failing, and we didn’t want to have him dying here if he could be with his family back in Ireland. Every year that I knew him he would go off to either Hastings to the hotel there, or up to Rotorua. They always had a bed for him. They always knew he was coming that day and he would leave when he left. They knew exactly the times, so everything was kept ready for him. Mum would always knit him a balaclava because he had a very bald head. Every year he would get a balaclava and pair of socks she would knit for him for Christmas. And all the shepherds would get socks as well.
Well Michael, I’ve got to thank you very much. Your talk today has probably been one of the best we’ve had. You’ve been absolutely spot on, brilliant … and very much appreciated too.
Now I haven’t told you about the bell. Now I have with me a bell. [Strikes bell] It’s a school bell. In the twenties they had a school at Haupouri and actually the school building I think is still up. They use it for a dining room for the Maoris. Now when Dad moved up from Haupouri to Taurapa the school had gone by then, and this came up and was at the back door. Now this bell rang for the cowman/gardener to come and have his morning and afternoon tea.
Now when we lived at Taurapa … and then we moved to Puketapu, my children then were going to the Puketapu School. And I said to the headmaster, Paul Boke at the time “would you like my bell? It’s a school bell”, and he said “oh, it’d be very nice”. But one day someone dropped it and it cracked – a great big crack. They’d had it for some time, but then it came back to me again. Well, at that particular time I was working at Wattie Canneries, but this’ll be another story. But I was working at Wattie Canneries and I had a friend there who knew how to weld brass. Because there is a knack in welding brass – you can ruin it by welding it, and it just makes a thud noise, it doesn’t give you a ring. Anyway, he fixed it for me – just fixed it – cost me nothing. So now I’ve got it back again and that’s the story of this bell. It was a school bell from Haupouri originally.
There’s no doubt about it. In the old days we got things done for nothing. People were only too pleased to do it. Not today. You pay for everything.
Yep. Actually he was a Dutchman and … great friend. So that was that.
I want to hear about Wattie Canneries. And you were quite a sportsman as well, and I want to have the history of that.
I’m very fortunate.
[Showing and describing objects]
Now that was this holster for Dad’s pistol but it had to be given back when he died. But he had a Luger – a German Luger too – where the hell that got to I don’t know. He had a Maori skull, all the teeth in it – the skull was about a twenty-one year old Maori man. And he found a Pakeha skull, it was smaller and it didn’t have many teeth in it, but he found those on the beach. And he had them in the cupboard, but when he died they’d gone.
This is T E Gordon’s commission signed by Gray and you’ll see that in the book here too. Sir George Gray. He gave him the commission for the Maori war at Omarunui.
And under here Dad’s little meccano set – no, no – it’s a little steam engine. And I’ve had it going – I’ve had it going for the kids down the street. I get things going for them.
That was a negative I found of Taurapa, a coloured one, well, painting.
Scrimshaw – that was E R Gordon. Dad gave me those.
Now you talk about E R Gordon – so the E R Gordon that I asked you about is no relation?
No. No, but E R never married.
Good morning. I’m talking with Michael Gordon – this is the second instalment.
That was George Faulkiner’s, who was Mrs Enid Nelson’s brother. And I got a letter of introduction to him, and I went to his office in Sydney and saw the person involved there and went up to Haddon Rig – well I went on to the back station, Merrimba, and it was about thirty-five thousand acres. I went up to Warren which was the railhead and then I got a taxi right out to Merrimba. And I was there for a number of months. I used to be a station hand and then I got on the feed truck with a young boy from Hungary and I sort of tried to teach him English – I think put away his dictionary, and we talked English and I taught him quite a few words of English. And we fed out to the rams there – it was a breeding station there, then the rams would go from there down to Haddon Rig, the main station. And then there was another smaller property that they used to put some of the rams on as well, out from Warren, so there were three areas for that. That was one of the stations.
The first one I went to was down out of Canberra. I got a job before I left here through Dalgety out to Billara I think it was named, and I got on a train and went down to out of Canberra to … the name of the railhead, because Canberra didn’t have a railhead. Then I came through to a small town out of Canberra to get my groceries and then went up past the Cotter Dam on the Yass Road. I was put in the shearers’ quarters for the time I was working for him, and I didn’t mind it there. Well, I found one of the rooms was a bit better than one of the others, and I just left the spider webs where they were because they were all redback spiders. Yes, that was all sort of part of it. It was shearing time so I helped with that. I stayed there for a few months being a shepherd – well, station hand – helping with the stock work and then I went on from there up the Yass Road. I had a car by then and went up the Yass Road, and on to Goulburn, and down to Melbourne.
Got to Melbourne and I had a bank manager there, the Marshbanks, who used to be a Bank Manager in Masterton, and Mum and Dad knew them very well and so I went and stayed with them for … oh, about ten days I suppose. And then I got rid of the car and I drove on to – well, actually I got interstate trucks, and they were most helpful to me with my travelling. I went on them quite a lot, backwards and forwards. I got on one of these trucks and went through to Adelaide to see if there was a job there, and no job there, so I got on another truck and came back to Melbourne and then back up to Sydney where I …
Had some cheap travel.
Yes it was, and I think the drivers – they were only small interstate trucks, they weren’t the big ones that they are now. I went to the Royal Show then at that stage. Then I decided well, I’d better go find a job, so I went to the Haddon Rig office and yes there was a job going for me so off I went up to Merrimba.
How many miles from Brisbane is that?
I got on the train at eight o’clock in the morning and it was up there at eight o‘clock the following morning.
A big place, Australia, isn’t it?
It is a big place, yes. And I was there as a station hand for a number of months and then decided I would leave and go up to Brisbane. Actually I wanted to go out to Lord Howe Island and stay Christmas there, but I couldn’t get accommodation so I stayed out at Scarborough, out from Brisbane. And I got up to Brisbane and then got a taxi out to Scarborough. It was late at night. I had already booked a hotel out there and when I got there at about 10 o’clock at night everything was closed up so I just got out my sleeping bag and put it on the verandah and slept the night on the verandah. The next morning one of the maids came out “hello, what are you ..?” “Oh, I just … I came in …” “Oh, your accommodation was all ready for you”. I said “well, there was no one there so I just slept on the verandah”. “Oh well come out to the kitchen and have a cup of tea, and put your bags in the bedroom”. So that was my initiation to the Scarborough Hotel, and they were very friendly there. I stayed at the beach all Christmas, and then I went on to Brisbane and got a job out at Blackall – on the way to Blackall. That was out about four days’ travel by train, up to Rockhampton and away out towards Longreach and then branched off at Gallaroy. [Yallaroi?]
About what year was this?
This was around about 1956 … ’55-’56. [More detail on this trip at the end]
Now I would like to go back to the twenties where I haven’t mentioned Dad doing the deep sea fishing. He used to go up to Mayor Island and Whangaparaoa. And he used to go up with Maurice Chambers from Tauroa, and Nelson Smith from Olrig. They were all great friends and they’d go up there. I don’t know how many years they actually went, but they certainly went up during the 1920s and early thirties because he used to bring back lots of photographs and that sort of thing, and the odd tale of a swordfish – and the swordfish seemed to be very big in those days.
How many pounds?
Well, I wish I’d found some photographs, but they were getting on for three hundred. I know, they were huge because when they were hanging up the men standing below them were barely halfway up the fish. They were huge. And I still have the harpoon that they used to use to load them back onto the boat. They had this metal harpoon that they would put into the fish and with a rope and they would haul it out. And the harpoon had a small hole where they put …I suppose a matchstick … so that when they pulled on the rope it turned the wrong way to act as a hook. I can remember the last time he did go out was in the late forties because he didn’t go at all – he was up at Tauranga and the sea was too rough, and they stayed on boat there for nearly a fortnight. Then he came home, so that was about the last time he came.
Now the next thing I want to talk about is – my mealing at the homestead during the 1930s – late thirties, early forties, was always in the kitchen or the nursery. Dad was very particular about our spilling food on the dining room table and that sort of thing. It was when I got out of the cot upstairs.
After my cot days I did still sleep upstairs in the bedroom where the girls slept for not very long – I don’t know how many months or a year or two. But then I moved down to a small room by the kitchen door – the back door.
And this is at ..?
At Taurapa. Because I used to call out … oh, about seven o’clock … was it all right to come downstairs? Because I used to hop into Mum and Dad’s bed. I’d always go on Mum’s side because the maid used to bring in my father’s early morning cup of tea – usually around five past seven – and a couple of pieces of very, very thin bread and butter. And then he would get up and get ready for breakfast at half past seven – that was always the way, at half past seven. Breakfast. And then he would either ring up on the phone to the shepherds for their order for the day, or he would walk over to the shepherds’ quarters and sit on the verandah and talk to them about what they were going to do for the rest of the day or two or three days.
Then in the early forties – I must mention about the Rarotongans. Now, the Rarotongan girls – they started coming out to New Zealand – you had to apply for them. You paid their way so they were on a contract for two years, and they would stay with you and then after the two years were up they could leave and go and do whatever they wanted to do. And at that time there were Rarotongans coming to numerous places like Woodford House, Iona, Pipos, Razos, the Hunters down at Porangahau, Tauroa … the Chambers’ had them at Tauroa … so there were plenty of friends for these girls to mingle with. And we had two. Mum wanted two – they were only teenagers, so Mum decided – one she would train to look after the house and do the chores like clean the brass, lay the tables, do the housework, just the normal things a girl would do, and the other one – she would teach her to cook. So that went on for the two years.
But in the meantime of course, the girls came back from school – they’d been down at Rangi Ruru down in Christchurch for their primary school. They came home, and they were shown how to climb cabbage trees. Of course the Rarotongans knew exactly how to climb a tree, particularly that sort of tree, so they showed them how to climb these cabbage trees. And once my two sisters, Jean and Jan, knew how to do it pretty proficiently, up went the old chairs from the verandah – up into the trees they went. And they put two of these cane chairs up there and they could climb up these trees, and they were fairly close – handy – to one another these trees, so they would climb up one and then climb over to another one and sit on the chairs. So they were happy.
And at that time Dad was very busy building a pond. He was very keen on his fishing and he’d asked the people at the game farm would he be allowed to rear trout? Yes – everything was settled, so he built this pond of about – it was about ten feet-twelve feet long by four feet wide by three feet deep. And it was down in the sunken garden, so there was plenty of … the water could get away. He had running water all the time, and that was most successful. He brought this … buckets of fry – these tiny fish, brown trout – and he used to feed them on sieved up liver from the killing house. Every time they killed he would get their livers – so that was most successful. And then when the trout grew to a reasonable size he thought, he would net them and take them down to the Maraetotara and let them go. So that was quite an enterprise – I would help him do that.
And then 1943 came …
[Photographs being shown, names being given]
Oh, that’s Bill Lamb, and he came from the top of the Maraetotara. And he used to do – oh, all sorts of carting and things – if you read Angus’ book, you’ll see where he had to get a traction engine out of the river, he had to haul it out.
That’s me, and that’s Jean, my middle sister and Jan my younger sister, on a sledge down at the cow bale I think we are. And there I am in the high chair having my hair cut, and that’s Jan, my younger sister.
How much younger?
Four years. She was born in 1930.
And your elder sister?
My eldest sister was born in 1924, and then there was Pat, my brother – he was born in 1925 and he was the one that was run over at the back door of the homestead. He was visiting the grandparents because he’d come over from Haupouri with Jean, my middle sister. No – she was born in 1928, so she was only a few months – five or six months old – crawling, and Pat went out to see where she was and – knowing that the mail car – at that stage it was a vehicle – was coming. He had been warned. The mail car man had been warned to watch out for the kids at Taurapa, from Alf Little who was the regular mail man – he used to live at Waimarama, Alf, and he told the mail man to be very careful at Taurapa. And Pat ran out from behind the coal shed … there was the coal shed and it continued on round the backyard. That’s what happened, so he was killed when he was four and a half. That was my brother, that was in 1928-29 before Jan was born at Haupouri, so all the children were born at Haupouri except me.
And you were born?
In the woolshed.
Just about. [Chuckle]
Well anyway, the Rarotongans arrived and they were most successful. Kata the cook … Akatara Pureou was her name … she stayed on after the two years were up, she just stayed on and on and on. When she’d got to about six-seven years Dad said “you’d better go back and see your parents”. So he gave her a trip back to Rarotonga. Her father was a minister – Church of England minister – in Rarotonga. But eventually Kata did leave and she went down to Wellington and worked on the trams as a tram conductress. Then on her holidays she’d come back and work like a trojan at home again for her fortnight or so holidays, and then she’d go back to the trams again. And she’d do this for [chuckle] quite a few years. She did marry – she married a very nice man down there and they had a family and … Kata came back up while I was out at the farm at Puketapu. That was the last time – she was getting very old then, she was getting into her seventies.
Now in the thirties we used to do a lot of trucking of five year old ewes away. And we would have Mills coming out with their trucks and Dad had rigged up two big lights in the yards with 500 watt bulbs in them so it really floodlit the yards. And Mills and Waipawa Transport were to come out to pick up these ewes and there’d be about fourteen trucks. They’d have to come backwards and forwards. They’d pick up and come back – go to the yards, unload and come back. And this started at about one o’clock in the morning, so we would have cups of coffee ready for them on a primus in the woolshed, and sandwiches, and we’d be up till all hours of the early morning helping them.
And then of course I didn’t mention Ronnie Eyres – Ronnie Eyres was our fat stock picker. I forgot to mention his name. There were numerous other ones that came out after he retired.
Now in 1943, talking about the Americans, the Marines that came, and we had two Marines that came to us and stayed for this period of time. Anyway, they went to the races one day, and there was Johnny and Wally. And Wally was subject to malaria. And after the race meeting when he got home he had a bout of malaria quite badly.
But Johnny used to take me down to the swimming pool where there was a big bank and we used to fire off these pistol at targets on the bank – had a great time, and when they left after a fortnight or so he gave Dad his holster, and he gave the two girls a hat badge each, and I can’t remember what he gave me, I really don’t know – I haven’t kept anything that I could recall. But they were unfortunately both killed in action up in the Islands. I have got their names in the visitors’ book. You know, it’s a shame.
Now in the forties … the forties were a very busy decade. Everything seemed to happen in the forties. We had the Home Guard; Jock McIntosh used to buy Dad’s older rams – well Dad I think gave them to him, just to set him up because the War was quite hard on that family out at the end of Waimarama Road.
Haupouri in the early twenties had a school, and the shepherds and the people round were taught there. I had correspondence when I was young, but there was a school down at the beach just by the woolshed, and that was the bell for it [shows bell]. When Dad was managing there, and before – I think it was during the first World War they had that. Now that bell came up from Haupouri to the back door at Taurapa, and was used for the cowman/gardener to call him for his smoko. And then when I was at Puketapu on the farm there I gave the bell to the Puketapu School. But one of the children dropped it and it split. But then one of my jobs was at Wattie Canneries. I took the bell to a chap at Wattie Canneries and he welded it up for me … brazed it up, and it’s very lucky it’s got that same ring to it. So that is quite an old school bell.
Now getting back to Jock McIntosh … but before that, I had a nasty experience of horse riding when I was a very small child. A horse bolted with me. I had a very awkward time with this station horse that they gave me to ride, and I was frightened of horses after it bolted with me. And I got off this horse at the cottage gate where it just took off with me from near the Ocean Beach gate to the cottage gate, and that would be at least half a mile or more. So to get my confidence back my cousin Gonda lent me a Shetland pony called Pipi, and that was most successful. I used to ride over to Haupouri and we’d go down to the beach and ride along the beach, and then I’d come home. And yes, that took … oh, I can’t remember … eighteen months or so. And then a horse arrived, and it was a present from Jock McIntosh. It was a beautiful horse called Venus. We called it Venus because it had a nice big star on its forehead. And I had that for years.
Then we were old enough then to … there was a Pony Club started down at the Smalls’, and there were two or three of the Haupouri shepherds’ children; there was Gonda, my cousin; there were the Field girls; there was [were] the Chestermans. I was talking to Les Haines the other day – he was a neighbour at the time, and he said “Oh, I remember going to the Smalls.” I can’t remember … there were quite a number of people there. And yes, we had a great time. So that went on ‘til I left, in about ’49 I … well, that was the time that I went to college. So that was the end of the Pony Clubs.
Was that Mick Small’s father’s ..?
Mick Small’s father and brother. Joan Small ran it, and Mrs Field, and I actually have my “C” Certificate. That was in 1949, so we’re getting fairly close to the time.
Just in passing, changing the subject a little bit – Gonda Avery – now who was her father?
Ian Gordon, my father’s brother.
Another thing that happened during the 1940s was the river picnic, and there was the trip to the gannets too. But we’ll start off with the river picnic. Now the river picnic – the girls first of all rode their horses down the Maraetotara … we used to have these house parties where the boys … all sorts of people came – Donald Stewart, and Tommy Cooper and Alistair White – oh, there were numerous ones came and stayed. And then of course the girls had their girlfriends too, and the house was full of people. I used to sleep on the verandah, and I had my bedroom opposite the kitchen where I used to have my clothes and everything, and I would be sleeping on the verandah. Next morning I’d wake up and there’d be someone sleeping on the verandah there, in a sleeping bag, and there’d be someone else somewhere … and I would go into my bedroom to get dressed and there’d be someone in my bed in the bedroom. But anyway, it was all fun, and they would go off down the river. The first time they went they weren’t prepared. They got there, and there were these great big [?] slides going down into the pool, with the big waterfall one side. So they picked off the tops of cabbage trees – used them as sledges, and of course they ended up with no seat to their bathing togs and that sort of thing. Anyway … but that went off extremely well. The next time we went, we went in the truck and everybody came that – Mum and Dad and everybody. And we came through Craggy Range, and down through the Millers’ and right along to – Gerrit van Asch had a home at the end of the line. And then we’d walk down to the river. There was a bank that we could get down with the truck and then the next bank was just too steep so we left the truck up a bit and took our picnic gear down. And then the Clifton people and the Farndon people would walk up from the other end. And they would drive up as far as they could on the Clifton side and picnic with us, and spend the day. And that’s how we spent that day.
But the gannets was another story. We would get up at the right time for the tides, drive the truck right along the Haupouri beach flats right to Matarau … was the last paddock that we could get the vehicle to. Then we’d go on the beach and walk either through a hole in the cliff that came down to the sea – there was a hole there – now there isn’t, the sea’s washed that out. If it was low tide you could walk through it, and we would walk on to Rangaiika and flat rock, leave our picnic gear there and walk up and go to the gannets, and take photographs of them, and walk or wander through them. Then once we’d done that we would come back and have lunch at the flat rock, and have a swim if the tide was right. And we might catch a fish – there seemed to be tuna chasing herrings there at that time, but I never heard of them again there.
And of course we’d go past Rangaiika where the Go Ahead boiler is. That’s where the Go Ahead came adrift [to grief]. And then we would come back through the hole, or we would have to go up over a goat track – up over the top and back down to Matarau. There’s still the evidence of the kumara patches there. You can see the outline of them there. And that would take a day, and most enjoyable time. That was always at Christmas time.
Droving cattle – we would drive the cattle through to Arataki at times, and Harry Royle, the drover, would pick them up either at Arataki, or if he had more time he would pick them up from a stockyard the other side of the Tukituki Bridge. Now when I took any cattle to the yards the new bridge had been built, so we didn’t have to ford them through the river. So we would drive them carefully across the bridge and then take them round the corner to these yards, or we would take them to the Arataki yards which is now the mushroom plant – under those gum trees. There used to be a big set of yards there. And then Harry Royle would pick them up from there. And just in passing – in our Meals on Wheels when we were doing that in Hastings, I used to take Harry Royle his Meals on Wheels. And there was a fencer from Haupouri that I used to take Meals on Wheels to, and that was … I had his name pretty well off pat [chuckle] and I can’t think of it now. Yes, I used to enjoy doing that – at least giving someone I knew his meals. Oh, well there was others too – there was Frank – his brother had Mokopeka Station …
It’s a Chambers property.
Yes, his brother managed there for a long time. Oh well, I’ll probably remember it in time.
[Chuckle] When no one’s about. Oh dear.
Well, now when the red bridge was there, I used to go across the red bridge, and you couldn’t drive over it fast because of this … it was built that way so – this is the Waimarama bridge, and what I was going to say was that when I knew the old Waimarama bridge, the Craggy Range wool shed was right at the other end. And of course the Bowens – old Mr Bowen, Godfrey Bowen’s father, managed Craggy Range, and Ivan and his brother were born there, but Godfrey wasn’t. And the little house just before that … there’s a small bridge that came down from the Lime Works … that’s where the Bowens lived. And then when Craggy Range was broken up, Ivan van Asch married and lived in that house until he moved up the hill past Craggy Range – the old homestead further on – and took on another block of land up there. But that’s where he was first married and lived there, and then Gerrit was further out and Jim Miller was in the gum trees where the old cattle yards used to be. And they were just opposite Taurapa Station, so we would see them working their stock in there.
Getting over the bridge – didn’t Bob Nichol ..?
Now that was …
He was the rabbiter, in that house.
Yes. The Nichols. Yes, he was there and he used to do all our rabbiting. That was Maurie Nichol.
Maurie, not Bob?
No, Maurie – Maurice Nichol. And one of his boys – now there was a terrific fight over telephones. Dad put the telephone in. It was a private line from Haupouri to the Tukituki River. And he swam the Tukituki River, and he did this – he used to get so annoyed. Then … I don’t know quite which was first – I think it was Maurie Nichol. Well, it was the two Gordons – they had the line … they had the private line. Then [chuckle] Maurie Nichol’s son contracted hydatids. Of course he would, from all his dogs. And Maurie came to Dad and said “Look, I need a telephone. May I come on your line?” And dad was [chuckle] very adamant about that – he didn’t want anybody on his line. Well anyway, that simmered down and he allowed Maurie Nichol to get on the line.
And then it came to the Lime Works … the Lime Works came up into business. And it was …
Webster started it.
Websters. Websters’ Lime Works. [Chuckle] Anyway he came and asked dad if he could come on the line because business had to go, and … oh gosh, there was quite some talk about that too. And eventually he allowed them to go on the line, so there was four of them on the line. Of course when I got married and I put a house at the back of Taurapa, I wanted to go on the line too. [Chuckle] Well, oh dear!
So that was quite … yes, it was quite an effort. It was quite an effort. I went in with John Lowner, and we went up to the gum trees and we cut down gum trees, and we dug the holes and we put the poles in, got everything. And then I got the private linesman, and he came and ran the wires right along the Maraetotara and then across the Maraetotara, and hooked up to Dad and my uncle’s and we were on the line then. It was over four miles of telephone.
Well, it was a way of picking up all the gossip. Just listen on the phone.
Well, it was … Mr Crawford was the private linesman, and yes, he did a great job.
Oh – 1947 was docking. Yes, we were docking … docking out the back of Haupouri Station, and we’d left the truck down at the beach, down at the bottom, and we’d gone up by tractor, up this hill. It was just a tractor track. And anyway, being a young chap I happened to put a lamb down the wrong side, and the man with the knife struck a bone in the tail of a lamb, and caught the back of my hand [chuckle] when it came up. So I ended up with a nasty cut on the back of my hand. So poor old Dad, whose job was always standing there with the ear markers – he was the ear marker man – he had to give up his job and take me home. And it was quite a trek going down the hill. It would be probably two and a half to three miles’ walk. And then we had another three miles or more to get back to the homestead, and I had to wash and clean up and get to the hospital. And the surgeon was a very clever man – it was Doctor Wilson … Harry Wilson … at the time. And anyway, I can’t remember whether or not I walked into the theatre, or I went in on a trolley. I know I had to walk in when I had my tonsils out, and get up and lie on the bed, and they gave me ether and that sort of thing. But anyway, he did a great job for this hand … this middle finger had been cut quite badly … the tendon was cut, and the joint. But doctors knowing … these surgeons knowing what fingers have – I didn’t realise that the first finger has a spare ligament, so he cut one of those off and joined it up to the other one. So I ended up with – well, I’ve only got one ligament in this first finger, and joined up with this other one. So your first finger’s always got a spare. Yes, it was quite something I didn’t realise I had.
So that was the 1940s I think, just about completed. I’d better say that I did … while I was at Hereworth I did achieve one or two things. I did achieve some things other than being whipped by the headmaster. I learnt to dance with Miss Ballantyne. I came first in the St John’s Ambulance test – at the end of the year we had an exam, or a sort of a test – they came out and tested you on your year’s work. And I actually topped the marks in that. And I came second to Chum Thelwell in the Sandy Lane – and I was in the running four that went to Wanganui Collegiate. So I did do one or two things while I was at Hereworth. But that was about my time there.
You were going on to Olympic glory, weren’t you?
And then of course, once I got to college I was very fortunate – very, very fortunate – in winning the Junior Steeplechase, yes. But college of course was another era.
What House were you in?
I was in Flower’s House. But what I did do the last year of my stay there – I did get tired of cricket and football – so I joined the athletics, and I used to go to Lancaster Park and run there, on Saturday instead of cricket. And I joined the Christchurch Harrier Club instead of football, and I used to go out and run all over the hills – the Cashmere hills – or down at Belfast in amongst all the cow farms and in the mud and slush down there. That was interesting – but I never got down to any marathons or anything like that – I wasn’t allowed to run from … there was a relay from Timaru back to Christchurch, and it would have been a relay of probably … oh, six or seven miles I s’pose and then you’d change over to someone else. But I wasn’t – the headmaster wouldn’t allow me to do that.
Did you get your colours at the athletics?
I never got any colours at athletics, no. No, I was only in the Junior one, and I did run for the school my first year at Lancaster Park.
I don’t think we’ve covered these – your marriage to Robyn, what year was that?
1961 – April.
At St Luke’s.
St Luke’s in Havelock?
Now you haven’t told us about your children.
No. No I haven’t got to that stage yet.
In 1950 Dad bought me a Ford New Beauty car, and this was bought from Dick Bevin at Poporangi. He had it sitting out in the paddock with a sack over the engine, and the chooks had been laying in the seat of the car and everything like that. Anyway, I was working for John Stovell down at Waipukurau, and Dick brought the car to me there, and I learnt to drive it because it was foot pedal gear job, and you had to crank it to start. The original owner – I was the seventh owner – the original owner was Lady Hunter, and then it had passed down through Buster Harker and numerous others, and ended up with Dick Bevin, and then me. I had that and learnt to drive, and went all over the place – I went down to the South Island in it, and down to Outram. Broke a crankshaft at Kaikoura. I found a [an] AA garage – I belong to the AA – so I was pulled into that. And in the backyard there were seven old engines underneath a staging – petrol staging – so I pulled out oh, numerous ones, and found another crankshaft – eventually. Eventually. It took three days. But I was away again in three days. I’d given it a valve grind and another crankshaft, and we were away. I had a friend with me, Peter Boyce. We got down to Christchurch and then down to Outram to the Tripps’, and helped them with their hay. And then we came back, and to put it on the boat, of course I had to drive it up onto a sling, and then run round to the ship, or to the wharf – whichever way we were going – to take it off the sling again, because they didn’t know how to drive the thing – well, steer it without the engine going. Yes.
Okay – well you’ve done very well, and given us a great history on your family going back three or four generations, and of your life. And to share a lot of those good times that you had and the papers that you’ve given, and the photos as well. So I thank you very much, Michael.
I just thought you might have wanted to know … Army days or any of those sorts of things.
What – doing your compulsory military training?
Yes – I think we did that in the last on.
There’s a big story about these pistols. On Dad’s death they were taken off the wall by the Managing Director of Williams & Kettle, thinking that they would be great monies to help with probate. And anyway, I was in a trance – you know, when you come home and you see a man flopped in his chair and you wonder what … oh, God. And then everything seemed to happen. Anyway they put a whole lot of stuff in with McKearney. [Refers to McKearney’s Auctioneers] And I went one day – I used to be quite a friend of McKearney’s – and I went in one day and here were these pistols, going to be sold. So I rang up my sisters to find out what the story was. They said “Oh – they can’t be sold”. But Murray had already put them on the sheet to be sold, and he said “Oh, what we’ll do – we’ll put them through but they won’t get to the reserve”. And so they were not sold, and they were handed back to me. No, that was very bad … very bad. That was the type of Managing Director of Williams & Kettle at the time – he was a very difficult man … a very hard man. [Background noise]
It’ll be nice just to tell us what you and Robyn have done in your later life.
Well I do think we should let you know that we have been quite busy with our voluntary work that we’ve done in the past, and still doing.
Robyn: Not as much as Constance.
Michael: And I’ll start off with back when we were at Taurapa. We started off doing our community work with Meals on Wheels with the Hastings group. That was when our son was eighteen months old … ’bout 1967 … not only doing that but Robyn would be at the hospital doing her duty with the flowers. [Voices in background]
When we moved to Puketapu we were still doing Meals on Wheels, and she would do the makeup in the hospital at the Hastings Hospital. I would go and visit the elderly with a bag of marshmallows, which led on from that ward to every ward except the children’s and the outpatient’s ward. From there we started up at the Napier Hospital – the picture library, which went off very well until that closed. But we used go and borrow paintings from different shops on a three-monthly time span. All the paintings would be written down in a book and would be changed every three months. And that went until the hospital decided to move to Hastings. We have … still doing Meals on Wheels after all these years.
Do you have time to talk to the people with Meals on Wheels?
We do. [Robyn talking in background]
Some interesting people we have given meals to is Mrs Porter – Nyree Dawn Porter’s mother – that was a very interesting woman to give Meals on Wheels to. But after forty-odd years we have been recognised, and Robyn has certainly been recognised with her contributions to the community not only with Meals on Wheels but with the …
Anyway, I feel that this should be mentioned. I think I’ll finish. [Distracted by discussion in background]
Peretonga was about two-three miles out of Martinborough. That was quite a considerably smaller property. I stayed in an outside room up at the old homestead with the old Martin family of Mr and Mrs Martin. Jack Lawrence had married one of the Martin girls, so he had bought a part of Peretonga and farmed that – well he farmed the whole lot as a whole, and farmed his own as well. And there were flats across the river that were run as another part. They were owned by the two boys that were killed during the war.
Anyway, I was there for nearly two years, working and I decided Martinborough was such a small place, I would try and join in with what they were doing. So I joined the football club, the YFC … the Young Farmers’ Club … and I swam for a team and I joined the Church which was run by a very nice minister, a Mr Robert Shaw, who had three boys. I also joined the Dramatic Society, and we put on plays in the Festival, and also just for the Martinborough people.
I brought my old Model T car down for a while and used to run around over to Masterton and Featherston. I never went to Wellington in it because the Rimutaka hills were fairly steep. But eventually I did sell the car – it was a shame, but it was starting to cause a wee bit of trouble mechanically, so I bought a three-wheel Bond Minicar from a chap in Wellington. And I used to go across to dances over at Tawa and Lower Hutt in that.
With these dances that I used to go to – we had a policeman in the town called Jimmy Frame. Actually Jimmy Frame’s daughter married Noel Nichol, where I’d just come from, Glenburn. And Jimmy was a great dancer. He used to come in and he enjoyed the Scottish dancing that we used to have. There usually a night of Scottish Reels, and we would get him into the dance hall and being six o’clock closing, there wouldn’t be … weren’t allowed drink anywhere near a dance hall. But if we got him organised and dancing, all these Scottish dancers … some of us would pop out and have a few beers. Then eventually Jimmy would find there weren’t enough men in the hall – where were they? So he’d quickly get out and catch them in their cars. So out … he would take all their drink and take it back to the station. And the next morning you could go back and pick it up, the next day. He would never charge you or anything like that, he would just say “well, don’t do it again”. But that was never adhered to.
He did ask me at one stage “Oh, why don’t you join the police force?” And of course my weight wasn’t strong enough anyway – I said “No, I couldn’t possibly be a policeman.” But he was a very delightful man.
Another thing we used to do … I used to play golf there, and they had a very nice little golf links – a nine hole golf links, and I used to go and play golf. With the swimming – I used to swim for a team and that was always very enjoyable.
And of course with the football, I was in the Martinborough Juniors, on the wing there. We actually won the competition that particular year I was playing. We were just very lucky – we played a team over in Carterton, and they had won the first round but had lost one of their players before the second round came up, and I think if he was there playing, we mightn’t have won. But they had some other person substituting for that, and we were very lucky we won that game.
The next thing was that I was called up again for military training. This was because I hadn’t done any weekend training – I had to go up for three weeks this time. I was drafted into the 1st Wellington Regiment, which meant I was in the Infantry. I was allowed to wear my beret – my tank beret – so that was fine. My Commanding Officer was Tim Wall. He was an old Hereworth Old Boy that I knew back at Hereworth, and he made it very easy for me because he appointed me as the D Company marker, which meant that I had my own platoon when I got up to Waiouru Military Camp – well, out … it was out of the gates. We had to set up camp there, and set up everything for the group that were coming in for their training. I didn’t have to have a heavy 303 gun – I was supplied with a sten gun which was a lot lighter. And so I enjoyed my three weeks’ training there – we dug a few trenches, and we did a little bit of marching round, and … very little. We went out on the rifle range and had some shots there with … well, with a sten gun, bren gun and 303.
After that I came back to Martinborough and decided I would finish up at Peretonga. I’d been there long enough I thought, and I wanted to go off and see if I could get a job in Australia, and have a look around. So that’s what I did – I came home and got a few letters of introduction, and to find out where I could get jobs and that sort of thing.
Letters of introduction were the order of the day. I often went with Mum, and we would go round and talk to people, and get addresses from some of their friends in Australia. One particular person was Mrs Enid Nelson – she had a brother in Sydney, George Faulkiner. He had an engineering shop, and he had a Bachelor of Engineering as well as big sheep stations up in New South Wales – merino studs – which … at a later date I did go on one of their farms. I did go to Dalgety’s and to some of the other firms, but Dalgety’s were the main ones, and they got me on to a job out of Canberra, but I wasn’t able to go until round about May, so in the meantime I went over to Waimarama and worked for Donald Stewart on his property, just to get a little bit of money from there. And I helped with the shearing and the calf marking and that sort of thing.
I eventually got on an aeroplane and set off for Australia, landed in Sydney and was picked up by a taxi, who thought I must have had plenty of money because he took me to the Wentworth Hotel. One look at the Wentworth … it was just far too expensive to go and book in, so I asked him if there was a boarding house or that sort of think handy, and he told me “Yes, just walk along …” I can’t remember where it was – in Martin Place I think – and I found accommodation there. I stayed in Sydney for two days and had a good look around, and actually met a chap from Pakipaki, who was doing a similar thing.
In about the two days’ time, I … well, I had a job anyway, to go to, which was down out of Canberra. So I got on the train – the morning train – and went to Queanbeyan, which was the railhead for Canberra. Canberra in those days was very spread out – it only had a small town. They called it Civic Centre, and out from that was Parliament House – it was ‘bout two miles away from that, and then out again were other little centres. I think what they were doing, they were spreading everything out, and then they were going to fill it in with buildings and shops and that sort of thing. And by now I would imagine, fifty years hence, it would be quite a big area.
I was picked up at Queanbeyan by what they called ‘the groom’. He did the garden, and looked after the horses, and just the general rouseabout round the homestead. I was picked up by him and went to one of the little centres, which was called Manuka. Then I picked up my stores from a shop there – well, it was pretty mediocre, but I found that it was adequate. And then we went up on the … what was called the Yass Road … up over the Murrumbidgee River, up past the Cotter Dam which supplied Canberra with water, and then on to … Doug Hailes was the name of the farmer … his property. They put me in the shearer’s quarters – they probably knew I wasn’t going to stay a great length of time. So I found a suitable room – not too many spiders and that sort of thing. But I did find that I was living with redback spiders, but they didn’t worry me. I had a wood range which I could cook my meals on, and there was a hot shower with electric hot water. So I turned the hot water cylinder on and found that a possum was living in the top of that. I just left him there – he was quite comfortable, and he just stayed where he was, and he didn’t annoy me and I didn’t annoy him.
I used to go out and help with the fencing. The fencing was pretty mediocre – not like a New Zealand fence, but I’d strain up a few wires, and we would go round the stock.
I did buy a car while I was there so I could go down to the shops and buy my own stores. I used to go to the hotel occasionally and found that the Croatians … they were the nicest people I found. The Germans were pretty hard to talk to, and the Italians, but the Croatians were always very pleasant.
I stayed on for about three to four months because they were going to start their shearing, so I helped with that, and I did go to the Canberra Show which was just in a small paddock with a few tents around, and Doug Hailes did have … he put a sheep in the Show. There were only two in his class which were polled Dorset Horn. Of course he had the better sheep of the two, so he won the class.
I left that property and went on up the Yass Road to Goulburn and then down the Hume Highway towards Melbourne, and I’m afraid the car wasn’t the best. I’d passed the dog from Gundagai, which was a shame because I wanted to take a photograph of that. But I can’t remember the town I got to where I had to leave the car. I got rid of it and got on a [an] interstate truck that was going through to Melbourne, and hitched a ride with him. And that was the way I used to travel quite a lot round New South Wales-Victorian State. I found that they were very courteous and didn’t mind picking up hitchhikers.
I got down to Melbourne and found that I had to walk at least three miles to get in to where I was going. I had an address to look up – a bank manager there – a friend of the family’s, Charlie and Mrs Marchbanks. He’d been transferred from Masterton Bank of New Zealand. So I met up with them and they were very kind and let me stay with them for … well, I think I stayed with them for nearly a fortnight, but not quite.
I then left there and went on to … got a train and went on to Adelaide to see if I could get a job in Adelaide – anything, anything. It was very difficult to find jobs at that particular time, but no luck. So I came back to Melbourne and got another hitch back to Sydney where I stayed at the YMCA. I found that they were reasonably cheap. While I was there I had my suitcase parked at the Central Station, and this particular night I thought ‘Oh, I must get my suitcase’. So I went and got the suitcase, and I put my wallet – instead of putting it back in my pocket and zip it up inside my coat, I – I must have been in a hurry, and anyway by the time I got back to the YMCA my wallet had gone. All my travellers’ cheques and that sort of thing had been stolen, letters of introduction had been taken so I was at a bit of a quandary.
I did have another address to look up in my address book – at least that hadn’t been stolen – and that was to the Caters … Henry Cater. Henry Cater’s father, Sir Norman Cater, had a big office in Sydney, and I looked them up to see if I could get on to a property. They had a property up in Warren, but in the meantime – there was no job there anyway – so in the meantime Henry said to me “There is a ball coming up – would you like to go to it?” I said “Oh, that’d be very nice”. So he invited me round to a party before the ball – this was in a suburb called Wellington. He took me to his home, and then took me back to the YMCA, so I thought ‘Oh, yes, I knew exactly where it was’, but … I don’t know. I got myself dressed – I had in my suitcase my dinner jacket, which was very lucky. I didn’t know I was going to be invited to that sort of ball, but Mum said to me “Well you’d better take your dinner jacket in case you’re invited out to something really nice”. So I put my dinner jacket on and then went out to look for a taxi. I went … well, I wasn’t too far away from King’s Cross, so I thought ‘Oh well, I’ll walk down towards King’s Cross, and surely there’ll be a taxi’. And then I found there was [were] no taxis; then the next thing was … I thought ‘Oh, dear, where am I?’ And I got partially lost, and I went through a rather saucy suburb of Surrey Hills – I didn’t look left or right, I made sure I walked pretty fast. And anyway, I found a taxi which was lucky, and he got me to where I was supposed to go – to the Caters. Arrived there, and they took me … after a few nibbles and a drink … took me to the Royal Sydney Golf Club to this Matron’s Ball. All very strange, because they handed you a little programme to write the name of your partner, on the programme, and then they wrote your name on – so they would dance with you at that particular dance. Well by the time I tried to fill up my programme, I thought back ‘What was [did] the third person look like’, or ‘What was [did] the second person look like?’ And I was quite confused. Anyway, there were Matrons running around sorting those sorts of people out, so I got on quite well and found the partners that I was supposed to dance with.
After that I was taken back to the YMCA. That was fine, but I had lost all my money … my travellers’ cheques. Well Henry was very kind and lent me £10. Well I had already booked the YMCA so that was all right, but then I was running out of money after quite a few days, and I was running out of time from [with] the YMCA, so the next thing was – where do I go and stay? So I had his £10 with me and I thought ‘Now I will only spend just enough for a lunch for the day’. And at night I went and slept in the park, on a bench, so that’s how I spent … well, two nights anyway … like that. And then I would go along to the bank and ask if my travellers’ cheques had been brought in. Well, one day they had, so I was back to my normal spending again. So that was very lucky, ‘cause there was quite a few hundred dollars [pounds] of travellers’ cheques. I was able to pay his £10 back, and that was fine.
After that I went to another firm. I went to the Faulkiner office in Sydney and found that I was able to get a job on the back station of Haddon Rig. That was called Merrimba. It was a breeding station of merino rams – stud rams. So I got on the train – it was over twelve hours away – got on the train at eight o’clock in the morning, and arrived up at Warren at about eight o’clock the following morning. I then got a taxi and was taken out to Merrimba, which was about fifty-odd miles away from Warren.
And there were about five of us on the station there, and I was one of the station hands – what they call station hands. We would take it in turns to get the horses in in the mornings. We always had a night horse, ‘cause we had to get up early in the morning and go out into this hundred-odd acre paddock and bring the horses in. What you’d do – you’d ride your night horse out with a stock whip, and you’d crack the whip a few times once you’d got away into the paddock, and the horses would then run in, into the yard, wherever they were. They might be right at one end of the paddock, or in the trees or anywhere, but they would hear the stock whip crack and they knew that they had to come in. And we would feed them … get them all ready for the days’ work.
Merrimba was about thirty-five thousand acres, and flat. It had lots of trees on it, you know, it wasn’t all sparse land. The fall from one side to the other was about a foot to the mile, so the bores would flow down bore drains which were cleaned out with a big LeTourneau tractor and scoop. We would run along and scoop out the drains just to keep them clean. And we had lots of those as well as windmills. Oh – one of my jobs I didn’t mind was going up the windmill and filling up the cups with oil, just to keep them running right. You had to be very careful to remember to pull the tail round so that it stopped the vanes going round – you just didn’t jump up because you could get caught up with machinery.
I did quite a bit of mustering. We had no dogs – we just used a stock whip and cracked that behind the sheep, and the sheep seemed to know exactly what you were doing and would form a mob, and you would bring them in and dose them, or dag them or footrot them – that sort of thing.
After … couple of months or so of that I got on the feed truck, and would take a young lad round. He couldn’t speak a great deal of English – he came from Croatia. I would take his dictionary away and we would learn as much English as I could in the time, and he did very well. He quite enjoyed feeding out to the stock. We used box tree branches – we would split the box tree branch in half longways because they were hollow, and that would form a trough for the sheep nuts. So we would pour bags of sheep nuts into these hollow troughs.
Another job I did was to boundary ride. You’d ride right round the boundary – it would take you a day to do that – you’d start off at one side and come round the other. There would be another chap coming round the opposite way, so you’d end up back at the house again late in the afternoon. You would just be really going round the boundary fence making sure that it was stock-proof; no kangaroos had smashed the fence down, or the emus, because they just go and crash through the fence, they just can’t get over them very well. And with stud sheep you’ve got to keep these things fairly right.
On Saturday nights we used to go through to Haddon Rig and watch films. George Faulkiner would fly his plane up from Sydney with newsreels and a film, and we used to go to Haddon Rig and sit on the lawn there on chairs. The manager would set everything up for us and we would come through and watch films. That was in the summer time – in the winter we would come in and go up into the stable, up into the loft … into the hay … well, in the chaff room – it was quite an immense room – and we would have the films up there. It was too cold to sit out in the open in the winter time. So that was quite something, and of course up in the chaff room they used to keep a couple of snakes up there to keep the mice and rats away. They were carpet snakes, and you never really saw them at all. There were plenty of snakes and lizards on the property – I used to go out and kill the odd snake – they were quite deadly, the brown snakes and the mulga brown and the red-bellied black snakes – they’d give you a nasty bite and can … well, can kill you if you don’t get the bite treated straight away.
Now that was Merrimba. I did come back to Merrimba again, but after I’d left Merrimba I decided – this was towards Christmas – I thought I might like to go to Lord Howe Island which is out of Brisbane. Well I couldn’t get on to Lord Howe Island, it had been booked out, but I flew up to Brisbane from Sydney. I’d gone back to Sydney and flew up to Brisbane, and arrived there quite late at night, and got a taxi out to Scarborough which was on the seafront – I’d already booked a hotel out there. I arrived there about ten o’clock at night and thought ‘Oh well, they’ll be open’. But everything was closed up, so I slept the night in my sleeping bag on the verandah. And the next morning I was wandering around on the inside, and one of the maids said “Oh, your room was booked”, and so she showed me to it and I was able to put my suitcase and things in the room, and had a cup of tea in the kitchen with her.
Over on the beach front the St John’s Ambulance had set up a tent because there was an awful lot of stinger … jellyfish … and that sort of thing in the sea and a lot of children were getting stung by that. But one of the St John’s Ambulance had set up a little merry-go-round and that sort of thing, so I had nothing better to do so I helped in the way of running that, and it was only about five shillings a ride or something – I can’t remember now. But I enjoyed my Christmas there – I went out to Lone Pine which was – Lone Pine had snakes and koala bears and that sort of thing out there, and that was [a] most enjoyable time.
While at the hotel there was a young policeman – they had to have police of the summer time because of … the motorbike gangs were coming up and down the coast … and just to keep them in order. And even in those days the police had pistols on them. We used to sit at the back of the hotel on the back verandah and have the odd beer, and he would show me his pistol. And it was all loaded and all ready … but a very pleasant young man.
From there I went into Brisbane and got another job on a different sort of property – it was on a Devon Stud. This was out at Blackall. Now that was quite a distance away – I had to get on the train and go up to …
While in Brisbane I looked up another one of my people, and that was … can’t remember his first name, but it was Banjo Patterson’s grandson. And he said “What are you doing?” And I said “Well, I haven’t quite got a job yet”. But he asked me whether I’d like to go down to Surfers Paradise with the family – they were going down for a fortnight to stay in a motel down there. And I thought that was kind of them, and I accepted their invitation and went down and spent a week with them down … just opposite Lennon’s Hotel at the time. And we would drive round and have a look at these new canals that they were building, and then going to put houses on, so that they had a waterway and a boat ramp and all that sort of thing for each section. But he was very kind.
Then – well I went back to Brisbane and got a job out of – well, I had to travel right up to Rockhampton and then across towards Longreach. But I came down from a place called Yallaroi towards Blackall, and it took about four days by train. The train would slow right up and the driver would get out and shoot a wild peacock or turkey or something like that, and then hop back on the train and we’d just drive on – it’s just one of those sort of trains.
Anyway, we got down towards Blackall, and I got out and went to this new property called Berrara. It was about fifty-sixty thousand acres – beautiful land – and the owner was called Wilfred Rich. I stayed with them in their house, and would go out each day and muster in, or ride round the bulls or young stock. There’d be water bottles parked all round in different paddocks under trees, so that if we happened to land in those paddocks there was always water there. He had windmills on his place, and they would pump the water up into what was called a turkey’s nest. It was just a high water tank made of earth, and then that would gravity feed down into troughs for the bulls. The bulls were very quiet. We would bring in … oh, hundreds – I don’t know how many we would bring in at a time and put them in the yards. And then we’d get off our horses and just walk amongst them and sort them out.
The cattle were Devon cattle and they were extremely quiet. We used to go out and check all the troughs. He had beautiful grass growing everywhere which was called buffel grass, and blue buffel as well, and the paddocks were over a thousand acres in each paddock. Actually there was round about eighty thousand acres he had. And we used to mark all these calves.
A man arrived from Yallaroi nearly dead one day, of thirst. He’d walked for miles and couldn’t get a lift, and so we helped him for a day or two to recover.
Looking at my trip book I see the paddock sizes are pretty big. One paddock was thirty thousand acres; another paddock was fourteen thousand acres; another one was twenty-two thousand acres; there was an eight thousand acre paddock and a three thousand acre paddock. So the paddocks over there – although they’re big, they don’t stock a great deal – not like here in New Zealand. But although he had an awful lot of bulls on the property, he did have another small herd of Devon and Shorthorn Cross – they were a lot sturdier. They weren’t quite as soft as the Devon in the way that – these cattle, he would send about seventy away at a time, up to the Gulf of Carpentaria to a Borthwick property. They would go up by truck as far as Forsayth and then have to walk around about fifty to sixty miles to the station.
I left Berrara and the Hiles [Hailes], and flew on to Longreach, where I thought I might have been able to get a job droving stock, but in those days jobs were extremely difficult to get. So I was there for a week in a hotel in Longreach. It was so hot that … well everybody found it so hot … so we dragged our beds out onto the verandah, and it looked like a dormitory. And we’d pull all our beds back in during the daytime and then bring them out again in the evening, and go to sleep.
I was there for a week looking for these jobs, and I decided I might try and get back to Merrimba again, in New South Wales. So I sent a reply-paid telegram back to the manager there, and he said he would keep my job open for a week. I thought ‘Well it took me four days to get to Yallaroi – it might take me a lot longer to go back from Longreach.’ So I decided to fly from Longreach to Brisbane, and I stayed the night in Brisbane and caught the eight o’clock bus back to Sydney that morning, and arrived back in Sydney the following morning. I was sitting with a woman in the bus from Brisbane down to Sydney, and she asked me what I was doing and that sort of thing. And she said “Well, if you’re going to spend the whole day in Sydney, would you like to spend it at our home?” Her husband was a ferry – well, he had a barge that he would take up and down the Sydney Harbour. So I said “Oh, that’s very nice”, so I went to her home out at Balmoral, a suburb of Sydney, and stayed there and she fed me, and I was able to have a shower and then get on the train that evening for Warren. Arriving at Warren the next morning I got a taxi and got out to Merrimba again.
I was there for about four months. I got tired of being a station hand so I decided to work in the garden. And I made a vegetable garden and got the horses in for the boys and that sort of thing, and just was the general handyman ’til I found that my mother was starting to get … not very well, and I thought ‘Well I better come home’. So I flew back to Sydney and caught a boat back to Auckland, where I was met by John Forsythe, another brother-in-law of mine who lived in Auckland. I know I was in a line with the Security Department [Customs] and they were going through someone’s bags and found all sorts of awkward things. Anyway, John saw one of these officers, and anyway – he said “Well look, I’ve only got this and that”, and they were on the sheet. And he said “Look, righto – go through”, so he signed the book and my ticket, and off I went and picked up my bags, and that was that. So that was my trip to Australia.
Original digital file
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- Charles Michael Gordon
- Robyn Gordon
Interviewer: Jim Newbigin