Crook, Elizabeth Louise (Louise) Interview
Recorded October 2016
I’m interviewing this morning Elizabeth Louise Crook, who is going to tell us about her early life, and of her father who had a farm at Oringi. She now lives out from Hastings at Sherenden, and she’s come in to give a report, and she’s going to tell you in her own words about herself and about the farm life, as well as her present life. Now, over to you, Louise.
Thank you. Hello – my name is Louise Crook, nee Riches, nee Kernaghan, and I would like to talk about my father’s life back in those early years in the 1920s.
My story begins at Oringi just south of Dannevirke, where my father James Kernaghan had a sixty-three acre farm running dairy cows and pigs. He had originally arrived from Northern Ireland about 1927 and was a farm labourer in the South Island before returning to Northern Ireland, then returning again to New Zealand in 1929 with my mother, Sarah. They went to Sherenden where my father was a farm hand and Sarah cooked for the owners of the property. At Sherenden he had a ten acre block set aside for his own use. This arrangement lasted about eight years, and in 1937 they managed to purchase the sixty-three acre property at Oringi which had been part of the W H Gaisford Station, and purchased from the government of the day with funds provided as part of the Relief of the Unemployment Act 1932-34, which allowed him to buy the property.
Records show that there are five farms auctioned by Dalgetys in 1903 which was [were] bare land and well-watered, and it was one of these farms my father bought in 1937, which by then had a one bedroom house included in the price. Two extra bedrooms were added later as the family increased.
There were thirty-five dairy cows milked twice daily in a four bay shed my father built. The milk was separated and the cream picked up by the milk truck each day for the Whariti butter factory. During the war years he was required by regulation to supply milk to the Waiaruhe cheese factory using his Model A truck to deliver the milk cans, returning with whey for the pigs.
In later years he changed to sheep farming because of his poor health but still kept some cows for house milk. My father also built [a] shed and yards suitable for a two-man shearing plant, and he had the sheep dipped at our neighbours. He also had the first tractor in the area which was a Massey Harris, which replaced our old draught horses.
How many were the draught horses? Did you have four or two?
Two. Haymaking was also a busy time for Sarah, with morning and afternoon tea and scones made for the men. Sarah was also lucky in having the first washing machine in the Oringi area, purchased from the local power board with money she won at the races at Woodville.
Sadly my father passed away one night in 1964 aged sixty-four years, after twenty-seven years farming. Sarah and my brother Jim were involved in disposing of farm stock and chattels with the farm being sold by auction to a neighbour who used the land for cropping.
My life on the farm was trouble-free and I was enjoying the freedom of country life. My brother Jim and I went rabbit shooting by the river and also caught eels which my mother cooked for the chooks.
Didn’t you eat them?
No. We wouldn’t eat the eels.
My two closest friends were half a mile away and we often played together and we enjoyed catching frogs in the dam on our farm. We also picked mushrooms in season, and played general kids’ stuff. I went to Waiaruhe Primary School which was three miles away, and there [were] only twenty pupils and one teacher.
How did you get to school?
I’m just going to explain it now. My friend’s father had a license to transport us to school and return later in the day. I was very lucky. My high schooling was at the Dannevirke High School, where there about four hundred pupils, and it was a shock to me being part of such a large school. Times had changed now, and my father would drive me to the State Highway where I caught the school bus. When travelling to school I was the first picked up then the bus travelled around the district, arriving at the high school about an hour later.
Did you father and mother have to pay for you to go on that bus?
No, no – that was through the Education.
And it was free?
It was free, yes. But I always was first off the bus coming home.
My first job in Dannevirke was at Mr Gibbard’s Solicitors’ Office, and he was also the Dannevirke mayor. I was paid £3 a week. I stayed there about a year, then transferred to the Bank of New Zealand doing ledger accounts, staying for three years.
I decided that I would rather work in a big city, so I shifted to Palmerston North and worked at the Inland Revenue for £6 a week.
What year would that’ve been?
That would be … I would’ve been twenty-one, so about 1960. This is at the Inland Revenue – I found this work dull and boring and shifted on after six months, to transfer to Cliff’s Automotive in charge of their ledger accounts.
I later met and married the father of my two daughters, but this marriage only lasted seven years and my daughters and I shifted to Hastings in 1972. I was later employed by H B Mower Service to maintain all the accounts, including day to day ledger and their hire purchase accounts.
In 1984 Jim Crook and I married, and we had a lovely summer evening wedding in Cornwall Park and had the reception at a Havelock North hotel. We have now retired, and live in [address deleted] for the last twelve years, having been married for the last thirty-two years.
The Alexander Turnbull Library has photos of Army tents and men watering horses in the Manawatu River, which flowed near Oringi Road. They were involved in training for World War I.
I would like to finish with thoughts of my father’s time, running the farm during those cruel winters with the winds blowing straight off the snow of the Ruahine Ranges.
Can you tell us a bit about how your father got around the farm?
Yes, he mainly walked around the farm because it was only sixty-three acres – other than that … no, it was mainly walking around.
He didn’t ride his horse or anything?
And did he go in dog trials or anything?
No, he didn’t, but we had two dogs – one was called Rowdy, and one was called Major. Times were hard, but my father kept on improving the farm until his death. My mother, Sarah, eventually purchased a house in Dannevirke and lived there for many years until her health forced her to move to the Rahiri Rest home. She died aged ninety-nine years in 1999.
And your mother, Sarah, did she have chooks as well?
Yes, she had chooks – she looked after chooks and …
And did she make butter?
Yes, she did.
And cream – did you have lots of cream?
Lots of cream – we always had lots of cream, and she made her own butter.
And during the war years, did she take some of the butter and eggs to town to family members or to people she knew who would want it?
In exchange for petrol coupons or anything like that?
Well I don’t really remember that, because I was only born in 1939. And coming out from Ireland, there was no relations. Friends, but the friends were mainly in our district.
And did you go to local dances? Did your mother and father take you children and go to local dances and things?
No, I did go to dances in Dannevirke, but that’s when I became an adult, after school years. Loved dancing, and when I went to Palmerston North to work, that’s where I met my future husband, at a dance.
And did your mother belong to the Women’s Institute or Women’s Division?
Yes, Sarah did. She was involved with the Women’s Institute where they probably had a monthly meeting and they took their flowers, or cakes, and was [were] judged for who got the best cake, or who got the best …
So it was Women’s Institute for her?
And did she belong to anything else, or other groups or ..?
No, only after my father died when she lived in town. She was a great card player, and she used to be in the Old Folks’ … well not that she was that old, but she used to play cards at the Old Folks’. And also she loved races – horse racing – and she loved going to the TAB and having a bet.
And did she have a drink? Tipple every night or anything?
Oh, no, no, no – Mum never drank.
Did you go to church at all as a family?
Around at the school they had church – I think it was once a month – and we went there.
And would that be Anglican or Roman Catholic, or ..?
No, no – that was Presbyterian. We were Anglicans, but it didn’t matter in those days …
You still went?
We still went. And my mother was very religious, but I don’t think the rest of us were. [Chuckle]
And did she make all your own clothes or anything like that?
Yes, some of them – she didn’t have a machine, but she used to hand-sew and she was very good at that – she was very clever. But I suppose the majority of clothes were bought.
And did she have a big garden at all? Vegetables, or flowers?
No, my father had a big vegetable garden, and it was one of the paddocks … part of one of the paddocks was used. And you’d just plough it up like you would for grass, and then disc it etcetera, and we had vegetables for the full year.
So you grew up with having meat two or three times a day, or with vegetables for dinner at night?
Yeah – vegetables for dinner at night, and the meat – we had a mobile meat truck that used to come round twice a week on a Tuesday and a Friday, and Mum would take a plate out. And the butcher would have all the meat on his truck – that covered-in truck – no refrigeration. Just this truck with all this meat in it.
Oh, so Dad didn’t kill his own?
Well yes we did from time to time.
And the pigs as well – you’d have pork every … often?
They were sent away, yeah. They were sent away to the Works, but I don’t think we had the meat from them, I think that we just got paid out for …
For what he supplied – yes. And would you have had breakfasts – when you had the haymakers in, or the shearing – would Mum have to cook huge breakfasts for them?
No. They were more general mainly – they wouldn’t arrive till probably nine o’clock in the morning after their …
No early starts then?
No early starts, no. Mainly morning teas, and I think they brought their own lunches. Morning and afternoon teas, that’s what Mum had to supply.
And for firewood – did you have a fireplace, or did you have an Aga?
No, we had two open fireplaces in the house, and electric stove for cooking.
And that’s back in the thirties?
Yes. Yes it was always that way.
You had power, did you, right from the start?
Yes, right through. ‘Cause the cows being milked, that was all laid on electricity.
Even back that early?
Well the reason I’m asking you this is ‘cause where I grew up we didn’t get power ‘til 1956.
Oh, no, no – we were modern … we were modern. [Chuckle]
Your brother – did ne go rabbit shooting? Would you go rabbit shooting as well?
Were rabbits a problem?
Oh no, not a problem – it was for fun. We used to go down by the river because the rabbits used to come out at night – in the evenings, for the drink … drink the water, and that’s where we used to go shooting. I didn’t shoot but I went with my brother.
And did your father go to any clubs or anything? Did he belong to the local darts club or anything like that?
No – my father did farming, and that was about it. They went to town once a week on a Thursday, into Dannevirke. And if it was sale day, he would go to the sale if he wanted some stock, or selling stock.
And did petrol rationing affect him, for the truck, during the war?
Yes – I’m not sure, but I believe so. But I can remember getting petrol, and I think it was 2/6d a gallon. And he used to always buy 10/- worth.
So that used to keep the truck going.
Seeing he’d been home to Ireland and brought Sarah back … in between and after that when they came back, did they have much contact with their family and friends in Ireland?
Not a lot, but they did keep in touch with … my father had a lot of sisters, and they used to write letters back and forth, but … not really – not much at all.
And they didn’t send food home to them in Ireland during the war, at all?
Not at all, no.
Would you say that they regretted coming out from Ireland, or were they happy here?
They didn’t regret coming out – they were very happy, and I think it was the lifestyle they liked, out here. And they seemed to enjoy their life.
Did they have many visitors coming?
Yes – only country visitors, because that’s who you were friends with. When you lived in the country you were mainly friendly with country people. So – and when my mother and father were alive, every Sunday they’d go to somebody’s place, or they would come to our place. And there was always the old tea wagon come out with the sponge cake, and about three other pieces – sandwiches or whatever it might have been. And in those days my mother and all the women called each other “Mrs” – they didn’t call them by their Christian names – “Mrs Kernaghan”, or “Mrs Harris”. But the men were different – they were Jim and … etcetera.
And would the men have a drink of beer or anything like that?
Yes … no, it was whisky in our house, and they had a drink. My father, when he went to town on a Thursday, he always went to the hotel and had a drink of whisky. But not a lot of drink was in our place.
And did they stay for tea, or for the Sunday afternoon …
… high tea really, wasn’t it?
It was high tea … and no – had high tea and a chat, and then that was that. And then when my father died, my mother being on her own, one certain couple – or there was two or three actually – but one certain couple used to have her for Sunday dinner. And then she had them back for Sunday dinner, but my mother didn’t like … she used to get flustered, so sometimes I’d be there, and I’d have to do the cooking.
[Chuckle] So you learned to cook from an early age, Louise?
Overall – so you’re happy living in this Hawke’s Bay area for your life?
Oh, yes – when I …
Except for the piece in Palmerston?
Yes. When I lived in Dannevirke in my younger day, I always wanted to live in Hastings. It was just something I wanted to do, so when I had the opportunity of a marriage breakup, that’s where I went to.
Did you find it difficult to support the two girls when you separated the first time?
No. No I didn’t, because I worked all the time and my mother was very good to me – she bought me a car. And anything I … I suppose I was spoilt in a way … anything I needed I was able to have. And the girls were well-clothed and well-fed, and you know, we lived just a normal life.
I don’t know if Family Benefit … had that come in then?
I’m not too sure.
Louise and I have just had a talk about whether Family Benefit was in when she had separated and had the two children to look after, which she managed totally. So Louise, you’ve had a really good life overall?
Overall, yes I have. Enjoyed my young days – in fact when I went to high school, town kids were altogether different to what we were. We were sort of – not clever as far as townies were in you know, going round town, going to the pictures and all that. We never did that when we were on the farm.
That’s the best we can come up with really, isn’t it?
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Interviewer: Erica Tenquist