De La Haye, Margaret Gladys Interview

I’m interviewing Margaret De La Haye in the afternoon of Wednesday 16th September 2020. Thank you very much, Margaret; look forward to hearing your story.

Thank you, it’s my pleasure. Today I’d like to talk a bit about Girl Guide history, especially in Hawke’s Bay. It’s a group of very strong women who worked together to provide programmes for girls and young women, right throughout the world actually, and right throughout New Zealand. Our modern aim is … I’ll read this, ‘cause this is a statement of purpose, which is now probably out of date. ‘We enable girls and young women to reach their full potential and make a difference in the world.’ I quite like that, because we give the girls challenges to work on in their own time – it was completely voluntary – and try and explain how their world is shrinking, much smaller than the world we grew up in.

Girl Guiding [in] the world began in 1909 with a parade of girls defiantly following the Boy Scouts in London, and [of] course the girls weren’t supposed to wear trousers but they did wear their skirts. [In] 1908 New Zealand Boy Scouts were organised by a Major Cosgrove who established the Girl Guides alongside ‘cause he had daughters and he had a sister. So we were [a] completely natural independent organisation fifteen years before UK’s [United Kingdom] Guides started. These strong women … New Zealand; we were here.

New Zealand history: the handbook for girls Peace Scouts was printed in 1909 when there were at least three hundred girls enrolled. And that was in Christchurch, but they were outside camping … three hundred and ten … and so they had big heavy bell tents and they managed it all themselves;  and I just admire those strong women with their long woollen skirts, their polished shoes – I’ve got a wonderful photo of them with their polished shoes, their skirts.  Toilets – how did they managed their periods? All those sort of womanly things I think about; and they were camping, and they were digging holes and they were lighting fires – far too extreme for their grandmothers. Anyway … [chuckle]

Because a lot of the church halls offered areas for them to meet in, the first Guide groups – and also actually the first Scout groups – were aligned with the churches, so a lot of the main churches had Boy Scouts and Girl Guides and Cubs using their halls, which was really good.

Robert and Olave Baden-Powell … Robert Baden-Powell was the instigator of Scouting … they visited in 1931, soon after the Hawke’s Bay earthquake, and that was a lot of promotion for Guiding. And that was the era when everybody belonged to a group, whether it was Scouts or Guides or YMCA or you know, Sunday School and things like that, for their after school activities; so it was a release away from school.

Hawke’s Bay history: Lady BP enrolled Ruth Herrick as a Provincial Commissioner in 1927. Now Ruth Herrick’s again, a strong woman, who was in the WAAF Army and she took up leadership roles in London. So she was really [encouraging]. Her skill in organising women was admired worldwide; so she was with United Nations and people like that. And then she came back to be Chief Commissioner of Guides from 1934 to 1963.

It’s a long time …

I know – isn’t it? The Girl Guide national office was in Hastings in Queen Street from 1934 onwards, so that’s that era; that’s why Hastings was so strong with Guiding, because it was the national office. They had a motor car, and they were upstairs; again, traipsing up and down their stairs in Queen Street. And the first Hawke’s Bay Cadet Company was at Woodford House, led by Enid Symes – d’you remember her? She was on the wall. [Chuckles] Now she had a friend that taught at … what’s the school down the road?

Iona.

Iona, and that’s where Miss Jerome Spencer went, [worked] and Miss Spencer was at the first Girls’ High School, Napier, and was the first headmistress of Napier Girls’ High. So these women were co-ordinating; were sharing resources, you know, and doing their own thing and they started Guide companies, so that’s where it started in Hawke’s Bay, right from 1920. So it was brilliant.

Some of the leaders wanted somewhere to camp, and Miss Spencer was friendly with the Hutchinsons who had a property up at Rissington. Frank Hutchinson bought the property, and Miss Spencer went up and stayed with him and formed the Country Women’s Institute. So that’s being going a hundred and … something-or-other years; this year they’re celebrating that; and also Girl Guides. So it’s a camping area, so we used it; we were lucky to have the resources of the camp flat down the bottom, and a two-storeyed house for cooking and camping, and as a leadership meeting/gathering place. But after the earthquake the top ridgeline broke, so it was really uninhabitable, but it was recognised as a Category 2 Heritage House. So I’m a bit embarrassed about that because it was pulled down in my era, and I got [?told?] about it; you just don’t go … but Hastings District Council said we couldn’t use it. It didn’t fit in any safety recognisation, so it was the only way to go.

Anyway, in 1958 Hawke’s Bay Province … we used to be called East Coast Province, so it went right up, right through the East Coast right up past Gisborne, right down to Wellington. And it changed in 1958 – it became Hawke’s Bay Province, so it just changed the name, but the provinces shrunk a wee bit.

In 1927 Guides started; I was given this wonderful old photo album from the Beattie family. [Miss Beattie was the first Guide and Brownie Leader in Woodville] I’ve got a photo album of the [?] Guides in 1927. They haven’t got their names on.

Very smart uniforms, aren’t they? [Chuckle]

Again, camping; I’ve got this wonderful photo album … girls are camping.

And they’ve got their tights and their stockings and …

Their stockings and their pointy shoes and their camp hats, and their ties. These ones aren’t named, the girls, but they’re camping; doing folk dancing. And the bell tents, great big heavy bell tents with … oh, cars – they had cars. So they’ve been enrolled by Lady [Marjorie] Dalrymple. She’s a Lady in her own right …

What a great name!

[Chuckle] … with St John – I googled. [The Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem] She arrived in New Zealand in October 1925 promoting Guiding … arrived in Wellington, then she left Auckland 1926. She was given afternoon tea in Wellington, the honour of being a Lady of Grace of St John – I don’t know what that really means, but St John.

So over more than a hundred years about two hundred and fifty million Girl Guides and Girl Scouts … da, da, da. Exciting. I just think that is so … for Woodville, being a small area, having that many girls enrolled as Guides … And they’re in their clothes … all in uniform.

So Woodville must’ve been a bit more sizeable, was it?

It must’ve been. I mean now it’s a farming area … I mean of course it’s a farming area; but I suppose it was a railway. But they all look so good, you know – they don’t look scruffy. Mind you they would’ve been dressed up properly, for these wonderful photos of them going walking through the Manawatu Gorge, high above the Gorge, with their shoes and socks on. [Looking at photos] That’s the Chief Guide; so these leaders definitely travelled down to Wellington … took a contingent down to Wellington to meet Lord and Lady Baden-Powell. They took the train up to Napier to go camping.

What a lovely collection you’ve got there.

I’m just rapt; I’m stoked actually, about that.

We were on Woodville, weren’t we?

I started Guiding Woodville when my daughters were old enough to go to Brownies and we needed a Brownie leader. The Brownie leader at that time was Flora Cumming, which [who] was a wonderful gentle woman and the girls just seemed to … she had this aura around her, and they seemed to crowd around her and love her; and she loved them of course, and she knew all about them growing up. A lot of their mothers she knew – she’d been around for a while. Again she was a strong woman. She was the first female to drive a car, a motor vehicle, over the Takaka Hills. I mean, as I said they’re all independent. We’ve all got our own issues; we’ve all got our own forte; even driving a motor vehicle.

So l helped at Brownies for a while, and then we needed a Guide leader. I transferred up to Guides, and then I was a Ranger leader. This is a lot of ‘I’ stuff – I don’t really want this story to be about me, [chuckle] but never mind.

And then each of the provinces were divided into about four areas, and we had a Division Commissioner; so the Division Commissioner would look after the northern part of Hawke’s Bay, which would be Napier/Hastings. And Central Hawke’s Bay would be looked after by another Division Commissioner; and I was in Southern Hawke’s Bay so we looked after Southern Hawke’s Bay, which was Woodville, Dannevirke, Akitio, Pongaroa, Weber. So I travelled all round there and camped all round those areas [as] Division Commissioner. And then when my husband got sick in 2000 I was asked to be Hawke’s Bay Provincial Commissioner, which was an honour and a delight, and I took over that role for six years … it was six years.

Another voluntary position I held was called the Outdoor Advisor. I organised … co-ordinated the outdoor team which we called the BODS, which is the Bay Outdoor Squad, and we organised all the outdoor activities. And that was my forte; that’s where [what] I really loved about the camping, or the outdoor days or the adventure days, or the activity days. We did days like … on Sea Week we went to Westshore Beach and spent a day there with all the girls from right throughout the province and up to Gisborne. Some of them came down; and I had the surf lifesavers; we did fishing off the wharf and all sorts of water thingys like that.

And then we had an Air Day which was at Waipukurau National Airport, and we had little bi-planes flying around. And so the girls were able to sit in these old aeroplanes and new aeroplanes and play with parachutes, and made rockets. And I love making bombs and stuff like that, so that was cool.

Another one we did was on fire, I think it was; that was at Waipawa in the sports ground by the rubbish tip; so that was great. We had a hovercraft on the river, and lots of displays by the police. It was opened by the fire brigade which was totally awesome because they pumped up the pumps; we were you know, [chuckle] quite close to the big pumps. And they sprayed everybody round, so [chuckle] that was absolute delight. That was [a] really awesome day.

Lots of encouraging to look at nature, and look at the trees and look at the insects, and the things that depend on water. How much we depend on water; how much we took out of the river and the filtration points and that sort of stuff, so that was very interesting.

Tell me the difference between camping in the late 20th century and camping in the 21st century, and how, sort of specifically?

You mean the 1900s camping? So the tents were made of canvas. The first tents were bell tents which were like big triangles; like First World War soldiers had.

I’ve just thought of something else … up at Omatua there’s an area called Camp Flat, where the First New Zealand Army camped up that area, to stop Te Rauparaha coming over. Yeah; it’s all those sort of things when we camp up there. Anyway … get back to camping.

So all those big tents were put onto trucks or to horse and dray, and taken to the area. And when I was camping we had [an] open fire pit … you know, dig a pit and make it fire-safe … and cooked in great big iron dixies in metal triangle things. We’d make a big hanging thing for the pots for cooking, and the dishes were washed in big enamel bowls. So these things all take a lot of weight and storage, so to have a Guide company was great; and then to have the camping equipment, we needed another big storage room; and [of] course we had a lot of that room up at Omatua, which was great. So every time we went camping we actually needed a couple of … bit more than trailers for heavy stuff. And for digging latrines, we needed somebody to know how to use a spade. So it was good basic survival skills, and that’s why I think it’s important, enabling the girls to …

And what other skills did they learn apart from basic survival skills?

Anything. I was fortunate; I was invited to help write some of the programmes. So they had a wide range of programmes that challenges to the best of their ability, so the old criteria used to have to fit within those constraints … within those things; now the girls choose the clauses they want to participate in, and choose their own badges and their own designs to fit in. So there’s everything from handwork, which is not so popular now, but food, nutrition, how to cook, how to hygiene, how to clean the pots, how to wash the pots, how to boil the water in the pot on the stove to make the water hot. Etiquette, personal hygiene, fitness ability, agility … that sort of thing. And all their challenges must be assessed or self-assessed before they can move on to the next level.

And then in the 21st century, did some of those programmes change to adapt?

Every five years the whole programme is re-assessed, rewritten, re-challenged; so yes, it keeps up with the New Zealand education system so there’s an affiliation between them; we just don’t make these programmes up for no reason.

More recently [there’s] a lot more emphasis on personal safety and civil defence, more awareness of that, which I’m really pleased about.

So modern camping … so we’re getting back to the camping. Now we have lightweight tents or lightweight flies, which you can just scrunch up into a bag and put it in your pack. Yeah. I haven’t got any of those throw-up ones. [Chuckle] My tents are still reasonably lightweight with [for] frame tents, and with a fly over the top which keeps out the rain; whereas the bell tents seemed to absorb the moisture and they would take forever to dry. And I’d bring them all home and put them over the cowshed … hang them all up in the cowshed between milkings to get the things dry. And the old tents didn’t have a floor in them so we used to just have to keep everything well off the floor; so we had boxes on tins or on sticks and things like that, whereas now the tents’ve got a floor, and I put a piece of polythene down to protect the flooring so they don’t get holes in them. And the clothes of course, we wear shorts [that] are a lot shorter [chuckle] and made of microfibre so that they can dry very quickly, and we have long johns.

Right … as an aside, I was talking to a lady who was stuck here in [from] Canada for this Covid thing. I said, “Do you want some of my souvenirs to take home?” She said, “No”, she said, “all they want is old fashioned long johns, stripey tops, because we’ve got the best colours in the world for our long johns.” So that made me smile as well.

So the kids come up in all sorts of clothes, mostly waterproof. [A] lot of children today don’t have raincoats; they definitely don’t have gumboots. Some of them will come to camp with just sandals. a) I think they can’t be bothered; b) I think they haven’t got any finances; or c) their mothers don’t know what they mean by gumboots; whereas I think gumboots are an important … essential part of camping; essential part of going outside in the wet. I mean, they don’t know that when they get up to go to the toilet in the morning the grass is wet, you know … you can’t go back to bed with wet feet. [Chuckle] But anyway … So it’s a lot easier camping today. The big camps aren’t as popular today because people go on camping things, or people go and stay in a hotel or motel.

So I mean roughly how many guides were there in the later part of last century compared to today?

In [the] 1950s that sort of social grouping was very important … 1940s/1950s; and now that intimate social gathering isn’t as important; is more electronic. So in Napier in 1950 there would’ve been ten or more groups just in Napier. Sorry – going back to the programme, we have Brownies and Guides; so Brownies are seven to ten year olds; Guides, ten to fourteen year olds; Rangers, the older girls up to twenty. Okay? So now it’s more flexible. Now we’ve got Pippins which are five and six year olds and that flows over into the Brownies, and they can be Brownies until they go to this … And then the Rangers are now high school girls. So I feel there’s a big difference; personally, I think there’s a big difference between an eighteen year old Ranger and a ten and a half year old Ranger; you know, I think of all that growth between those years. But anyway, that’s what it is. And the numbers in Napier for Guides now – we’ve just got one Guide company and it meets down here at Anderson Park at Mahoe Hall – and I think there’s only one or two Pippin and Brownie units. I don’t know ‘cause I’m not involved now. In theory I’ve retired. I’m retired, yep. I keep saying that to myself, “I’m not going to do any more”, but …

[Chuckle] You can’t resist?

Well, I love the kids. I just adore the kids. Yeah.

And so you were obviously a Guide yourself​?

Only for a short time.

Before you became a leader, is that right?

No, I was … [for a] short time I was at Hokowhitu Girl Guide Company attached to the Presbyterian Church in Palmerston North for a short time before other things took over my life. My younger sister was a better Guide than I was, and my older sister into swimming, and I did music, so … and that was it.

And you became interested again when your girls …

Well my girls needed a leader, and I thought it was a waste of time having to drive them in the car to go to Brownies … they could go to Brownies after school … but to go to Brownies, and me have to hang around, or wait around, for a couple of hours before I came home again. So it made sense to me to go and help Flora; and as I said, she was such a lovely lady with the girls, and … yeah.

So that must’ve been forty years ago?

Mm-hmm. [Chuckle] How old are they? [Chuckle] They’re both [in their] fifties. And I’m delighted with the opportunities that my girls took up. We weren’t able to send them to jamborees ‘cause they were always in January when we were busy on the farm. And the only holidays we took was [were] you know, a few days during the winter. My husband worked from pre-dawn until dark, and then later, and then meetings at night, so yep. We worked hard. And when kids say today they’re “working hard”, they don’t actually know what working hard means; they have no concept of having to work for your bread and butter. Yeah; anyway, I won’t go there.

Anyway, my daughters did quite well. Caroline got bored with it because she was sort of [in]volved; both of them helped me a lot with the programming and organising stuff. Kathryn went on to be the New Zealand representative of Rangers [Council], so she did really well. But you know, as I said they were doing other things.

Guiding: well, I was delighted … I wanted to be able to say that I’ve got some nice awards through Guiding, through my voluntary service; but I got more emotionally fulfilled rather than … you know, I wasn’t working for a reward or anything else like that.

So … the awards?

Do you want to know my awards?

I do.

There’s other things like badges, and uniforms, and Guides, and … I’ve got a Fern award; these are service awards – these are not long term service awards; so that’s the Fern Award. Then I got … I was given a Kauri Award which is for … it involved [being] a member who’s made a contribution towards Guiding … that’s my Kauri, and the Fern. And then the last award was the Kiwi Award, which is not given lightly; made an outstanding contribution; it’s because of the work I did with the outdoors, and encouraging and working the programmes; and I went to Australia as a trainer. Another position I held was training adult trainers, and that was a challenge for me, and it was a wonderful opportunity for me to learn; and how to speak slowly, and how to enjoy …

It was New Zealand and Australia that you travelled to do that?

I travelled to Australia; yeah, I was invited to go to Australia. So I’m the only person in Hawke’s Bay that’s got one of these awards, so it was rather special. And I can wear it in mufti – it’s not obviously Girl Guides, but it is Girl Guides.

No, it’s beautiful.

Thank you for acknowledging that, ‘cause I think it is; I mean, I like the design as well as the fact that it’s mine. [Chuckle]

And do they have lifetime membership things in Girl Guides?

Yes, of course. Mmm.

So when do you ..?

I’m not going to.

Does one get bestowed that, or ..?

Yes, you do. But … a financial thing. So I think because I was totally voluntarily a Guide Leader … a leader, I don’t need, you know … Now there’s a lot more paid leaders.

Right – you were saying it’s turned …

So that puts a different emphasis I think, onto leadership. Again, you’ve got to fulfil that criteria and it is judged or assessed by other people. And I don’t feel comfortable with that when I’m having fun; why should anybody else take my fun away, because I haven’t done … whatever.

I know what you’re saying. Do you think they turned professional to keep it alive?

Well regulations; I think the world has changed – I mean, of course the world’s changed. The emphasis on young women, I think, becoming more outspoken; and it was to improve the education; I don’t know. I don’t know. I’m babbling now.

The emphasis changed …

Mmm. Into work, rather than having fun – put it that way. I’d rather go out and light fires and you know, make things that go bang [quiet chuckle]

Well I thing there’s going to be a resurgence of all that sort of camping with Covid; people being unable to travel and that sort of thing.

Mmm. And having to be independent, and again, back to ‘this is a survival thing’. When I took school camps … my forte was outdoor stuff … but I took school camps; you knew which ones were the Guides because they were the ones that had their tents up first, they were the ones that had their fires lit

And they had gumboots? [Laughter]

And they had gumboots! And they knew how to roll their clothes up and stuff them in the bag, not just lie them on the grass. And that was immediately obvious – they knew all about toileting, they knew about hygiene and that is just absorbed by going to a camp; you follow what your mates are doing. Yeah.

Any memorable camps? You mentioned something about a helicopter?

That was embarrassing … it wasn’t [chuckles] … it wasn’t me with the helicopter. No, the jamborees – I’ve been really lucky to go to a lot of jamborees as a leader, so when we had our Hawke’s Bay Jamboree behind Onga Onga, up in the hills, the idea was to have a nature-themed camp, and to be totally away from isolation. [Civilisation] So we took three thousand girls up to …

When was that?

I can’t remember. [Chuckle]

Eighties?

Oh yeah, yeah … 1990s. We called it Camp Omatua. So it wasn’t a wilderness camp; it was an isolated area. The girls came down in buses to go to the aquarium, and swimming and activities, but they were not aware … a lot of them were frightened of the quietness; no noise, no traffic, no lights – “How can we see? There’s no lights.” No electricity. One girl brought a hair dryer; I mean that’s only one girl brought a hair dryer, but …

[Chuckle] That’s great! ‘Specially when it was called the [chuckle] wilderness camp. [Chuckle]

I know. I know, it was hilarious. Central Hawke’s Bay were really, really generous with their time and with their help. We had power laid on … electricity, we had gas heaters for the hot water, we had showers … the adults had showers. [The] first time they had used containers as toilet/bathroom facilities, and they worked. So now at all the big events you have containers, and I think we were the trial ones, and it worked. Had big water tanks … articulated water; it was a well below the aquifer so really, really pure. And that was another thing – some of the kids from Auckland didn’t like the taste of the water, ‘cause it tasted like nothing. And it was, it was just beautiful pure cold water.

Stunning!

I know! It was hilarious. But anyway … So the kids had the opportunity to go hiking … overnighting; lot of music, a lot of fun and a lot of singing. That’s one of the things I feel has gone out of the modern Guides – they don’t sing like we used to sing together.

Yeah, lovely …

Yeah, it was lovely, but I think they listen to their iPads rather than singing. I mean I’ve lost my tone too; since I’ve gone deaf I’ve lost my ability to keep a tone. Yeah, my voice has gone flat. Anyway …

So there you are way up in the Whakararas … I presume that’s the range you were under?

Well yes, we did go walking up. We were based at … his name is Mr … Isn’t it funny, it’s gone out of my head. Behind Onga Onga. We did do a lot of walks up there [?] and things like that.

Then something happened and the helicopter had to come?

Oh, [chuckle] you’re getting back to the helicopter. No, once when I was camping out at Omatua we were lighting fires on the creek, as you did, and the helicopter was coming over. But it wasn’t for us; it was one of the gentlemen down the road had caught himself alight with some petrol. And of course the helicopter was looking for a group of people by a creek, and of course the creek goes around a big ox-bend, you know, a big creek. And he was looking, and he just saw us lighting our fire. But it was over the other side of the hill.

And of course you didn’t know what he was doing, coming in …

Didn’t know what this helicopter was doing – who is he? Has he got guns? You know? [Chuckle] I’m petrified! [I’ve got] all these kids under my care. But the river up there is beautiful; it’s lovely and gentle. It’s got trout, and you know, the little crayfish … koura. So trying to catch those, and saying to the kids, “Put your hand out and put the koura on it”; and of course they would bite them, but …

[Chuckle] It’s all part of it.

Part of it. Yeah, so we were very lucky to have that facility out there, but unfortunately we’re not able to maintain it. We used to have a resident caregiver/caterer/groundsman who looked after it but then those sort of positions weren’t … people didn’t want to do those sort of job[s]; I mean, they said it was too far out of town. Anyway, so National Office decided that they were going to sell off all the properties, and they offered the property back to the Absolom family, who bought it. So Star Absolom has done an absolutely marvellous, fantastic job up there, revitalising the buildings, and … all been painted; and the beds have all got new covers on, and electric blankets – it’s just like … yeah. So if you wanted to go up there for a conference or for a meeting you can go up and stay.

And do the Girl Guides still use that?

We still use it for camping, but because now it belongs to the Absoloms and not Guiding, [you’ve] got to take everything in and take it home again. So in some cases it was too hard, so that’s why the girls don’t go camping like we did camping.

Do you know how to spell that camp? The one that the Absoloms now have?

It’s Omatua. [Spells] I can give you a history of Omatua. I did write a history of Omatua. Omatua is ‘a home of strong women’, there you go. Twenty-eight k [kilometres] from Napier, and thirty-eight from Hastings, and that word ‘Omatua’ means ‘first home’ – one of the oldest homesteads in Hawke’s Bay, built in 1861, so that’s how old. Because [of] the updated Health and Fire Regulations in 1977 the old house could no longer be used. It had a coal range in it, so when they built the new complex they brought the coal range over and put it in the middle of the kitchen. People didn’t know how to light coal ranges, so we had to take that out and put electric stoves in. All these things you think you’re doing … good memories. So accommodation is available for sixty; there were forty-six [?] beds in the lodges; the main hall is ideal for indoor activities. It’s got a polished lino floor … not lino, but another thing like that that’s as good.

So a lot of important Hawke’s Bay people have been involved in Guiding over the years, so again, we’re blessed with the calibre of the women that’ve helped, you know, like Eileen von Dadelszen, and Mrs [Glenys] Riddell; and a lot of people have donated money or facilities or things. Yeah.

Colonel George Whitmore was sent to Rissington to protect the English settlers in 1861. I imagine that these’ll be the guys marching up in their big woollen things. So at the end of the New Zealand Wars each soldier was given a tract of land, so Captain Anderson obtained … because I haven’t found a land purchase agreement … this little old house, but he did more renovations. So he was there from 1863.

Frank Hutchinson bought the property in 1907 and he lived there until 1940; and Mrs Judith Absolom bought Omatua then.

So the Absoloms have been there for a long time, haven’t they?

Mmm. That’s what I mean – Star, you know, a granddaughter-in-law – she’s up there and the kids are running around, and it’s fabulous to see that place well-loved, ‘cause I just love it being up there, because the cherry trees are absolutely brilliant; the bush all round it; and we did lots of walking tracks and things up there for the kids.

Anyway, I’ve run out now …

Have you?

… is that enough?

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Interviewer:  Caroline Lowry

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