Peggy van Asch & Carrie Greenwood – Duart House

[Poor quality recording]

Lorie Mastemaker: This is an interview with Peggy van Asch and Carrie Greenwood, conducted on 4th December 2009 at Duart House of Havelock North. The interview is being conducted by Lorie Mastemaker of Napier, as part of a dissertation paper towards a degree of Masters in Museum and Heritage Studies at Victoria University. Peggy and Carrie are happy to take part in this research, and understand that upon its completion this tape recording will be offered to the Duart House archives for the benefit and education of future generations.

Hi, Peggy and Carrie.  I just wanted to thank you both for being here today and taking the time to talk to me about Duart House. I wonder if we could just start out by talking a little bit about how the both of you came to be involved with Duart House. What was happening at the time that you decided to get involved, and how did Duart House come to be that it’s a Reserve today, and something that the public can enjoy and appreciate?

Carrie Greenwood: The school trip …

Peggy van Asch: The school trip – we came to Duart on a school trip.

Lorie: Oh, okay.

Peggy: And we both were I think quite saddened and disappointed that really, the house wasn’t being used in the way that the gift of the Greenwood family [interference] had envisaged the house was going to be used.

Carrie: Oh, it was very scruffy and run down; very unloved.

Peggy: There was a dining room table that somebody’d jumped on, and broken it, and it was quite horrid; and the garden wasn’t looking very smart. The whole thing was …

Lorie: Was it being rented at the time?

Peggy: Yes, there was a lady upstairs doing dressmaking; and I’m trying to think …

Carrie: There were several pianos – it’d been used for dance practise or something. There was a strange American group …

Peggy: But they came a bit later, I think. ‘Cause there wasn’t any carpet; there was carpet in the main room, but there wasn’t carpet in this room – or was there?

Carrie: Yes, there was. There was that funny yellowy one.

Peggy: And so I think it was just the fact that we … I mean, [?] and Carrie spent a lot of time in England. So we probably thought that it would be nice to have the house look like a Historic Places Trust house, that … you know, people would come and use it, and people would look at the old house, and we would hopefully have a museum and all sorts of things. And we went to see the Council, but unfortunately at that time there was a group of Americans, and they were the CAI … that’s right – I don’t know what that means – and they had six-month work permits. And they were going to do this wonderful community thing in Havelock North, but it never really came off, and I think fortunately they didn’t get their visas renewed.

And then there was the doll museum …

Lorie: Was that Mr Jennings?

Peggy: Mr Jennings.

Carrie: Yes.

Peggy: And he did wonderful things, and he had cabinets … The only thing I didn’t like was he actually had a clown with a red nose on the front door, and that used to sort of get up my nose slightly. It wasn’t in keeping, [chuckle] but that’s just me. He had all these cabinets and all the toys, all downstairs; and that was quite nice, it was being used. So that was good. And then he didn’t have enough money to bring all his toys and bits and bobs out with him from England all the way – he was certainly a Welshman. And when he did get the money, and opened – the things all arrived at Napier wharf, and they opened things – I don’t know whether it was the wharfies, or whether it was his …

Carrie: No, his friend.

Peggy: Packed by a friend; and all it was was table legs, chair bits … it was just bulk wood to make up the weight. And the poor man had a heart attack and never recovered, and he died. So that left Mrs Jennings, who was quite young – she must’ve only been about twenty-nine or so … twenty-seven, twenty-nine; and so it meant Duart was empty again. And so Carrie and I sailed forth again to the Council.

Carrie: I have to say that Peggy … on this school visit, Peggy said, “Carrie, something must be done!” [Chuckle] And I thought, ‘Oh no! This is the next twenty years of my life!’ [Chuckles] Which it’s been, and more.

Peggy: And more, and more. Yes. So I think because there wasn’t any other alternative coming up as far as the Council was concerned, that they actually said, “Yes”, to us. And then we had to work out what we were going to do.

And at the same time, Margaret Hursthouse who was a Borough Councillor – I think she was Deputy Mayor at the time; she and some other people, I think Gillian Thompson – I think it was Gillian – approached the Council and said the gardens were a shambles, and they would like to come and do something with the gardens. And so the Council … we had a meeting, four of us, and that was when we decided we’d have a society. Went home that night and Mark von Dadelszen phoned up; he was the Council’s solicitor. And he said, “Oh … hear you’re going to do something at Duart; I’ll do all the legal work free for you.” So I didn’t even have to ask, did we? So that was brilliant – Mark did all that. And that was 1985 we became an incorporated society.

And we were …

Carrie: We were poor – we had no money.

Peggy: No money at all. We used to come here on a Monday, and we would be cleaning, scrubbing, sanding, painting … anything …

Carrie: Curtaining…

Peggy: … making curtains; Tuesday we would be doing the same, Wednesday we would be doing the same …

Carrie: Thursday the same.

Peggy: And then Friday was exciting, because Friday we used to have a coffee morning. And the people involved were … us, who’d been doing all the work all week; then you went home on Thursday night and you had a meal, and then you did all this baking, because you had to have all this baking for Friday morning, to sell for the coffee morning. And then we’d get some people, but you wouldn’t necessarily get enough people for all of the things that you’d made, or whatever. And then you’d feel sorry, ‘cause you knew how hard you’d worked, making your stuff; [chuckle] you would buy each other’s stuff. [Chuckles] So it would’ve been a lot cheaper in the end to have all put $25 in the pot, and not had … but anyway …

Carrie: But we did have some gorgeous local families … old families. The old Miss[es] McKenzie who used to come …

Peggy: There were two or three of them?

Carrie: Two. And they came, and they always eat a huge tea … they made a good tea, as one would say. And we sort of said something about when they went on to lunch times … “Oh no, this is our lunch on Fridays; we always come up here.” [Chuckles] ‘Cause there was no … you know, you just helped yourself to whatever food was available.

Peggy: And Carrie makes wonderful bread, and so people used to come just to buy Carrie’s bread, and that was … so the bread was never a problem; the bread always went. But I think we had goes at making, I think, muesli at one stage, to see if that would be something that we could sell. And I used to make the scones, and I’ve got four daughters; and we were doing the baking on a Thursday, and they used to say, “Oh, she’s Duarting again”, [chuckle] meaning that you know, there was no way that I was doing the baking for them; it was all having to go to Duart. I think probably if they’d offered to buy it off me I probably would’ve sold it. [Laughter] “Well actually, give me $3 and you can have a cake.” [Chuckles] But we had fun; I mean, we worked incredibly hard.

Carrie: There was a gardening group doing up the garden at the same time, so they’d be working outside; we’d be working inside. And actually we used to chop and change, ‘cause Marie, I think, came on as the gardener, but was the best seamstress of us all, and made all the curtains, and insisted on matching all the lines. Peggy and I would’ve just zapped it up.

Peggy: And so we did overlap doing different things, and we actually probably all learned quite a few more skills.

And we had a lovely couple, Bill and Gwen Dorward, and Bill was a pseudo woman for the Women’s Refuge ‘cause he was the only man that ever went to the Women’s Refuge. He did all the maintenance there, and Bill did all the maintenance here for us. And Bill collected everything and anything, and we’ve put his collection outside and we’ve called it the Dorward Museum. And I mean there’s [there’re] corsets in there; there’s a carpenter’s complete chest; upstairs we’ve got the rifle that was used by the village policeman. It’s all Bills, I mean I think he just collected absolutely everything. But we learned that you could get rid of … what was it? The stains on the wallpaper upstairs – that if we painted them with oil-based paint over the stains where the water had come through before, and then you could put water-based paint on top.

And then we had this wonderful idea; we were going to rent out the downstairs. We kept it fairly clear downstairs, so there could be weddings, lunches, morning teas, afternoon teas; and at that stage we actually did the catering for all these things. We didn’t do a wedding, but we certainly did lunches and morning teas and afternoon teas, and that sort of thing.

And then we decided that Carrie and I would approach the Museum and Art Gallery, and we’d ask them for furniture because we had decided that we were going to have a nursery, a morning music room, a bedroom …

Carrie: That was it, upstairs.

Peggy: Yes, and we were going to do this but we needed some furniture. Where could we get furniture for nothing? There was Robert McGregor; and I can’t remember the other man’s name off the top of my head …

Carrie: Was it Robert?

Peggy: Yes, it was Robert. And so they came over, and they had a look at Carrie and I, and they had a look at what we were planning. And they didn’t actually say it – they were quite kind – but the look was, ‘There’s two idiots here; this will all fold in a year, but we’ll find them some furniture.’ And I really think that they didn’t really expect us to keep going.

Carrie: We were quite pleased, ‘cause we’d had all this furniture and we’d never known what to do with it.

Peggy: And so … I mean, they were really nice, and they gave us … well, pieces of furniture …

Carrie: The bulk of the furniture upstairs; the nice old furniture upstairs.

Lorie: Is that still part of the Museum’s collection [?]?

Peggy: Yes. And it was quite interesting, because for the first time ever, about a month ago, they came to have a look.

Lorie: After all these years?

Peggy: Yes …

Lorie: They’d probably forgotten they’d loaned it. [Chuckle]

Peggy: No. No, no [chuckles] – different curators there had never bothered, and so all of a sudden they came and they had a look, and they said, “Oh, you’ve looked after it really well.” You know, “We might have some other pieces that we could …” Yes, so we said, “Well those two pieces there were broken when they arrived; they’re still broken. They haven’t actually moved for twenty-five years, so if you’d like to take them back …” So they said, “Oh well, we will find you some more, and we will remove those.” And we did say we didn’t want a picture of Elizabeth, and we thought that perhaps Victoria or Edward would be more in keeping with the house. And so that was …

Lorie: They were supportive?

Peggy: They were – they were really, really nice.

Carrie: And a lot of the local families gave us stuff; Doctor Reeve, whose father was the doctor before him … not sure if his grandfather was, but definitely his father was … he gave us a beautiful old rocking chair, and it turns into a high chair. You know, it’s a lovely rocking chair …

Peggy: That came from the Museum.

Carrie: No, that came from Cherry. That came from Cherry Reeve.

Peggy: In the nursery?

Carrie: Yes.

Peggy: No, it’s not; it’s actually written on the items that came, and it definitely came from the Museum.

Carrie: Did it?

Peggy: Yep.

Carrie: ‘Cause I was pretty sure that it came from Cherry.

Peggy: No. No. [Chuckles]

Carrie: But the one other thing – when the new doctor took over when Doctor Reeve retired, all the … you know, what is it called? The inspection bench that you used to lie on in the doctors … the new doctor looked at it, and it completely folds up; and it was the one that Doctor Reeve’s father used to take up on his pack pony up to Gisborne; you know? [Chuckle] And it’s wonderful, so we said, “Yes, we’d love it”, and so we’ve got it to this day. A lot of people would’ve been prone on that bench, I think.

Peggy: Well, they would’ve been, yes.

Lorie: And that’s an item that’s owned by Duart House?

Peggy: Well, it’s one of those funny things that … I think we said to people that if they would lend it to us on permanent loan, because otherwise, if anything happened … Sometimes, perhaps – I don’t know – one person in a family says, “I don’t want that any more”, and they don’t necessarily consult anybody and they give it away, and then all of a sudden you’ve got a … you know, a grandchild that said, “But you know, I always wanted it”. So I think what we thought was it would be better if it was permanent loan, then people could have them back.

Carrie: And if we tipped over, then it didn’t go to the Council … they didn’t make any money out of it.

Peggy: Oh, and that’s one other thing; when the Council first said we could have Duart, any revenue that we collected – not from our bring-and-buys or our lunches or something that we did – but from the actual house hire, we had to give half back to the Council. And that went on until about four years ago; and I wrote to the Council and said that I thought it was rather unfair, because there were other Council-owned buildings that actually got grants; and you know, here we are, totally self-sufficient, but you’ll still take half of our income off us. And so yes, that got stopped, so we now do save all our money. But we pay a peppercorn rent …

Carrie: Huge rent – used to be $10 a year. And then GST – it went up to $12.50, so we’re struggling with …

Peggy: So we pay $12.50 a year.

Carrie: And they maintain the garden and the outside of the house, and we look after the inside. But [at] certain times they’ve come in and done things like … they gibbed the hall, which was a terrible job. If you’ve seen up the stairs, it’s about a million feet high. So they did that; and we’ve sort of asked them for amounts of money for certain things. But we’ve tried to be independent, and we have …

Peggy: We’ve done an unbelievably good job of being independent. All the carpet – we fund-raised to put the carpet down …

Carrie: And grants – we got a lot of grants.

Peggy: And this room, we had the antique restorer … he was a bit like Michelangelo … he just used little steel wool pads, sort of two inches square, and cleaned the whole of the room.

Carrie: It was black – all the panelling; well, it wasn’t all black, but …

Peggy: You know how old wood gets a bit motley? Yes, well it was like that. He’s done a fantastic job, and he was very generous with his price … his quote … to us for the amount of work.

Lorie: And who was it that did that?

Peggy: Keith Taylor. And he’s wonderful, and he arrived – and I warned the caretaker at the time, Glenys – I said, “Look, he’ll come trotting up, and he’s very quietly spoken. And he’ll have bare feet, probably.” And so Glenys said, “I’m glad you warned me about him ‘cause I wouldn’t’ve let him in otherwise.” [Chuckle] It took him three months to do.

Carrie: And he had a scaffolding, and he really was, you know, to do the ceiling, was lying on his back. Yes, I mean … did a wonderful job.

Lorie: Did he do the whole house?

Carrie: Just this room.

Lorie: ‘Cause this was the only room that needed the cleaning?

Carrie: Well, it’s the only panelled room.

Peggy: It’s the only panelled room, and the others … we’re very lucky; I mean over the years when we think about it, no one really painted the ceilings horrendous colours. And you know, I mean yes, there’s the odd door, but we’ve stripped back doors and things, but basically it has actually been left in its natural state.

Lorie: So the Council is very supportive, do you feel, of Duart House? And do you feel that they’re willing to sort of help when ..?

Peggy: They weren’t in the …

Carrie: No.

Peggy: … beginning. We had people that really … they wanted to put a match to it. They did not want the house, and one particular councillor said that ‘the only thing that’s holding Duart together is that the borer are holding hands, otherwise it would fall over.’ And I mean really, there’s a little bit of borer round this window on both sides, and there’s a little bit over there, and a weeny bit upstairs; and that’s really the only … there’s a little bit outside in one of the wash houses. But I mean, when you consider how old the house is, it’s nothing at all.

Lorie: And this is probably built much, much better than other houses of yesterday; it’s as solid as it can be, really. So the early relationship was a little bit strained?

Carrie: Peggy was tactful; I was not. She had to lock me in the cupboard when the councillors came. Because the other thing was they’d been letting it out for weddings, and they’d only had one loo, and an outside loo. Suddenly, when we took it over … “Oh, you have to have the kitchen lined; and you have to do this and you have to do that.” And I was going “behh!” And getting very hot under the collar; so Peg used to lock me in the cupboard and deal tactfully with the Council. [Chuckle] But then as we got on and we didn’t fall over, they became very supportive …

Peggy: I think to begin with they were just thinking … I was looking at the letter some time ago, and basically we were happily saying that we would like to take over Duart House, and we will run it along the lines of a Historic Places Trust house; because we both thought that was a really good sentence, not having an absolute clue what running like a Historic Places Trust house [?] – so what? And it was the blind leading the blind; and we just bumbled along and kept going. Lots of people were very supportive.

And it’s like … I mean, the Thompson Pritchard paintings; Carrie knew them from when she worked in the library; I’d seen them when they were in the library when the library was in the old RAF [Royal Air Force] hall; and we both said, “What happened to those paintings? We need something to cover up the walls.”

Carrie: We need something big, ‘cause we’ve got lots of big walls, and the walls were in terrible condition then.

Peggy: And so we went into the Council, and we said, “Where are those paintings?” And, “Hmm – what paintings?” And so … there were the paintings piled on top of each other, nothing between the paintings, on top of some filing cabinets in the corner. And so we said, “We want those … we’ll take those.” And suddenly it was a case of, “Oh. Oh, well if you want them … oh well …”

Carrie: But by that time they were in Peggy’s Lada; we’d shot them back in the station wagon. [Chuckles]

Peggy: And Harry Romanes and Max Pedersen [councillors] had gone down to the Beehive – I don’t know, to see the MP or do something; I don’t know what they were doing there – and they looked up and they saw a painting, and Harry said, “Oh! That’s the fellow that we’ve got those paintings of.” And it was the ‘Signing of the Bill of Rights’ …

Carrie: The American one …

Peggy: Is that the ‘Signing of the Bill of Rights’?

Lorie: Yes.

Peggy: yep, well Thompson Pritchard painted that and gave it to the Beehive in Wellington.

Carrie: It’s huge!

Peggy: It is huge. And so of course they came back and they couldn’t wait to get Webbs to do a valuation of the paintings, and I think they almost valued the paintings and the frames at the same sort of value. And so it was … all of a sudden these were absolutely precious; these were wonderful paintings, you know.

Carrie: But we had them …

Peggy: We already had them, so there was no way you [they] were getting them back.

Yes, so it took a while; then all of a sudden people got interested in the paintings, and we started to look for where the paintings were, considering how many had arrived and what had happened to them. And basically because there wasn’t a gallery here, they’d been lent out to schools, or institutions and people. And I can remember, you know, saying to the Council, “Well I know where one is”; [coughing] “it’s on Mrs Ashcroft’s wall, over the fireplace.” And they said, “Well how do you know?” So I said, “Well, my daughter’s a friend of her granddaughter.” And Phil Ashcroft used to be a mayor of Havelock, so I mean, he had one at home. And there wasn’t really a proper record of where the paintings had gone.

Carrie: There might’ve been, but it got lost.

Peggy: And so we’ve now traced twenty of the paintings.

Carrie: One turned up yesterday unexpectedly.

Peggy: But when I spoke to the Council, they said, “Oh – we knew about that one, Peggy. Didn’t we tell you?” I said, “No. No, you didn’t tell me.”

And so he sent four to the Art Gallery in Wellington … the National Art Gallery; he sent one to the Suter Gallery in Nelson, and one to the Hawke’s Bay Art Gallery and Museum in Napier. Yes, ‘cause at one stage we sort of thought, ‘Well goodness me – where are all these other paintings?’ I think we’ve probably accounted for all of them now.

Carrie: Thompson Pritchard had sort of donated them to the people of Havelock. And if you read that thing, it’s lovely; it was for the intelligentsia and the hoi polloi. It’s splendid.

Peggy: [Reading] ‘… He launches a damning attack; he makes some prejudiced or private griefs which prevent him from taking them to his bosom, but he should not have overlooked the fact that my gift is to the town of Havelock North; not to its elite or its Council, but the people themselves, both the intelligentsia and the hoi polloi, whether they be Tory, Conservative, Liberal, Labour, Socialist or Communist. And he is only their trustee, and as such has no right to any private opinion which would jeopardise the fullest interest of the whole community.’ [Chuckles] Isn’t it lovely?

Carrie: I think it’s absolutely beautiful; I must before you go, give you a copy of all the correspondence, because it really is … I think it’s brilliant reading. It’s not boring; it’s not boring. Mmm.

Lorie: No. And it gives a sense of who he is; his character and personality. It brings this all to life, doesn’t it?

Peggy: And I think as he got older, he probably got quite sentimental about Havelock North.

Lorie: I think so.

Peggy: So I think that was why he thought it would be quite nice to … you know, to donate things. I think he even wanted to know about being buried here.

Carrie: I don’t think his wife was very keen on that …

Peggy: Well she didn’t know. He said he … what was it? [Reading] ‘Thanks for your letter of the 12th July which came to hand a few days ago, and the photos. It looks a nice, cosy little layout. I just managed to get the letter extracted from the envelope in time before my wife wanted to know who it was from. I handed over the photos, telling her it was a few views of my birthplace, and a friend had promised to send them to me a long time ago. If she had seen the letter there would’ve been h-l to pay’ [chuckle] ‘as to what the reference of caskets was all about.’ So obviously he was … mmm.

Lorie: So you say that you and Carrie quite like the idea of using the upstairs as a place sort of to maybe recreate the look, maybe, of the period – not the original period, but just to give an atmosphere, sort of thing?

Peggy: 1920 … there was a cut-off at 1920; we thought that was a reasonable sort of cut-off time.

Lorie: So at what point did the Society come into being?

Peggy: We became an incorporated society in 1985. And so we’ve been through some good committees, and some other committees over the years. We had one committee that thought … I don’t know if you’ve actually come across a place called Ormlie Lodge …

Lorie: No.

Peggy: … which is a commercial restaurant, accommodation; and they had ideas that in another world we could knock out walls; we could have, you know …

Carrie: Conference Centre …

Peggy: We could have, you know, another place …

Carrie: A big windmill on the circle lawn in front of the house, because that would make the Dutch people – there’s quite a big Dutch community here – feel at home. We didn’t quite think that Duart was the place for a windmill.

Peggy: We should have a flag pole …

Carrie: An amphitheatre …

Peggy: Yes, amphitheatre going down towards the pond, and Carrie and I …

Carrie: I’d been off the committee for some time.

Peggy: … and we had temper tantrums about that with them. And they got a bit … difficult.

Carrie: But we had some really difficult times; I mean, there were times when we nearly folded. One of the things that helped us was the music.

Peggy: And a lot of the teachers and the exams – did they start up then?

Carrie: The Registered Music Teachers’ Association used to have their little concerts and things.

Peggy: And then they wanted somewhere – because some of the registered music teachers didn’t really have space in their homes to have, you know, those concerts at the end of terms – and also, yes, it was somewhere for exams.

Carrie: And they gave concerts for Duart too.

Peggy: And the nice thing was, we didn’t have to give the Council any money that we made from the music because that was a donation; they gave it to us as a donation, so we kept it.

Carrie: And an aunt loaned us a very good piano … small grand piano. I mean there’s a few times it’s toppled onto it’s knees, and … just something’s always come along and picked it up.

Peggy: And we used to have Penny Higgins; she used to come …

Carrie: She was a local historian.

Peggy: She was the secretary of the Historic Places Trust, and I think her husband was the treasurer. And so she would come and give talks on any aspect of Hawke’s Bay’s history which was very good, and we got people coming back again. And then we were opening … it was ten ‘til four the first Sunday of the month.

Carrie: And sometimes all weekends, because we hadn’t really got into the wedding thing; it was so shabby, you know – only a very poor-quality bride would want to get married here. [Chuckle]

Peggy: Yes, we needed to get some money, and we had to get some decent curtains in the main room. I mean prior to that, Carrie and I were probably well-known in Havelock and in Hastings for heading forth with a begging bowl because we wanted something for Duart. And it could’ve been material to make curtains; I mean even when we were doing the carpet we were, you know, twisting their arms right up their back. And Guilfords in Havelock were incredibly kind to us – Mike used to dread us coming in, I think, because he’d say, “Now what do you two want?” We wanted business eventually …

Carrie: Yes. [Chuckle]

Peggy: And we used to say, “Well we really need some material; now what material have you got?” You know. “We really like that. Oh, goodness me! We certainly can’t be paying that sort of price; we can pay $5 a metre.” And he said, “But you know, it’s sort of $35 a metre”, and we said, “Well we haven’t got that sort of money.”

Carrie: “And it would be cheaper anyway, by the roll, wouldn’t it? If we got the whole roll off [from] you it would be even cheaper.” [Chuckle]

Peggy: “And really, it’s been here – because we’ve been in several times and it’s been here for a couple of months and nobody’s bought it, so obviously nobody else wants it; we’re the only ones who want it, so you know, why don’t you let us have it?” You know – “Would you like to make the curtains for us? No? Well that’s a bit mean, but oh, all right, my mother will.”

Carrie: And when one dried up … we went in, and one would start off this spiel; and as we got sort of embarrassed [chuckle] at our cheek the other one would take over.

Peggy: And while one was going the other one was thinking, ‘Yes, now what other angle can we try, and see if we can get something out of them.’ But people were incredibly kind, and generous, and helpful.

Lorie: So that really says a lot about how the community feels about the house, and about what you were trying to do.

Carrie: A lot of people were very anti the house – they thought it was just something the Council was pouring money into and it wasn’t getting anywhere, until we took it over.

Peggy: But I think a lot of people … no, I think it was that Carrie and I had such belief in Duart that it was going to work. And we didn’t really care what other people thought; what they said; we were going to be successful, weren’t we?

Carrie: Never occurred to us that we wouldn’t be. The word ‘impossible’ was not in our dictionary, mmm.

Lorie: And that was infectious for other people.

Peggy: Probably. I mean I think that … I mean, yes … when we were younger, and had ankles then, and charming smiles … [Laughter]

Lorie: Early on there were difficulties and challenges, and people that perhaps weren’t convinced that ..?

Peggy: Oh, yes … I mean when the Council bought Duart there was quite a lot of opposition, ‘specially from old … what’s his name? Was it Ralph Bannister?

Carrie: Yeah.

Peggy: Who was a lawyer. And it was quite interesting, because Ralph Bannister and Mark von Dadelszen’s father, John, were in the legal practice together, of Bannister & von Dadelszen. And there was Bannister thinking it was dreadful, you know, the whole thing about Duart; and at that stage … can’t remember whether John had retired … but Mark was working there. And there was Mark saying, you know, “I’ll do all your legal work for free for you; I think it’s absolutely wonderful that you’re going to take over Duart.” And you see the von Dadelszens had grown up – both the boys had grown up on the gate as you come in. And the von Dadelszen’s mother, her father built Keirunga … Reginald Gardiner built Keirunga; so I mean they were more tuned in to older houses.

Carrie: They were very muddled up with the Rosicrucians, you know;  the Felkins … the lot up in Whare Ra which I’m sure you’ve heard of.

Lorie: Yes.

Carrie: The other thing that worried us too, was when the Havelock and the Hastings Council[s] amalgamated, and we went, “Ooh, my goodness me – this is going to be nasty.” Mmm.

Lorie: That’s what I was wondering.

Carrie: And we dreaded it. And it didn’t happen – it was a dream, because we had the mayor at the time loved old houses. So he was saying, “Would you like money for such-and-such?” And we’d been not having this sort of treatment; we’d go, “Ooh, yes!” So I mean, Jeremy Dwyer was really … he was a very nice man; very, very nice man.

Lorie: So there was a big change ..?

Carrie: The Havelock Council – I mean they’d been good, they’d given us a dishwasher and things like that, but …

Peggy: I think we were apprehensive as to how the Hastings District Council would behave. Because Hawke’s Bay Borough Council – if you thought that the drain was blocked in the road, you’d actually phone one of the councillors and you’d say, you know, “That blasted drain is blocked”, you know. “I need somebody to fix it.” And he would arrange somebody to fix it …

Carrie: Or they’d go there themselves.

Peggy: And so all of a sudden we changed from having what – eight councillors and a mayor to two representatives on the Hastings District Council. But again, it was the same thing; and I think Hawke’s Bay’s probably slightly different to lots of other places – that most people, well certainly in Havelock, think it’s their God-given right if they want to complain about something to phone their councillor up and say, you know, “This is happening”, you know, “do something about it.” You know, “You’re a councillor”; whereas I don’t think it really happens in other places.

Carrie: ‘Cause Harry Romanes, the mayor – I can remember him going and killing a wasps nest, ‘cause my aunt and uncle rang up – “We’ve got a wasps nest – what’re you going to do about it?” And that’s the mayor, coming down and sort of [?pouring?] petrol down it.

Peggy: And I mean, when the old Borough Council office was bulldozed-over I was in there working for Age Concern at the time. And Harry came in, and I said to Harry, “Hmm – we really need some carpet for the flat upstairs in Duart, so can we have the carpet?” “Yes, you can have the carpet.” And I said, “All those bookshelves … we could do with some nice rimu wood.” And so he said, “Look”, he said, “take anything you want for Duart.” And I took the vacuum cleaner, and we got curtains. In fact, you know, somebody said, “What’re you doing?” And I said, “It’s all right – Harry Romanes” – who was still the mayor at that point – “Harry says I can have it.” So it was wonderful; we still have the carpet upstairs in the flat which came from the old Borough Council; we got their drinks cabinet; I bought two of the windows which were leadlight windows, which I’ve got at home, but that’s by the way.

Carrie: That was when you inveigled my poor father – “Dan, come down with your lorry …” [Laughter]

Peggy: So really, I think most people have been very kind.

Carrie: They have, yes.

Peggy: It’s just … we did have that nasty time with some committee members, but fortunately they didn’t last too long on the committee.

Lorie: Was there a period in between the acquisition of the house and the time that the Friends took it over … was there a period in between where I think it was just being rented and one of the councillors helped themselves to things on the property?

Carrie: Can we be liable for this?

Peggy: You mean like … red bricks?

Carrie: There was outside … there was the first garage I think, in sort of Havelock, Hastings, which was started by one of Tuki McLean’s sons. It was 1906, I think – we’re trying to work out the date. I asked my brother, and he reckons it was 1906; and when Duart was acquired by the council the garage was still standing. It had a pit; it was an amazing old thing. It was a Guide room, and the Guides used to meet there, and strange things used to go on. Well, no, I didn’t [?] about that. [Laughter] But it would’ve been perfect. And the Vintage Car Club wanted to take it over as their clubroom. But no, no – it was not secure. It had to be knocked down; it was a dangerous building. Well it withstood the earthquake, and they buttressed it up … terrible English … after the earthquake; and my father’d been using it until the seventies, but it all got knocked down. And strange as it may seem, all the bricks – ‘cause it was a brick building – all ended up on the mayor’s driveway, which was very strange.

Peggy: Yes, he had a lot of works and a brick driveway. And the gates from Duart disappeared. They were very similar gates that he got.

Lorie: So it’s a story that can’t be proven, but it’s a suspect. [Suspicion]

Peggy: Well unless we asked him outright; I’ve never actually asked him outright.

Carrie: He was the one that went on television and said, “What this house needs is a match.”

Peggy: And he’s the one who said it was borer holding hands.

Carrie: And he put in a very sort of drunken handyman … or absolutely drunken handyman called Rupert in … there was a flat there; it was sort of through that back door. And he put, as my father said, “I think he’s let it to Rupert because he’s the man most likely to burn the house down.” ‘Cause he used to get drunk and things did catch fire. Luckily, when they took over Duart, the Chambers …

Peggy: Bernard Chambers paid $10,000 to put in a sprinkler system, and so the sprinkler system used to come on when he had his kitchen fires, or whatever he was doing; we’re not quite sure whether he went to bed and smoked in bed or something. But no, he was awful.

Carrie: And he was still in residence when we took it over.

Peggy: And we had a slight problem getting rid of him, but we did dispose of him; we did manage to get him … he was smelly. Oh, he was horrible.

Carrie: Dirty.

Lorie: Oh, that’s astonishing, isn’t it? So getting back to the community, while all this is happening you say you had felt supported by the council … both councils. What about the community … the immediate community in Havelock North? What sort of reaction have they had to Duart, and do they feel that Duart gives them a sense of identity, or a sense of place?

Peggy: I think the most interesting thing is, every time we have a function here like a gala, it’s amazing how many Havelock people come. And they say, “I didn’t know this house was here.” And yet we’ve done different things; we’ve had different promotions …

Carrie: The population has changed so much over the years. I think the [?] and the Lions, and all those sort[s] of people are wonderful. Plunket were fantastic, they used to do a garden tour.

Peggy: They were the first people to do garden tours.

Carrie: And we used to do teas, and we could keep the money from the teas.

Peggy: And they were absolutely brilliant.

Carrie: And then you know, if Plunket wanted to have a fund-raising, then they could have the house.

Peggy: And we didn’t charge them for it. Either they were free, or a nominal amount. And Havelock Rotary provided us … they made the garden furniture, you know, the tables and chairs, and they did a lot of painting, and that man spilt …

Carrie: No, the Lions – that was the Lions. The Rotarys were lovely, ‘cause they were a bit older and soberer, but the Lions were a bit gung-ho. They were like Tigger. [Chuckles]

Peggy: And then we started a Duart Dinner Club; a friend of mine was keen to have a club that met once a month that would have a good speaker. The emphasis was to be on the speaker, not on the food. And at the same time, somebody else I knew said, “There’s a Hastings Dinner Club, and there’s a waiting list of sixty people. Can we start one?” And I said, “Oh, that’s a really good idea; we’ll have one at Duart.” And it was another way of utilising Duart; and so that’s how the dinner Club started, which has been going ever since. But when we first started it the emphasis was on the speaker; now I think the emphasis is on the food. Things have changed slightly, but you know, that’s another way of using the house. And recently we started history talks again; that’s bringing a lot of people in, and I mean internet is so, so much easier.

Carrie: That has made … it’s made such a difference to the bookings. Plus the fact that all the hard work we put into the house, and all the improvements – they’re paying off now.

Peggy: And Rose [Chapman] is …

Carrie: Saint Rose …

Peggy: We’re so lucky, she’s the best caretaker we’ve ever had. She is just unbelievable.

Lorie: Yes, ‘cause she wants to be part of the house; she’s not just here for accommodation or a job – it’s her life, and she lives and breathes it.

Peggy: I mean, she’s doing so much research at the moment on the McLeans.

Lorie: I know, she’s so excited about it too.

Peggy: You know, she must spend hours and hours on the internet. I mean it was really interesting – she showed me some photographs that were taken by … I don’t know which son of Tuki off the top of my head, sorry … and it shows Duart and rolling hills. And some years ago, Carrie and I were given two small watercolours that showed Duart with rolling hills, and we both said, “Well that’s a lot of licence …”

Carrie: We couldn’t work out perspective.

Peggy: We thought there was a lot of artistic licence involved, didn’t we?

Carrie: But then we saw the photographs …

Peggy: And we said, “It’s exactly as it was.” Because I mean, we’ve only known it with houses, so we’d never really seen the contours of the land when it was bare.

Lorie: That’s incredible!

Peggy: It was, it was quite exciting …

Carrie: And trees; ‘cause it wasn’t houses in the early days.

Peggy: And I mean, we always understood there was [were] absolutely no trees, but there must’ve been some; some gum trees …

Carrie: They probably planted some for firewood …

Peggy: And also as a windbreak, because their driveway would’ve been from Lucknow Road – that would be where they would come in, ‘cause … you know the Lodge in Lucknow, on the corner? Well that would’ve been their driveway where they would’ve been coming in; that way and up Tanner Street, when you look at Syd Grant’s book and the subdivision.

Carrie: So Duart road didn’t exist? I know you were talking about this the other day – I haven’t actually had a look, I must say.

Peggy: Mmm. That’s what Sid Grant used to say, that they didn’t come up this way; they would’ve come up that way. Well, it’s like seeing that notice in the paper when Tuki died; and they came in carriages and horseback, and it was for a quarter of a mile, the procession.

Carrie: [Chuckle] Probably came to tamp him down [chuckle]

Peggy: Just to make sure. But I mean, that must’ve been quite … quite a procession when you think of you know … 1898 he died?

Carrie: In the 1890s.

Peggy: And I mean if you think of housing – well there wouldn’t’ve been, because you know, this hadn’t been subdivided. It wasn’t ‘til after his death that the Duart subdivision took place. I mean, it must’ve been a very impressive estate.

Carrie: Well the Chambers were very well-known and a very well-respected family, and Hannah was a Chambers wife.

Peggy: And also, I mean he was a horse breeder. So he was a horsey-type, and he was breeding carriage horses, race horses; importing race horses from Australia, so you know, isn’t New Zealand quite a horsey ..?

Carrie: I believe so. [Laughter]

Lorie: So the house is well-used by the community and has been for a while now. But yep, because of the turnover and with the people that live here, there’s often people that simply don’t know that it’s here; that it exists. What about the community of Hastings and Napier? Do you get that same sort of support? Or do you think they feel Duart gives them a sense of identity and pride, and a sort of continuity with the past?

Carrie: No, because Napier is so Art Deco, anyway; we have a lot of support [from] sort of individual people who come from Napier and Hastings.

Peggy: I think that it’s probably people who are interested in older buildings and history will always be very supportive and want to come and look at Duart, and their families or friends, or whatever. And I think you’ve got the other part that are not really keen on older houses, and they’re never going to be keen on older houses, so it’s not really going to be their thing. I mean, I think that quite honestly, the Hastings District Council is actually very proud of Duart House – now.

Carrie: Now.

Peggy: Now. I mean really, we don’t ask them for anything. The grounds are on a Reserve, so they have to maintain that. The painting of the outside of the building and the maintenance over the years, has not been horrendous because it’s been so well-built, and it was very well maintained until it was given, you know, to the community. And basically we do all the inside, and we run it; we don’t ask them for grants. We do occasionally ask them for support at different things, but that’s nothing compared to some of the other buildings that are owned by the Hastings District Council that they feed grants into.

Carrie: The gardeners are also very good. We’ve had to [chuckle] … we spent several years training them, but now they want to know when there’s a wedding; when there’s a function.

Peggy: We’ve had slight hiccups; they seem to be hell-bent on pruning something just before it was going to flower; like the wintersweet was just coming into flower, and you’d come, and they’d cut it down; you know, the lilac, or some of the old fashioned roses that don’t need to be pruned very much, just tidied; and it was bush, like this, [demonstrates size] and then all of a sudden it’s sort of been pruned down like a modern rose. And we kept saying, “Please don’t do it; please don’t touch those. Please don’t do it.” You know – it was almost that I felt that I was … you know, here I am nagging again.

But the gardeners used to change, too; for the last three years I think I sent a little note saying, you know, ‘The wintersweet has finished flowering. Could you please prune the wintersweet.’ Because the japonicas were just coming out, and they were untidy, and they did need sorting out – but not just before they flowered. All of a sudden you had a japonica that was the size of this table, and suddenly there were about eight stalks about a foot high that had been left. Yes – so then we said, “And when the lilacs finish, that would be very nice if you were to prune it; you know, you need to prune things after they flower.” So I think we’ve succeeded now.

Carrie: With Tony and Michelle – they have been very, very good.

Peggy: The frustrations of poor Marie … “I planted this, and I planted that”; and I said to Marie, “But did you tell the gardeners you planted it?” And she said, “No”, and I said, “Well how do they know if you don’t tell them?” But I mean, I don’t know – we have to remember it is a Reserve. You’ve got the public coming through, so it’s not your own garden – you can’t have little bits and bobs.

Lorie: No, and it’s nice that you don’t have to care for it.

Peggy: Oh, wonderful. Absolutely.

Lorie: It’s enormous …

Peggy: It’s a nightmare.

Lorie: and it’s immaculate – I mean it’s incredible that the lawn is just unbelievably gorgeous the whole time.

[Ends]

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Interviewer:  Lorie Mastemaker

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