Earnshaw, Irene Mae Interview

This talk was done by Irene Mae Earnslaw, [Earnshaw] and she is a hundred years old, and half a year. [Background noise] And I interviewed her today, 7th March 2019. Can you tell me your full name?

Irene Mae [spells each name] Earnshaw.

And you live at Napier, and your husband’s name was Len, I think?

My mother was an only child. Both her parents were elderly children and they were born in England; Kent and that area down by the English Channel, and they came out here. Jane Webb, was my great-grandmother; she was eighty-eight, I think, when she died. She and her husband met out here as a young couple – must have emigrated about the same time. And they got a job on a sheep farm, where the EIT is now out here, as a married couple. She had to keep house. The house belonged to two elderly brothers named …Condy? It’s Condy or something like that … bachelors; and so they had a house to live in and she had to feed them all. He was a shepherd on the farm. It was all the land that the EIT now …

And what was the name of the farm?

Webb … Webb Place. She lived ‘til eighty-eight. Well her husband – she made a bad bargain when she met him because he was very fond of beer – but of course getting this job right out in the wop wops, you see – he either had to ask his boss if he could borrow a horse, or he had to buy a bike or something to [chuckles] get to the pub in Taradale. So that cured him of his dri[nking], but then in time … So she squirrelled away all the money the two of them earned, and they had free keep and free food, you know, with feeding the two bosses. And so when it was time for them to retire, they bought – about the only thing on the Taradale Road there, was a little police station on the main road through – and so they bought next door … she was the brains of the outfit … they bought the two pieces that go to where Webb Place now is. What is the other main road there?

I don’t know.

Oh. Well, my mother was born in … I was born in 1918. My mother, what was her birthday? 16th March. My mother was eighty-one when she died.

They came out in about … nearly a century ago from England – the great-grandmother – and I don’t think they came out as a married couple then; they came out with their parents. And that Webb Place, that’s been named for that offshoot which was really the police station, and then it’s their corner, that … when I was about four, nearly ready for school, my great-grandparents – she had bought all that corner at Westshore where the hotel is. And at the time we were thinking of coming to Napier, it had been left; she left. Her daughter really … well, got mixed up with other men really. My grandfather left her to it then, and came to live with us when he was in his seventies. ‘Course he was a carpenter by trade. When they came, you see, Central Hawke’s Bay was wanting more things built there and that. He had a gang of friends that went and built stuff, cow bales and things, down in Central Hawke’s Bay.

My mother was an only child and had a terrible childhood, because her mother was such a boy-mad person. [Chuckles] Wonderful pianist. She of course was idolised as a small child herself, because they lived … well, she grew up out at Taradale, and then she had music lessons with … would’ve been a nun … where they trained the …

At the convent.

So anyway, she became a very good pianist; any tune, she’d play it. Well then my grandfather …

[Speaking together] What was her full name?

Jane Webb. I don’t know … I never heard that she had a Christian name in between, and I don’t really know what her maiden name had been either, because that’s so far back.

But anyway, they retired; their house was a big place right on the corner on Meeanee Quay. And then all the land behind it, we – my husband and I – when we came back from having lived in Central Hawke’s Bay for a while – although we were Napier people originally; well, still are – we were nearly going to build there, but then we would’ve had to wait to get in it, and I was staying with my parents while my husband was away doing his teacher training. He took on beekeeping after having been to the war and came back; but otherwise, if he had stayed in the Daily Telegraph he probably would’ve been the editor or something in time. [Shows photo] That’s him there; Grand Master of New Zealand for Manchester Unity.

And you did travel with it, didn’t you?

Yes. Oh, we went all over the pla[ce]. I’ve been to England six times in my life. I’ve been to Cre[te]. He was a returned man from the war; he was a [an] escaped prisoner; he was in a … you know, compound in Crete, and then he and a few of his cobbers got … I’ve been to Crete myself four times, but two with him; and then of course he passed away.

Neil, my youngest son, was a policeman at that time but he came back here to join his brother, Rodney, with all the BP stations. I was forty when he [Neil] was born … unexpected; unwanted, I really would say. [Laughter] But he’s the most marvellous person to me; he does all my shopping and I gave him my little car, you know, to have another one.

So anyway, Grandma Webb … well in the long run, after having exhausted boyfriends and whatnot as a [an] older person, by then her husband, my grandfather who was the carpenter – you know, good carpenter; well, boss of the gang, all friends, you know – he came to live with us; left her to it at Westshore. Well, my great grandmother lived in that big house that was there on the corner where you go up to the beach, and a few doors along, her daughter was there. She cut her daughter out of her will, left everything to my mother, and left a [an] annuity for her daughter of … what was it? £10 a month or something like [that].

But anyway, my mother of course, when Grandma Webb died, the house, the whole thing, came to my mother; everything on that corner, except there was no church there …

[Speaking together] This is at Westshore?

… at the time, but it was that corner. [Shows photo?] This was hers; this was the section we could’ve built on; next door was the empty section reserved for the Anglican Church. And then we’ve lived there ‘til just a few weeks … she knew she was going downhill. She’d even had, you know … used to be old long-drop toilets in the old days [chuckle] … she’d been one of the very first probably that ever put in a septic tank at Westshore. Then she wanted room for … stack wood and that, because it was all wood fires in those days; so then she built a whole big garage really, to store plenty of [chuckle] wood. My mother inherited the whole thing at those three corners. Well when we were coming back from Central Hawke’s Bay, I stayed with my mother while … we sold the property there … while my husband went to Training College in Wellington for students over … they had to be twenty-one or more.

Did you have children?

We didn’t have Neil. We had the two boys by the time we came back from there; they’re both born in Napier before, and then he went away for the training there. Then there’s a gap of five years and then our daughter, who is in that photo there, she graduated …

She’s lovely.

… from Massey University and trained as a secondary school teacher. But then she married the wrong person and then they separated. They had no children. He was a nice chap but he was so immersed in what he was doing. Now, Neil and I get on very well; I have no argu[ment] with my daughter, but she is just such a [an] organised person that every[thing] [chuckle] has to be done at a particular time. [Chuckle] If I had had … I mean, we get on very well; she lives in Tauranga of course, but [chuckle] I would have a life now, that “you do this, and you do this”; more her way to do it than I want to do. I just fit in with people, you know, I’m not going to argue with things. But Neil of course, and I … well, I mean I was very sorry when I found that I was pregnant with Neil at the age of forty, but [chuckles] he’s the [chuckle] best blessing in my life now, [chuckle] that I could ever have had.

So …

He’s really a marvellous person.

So you were forty when you had Neil?

Yeah. My birthday is 13th August in 1918, and he [Len, her husband] was born on the 16th was it, or something, of March, 1919.* [Chuckles] So I mean, things happen in life that when you’re younger you could never imagine would have turned out like that. If he had stayed in the Daily Telegraph and that … except of course the war intervened, but he went back there again, you see, and he used to, with another chap, he would’ve been in the organising part. Well, he did work up there to the distribution side, you know, more. He would’ve got editor in time. But he drove the papers up to Wairoa, sharing with the other person. The early edition had to be picked up about half past two, and he and another chap did alternate days, in the weekend; he did three days a week and the other chap you know, would’ve had to do the Saturday, I suppose, to make up six editions in a week. And they shared the week doing that, three times a week.

He really was a marvellous person, but we didn’t ever … You see, I went to Nelson Park School and our house was in Carnell Street; he went to Hastings Street School, but his mother was – well, his father left because of her. If I had had to have much to do with his mother, who I only met when I was friendly with him; well, I mean your brain works differently from when you [chuckle] were a child, but she was such a bossy thing. Well in the long run her husband left her because she was such a bossy person, and then she had no widow’s … she wasn’t a widow, but no benefit; she had to go to work. You remember – were you a Napier person?


Oh well, Shearers had a big grocery shop down on the corner of Vigor Brown Street, and she used to go and do their washing. You know, she had to do all those … to get just money to feed his children. Because my husband, he had a [an] older sister, Edie. Edie was very fond of her father, but I think about the time they separated … well Len, my husband, was only about three to four; well, he didn’t realise what was going on, but Edie was about seven or eight and she missed her father so much. So of course as soon as she was able to leave secondary school she went to Wairoa and got a job working in a hotel up in Wairoa, just … But Len of course knew nothing more or less, except his mother, and he … it annoyed me a bit when we became friendly and were engaged, that she would expect him to run around and do this, that and the other for her. But of course, she was up in Hastings Street, and then of course, when we went down to Central Hawke’s Bay to live, Otane, well …

Where did Len do his training before he went to war?

Oh. Well at the time he was at Boys’ High. I remember, it was still going when we lived in Te Awa Avenue. If I had that house now I’d put a second storey on it, with facilities. Anybody could bach up there at the top with a small you know … small electric stove or something. The kitchen’s all there to have a … you know, a stove there. I only cook in the microwave.

I’ve got terrible sinus, and I’ve got a wonky throat because I had my tonsils out as a child, but I think they must’ve only nipped the top off. I was in the hospital here at the age of eight. [Chuckle] And then later on when I was engaged to Len I had trouble in this side, and now the whole connective tissue there’s gone; and then I’ve got this sinus. You see, when we had the house built – we had to wait for it to be built in Te Awa Avenue – the trees … Norfolk pines … were only little things, about eight or nine feet high.

[Speaking together] And now they’re huge.

Now they’re … so we drowned in pollen. Anyway, you see – look at that tree, all the pollen. [Chuckles] I really have a very difficult time. I eat very little because of my swallowing. You see, I haven’t got the tension in the throat now … the connective tissue there. [Chuckles] I’m not complaining; I can cope with it all because the brain never goes to sleep. I sleep beautifully … [chuckles] after putting in my nose drops. [Chuckle] But there’s worse things to put up with … well, you look at my leg.

Did you fall over?

That was a big blood … I was with the dustbuster, sitting here and doing round there, and it walked over – the dustbuster’s over there – and it walked over, but it didn’t break the skin. I’ve got a very strong skin, but see it was a blood blister like that.

Be terrible …

Well anyway, I didn’t go to the doctor because the skin didn’t break. I’ve got a tough skin [chuckle] but it doesn’t like the sun; very pinky skin. And so I didn’t go. Well anyway, in the long run I thought, ‘Oh well’, you know, after a week – this must’ve been November, I suppose …

[Speaking together] Shall I put it back up there for you?

… and then I made the mistake when it seemed to be … you know, the blood was going down and that; it really was raised, like that, this blob of blood. [Chuckle] Anyway, I had a shower; if I had put a plaster on it …

It would’ve been all right?

Yes. But it wasn’t.

Oohh. [Speaking together] You rubbed it?

And after I had this shower – because I went really just with little washes for a long time; that was on a Friday – I have my showers here Tuesday and Friday evening about half past five, and Raewyn, the same lady comes, and she doesn’t have to help me, I’ve got a tall stool in the shower.

Yes, all these things happen in a [an] instant. Well anyway, what happened – if I had put a plaster on before I had the shower, this would never have happened. But anyway, I mean everything looked all right, and that was my Friday night shower. Well, the next evening, suddenly it felt a bit sore; that was Saturday. And then I thought, ‘Well, should I go to the medical centre?’ And then I thought, ‘Oh well …’ I’m with Doctor Zonneveld you see – I can walk down to see her. We’re old pals now because my husband got a lot of skin cancers and she dealt with him right from when she used to work over there and came here. And I of course, get a lot of irritable skin troubles, and so I did know her but I wasn’t her patient. But in time, sometime after I came here … those days of course, I was driving to get to a doctor.

When did you learn how to drive?

Well I was … I didn’t ever have a driving licence until after I was married. [Chuckles] And I didn’t really have much of a test, because we were living in Otane. And at the 30th June every year a traffic cop came out from there and did driving tests for any Otane people. So there’s no hills in Otane; he didn’t take me right up in the hills to the west, so I had a drive around. [Chuckle]

Oh – well, I was twenty-seven when I was married, so I would’ve been … I was thirty-one I think, when I got my driving licence. And I never ran into trouble. I wasn’t an aggressive driver. I once had to follow my husband; I wouldn’t drive in front of him because when our daughter married and went to finish varsity at Palmerston …

What is her name now?


What’s her Christian name?

Rae; Alison is her second …

Rae Alison Grey?

Yeah. So she’s still Earnshaw because she’d …


With her second husband she retained her name and uses that.

Tell me – did you go to college?

No, I didn’t. I just did Napier Girls’ High.

[Speaking together] You didn’t go to college. Napier Girls’ High …

I was elected a prefect, but in those days it was all secret. You see now they’ve got to almost have a CV [Curriculum Vitae] to … in those days the headmistress and the staff did it all themselves, and then it was announced in the morning that I was … see, I was a Commercial girl. They were more or less, until the earthquake upset things, it was all sort of professional stuff up there. And I was in the technical college that came down and squashed us, really. I was on the top floor. I’ve still got a dent in my head there; I must’ve been hit on the head with something that I didn’t know. We were on the top floor. Where the Intermediate school is in Napier now, was this lovely brick college … red brick and you know, white cement. And it was still standing – just new – for us to go in; but then the furniture was all being made from England and it was longer being delivered than expected, so they stayed in the old Tech [Technical College] opposite St Patrick’s Church. And our commercial girls, about thirty of us I suppose, on the top floor; no hope of getting out. And I remember I was sitting near the back of the class, like if it was that wall there; the teacher was up there. We had an English lesson; very nice, very pretty girl with a long blonde ponytail; all we had was an English lesson before [the] break; then went on with the English lesson for about five or ten minutes and then the earthquake came. Well, somehow I got down under my desk, which was good old wood and metal framing then. But I must’ve had this weight on me, but I remember looking – the floor felt funny first, and I looked up to the front and the bricks … it was a [an] early brick building there plastered over with white or cream. And I remember looking at the bricks in the corner there, you know – couldn’t believe what was happening. Very bad injuries to some people. One chap – he was a big chap; he was about a fifth former I suppose – but he got a shaft … like a piece of wood, like that … right up his leg. I don’t know whether they saved the leg or not. There was [were] some terrific injuries. Two other girls who I had known – Stella Lloyd, who married one of the Gee boys later on in life – you know, they had garages – Stella was one of my special friends through Nelson Park, but it also took in the high school … secondary school … took in pretty well all of this up to Te Awa; and Jean Berry from there. I had not quite ginger hair, old gold colour. And anyway, Jean Berry – those two apparently must’ve been in [the same desk]. They thought it was one girl; it was two of them. Stella had all the bricks and things on her head; Jean was all right. Her leg was under the bricks too.

[Speaking together] Just sitting by her side, yes.

And anyway, they both recovered. And so anyway, we were home. My grandfather had parted with [from] his wife by then and was living with us, and he converted our … we had the home in Carnell Street with two big bedrooms. It would’ve accommodated the three of us if necessary. Anyway, Grandad of course, being a carpenter – when he decided to leave his wife, he remodelled it; very big laundry with a big brick copper here, but of course they took that out. And it had to accommodate Mum and Dad, you see – Mum was the cutter for Harris’ cap factory [Harris Hats] in Bower Street there, opposite St Patrick’s Church, the back of there. And Mum was the cutter – it was all mainly cloth caps for men in those days, when Mum was a young person.

[Speaking together] So was she work …

Most of the other girls were sewers. And so she worked there six years ‘til she was married, and then Mr Harris gave her a sewing machine when she was leaving.


The Harrises were Jews, and there was [were] two daughters. The younger daughter was Golda. I suppose a lot of the girls worked there for a while and then got married or whatever; went away, or thought they’d try something else – but my mother and Golda Harris …

The two girls seemed to be you know, left with their mother; and Jack Harris was the older boy, but he was the baby of the family, and so he was a scamp, really – he was spoilt! But then he got a girl into trouble, and married her. [Chuckles] Then of course he must’ve argued with his father; they decamped to Australia with this baby boy they had, and apparently they were so poor financially, that she breast-fed the baby [chuckle] ‘til he was more than a year old [chuckle]cause they could hardly afford … But then of course it all blew over and they came back, and he inherited the thing, probably; I mean as long as you’ve got good employees it doesn’t matter. [Chuckle] And I mean …

[Speaking together] As long as you’re willing to do it.

… all these scandal things that happened. [Chuckle] Thank goodness I’ve never been involved in any scandals. [Chuckle] Len and I were twenty-seven – well, I was nine months older than him, so … Now I’m over a hundred – I’m a hundred and a half now. So [chuckle] I mean, really I would never have imagined; it is surprising what you learn and find out if you live long enough.


Yes. Oh, I was never one to be wanting to go out to things at night. I mean, I used to follow up good films and that quite a lot. But [of] course we had our Manchester Unity; that took us, Len and I, over to England. Well, the Grand Master of … it was [the] Foundation Centenary, I suppose, in England, which was established years ago in Manchester. That must’ve been our first trip to England. The Grandmaster and several members came out to New Zealand, to Auckland, and my husband, who I think just at that time had retired from Manchester Unity, we had the office over here. And so they supplied him with a minibus to drive up to Auckland, pick them up – meet them when they fly in – and take them around in Auckland. I was still working over here, afternoons. My working life was in the Public Works Department. I was head typist through twelve years that I worked there, all through the war years and that.

And so anyway, we met at Lodge. He had been friendly with a girl called Betty Smith, because he was a good skater, my husband, but I’ve never wanted to be a skater. [Chuckle] I hated netball and all; I’ve got very small feet, or very high instep. You’d hardly believe it – high, high instep. Not an athletic foot at all. [Chuckle]

And so anyway – but of course he was good at sports. I remember when we were married and living in Otane, when he went to be a beekeeper after having returned from the war and worked at the Daily Telegraph for several years. And then they were offering farms, so he put in for a farm. They were up on the way to Wairoa, like they [were] cutting up bigger pieces and making small farms – dairy farms. So he thought he’d like to be a farmer, and so he put in his name but he missed out in the ballot.

And so then – he was friendly with Maurice Collery; they were best friends through high school … Boys’ High … and Maurice had done the beekeeping training with Mr Ashcroft, who was the mayor of Havelock North at the time. Maurice didn’t carry on with the beekeeping. Len and Maurice were best friends all through high school, and they used to go to Trentham for a fortnight, I think, when the … whatever they called it, for students. Anyway, then Mr Ashcroft, probably through Maurice, had met Len. And then when Len didn’t get the dairy farm in the ballot, well then Mr Ashcroft took him, and he trained in the beekeeping. Well it was at that time that he was friendly with Betty Smith who was a very good skater up there. But then I think she was an only child, and the fact of Len having decided to go to the country, Betty didn’t …

She didn’t want to do that?

No. So he broke it with her. Well I mean, once they knew they had a shorthand typist here … All the men were coming home from the war wanting to go through the chairs, you know – Past Grand and Over Grand, Immediate Past and Over Grand, and then there are Past Grand. And of course seeing that I was a ready-made shorthand typist for it, I sat there for six-month terms; I sat there for several years doing the minutes because it was what I did. [Chuckle]

So anyway, Betty Smith of course in the long run, she just – I don’t know why it was – she married someone else. But she died; probably … I doubt if she lived to sixty even.

Was there anyone else in your family that’s [who’s] lived to a hundred?

Oh well, Grandma Webb at Westshore, I think was eighty-eight or something. My sister, Lorna, she died about three years ago now. She was three years and four months younger than me. We couldn’t get up to see her very often, and she didn’t know me the last time we went – Neil and his wife, we went up; she’s in Dargaville, but I hadn’t seen her for about eighteen months before that, I suppose. She was in a rest home – put into a rest home – twice after having a fall or whatever, at home, but she always insisted on going back to her own home, which of course is like me. [Chuckle] But I was horrified that last time we went up; we had to wait a little while. She had a live-in person with her, who did everything for her. Well, then she was in one of these little chairs … well, I’ve got one there. [Chuckle] I don’t use it, I use a stick; another one over there, but I use this now, it’s more stable, the stick. But I could still go over there with a stick if I had to.

So the person got her out of the car into one of these little low walkers; got her into the house and sat her on the settee; and I sat next to her. And anyway, then she must’ve wanted to go to the toilet. What did she do? Get down on her knees and crawl around there, and down there, to go to the toilet. But she would not go out of her own home. If she … you know, put in twice in different rest homes, and we visit[ed] when we got word. I mean, it’s [a] bit of an effort for us; if Neil hadn’t taken me I would’ve thought twice about getting there. If she hadn’t been so stand-offish and come back – because she’d been a widow for a long time – down here she could’ve … but she seemed to get just a sort of snitch on us somehow; partly I suppose, self-pity of [at] how her life had turned out, and mine seems to‘ve been so successful. But I mean, I couldn’t do anything about that; and I’ve got ‘nough to think about with my grandchildren, [chuckle] you know.

Does Neil come and see you most days?

Oh, yes, nearly every day. He does all my supermarket shop. ‘Course he was a policeman for … how long? ‘Bout twenty years. [Speaking together] But then early in his police career he was kicked under the chin, and it’s done something to the vertebrae in the neck. It doesn’t trouble him all the time, but if he does something to just … I mean, he does all the heavy lifting and that for Dunstall’s and that now. He’s really a picture of health, but if something just triggers that off, he seems to shrink. He’s very tall, tallest of my children. But he really is a most marvellous person. I doubt now that I would be allowed to be here if he didn’t come. But of course this is going to be his house; I’ve left that in my will.

They’re right up in Priestley Terrace, half-way down the hill. No footpaths. [Chuckle] But – they can’t stay there when they get older – but at the time they moved up here … well, he came first and lived with Len and I. And then of course, during that time Len had a stroke, and was never home again; he was about eighteen months in Atawhai [Rest Home] after having been in the hospital for a while, and then they put him in Atawhai which was handy for us to visit. But Neil was staying with me, so that was a great help to me, that he was here.

But the two bigger boys couldn’t have been away from home any sooner than they could help; but the two younger ones were prepared to stay at high school and get all the education they could, [speaking together] so toed the line a bit more, you know; and you know, take more notice of us, Len and I, as we got older. The older ones too, wanted to go their own way, although Rodney owns about ten service stations in Napier. [Chuckle] He’s built a house up on the hill, and I asked to see it. I haven’t seen him since about … just after Boxing Day the year before last, because of the stand-off; you see Rodney [Neil] came up to join the firm, and he put money in to be a partner … substantial sum of money … and then Rodney gave him all the mucky jobs, and you know … he had a service station; I suppose he’s still got it. He’s got the Dannevirke one, but then he bought Pahiatua that’s further down there. And then he bought one out from Palmerston … bit out towards Wanganui; and then about seven or eight round here. And he’s had this house built up in Havelock Road, and so when he was here just after the Christmas before last, I sort of nailed him down and said, “Well, I’d love to see your house.” So he made it about the next week, and I came home and said to Neil, who’s never seen it; I said to Neil, “Well you know, that house must’ve cost about a million.” [Dollars] Neil said, “No, it was a million and a half.” [Chuckle] It’s all plate glass; huge window. But you’ve got to go up Havelock Road, a nasty turn into the driveway, then you go round like that in a circle more or less – in a car – to get to the parking place down there. And I don’t know – what if there’s another earthquake or anything? Of course I mean it’s better concrete nowadays; but it’s really a mansion. And so it was fate – he couldn’t get out of having me, so I was in it for about an hour; they gave me a cup of tea. But anyway, that’s that, I don’t let myself …

You’re happy with your house.

… get stirred up about these things. The two younger ones are really … as I say, I wouldn’t really want to have to live with Rae; she is just a perfect housekeeper. [Chuckle] She has been communicating for some years with a person who was a judge in New York, and the person’s coming out here. Rae’s driving from Tauranga where she lives, to Auckland to pick her up, and they’re going to be running around, wherever she wants to go. And on the 15th and 16th they’re going to be in Napier here, so they’ll come and see me and visit, and she’ll sleep up there. So she’s a single woman, but she was a judge; anyway, I’m looking forward to that.

One of our trips, Neil and Leigh, his wife, we went up when she had been over visiting Rae. We all had this posh afternoon tea at some restaurant, not the place we’re staying in in Auckland; upmarket from that, you know – all the gentry, would you say, of London. And apparently we must’ve financed it, I don’t know. I have my account; and anyway, I’ve made him a …  He does all my shopping.

What was the happiest day of your life?

Oh, I don’t know … our wedding was very nice.

And the birth of your first child?

Oh, no … don’t like births.

What about leaving school?

Oh well, I left in a hurry. I was elected a prefect and it’d just been announced. I did about a fortnight I suppose, on duty in the back of the Girls’ High, and out to the quad, it was called. And then inside it was wooden floors then, soon after the earthquake – well, you know, for a while. And so I was put on duty; every girl had to have crepe-soled sandals, and they had to have a bag to put their shoes and things like that. They didn’t want noise around the corridors. Miss Arthur was the Principal at the time of the earthquake, and carried on for some years after. And I of course went on the Old Girls’ Association and that; I followed it on after I left school.

But anyway, see I was elected prefect, and the badges were going to be presented. Well, then a week or two went on. I was working up there then, minding the sick bay, and I got all the registers to add up, you know, attendances and things like that – I helped Miss … Anyway, so I got a message about eleven o’clock on a Friday morning to go to Miss Arthur’s study, and I thought, ‘Oooh! ‘Ooh, oh’ … [Chuckles] I thought I’d done my duty properly, shooing the girls off, you know … hanging about; of course they had to take off their rubber-soled sandals, about thirty girls, say. But then on the Friday late in March, we were just all wondering … you know, soon they’ll pin on the badges; and then I got this message to go to the headmistress’ study, and I thought, ‘Oooh [chuckles] … what have I done?’ And there was my mother sitting there; well no awful thoughts like thinking something had happened to my father, of course; but I couldn’t think why my mother was there. She had a letter from the Public Works Department, saying to commence work at the Napier office at eight thirty in those days, because you had to work Saturday morning for three hours; but then that changed of course. So of course I didn’t have much of a wardrobe; my father was just a working man. [Chuckles]

Anyway, I ended up … I was sixteen and a half then, so I was there nearly twelve years before we got married. I mean, I’m very glad that I didn’t get mixed up with any boyfriend or anything before the war. And Mr Dinning and I became really … I was more or less his private secretary. I mean, his area in those days was from that Ngawapurua Bridge south of Woodville, to up part way to Gisborne. I’ve been up in – you know, while I was in the Department and since – all the Waikaremoana stuff came into Hawke’s Bay.  I typed trillions of words! [Chuckle]

Okay, well, we’re going to close it there ‘cause I think you’re getting tired. Yes.

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Interviewer:  Erica Tenquist

NB:  The following obituary is included to clarify birth dates of both Irene and Len Earnshaw

* https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/name/leonard-earnshaw-obituary?pid=186069934&affiliateid=3588

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