Ericksen, Diderick John (Did) Interview

Today is the 28th day of November 2017. I‘m interviewing Did [Diderick] Ericksen of Meeanee on his family. Did, would you like to tell us something about your family?

Well, as far as I can go back; my grandfather on Dad’s side came – and [grand]mother – came from Denmark, and I think around about 1890, and they settled up at Guthrie-Smith at Tutira. I think he was the cowman/gardener and she was the cook until the family started to turn up, and then they shifted down here. And the reason they shifted to here as I understood it, there was a lot of Scandies – Pallesens and Ericksens – Niels Peter [Ericksen] was my grandfather’s brother, so they were settled in this district, dairy farming and pigs and that sort of thing. That’s the reason they came; I understand there was some talk of them leaving Europe because of the political situation over there and the Crimean War and all, and they were thinking of going to San Francisco, but because Niels Peter came to Hawke’s Bay – or to New Zealand – they came here to be with him. He was ten years junior to my grandfather; Grandfather was a bit older than him. Niels Peter was a carrier, tanner … had a tannery … and he was quite a go-getting sort of a guy.

Was this locally?

Yeah – no, here; like, he was a carrier at a tannery – part of Woolwash I think; and he was on the County Council. And Ericksen Road is not after my side of the family, it’s after Niels Peter.

Anyway, so then they, the family turned up; there was Eric, the eldest, then Kate, then Ivy, then Fred from Korokipo, and Aunty Daisy and Alma, and then Dad, so there was seven in the family. Dad was born in 1906, and he said he was an accident but his mother was forty and his father was fifty-two when he was born.

So they would have gone to school where?

Meeanee.

They lived here in Meeanee and went to school in Meeanee?

Yeah, Meeanee School. The eldest son, Eric – he went off to the First World War and he never come [came] back; he got killed in 1918 – he was twenty-four. And when the war finished Dad was eleven or twelve, so he was only a young fellow, you know? They sold the farm after Grandfather died in 1926 – no, before that – they sold the farm and shifted into Napier South. I’m not sure where, but into Napier South; and the people that bought the farm couldn’t handle the Depression, and they walked off. So Grandfather died in 1926, and Dad was twenty, and grandmother was … whatever. So she was on her own; he was on his own, and she said to him, “I think … well, Jack we’ve got to go back … go back to the farm”.

Back to the farm.

So they shifted back to the farm and they carried on.

So whereabouts in Meeanee was the farm?

Here.

Oh, this one? So you’ve had it all that time, the family?

Yeah. They sold the farm and were going to retire. And they settled Fred at Korokipo, so he was sort of set; and the girls all got a house, and Dad got bugger all, actually. He was working down south, he was on a harvesting contract, with steam engines and that, [in] Fairlie, and around Timaru, and that sort of thing.

Meeanee at that time wasn’t very far from the inland sea that came right through Te Awa down to …

Oh no, from what you read of it, really the only reason Meeanee was there was the track taking you through to Puketapu and eventually over the hills to Taupo. There was no way to get from Taradale to Napier, you had to come round through Awatoto; it was all flooded.

So anyway, then next thing I suppose was the Depression, and then the Second World War. And then during the Second World War I think, things were much improved financially; there was a good demand for everything we were making, producing … milk, butter … whatever. Import restrictions … you couldn’t buy any bloody thing because … Dad said he had plenty of money in the bank ‘cause he couldn’t spend it. In 1956 Dad built the house up there and he paid cash, and ‘52 he bought a new car … Plymouth. He tossed old Billy Richman for sixty-five acres down the end of Kings Road and won, and he paid cash. So we must’ve been doing pretty good money in those years.

So when they started milking cows, they wouldn’t have been town milk, would they?

No – I’m only going from what he would have told me – that he supplied cream to Blue Moon. Well actually, he didn’t know it at the time, but he was supplying Willy Hazelwood; he owned Blue Moon at one time. Willy …

Wilson.

But then the McLean brothers, Napier, they came and picked the milk up … the three brothers … and they had deliveries.

Town milk.

Dad didn’t go to town, or not that I know of; his father did – took the horse and dray to town and delivered the milk, but I don’t think he did. He got Tubby McLean and they come [came] and picked the milk up. And then the raw milk producers came on the scene … Williams Street bottling plant … then Jack Dumble turned up and he picked the milk up. Waiohiki was started – that was a cheese factory.

So did you supply Waiohiki cheese factory?

No, it never got supplied direct from anybody. It was the leftover milk from the days … of what they didn’t need, or anything that was sub-standard, any grade of milk, that went up there to make casein and …

Stuff that might’ve been coloured by beetroot from …

Whatever.

Frank Steiner’s.

Yeah. That was a bugger. [Chuckle]

Eventually you became part of the milk producers?

That’s right.

So you’re a pioneer family there, too?

Yeah. I don’t think we thought of ourselves as such; but he was pretty independent … very independent man – well, the family really. And he sort of drummed into us, like he hated rules and regulations. And if you were a shop owner, whose affair is it? I remember him saying it now, “Whose affair … is it anyone but your own, when you open and shut your doors. It’s up to you – if you want to open the doors at two in the bloody morning, why can’t you?”

It’s your time …

Yeah. And he … you know, hated any rules at all; like he’d say to you, “We’re not them – we’re us.” And like holidays – that was for other people; didn’t include us. He had a bit of a wry sense of humour; I’d say to him … teenager … “Oh I might go to town after lunch on Friday” – well the shops weren’t open at the weekend – so I could get myself some clothes or something, and he’d say, “You had the day off a couple of years ago, didn’t you?” [Chuckles]

But they lived to work, and holidays weren’t part of it.

Oh, no, no. Oh, he was adamant on that sort of thing, you know. I remember him saying it was easy to get on. “Not hard”, he said, “not hard.” He said, “You don’t have to have a flash education, all you need to do is work eight hours; then you work another eight hours and you’ve still got eight hours to bugger around.” [Chuckles] Not go to sleep.

Different times …

Not that I minded; I didn’t mind, because like, one instance I remember old Ian [?] – he used to keep the pea viner silage at Birds Eye. We had two pits up Sandy [Road], and old [?]’d come and see Dad about taking all the silage on Christmas Day, I think it was. And we got up there after milking – crikey dick! There was pea vine [chuckle] everywhere! The pits were full, and Dad was on a front-end loader, and I was on the pitchfork and we’re tidying this bloody mess up. And we had a cup of tea about – I don’t know – had a break, and a car went past on Sandy Road. And he looked up and he said … ‘cause he knew all the cars … “Who was that one?” he said. I said, “I don’t know. “Useless buggers”, he said, “driving around wasting time and petrol. We’re lucky, we’ve got this pea vine to stack.” [Chuckle] It was Christmas Day! We milked the cows on the pea vine silage. Well we used to get a couple of loads – we had our own truck and used to go and get it, – Dodge truck – and I was fourteen, and Dad let me go at night time and get the pea vine, but we used to feed it out fresh, you know, straight off the truck. Pea hay – the barn was full of that; so we were milking our cows on what came out of the factory really. Yeah. ‘Cause the pea vine was very good though; it was damn good feed.

Yes. You never got into feeding peaches and beetroot?

Not like Frank [Steiner], no. He used to get the brewers’ grain from the …

As you said, you started growing ground crops?

Yeah, we started growing when I’d just started high school – I think it was about then, 1956 or 7 we started. We grew our first five acres of tomatoes, and that gradually increased and then other crops – beans and sweetcorn. And we leased land and grew more crops for the factory until it got to the stage where we really couldn’t do it; we were going seven days a week, which meant that … you can’t go twenty-four hours a day, but we did our damn best.

And in 1970 Dad was getting on a bit, and I’d leased … ‘bout 1967 I’d leased sixty-five acres over the river from Catchment Board. And then Percy Smith, he came and seen [saw] me; Derek Smith had leased a hundred and thirty acres at Powdrells Road and he’d got cancer, and he was a year or two younger than me. Percy come [came] to me over at the old house and asked me if I’d take over the lease of a hundred and thirty acres; and so that give [gave] me two hundred-odd acres of leased ground that I was working on my own account, plus at home. So you know, I had one Nuffield tractor, and I bought another one after that. But I was sort of getting up before I went to bed, pretty near.

[Laughter] I like that term. Pressure’s on, ‘specially at planting time. ‘Course those days a lot of the crops were picked into boxes?

Oh yeah.

Tomatoes …

Sixty pound, they were, yeah. We all had to … everybody else went four, but we had to go five high, which is up here. [Chuckle]

So then … ha! I remember he … laughingly he leased a block over the river, and … Peter Vesty had it leased. And anyway I got this lease, put the tender in and got it, and in the first year I made about … oh, I think it was about $14 or $15,000 profit, but I didn’t know it but Dad had me down as a tax dodge; so on my profit, I was paying nineteen and bloody sixpence [19/6d] in the £ [pound] tax. [Chuckle] And he laughed about it.

[Chuckle] So you did all that work for six bloody pence in the dollar [pound]?

Him and old Roddy Wimsett had me down with an income that I never got.

So then you went into asparagus during that period as well.

Oh no, before that, before that; would’ve been in the late fifties – yeah, fifties; 1958, ‘59 we bought the Tattersall’s … Dick Tattersall’s thirty-six acres on the other side of the river, and we put eighteen acres … one block … of it in asparagus in 1958. And we more or less had various blocks in asparagus continuous, up until … oh, I don’t really remember when we finished that. And then I planted again in latter years … well, we would’ve been still going in the seventies, in the mid seventies.

Because some of that land you would’ve planted into grapes, wouldn’t you?

Yes, down the end of Kings Road I put it into grapes. Oh, and I had one block over there, we put it in grapes.

So why did you change to grapes? It looked a much better proposition to all the other crops?

Dad was in hospital, and I’d been thinking about it – I don’t know how it came about; I’d been thinking about putting a block in, put some grapes in. And I went to see him in the hospital up on the hill, and he’d been thinking the same thing and he said to me, “Why don’t you go and have a talk with Tom McDonald?” That’s right – I was going to put in apples, Granny Smiths and that, at the end of Kings Road on that block; the Richmond’s block. So I went and saw Tom, not that I really knew him at that stage but anyhow, I went and saw him and I told him. He called it Papakura, and he said, “I’ll come and have a look at the block.” So I went with him down the end of Kings Road, and he dug a little hole in the ground and he looked at it and said, “Oh yeah, it’ll grow grapes”, and – I’ve still got that little contract somewhere.

So I signed up to grow sixty acres over five years, twelve acres a year, and I financed that through the maize I was growing. The only trouble was I wasn’t getting enough money for the maize, and spending too much on the grapes, so the bank came to the party and helped me on that which was a big worry, but anyway … So every winter I’d be planting grapes, for five years. Well, I got to the end of that and then I decided, ‘Oh well, I’ll put another twenty acres in’. So I planted another twenty acres down the end of Kings Road, so that gave me eighty acres of grapes. And then 1974 I lost my grapes; Easter rain come [came], and by the time it cleared on the Monday, Tuesday, they rotted. And I’d just started picking. I only had about twelve acres that year, but oh boy! I was close to the wind financially, and I lost the lot.

Were you machine picking then?

No, no, hand picking – it was ‘74, that’s how I remember it. So I was out at the grain dryer – we had a grain dryer on Omahu Road – me and Gordon Nowell-Usticke, Campbell Ave. [Avenue] So I was out [at] the grain dryer and I had a buggered auger; the auger was stuck when this guy turned up. I didn’t know him. And he said to me, “Are you Did Ericksen?” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “I’m Dick Blackburn.” I said, “Oh, yeah.” He said, “I’m the agent for [?] Grape Harvesters.” I said, “Yeah.” “Are you interested?” I said, “I’m more interested in getting this bloody auger going than I am a grape harvester”; but I got thinking about it on the way home. So instead of coming straight home I went round past Mark Reid, and I said to Mark … he’s at Korokipo … I said to Mark, “What do you think about it if I buy a grape harvester, would you come and give me a hand?” Not financially … “come and give me a hand?” “Yeah”, he said, “I’ll do that.” So I said, “I’m going to go and see Eric Gray; he’s a good bugger, he might give me a hand.” I went and saw Eric … “Yep.” Machine turned up; Rodney Wimsett jacked up the money – God knows how. I said, “I don’t want to put any land up as collateral”, I said, “it’s got to stand on its own” – which he did. The machine turned up in November, out in the paddock out the front there. And on a Sunday with nothing else to do I’d get out there, put a couple of waratah standards in and drive over the top, trying to get the hang of this – I didn’t have a clue how the damn thing worked. Cost me $40,000. [Chuckles] That was the start of the machine harvesting, and first of all it was a bit of a white elephant because none of the vineyards were really suitable. They were too low, and headlands were too small. Quite a lot of, you know, the old established vineyards had to be modified; the new ones were all right because the plantings were going ahead pretty quick. But it took a while before … I think I did about three seasons with one harvester, and then it got just silly, you know, I was sleeping on the side of the damn road and [chuckle] between trucks, and … yeah.

So then I got a second harvester and Eric drove that … Eric Gray … and Campbell Agnew drove one for me; Tim Plowman drove them; Graham Watson drove them.

So how many did you have at your peak?

Four. But they weren’t continuously … when the Muller Thurgau was in its heyday they were used continuously, but they changed to the other varieties and they were more of a convenience. They’d been written down in the books now, so I could park one out on the Taupo Road and just leave it there, and instead of taking the machine out there I’d go and do ten acres and then leave it out there. One at Gimblett Road, one at Korokipo, one out the Tukituki. ‘Cause we used to go from the Tukituki out to the Taupo road, and I mean, it’s …

Half a day driving.

Oh, God yes; hell, yes! Yeah. Made a lot of machinery ourselves; did a lot of experimenting for the company in America, ‘cause they got it six months … their winter time was our harvest time, so anything that they wanted to have a look for the next machine, they’d send it out to us and we’d put it in and try it out; in-place harvesting, and the different shaped catcher trays, and different belts and that sort of stuff. Old Chuck Burton, he used to come out here every year from America and bring his new ideas out with him.

Well it was quite a little industry for you, wasn’t it?

Oh it was, it was.

Cause you had all these other grape growers who were driving your gear.

Oh yeah; the blokes that were good operators, they usually had good rhythm … synchronised. Some people were hopeless … hopeless, but others, you know, they’re nice and smooth.

So how long did you machine harvest?

I sold out to Graham Watson, and I had other things to do anyway. I bought a farm down in Central Hawke’s Bay, so I decided I’d had enough of harvesting grapes. So Graham Watson and Steven Harper and George [?] – they combined and put Harvest Hawke’s Bay together. Yeah, that’s where that come [came] from.

Is that still going?

Yep. Oh, they’ve had a bit of a tough time too, as I understand it; it was just last year. It’s all changed … all changed, and Sam and Campbell, they don’t want to do it any more, either.

And so at that stage you had grapes still though, of your own?

Oh, yeah.

So you had to pay someone to come and harvest those?

Oh, I kept two of the old ones, and I still did a bit here and a bit there, just for friends and that.

And so you went into a major planting of apples, didn’t you?

I didn’t; that was my son-in-law … well, ex son-in-law now … but when Brierdon and Downey come [came] on the scene that was his trade. And we had this land so the suggestion was go into apples, which seemed the right thing to do at the time. And I think it was, but it wasn’t … we were spending too much producing a bushel of apples and not getting enough for them – damn things. So then along come [came] Mr Apple, and he made an offer which was miles more than we could make out of them; miles and miles more. And so that’s just tipped over five years now. And we’ve just had a revaluation and it’s substantially increased; and so I don’t know – I think I’ll just let it go; leave it as it is.

How much land do you still own?

I’m not sure. Oh, about a hundred and twenty, or a hundred and fifty, [acres] or something.

It’s enough to keep you out of mischief.

Yeah … yeah. Yeah, I sold the end of Kings Road, sixty-five acres; I sold it over the river. I sold thirty-six acres; I sold the high school farm … hundred and thirty acres; I sold the grain dryer. That was all to do with raising the money for them … my wife decided she’d had enough; can’t really blame her. So I had to square her up. So that cost me another couple of bloody million. And … yeah, [chuckle] it’s only bloody money.

It is. So when you met your wife – where did you meet her? Was she a local person?

No, no – she was from Waipuk. [Waipukurau] I went shepherding. I was only a young fella, twenty, and I worked down in Central Hawke’s Bay, shepherding for a little while. And then I went deer culling for a little while down south – sort of my OE [overseas experience] I suppose, but I didn’t go overseas. And I met Jenny down in Waipuk, and we eventually got married and had five kids. Yeah.

So your children – are they all still around here?

They were away, but they’ve all come back to Meeanee. Kate’s in Meeanee, Elsa’s in Taradale, Sarah’s here, Amanda’s in Taradale …

Mainly girls?

Yeah, I’ve got four girls, one boy.

Is your son still local?

Yep. Well he’s separated too, now; but anyway, he’s living with his mother, Jenny. But he’s working for Willie Agnew, flat out. So yeah, I dunno – there’s five kids and three of them are separated. Didn’t know anyone; when I grew up, I didn’t know anyone that was separated.

I didn’t either. All we knew was work …

Well that was the only reason we were put here, according to what my father told me. And even now I get guilty just by … I should be doing something, and I’ve got to say to myself, “no, you don’t have to, you can read a book; you don’t have to go and do it, there’s no need to, now. You don’t need to.”

Yes – I used to feel guilty if I stopped.

Mmm, Yeah, I do too. Yeah, no one ever said how … we were taught to … you know, head down, bum up, work; and no one ever said what you did when you stopped working. How do you retire? I don’t know. Dad never really retired, he just slowed down. I’d get the farm all ready and he’d go and cultivate beans, and if he got sick of it he’d come home and that. And if he didn’t want to go or it was some not nice weather, he didn’t bother going. That was a nice way of …

Yeah, of slowing down. So over the time, Did, you’ve certainly seen some changes … we went from hand planted to machine harvested …

I don’t know whether tomato sauce was enormously expensive, or how they could make hand picked tomatoes into tomato sauce and make a profit, I really don’t know. We seemed to – $25 a ton, or $36 … was £18 and then in the dollar change it went to $36 a ton.

And you know, when you think back to the old Nuffield you used to drive, to what the tractors are like now …

Yeah. God, yes. [Chuckle] Oh, they’re a beautiful piece of machinery, the new ones; I mean they’ve even evolved since I got out. Our last one was 7800 John Deere, so it was sort of state of the art. But they’ve evolved from there, and … [to] turn them now, you know, you don’t even steer the damn things.

When you see the paddocks that they sow down just in grass after the crops, all the lines are absolutely perfectly straight.

They are, yeah. I think when I look back – and I said that to Ken Apatu before he passed away – we’ve been lucky. We’ve been very lucky – we’ve had the best of times. I believe we have. We had good relationships with old Jim Wattie and the factory; Tom McDonald and the winery; it was a one-on-one basis, man to man; and reach agreements and that. It’s all changed down, it’s all run by accountants; and if they can get it for nothing they will. No allegiance.

No, none at all. The other thing is how Hawke’s Bay has changed with the drainage …

Oh yes. Before they put the pumps in down at Awatoto, this area here was … if it got wet in the wintertime it would take all summer for it to dry out. It was only gravity, and it wasn’t very good at that. But once they put the pumps in and then the tile drainage … what was the tiler’s name?

John Riach.

John Riach … came out; we tile drained down the end of Kings Road, and then we go the hang of that; and then we tile drained the house block, and tile drained over here … made an enormous difference. Yeah.

You know, all the land was listed as high-water table. [Background vehicle noise]Course once we controlled the water table, then we had to turn around and irrigate it, didn’t we?

Yeah, really, before that [aircraft noise] you were virtually a fair weather farmer, because once the rain come [came], once you got wet – Hales, Faireys and here – it was just diabolical. You’d get a damn duck stuck around here when it was wet, you know.

The old house there – I think I told you the story about ‘97 … 1897 – the big flood came, and Grandmother put fresh water on the kitchen table and got the kids up into the roof of the old house. Grandfather was off trying to help, sandbagging or something; he never came back. They found him; they thought he’d drowned, but he hadn’t – he’d got on an island somewhere. The story we were told was that when the flood receded, the water was washed off the kitchen table … the bowl … that’s how deep the water was, you see. 1950-something, ‘54, Dad decided to refurbish the old house, and he put this new stuff called Gibraltar board in. Well when they took the wallpaper down, then the scrim, there was the silt in the walls from the ‘97 flood; so it was a true story … went right through the house.

Incredible!

Yeah.

D’you know, there’s very little been written about the history of how wet Hawke’s Bay was once.

Well the rivers were just … you know; and then there was the Rivers Board. At the Taradale, they’d sandbag … they’d put a stopbank up, which made all the water go to Pakowhai. And then Pakowhai put a sand [stop]bank up … a private one … and then it would push it all over that way; so it was all fragmented, it wasn’t properly done until after the earthquake.

The Tutaekuri [River] used to come from Taradale – where did it cut through to Napier?

It went down through Frank Steiner’s; through Meeanee.

Through Riverbend Road?

No, it went down to George’s Drive and then out to the Iron Pot [in Ahuriri]. That was before the quake. It couldn’t make it round what they called Powdrell’s Bend up here, and that’s when it broke through the stopbanks. And apparently, one of the fl… – ‘38 I think – the whole river flowed past our back door; broke the banks up at Brownlow and Hales, Powdrell’s Corner, and came through; and it ran through out to sea through Fred Jessops, through Bill Kings. Well then the ‘31 earthquake, and the whole place tipped over, all the levels changed and angles changed, so then they had to do something. So they diverted it and put it into there. Dad had a … oh, he had two teams, I think – Hughie Johnson, do you remember? Hughie Johnson was one driver for Dad, from Clive; and Charlie Sage was another one. And he had the stopbank teams and the shovels; Jack Whitfield was on the go, he led a team; and Joe Green was one of the young fellows on a shovel. I’ve got some photographs somewhere of them doing the stopbanks here, with the horses. Dad said it was quite good ‘cause he made a few bob, you know. 1931 – it was the middle of the Depression.

And today you’ve leased all your orchards to Big Apple [Mr Apple] do you have any grapes left?

No. They carried on one year with what I had left, [engine noise] and Pinot Noir down the end of Kings Road, and Pinot Gris in the house block; Chardonnay behind the Campbells; and they carried on for one year, or one or two years, until they got trees available I think, and then they just converted it all; so the whole thing’s established now … apples.

So you’ve been living on your own for how long now?

I don’t sort of think of it as being on my own so much; got the kids all around me. Still see Jenny occasionally; we still … been about fourteen years now.

But even when you were working you were living on your own, weren’t you?

Yeah. That’s one of my – if I’ve got any regrets, I think that’s one; I wished I’d’ve spent more time – like, my eldest kids, Amanda and Sarah, really didn’t know me. They said, “We … you were never there”. You know, I was never there. But that wasn’t quite true, but … The girls went to Iona and Sam to Lindisfarne, but it was Mum’s idea, not so much mine. I quite liked the kids coming home from school, but anyway … Anyway, 1974, ‘75,- wet season; I had a Falcon Station Wagon V8, ‘73 model, and that’s all I had; and the bloody thing was a terrible mess by the time I finished grape harvesting. It was a stinking mess, God! It makes Frank Steiner’s truck feel like a bloody limousine! [Chuckle] Anyway, so we had to get the girls back to school so they put all the … in the car; must’ve been in the May holidays I suppose, and we’d just finished harvesting; May holidays, yeah. Anyway, I said, “C’mon, we’ll get there quick.” I said I didn’t want to be there when the Volvos and the BMWs started turning up. So off we went, and I got the car and opened the tail … Station Wagon, got the bags out, kiss, kiss, kiss – see you later. I hopped back in the car and the bloody car wouldn’t start. [Chuckle] Oh, crikey! Had no jumper leads … so then the Volvos and the bloody BMWs started turning up; and all of a sudden I tried again and vroom! She … sounded like the Mongrel Mob just turned up. [Chuckle] [Makes engine noises] [Chuckle]

So now you’re sitting here in your lovely home, retired … are these granddaughters?

Yeah, well Sarah was head prefect at Iona when she was there … that’s Ariana’s mother; and Ariana was head prefect at Napier Girls’ High School, so I pity her future daughter – she’s got to be a head prefect. [Chuckle]

I really haven’t, and I should for the memory; I’ve emphasised the Ericksen side of the family but I haven’t mentioned my mum. She very much deserves to be mentioned because without her …

She was quite a bit junior to my dad; she was fourteen years younger than Dad. Dad was married twice; his first wife, Jean, was my mum’s sister, and she passed away when she was 20 after the birth of my eldest sister, Jean. And so Jean, my sister … the elder one, or half-sister I suppose, half-cousin … she was raised by a nanny, Joyce Innes. And then dad married my mum in 1941 or 2 or something; but Mum was born in 1920, so she was fourteen years junior to Dad. So she was the live wire; Dad was very conservative. Mum was more jovial and outward going. The Fairey family came from Nelson and moved up here in 1917, and they lived over the back fence. That was the Faireys …

Well that was Ted ..?

Ted Fairey, Mum’s brother. ‘Cause Cassin – they’re my cousins. Mum had a pretty hard time really, ‘cause when she was fifteen her mother died, and she was left. Dad married Jean, her elder sister; so Grandfather George; and Mum at fifteen became the household mother. That was in 1935, and then in 1937 Jean died, and so that was another knock. So mum was sort of mother to everybody as a kid … as a teenage girl … and she had to raise Uncle [?] – he was quite a bit junior to her. And grandfather never really … George … he never really got over when his wife died. I don’t know what she died of. But yeah, Mum was the … kept us on the straight and narrow more so than Dad, I think, yeah. They came from Nelson; it was 1870 I think, they settled in Nelson. It was only about … I can’t remember, I’ ve got it somewhere … there was only half a dozen families, so they’re all related; they all married each other. So there was the Hodgkinsons and the Jessops and the Newman brothers and Faireys, and they’re all related. What’s the brothers’ name? The Bakers that bought Wattie’s? They were Bakers … got two brothers. Well they’re cousins of some sort too; they’re from down there. Yeah.

Then on the Fairey side – well, Fairey Aviation … Fred Fairey. And that was … oh, I don’t know, they built Fairey battles and that; First World War. Grandfather George’s brother, he was a First World War fighter pilot, he flew Faireys over there in France.

Yes – they flew a Swordfish … Fairey Swordfish …

Fairey Swordfish, yeah – they went off the aircraft carrier. Yep.

And your mother – what age was she?

Mum died in 1998; she would’ve been seventy-eight. Dad died in 1980. He was seventy-four. So I’ve got a couple of years to go to pass Mum, and I’ve just passed Dad.

So is there anything else you want to say about your mother?

No, not really, I mean … she was a [an] outward-going lady; she was President of the ladies’ golf at Maraenui, Napier. She was the Mother of Year, elected – I don’t know how that happened. She was interviewed by the radio station, and you know, she sort of had to pull herself up by her own boot straps. But in saying that she was very … Mrs Hale, John Hale’s mother … she was just next door, and she was there to help, and the neighbours; like, you knew everybody, and I don’t think I knew people … no one moved into the district, and no one sort of moved out – they just were always there. That’s where the Gallaghers lived, that’s where the Cokers lived, that’s where the Griffiths’ lived; so they’ve always been there, you know. Faireys … they’ve always been there. Now there’s only me and Cass left

The English’s, too?

Oh, Ted English, yeah.

He was very much part of the rodeo grounds, wasn’t he?

Yes, he was. Oh, he loved his horses. I used to go down there and he had a hand-driven shearing machine, and he used to do the high tide mark on his horses. And I’d turn the handle for him and he’d go along there and clip them..

Yes. So thank you very much, Did, for that.

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Interviewer:  Frank Cooper

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