Hamilton, June Interview

I’m talking to June Hamilton at Ahuriri, Napier, and the date today is 21st February 2020. With me is Jenny Hall. So, June, could you tell us a bit about yourself?

I was born in Wairoa, so I lived there all my life ‘til I moved to Mahia with my husband, and we had ten years there; then we came down to Napier in 2001 and I’ve been here since then. Whilst I was here my husband passed away in 2009, and I’ve been on my own since then. Two of my daughters built the apartment that I’m living in now, so I’m very lucky because they’re very hard to get – apartments in Napier.

And it’s a perfect place to go to Art Deco. Did you go to Art Deco at all?

We used to, yes. Can’t this year.

So we’ll now go back and start at the beginning; when you were born …

Righto – well, I’m a twin, and my sister and I were born in Wairoa Maternity Annexe in 1929; and that annexe was in Queen Street, I think, at the time, on the corner – [an] old house. It actually moved when I was having my children to the other side of the Wairoa District School, and I think it stayed there for many, many years. [Chuckle]

Jenny: That was Black Street.

June: Black Street.

Your twin, what was her name?


And is she still alive too?

No. No, she died quite a long time ago. We both went nursing in Gisborne, and because of the fact that you weren’t allowed to get married while you were nursing ‘cause you had to live in, she stayed nursing and I returned to Wairoa and got married. So we separated, and she met someone in Gisborne and got married there, or actually at Waiotahi Valley – my mother and father were living there at the time. We had a big wedding there, and she lived in Gisborne for the rest of her life, but she passed away quite a few years ago.

You don’t know the date?

Well, I did know, but I’ve forgotten, I’m sorry.

What was her married name?

Williams; married Bert Williams from Gisborne.

So he’d be Albert Williams?


Did they have children?

Yes, they had two girls and one boy.

And did you go to school in Wairoa?

Yes. Oh yes, I was brought up in Wairoa; went to Wairoa Primary School and then the District High School. And then my mother was very ill when I was about sixteen and she was in and out of hospital. We didn’t quite know what was happening, but she evidently was having miscarriages. She spent a lot of time in hospital and in the finish I left school and was helping at home with the other five children.

Five younger brothers and sisters?

Mmm. Well Faye was the same age as me. So I got a job with Peter in the studio and she worked for Winters, and then we both decided that we would like to go nursing. And so I started there, but I got engaged at Christmas time …

To Peter … second name?

Peter Budge Hamilton.

And he was … photography ..?

Hamilton Studios. And he learnt that when he was in the Navy, in the … part Air Force. He joined and trained for the Navy out of Auckland.

So he was a cadet?

Yes. And then he went overseas, and they hadn’t picked up that he had an impediment of speech; and he had done all his work for a commission and he just had to go and visit the Admiral, and he would’ve been granted his commission.  And when he went to speak to the Admiral he couldn’t say his name.


So the Admiral said, “Well, we can’t put you back into rank.” He said, “I don’t know what we’re going to do with you ‘cause you’ve done all this training, but I can’t give you a commission because if you had to give an order under stress …” Funnily enough, he never ever did that under stress. But he hated the phone, Pete did; he loathed the phone because if he had to say his name over the phone, he couldn’t.

So that went with him for the rest of his life?

Yes. Yes. And he got teased at school, and one boy used to take him off and he actually ended up worse than Pete. And when he was older – he’d actually come through to Wairoa – it was in the club next door, and Pete and another friend were there.  And he had a worse impediment than Peter because he’d copied it and it stuck with him. Peter got rid of his, really, except sometimes. But he couldn’t use the phone. If people knew who was talking he was fine, but he couldn’t say his name over the phone. So that was my job. [Chuckle]

Jenny: Where was Peter born?

June: Gisborne. He was the youngest of five children.

Well, Granddad Couper lived with us always – that’s Mother’s father. Granny died when Faye and I were babies, and her eldest sister, Mildred I think, died just before Gran. I understood that they got that bad flu that was going round at the time. [Spanish flu] But it turns out that they did get the flu I think, but also Mildred had been pregnant and lost the child. She didn’t marry, and she actually died. But I didn’t know that until just recently, actually.

So what was [were] your mother and father’s names?

My mother was Freda Couper, and Dad was Harry Rua Howell. And he was called Rua because Gran at the time was living up at the lake [Waikaremoana] running a boarding house …  Granny Howell … and she had a Maori man midwife, and he sat outside and told the ladies what to do.  That’s what their custom was at the time. And so that’s how he got called Rua, so he was Harry Rua Howell. [Spells] Yes, so that was interesting. And Gran ran a boarding house up there for years, evidently, in Lake Waikaremoana.

And was that boarding house near Tuai?

Past Tuai, right up in the Waikaremoana …

And we’re talking about the 1920s, are we?

Must’ve been, ‘cause Dad was born there.

Might’ve been earlier?

Might’ve been, yes … ‘cause I was born in 1929, so that would’ve only made him ten, so yes.

Before 1900? Yes.  And the boarding house, was that for workers around the lake, or …


‘Cause I don’t think the power station was there then.

No. The power station didn’t come there ‘til I was about ten, I think, in Tuai.

So we’ll go to your parents then; they met at Wairoa or Gisborne?

Wairoa. Dad was driving for the Duco Motor Company – I think it was Duco. Mum was working in the office over the road from him that was on the corner where the supermarket is today. She worked for the Hawke’s Bay Motor Company, and Dad was working this side for some transport company, ‘cause that’s where he started up his business of trucks, where he got his first truck.  So that’s how they met; she was a book-keeper for the Hawke’s Bay Motor Company.

And he was driving and had trucks?

Yes. So they were all born in Rissington.  There were five boys and two girls in his family.  And Betty, the youngest one, was only two years older than Faye and I, and we weren’t allowed to call her ‘Aunty’ [laughter] when we were kids. [Chuckles]

Jenny: The Howell family are well documented, aren’t they, in the genealogical tree?

June: Are they? Yes.

Jenny: Aren’t they? Is that the same family?

June: I don’t know.

Granny was a bit of a hard case. She was a redhead; she used to ride horses, so Claude Allen told me, all round the district. And she was a midwife, untrained, but she was a local midwife, and she ran a post office and a boarding house. And there always … I can just remember … there were always people staying; there was always an open fire, a big pot of vegetables, which I don’t think was ever emptied; it was always full. Mum never liked going there. [Chuckles] She fed people. I mean, they used to get … at that time when she was running the telephone exchange on party lines where sometimes there were six or … and people’d come rushing in going mad, ‘cause this woman was on the phone, and they couldn’t use the phone. [Chuckles] Party lines were [the] bane of her life, ‘cause she had to do the exchange.

How old were you then?

Oh, must’ve been about five or six. So we loved going to Gran’s ‘cause she used to let us bake, and do anything. And we used to walk down the hill and around to the store – which was about half a mile – to buy stuff and come back and cook it.

And is this out at ..?

Rissington. We used to love going there as kids – Mum never liked it ‘cause she didn’t think that pot ever got emptied. [Chuckles]  ‘Cause if you arrived, Gran always fed you. Yeah.  There were a lot of … what would you call them, after that first world war? Lot of harmed men running around – hobos, they used to call them. And they’d come … they knew; they had a sign outside to say this was a safe house to come to for a meal. And it was a safe house for a meal. [Chuckle] It’s a wonder they didn’t get poisoned, [chuckles] Mum used to think. [Chuckles]

Would you go there most school holidays?

Yes. Yes.

And how would you get there?

Well Dad had trucks, and he also had a car, and he would take us in the car to Rissington and drop Mum and us all off, and then back he’d go to his trucks, ‘cause he employed all his brothers as well.

How many?

There was Horace, Gary, Alec … I can’t think how many, four? Yeah, and there were two girls, Beryl and Betty. [Motorbike noise]

And you mentioned Claude Allen. Was Claude Allen one of his friends?

No, no. He must’ve lived at Rissington at some stage, ‘cause he said Gran was a redhead; well when we knew her, [of] ‘course, she wasn’t. She was grey.

Did you become a school prefect or anything when you got to the high school?

No, ‘cause I left in the fourth form, unexpectedly; Mother had had miscarriages while we were holidaying at Mahia. I used to have to run for Doctor Jardine to come, I don’t know how many times. Well I didn’t know what was happening – there was blood everywhere; I think I must’ve been about nine or ten. And she ended up in hospital; and ‘cause I was the biggest twin I …

You got the job?

Yes. And my headmaster at the time said, “Now, you’re coming back to school when your mother’s better, aren’t you, June?” “Yes,” I said, ‘cause I loved school. But anyhow, that was … I didn’t ever get back to school.

But you caught up; you had enough language to be accepted to be a nurse.

Yes, oh yes. Yes. But then I didn’t stay, you see, because I got myself engaged. And I wasn’t going to be engaged for three years in Gisborne and my husband in Wairoa. [Chuckle] It wasn’t going to work. We never even thought about it at the time.  I went back after I’d got engaged and the matron said to me, “Oh, Miss Howell – when are you planning to get married?” And I said, “Well we haven’t even talked about that yet.” She said, “Well, you’re going to have to, aren’t you?” And I said, “Why?” She said, “Well, you’ve got to live in.” ‘Cause the nurses had to live in in those days; they were not allowed to leave for three years. So you knew that you were stuck. And at the end of your three years after living in, there was one room for the nurses that [who] actually finished, that they could have ‘til they did their final exams. I must say that quite a lot of nurses didn’t finish, because … [Chuckles]

Obvious reasons.

[Chuckles] Yes.

So you were married at Wairoa then?

No, married in Gisborne, ‘cause my father was so angry – he didn’t want me to get married so soon.

How old were you?

Eighteen, nineteen. So my in-laws put on my wedding.

And was your frock beautiful?

Oh, it was lovely. And Faye was my … and Joy and Pat, my younger sisters, were at school at Ayton House in Gisborne, and they came to the wedding. And Mum did too, and Dad did turn up. Yes … he turned up at the church.

Did you have a reception?

Yes, Peter’s parents put it on. And I know that Dad gave them some money for it, but [road noise] he never told me. I forget who told me [chuckle] – that was years later.

So you were married happily to Peter for how many years?


So how many children did you have?


So is Vicky one of the eldest? [Oldest]

Second-to-youngest. Megan is the youngest; she lives in Sydney, and my son and Gaye live in Perth; Gaye’s my second daughter. Christine, the oldest one, is in Auckland, and that’s where my thirty-eight grandchildren and great-grandchildren are. Gaye was next, and she only had two children. She had a terribly bad accident when she was first married; she was actually pregnant with her first child, and we thought she was going to lose him ‘cause she was so badly damaged. [Background traffic noise] But after a few years of hospital treatment – I went over for about six months, and …

Did Peter go with you, or was he [a] photographer still?

Well he had to be, ‘cause he had weddings. So I had to go on my own, so I was backwards and forwards quite a bit.

Can you tell us about the photography business at that stage?

Well, it was straight photography, studio only and candid, and in those days we processed all our own stuff in the darkroom. And we did people’s films that they had in their cameras – that was quite a big business until colour came in, and that changed it a bit, and then …

When did colour come in? Would it be in the fifties?

I think it’d be in the fifties, ‘cause I remember we went up to Gisborne to KKK [Limited] – he was the first one to have a colour machine and he was doing our films in colour but it was very expensive; very expensive for a long time.

Did you have your own house in Wairoa?

Not to start off with – we lived above the studio. But after I had two children – they were six weeks old – it was too awkward … cramped … and we moved into a State House for six months while we had a loan for our house through RSA. [Returned Servicemen’s Association] And every time we got some plans done and the builder, somebody would pinch the builder.  They were very hard to get, builders, at that time, because it was not long after the war.  Anyhow, I think we drew up six lots of plans in the finish. And then this lovely old house came on the market and Lyall Dick talked to Peter about it, and he said we could use our money that we had towards that;  he said, “You’d be better off”, because every time we got a builder something would happen.  And I was having another baby so the plans would have to be altered, and it was getting to be a bit of a nightmare really.  [Chuckle]

So what street did you end up in?

Apatu Street.

Still not far from the photography studio?

Oh yes, quite a way. Yes, well as the river goes round like that, the studio was here [demonstrates] and the house was over here. So my father was furious when we bought it; he really told Peter off. He said, “You can’t leave a girl down here on her own” – ‘cause there was [were] no houses around at the time – “with these children. How’s she going to manage?” But anyhow, we managed.

Did you do all your own cooking and housework and looking after the children?

I wasn’t at the photographers from the first baby, because Pete employed people. The business was well on its own feet. And the day my youngest daughter started school I had a whole week to think, ‘Well, what am I going to do?’ And it was lovely. [Chuckle] We had two acres of land, so I was planning all these gardens and things, and Peter had a massive heart attack …


… and was in hospital for six months, so that was the end of that.

So you ran the business?

Mmm.  I couldn’t do the processing; we farmed it out to a lab [laboratory] in Gisborne. And we kept it going, and it gradually changed because when he came out … because the six months he spent in those days with that sort of heart attack he had, he never put a foot to the ground. They nursed him completely on bed rest, which was really the wrong thing to do, as they discovered [in] later years. And so I would have to go up – we had a van; I had the children in the van – and visit him as much as I could while trying to run the business and keep the kids going. It was a bit of a nightmare, really. And one day – luckily I didn’t have the kids in the car – we had this van, and I’m sure I put the handbrake on, ‘cause it was a round thing there.  And I’m sitting on Peter’s bed, talking to him, and suddenly the van takes off towards the Nurses’ Home. [Chuckle] And the gardener at the hospital was running after it – I don’t know what he thought he was going to do, he couldn’t pull it.  And it went over to the Nurses’ Home and into the drain. I didn’t have the children, thank God! [Chuckle] And it just tipped over the bank and stayed there. I mean the kids would’ve been all right if they had … but they could’ve been in there, ‘cause they weren’t allowed to go and see their father; they could just wave to him [chuckle] through the window ‘cause he had the outside room.

And was that at the hospital that’s where it is now, up on the ..?

Yes, it was the old building, and he had a nice view of everybody coming and going. And he was not allowed visitors, but everyone used to come up to this window and chat to him, [chuckles] so that was nice. They just kept him … that was the treatment, was six months flat on his bottom. [Chuckle]

Did you join the Women’s Institute and things like that?

I didn’t have time. [Speaking together] I had a lot to do with them afterwards when I was running programmes.

So the children went to Wairoa School as well?


And then to Wairoa College, or did you send them as boarders?

No, no, they went to … couldn’t afford boarding school. Wairoa College was – Wairoa District High School it was then – was good. They all did well; Christine did Occupational Therapy; Gaye was a nurse; Brett and Leslie were school teachers; Vicky was a nurse; who’ve I missed out? Megan was an Occupational Therapist.  I had two occupational therapists, Christine and Megan. That’s all of them, so they all did well. People run little towns down, but you gain an awful lot of knowledge [chuckle] I think, in a little place.

Now, what were you given your ONZM [Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit] for?

Services to the community. Well, I got involved with the hospital; I forget how I got involved with that. And I became Chairman of the Wairoa Hospital Committee. And then I got talked into standing against Freddie Beattie in Wairoa for the Hospital Board, ’cause nobody liked Fred; they didn’t think he was doing anything for Wairoa. And so I thought, ‘Oh, yes – I don’t mind having a go.’ I never dreamt I’d get in, but I did.

Do you know what year approximately that would’ve been?

I’m not sure.

Did you serve for the three years, or five years?

Nine. Well I got on to the Hawke’s Bay Board as well.

And what else?  ‘Cause you probably had a finger in something else as well?

Well I started a lot of projects. One of them was, at the time when you were old, you ended up in hospital and you died there. And it was really sad, because people didn’t visit like they do now anyhow, because nobody had cars. And I worried about these people being sort of lost. And then there were a lot of people – I used to do Meals on Wheels – a lot of people that you went to saw nobody, and they got isolated; and I tried to do something about that.

You started a Visitors’ Service?

Yes. And I rang around and got the people from the hospital to come to the Nurses’ Home which was empty, and we put on one day a week and I talked [to] a few of my friends like June Richardson and a few others to help me.  And we used to spend the day with them. And what we did was, we brought all the old ladies – not many men, but mostly old ladies – over for the day, and the hospital I took them into, ‘cause I was on the Hospital Committee at the time and I became Chairman, so I had a bit of power.  And I talked the hospital into providing the lunches, ‘cause they were just a few extras from the town, so that they still kept up with their friends. And I spent weeks on the phone to people asking if they would help – would they give just one day a year, just for a couple of hours, to pick up the people in town and bring them up to the hospital, and preferably to stay there and help with the lunch and everything, which came over from the hospital. I talked the kitchen into providing the lunches, because they just had to do a few extra because the hospital ones were being fed anyhow. And we managed to get the budget so that the people that helped got a lunch, too.

Did you go into the realms of having lunches that were suitable for the Maori people?

No. They didn’t at the time because Lena Manuel was on the Board with me, and she didn’t do anything about that, unfortunately. She did lots of other things on committees and things, but she was useless at getting anything done. So we didn’t; but I had a lot of Maori women that [who] I knew that [who] came; I mean, we did do that. And there were a lot of lonely Maori people out in the community, because the Maori people were saying, “No, we look after our old people.” Well, they didn’t. I mean, they might’ve some, but they really didn’t. There were a lot of lonely old ladies, so we gradually …

Brought them in.

Yes. But it took a lot of time on the phone; and the country women were my best people because they were helpful; the town people were a bit … you know …

A lot of them would be working for the freezing works; their husbands would be.


You’d have thought they’d would’ve had some time.

Yes. So you’re fighting against lots of hard-core people who don’t think they should do things; I don’t know. But I found that the country women were my best helpers, and the town people … some of them came, some didn’t stay, some did. But we had a [an] empty ward, the Eleanor Harvey Ward, up at the hospital. So there were a lot of young Maori people with nothing to do, ‘specially girls; so I managed to talk to the person in Wairoa who was running a Government thing … can’t think of her name now … I had to really talk very hard to get her to start a little programme where we would pick up some of the old people that we did Meals-on-Wheels [for], and bring them up to the hospital for a day; and bring the old people over from the hospital. It started gradually. June Richardson was a huge help to me with the country people – the country women were much more responsive than the town women. They felt they had better things [chuckle] to do, I suppose – I don’t know, but it was …

Did you help in St John’s Ambulance?

Not at the start.

But at the end you were doing that?

Yes. ‘Cause I was on the … the hospital had its own committee … Wairoa Hospital.  When I became chairman of that I got a lot of other things I could get done, but because I was on the Hawke’s Bay Hospital Board as well.

One would help the other?

But it did take a lot, but I had a very supportive husband. After his heart attack, he was never able to do the things that he used to be able to do, so he encouraged me to do these things. He said, “You know, I can manage at home; you go and do this”, and he pushed me.

And what about the swimming club, or any of the sports clubs?

No, no. We had a big swimming pool up at the hospital that we made open to the public for a long time, and the nurses used to use it, especially those who were living in. But you see, things changed with hospitals; the nurses didn’t live in.  Once I left a lot of things dropped off.

Passing public going through from Napier to Gisborne – how did that affect the town itself?

Well, it actually survived very well, really, ‘cause it was a stopping-off place. I mean it was a long trip to Napier and a long trip to Gisborne, so I think the passing traffic … well, it always stopped at Ostler’s. [Chuckle]

Ostlers’ Bakery?

Yes. [Chuckle] And so it sort of spread along the town a bit.

Jenny: Wairoa supported a big rural area, too, didn’t it?

June: Well, they did.

Jenny: Lots of farmers around.

June: Yes.  Yes.  And at the time the farmers were our best help.  Then we had that terrible bout where everything collapsed in the farming world. We had a couple of suicides … farmers … and it was really quite bad, and I lost a lot of my helpers that way.

That would have been after Bola? [Cyclone Bola, 1988]

I think it might’ve been …

And when the bridge collapsed?

Yeah – oh yeah, that was a long time after that. Yes, -before that we’d a real downturn, because everything seemed to go wrong for farming at the time. It was really very sad; I think there was [were] two suicides.

Jenny: Going back earlier, was it about 1948 there was a big flood?  And that would’ve affected the studios?

June: No, ‘cause I wasn’t married ’til ’49.

Jenny: Oh, right.

June: So … yes, Peter was taking photos of that. It actually came through the studio, yes – it was about this high. [Chuckle] And out your way [referring to Jenny’s home] was Heather and Dan Walker, and …

You went for a picnic?


Jenny: At Ardkeen.

June: Yes. And your Mum and Dad were living on that farm.

Jenny: At Matai, at Ardkeen, yep.

June: Yes. And we all came down to where that little creek was.

This is Jenny Hall’s parents;  they went and had a picnic …

Yes, David and Isobel.

And when you wanted to get more photographic equipment, how would Peter get it?

Very difficult.

Because he wouldn’t be able to import much?

No, you couldn’t, you had to buy it through .. Kodak were really wonderful, and H E Perry – I don’t think they’re going today – but they really helped him a lot. And we had a couple of people down here, and one in Gisborne that had been in photography for quite a while, and they gave Pete quite a lot of equipment that they weren’t using. So everyone helped each other then. I suppose they still do. I don’t know, not being in business.

Jenny: So during the fifties and sixties Peter would’ve been busy with wedding photography, ‘cause he would’ve been the only one in Wairoa doing it, wouldn’t he?

June: Well, yes, and by that stage everything … because it was colour, we couldn’t afford that sort of machinery … and it had to go to Gisborne or down to Wellington. And the Post Office – we’d just taken his daughter’s wedding – and all of the photos went down to Wellington to be processed. The colour stuff was experimental, and you spent a lot of money on it, then a few months later you’d have to buy another … and then, you know, that was no good and you couldn’t sell it. It was [a] very expensive time, so …

Biggest expense is when your children were young?

Yes, but we survived. It was hard going at times.

[Shows photos, some discussion, not relevant to interview]

One photo is of the Wairoa Hospital Committee.  I [did] massage out at Mahia for cancer patients; and I did training on therapeutic massage.


I formed a Jack and Jill Te Kupenga Mahia Trust when I was out at Mahia for some work I was trying to do out there; [shows photo] and this is just a little bit of what …

What it involved …

Yes, yes, and what led to it as well.

Jenny: What year did you go out to Mahia?

June: We came here in 2001 and we were at Mahia for ten years, so take away ten years from 2001 …


Mmm. Yeah. [Chuckle]

Did you enjoy being out at Mahia instead of in Wairoa?

Loved it … loved it.

How did your life change?

Well, we made a lot of really good friends out there, who are all now passed on. I don’t think there’s any of them left at all.

The Underwoods might be; they would’ve been out there then?

Oh, later – much later.

Christine and Brian Underwood – he was one of the doctors.

Mmm, in Wairoa. Yes, they came later; I think it might’ve been after we’d left.

And did you always have crayfish when you went to the Mahia Hotel?

I didn’t work at the hotel there.

No, no – when you went there for a meal?

Oh yes; yes, oh, it didn’t start ’til halfway through when we were there. It was quite a while – it sort of went and stopped and went and stopped for a long time, but it’s gradually grown. [Chuckle] It’s just that sometimes people didn’t work well together, and it changed.

And would the difference be between when some families left and others came?


There would be a change of owners of the hotel, too?

No, mostly locals managed it; they sort of got on, and then they didn’t get on. It was mostly locals that had the hotel.

Jenny: But a small group of permanent residents, wasn’t it?

June: Mmm.

Jenny: Most of it was holiday people.

June: Yes. Yes, there weren’t many permanents. There were the Ormonds and … goodness, I can’t think of their names … knew them so well.


Yes, that was before the Smiths went. They were great friends of Peter; we actually sold our house to one of them. Bowens … Jack and Jill …

So when you went out to Mahia, did you sell the photography studio?


So that you went into retirement out there?

Yes, we did.

What did you spend most of your day doing, you and Peter?

I don’t know, we just seemed to be busy. Well, we were busy altering the house that we’d bought; and then we made a lot of friends out there;  we seemed to be very social for a long time with the Bowens and the Ormonds, and … They started the golf club there, but Peter couldn’t last [at] that ‘cause he couldn’t walk far enough.

You were just happy out there …

Yes, we were. Well, I got tied up with Maori organisations with Health, and we managed to get a clinic going there. It took a lot of to-ing and fro-ing, especially … I don’t know, have you heard of Pauline Tangiora? She’s wonderful; and she’s a … not so wonderful person. [Chuckle] I don’t know whether you know her or not. Well, she was on our committee.

So you were extending what you had been doing with Health, out at Mahia?

Yes. Because you see, there was nothing out there, really.  And we managed to get a health clinic started. But there’s a lot of politics went on, and … ‘cause Des Blake got involved; and you never knew where you were quite with Pauline, ‘cause she was always hopping off overseas. Yes, so it was trying times. [Chuckle]

But then you came down here in 2001?


Did you go yachting down here when you were close to the yacht club?

No. No – well, it was because our kids were all yachties. We lived by the river when we were in Wairoa – our house went down to the riverbank, so all of our kids had yachts. They started with little P-class, and then went up, so we were very involved that way. Once we went to Mahia – [of] course the kids had all gone off, you see – they didn’t;  except for Brett had one boat there that he used to come and use. But the yachting club used to have something out there every year and we’d always get involved with that. But mostly I got into the Health thing.


June Hamilton, the second part of her oral history.  She’s going to talk about her grandfather, Frederick Inglis Couper.  So can you tell us ’bout where he lived?

Granddad lived in Mitchell Road, Wairoa; I’m not sure of the number, but it was the first house on that road next to the College, and my mother was brought up there with her sisters and two brothers. And Granny and her eldest daughter – I think they got that bad flu that was going around at the time of the first Great War. [Spanish flu – influenza pandemic 1918] I’m not sure, but they died within a few months of each other, and Granddad lived with us for the rest of his life. Their house was burnt down; he’d lit a rubbish fire at the back and it got out of hand, and it actually burnt the house down. So he came to live with my mother and father and Faye and I. And my brother, Russell, was born there. Granddad came to live with us from then on, to [for] the rest of his life.

What did he do for a trade?

No, he was a storeman; Williams & Kettle. And they used to live at Frasertown, which is just out of Wairoa, and he used to walk to work every morning from there.

That’d be quite a long way.

Yes. And he did it with a broken foot.

Oh, [chuckle] goodness!

He’d broken his … his feet were bad, but he was a tough old bird. And I think the break was on that part of the front of the leg, and he always had trouble with shoes – he used to have to cut his shoes to get his foot in. But he used to walk from Frasertown to Wairoa.

Did he grow his own vegetables and things like that in the garden?

Yes. Yes, of course, he had a lovely vegetable garden out there. I wasn’t alive then of course.

And did he go to any clubs or organisations?

He belonged to a cricket team, and they used to play against Napier, by Tuiroa I think it was on the way to Wairoa; there was a small cricket ground there and they used to go there and play on Sundays.

Did you know your grandmother? Or she’d died before you were born?

No, not before; I was just a few months old when she died, and Mum’s older sister. I think they got that flu.

And would they’ve taken their own food and everything for the cricket matches?

Yes, they would’ve, because there was a little kitchen … very tiny little kitchen. You could only fit about four people in it, so [chuckles] … but the building I think is still on the road today; it’s still there. You wonder how they ever played cricket there.

And did they have any animals? Was it a farm, or just a house at Frasertown?

Just a house. And their house that they lived in in Wairoa where Mum was until she got married, was in Mitchell Road, and right next door to the College, and that’s where my mother and father lived and brought us all up.

And do you remember whether you went to Gisborne much, or would you come to Napier?

Went to Gisborne for a couple of years ‘cause my brother was born at that time, and my father was a truck driver. He worked for a motor company; they were buses, not trucks; buses, sorry.

When your grandfather was living in the house with you, how did you get on with him?

Oh, we got on very well; he was the dearest, dearest old man. He used to clean all our shoes … [chuckle] every morning, clean our shoes; and every Sunday he’d wake my twin and I up to go to church. He was a great church-goer.

Which church would that be?

Anglican Church. There was some part of the family that was Roman Catholic, but Gran and Granddad came to the point where the boys went to the St Joseph’s School … the Catholic school in Wairoa, and the girls went to the public schools.

And did you have much contact with Maori families?


Would he have been a Maori [language] speaker?

No, I don’t think so.

Williams & Kettle supplied a lot of materials to places outside Wairoa; would he go out to deliver it?

No, he was a storeman. He was there with another man, and when they came to retire they had the choice of a permanent allowance for the rest of their lives, or a payout – quite a big payout for the time. And he took the little one, and his friend took the payout one. And his friend always wished he’d not done that, ‘cause Granddad had this little amount every week.

What year would that’ve been?

Well I was born in 1929, so I think it might’ve been …

In the 1930s?

Yes. Yes, I think that could’ve been, yes. But he was living with us …

Quite a while?


How old were you when he died?

I was married when he died.

We can look it up actually. You’d be at least in your twenties?

Oh, easily, yes. Yes, ‘cause I was married at nineteen, and I can remember he lived on the farm – Dad bought this little farm, and I can remember him coming in and out. And I must’ve had one or two children by then.

What do you remember him looking like, or ..?

Very upright, old-fashioned man; always dressed nicely.

And special clothes that he’d have for Sunday?

Yes, yes.

So would he’ve taken part in the church?

No I don’t recall that; he used to go to church in the morning and at night. They used to have a seven o’clock …


… evensong, and he went all his life, to church.

Did you inherit anything from him … anything that you or your sister inherited?

Yes, I think I became an avid church-goer too, because of him. Faye and I were in the choir, and we spent all our school years going to church, and I still do go to church.

So do you know how old he was when he died?

No, I don’t.

Would he’ve been drawing the pension as such?

Well no, I’m not sure. I knew he was getting some money from Williams & Kettle; I don’t know whether he … I suppose he was on the pension, I don’t know. He was quite a private man.

Did he have many relations come to visit him?

Well his brother used to come and visit when we lived in Mitchell Road. He was a drover. In those days all the sheep were transported by road, and he would stop outside our house with his horse. ‘Cause we loved horses, and we always wanted to have a ride on a horse, and he would let us have a little ride. [Chuckle] But Mum didn’t approve, but …

Didn’t she?

No. Well, we were on the road, you see, and … [Chuckle]

Not safe?

No. No. [Chuckle] He was a very lovable, kind man. And when he lived at the farm with Mum and Dad when they went out there, ‘cause he lived with them always, he used to come into town – Mum would be doing shopping – he’d go to Candyland, buy some cakes and walk down to where I was in Apatu Street, which is quite a big walk. But he walked every Sunday up to the cemetery to leave …

To pay his respects?

… to his wife and his oldest daughter.

What was his wife’s name?


How many children did they have?

There was Mildred, who died; she and Gran must’ve died … I was a baby, so I wouldn’t know quite, but I think they died about the same time. And there was Keith, who was a horse trainer, and I think Mum came next; and Aunty Dulc, [Dulcie] who was younger than Mum; and Uncle Pat, who was the youngest. He was about ten when he and Granddad came to live with us permanently. And then when Dulcie got married, Granddad went to live with her, and Uncle Pat did too. And Pat ended up as a Post & Telegraph boy, and then the war came and he joined the Air Force, and he got as far as Canada and he had a nervous breakdown. I don’t quite know what happened, but that’s what they used to call it in those days. He was never the same after that.

Did he still go on to Europe?

No, he came home, and he was quite strange for a long time. And he got a ride out to Frasertown with a friend of his and they had a crash on the Frasertown road, and he was badly, badly injured. His main artery here was all exposed, and he nearly died; he was in hospital quite a while.

And what was his name?

Patrick; and I remember him as a very quiet man. The doctor who was his doctor at the time, told Granddad the boy should never get married because he was not right. But he did get married, and he had a very attractive lass he met in Hastings; he was a taxi driver at the time, and they got married and they had two lovely boys. But I don’t know what went wrong; Shirley went to work in a drapery to look after a woman who was not well. He was the owner of a big drapery shop in Hastings, and she got to be looking after the wife; and she also was having an affair with the husband. And she and Pat parted; but then they had another little baby … a little girl. And I don’t know what happened – Shirley went off with this guy to look after his wife, so-called; so he came up to Wairoa. He came and stayed with us for a while; he rented a house, and Shirley would come up occasionally with the boys. This time she came up on her own; and – we didn’t know – he’d gone and bought a gun. And it was his friend who sold it to him; and he was going shooting up at the lake, so he told his friend. But he must’ve hidden it, and when Shirley came to visit, which she did occasionally – sometimes she had the boys with her, sometimes she didn’t.  This time she came without the boys, and he shot her.

Oh! What a tragedy for the whole family …

It was very hard … was very hard. And so it took a long time to get over.

That would’ve affected everyone’s life in the family for quite a while?

Well, I don’t know what happened to the boys, ‘cause Aunty Dulc, Mum’s younger sister, was living in Napier at the time; she saw the boys, but they went off with some part of the family. I don’t know where they are now, but it was really very sad.

Cause they would be about your age?

Oh, they’d be younger than me, ‘cause I was married at that time, and so … and they were only just little. They were really lovely-looking boys; ‘cause she was very attractive looking, but Uncle Pat was too. So what’s happened to them, I don’t know.

Your recollections of your grandfather are lovely, though.

He was a special person. He was a very lovable, quiet man. And he was reading the paper one night, and Dad came home and he noticed the paper was upside down.

[Speaking to June’s daughter, Vicky] What has Mum told you about her grandfather?

June: You knew him, didn’t you? Granddad Couper? Or were you too young?

Vicky: No, not Grandma Couper;  that was Eleanor Harvey, was the only one.

June: Oh, Granny Howell. Yes.

Vicky: That [She] was the only one we had anything to do with.

June: You don’t remember Granddad Couper at all?

Vicky: No, too young.

Have you remembered anything that Mum’s told you about what her grandfather did?

Vicky: No, only Granddad, Harry Howell; not the Coupers really, because we’ve got that one lovely big photograph where there obviously was a gathering; if you have a look at the age I was then, that would by why – I would be too young. Chrissie might – my eldest [sister], she’s nine years older than me. She would’ve been of an age she might be able to say, well …

So anything else you would like to add?

June: Not really, I don’t think. He was a really lovable, kind …

Vicky: It’s what you used to do at family get-togethers and stuff like that, Mum, that you used to all do …

June: Yes.

Vicky: … what you used to do after school or on holidays, that sort of stuff which is different, you know, what you did was probably who you mixed with and that; family gatherings, whether there were regular ones.

Well if you had a big family get-together, did you have it at Christmas?

June: Mostly the family gatherings were Christmas, I think.

Vicky: But that wasn’t with Couper, that was more with all your siblings when they used to live in town.

June: The Howells.

Vicky: Used to be Christmas was at our place with all your siblings; and Nana and Granddad used to come, and Nana and Pops occasionally, but it was mostly … ‘cause everybody lived locally.

So you’d see each other most of the time anyway?

Vicky: So we saw our cousins and that, yes, they lived in town.  See that’s why probably we don’t have any oral history like they did, because the families have all gone now. We don’t stay in the same town anymore, so you don’t have that interaction. That’s why they probably remember so much; whereas us … all my aunties and uncles, once we were about – I think, by about nine, ten or eleven – they started going elsewhere for jobs. That’s when Russell left, and Trevor and them weren’t around. They’d all, you know … the Gisborne lot weren’t far away, but travel wasn’t that easy. And each of your siblings had bigger families too, so the get-togethers weren’t the same; whereas in Mum’s time everybody stayed in the same community, which is why I can’t tell you.  And I don’t know all our cousins that well, ‘specially on Dad’s side because he was way younger, because he was a late one. So his siblings were all much, much older – they’d all left home when he was only going to school. And they all spread around and that, so the interactions aren’t there either for that reason, which is quite sad, really. ’cause we don’t have that, whereas when you’re in a small community you interacted all the time, you know. So one day, in fifty years’ time when somebody wants to do what you’re doing with us, we can tell them nothing.

Vicky, your surname?

Vicky: Manson. But see, like Mum’s photographs – she’s been trying to record all the names on them, because we don’t know any of them. And we have to decide what to do with those photographs, because none of us are into genealogy or anything like that at all.  But there’s a lot of history. You know, all those ones when photography was first being done really, but we don’t know them. If you don’t know them, you’re not going to look at them … no.

Well, thank you; thank you both.

June: Okay.

Happy with that?


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Interviewer:  Erica Tenquist





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