(Hanson) George Rochford Hanson Averill & Anne Averill Interview
Good afternoon, I’m from the Hawke’s Bay Knowledge Bank. It is the 2nd August  and I’m with Mr & Mrs Averill – good afternoon, Hanson and Anne.
Anne: Good afternoon, Jim.
Hanson: Afternoon, Jim.
Now I would just like to know about your family life right from the start to the present day and I will just leave this with you.
Hanson: Right, I’m Hanson and I was born on the 2 January 1927. At that time my father was managing a station called Whanakino. It was all part of the Olrig station and he was managing for a Mr Hector Smith. And a lot of you would know that his family home was at Ormlie Lodge very close to the Waiohiki Golf Course. He was a very genial old man. He used to come up when the shearing was on and the crutching was on and he’d have a cursory look and then he’d take brother John and me bird nesting. And I can remember there was a demijohn, about three gallons, with wickerwork round the side and the station bought the whisky for Mr Smith when he came to the station. I can’t really remember him being a drinker of any great magnitude. But he was a very nice old man. What I do remember about him – he had a funny little two seater car with an open dicky seat at the back.
Anne: Go right back to where grandfather came from, Hanson.
Hanson: Going back to grandfather Averill, his origins were in Staffordshire in the Midlands in England.
Anne: And his name was Edward ..?
Hanson: Edward Averill. He came out to New Zealand we understand, for the good of his health. He came out with banking experience and we know from some old records that he was in Dannevirke.
Anne: Can I butt in here? Edward Averill was the son of John, who was the chemist in Stafford – and he was also the Mayor – and of Mary Cliff. His siblings were George, Ann Hanson, Charles and Maurice. He was born on the 26 September in Stafford in England. He was educated at King Edward VI School and he served in Lloyd’s Bank in Lichfield. And he came in 1885 to New Zealand arriving at Port Chalmers or – I’ve got Bluff written here with a question mark, so it could be Bluff but probably Port Chalmers – on the SS ‘Aorangi‘. And in 1885 he was on the staff at the BNZ in Woodville for about eight months and as Hanson said he came out with banking knowledge.
Hanson: He really came out for the good of his health.
Anne: Yes, I’m sure. He was employed by Douglas Hamilton at Mangatoroto station near Dannevirke for about ten years. He was then employed by Barbaro Brothers at Himatangi. In 1895 he married Norah Newcombe from Palmerston North who was the daughter of Mr N Newcombe, and from our research we understand that the Newcombes were a very old family in Palmerston North, and we have information that they were very early settlers and had quite a lot to do with the formation of Palmerston North. And with grandfather being in Woodville it is understandable that they would have met. So in 1895 grandfather, Edward Averill, married Norah Newcombe from Palmerston North.
In 1896 he received an appointment with the Assets Realisation Board in the Farming Division of the Bank of NZ at Matamata and he was appointed Assistant Manager at Matamata, property of the Assets Realisation Board. In 1896 Eric was born, Eric being the eldest son, followed by Cecil who actually is my grandfather, which is how I get tied up in this, and Roche who is Hanson’s father in 1899, all born in Matamata.
In 1901 Edward Averill returned to Mangatoroto station as Manager. While there he purchased several bush blocks which were later sold. Maurie, the youngest son, was born in 1901 and born at Mangatoroto. In 1914 he was offered the management of Olrig Station by the Smith Brothers. In 1916 he purchased Echills, a property in Kereru, wasn’t it Hanson?
Anne: At £8 an acre. In 1922 was the dissolution of the Smith partnership. Olrig was divided into Olrig and Whanakino and Hanson will tell you more about that … separate managers then appointed for both properties.
Just finishing the history of Edward Averill. In 1924 he moved to Whanakino but managed both properties until 1926. In 1926 he went to England with Norah, returned home and settled at Echills.
He was on the Electoral College of the Meat & Wool Board. He was on the Board of Agriculture; he was on the Hawke’s Bay Rabbit Board; he was on the A&P Society; he was on the Farmers’ Co-op; he was on the Hawke’s Bay Meat Company; he was the chairman of the Howard Estate Advisory Board which was then the governing body of Smedley, and he died in 1947 on the 3 August aged 82 and he’s buried in the Havelock North cemetery. So that gives you a sort of potted version of Edward Averill who was our ancestor who came out from England.
Hanson: You could say Anne, he was a very steady man. He didn’t drink a lot. I’m not saying that successive generations … but he said it didn’t agree with him.
Anne: He made a £ go a long way, didn’t he?
Hanson: Yes. [Chuckle]
Could you just spell Mangatoroto please?
Hanson: [Spells Mangatoro]
Anne: Shall we now talk about Edward’s oldest son? ‘Cause there’s a good story there isn’t there?
Hanson: Yes, yes.
Anne: Edward’s oldest son was Eric, and …
Hanson: He joined the British Army.
Anne: He joined the British Army and …
Hanson: Was sent out to India at the time of the Moplah Rising.
Anne: But he was killed there wasn’t he?
Anne: But he served in 2nd World War, did he not? With the British. No, the 1st World War. But a very interesting story there for him and he now has a little plaque like so many others do at Hereworth. So he was Edward’s eldest son followed by my grandfather, Cecil. And – well they all grew up at Echills, didn’t they?
Hanson: Yes. Opposite where Ted lives now.
Anne: Opposite Woodgate in Kereru.
Hanson: And the Logans were further up the road.
Anne: And they went to Hereworth did they not?
Anne: And then they went to Nelson College, didn’t they?
Anne: OK. And Cecil married Zilla Cholmondeley-Smith from …
Anne: Well, that’s near enough. And they had six children. They had Anne Adele who was killed in the Napier earthquake aged six, she was in hospital – aged six, in the Napier hospital and was killed in the …
Hanson: Yeah – I think – I think part of the hospital collapsed on her.
Anne: Anyway, she was killed in the Napier earthquake. Then there was Joan who was my mother, and she died about twenty years ago. And then there was Ted (Edward), George, Mary and Charles who are all still living locally. So you talk about your father Hanson, because he was next. Roche was next.
Hanson: Yes. He took over the management of Whanakino station from his father Edward. The Seddon government got into power in those years and broke up all these big holdings because they weren’t getting the production from them because too few people owned too much land and consequently they were paying immense amount in taxation. So he broke them up into smaller blocks, and it was for the good of everybody.
Mr Hector Smith – he was a very genial man and he‘d come up to Whanakino – he lived down at a place called Ormlie Lodge which is at the back of the Waiohiki golf course. He used to enjoy coming up because the station had a demijohn of whisky on Dad’s desk and it was for his use when he came, but I don’t remember him being a very heavy drinker.
Anne: Well Hanson, how did my grandfather, Cecil, farm at Woodgate? Where did Woodgate come into it?
Hanson: Oh, well that was part of Olrig. I … early days of Whanakino – ‘cause I was born in 1927 – and there was no electricity. The electricity didn’t come through ‘til 1938 and iIt got as far as the Logans and didn’t cross the Kereru Gorge ‘til after the war. So Whanakino had a wood stove which heated all the hot water but for the lights they had carbide gas, which is a white crystal, and I can remember the lights would get dimmer and dimmer and my mother would say to my father “Roche, you’ll have to go outside and stoke up the gas cylinder again”. But the power came through in 1938 as I told you.
Anne: I’ve just remembered that I’ve got a piece here about the acquisition of the land and how it was split up, and I’ll just read some of it.
‘In 1914 Olrig Station totalling 14,000 acres was managed by R B Humphries. Mr Humphries about this time made arrangements to take over 1690 acres, now Echills, and farm it on his own account, but he died prior to taking delivery. In 1916 Edward Averill was appointed manager of Olrig on condition that he could purchase Echills at a satisfactory figure. So Echills became the property of Edward Averill. Echills takes its name from a farm at Kings Bromley, Staffordshire which was farmed by the Averill family for many years.
Echills had been all ploughed, cropped and grassed prior to purchase. The sheep and cattle were railed from Dannevirke to Waipawa and then driven overland by Cecil and Roche, through Argyle and Tikokino and Kereru. These sheep did not do particularly well on Echills. In May 1924 a further 19.5 acres was purchased from H J Smith at £7 per acre. This was part of the paddock called ‘Upper Horse Paddock’ at Whanakino Station. In March 1928 a further 85.75 acres were purchased from Mr Smith at £8 an acre. This consisted of the paddocks now known as ‘The Wedge‘ and ‘Rileys‘. In August 1929, 14.5 acres were purchased from Mr Smith, being part of the Williams Hill Whanakino Station, for £7 an acre and this resulted in a better aligned boundary fence. The property now consisted of 1882 acres and the total cost was approximately £15,700.
In 1920 in the second half of the year 868 acres of Olrig land was sold voluntarily to the Government for the use of World War 1 returned soldiers. This land included Woodgate. Cecil took over Woodgate, originally 391 acres, which he farmed initially from Echills, just across the road. A further 152 acres was sold by Mr C E Nelson-Smith from his bordering Olrig land.
Woodgate was named after a property farmed by the Averill family for about three hundred years at Kings Bromley, and separated by about a mile from Echills, also in Kings Bromley. Woodgate was later sold to Cecil’s son Ted in 1961, who in turn sold the Tukes block to his son Stephen in 1993. The rest of the farm is run by father and son. Woodgate is the only property still owned by the Averills. In 1922 Olrig Station, which had been run as a partnership up until this date, had been managed by Edward Averill. The trustees of the late C A Smith and Mr Hector Smith at this time decided to dissolve the partnership and run each of their properties separately. The trustees retained the name of Olrig and Mr Hector Smith’s property was called Whanakino.‘
Hanson: Olrig, where they came, from is a little hamlet on the very north of Scotland.
Anne: ‘1926 – the trustees of Olrig Station paid for Edward and Norah to travel to Europe as I’ve already said, returning the following year to finally settle at Echills. In the meantime Echills had been run by Cecil and Roche and Maurie under the supervision of their father. We haven’t mentioned Maurie yet, we must do it.
1926 – at this stage Roche Averill was appointed manager of Whanakino Station and Mr Alec McKenzie was appointed manager of Olrig.
1931 – while still at Whanakino Roche obtained the lease of ‘The Cottage’ from Mrs Fountaine, only child of Sir R D D McLean, at 15/- per acre per annum. As he acquired the cottage lease during the depression he continued to manage Whanakino for the next 7 years until Hector Smith’s only son Ian was ready to take over the property.’
Hanson: That was in 1938.
Anne: ‘Unfortunately Ian did not return from the war. During this period Roche employed two of his brothers-in-law to manage ‘The Cottage’ property on his behalf.
1938 – Roche moved to Maraekakaho to farm the cottage on his own account.
1947 – Edward Averill passed away. Echills was left in equal shares to his three sons which they farmed in partnership until 1960.
1952 – Frank Logan, advisor to Mrs Fountaine, returned from visiting her in England and informed Roche that his lease on ‘The Cottage’ would not be renewed, and his son Hamilton would now manage the property for Mrs Fountaine.
1952 – Roche purchased Te Whareiti from the Gascoigne Estate, built a home on it and farmed it in partnership with his son Hanson until Roche retired to Taupo in 1958. Hanson continued to farm the property and in partnership with his son Sam from 1986 to 1991 when the property was sold.’
But we haven’t mentioned Maurie who was the youngest of Edward Averill’s sons, have we? We’ve mentioned Eric, we’ve mentioned Cecil, Roche and Maurie …
Hanson: [Speaking together] Did you say that Eric was in the English Army?
Anne: Yes. But Maurie lived at Echills didn’t he?
Anne: And he then retired to Taupo and he died quite young, didn’t he?
Anne: I don’t know if I’ve got it down here when he died, but we’ll have it on the family tree somewhere. Now, you’d better talk about your sons Hanson.
Hanson: This is Hanson coming in now. I was at Wanganui Collegiate and my father was leasing a farm called ‘The Cottage‘ as all the McLean family had left Olrig. His two men had gone into the forces and I left school – I thought I was a very smart fellow for a very short time. Times of petrol restriction and you couldn’t buy yourself a vehicle or anything like that and I was going to town one day just to look around for a car and my father said “Oh Hanson, don’t do that, you can always take the truck”.
Anne: You had a brother called John.
Hanson: I had a brother called John.
Anne: John was 18 months younger than you. If he was alive he’d be 80 … 90.
Hanson: I’m telling … the story about John, was – my mother thought as she was breast feeding me she would be immune from having another child, but it didn’t work that way and there’s only twelve or thirteen months between John and me, but after that it was quite a while before sister Adrienne was born.
Anne: Well, finishing off on John – he trained as an accountant.
Hanson: Yes, John did not show any farming inclination. He was good with figures and he got apprenticed to McCulloch, Butler and Spence, a very prominent Hastings firm of accountants and then the Accountants’ Society gave a scholarship for budding young accountants to go and study in England and John entered – he was runner-up the first year, and won it in the second year. And so he was in England. Alistair White, a friend of ours, was in England because he couldn’t get into medical school in New Zealand. And John teamed up with a girl called Veronica, and Alistair said “John, don’t marry that girl”. John being John married that girl. ‘Course it all turned to custard.
Anne: But in the meantime John had four children to Veronica. And he had Catherine and Elizabeth (called Libby) and Miles who lives in England and Andrew.
Hanson: Andrew was the youngest of the family and we’ve really lost contact with him – he was really what you might say the black sheep of the family.
Anne: And then Adrienne. Adrienne was how many years younger than you?
Hanson: I was born in 1927 and John 1928, and they slowed down a bit then. I think there was about five years – I would have been five years old when Adrienne arrived.
Anne: And you were living at Te Whareiti, you children, weren’t you? As children. Did you grow up at Whanakino or ..?
Hanson: Yes, we left there in 19 – we left Whanakino in 1938 because Mr Hector Smith who owned the property only had one son and he had finished at Wanganui Collegiate and had been to Massey College and was ready to take over. So we went down to ‘The Cottage‘ which my father was leasing and Cecil … Ian Smith moved in to Whanakino. Sadly he was only there for less than two years before he went off to the war and did not return. While he was away at the war my uncle Cecil leased his property – no he didn’t lease it, he put a manager on – Arthur Rousset – and he went across and managed Whanakino. Well at the end of the war, sadly Ian Smith did not return and that’s how the Renton family – ‘cause Moore Renton married one of Hector Smith’s daughters – and that’s how the Rentons were able to move into Whanakino.
Anne: Now – your boys. Talk about your boys.
Hanson: I married early in the ‘50s to Carol Ludbrook from North Auckland. Sadly the marriage was dissolved after fifteen years, but we had three sons and one daughter. And I’ll tell you about our only daughter Marion. She had leukemia, which is cancer of the blood, and it finally got her in the end which was a very sad time. Tim is a very successful farmer orcharding in that style. Maurice we don’t see a lot of – he’s a doctor of law and lives in Sydney. And Sam threw his lot in with me, because when we lost the lease of ‘The Cottage‘ we bought the freehold of 646 acres from the Gascoigne Estate which … Sam and I turned it into a fat lamb farm. That means that every lamb we bred went on export. You didn’t keep any of the ewe lambs and that served very well because it was a very dry early block and it suited itself for fat lamb farming ‘cause you didn’t have to carry a lot of ewe lambs through the very dry January and February period.
Anne: As you said Hanson, you farmed in partnership with Sam for some years, and Sam lived in ‘The Cottage‘ didn’t he?
Anne: On Te Whareiti as opposed to the other cottage. And we then sold the farm and we elected to stay there didn’t we? In Maraekakaho, and live in our house for eight years before we moved into Havelock North, didn’t we?
Hanson: Yes. I wanted to retire and I wasn’t in a position just to give the place to Sam so we sold Te Whareiti and we sold it for $1000 an acre which was very, very good money and that set both families up.
Anne: Yes. I’ve got written here that Hanson and Sam farmed the property, Te Whareiti, in partnership from 1986 to 1991 when it was sold. And then you and I kept our house and eight acres and we lived there from ‘91 through to about … ’91 … oh, for about eight years, didn’t we? And then we moved to Havelock North and we now live …
Hanson: One episode which I want to talk to you about – Te Whareiti was very early country but always the north and west – it was very well watered but it got very dry early, so consequently we made a fat lamb farm out of it. And we put rams out in January, and if we got between 95 and 98%, we’d had a damn good lambing. We used to start and draft at the end of October – 30th October – and these lambs got to England in time for the Christmas market. I can remember one time we were drafting and Bob Chalmers, a very confident fat lamb drafter came, and my father said to me “Oh, Hanson, he’s not marking them”. I said “No Dad, he’s got to take fourteen hundred – that’s what we’ve agreed”. Well he got to the very end and the tally was 1408.
Who was your carrier in those days?
Hanson: Dave Walker.
Anne: Oh, and Hawke’s Bay Farmers’ Transport …
Hanson: I’ll amend that. Originally we did all our carrying with Dave Walker, a very efficient man who made a feature of calling on every client once a year. He drove these trucks and that business, I think merged with J Mills Ltd and it turned itself into Hawke’s Bay Farmers Transport which is still going now. But as I’m out of farming you know, I don’t know a great deal about it now.
Anne: Well, we used to sell our lambs for the Christmas market didn’t we? If we had any lambs left at Christmas time we were in trouble because the Maraekakaho hills dried off so quickly, didn’t they?
Hanson: Oh, yes, yes – it certainly does. We didn’t want to be smart with percentages of 110 because that would have meant we had too many lambs over the January and February time when it was damned hard work.
[Recording stopped for break; starts again mid-sentence]
Anne: … daughter who married Michael Kay, and they got married at the beginning of 1949. And my father is a Cantabrian and they got married in 1949, early 1949, January 1949 – and we lived on Banks Peninsula for the first fourteen years of my life. And I was going to Craighead Diocesan School at the time as a boarder, and because I was about to do school cert [certificate] they left me there for the next two years so I commuted from Christchurch to Taupo which is where my parents moved to, once the family farm was sold on Banks Peninsula. I then went to Dental Nursing school and became a dental nurse, and I was sent to Wanganui and eventually I became the mobile … I ran the Mobile Dental Clinic which went round all the country schools which I loved and we had a few gin & tonics at lunch time which was good fun. Then came back to Hawke’s Bay and dental nursed in Wairoa for a while. Hanson and I got married and …
Hanson: Got married in 1979.
Anne: Yes, we did.
Hanson: Because we were going to England in 1980 and we thought the British rellies would be more accepting of us. [Laughter]
Anne: And I worked for four years for Michael Laws MP as his electoral agent, which was interesting to say the least. And … actually I loved it, it was great. And then I got head hunted to go to Lindisfarne, and I worked there for nineteen years, retiring at the beginning of last year, 2015. Since then I’ve been retired and it’s been wonderful.
And I have one brother, Chris Kay, and he is a site manager – I think that’s what they call them these days – for Fletcher Building and he is presently building … rebuilding Christchurch, but he is about to change jobs under Fletchers and go to Auckland. There are two of us, and I have … so that’s Joan, and I’m the daughter of Joan. And then there is in the Cecil Averill family, Joan is followed by Ted who has three children. One of them‘s farming, one of them works for Elders Wool I think, and Caroline works in Hastings. And then there is George who has four children, last heard of all overseas. Mary has three girls. Charles has three girls. So that’s the Cecil Averill family, and the Roche Averills – Roche had one daughter recently deceased, so there’s nobody left in that family.
Hanson: Yes, sister Adrienne, yes – I was the eldest.
Anne: No no – Oh, sorry – I’m talking about Maurie. Beg your pardon – I mean Maurie had one daughter, and she’s recently deceased. So that’s the rest of the Averill clan isn’t it.
Hanson: Yes, Maurie was … he worked … he was the youngest of my grandfather’s children. He had to go and ask his father if he could take the car to go to town and things like that.
What sort of car in those days did you … or ..?
Hanson: Armstrong Sidley.
Anne: Well – tell Jim the story about the car that turned up in our family. You know, the car that you had at Wanakino and was registered in your father’s name?
Hanson: Oh, yes, yes.
Anne: And what sort of make of car was that?
Hanson: The station – Whanakino and Olrig Station – it was … they both bought their managers Buick cars. I can remember the one we had with a canvas hood – belonged to Whanakino Station but was registered in my father’s name because he was the manager of the Station, and it’s now in the possession of my oldest son.
Anne: Well, [speaking together] tell Jim that somebody out of the blue rang Tim, your eldest son, and said “Are you related to Roche Averill?” And Tim said “Yes, he’s my grandfather”. And he said “Well I’ve got a car that you might be interested in”. Tim went and had a look at it and sure enough here was the car, which Tim still owns and is going to do up in his retirement.
Hanson: I can remember it was – in those days Olrig Station and Wanakino both bought the cars and they were registered in the managers’ names.
Did you ever know Mr Hector Smith? Did you ever go to a function at Ormlie Lodge?
Well did I tell you … I don’t want to repeat myself. That was Hector Smith’s home. And he used to have a 3-seater car. He used to come up to Whanakino. He lived in the house straight behind Waiohiki Golf Course. And you can still see that red two storey house? That was Mr Hector Smith, and he used to come up to Whanakino for the shearing and things like that. And his wife would ring my mother “Now Mrs Roche, I don’t want Mr Smith to drink too much whisky”. It was a demijohn – can you remember those demijohns? It was bought for the Station owner when he came to the Station, and whisky doesn’t go bad if you don’t drink it. [Chuckle]
But the Seddon Government got into power – my father told me all this story. The holdings were in too few – too few people owned too much land and they weren’t getting the – if they got the production they were just taxed, if you get the point I’m making? And so they cut up places, and as a consequence they got a lot more production.
So we left Whanakino, Jim, in 1938 and at that time Dad was leasing ‘The Cottage‘, so now that‘s where Tim Logan is down in Maraekakaho.
And while he had his manager’s job at Whanakino he had two of my mother’s brothers managing his leasehold property. So then we had to leave Whanakino because Mr Hector Smith had one son and he didn’t return from the 2nd World War. So that’s how the Renton family got into Wanakino.
And – Tim Logan related to Hamilton?
Hanson: His son. He’s a likeable lad Tim.
I’m interviewing Hamilton tomorrow.
Well, Jim, it’s all … the bulk of the farm is leased to Brownriggs.
Very interesting indeed, and on behalf of the HB Knowledge Bank I thank you very much.
Original digital file
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Interviewer: Jim Newbigin
- George Rochford Hanson Averill
- Anne Averill
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