Hera Makere Ferris Interview
Today is the 19th April 2017, and today I’m interviewing Hera Ferris of Pakipaki. Hera is going to tell us the life and times of her family.
Kia ora. My name is Hera Ferris. I was born in Pakipaki to Jim Kenrick and Jessie Kenrick. I’m the youngest of five. My mother died when I was thirteen months, so that left my father with five children under ten. My eldest sister who is eighty-four, and myself are the only surviving ones from that family.
So when we were little, my dad realised he couldn’t bring up the two youngest ones, which was me and my sister, Mary, so we were whangaied out, which just means we were brought up by other families. We were brought up by my biological mother’s uncle’s family. So I was brought up by them, and my sister, the one that was older than me – she was two and a half – she was brought up by another family, [vehicle noise in background] the Hones, in Pakipaki. I was brought up by the Kanis.
I always thought until I was about six, that the Kanis were my family, even though we only lived about a half a mile from my father and the other lot. ‘cause they were always around. But I never really understood, ‘cause when you’re brought up in a whangai situation you really belong to the community … you know, you’re part of that community. And it wasn’t until I was about five or six – we used to have a tennis court in front of our place, and Mum was a great tennis player. And we’d have a big meal outside, you know, we had a table outside. It was under the fruit trees. We were having this meal … there was quite a few of them ’cause they were having like, tennis games with other people … and this guy came in on a motorbike. And it was an Indian motorbike, and I remember it distinctly ‘cause it had a big Indian down the side on the tank. The woman that brought me up, I said to my uncle – it was her brother – I said, “I like this man.” And he says, “Which man?” I said, “That man on the Indian, Jim Kenrick.” And he says, “Don’t you know who he is?” I said, “Yeah, yeah – I know, he comes here – I like him ‘cause he gives me money.” And he said to his sister, the only mother I knew … he said to her, “Doesn’t she know who he is?” And I distinctly remember this, ‘cause she got annoyed with him. She didn’t want him to say; she said, “Be quiet!” And he said, “Doesn’t she know who he is?” And I said, “Yeah – I know he is. That’s Jimmy and Katoa and Moana’s dad”, you know – these other ones that used to come. And he said, “That’s your father.” I said, “No, my dad died” – ‘cause the ones that’d brought me up died the year before. I said “My dad died”. And he said, “No – that’s your real dad. You were only a baby when your mother died.” And then Mum … his sister and her husband … brought me up; they took me as a baby. And I said, “No!” And Mum got really annoyed with him. He said “That’s your real father”. As I got older – and I’ve told my mokos this – I said, “It was silly, because my biological brothers and … the two brothers and my sister were always around, you know, we were always together.” But it never clicked until I got older that they were really my biological family. Yeah, so I was quite fortunate, ‘cause I loved the family that brought me up. And their children were older … they were older – they were at high school and college, you know, as I was growing up as a young child, so they’ve always been my brothers and sisters. In fact one of them just died about three weeks ago – the last one of that family. And I’ve thought about it, and I said “You know, in a strange way I knew that we were all connected.”
And then my biological mother had a brother who went overseas … was in the Maori Battalion. And him [he] and his wife couldn’t have children, so when he came back – and his sister had died when he was overseas – so he went to see this family that brought me up, the Kanis – he went to see them and he said he wanted his sister’s child, and they said, “No, you can’t – she’s ours.” [Chuckle] My uncle and auntie … they never had any children; they had to adopt two. That was nice, wasn’t it? Yeah.
So that was me as a child, growing … and I went to school at Pakipaki for a while. My mother had this thing that I really had to be … She was the old kuia in the pa, you know, she was the one that was down the marae doing the karanga and all those things. But for me, when there was anything at the marae, she’d say to me I was to stay home. She never incorporated me into the marae; like, the other kids could go down the marae, but I had somebody home with me rather than go down … it was … yeah. When I think of it now, her being the matriach in the marae, she taught others to karanga; she taught them all the things, but I wasn’t, so in fact she sent me to a Pakeha school – not long at Pakipaki – she sent me to St Joseph’s Convent. I did my education … me and my sisters, because my biological mother was Anglican. So the families that we went to were Catholics so we were baptised Catholics. Mary was a Catholic – a strong Catholic family; and the Kani family – very strong Catholic family; but the other three were Anglicans. Yeah. Dad was a Catholic … my father was a Catholic, but not a good one. He did change as he got older, but … yeah. So that’s how I ended up with that. And it wasn’t the Maori Girls’ College. My sister went to the Maori Girls’ College … you know, the ones that I was brought up with. My brother went to St Bede’s down in Christchurch. The other brother went to Hato Paora. So they all went to boarding school except for me – I went to the Pakeha Convent, in Hastings. It was quite unusual because at school … at Convent … I was known as Hera Kani. My birth certificate is Hera Kenrick – my biological mother was a Kenrick, but at school I was a Kani, at this Convent school. And my sister was blonde-haired … my two sisters are blonde and fair. And over the years at convent, you know, people I went to school with – they said, “You used to pass yourselves off as sisters”. Because Mary came to Convent too … the other sister. I said “We were sisters … we’re biological sisters.” “No, you were a Kani”.
And it wasn’t until I was working for Ministry of Social Development – and I worked there for thirty years – Queenie’s brother came in and he said to me, “I can’t get my birth certificate” – you know, doesn’t know where it is. I said, “Go to the school, ask them to photocopy the roll book and it’ll show the day you were enrolled. They will accept that.” So he goes to the school and gets it and he brings it in. And I had a look at it and I said, “Oh! This is unusual”, because it had his name, Jack Waerea, and underneath it had my name, Hera Kani. The people that brought me up – they registered me as Hera Kani, not as Hera Kenrick. So when I transferred to Convent I was known as Hera Kani, not Hera Kenrick. ‘Cause my mother wanted, you know, me to be hers I think.
The Kani family were very talented. My father played the piano … not Jim K.., the ones who brought me up. And I can remember sitting on the piano, you know, and [the] piano rocked while he played. And they were all very musical – my brother and my sisters, they played instruments. And when I was going to Convent my mother made me take up the piano. I hated it. And the Sister that used to take me – like, you know – I hated it. And I’d leave my music bag on the bus, hoping that I might lose it. I’d get back and I’d tell her I’d lost it. The bus driver brought it back. Next day I put it in the rubbish bin in the street, and she said, “You’re not going to take any more music lessons.” I’d been going for three years. That’s what I wanted anyway. And when she was older, you know, her and I got to be very good friends, my mother and I. I said to her, “Mum, why did you send me to music lessons?” She said, “Because they all played the piano – they all played some instrument.” And I said “Mum! Wrong genes!” She said, “What do you mean?” I said “Wrong genes, Mum”. [Chuckles] She looked at me – I don’t think she really got it. Yeah, it was funny … I said “Mum, why did you send me there – I hated it!” She said “But your father played, and your sisters played,” you know, “your brother played” [chuckles] “the piano.” Yeah, and I says “Mum – wrong genes!” I don’t think she ever got what I meant, ‘cause as far as she was concerned, I was a Kani. Yeah – it’s funny that, isn’t it?
And did you play any sport while you were at St Joseph’s?
Hated sport. I hated it. And my sister was very good at sport. You can see all the photos of us, and the only reason I’m in it – ‘cause she’s in it. They think ‘cause she’s good … you know, this is my biological sister who was brought up by the other family. So yeah – I hated it, you know.
So how long did you stay at school?
I stayed at school – ‘cause I knew everything! I stayed at school ‘til I was fifteen and then I left. And that upset my mother soooo much … yeah. So because she didn’t want me to finish school, then I decided to … ‘well, I’ll jump ship and go up to my biological father.’ And [chuckle] I went up there you see, ‘cause then I could do what I wanted to do.
Yeah … yeah, so I was fifteen when I got pregnant with my … ‘cause I knew everything. I knew everything – nothing you could tell me. There was nothing you could tell me. And yet I was quite bright at school – but I knew everything. Yeah. So my husband, you know – it’s just as well he was so madly in love with me, ‘cause he was twenty. Yeah. So we got together and we had a daughter, Denise … Denise is sixty now. [Chuckle] And … yeah, so we had Denise and then we had another daughter, Beverley. Then I went back to Mum’s, you know … well, I didn’t like this being a mother full time, you know – yeah. My husband had worked and [a] good provider. We had nothing, yeah. So I went and stayed with Mum. Well Mum had another cottage, so we stayed in the cottage.
I’d like this recorded – see, my biological mother, the hill that was their land, you know, right down to the swamp – so when she died, all her rent monies went into trusts. So Dad, he didn’t want anything of it, you know. So whenever I needed anything at school, it was always there, you know – I had no idea how until I got older.
And so I had these two children, and then we got into this cottage of Mum’s, it was a two-bedroom cottage, and we had no furniture. You know, we had bits and pieces. And then I said “Oh – I want new furniture.” And Eddie said “We’ve got no money, we can’t …” you know, “we’ve got nothing.” So he was working on the roads for Syd Crawford, driving trucks. [Traffic noise in background] When he went away, then I went to the accountant, ‘cause I knew we had an accountant. So I said to him, “I need some furniture.” And so he rung [rang] Mum, and she said “Yes, she needs some furniture”. So I remember this – I went in and I bought a new fridge, new washing machine, cot, a bedroom suite, a dining room suite, blankets – I bought all these things, eh? And Smith and Brown’s was in then … you know, I’m all of eighteen, this time, you know. And so this truck pulls up, and so does my husband … oh, well he was only my boyfriend then, ‘cause my dad wouldn’t let me marry so we were only living together. So yeah, pulled up with the Smith and Brown’s truck. And my husband gets out, and he said “What’s that?” And I said, “Oh, I bought some furniture.” I said “We need some furniture for this place.” And my mother comes down the road, and he said, “You tell her that she’s got to send that back – I can’t pay for that!” And Mum answered him: “No, it’s all right – it’s all been paid for.” So you know, I have this joke with my kids – I said “Your father thought he’d married a millionaire”. [Chuckle] I said “Smith and Brown’s truck, with all this stuff on it … beautiful new … not second-hand stuff.” I said “Your father thought he’d marry [married] a millionaire”. But what I’d actually done was spend all the money that was in the trust that was owing to me. [Chuckle] There was nothing else left. Eddie would say “Yeah – I really did think I’d married somebody really rich”. [Chuckle] He was arguing … “Take that back, I can’t pay for it.” I said, “No, it’s all right – the accountant’s going to pay for it.” Then my mum had to tell him that you know “It’s all right”. It’s a great story, isn’t it? So my mokos … well, they’ve been told that. [Chuckle] I’ve had a good life.
So you must’ve married Eddie then?
Yes, I did. ‘Cause my father wouldn’t let me marry him, and in the end I was pregnant with my second child, Beverley. And being a Catholic, you have to take instructions, so Father Durning … we’d go there. He had to have six instructions. So the last one finished and Father Durning said “Well now you can tell your mother that you can get married now.” And I said, “Well, marry us now.” And this is eight o’clock at night, and Father Durning says, “I can’t marry you now.” I said, “Well, that’s all right, ‘cause Eddie’s uncle’s a Mormon bishop – he’s been dying to marry us for months.” And he said, “Well – okay then.” You know that old church at the corner here? He said, “All right then! Get in the church, but you’re going to need two witnesses.” So my brother worked at the lime works, and he was working and he had lime on him, and this is eight o’clock, so … And then the other one was the housekeeper – we had the Presbytery then – we had the housekeeper, and she had a little baby. She used to stay at the Presbytery. So they brought Sally and laid Sally on the front seat, and we were married at eight o’clock that night. We were married at eight o’clock at night. And he says to me, “Now you can go back and tell your mother”. [Laughter] You know, I often wonder if that was legal [chuckle] … if the whole thing was legal. So that was how we got married.
I was quite a strong-headed person [chuckle] … I was quite strong-headed. And I remember we went into town on a – Eddie had a car – went into town and it broke down. We had pies – [chuckle] peas and pies, yeah. So that’s when I got married.
So you had two children?
I had two children, and then I said to my mother, “This is not my life. I don’t want to do this.” You know? And she said, “But you wanted to have babies.” I said, “No – I want to do something else.” So then I trained to be a preschool teacher. And I was fortunate that I had a mother like that, who was willing to support me. The one that brought me up – when I’m referring to Mum, she’s the only Mum I know. So I trained to be a preschool teacher, and in fact I piloted the first pre-school in Hawke’s Bay. There was only five in New Zealand … Gisborne, North Auckland; South Island – Kaikoura; Taranaki and Hawke’s Bay, and I did the one in Hawke’s Bay. I piloted the first ever preschool connected to a school, you know – you used to have to go to kindergartens, and so I piloted that.
And so which school was it attached to?
I piloted here at Pakipaki. So yeah, piloted the first preschool there. I was also on the working party that started the Kohanga movement. Because of the preschool I went to a conference, and I said to them, would they tell me how they brought Maori into the secondary schools. I said to them, “When you start Maori, you don’t start building a house from the roof, you start it from the foundation.” They said “What do you mean?” I said “It should be started – and now I was doing like, preschool. So I was on the working party that first started the Kohanga movement … the foundation of it actually, the very foundation of it – like I was working with Tamati Reedy and Syd [?Meads?] – all those ones, Tariana Turia. But the year it started – 1969 – was the year I left. I left the education system. And by then my daughter had graduated as a teacher – that’s my eldest daughter. My second daughter was heading the Playcentre movement. So I’ve, you know, gone full circle – now my children … and I’ve had enough. So I left then, and I went to work for the Ministry of Social Development; I worked there for thirty years.
So where were their offices?
Hastings, Napier. Over the thirty years I had several jobs with them. In lots of ways I worked on different schemes. The Whanau Ora [Family Health] scheme was actually something that … Tika Tonu … but we started, but you can’t work with a family in isolation. Like, you can’t work with one person, say a father who can’t get a job when you’ve got him with debts; you know, children not going to school and on drugs. So you have to work – you have to go and work with the whole family, so that’s where Whanau Ora came in. And then when the Whanau Ora package came out, I was sent a copy of it. And the manager down there … “Do you recognise what’s in here, Hera?” And I said, “Yes, I do!” ‘Cause they wanted me – when they first started doing Whanau Ora – they wanted me to send them details of how we structured it. And I said to them, “Well, everybody knows what I’m like in cyberspace.” It could be floating around – I knew where it was, but nobody was going to take credit for what three of us had done. And I never let it go, but they gleaned different things off it, so that’s basically what … So yeah, thirty years in there, in the Ministry of Social Development. And when I actually finished there it’s like I’ve gone full circle, ‘cause I was [a] pre-school teacher; when I finished at the Ministry of Social Development I was a co-ordinator for the Childcare Centres, for the Kindergartens, and for the … yeah. I went the full circle, and I remember saying to my husband, “I’ve gone full circle”. I’d come back to where I started from, preschool. Then I got to be co-ordinator for all these other centres.
But because of your experience … gave you a lot of strength to come back to the starting point.
Now coming back to where you were talking about when you finished, you were …
Back to where I started from.
And during that time did you have any other children?
Yes, I … got a son.
His name is ..?
Edward. And Marama – she’s my youngest; I’ve had four children. Beverley lives over in Sydney with her two sons – well, not with her two sons, but her [she] and her husband live over there. And Denise is in Auckland with her partner, and Edward and his wife live around by the church, and then Marama lives here with me.
Now did you retire then?
Mmm, I retired. I retired at seventy-two. I just decided …
We need to talk about the inspiration and the discipline you had to write the story of growing up in Pakipaki – would you like to tell me how that all started?
Well, it’s always been at the back of my mind, you know, that we should do something like this, because I’m very proud of Pakipaki. We have five doctorates in Pakipaki, you know. Very well educated, you know – got about a half a dozen lawyers. And just in my brother’s family – he had thirteen children … this is my biological brother … eleven teachers in his family. Eleven teachers, one doctorate, two principals … one of the granddaughters is a Principal down the school … and two lecturers – I always say, “You’re just a bunch of know-alls!” [Chuckle] [Speaking together]
Isn’t that wonderful?
We have got wonderful history … yeah. I remember going to – one of my brother’s children, she got her Masters down in Massey. And my cousin and I went there, and there were seven on the faculty from Pakipaki … that were lecturers at Massey. Yeah. You know, so we’re not only in sports, we’ve got that much … well, you just have to look around the place. How many communities have got maraes like this? Three marae, two churches, and then a third one with the old church that we’re now in the process of restoring. Are you a Catholic?
Have you heard of Mother Aubert? Well, Mother Aubert is a Catholic nun that started the Home of Compassion. And she actually lived in an old shed at the back here, [speaking together] and was responsible for building that church. That’s why we’re doing it; because she’s onto the second stage of her being made a saint. We have got no saint in the Pacific. Australia have got Mary McKillop; Mother Aubert would be the one that … and she’s on the second stage, and she started the Home of Compassion down there, so that’s why we’re looking at it. So that’s another one of my jobs, and so … where were we when I got sidetracked?
Talking about this wonderful community … two maraes …
It’s a wonderful community … it’s a beautiful community. And we’re all whanau … we’re all related. You can see that these mokos live across … down the other road, and they know they can come to Nanny’s and get fruit. But it’s about sharing, yeah. That’s the beauty of living here like this.
So, that brings us to putting together this history that you’ve put together.
It actually started … well, I had a phone call [background traffic noise] from a Maori station when it first started – it’s the equivalent to Te Karere. They wanted to interview somebody in Pakipaki, and I said “Why?” He said, “’Cause nearly every university in New Zealand, there’s somebody from Pakipaki there, doing something.” And he says “There’s only one other place that’s like that, and that’s where the …” you know, “the Whalerider was done. It’s similar to this, because of the elderly educated people that are coming through it.” And I said “Well, no – we won’t do an interview with you”. He said “Oh, we’d like to know what it is.” I said, “It could be the water.” [Chuckle] He says to me “No, we’re serious”. I said “Yes, so am I”. I said “It’s up to us to know, but not to brag about it.” It’s our history … it’s our story. It’s not to tell everyone – oh, there’s a bunch of know-alls that live at Pakipaki. We know that, but we don’t have to tell the whole world about it.
Well, you’ve set an example.
That’s right. Yes, I had a guy visit me two weeks ago. He’s actually a nephew, and he’s lived in Sydney for thirty years. But he wanted his wife to meet his teacher. [Chuckle] And he said “She’s my teacher, and she’s my auntie.” [Chuckles] He said “I have to bring her out to meet you”. Yeah. So you know, the things you do in life … you know, I could say that I have done something. Yeah.
But you’ve done it in a quiet, determined way – you’ve known where you were going.
So anyway, you made this decision about writing the book about ‘Te Pakipaki tanga e Hinetemoa’?
Hinetemoa is our tipuna. Now when you hear of Whatu Apiti … Whatu Apiti, the paramount chief? That was his mother. That was his mother, and that was our tipuna. So we’re the people of Hinetemoa.
Well you tell me about how it all started … the book.
Well, it was, as I said, at my auntie’s funeral and I said to the girls, you know … “We have to write this down.” These stories that I’ve heard from my old people. I’ll give you a classic example of a story. I am five generations to this kuia, and I remember the old people talking about this old man … his name, Hori Kiokio. And I went “Oh! Yeah”, to the name. That was my great-great grandfather. And they said that when he died here in Pakipaki, he actually came from Waimarama, and the people from Waimarama came to tona for him. When you tona for them – they came to take him back to Waimarama. My kuia – she said “No – he was staying here, in Pakipaki.” So they buried him – I think it was in the old stone church over here, and the next morning they got up and he’d gone. They came and dug him up, and they took him back to Waimarama. And I thought ‘Oh, that’s a fairy story’, you know? ‘That’s a beaut, that one’, listening to the old people talk about it. And then my cousin’s husband died and was buried out at Waimarama, and I was walking around the old cemetery. And I called out to Waa, and I says “Hey! Here’s our koro here … Hori Kiokio.” And I said “He’s buried here!” And I said “You know what?” Well, on his tombstone was ‘Hori Kiokio; date of birth; date he died; died in Pakipaki’. No mention of his wife; no mention of his two children. I said “I believe it now” – ‘cause they got the pip and they didn’t put his name on it. I said “I believe …” And the old lady there, McDonald … I said “This is our koro! That story was true!” And she said to me, “They dug him up and brought him back here”. Yeah – the people from Waimarama, and they took him back to Waimarama, and that’s where they buried him. These are the stories that I missed out on, you know … listening to it, you know. There’s different things that’ve happened around here, you know … you’ll find that in the book, you know, about the healing pools – things like that – you think they’re all fairy stories, but they weren’t. They were real stories, and this is what I missed out, because we’ve only got … we never got the really old ones, you know, that we should’ve got.
But you’ve retained a lot of the history, haven’t you?
Yeah, that’s right.
So then you gathered around … how many people did you say?
It was about … I sent out thirty invitations, and from that group that’s in there, I think there’s about sixteen. They came. And they turned up on the Saturday at ten o’clock; we had a cup of tea, and then our tables were put in a square and the recorders were there, and we just bounced off each other, you know. Somebody’d start and say, “You remember us when we used to go to have the Bible class?” Somebody’d say “Oh, yeah – remember the Bible class? They used to come and have them here – the Hunts, you know.” Or another one used to come, and said, “Remember Mr Mannix? We’d be in the meeting house singing ‘Softly and Tenderly’, and he’d be taking us for Bible class?” And I said, “And our cousins would be pushing the van down the road, ‘cause he used to sell lollies”. [Laughter] But I said “They’d be pinching the stuff out of his van, [chuckles] while we were inside singing ‘Softly and Tenderly’”. [Chuckles] Then somebody else’d bounce onto that. This is how it was coming along, you know. So somebody’d start, and … “Yeah – I remember that”.
I remember our swimming hole was just down where the main road is – you know, how we used to go swimming there … just a big hole, you know? A creek. And dry on the railway line, you know? On the lines, you know, and you’re listening for the trains to come past? The place where the old meeting house I showed you, never had any water. Across the road from them was four big willow trees and then there was a well, you know the old tank … the old wood tank? So that was sunk in the ground, so that’s where they used to get their water from there. And we lived in a house just next door to this thing. Yeah, it was quite a beautiful home. They weren’t allowed to come in unless they took their shoes off. Yeah, Mum would see that, yeah. But then on the weekends we’d all go across to where this willow tree was, and they’d boil up the copper and they’d do their washing. And then they’d have another open fire and they’d have a boil-up – they’d have the meal cooking there, and we’d swim in the creek, you know, or bring crayfish over from the creek and throw them on the ashes, you know. I can see it! Or somebody catching eels, and then you know, doing it, and then that would be part of the lunch. And this would go on, and then – the washing, we’d hang it on the line, you know – on the fence. That journal that came out ‘Washday at the Pa’ – it was written by Sylvia Warner – that was a fact, you know, and they withdrew it when I was teaching. They said “This is a racist book”, you know – withdrew it. I kept my copy. I said “It actually happened – that’s how it was.” And the washing’d be across the fence – beautiful white washing. And our nannies. Yeah.
But those were the things that we did. And when I talk to the kids about it, I say “They were beautiful days. We had [a] big garden, a mara.” So a mara would be, say about two acres, and everybody went down there to weed the garden. It was part of the Pa. So they’d plant that, and then Mum would say, “Oh, can you go down and get some corn or potatoes?” You only went down and got what you needed. You never got more than what you needed. So everybody looked after the garden, that’s why it was called the mara. Mara kai.
And my nephew he leased ten acres … this is only about ten years ago … with Charlie Keenan. He did the same sort of thing, you know, he was going to grow the kai [food]. And then the Indians were going to pumpkins and asparagus and what-have-you. And I remember saying to … Charlie said well, they were going to make money out of it. And I said, “Charlie …” Charlie was a Pakeha. And I said “It won’t work, Charlie.” And he said, “No,” he said, “the Indians’ll buy this.” I said “Charlie, it won’t work”. So I remember going down to see Charlie … “How’s your garden going?” He said he sends Carl away with a bin of corn and he’d come back, and he’d say “How much did you get for that?” He said, “Oh, I dropped it off at the marae – they’ve got a hui down there.” [Chuckles] I said “I told you, Charlie – that’s why Maoris are poor [chuckles] – they give it away.” [It] changed Charlie’s way of thinking, because Charlie built down here. So he ended up by being the cook at the marae. Charlie, a Pakeha, and in fact he was so accepted here he’s actually buried up the hill, here, and his son was, too, so he really changed his way of thinking. But I said “I told you”. That’s why Maoris don’t make money, because they … see that’s another good story … they share it. And that’s how I was brought up – that we share it – just like happened today, somebody brings me walnuts and …
So then these sixteen people that came and sat around with you and talked … mainly women? The odd man, but not that many men?
No. You know why there’s only one man? We’ve got thirty-eight widows in Pakipaki. We’ve only got two men over eighty. Yeah, we’ve got quite a few widows.
So you all sat around and you recorded this history?
We had a recorder; we had a video … somebody videoing this as well. And then – these ones here, they were wanting to … “No,” I go, “Taihoa – these are our stories. You start your stories, ‘cause your stories are different to ours. These are ours.” I said “You can tell stories about how crazy we were. We’re telling stories how crazy our life was to you – your stories’ll be different.”
So how long did it take?
Well … it was only three weekends over three years. [Refers to finished book of stories and memories] Well they’d take it away and then they’d send me a draft copy, and you know … “Aunt, is this right? Have we got this right? Is there any changes we made?” So when our centennial came they gave me … this is the final one. Now we can print it. I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do with it – that’s why I’m …
It needs to be copied – it really is [traffic noise in background] so important that that history’s recorded.
Yeah. The stories in there are wonderful. Some of them in there that you probably wouldn’t want to be recorded, ‘cause I remember when the Governor-General came here – it was the opening of those gates down the Pa. And you have to have a puhi – that means a young child to go through … the first one to go through the gate. So I was chosen to go through the gates as a puhi.
There’s two maraes; Mihiroa had one – that was my cousin Lily; and then the other one, Houngarea, picked me, so it was a debate between the two. Now Lily’s father, the one from Mihiroa, was my biological mother’s brother. So that crowd there came over with their puhi, and this lot had me. So Lil’s father went in and he withdrew Lil. And they said “No.” He said “Who’s Hera? And who’s Lil? Hera is my sister’s daughter.” [Laughter] So that’s how I got to be … but then I embarrassed everybody. When I got to the opening, and the Governor-General Freyberg and his wife … and I had these flowers. And I had to go up -‘cause I’m a five, six year old kid. And I’m all dressed up in white, and Dad’s car and … get out, and oh, there’s a great lot of people. And then they told me where I had to go and what I had to do, and I froze. Nobody was going to get me to move anywhere. So I promptly pissed my my pants. [Chuckle] I stood there, and Mum said “She’s wet her pants”. And the nannies were saying, “Take it off! Take it off!” And you wouldn’t get Hera to move. [Chuckle] And they’ve gone and written it in the book, and they said, “Aunt, we included that.” I said “Well, it did happen”. And I said “That’s part of the history”, and that was the opening of the gate. Yeah.
Now the anniversary’s been and gone, hasn’t it?
Mmm … the Centennial.
And the centennial was when?
Last year … 2016 was the centennial.
[Short break, when re-started Hera is talking about another subject]
It was to honour the Returned Servicemen. And my moko who’s at the Museum, he wanted the Air Force, the Navy, and … you know, all the armed forces to be there. And I went “We’ve got our own soldiers; we don’t have to get them, we can honour our own soldiers.” I’ve got an uncle who wrote that eighty-page booket that Queenie’s got; and I’ve got another moko that’s in the … you know, in … wherever. He’s still active in the Army; and I’ve got two cousins … I said “We’ll honour our own soldiers in here.” And here [shows photo] these were the soldiers …
[Shows number of photos from the Centennial book; looking through the book and making several comments]
There’s very few of the elderly people with moko.
No. I can show my mokos they’re eight generations to this kuia. And you see my uncles died in their fifties, and we thought they were old then. I go up the cemetery and I look around; I say, “My kids are older than you … won’t be long and my mokos’ll be older.”
D’you know, this is priceless?
Yeah, I know it is. My niece did this … she’s one of the ones that’s helped compile this book. She’s on the front. And she was one that you know, when the centennial came up, I said “I’m not really interested”. You see Charles is the one that’s in the Museum – and when this came up I said “I’m not interested in the centennial – I’m interested in paying the light bills on this damn place”. [Chuckle] We had eight hundred for breakfast that morning after the opening.
It’s just such a priceless book.
It’s beautiful, isn’t it? So this was the centennial, so we’ve had that and we had a beautiful day. The person who did it, my niece – she did this book, and she died six weeks later. And I went up to see her and her sister – they fund-raised to get that going. [Traffic noise] And I did [said] to her, “The centennial was your gift to us.” And I said, “The book you gave is the memories you left us”. Now can you tell me any printing company that could put a book out on sale, eight weeks after the centennial?
The centennial was beautiful, ‘cause my sister that opened it – she only died three weeks ago – she actually died a year to the date of the centennial. So when I went to see her … well, she was eighty-seven when she died, but I went to see and I said, “They want you to do the first karanga.” When you have that daughter, hopefully, you have the first karanga, and that’s done by the oldest kuia, and so that was … she said “Oh, I’m too old”.
Now is your husband still alive?
No, he died nine years ago. He was the one that did a lot of work for it; he was the one that looked after the marae – how it is now, the restoration was all thanks to the work he did there. We also were responsible for building the flats … we’ve got Kaumatua Flats. So you know, I can go out of this world and say “I think I’ve done my share in Pakipaki”.
It’s involved so many people on the walk through life, hasn’t it?
And that’s a leadership strength not everyone has.
So what do I do? I’m on the Charitable Trust for this old church that has now come to the fore. And I also administer the church.
So now … retired and enjoying your grandchildren and the community, still?
Oh – give or take some of it.
Yes, [chuckle] I know. Well thank you, Hera, for just a brief walk into the history of your family. And thank you for sharing it, ‘cause it’s special.
Yeah, it is special to me. Thank you for that.
Original digital file
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Interviewer: Frank Cooper
- Hera Makere Ferris