Hylton Thomas Meikle & Lorraine Mary (Mary) Meikle Interview
Today is the 13th May 2019. I’m interviewing Hylton Thomas Meikle, now of Cambridge, formerly of Havelock North. Hylton over the years has been a pedigree dairy farmer; been horticulture and research assistant at Ruakura, and now I’m going to ask Hylton if he would tell us some history. Right – it’s all yours, Hylton.
So I’m Hylton Thomas Meikle, now of Cambridge. Born 1st of April 1938 in Hastings at a private maternity place on … I think somewhere by the railway line.
That was the St Aubyn Street, and it was run by Sister Cooper.
Is that right?
Okay. So I was the only one in the family born there; the others had previously been born in Crownthorpe. And the history of getting to Crownthorpe was that my father had a ballot from the First World War. And after that they sold the ballot farm [and] moved down to Mangateretere, really so that my father could train the horses. So they’d been there for some time when I came along because I’m eight years younger than my nearest sibling. So I only knew Napier Road as my home.
And the earliest recollections are of going to school at the Convent where we had to bike along to the Mangateretere junction and leave our bikes at Bunny [?], catch the bus and go to school, and then catch the bus home again and bike home. One small incident which seems odd today is that on Fridays I used to buy the fish at twelve o’clock and put it in my school bag. [Chuckle] So, so much for ice!
Went to school; remember about going to woodwork which we had to go to Central School for; and other sort of recollections were at the Convent – when I was there they got the swimming baths which was quite a big thing. After that, just followed along ‘til I went to St John’s College in 1951. It was ten years old at that point. Then I think I did four years at high school, and then came home. And I can remember that I never ever knew what my School Certificate results were, [chuckles] because the night of the prizegiving [I] had to come home and stack silage. [Chuckles]
Yeah, it’s interesting you mentioning going to Mangateretere because … riding to Mangateretere, I went to Napier Boys’ High and you went to St John’s; it was there I first met you on a bike, and we sometimes biked to Mangateretere; and that’s a few haircuts ago.
Yeah. So … yes, that’s right, I went to St John’s from ‘51 to ‘55, and in ‘56 I went to Massey College as it was in those days. So that was ‘56-’57. So there were sheep on the farm at that time … although that doesn’t quite seem right; no, there must have been cows and sheep, because Nolan started off at Lawn Road at Cambridge … you know, Jim Cambridge’s place … and that was 1951, the first year I went to high school. And he was only there for two years and the lease ran out, and so we moved the cows to home. And I can remember that we were building the cowshed when Hillary climbed Everest.
Now, just coming back to earlier days when your father moved from Crownthorpe down because of the horses – he trained some very very worthy horses in his time, didn’t he?
Yes. No, he did.
I remember Pimlico; Dunray, who the farm stud was named after …
… and there were probably others that I wasn’t aware of. It was quite a well formed track.
Yes, it was three furlongs round.
And I happened to show it to Ted Flanders, because his property’s right next door; and he said, “I used to get toast and tea from Mrs Meikle or Mr Meikle and then I used to ride the horse round that track.” And then I happened to be talking to Tony Connor, and he said during the holidays he even rode round that track.
Yes; no, that’s right. Ted Flanders did used to come and ride work in the morning, yeah. So that’s right.
So a little bit more about the horses; to race a horse in Auckland you shipped it from Napier.
Shipped it? By boat?
Yes. In our later years it went on the train from Hastings to Palmerston and up to Auckland. Because you couldn’t cart against the rail. And the two carriers – Tom Brown and McCormacks – and Tom Brown only had a licence to cart hunters. And Graham McCormack had a general licence, but they still could not cart those sort of distances. So the affluent people had nothing on the road transport, because the licence was hard to obtain. Yeah. So that’s a little bit off the track.
That’s all quite interesting really, ‘cause I had no idea that they would’ve taken horses by ship to Auckland.
Yes. But when you think about it, the whole world went by ship or by train.
That’s right. No, you’re quite right.
That’s that; so where are we going to from here?
So the farm developed as you boys – Nolan and yourself – came of age, and it became a very well known pedigree Friesian stud, didn’t it?
Tell us something about that.
Yes. So in 1960 … the age [date] mightn’t be right … we paid a thousand guineas for a Friesian cow; so that was a New Zealand record. So then of course, you had to go to the Shows; so there was the Palmerston show, the Waikato show – all those sorts of things. I don’t think that there’s such a thing as a pedigree Friesian in New Zealand now – the whole outfit is commercial. Like, the Montgomerys farm round here, and all their cows are all mixed up. Well you know, like, they’re all cross breds.
They’re bred back to what they call a pure bred, but they’re not pure breds.
No. No, because … like, I’m sure that there’s really no registration now. You can just … man like you can look it up on the internet and see, but I would imagine that the Friesian Association would have very few members now.
Is that right?
And so coming back to this thousand guinea bull … what was his name?
Cow. Agnes. Yeah, like … so it was a well known stud at Papatoe [Papatoetoe] which now’d be covered in houses. [Chuckle]
Yes. Go there now and you can’t even remember that there was a farm.
That’s just along from where St Kentigern’s is, and there’s a historic house on it.
So also during the time of the cows we were doing contract silage, so we had a Cockshutt tractor and a three foot Brady silerator, which by today’s standards would look like a lawn mower. Then it was something. And then we got a larger forage harvester and I worked at Whanawhana, Puketitiri, down Waipawa-Waipuk [Waipukurau] …
This is with the Cockshutt 50, wasn’t it?
No, this was with the larger one.
What was that?
A sixty-inch one with a Fordson motor straight on it.
Oh, of course, yes.
We worked at Washpool; down Swamp Road when it was Swamp Road …
… because we were doing lots of sort of rushes, and all sorts of …
Yeah – dense things. So it was actually Hannah’s place; Jack Hannah was the father of that one and he was a horse trainer. So like the horse trainers in those days were J H Jeffard who was [a] private trainer; Tommy McNeil who was private trainer for the Lowrys; one or two other small trainers, Langleys and Nestor Bayliss. So Langleys had an articulated horse float which was pulled by a [an] OLB Bedford. So they were the dominant ones. The races always started at eleven o’clock and there’s about eight races on the programme. And the other thing which is hard for people to fathom … the Members’ Stand and the Women’s Stand.
Yeah, absolutely. So that’s right; so the Members’ Stand and a section for women.
Coming back to the cows, did that cow breed on that you paid all the money for?
Not really. One calf only survived four days, and I think one was normal, and one was a heifer of just sort of moderate ability. And that’s the same in the racing world; Sunline didn’t produce anything. Yeah, so … not uncommon.
Nolan bought a heifer from Norm Mason at Akaroa …
Yes. O’Kanes Bay.
… Her mother was the top cow for New Zealand.
That’s right, and he also got one from Longbeach … Gregg’s place … and they had sort of been bred for meat; and so while its milking ability was sort of moderate to good, they were big cattle.
Oh, they were the American style, weren’t they?
I remember going down to Delaraine and having a look, ‘cause I wanted to find out what they were feeding them on.
And so just on that point, they’d been feeding Agnes on the centre part of wheatgerm, which comes from milling. Yeah, that’s right, yeah – wheatgerm.
She was getting the good stuff.
Yes, yes, that was right. So where to from now?
Well I guess in the development of your farm you were probably the first one in Hawke’s Bay to have a sawdust feeding pad?
Which was quite unique.
Yes, so that’s right, so I’ll give you a little bit of history about that. We went up north to Wellsford where the clay … it’s wet all the time … and saw the humped and hollow thing from there, and so we came down and constructed one. And the interesting thing was that when it actually came to getting the sawdust that wasn’t treated, they actually had to cart most of it from Patoka. Yeah, Bambrys carted it from Patoka, ‘cause there must have been a big mill up there at some stage.
Yes. And so the treated stuff was no good?
No. Well, yes, you know, ‘cause it’s full of arsenic. [Chuckle] And then perhaps a little bit about getting the feed for the cattle, and the apple crushings from the DSIR was it? In Goddards Lane.
A hundred and forty acres of Mokopeka flats for hay …
Yes. And then the grain from [the] brewery. So all local products.
And so the dairy farm continued under yours and Nolan’s management, didn’t it?
Until I left in 1970, and then we had contract or sharemilkers, or something like that. And I just can’t remember, but I would imagine that the sale was about 1975. Well I can tell you, because Craig and you came over and he was still at high school. [Chuckle]
And he’s fifty-three now. [Chuckle] And you moved north to the number one model farm in New Zealand, didn’t you?
Yes, that’s right, our time at Karaka. [Speaking together] Yes, the Butlands.
That’s right, so that was 1971.
‘Cause I can remember coming up to see you there and you taking me into the cowshed; it was as if you were going into the Governor-General’s residence.
Yeah – with a Mansard roof, and a lowline milking plant which was generated. And it was a very large glass tube so that you could actually see all the milk. But the interesting thing about that was that the tube was so big that they had difficulty cleaning it, ‘cause you couldn’t get the … So the cleaning was a bit of a giant job.
Now coming back to your father and your family, because your mother was a Connor, can you tell us something about the Connors and the association with the Connor family and Crownthorpe? Because that is quite important in the family, isn’t it?
Yes, yes. So when Dad was a ballot farmer there, that’s where he met Myrtle Connor, and so from that the whole system has evolved. And also Tony Connor – I sort of feel that we’re more than cousins, because we’re cross cousins – one brother, one sister, yeah. And I never forget going to the dentist and Miss Lincoln said, “Your mother’s always ringing up and cancelling the appointments.” And I said, and then she went to write down Connor. [Chuckle] So a lot of people in Hawke’s Bay would know Miss Lincoln – she was the lady at White & Fitzgeralds, the dentists.
I know, she was there for a hundred years.
Yeah. And I tell Mary the story about Mr Fitzgerald, that [who] always left you in the chair with a filling drying while he went over to the club and had a whisky.
I know. [Chuckle]
Well that’s true, because his door … [Chuckle]
If they had a tooth to pull out they got Mr White to pull the tooth out.
So coming back then, once you sold and you moved north, did you go to Ruakura after?
Yes, that’s right. So when I came back from Karaka … just getting [it] in the right sequence … I worked for a fertiliser company before I went to Ruakura. Oh, and while I was at Ruakura I also grew potatoes. And so then in 1980, we got Pukeroro Gardens which was on the main highway, which is now underneath the motorway. [Chuckle]
The whole lot?
Not that, no, they swiped three acres off the farm.
And how long did you farm that for, Hylton? That was mainly strawberries …
Mixed fruit and berries; mixed berries and retail.
Those days you were living in Tamahere?
That’s right. So when we were farming that, we also had 345 Cambridge Road where we lived. And then twenty-nine years ago we came to Queen Street. So that’s that part of it.
Mary’s coming through now. I’m talking to Mary, Hylton’s wife. Mary’s going to tell us something about where her folks came from to Hawke’s Bay, what did they do, where did she go to school, and then we’ll talk about where you met Hylton.
Mary: Hello, my name is Mary, and I was born in Hastings. I grew up there and went to primary school – St Joseph’s, and St Joseph’s Girls’ High. I went nursing, and I met Hylton at a dance in Napier. And we married in 1964, so currently we’ve been married fifty-four years. We have four children; James is the eldest and then Gregory, Rachel and Richard. We’ve been living in the Waikato a very long time now, since 1971, and so a good part of our married life has been up here now.
Yes, in fact while you trained as a nurse you transferred those skills to the Waikato, in Cambridge specifically.
Yes. I worked in Waikato Community Health quite a bit; I worked at the hospital in Hamilton, and then did district nursing and practice nursing in Cambridge. So I retired from nursing at sixty, so have spent a good long time in all sorts of areas. [It] was very rewarding.
When I retired from nursing, Hylton and I did markets together because of his growing fruit and vegetables in the region. We then transferred that to doing a market which we did down in Taupo; and so I enjoyed the presentation and setting up the stall, and having buntings and baskets and … that was really important to me, as well as the fresh produce was very important. So we would get up at half past four in the morning, drive to Taupo, unload everything, set everything up, work selling all the produce, with help – with a very good person who helped us; and then pack up and drive home again all in one day. And only a year later we can’t believe we did it.
And then, looking back onto the time when you weren’t working, some of the extensive overseas tours you’ve had.
We had some lovely trips. Our daughter was overseas quite a bit with her husband so we were able to go for quite long periods of time really, and live in each country; and that was really quite precious ‘cause you get to know how people live as well as all the tourist things.
And what other hobbies, do you have any ..?
I play Mahjong, which I love, and I play croquet in the summer, and I have a book group which is really special to me; so those are my three main things at the moment.
Did you have any brothers or sisters?
Yes – yes, I had one brother who was killed in a car accident when he was only seventeen, and then another brother who is still alive now; and one sister.
And how many grandchildren?
We have five grandchildren, so we’ve got twin granddaughters, Amelia and Sophie, who are seventeen; and then Anna, from a different family – she’s Greg’s child – she’s sixteen; and then Elliot belongs to [with] the twins, he’s the little brother; and then we have a big gap and we have Lucy, who’s only three.
Well thank you, Mary.
[Talking in background] You know, when you look back, Hylton, you used to take on some pretty daunting tasks; you think about the silage, thousands of tons; all sorts of things.
Hylton: Yeah, that’s right. I can remember fitting that in between. You always had to have a load to get home at four o’clock to milk the cows, and of course it was the small machinery and all that – it all took a lot of time. Today a man would walk in and have it done in half the … I think there was a hundred and thirty acres in that paddock.
That’s right. Everything was at a different stage; it was like looking at a whole farm working.
That’s right, and you got to there and eventually you got down against the river … like, the Mokopeka Stream was on one boundary.
In Maraetotara, yes.
And the power station could be seen from there.
Yes. I think you and Mac Graham had the only three Cockshutt tractors in the world.
Yes. So going back to the extremities of Hawke’s Bay – we also went up to Gordon Blackmore’s place at the top of Maraetotara, so in actual fact we had done a lot of the province.
Just at the developing stages of forage harvesters and modern tractors.
And vacuum silage was just the ‘in’ thing.
And tractors with live power take offs; you could put your foot on the clutch and the tractor would stop.
Yes. The accumulators and things like that were just coming in.
The old McCormick-Deering hay loader.
Yes. Our pheasant rake was quite a revolution. So all those things had come from Doring Implements.
Perry McIvor; Norm Roberts.
Colin Campbell – the parts man forever.
That’s right. The gear we had wasn’t really designed for the job it was put to.
No, that’s right. I always remember the chap Palmer that was the hay contractor …
Yes, Robert. He’s still around, he’s been developing subdivisions all over New Zealand; very wealthy man.
Right. So in those days one of the chaps didn’t want to go with him because there was one ply showing, but he said there was still nine to go [chuckle] on the tyre. [Chuckle]
Now we started talking about the Association …
Oh yeah, that’s exactly where we were up to, about the Connors.
Was the farm that your father had very near the Connors’ farm?
Yes, relatively. So the Connors were at Omapere, and of course in those days the homestead was halfway down Omapere Road, whereas Tony lives on that side and Jill lives on the other side where you come up from Ohiti. But you went along to the Crownthorpe Road; so we’d go where the present dairy farm and grapes are and the church; and then the first farm round the corner was Treseders. So the land was quite different – like, that was flat land of sort of poor fertility, the flats; though where the dairy farm eventually ended up, that was the poorest of it; like, that was just about pure shingle. So then it got better as it went round, and I think that there were eighteen soldier settlements up that road. So McGills was still on the road, you know, up that way, but all the others went up there, and so they were next to the Burnsides. And I would guess it was only about three miles to the corner.
So where did your grandfather or father come from? Were they from Ireland?
Meikle’s a Scottish name. So the first Meikle was a sea captain who came out here, and he had three sons … can’t just remember the names, but one of them was David. So their headquarters is Whitianga; so the sea captain came to Whitianga and from there there were three branches. The Meikles that did the advertising for the furniture in Whakatane – they were another branch.
There was one other aspect that I thought of in relation to the Connors and the Meikles. They all have sort of always been good family relations. So that was that.
Well I guess you’ve sold Queen Street, the house you’ve lived in for the last years?
Yeah – twenty-nine years.
And you’ve moved to the holding paddocks [chuckle] down Vogel Street and you’ve shed the extra work that you don’t really need at this stage of your life.
Yes. Although an interesting thing is that when we went to the meeting this morning, a man said to us that you still have to keep going ‘cause you still need to have your interests because you, if you just live within the bounds of the place you’ll soon go backwards.
Now one thing we haven’t spoken about and that is your movement into the Saturday morning market at Taupō. Mary told us a little bit, but tell us about the accumulation, the preparation, because that’s fascinating.
Yeah. SI didn’t get the stuff from the market, I got it from contacts; and the contacts of later years have been the sons of the original people that I know, because like, lots of the people I would’ve been dealing with for twenty or thirty years. So we had contacts for all the berry fruit, all the higher class vegetables; we didn’t do any caulis, cabbages or anything like that. And also, being perishable like that, we always had to get them on a Friday and go down and having them looking their best on Saturday, so it was an intense time. And also, down at the Taupo market, because of it being a holiday destination, everybody came within a very narrow period. Holidaymakers aren’t going to get up at eight o’clock and go to the market, so they all came a little bit before ten o’clock; and certainly by twelve o’clock it was dying off. So that’s just one of the phenomenons of selling in a holiday place; so while the regulars were your bread and butter, the intense time came with the holidaymakers, so January was always the best month.
And you haven’t got a freezer out the back of here, have you, any more?
No, no, [chuckle] we haven’t. [Chuckle] So that is one of the things about marketing, and we did build up some good loyal customers, so that was part of it but things change. One of the doctors was retiring here, and Mary went and said to him, “I suppose you’re going to tell me that I should keep on”, and she said, “No, I’ve been telling you, it’s time to retire.” [Chuckle] So that comes along. From a personal point of view it’s good that it’s taken us nearly twelve months to …. [of] course you know, we were still selling the first week of June last year so it’s coming up now, but it has been good. And also, we’ve taken over two ton of rubbish from our quarter acre section. [Chuckle]
You didn’t find anything you didn’t know you’d lost?
No, just things that I hadn’t found for a while. So that’s good. So I’ve enjoyed that interview, and it has sharpened up a few past points.
Yes. The next thing will be for you to find some photos of yesterdays. They’re attached to the history …
So do they go on to a disk?
Go onto [into] the cloud forever. Everyone thinks that their story isn’t that great, but collectively they give a …
It must be like a jigsaw puzzle.
And it will also confirm things that people were doubtful about, because you know, you’re just wondering if that’s true and another person will reinforce that.
Young Gary Clapperton, one of the local boys, sent me a photo the other day and said, “Here’s a photo of your father’s orchard in Napier Road where Harris the builders built a little village.” I knew that we had apple trees there, but I didn’t realise in 1934 it was a proper orchard; and here I’m going around interviewing all these old orchardists about the history of orcharding …
How do we get the photos on the cloud?
Well we scan them and we put them on [in] the cloud, and then we return them.
No, that’s good because we’ve got a painting that Mum did when she was at the convent in Wanganui, you know, like … so …
Well, see they’re all important. If you’ve got a photo of the gold cups – in fact we had the gold cups from the Meikle family when we ran it to raise money for the library in Havelock; we had all the memorabilia and gold cups, and colours, and jockeys’ colours for Hawke’s Bay, in the Blue Room at the Farmers.
So what’s happened to the Blue Room?
It doesn’t operate, it’s all offices now.
All right, well I think we’ve probably caught most of it, haven’t we?
Yes, that’s right. But I am interested about scanning the photos because we’ve just had this thing about Mum’s painting …
Original digital file
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Interviewer: Frank Cooper
- Hylton Thomas Meikle
- Lorraine Mary Meikle