Jarmin, Bou – Kereru District

Joyce Barry: Welcome, everyone. Thank you for coming. We didn’t expect so many people, so thank you, Kereru people for coming along. It just shows you the interest is fantastic. I’m going to hand over to Peter Kay and he’s going to introduce Bou, who is giving the presentation tonight. Thank you, Peter.

Peter Kay: Thank you. Welcome, everybody. As you know, the subject is Kereru District tonight. I was speaking to someone not very long ago, and they were saying, “Well, where is Kereru?” So for those that don’t know [chuckles] … for the sake of probably the one person that doesn’t know … to Maraekakaho, twenty kilometres inland along Kereru Road, the Kereru District begins. And Bou will tell you the history of Kereru. The map that we’ve got in front of you is one of the stations – Poporangi Station. Kereru is made up of four stations in the early days, around about that period of time. Maraekakaho Station went right up to Kereru … almost to Kereru; Olrig Station went right to Kereru. And if you’re looking for more information, ‘Hey Days and Dray Days’ was written by Mr Paterson who owns Olrig Station, and it’s a mine of information on the historical side. It’s particularly Olrig, but it does incorporate a lot of the Kereru.

A year ago we had our centenary … school centenary … we combined as a district and school centenary. And prior to that we decided that it’d be quite good to make some sort of presentation. And we got hold of Bou here, and Bou agreed to write the history of Kereru. We sold out of these, but if anybody was interested, we can do a re-run, so if you want to you I can take your name and address. So long as we got a reasonable number of books ordered, we can order a copy for you. There is one in the library here – that’s for reference … as a reference book.

I’d like to introduce Bou Jarmin. She’s a member of the Kereru district. She’s written this book – she’s a mine of knowledge of the Kereru district and there were going to be slides and all that sort of stuff, but Bou was told that it actually gets through a little bit easier by having a talk and then answering questions afterward, so … I’ll leave it up to you, Bou. Thank you.

Bou: Thank you.  [Applause] I’m not a historian. My qualifications are in social anthropology, so my talk will lapse into an anthropological phase at some stage.

As Peter said, the district was formed from four very large stations in the early days. The major one in terms of Kereru district was Poporangi, the one that we have the map here for. Poporangi was the first. It began in 1856, and it was on the western side of the Poporangi stream. It grew even more when the Powdrells, who were on the other side of the stream, sold. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The next to start was Kereru … Kereru Station. Then Olrig, and then Whanakino. All of those stations were around about twenty thousand acres.

We’re told that Poporangi started when James Lyon, who was part of the firm Lyons & Burgh in Wellington bought the land. The son of the owner ran the land, and you get a funny picture of one man, because everyone says, “So-and-so bought this land, and he farmed it.” The reality is that he may not have done anything at all. You can’t farm a property of that size without either machinery or manpower. There wasn’t machinery in those days. There were men.

When you think back to the time that this was happening, there were great problems with the Māori further north. There was the Māori King movement. There were Hauhau. There was great difficulty for settlers in New Zealand, so England sent out fencible soldiers. There were at least a hundred soldiers sent to our district, and what do they do when they’re not being soldiers? When they’re not under attack? They work on farms. If you have enough money to buy a big station, you also enough money to employ not only people to work the land, you have people who can work in the household. So they had servants. So instead of one man buying a property and farming it – yes, he did do that. Did he do all the work? No, not in those days.

I told you that some Powdrells were living on the other side of the stream. Their property was called Brown Lodge. Ostensibly it was owned by two brothers, but they had the rest of their family there. They didn’t stay for very long. And William Nelson, who’s been called ‘The Father of Hastings’, was a farm cadet at Kereru Station, and he used to visit with the Powdrells very frequently. They played cards, they had morning and afternoon teas together. They did all sorts of things together. The Powdrells’ farm … their house was here. [Shows location on map] And it wasn’t very far for them to walk to Kereru Station, which was the next block.

William Nelson bought the Powdrell block, and his brother Frederick came down from Auckland to join him, and they built a very large and beautiful house, and then sold it. William had decided that he was going to come into new Hastings – he was interested in the refrigeration of meat. He could see that that was the future for New Zealand, so he left and his brother Frederick stayed until the land was sold. And the land was sold to the Lyons. So Poporangi expanded onto both sides of the stream. And the house was so beautiful that it became the homestead for Poporangi.

Poporangi is where I live. I live on that farm, and it’s the most wonderful place on earth for me … has fantastic views. The house was absolutely beautiful, but in 1925 it was pulled down and replaced with an architecturally designed house, and it is still there and lived in by the current owners.

In 1875 the Lyons had sold the property to some gentlemen from Christchurch and Dunedin who were joined by another gentleman from the Deep South, a Scot named John Anderson. Anderson bought out most of his partners and moved up to stay at Poporangi. He was twelve years old when he had left Scotland with his parents, and they had settled in Otago and built a wonderful station there where they farmed Merino sheep.

While they were in Otago, one of John’s sisters was married to a gentleman who had come out as a widower with a young daughter from Glasgow. And the guy’s name was Matthew Miller – for whom Miller Street in Hastings is named – and Matthew had married John Anderson’s sister, Elizabeth. I think they had thirteen children, eleven of whom survived. But Matthew came up to Hawke’s Bay and started up a stock and station agency, and started buying as much land as he could lay his hands on. He obviously had the money, and he persuaded his brothers-in-law and his father-in-law to buy lots and lots of land in the area. So he was the first one to purchase any land in Kereru.

He was also the person who bought land which was absolutely useless, which was taken up a pair of brothers by the name of the Duff … Hugh and Alec Duff. And in those days they used to use a method called ‘spotting.’ So if there was a piece of land that wasn’t any use, you didn’t buy it, so the shape of their property was most peculiar. So Matthew Miller bought the useless bits of land to try and force the Duff brothers out. But the Duff brothers, also canny Scots, decided that they would fence their bits of land and then ask their neighbours for the money to share the fencing. That didn’t work, so he was throwing money around right, left and centre, which ultimately was his downfall. He was apparently a very interesting character. He had a wonderful home; he entertained lavishly. But he put so much money into land that when the crash of the 1890s arrived, he went completely bust. When he died, there was nothing left. But he had made so many good friends, the friends bought a house, and they had been to the auction of all of his property – they bought it back and they filled the house with all of his things, and presented it to his wife – he was so popular. So when you’re in Miller Street next, think of him.

Now, Kereru was really begun in 1857 when J N Williams bought the property. After several years he went into partnership with Colonel Jasper Herrick, one of the soldiers that had been around. Herrick was the man who farmed Kereru. Williams lived on his Frimley property. Colonel Herrick must’ve been a really good farmer because many people went to stay at Kereru as farm cadets to learn how to do sheep farming. And his wife died in childbirth – I believe she was having twins – which was absolutely devastating for him. She was buried on the property at the place where she used to sit and wait for him to come home at night. Not very long afterwards Jasper Herrick sold up his share of the property and bought at Onga Onga, or near to Onga Onga. Matthew Miller had a field day for a couple of years, selling Kereru over, and over and over again. Three times, so he must have made quite a bit on commission.

The property was bought by the Hardings of Mount Vernon near Waipukurau, and the son farmed the property for, oh, about twenty-eight years, I think.

Olrig was begun a couple of years after Kereru. A young, twenty-one-year-old Hector Pope … Hector Pope Smith … sailed for New Zealand, a four-month trip by sailing ship. He was a Scot – he had a lot of money for those days, a great deal of money. He investigated New Zealand, he went to the South Island – all Scots go to the South, don’t they, when they start off? But he didn’t decide until he’d seen further … thought it was a bit cold; went to Auckland, found it was too expensive there; wound up in the Hawke’s Bay, and … ideal … ideal climate. So he originally first bought just two miles away from Maraekakaho Station.

His place was originally called Aorangi. And if you know the area, when Kereru Road goes through Maraekakaho, it forks – it’s a three-way fork. To the right you’ve got Aorangi Road and if you keep bearing left you’re on Kereru Road still. That’s where he built his homestead and the main farm buildings.

He didn’t stay in New Zealand for terribly long – he was restless. But obviously he had people working there and doing the clearing and whatever else was needed. He went back to Scotland and met the woman that he wanted to marry, but his mother was against it, so he came back to New Zealand, still single. A couple of years later, he went back, married Anne Baron despite his mother’s disapproval, and for several years they stayed and had three sons before they came back to New Zealand. They had two more sons and a girl.

They had a lot of tragedies. The house that was built and done up for them was burnt down before they could move in. And then, the biggest tragedy of all – Ann died. She’d had their last child. The doctor used unsterilised instruments at the delivery; she developed septicaemia and she died. He was devastated. Six months later he died too, at the age of forty-one. So the six children were taken back to Scotland to be raised. They were taken back by the Duff brothers – the Duffs were cousins of the Smiths. In 1865 they had bought some land right up close to Ranges, and that was the beginning of Wakarara Station – the one that they had spotted, and they’d had the fighting with Matthew Miller.

John Anderson then arrives on the scene, buys out all of his partners except a man named Royce, who’s in the South Island and has nothing to do with the property.  He does a deal with the Duffs, they come to an agreement as to who is going to have what piece of land. It still winds up a most peculiar shape in both cases, but that’s okay. And we’ve got the four stations.

The Smith children are in Scotland being raised. They’re there for ten years and then the three oldest boys come back to New Zealand and they go to Kereru Station to learn how to be sheep farmers. James go back to Scotland – now he’s the eldest. Then the government steps in. They want to break up some of these big properties, and because James, being the eldest, is an absentee landlord … “You Smiths don’t need all of that land.” So the government – actually it’s Richard Seddon’s government – they take all of the established part with the existing buildings. So they lose six thousand acres, and they’re left with fourteen thousand acres. So Charles and Hector divide it up – Charles calls his part ‘Olrig’ and Hector his ‘Whanakino’. Some of the land has to be sold when Charles dies at the age of thirty-nine. It’s a really sad family, there’s always something nasty happening. So the trustees are forced to sell some land, and then later on, some more. So we start to get the smaller farms from the Olrig properties.

Anderson meanwhile, on Poporangi, is doing very nicely, thank you. He was one of the presidents of the Hawke’s Bay A&P Show. He was very well-known and respected as a judge, of sheep in particular. Most people in those days farmed merino. Anderson used to go to Australia once a year to buy more stud rams. I think he sounded like a really lovely person.

I got very fond when I was doing the research, of a number of characters from those early days. One of the characters from Poporangi Station, who was one of the soldiers, was a man named William Whitnell, who lived right at the back of station in a hut which is now known as Ellis Hut or Murderer’s Hut, but it was built for him. He was quite a character. He spent months and months on his own, and used to get rather funny ideas in his head. Once when the hands from the station went up to muster the sheep they found Bill Whitnell racing round and round and round on a track that he cut from the bush, on his horse which he had decided was a wonderful, wonderful nag and he was going to enter her in the next lot of Kereru races which used to happen out on those properties. And he was very angry when these other shepherds arrived, because they were spying on him and checking up on his horse. And if they didn’t get out too sw… [quick] he was going to lift his rifle and take a pot shot at them, but they persuaded him to come back to the station with them, and calmed him down. And one day he’d been celebrating in town and so far forgot himself as to say, “I have a title, you know”. Somebody checked up, and he did! He was Sir William Whitnell. So you actually never knew who or what some of these people were going to be.

John Anderson died in 1905, but the family kept going. One son … the eldest son … had run the property until ill health stopped him. Two sons went to the Boer War; one of them didn’t come back. Only one of his daughters married and she married a shepherd who’d been working on the property, and there were two sisters, Christina and Elizabeth (who was known as Bessie) and a brother named Robert who’d had an accident and was in a wheelchair. They were the ones who had the house revamped, and there was a special downstairs for Robert and I think he had his own bathroom as well. They had servants. The house had bells and when the place was sold after World War II and it was taken over by Lands & Survey, the manager and his family lived in the house. And I’ve talked to the three little girls who lived there then, and they said, “We used to ring the bells.” [Chuckles] “Nobody ever came.” [Chuckles] They wouldn’t have dared not come when Mrs Anderson was around. She was an absolute martinet, and there were ads in the paper after the First World War for staff for Poporangi. But apparently, she was quite demanding.

The family sold after World War II because with the wars, the staff left – obviously the men went to war. And huge parts of the property just had to be left – they couldn’t be controlled. So we get the beginning of scrub regrowth and rabbits, a dreadful plague of rabbits. Whanakino was suffering from erosion because they burnt off huge parts of the property, and the rabbits came in and took over. There were even times when stock was dying from lack of feed because the rabbits got there first, so they had to have rabbiters.

After World War I soldiers came back, not the same as they had been before they left – and I think that’s true for every war. We’re only now realising the effect of war on men who’ve had to participate. So we start to get some characters arriving. Now there was a man named Alexander Shute who came back from the war. He’d been severely wounded in the abdomen, and I think the whole process of war had affected him quite badly. He decided he wanted to live in the backcountry and he was going to be a rabbiter, so he came out and he serviced Kereru, Big Hill Station which was a break-off from Kereru Station and parts of Poporangi. He had a huge pack of dogs of different breeds, and he killed many thousands of rabbits. He boiled up the skins in wattle bark, and then the laborious process of scraping them with pumice stone for ages. He could be seen sometimes riding stark naked around the property – I don’t know what the ladies thought … there weren’t that many of them. And he was great friends with the head shepherd from Poporangi, a man named Andy Pearson who also worked at Kereru.

They were also friends with Sidney Smith who was raised on Poporangi Station. Rumour had it in the district had it that he was the son of one the Anderson girls. I interviewed a lad who had done a lot of work on all of the stations in the area, recently, and I said, “Do you remember Sidney Smith?” And he said, “Oh! Rat-bag!” [Chuckles] His official job was chauffeur. He spent a lot of his time making and drinking home brew, which didn’t always work. One lot apparently got fed to the pigs, and then the resultant antics of the pigs had everybody in stitches. Why he was a chauffeur, goodness knows, because he often landed up in the ditch.

In 1943 the district was asked to host American Marines who had been fighting at Guadalcanal and were somewhat shell-shocked. Well two of them were allocated to Poporangi. They were even more shell-shocked when they got there because Sidney had been deputed to pick them up, which he did, but he’d spent the afternoon at the pub. So by the time they got there they were terrified. They had dinner, and after dinner Miss Bessie played the organ. And as they were going upstairs to their bedroom, she started to play the ‘Dead March’ from ‘Saul’, which terrified them even more! [Laughter] So much so that the next morning they high-tailed it off to Whanakino because they were too afraid to stay at Poporangi, not knowing what was going to happen next. [Chuckles]

Another character was Andy Pearson – now he went right through into the 1950s – he was the head shepherd. Apparently, in the early days he used to docking with his teeth, but by the time the White girls knew him he didn’t have any teeth. And apparently he could eat anything, even without teeth. He was apparently a wonderful shepherd, always in a hurry, and he was a great friend of Alex Shute, the rabbiter, and Sid Smith, the chauffeur. And … many a trip to Tikokino pub, and not managing to get back … was quite something.

I’ve gone over time.

Audience member: No …

Bou: I’d better get back to Kereru. After the Hardings, the place was bought a descendant of the Scottish outlaw, Rob Roy MacGregor … it was bought by a man named Robert Turnbull. Now when he left Scotland he had bought in Otago, and he’d actually bought two stations there and he’d done extremely well. He sold them, came north and bought Kereru Station – now he was seventy years old at this stage. He tried to farm the place as he had farmed in the South Island, and it didn’t work. It was horrible. You can’t plough too early in spring in Kereru because you lose your topsoil, and that’s exactly what happened to him.

He had a son named Montague … Monty for short … who wanted to join the Army and whose mother didn’t want him to. But then World War I broke out. Monty worked his way over to England, joined the Army, was posted to Egypt as a Major, and when he got there he joined the Royal Flying Corps and learned to fly. He had married a nurse named Cora – Mother did not approve – and she joined him in Egypt. In 1917 he was shot down, taken prisoner by the Turks. And he had a terrible leg injury during all of this – it turned horribly septic, and it looked as if he would have to lose the leg. But an Armenian surgeon happened to be around and said, “I can save that.” And he did. And they became life-long friends … always kept up in contact. So he always had to wear a heavy bandage on his leg but it didn’t stop him being a great golfer.

They came back, he and his wife, in 1919 and after a couple years of re-adjusting he took over running the farm – or trying to. But his father kept on interfering, and his mother kept on interfering in the marriage. It just got really, really difficult. So they only had one son and after about fifteen years further from that, their marriage broke up. Monty was later to become the Secretary of the Waihau Golf Club. His father died at the age of ninety, a disappointed man. He really hadn’t made a go of Kereru. And Kereru was then bought by granddaughters of Charles Nelson … the Nelson sisters. And they ran the property and revived it, and it is still run by the trustees … they set up trusts, and it is still run by the trustees so there’s always a manager there.

Whanakino – that was farmed by the Duffs … by Hugh Duff. Hugh Duff Junior was killed in World War II. And the property was then run by trustees until the daughter came back from England with her husband, Mr Eaton, and they ran the property until 1957, where most of it was sold to the government and is in forestry. And there was about five hundred acres left that’s still farmed today by other people.

So that’s a potted history of Kereru district. But as Peter told you, there’s great books – Dick Paterson’s books are extremely good. There’s one on William Nelson, and there’s ‘Hey Days and Dray Days’. And there’s my little book that I did for the school. And the other ones that you should read are the little books by Lester Masters – they are absolutely brilliant. And he was another character who worked all of those properties, but he collected stories from the inhabitants. And he was well-known for his habit for taking two separate papers, filling them really, really thick with tobacco and then sitting there with a fag hanging out his mouth, writing down the stories from the early settlers. Nobody told him that smoking stunts your growth, obviously, because he was quite short, wasn’t he, Bob?

Audience member: Yeah, Yes.

Joyce Barry: Well, tell me – who’s got a memory like that? [Chuckles] Without reading notes? So we’re going to open for questions, and I hope Peter here can answer some too.

Peter:  Can I just add in a little bit? I’ve just been making one or two notes while Bou’s been talking. And yeah …we’re not all loonies and drunkards coming out of Kereru – that’s [chuckles] … that’s just the highlight of some of the stories. Poporangi – that map that you see there is now sixteen farms plus a large part of the Gwavas forest. [Some general discussion about various locations on the map being shown]

Joyce: I just want to say on behalf of Landmarks – what a wonderful talk to finish the year. [Applause] We’ve now recorded as many talks as we can, and they’re being held with the agreement of the speakers both here, and a copy is going through to the Knowledge Bank. So it’s just wonderful that these locals are building up this wonderful history, which is being constantly put away. Thank you, Bou, it was the most fantastic talk …

Bou: Thank you.

Joyce: … for someone without referring to notes. And how wonderful that the area had you to do their history for the school centenary. So thank you all.

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Landmarks Talk 5 December 2013

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