Jennifer Jane Bate Interview

Today is the 29th of May 2017. I’m interviewing Jennifer Bate of Havelock North. Jennifer’s going to give some history of her family. Thank you, Jennifer.

Alexander Whyte, the first family member I know about, was a master builder and a railway contractor. And his son, David Whyte, was born in Glasgow and he became a civil engineer.

Their origins were in France during the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. They came from France, first of all to England, and then settled in Perthshire. David was apprenticed in a ship building firm in Glasgow, and then he joined a firm called Brassey & Co, and he went to supervise the construction of two bridges in India, the Mukunda at Ambala, and the Jumna [Yamuna] Bridge at Allahabad. And he seems to have been very good with labour, and he could always get a project finished in time, and he really enjoyed India.

He went back to Glasgow and married Marion Binnie, and he went back to India for a time. And he was offered a job in the Indian Civil Service which came with a good pension. He would like to have taken it up but his wife didn’t want to live in India so he went back to Glasgow, and there he joined his brother-in-law in the wholesale tea business. And during the time there they had an apprentice, and his name was Thomas Lipton. [Chuckle]

So anyway he was successful in that, but he had an injury to his back in a railway collision, and he really didn’t recover from that and the doctor he went to said “you should have a rest, and how about a sea trip?” And so he came out to New Zealand with Hugh, his second eldest son. This was in 1885, and I’ve actually read his diary of the trip out which is quite interesting. And it took him a hundred and nine days from Glasgow to Dunedin, and I think conditions on the boat were not good. It was a barque – that’s a triple-masted yacht. And during the time they caught three albatrosses which he skinned and cured, because they make very good collarettes and muffs. [Chuckle] And also another bird, and that also, I think he skinned that, and … don’t know whether they ate it or not.

The animals went on the ship too. And he complained about the state of the animals – they had chosen not very hoofy specimens, a lot died en route. But of course this had to feed the passengers. And he also complained on the boat about certain conditions that he felt could have been greatly improved with good organisation. And … ventilation for example. And I think he really worried about the third-class passengers who really were very cramped, and they had no fresh air and if they did open the port holes or whatever, they’d you know, get a deluge of water. I think he felt a lot more could have been done.

And then there was one young girl who was travelling on her own and she had some sort of an infection on her nose and in her eyes, and the Captain and David treated her with calomel and some zinc oxide preparation and she recovered. So that interested me because of the history of medicine in our family, and why had the Captain sought his help? He must have had some confidence in him.

And so anyway I think he was very glad to get to land again after being at sea for so long.

I can imagine.

And from Dunedin he caught a coastal vessel and went up to Gisborne and then was shown this virgin country in Tiniroto. And he rather liked the pioneering life and he left Hugh, who was a teenager probably sixteen or so, probably with the idea that he would do some work, you know – scrub cutting and that sort of thing. And he went back to Glasgow, and four years later came out with the family in 1889. So they used the timber nearby … pit-sawn timber, to make a home and got established at Tiniroto.

From there – I might say from the records we have, that he used to conduct the church services in the hall at Tiniroto, and Jason [?], one or other of his sons, also did that. And he was very interested in establishing a railway between Wairoa and Napier, or rather Gisborne and Napier, and he worked towards that and he became known as the Father of the East Coast Railways, but you know, in the event it was very slow happening. It took place long after he died, but it was his thought that that’s what should happen to connect up Poverty Bay and Hawke’s Bay. And so he was a farmer of course … I think I forgot to say that … in Tiniroto, and that’s probably all I know.

Yes, another branch of your family was telling me the story also, that he didn’t want the railway to go round the coast …

No – an inland route. [Speaking together]

… because he said the railway would slip. He wanted it to go through Tiniroto, and they thought he was doing that because he was farming in the area, but he just felt it was much more stable country. Maybe they should have listened to him because if the railway had’ve gone through Tiniroto which was much easier country, it wasn’t coastal …

No, I’m interested to hear, and your filling it in for me a little bit, because you know, I know the outlines but not necessarily the detail.

Well time proved him right that they should have gone inland and not round the coast.

Yes. Anyway, in the latter years of their lives they came and lived in Havelock, quite close to where I am here. I look across and I can see the house that they were in. And they built next door to their daughter, Annie, who married Harry Mossman. And David actually died up in Wairoa but his wife Marion is buried in Havelock. So that was that family.

And then Alexander Whyte, their son, who was a Minister in the Presbyterian Church, he was of course born in Scotland. And he was the eldest of nine, or ten if you count a baby that died very early. And he did extremely well at University in Glasgow. He went to Cathcart Parish School first, and then went to Hutchesons’ Grammar School where he won a scholarship, and then on to Glasgow University and he graduated in Arts, Science, Theology, and he was within eighteen months of completing his medical degree and his health broke down. He also got a John’s Clark scholarship for Natural Science because he was very interested in botany and he used to teach at University, first as assistant to the Professors and then later he – I suppose he probably did some research and that sort of thing – I don’t know that, but I’m guessing.

The early days from the episode on the ship with his father, then the fact that he studied to be a doctor …

Well, no – he wasn’t with the family. I should have perhaps said that he stayed in Scotland ’cause he was at University. And my great-grandfather, David, came out with the rest of his family on the second trip, so that they were all here. Alexander studied and worked and got married, and came to New Zealand on his honeymoon.

Can we go back? I was telling you about my grandfather and his degrees. And he was very interested in botany and ultimately, in 1888, he was made a Fellow of the Linnean Society. Anyway he couldn’t do … he wanted to become a Medical Missionary and he wasn’t able to do that, but he was content with his university studies and decided he would go into the Church. And so he went to various parts of Glasgow all the time, and particularly in the last appointment he was at Kelvinside which was near the University, and he used to go and work there. His health wasn’t good and he went to Algiers from Glasgow – I think TB was rife in Glasgow – so he went to Algiers, and came back but he was still not well, and he was told to go to a country with a better climate if he could.

So there was this interest in New Zealand in the family, and no doubt talk from the family and particularly his father after the first trip, and he decided that he would go out to New Zealand. So he married his wife, Helen, and they went out to Carterton – a bush town – and he was there for three months. His wife was very homesick … you can imagine … huge change. And furthermore, although he’d been persuaded that he was needed in New Zealand – they had asked for help – he found that he wasn’t needed nearly as much as had been publicised. So he went back to Scotland with his wife, and there the family were born … four out of five were born. And he then returned again to New Zealand.

The second trip with his family was in 1897. And they came out and of course the family … his family … were in Tiniroto, so they went straight there. But they were lucky, because the ship they were on was delayed at Cape Town by storms, and they missed the connecting vessel up to Gisborne, because that particular coastal ship was wrecked at Mahia. And it seems that there were quite a lot of shipwrecks around this time.

There were, that’s right.

Anyway, my father wrote that he felt that he felt very much for his mother because she had come from civilised area and used to all the comforts, and suddenly they were in Tiniroto, in the back of beyond, with none of the modern amenities for living. And they had to wash their clothes in the stream and you know it must have been extremely hard, but he said she never complained. And he said she had to look after her four children and keep them clean, and as well she had a sick husband. But however, that sort of life was what he needed, and after six months he was feeling a lot better and ready for work. [Speaking together]

And he heard about a parish in Havelock North, so he came to Havelock and he stayed with Janet McKenzie – Janet McKenzie was my grandfather Couper’s sister … William Couper’s sister. And then he went back and said “yes – let’s go to Havelock”, and so he brought his family to Havelock. The house that they were to be in was rather damp, so they waited and probably boarded somewhere in Havelock – that detail doesn’t come in. But a ten-roomed house … two-storeyed house … was built on Te Mata Road, and during the earthquake it shook so much that afterwards they took down the top storey. And it’s not many years ago that it was still being used in Havelock. But … I say not many years ago, but of course it was quite a long time ago now.

So he introduced Bible in Schools. One of the first things he thought about when he was in New Zealand was the lack of religious education. And he worked with Mr Gardiner, and he quite approved the idea, so the pupils learnt probably the Bible and Catechism and various other things I’m sure … the Apostles’ Creed, that’s what I was trying to think of. And then he had a prize for anybody that could recite the Catechism, or the Bible … various things. And the village saftie at the pub was heard to say “man’s first aim is to drink beer” – that was his interpretation.

He worked very hard, and the Havelock Parish then had a radius of thirty miles. And it was the thing in those days to go to Maraekakaho every two weeks and then on to Kereru once a month. And so the horse and trap had to be prepared by his eldest son and be waiting at the gate after the Church service in the morning. And the reins would be handed over and off he’d go out to Maraekakaho, and he’d be looking at his watch to make sure that …

He was going to be there on time.

Yes. And the Lyons … Mrs Lyons … would put a glass of egg and milk for his sustenance on the way. And I suppose there was ministering and a sermon, and then on he would go to Kereru – about the same distance. And he stayed overnight with the Anderson family. He said they were very hospitable people and – this is my father, who knew them too.

So Alexander Whyte … he came back, and then later on he went to Mokopeka Station as well – that was the third prong to the travels. And to get to Mokopeka he had to ford the river … Tuki Tuki … and of course the fording place would move with each flood. And although my grandmother was very worried about him crossing the river in all the conditions, there was never any problem. And he loved going to Mokopeka because John Chambers was a very well-read man. He had a good library and he used to lend the Hibberd Journal to my grandfather because it was a scientific journal, and my father was interested in science. And so that was the end of the Parish work – the three visits. Then he took on some [?] service I think as well.

But he was very keen that there should be Presbyterian schools set up. He felt that the Catholics and the Anglicans were working in education, and he thought the Presbyterians ought to do more. So he raised the subject at a general assembly … “how about something be set up in Wellington?” And – nothing doing – they weren’t interested.

And then the idea was to have Deaconesses’ Institute set up in Havelock, and some land was offered – nine acres – so that the Institute could be self-sufficient and have their own cow and meat and vegetables and that sort of thing. But the Assembly, the Presbyterians from Wellington, decided no, it needed to be nearer the Theological Hall, so that idea was given away.

But my grandfather seized the opportunity and said “how about we use that land for a girls’ college?” And at first people didn’t want that either, but he persuaded them and it went ahead. But the stipulation was that it had to be … the foundations had to be laid within a year and a certain amount of money – I think it was £10,000 …

So you’re talking about the birth of Iona, are you?

Yes. Oh, did I not make that clear?

No. Isn’t that wonderful?

Yes. And it was nearly time, the end of the year, and it was suddenly realised that only £4,000 had been raised. I get my noughts muddled, and I can’t remember – it was £400 or £4,000 – it might have been £400 in those days. I have to check, but at any rate there wasn’t nearly enough money in, and he then had to work terribly hard. He went round the Parish and in three months they had [£]1,100 raised and they were able to go ahead. So that was good. I think it was Mr Grant from Dannevirke in charge, because at that point he had been called to go down to Port Chalmers and he wasn’t able to continue, but he knew it was going ahead.

And in Port Chalmers – he took all his family down there of course – his youngest was born in Havelock in 1902, she was Peggy, or to give her full name, Elizabeth Margaret. Alexander’s family were Helen, the eldest – she married Doctor Will Borrie. The next one was David … think I’ve got that round the wrong way … never mind. Then came Alexander, my father, and Marion, and then Peggy.

It was quite interesting – my Aunt Helen wrote her history called “Footprints in the Sand”. And she took her BA and at that time the examination was set in England, and the papers were marked in England. So she didn’t know until her honeymoon a few months later that she’d actually passed her BA, when word came out. She met her husband through the Church work that they did. I think they sang in choirs together and … sort of thing.

And David became a surgeon and went to Wellington, and actually he married a cousin of my mother, so we have all sorts of fun with the relationships in the family as you can … realise.

And Marion because an anaesthetist, and she taught at Otago University, and went to America and England and settled back as an anaesthetist and General Practitioner in Dunedin.

And Peggy, the youngest, stayed and look after her mother. Her father died early, he was 55 or so, and she stayed at home, which was quite common in those days …

It was indeed.

… to look after her mother. My father used to say she had the most brains in the family, and I remember her as being … a really good memory, and loved reading history.

Now, what can I tell you about? I might just go back and say that when Alexander got to Port Chalmers he was still interested in education, and he was one of the founders at John McGlashan College and at Columba College, and he also supported Solway College in Masterton. His sister had married and was living in Masterton, and so I think he probably had a few connections there.

So he obviously had great foresight in establishing these Presbyterian Colleges?

Yes, he did. And I might say that the family members reported that in the home they all had to read the right books, and at the meal table there’d be discussion, and if somebody didn’t understand the meaning of a word he would straight away say “go and pick up the dictionary”. And he instilled in them the need to research and find things out for themselves.

So there was something else that’s in my mind too about that. That’s just gone – never mind. But the children obviously were … I know what it was … they were pushed ahead gently. And he was very keen – he said to them “I don’t have much money to pay for education, and that’s one thing – I can give you a good education, and you’ll have to work hard to get scholarships to get through”. I think – I saw written down, but I still can’t believe it … I’m ready to be checked on it – £5 a year stipend – would it?

Wouldn’t be much.

And a free house, which is … seems so little. Whatever it was, they really didn’t have anything extra at all. But he was so keen that they become educated, and of course in those days not many people went to secondary school. You were lucky if you got there. And of course a lot of children had to help their parents didn’t they – haymaking, in the orchards and all that sort of thing.

Milking cows, and looking after the hordes of little children.

Yes … that came after them. Yes, that’s right. [Chuckle] Now, it’s very different. Anyway, I think we’ve finished with Alexander.

What schools would they have gone to, the children, when they were here?

Yes, that’s a good question. They were of course were educated at the Havelock Primary School and then they went on to Napier, Napier Girls’, Napier Boys’ and they were weekly boarders. They were each dux – and my father was dux. And I was interested later to find out that my father-in-law was dux at the same school about ten years or so later. And Isaiah Jones was at the Napier School with my father – they were firm friends.

I remember Isaiah Jones, only because he was the local politician, those days.

Yes. They used to quote Latin to each other, [chuckle] and poems, and that sort of thing.

I was telling you about the Alexander Whyte family coming out to New Zealand, and they went from Port Chalmers to Gisborne via coastal vessel, and there they were offloaded. And they were taken by horse and trap with three horses and two outriders, and they would be hooked on for the sticky bits in the road. It was a clay road, no metal, and they would stay overnight with hospitable farmers on the way until they got there.

Three days …

Yes. And it was about thirty-five miles – I looked it up on the computer.

My father was dux at Napier Boys’ in 1905, and he, because of the particular circumstance of the time, he missed out on a scholarship because the two exams were held one after the other. And he was primed for being dux – that to him was important – and then of course, you know, he just didn’t manage the scholarship nearly as well. He had a migraine and got half marks in a subject that he did extremely well in. So he went to school for the last year at Otago Boys’ and there he won the scholarship. And he was first place, Hawke’s Bay Education Board Scholarship … which was earlier of course … first place in Victoria College scholarship … that was the University … and the Junior National Scholarship.

So he said in his writings that he took the medical course ‘cause it was the longest one. [Chuckle] And so he did. And then of course in the middle of the exams and education, the War came. And he wanted to go to War like everybody else. So – he had a hernia, and he needed to have an operation – you had to be a hundred per cent fit. They were very strict – they were just turned down, people who weren’t good enough. And so he went and had his operation which then set him back in his studies a bit, and he had to make that up. And his Professor, Chantilou, was very good taking him for night classes and making arrangements. And then while he was convalescing he was sent to St Kilda Barracks, and he was on sentry duty first thing in the morning in the dawn shift. And he’d walk up and down reciting his materia medica and the chemical compositions, and drugs such as opium, you see.

So anyway, he passed his medical studies and he wanted to get to War as soon as he could, so he was sent almost within … well, it was within days … to Tauherenikau, and he was a medical officer at Greytown Hospital under an elderly man who taught him minor surgery and how to give a bit of chloroform. And from there he was ready to be drafted with a Doctor Haig who had been at Otago Boys’ High School with him, and like him, had gone on to do medicine. And they were all ready to be drafted and the phone went, and my father was nearby and stupidly answered it. And he was told “we’re looking for somebody on the ‘Maheno’, and you’ll do, Whyte – you go – be ready in a week”. And so he had to go on the ‘Maheno’, and of course he didn’t want that at all, he wanted to go … be sent off to England, but he was on the ‘Maheno’ for nine months

Was that a Naval ..?

It was a hospital ship. I’m sorry, I forget that you don’t know. And I think he found it rather boring because he wanted to get on active duty. They all wanted to get away. But it wasn’t … well, I don’t think it was boring at all, but he was a Junior Medical Officer and the others were much older than he was so I imagine he didn’t have much good company. And Harry Wilson, who was also on the ship – he didn’t enjoy the time either, and that was my father’s first acquaintance with Harry Wilson, perhaps under difficult circumstances and he didn’t get to appreciate it at that stage until much later.

But they arrived at Le Havre from Sling, ‘cause he had to go there first. He went to Portsmouth on the ‘Maheno’ and then to Sling for a few days and then to Le Havre. The ‘Maheno’ arrived at Le Havre on the 3rd of July 1916. It was at the time that the first casualties from the Somme were arriving for transportation, and he said the casualties were out on the wharves on stretchers at three o’clock in the morning. Anybody who could walk had to walk, no matter how bad the injury, and it was only the really desperate people who’d be carried by stretcher. He said he was on the ‘Maheno’ doing two or three trips a week to Southampton conveying these casualties to England, and then probably a lot of them would repatriated home. And that was his job for many months. He even admitted his brother-in-law, Innes Cooper, and he went to England and was in hospital for quite a time there.

So he came back on a hospital ship, I think ‘Maheno’, and he just couldn’t wait – he went to see the Director General of the Medical Corps and said, “I’ve had enough – I want to get to war”, and he was duly granted his request. And he arranged for him to go in February – he had from November ‘til February on leave – and in February he went on a vessel called the [?’Ngarua’?] which was captained by Owen Williams’ brother. Owen Williams was a vicar in the Anglican Church and a friend of my father, and it was he who married Roger and me. And Owen Williams and my father were great friends and they would quote Latin to each other and Owen would write poems in Latin … he was a very clever man. Anyway my father joined up with the ‘Ngarua’ and they went back to England and then at that time my father went to Sling and for a few days and then over to Étaples in France, and he was in the Western Front. And that was the base, and even at Étaples he was held up because they were short staffed and they were pleased to see him. So he had to spend some months there, and he was left in charge ultimately. You know, it was an extension of his pass, and he’d learnt pretty quickly what to do … what to cope with.

And anyway a job came up – they wanted three doctors, and he saw his chance and without further ado he made sure he got the job. I think they would like to have kept him in Étaples but he was off, and then he had to find his way to join his unit, and he joined the Second Brigade. And always, previous associations were great occasions when he met somebody that he’d known at school, or at university, or from the same area – it was great jubilation. And it seemed to happen quite regularly because names are mentioned of people that he meets.

My father was Medical Officer to the Second Brigade, New Zealand Field Artillery. He saw service at Passchendaele and Messines, and he left the war, as he says, with one wound, one stripe and one Military Cross. And he was given the Military Cross for … I think they described it ‘meritorious action’, but I understood it to be for looking after casualties under fire. And they would be doing a lot of that.

I wonder if they had’ve known what it was going to be like, whether they would have gone?

No. No. It was sad. One friend of my father I think had the intuition that he would die quite soon, and he said to … like a friend, “if you find my bones on the duckboard, let the ground lie”, meaning his life. And sure enough, a few days later they found his bones on the duck board. It’s extraordinary. I think it affected my father because he realised, you know, intuition is important. But he concentrated on his feelings, and always when he back there’d be somebody else waiting for him, to get some help. He was in Ypres sector, and they had the horse lines at Dickebusch and – I thought it was interesting, he lived in a Nissen hut with two feet of snow all round. And he visited the guns once a week, and he said it was eight miles there and eight miles back. Anyway there’s a lot of detail I’ve read about the wartime, but it’s too long for a few hours’ talk.

After the War he went to Cologne and he worked in the laboratory there doing pathology and bacteriology, and that was quite helpful to him I think.

So what age would he have been at that stage, Jennifer? In his early twenties?


Just a young man.

Yes. They all wanted to get away to war and he was quite young when he went.

Went to Cologne and then to England, and he called at Buckingham Palace, as he said, and had morning tea there and claimed his Military Cross. But I think he was quite pleased when all that formality was over.

But he would have been very proud to be recognised.

I think he was, he’d achieved that. But on the other hand I think he was war-worn, and not particularly well and just … you know, it was good to get it done. and finished.

Do you still have the Military Cross?

Unfortunately, I gave – well, fortunately but unfortunately, I gave it to my brother. He had it at his surgery. The surgery was burgled, and this character looking for drugs tipped everything upside down, and though it was well hidden he scooped all the medals. And goodness knows where they are.

Most of them had been inscribed – one day they may turn up somewhere.

Yes, I hoped that it did have a number.

They normally do.

Do they? Anyway, so he came home and his father must have thought a DPH would be a good idea – Public Health. And so again my father went North Auckland, Whangarei, to Auckland where he was Assistant Medical Officer of Health, and then down to Otago. And from there he got his Diploma in Public Health and went to the Christchurch Hospital as a House Surgeon, before settling in Hastings.

Was he married at that stage?

He married in 1920, so he went with his wife to North Auckland.

What was her name?

Eva Couper.

Your mother was Ernest Couper’s sister!

Yes. Anyway – so he decided after he’d done this that he’d set up in private practice in Hastings and they came to live in Hastings in 1923. And he came associated with a Doctor W P Johnston. He was known as Johnny Johnston, I think, and my father got on really well with him and also later with Harry Wilson. They were both first class doctors and taught my father a lot, too. And they’d realised that he’d had this lab experience and the nearest lab at that time was Napier Hospital. So my father was set up with his test tubes and his microscope, [speaking together] and he did the lab work for the district. And I can remember as a child going into his rooms and seeing this microscope which was fascinating, with the slides and all these test tubes in a row. So he did the blood testing, and the anaesthetics he did, and general practice he did … taught him. And then Doctor Johnston died quite suddenly. He had the flu, and he got up to go to see a patient, which he shouldn’t have done, and landed up with pneumonia and died.

And then came, probably a year later, the earthquake. And my sister was killed then, Patricia. And during the earthquake my father just worked all the time, and I suppose that’s how he came to be …

So how many children were in the family?

Three children altogether – my sister who was killed, my brother Alistair, and myself. Well – I wasn’t born then. And my Aunt Marion came from Dunedin and she helped the family get away to England, and my father decided he’d have a go at the MRCP. [Member of the Royal College of Physicians] He’d talked about this before with Doctor Johnston, one was going to work while the other was away, and then the other would come back.

So my mother and father and Alistair at the age of four, went by ship of course and went to London and he did a course at Barts Hospital, the first and last course for membership. And of course he got it and they asked where he’d got his experience and he said “from the School of Hard Knocks”.

After the Membership he went to Dublin for a few weeks to do his maternity work. He had met a Doctor Theo Frank, and he had spoken about going to Berlin to study obstetrics for a while, so my Father went to Germany. And then not long after that they decided it was time to come home, because I was on the way, and I was born in 1933.

And you were born in Hastings?

In Hastings, and delivered by my father, which would never happen today.

Most of the people in Hastings were delivered by Sister Cooper.

Yes, they were. I can remember going there.

‘Cause she was my cousin, too.

Well yes, of course – I hadn’t connected that. But I’m interested because I remember going there. And yes, there was a story in the family that my father told my mother to slow things up – he had Mrs Brown or somebody to see round the corner first. [Chuckle] Family comes second.

Which school did you and Alistair go to?

I went to Queenswood School because my sister had gone there. Alistair went to … I think he had missed school and needed special help at that time, and went with his cousin to have private tuition with a Mr Chaplin first, and then he went to Hereworth quite young, and boarded.

Where did the family live those days?

We lived in Market Street, and as was quite common practise we lived at the surgery – part of the house.

So he was there until he retired?

No, not quite. When I was six we moved to Fitzroy Avenue and lived near Cornwall Park.

When you left Queenswood, where did you go from there?

Oh, from Queenswood I went to Woodford, and I could have gone either to Woodford or Iona, particularly with my grandfather’s connection with Iona. But I went to Woodford because my mother had gone to Woodford. Woodford was established before Iona. I might also say that my grandfather Couper was a trustee and on the Iona Council for many years, so again you’d think that that would pull me to Iona, but because my mother, Eva, had gone to Iona [Woodford] … and they happened to know the headmistress there very well. He was the hospital doctor … my father … so I went to Woodford.

You mention your grandfather Couper – was that Ernest Couper?

No, William Couper.

He was Ernest’s father, and your mother’s father. I’m just starting to put them together.

And he was W A X Couper – that will help cement it in your mind.

That’s right. William Alexander Xavier.

Yes. Yes, and d’you know the origin of the word Xavier? My great-grandfather Couper …

This is before William Couper?

Yes. My great-grandfather Couper was a carpenter travelling the world, and as a young man he thought it ‘d be a prank to cut off a Chinese boy’s pony tail. And of course that meant that he couldn’t go to Heaven – this is how the family story goes. And a priest saved his life, so he said “well my first-born son will be called after you”. So that’s the …

So anyway, I went to Woodford.

And did you play any sport there?

I wasn’t a particularly sporty girl. I loved music and yes, I sang in the choir.

And also, I was a pupil of Miss Hoby at Queenswood. Miss Hoby was the headmistress and I often think now, her teaching I still remember. But I loved music.

And so how long were you at Woodford?

I was there for six years. So I’d had enough of institutions by that time, and I had a year at home and I did shorthand and typing, and then decided that I would like to go down to Dunedin, and I’d do part time University and also further the secretarial course.

But my first job I got at the Dunedin Hospital. I used to type my father’s medical notes sometimes, or reports, and I quite enjoyed that and I got a job at the hospital. And I was there for a year doing operation reports – I know all the details of appendicectomies [appendectomies] and cholecystectomies and all that sort of thing. And then the Professor of Surgery was looking for a secretary and he asked me to go and join him. So I went to the Medical School and I really enjoyed that job. They were doing quite a bit of research. They had sheep and rats upstairs, and my cousin was doing research on sheep

Who was your cousin?

John Borrie. And I watched an operation that he did … heart transplant. And the man I worked for was Professor Woodruff … Michael Woodruff … and he was doing skin transplants, and he’d be writing to Professor So-and-so … all over the World, because they were comparing notes and helping each other. And finally he went to England and did the first kidney transplant in England. He found that, I think Dunedin was a bit small and he needed the population to get the work through. He was interesting – well his history was interesting – in that he was an engineer as well as a surgeon, and he was a prisoner of war in Singapore. And he was even doing research while he was there, trying to make a protein and keep the prisoners well fed. That’s another story.

So after three years in Dunedin I decided I’d like to do my OE [overseas experience] and my brother, Alistair, was well settled by that time in London and that was the right time for me to go. So I didn’t join him – he was the one who found me a flat with some friends, and I spent two years over there.

So then I emigrated to Canada from there.

Did you? You emigrated?

Yes. I’m a landed emigrant. And to Toronto I went, and I worked for – this was temporary work – Lovelores, a big food company I worked for for a while, and some religious group also, doing temporary work. But then I came home after a while, and I went to a wedding and there I met Roger Bate. [Chuckle] And he rang me up and said would I like to go to a film, and what do you think the film was? It was The Sinking of the Bismark – don’t think there was one woman in it. [Chuckle] But anyway, that was the start of our friendship. I had met Roger some years previously at a School Dance.

He had a sister, didn’t he?

Yes, Alison. She’s still alive, she’s in Summerset.

So Roger of course was the son of a very distinguished Hawke’s Bay man, wasn’t he? He was a Mayor, he was Sir Edwin Bate.

Yes, yes.

Do you know where Roger went to school?

Yes. Raureka School, he went to … oh, I’m not so well primed up with names at the moment. And he also went to the Westshore School for a while I think, just … at some period. And then he went to New Plymouth Boys’ High School. I think it had a good academic record and there were boys like Callum Kirkpatrick. But you know, it was wartime and there was a shortage of petrol, and it was a long way to go and a long way from home. And then of course he did his law degree in Wellington.

Roger joined his father’s firm, Simpson & Bate, that at that time became Simpson, Bate & Wayne because Tony Wayne had joined the firm. And Roger worked and was able to enable his father and mother to take a trip overseas, their first trip.

Roger and I had two children, Michael, who was christened Edwin Michael, and he was born on 23rd of January 1968, and Sarah was Sarah Suzanne Bate, and she was born on the 11th of October 1969. They both went to school in Havelock Primary then Michael went to Lindisfarne College and Sarah went to Woodford.

Now they are married, they have some children – what are their names?

Michael married Emma Drysdale and Sarah married Philip Simpson. Michael and Emma were married in 2000 … nice easy time to remember, and their children are Charlotte, Alexandra and Emily. And Phil and Sarah don’t have any children of their own but Phil has three daughters.

Now sadly Roger left us in what year?


And since then you have moved house – this was a Bate house too, wasn’t it?

It was a Bate house. It was originally Ruth Wild’s house and she was a Chambers – my mother’s sister’s sister-in-law. [Chuckle]

I just can’t believe the way this … I’m related to all these people. Had no idea!

No, [chuckle] it’s extraordinary isn’t it? The connections.

Now you’ve had some other interests. You seem to be always dashing off to Taupo …

Not nowadays. The house or houses are full of the next generation and very happily so.

And so here you sit with the most wonderful northwest to southeast view looking over Havelock North … see the showers coming. You don’t play …

I have played mah jong.

You’re not a bridge person?

I don’t now. I’m not a bridge person, I’m a mah jong person if anything. And I do Tai Chi now.

That’s for exercise?


When you look back on the historical association your family have had with the Colleges, and the rail line, Tiniroto – it’s surprising how much happens over a hundred years, isn’t it?

It is. One develops … and responding to the occasions of history I suppose.

Sandy Whyte after getting his MRCP, very many years later he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in London. It was an award that was granted rather than given by medical examination, but it was in recognition of his service and his ability as a physician in New Zealand.

Yes. That’s wonderful recognition isn’t it?

I might just say that in those days at the time that he was working, they depended on their observation and the history of the patient, and they didn’t have access to all the tests and films and diagnostics that we have.

I’m not used to talking so much.

Some of my people go for three and a half hours.

How could they do it?

All right. Thank you, Jennifer, that’s really neat to have got that. (re East Coast Railway) (re Annie Whyte m Harry Mossman)

Original digital file


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Interviewer:  Frank Cooper

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