Judith (Judy) McHardy Interview

Good morning. I’m with Mrs Judy McHardy. It’s the 20th November [2017] and first of all we’re going to hear about the Rathbone family from Waipawa – Judy was a Rathbone before she married into the McHardy family. Good morning Judy. [Noise on recording]

Good morning Jim.

Now Judy, we’ll talk about your father, Harry Rathbone, who was my godfather who bought me my first cricket bat and led me on my way to my sport. I’ll now hand it over to Judy, and she will give us just a brief history about the Rathbone family.

Well, great-grandfather [William Rathbone] arrived in Waipukurau – I’m sorry, I can’t tell you the date [1859] because I’m not quite sure – spent the night there because it wasn’t safe to cross the river. He had bought quite a few thousand acres, and with the Bibbys … the Bibbys and the Rathbones were the first people to set up in Waipawa. And great-grandfather opened what was known later on as Williams & Kettle, and that was the first trading post in Waipawa. I have today the safe here, that was in that shop in Waipawa.

My great-grandfather had five sons in a row and then he had five daughters. Each of his sons were left a farm and each of his daughters were left a farm or provided for as well. They were very philanthropic people and he gave a lot of money – schools benefitted really from Lissie Rathbone who was his wife.

My grandfather [Herbert Rathbone] was killed about the age of fifty-two – he was walking home for lunch one day and the baker’s van ran him over, so he died at a very early age so then my father [Harry Rathbone] took over. There were four in his family, two aunts, Melva was the first one and then there was Jessie. My father, Harry, was born in 1900, and Cyril Rathbone was born a few years later.

Dad took over the farm. He was pretty young when he took that over, and he farmed for his family. I can’t really tell you much more … they farmed during the war … Dad farmed pretty much on his own with Mum, [Janet, née Graham] and she used to ride and go round the farm. We were all packed up and ready to take to the back of the farm into the limestone caves if the Japanese came. We had this big box of food stuffed in the pantry ready to take off. Well it never happened.

This is in Waipawa?

In Waipawa, all in Waipawa. There were only the two children to Harry – in fact very poor breeders really – the two aunts didn’t have any children. Dad’s brother [Cyril] had a son and a daughter and my father had a son and a daughter.

Now where did Forbes come in?

Forbes is McHardy.

Oh, that’s right.

Waipawa was one of the first inland towns in New Zealand, and everything had to come by boat up the river. I presume they would have got on board that boat at Clive somewhere, and I’ve always wanted to know how that boat came up the river.

They had a lovely hotel in Waipawa. It was still there when we first got married, and you could ride in underneath the archway. And in the back there was a whole lot of stables and that was where people used to come and leave their horses.

‘Course Harry was also the mayor of Waipawa, later in life?

He was the mayor of Waipawa for quite a few years.

He set it alight really.

Waipawa would have been the main town I think, if they had said they’d have the stock yards there. But people in Waipawa didn’t want to have the stock yards and so Waipukurau took the stock yards, and of course Waipawa really never grew.

And the railway always used to stop – Dad used to go hunting, and he used to go down to the railway station in the morning with his horse and his mates, and they would jump their horses into one of the carriages in the back, they’d go off down to Dannevirke, hunt for the day, hop back on the train and come home again … home late at night. Did that quite often. And Dad used to go out to Aramoana, he used to ride out for the weekend.

Which was how far out of Waipawa, roughly?

Thirty miles … across country, over all the fences.

1947, Mother got polio and ended up in an iron lung for quite some time, and was paralysed down one side. It was not possible then for them to live in the old family homestead which had been damaged quite badly in the 1931 earthquake. They had taken all the balconies off and it’s still a lovely home. So in 1952 we built down on the farm which is where they stayed until they both died.

That was a lovely home, too.

I think I can’t tell you any more about that, really.  Not all the Rathbone boys farmed in Hawke’s Bay.

Who was Bill Rathbone, who died here?

Bill was Arthur’s son – William was his father, and Arthur was an only child and he had two daughters and one son, and then he married again and had another daughter. I can always remember Dad telling me that the local doctor came up the hill to take out Arthur’s tonsils, and Cyril and Dad sat on the gate down at Abbotsford. And when they saw the doctor coming, he’d removed Arthur’s tonsils and he was on his way down to do Harry and Cyril’s tonsils – on the kitchen table.

[Chuckle] Well, that’s the way they worked in those days.

So okay, now we’ll get on to the McHardy family. It’s quite a story because Judy knows more about it than some.

The later years.

The later years of the McHardys – she married a McHardy.

I would just like to say that I really would like to start perhaps from the time really, that I got married, and the reason for wanting … and other bits as well … but the reason I want to do this is because I think my grandchildren, and my great-grandchildren-to-be, really have absolutely no idea how we lived in 1957.

Neil and I were married in November in 1957. That was the same year that the power came in, and the road had the gates taken off and metal road done up. Before that the only access really, had been in the summer on the summer road, and in the winter we went round by the sea and you had to wait till the tide was right. The mail man used to come on the beach at Pourerere and he would drive round to Aramoana, deliver the mail there and then he would go on round, tide permitting, to Blackhead, deliver the mail there. And they were in the same boat as Aramoana. They had fences right up to the top of the Blackhead hill, and if it rained you couldn’t get up there because it was clay and it was too slippery. So really the tide was the means of getting from A to B.

The old woolshed which I think was built in about 1920 … I’m not quite sure of the date. And it was built right down by the sea so that the ox or the old draught horses could load up the wool bales, take them out to a lighter boat in the ocean, and then that would take them out to a Richardson Line ship out in the sea. And everything came on that ship. They came once every six weeks or so.

Mr Vaughan, who worked at W & K [Williams & Kettle] in Waipawa all his life – he started his first job at Williams & Kettle in Napier, and then on his first day in the job he was given a list. And the man came along and said “here’s a list of what I want you to pack up for Aramoana Station. I will come back in a fortnight and see how you’re getting on”. If the weather was too rough, no goods would be there. The ship would go on or it would turn round and go back to Napier, and so the goods that month wouldn’t be supplied.

But we had a little house just up at the bottom of the drive and it had steps going up both sides and everything [was] stored in there – nails … anything to do with the farm … wire, flour, sugar – everything was put in there, and it was all dealt up to the cookhouse. And there was a cook, and to begin with there was no power. And then when the power came in, there was an old man called Sid Thrush – his real name was Spurgeon – and he lived in the room that had the power switch in it. And when the young shepherds were there and the power came in they thought it was great fun at night. They’d turn the radio on, make a terrible noise ‘til old Sid couldn’t bear it any more, and he’d get out of bed, lock the window, lock the door, pull the lever down, turn the power off until the morning. So there’d be no hot water for the cook to cook in the morning. He wasn’t very popular, but he did it for a long time. It was always said that he put all his wages under the mattress. And he died on the job. He used to come up to the house every Monday morning and he would carry up a huge basket full of vegies. There was a huge vegie garden down below, right next door to the cow bale, and he would come up the drive with the vegies. He was too old to walk back down and come back up again after lunch so he used to stay for lunch. And we’d sit down to the table and we’d start eating our lunch, and he would put his knife and fork down and he’d pull a tin out of his pocket and he would open it up and he would unwrap a big bit of paper from round his false teeth. He’d put his false teeth in and hand me the letter. And the letter was his grocery list and Williams & Kettle used to ring up once a fortnight to take the grocery list and Sid would hand me the bit of paper. And his was Harmony Port, carbolic soap, plenty of cigarettes and papers, and I can’t remember the other things. But there were some real characters in those days.

This road that was new with all the gates removed in 1957, slipped very badly, so often we didn’t have any other way of access. But we did have a Land Rover, and it must have been one of the earlier Land Rovers that were made, [noise on recording] but that was great for going round the beach in.

There were twelve of us on the party line. And the first thing that I was told when I went to live out there was that if a man picked up the phone I was to get off it immediately. Everybody knew what everybody else was doing, and the party line went for absolutely miles. It went down towards Porangahau, it went up to Omakere and back down towards the Clareinch Road, and it was looked after by Les McHardy and Charlie Parmenter. And they were always on that line, up their ladders trying to fix it. We were out of order more than we were ever in order, and of course that was really the only way we had of getting in contact with people. We did have an internal phone system that went down to the cookhouse, and that was to be able to get hold of anyone down there.

We had a cowman/gardener, and he had a horse and he used to ride up. We had this huge great big churn in the dairy up at the house, and he would come up there and do the milk and the cream and make butter … butter was made. We had two great old tubs and one had corned beef in it. And we preserved our own eggs in that awful slimy stuff that we used to put them in.

Our phone number was 116R … twelve on the line, and if you tried to ring somebody else on the line someone else would pick it up and say “they’re not home. I’ve just seen them driving up the road. You’ll have to try later on today”.

So you all stuck together pretty well?

In those days the Omakere Hall was the centre of the community, and we used to go up there for square dancing, and Aunty Mary McHardy used to take us up in the Land Rover. And there was a lovely English boy called Roddy Loder-Symonds, and he was allowed to drive because he conned Aunty Mary saying that he got car sick. Well he was English … never driven on a metal road in his life … and there were all the other staff and I sitting in the back of the Land Rover, absolutely terrified out of our wits.

And then we’d go up and we’d have Agnes Nair, and she would be calling the square dancing all night. And then we’d have to put up with Roddy driving us all the way back to Aramoana again. But it was fun days because everybody went, and everything that was on was up at the Omakere hall.

And that was about how far?

About thirteen miles.

When we were first married Douglas McHardy managed both Aramoana and Ouepoto. And in the morning all the men would be down there at about half past seven – they’d all have their horses saddled up and ready to go, and all their dogs. It was quite a sight – there’d often be twelve to fourteen men down there with horses ready to go out for the day.

There were lots of characters. We had old Jack Casey – he died on the place. He broke in horses and he had ponies. And he used to go riding out and he would always be rolling a cigarette – never hang on to the bridle, he’d just ride out, and he’d have his dogs following and his pet goat, and they’d be away all day. He was a real character … loved all the kids. His biggest joy in the weekends was in the summer when it was wasp season, and he used to love the [?cynagas?] and he would go right up to these things and we’d always have to pull him out – he’d get a whiff of this stuff and just about keel over. He was a real character.

Neil finally took over the management of Aramoana. And then Hamish worked for Neil for a while over the farm, and then he took over the back part of the farm with the best land. It was called Ranui.

How many acres did Hamish have?

I think it was … probably got this quite wrong, but I’d say fifteen hundred. Hamish had more than Neil because he had no buildings on his part of the land – can’t remember just how many.

So the size of the farm was … what?

Ouepoto … lots of it was sold off by Neil’s grandfather, too – Motere Station was part of Aramoana at one stage. It’ll be in the book somewhere but I can’t tell you what that was.

Washing – we had a huge great big old copper, and we had a fire box out in the back of the house, and a washing machine which was run by kerosene before, and it had been converted to electricity, but you had to empty it into buckets which was quite back breaking.

And you just hung the washing on the line?

We had a long line and all the washing was hung out there. Before I married Neil he had a housekeeper out there, and she thought she was going to be there when we married. And she said “oh, it won’t make any difference having you here”, she said, “we’ll do washing on Monday, upstairs on Tuesday and Wednesday and downstairs on Thursday and Friday”. Thankfully by the time we got married she’d gone, so it didn’t matter what day.

So you did all that then?

I didn’t have any help in the early days. When I got pregnant I did have a lovely Maori girl called Polly, and she was really great. Then another one called Betsy who unfortunately got TB, so that was a bit of drama when that happened.

Oh, the other thing that we put down were beans … we put beans down in stone jars with lots of common salt.

We did have some quite big storms out there. The ‘Wahine’ storm – it was days before we could get out from that one. We had our two eldest sons home from Rathkeale College for the weekend, and I was to leave to go up on the Sunday to pick up George from Hereworth for his day exeat. Neil and the two elder boys went off down the drive in the Land Rover, and had to take the chainsaw and saw their way out, with trees down. Neil drove as far as the Ouepoto stock yards, and said “turn round and go home as fast as you can”. So we did that and we managed to get back up to the house, and by the time he got there the road had gone, the phone had gone, the power had gone. And we were like that for three and a half days, and of course in those days, no power, no radio. We did have one battery radio ‘til I think the batteries gave out. We had a system where we had a tank in the top of the house – oh, I don’t know what you call it – where the water went up, so we were able to heat water. And everybody from Ouepoto and Aramoana lived in our dining room. We put great big pots on the fire, and everybody would come and throw a few more chops and veges into it. We lived there for three days – we had a wonderful time really. Everyone had hot baths, hot food. We played snooker, darts, 500. We enjoyed the time we had. The worst part was there was no way that we could let the schools know that (a) we wouldn’t be able to collect George, and (b) that there was no way we could let Rathkeale know that Simon and Chip would not be going back to school. And I think they were really home for about a week before we could get them back. That was one of the worst storms in my time there, that we had.

In the early days there were only horses and an old D2 that we had, that used to take all the docking gear on a sledge. That was a great time that was had by all, and we all used to go when the docking was on. You’d load the children up and sometimes my father would come out and we’d take him out for the day as well, and we’d all sit up on top of the load … Dad was past riding then … and we’d sit on top of the load and we’d spend the whole day out docking. Even with little boys – we’d wrap them up and put them down on a tarpaulin. And then the men would cook the lambs’ tails for their lunch – something I could never do but they absolutely loved them. It was quite exciting really, because our property was very steep and the only way in those days was to go by horse or take the D2 up to the top of the hill.

When we were first married the stock agents used to come out. You never really knew when they were coming, they would just arrive, and there would always have to be lunch for them, or morning or afternoon tea.

They only came for your lunch Judy, it was always so good, I heard.

[Chuckle] Some of them would go riding out to have a look at something on the farm, because basically that was the only way to get out there. It was too far to walk and it was very steep. We killed all our own meat, milked the cows and grew all the vegies … pretty self-sufficient really.

There was a polo stable built at the bottom, down the road from the house, and that was a polo stable that had been built for Forbes and Douglas to keep their polo ponies. And they used to go up to Hastings I think most weekends in the polo season to play. That polo stable was built of matai, and the stalls were double sided with matai – beautiful timber – in about … oh, hopeless at dates. Anyway, when one of our sons was going to come back and live in the homestead, Neil was away. I converted that polo stable into a home for Neil and I that we lived in for a couple of years … lot of joy, it was a lovely little place to live in. Had a lot of fun down there.

I had my own stud of Suffolk sheep. And the first thing I had to do was to buy a ram and some ewes. Well we had the ewes but we didn’t have the ram, so I was to meet Trevor Melville over in Palmerston North and we were going to go to the sale and buy a ram. I said very firmly that I only had so much money to spend. Trevor never started bidding until I had gone past the top amount of money that I had to spend. Anyway, I did buy this ram in the end and came home with it, and had happy years looking after these, mostly round the homestead and on the flatter paddocks. At that stage I had a three-wheeler bike, and I would take that and go out lambing up the hill. If it got too steep I would put my finger on the button and walk beside it to get it up there until it was flat again. If the weather was really bad I’d take the ewes down to the polo stables and put them in there to lamb.

And then my sons decided that really … think they’d had enough of the sheep, and goats were the in thing. So the sheep were all sold and we went over and bought some goats. Biggest mistake we ever made was buying those goats. They got their hooves stuck down the boards in the woolshed, they got into all the neighbours paddocks, and long after we’d gone out of goats the neighbours were still having them, and it was many, many years before we got rid of them all. Smelly jolly things they were.

But Neil’s had a very successful Perendale Stud which was very successful. And then from Perendales he went into Texels.

He used to stay with me at the A&P Show as well …


… with us in Durham Drive. He was a judge I think.

He did all the measuring of the ponies, and he was there all the time.

And he had some sheep as well.

Yes, we always had sheep in the Show. I used to leave the baby in the pram beside him, with all the horses, and I’d take the other two off to the sideshows for a while. But I always had a tag round their necks that told them where they could find their father if they got lost, which is … oh, what a terrible thing to do!

We spent an awful lot of time down at the beach. Neil had a double ended boat and the motor was in the middle. And he and his mates went out one day, about six or seven of them, and they found a dead whale. And Neil and David Kittow climbed on the back of this jolly whale and the others drove off to take some photos of them. It wasn’t till they were left standing there that they realised there were sharks swimming in and out of this jolly thing. Well when they got home with the boat and were hosing it down, the smell was indescribable. And we had that in the back yard for about a week. Had a lot of fun with that boat.

You used to do a lot of cray fishing out there too, did you not?

Oh, no trouble getting pauas and crayfish. You only had to go up to your knees to get paua, set the pots and fill it up. I couldn’t even pull them up – Neil would send me off … “go and pull up the pots”, and I couldn’t lift them out, they were too heavy.

Is that not … just further round on the right hand side of the woolshed … is that a reserve now?

That’s where the reserve is now – the Te Angiangi Reserve is there now. ‘Course you’re not allowed to touch anything – you can pick things up and put them back again, but there’s not the sea life there that there used to be. And of course now they have so many people that come out and pinch everything. They’re pretty cunning … they know how to do it. They go into the Reserve in the middle of the night and take a lot of fish out. The fishing boats come down too – they come in quite close.

When we first got TV, and we didn’t have that until the boys were all at school round at Punawaitai – that was five miles we had to drive them round. And it was a sole charge school and there were only about fourteen, fifteen children there. We had an old Bedford van.

Another thing we did have – we had … in our early years of being married, we had a huge number of swaggers. And there was a path that they used to come up from Wellington – they’d come up the coast and they used to know where all the good houses were. The swagger in front of them would leave something on a post or somewhere, and they always knew where to look. And they would just appear at the kitchen window and hand up their billy, and they’d want a billy of tea and something to eat. Some of them would do work. Most of them were quite happy to take it off and go back down to the sand dunes. If night, old Jack Casey would take them down to the shearers quarters and set them up there for the night – always used to give them a clean white handkerchief. I don’t know why, it was just something that he did. We only ever had one really unpleasant one. Neil was away at the time. I grabbed the gun and put it in the cake cupboard ‘cause I really didn’t like the look of him, and then went and rang Andy Nation and said “I’ve got this swagger here. I’m not happy. I’ll bring him round when I go to get the children from school”. So Andy took him, and when he picked up the children that he took up to the top of the hill, he took him and set him on the way. But all the years that we had those swaggers that was the only unpleasant one.

And when did you leave Aramoana?

1993 I think. 1993. We’d been down in the gingerbread house, which was the polo stable, for a couple of years before we moved into my parents’ home just out of Waipawa. And we had ten years there, and then we came up here to Mary Doyle. Neil died five years ago so I’ve actually been here ten and a half years now.

One of the old residents. You’ll be chairman of the committee.

Done my time on the committee. [Chuckle] Loved it.

Time flies doesn’t it?

The older you get the faster it goes.

Oh, we had a lovely old couple in the cookhouse called Harry and Mrs Phee, and we used to call him ‘Ackie’. And he was a bit of a showman and he loved that pony that he rode. And if I rang up the cookhouse and said something was wrong, he’d be on that horse and up as fast as he could up the drive, throw the reins off the horse and say “bloody useless husband you’ve go, Missus”. [Chuckle] And he did annoy Mrs Phee, because he’d be down in the cowbale down there and he would run all the hot water off. And so she … one day when I was down there, she opened up the window and she tossed a whole basin full of cold water over his head and said “that’s what you’ve done with the hot water”. [Chuckle]

There were some real characters there. We had one man who had this beautiful car, a de facto wife and a small child that didn’t belong to him. And he never went out, and he never went to town, and the only thing he did occasionally … he’d go to the Patangata pub at night. Well he used to run the children round to school, and one day he got really annoyed with this stepchild of his and he threw it out of the van. And it was reported and the police came out, and when they came out they discovered this man had had this stolen car – he’d been with us for about eighteen months. I wondered why he’d never taken the car out. Anyway, he was off to prison so we didn’t see him much longer.

We had another eviction notice pinned on one of the shepherds’ homes, that it was time that he went. That was for something far worse. So some really interesting characters over the years.

Those were the days, all right.

Neil was away – we lost our big implement shed. And in the back of it it had the D2 and tractors and all the gear, and the only person on the station was a married couple up in the back cottage, and I was up in the homestead. It must have been about ‘87 I think, and they rang me up and said “the implement shed’s on fire”. I said “well, go down and put it out”, and they said “look out your kitchen window”. And you could see the flames for miles, so we rang the fire brigade. And of course we didn’t have any hoses … they wouldn’t fit anywhere. So we got … the Omakere Fire Brigade came, and we had to get water from the bridge, right down by the bridge in the creek. And we managed to save the cookhouse cottage, but the implement shed went. But the saddest thing was that we lost the anvil and the bellows – the huge great big bellows that hung on the wall. Everything went. Nothing left, so … and it was an electrical fault – nobody had set fire to it or anything. But it was amazing how the district found out in no time at all, and probably you’d see it as near as Waipawa. And within an hour of it happening all the neighbours in Omakere had all come down, and they’d brought beer, and biscuits, and cakes and things … it was amazing.

It’s amazing how people help each other out in the country areas.

They do. The telephone really was the hardest thing. And when we first got TV … we had an old draught horse, and the only way we could get TV is Neil would have to load the batteries up on the old draught horse, and then take it up to the top of the Ouepoto hill. He’d ride his horse and leave this one up there, and bring the old batteries back down again. It was a mammoth job to do that. The batteries had to go up so we could get television. Now you can even use your phones for emails out there. It’s amazing. So everything’s moved a long way.

I think Jim, really, that’s all I’ve got to say.

Judy, I think there’d be a lot more history in there of the McHardys and the Rathbones, and I thank you very much for that talk, I think you have given us a good insight. And I’ve got some books here – the booklet of George Forbes McHardy; the book of William Rathbone of Waipawa and a booklet of McHardy …

‘My Father, The Bagpiper’.

… and I’m sure we’ll get some history out of those books as well. And I thank you very much on behalf of the Hawke’s Bay Knowledge Bank – it’s very kind of you.

My pleasure. I’m sorry I didn’t put it together a bit better for you.

Thank you.

Original digital file


Additional information

Interviewer:  Jim Newbigin

Accession number


Do you know something about this record?

Please note we cannot verify the accuracy of any information posted by the community.

Supporters and sponsors

We sincerely thank the following businesses and organisations for their support.