Leonora McCormack Interview

I’m interviewing my cousin, Leonora McCormack, and the date today is the 17th of January 2018. She’ll tell you about herself.

Leonora McCormack, born Leonora Menzies. We lived at my father’s farm at Te Kuha on the Anaroa Road at Raukawa. I was the youngest of six children. It was the second marriage for my father but my mother’s only child, formerly Laura Harding. We lived at Te Kuha – I went to school at the old Raukawa Primary School. The problem was getting there, there were only three houses on the Anaroa Road at that stage, and I was too young to ride a horse which was the only means of getting there, so when I was six I was put on the road in the morning about eight o’clock and told to walk to school three miles away. And I’d get there eventually and then walk home again. If I was lucky … if I got a ride for about a mile up the road to the corner, and then I walked the rest of the way and got home again sometime. [Chuckle] It was dreadful I think now. There were no other people on …

Did you have to carry a school bag and everything? And your raincoat?

Oh yes. But then, when I got a bit older – I was about seven I suppose – and my father decided perhaps I was able to ride a horse, Rosie. And if I had occasion to fall off, which I did quite regularly, she was so big I had to walk ‘til I got to a fence or a gate or something, climb up and then climb onto her – I couldn’t get on from the ground. [Chuckle] That lasted a few years, then I had a pony called Coco – that was all right, and then progressed from there ‘til I was twelve, when I went off to boarding school at Woodford House in Havelock North for five years.

But in my childhood of course there was the 1931 Hawke’s Bay earthquake, after which we lived in the sun porch at Te Kuha and my mother cooked over open fire just outside. That went on for a while. And there were … oh, gosh … various other disasters shall I say, minor disasters probably. However, we …

But in the sun porch did you have beds and that? Or what did you do? Did you pull them out of the house itself?

I suppose so. I was a bit young, I just remember Mum cooking over an open fire, yes, and chimneys down and everything down.

And were you still going to school?

Oh yes, oh yes. I would have been six … seven, 1931.

We had a lot of fun. New Year’s Day we went to my uncle’s, Robert Harding’s, at Raukawa, and [it] was Aunt Nora’s birthday so we had a picnic under one of the copper beech trees and then ended up the afternoon having a fancy dress. And I remember one year my Mother went as Guy Fawkes and Uncle Fred Hall went as a chimney sweep and pushed around on a cart. And … oh no, we had a lot of fun with [in] those days.

We always went to Hautapu – my Aunt Mary and Uncle Jack Lyons’s – we went there on Christmas Day and went to Raukawa on New Year’s Day. Raukawa was very much part of our lives. Sadly it’s gone out of the family now, but that’s inevitable at times.

How long did the family own it?

Oh, I think they went – the Hardings, Uncle Robert … well my mother and Uncle Robert … went down in 1908 or something like that, and it wasn’t sold. Oh golly … no, I couldn’t give you a date when it was sold – that was my cousin, Derece Cornes sold it eventually, because it was left … she had five of a family and it was left to them all I think, and …

They decided to sell it?


Was it a big property? As big a property perhaps as Caledonia or anywhere like that, or would it be smaller?

Gosh, off the top of my head, two thousand acres, but that’s just pie in the sky. But no, they sold off bits of it. There were two blocks went for rehab … returned men after the War – after the second War, and

So that would be in the 1940s?


And where did that family move to? Did they move into town?

Oh, well Derece was an only daughter, and she married and they lived in Hastings. And her family, five of a family, lived in Hastings and they weren’t really interested – they had a manager on under the Guardian Trust ‘til … I think it was for Derece’s life and then it was to revert to the children, but she thought it was better to wind it up while she was around.

So would she have been your closest cousin?

Yes. Well she was two years younger than me, but well, there were no other young around the area actually and we only lived two miles apart, so naturally we turned to each other. We were very close friends.

And would you go fishing and things like that on the farm?

Oh no.

Or swimming?

Oh, we used to swim in the creek, yes. There was a creek ran round the sort of base of the Te Kuha Hill, and … oh no, many a time I went and had a swim in there. I never went eeling. We used to catch fresh water crayfish and – little ones – and I’d take a billy and a few bits of wood and go down and catch the crayfish and boil them up and …

Eat them.

[Chuckle] Yes. I don’t know that I’ve seen a freshwater crayfish for years.

Did you have lots of rabbits there too?

We had an old rabbiter that used to come round … I don’t know, I suppose about every six months … old Jack Lambert, known as Bunny Lambert. He was a character in himself. And I think – well my father, coming from Southland originally was very rabbit conscious, and he wouldn’t see a rabbit on the place, you know. It was something instilled into him as a …

So what was your father’s full name?

Oh – Stephen Menzies, and he had come up from the South Island … came to Makotuku in 1908 and then four years later, 1912, came to Te Kuha.

Did he have any family down south still, or did they all come up here?

No, he was the only one that moved north. He was one of what, seven or eight or something, but he was the only one that moved north.

And would he do most of the farming himself, or did he have shearers coming in?

Oh yes, we had a gang of shearers used to come from Pakipaki and they came for years – the Hapes. And we always had a married couple on the place as well.

And a gardener and a cowman?

Oh no. No, no, no, no. [Chuckle] Dad milked the cow and my mother and I did the garden among other things.

And did you do salting beans and all that sort of thing? Preserving and bottling and everything?

Oh yes, yes. It was part of life, just a ritual in life. [Speaking together]

And with raspberry canes and things like that in the garden? Strawberries?

Yes originally, but they they sort of got left by the side, because when my brothers were settled, shall I say, on their farms, my father said “right – I’m going to have a launch”. So we had a launch built and that was kept at Tauranga and we were away quite a lot, as he got older.

Did you have a holiday home to go and stay in?

Yes we did, at Tauranga.

That would have been away from the farm and a different life again?

Yes, he was boat mad and he liked to get on the sea. I still love getting on the sea now.

And would you go yachting as well, or just a motor boat?

Motor boat, yes – no, I never did any yachting.

Or water skiing?


And so college – when you were at Woodford did you enjoy boarding there?

I can’t say whether I enjoyed it or didn’t enjoy it because it was something I knew I had to do, you see. There were no buses or anything in those days, so I either had to board in Hastings, go on correspondence, or go to …

Boarding school.

Yes. So it was just something that I’d always been taught I had to do.

How did you get home from boarding school? Did they come and get you in a car?

Oh yes.

Was it a car in those early days?

1937 – yes. I was there from 1937 to ’41, and Mother used to come and see me when she could. But of course … I remember one stage she was coming and didn’t turn up, and she said to me “you know, I couldn’t come that day because petrol’s gone up to 1/6d [one shilling and sixpence] a gallon and” … she said “we just simply couldn’t afford it”. Yeah – one and six a gallon.

And in those days did you get a boarding allowance for country children?

I wouldn’t know. I doubt it. I never heard of anything like that.

‘Cause in the 1950s my father got a boarding allowance for me because we lived out in the country.

It was £50 a term because it had never been put up since the Depression. So we got … my generation got through. £50 a term – £150 a year. $300.

When you work it out like that it was very little wasn’t it?

It was.

And were the meals adequate there?

Oh yes. We always growled about it, but then you always do growl.

And did you have midnight feasts?

I personally was never involved in one but I think there were some that went on. Well we weren’t allowed any sweets or anything like that. Oh no, they were very strict, we couldn’t have sweets or any fancy … At one stage, as a sort of compensation for us I suppose, we were allowed to get some sweets on a Sunday and I think there were about eight in a packet, and that had to last us ‘til the following week. [Chuckle]

And you wouldn’t have had Coca Cola or anything like that?

Oh no, no, no, no, no.

Did you make your own ginger beer though, or anything like that?

No. No.

And were you writing on exercise books at that stage?

Oh yes.

And were you taught art and cooking and sewing as well at that stage?

Art and sewing, no cooking. That came in afterwards. Derece’s generation struck that.

So that would be quite soon after you.

Yes. I just missed that by a … sort of … couple of years.

And your boarding uniform – was it similar to what they have today?

No, we had gym frocks, and grey coats and skirts. And Liberty frocks for the evening. And one shipment of Liberty was bombed during the War, we didn’t get it. And then some of them came – I remember there was … one of my friends had two or three different designs of Liberty on her dress, and she always called it her coat of many colours. ‘Cause every scrap had to be used. So Pat always called it her coat of many colours.

Did you have drama and things like that, or music?

There were, yes.

And did you win any prizes?


For sports or anything.

No. I’m afraid having come from the old Raukawa School, I was never sort of groomed for sport shall I say, because we were on the side of a hill – there was no flat land. The only sport we ever had at Raukawa was rounders. [Chuckle]

And skipping, I’m sure you had skipping?

Oh yes, yes, we had …

How many at the Raukawa School? Can you remember at all?

I think when I left there were fifteen. But when I first went there were about eight or nine. I went to keep it going actually. I had to … my mother didn’t want me to go for another six months or something, but I had to be there for so many half days a week. I wasn’t a very strong child and she really didn’t want me to go, but to keep it open I had to. ‘Course about forty years later it closed, but never mind.

Forty years later – oh, that’s not too bad.

Well ever since it started it was always on the borderline, but eventually they did close, and they go to Maraekakaho now.

So was it on the same road to go out to Maraekakaho?

Oh, go past the Hastings Aerodrome and go through Bridge Pa and turn to the left – go up into the hills there.

So you were quite a way from town?

Oh, well we were seventeen miles, yes. That was quite a way in those days – metal road, no tarseal and no electricity until 1948 … 49. We had lamps … kerosene lamps.

Kerosene fridge?

No we had no fridge. In the end we had a fridge that was run by a motor. And then the generator was always … the batteries were always going wrong. We had a power plant put in.

You would have had batteries for your telephone too?

Oh yes. I remember the original telephone – I can see my mother now. It had two glass jars in it; she’d open the front and it had two glass jars and she’d stir them up and put something in – I don’t know what it was she put in. There were eight on the party line, and then the Crawfords used to maintain the private lines from the Hastings Exchange.

So to phone would you lift the receiver ring a little bit and somebody would answer and you’d tell them the number you wanted?

You lift the receiver and say “Working?” And if anybody was on it they’d say “Yes”, and so you put it down. And I remember when somebody from town came onto the line … married and came into the area … and one of her friends said to her “don’t forget to ring off when you’ve finished”. [Chuckle] ‘Cause she’d been used to a line of her own you see, so once we’d initiated people to ring off, it did help. And it was sort of an unwritten rule – the men had it in the evening and the women had it in the daytime. So that was how we functioned, shall I say.

I’ll investigate that about the glass jars.

Yes. Mum used to stir … it had something in it – poker sort of thing in it – and she used to stir it and then go and top it up with something.

I’ll find out – might’ve been acid, you see.

Something … and then afterwards there were dry batteries that were plugged in.

That you got afterwards?


So it would have been before the dry batteries?

It would’ve been … yeah, when I … oh, it would’ve been in the early thirties, I’m going back. No, I can see … there were two glass jars in there and she sort of stirred. ‘Course I was too young to investigate it all.

Did you have radio at all?

No we didn’t have a radio until 1935 … ‘36. Oh no, more than that – about ’38 before we had a radio.

When you came to town did everybody come to town – Mum, Dad and you?

Oh yes. It was the understood thing – Wednesday was sale day and you went to town. Dad went to the sale and Mum took the car into town and did her shopping. Sometimes we went on a Saturday morning.

And did you get mailbags sent out?

No, we had a box in town.

So you wouldn’t catch up with the news of the World – only once a week on the Wednesday?

Oh we got a newspaper. The Hawke’s Bay Tribune in those days.

And was that delivered to the gate, or two miles down the road?

Good question. I think probably – here I’m a little hazy on it – but I think probably somebody picked it up on their way home from school. [Speaking together] Or probably it was the day before’s. And then the Tribune car used to come up the road, and then they decided, being a back run, they would charge us to bring it up, and so in the end we had to subsidise the carrier to bring it up the blind … it was a back track with nothing … so a blind road you see, we had to subsidise. I don’t know what they did now – it’s fifty years since I left, so …

You haven’t been back out there for a while then? [Chuckle]

Well I haven’t had any dealings with it for a while. I don’t know, I guess they do still …

Did you mother go to the Women’s Institute at all?

There was no Women’s Institute. We had a Women’s Division – that started about 1948 … ‘49 – Women’s Division of Federated Farmers. That was a good thing in the district, and that was the catalyst that got the hall built at Raukawa, because we got tired of going into other people’s houses and things, and we threatened to build something ourselves and put it on skids, but that started the ball rolling to fund raise for a hall.

And did they build it close to the school?

Well … oh, it was a bit more than walking distance. Yes, it would have been a mile away.

That’s a shame, ’cause the school could’ve used that, couldn’t they?

Oh the school did use it, yes. [Clock chimes] But no, we had a lot of fun raising the money for the hall. The women of the district got busy and decided they were having a jumble sale at Bridge Pa – we raised £134 and we thought it was gold. [Chuckle]

Well you would ‘cos that would just about pay for the building of it wouldn’t it?

No, the timber was all donated. One of our neighbours, Swinburne Kelly, donated the timber. Uncle Robert Harding donated the land and Swinburne donated the timber.

And what about the plumbing and electrics.

That was paid for – we had to … they went round and got donations for it all.

But that’s the way you got started, was it?

Yes. And that started with badminton and bowls, indoor bowls.

And did it have long drop toilet or proper toilet?

No, no – we had a proper toilet and – oh no, we thought we were home and hosed.

And was their a Golf Club there?


‘Cause a lot of those districts had their own golf links.

No, we had nothing like that. It was good – it was in used pretty well every night of the week. I was secretary for a while. And it was just for local – we didn’t let it for outside functions shall I say – and it was in business most nights of the week.

But now, you see … once the road became tar sealed and it was easier for people to get to town, they got more competition. The district went to town because it was so much easier, and they got better competition for things. Oh no, we had a very strong badminton team there for a while. They used to go all over the place. And the indoor bowls was pretty strong too I think.

So the whole district was starting to come alive. So did you go back home when you finished at College? What happened then?

Oh I left school, and that was during the Japanese part of the War and I was told “you’re coming home to help me run the farm”. And that was what I did.

And no choice in the matter?

No, no. As long as I could remember, I was told “no – you’re coming home to run the farm”.

So you’d do most of it on horseback?


Or tractors?

No, no, it was just horses.

And a horse and gig, or a horse and cart, or a sledge?

Yes, it was a sledge. No, we didn’t – it was just done on horseback. It was a hilly farm.

You’d have to check the water in each paddock?

We had a very good water supply. It was natural, it was gravity fed and came through two miles of piping, but it was very hard – I think it had twenty-five per cent of hardness or something.

Very hard on washing the clothes.

Oh, it was terrible. Washing your hands even, it really was. Eventually … oh, years later … we put in a water softener and that made it a lot better.  No, no – it was very hard. But there was a good supply. You could run the hoses night and day not have to worry about it.

And did you still come to town on sale day on the Wednesdays?

Mmm, Stortford Lodge.

And would you help with the buying or selling?

Oh no, father kept his finger on it. I used to go with him to the sales and things – I think I was a bit before my time, because people raised their eyebrows when I arrived at the sale, but Dad insisted so …

And did you go to country dances or things like that?

Not really, no.

And library – would reading be one of your main occupations if you weren’t out on the farm?

Oh I don’t know it was an occupation. I had plenty of things to do.

Well you’d be doing sewing?

Sewing, yes, sewing and gardening and yes.

Oh, the gardening would have taken a lot of time?


I wanted something that you had for recreation.

I don’t know that there was much recreation. [Chuckle]

Well how did you meet your husband?

Playing badminton.

And what was he doing at that stage? I’ve forgotten his name.

Tom. He worked on the Waiterenui Stud, and he lived in the District and worked for John MacFarlane at Waiterenui with his stud cattle.

And then you decided to get married. Did you have kitchen teas and things?

Oh, heavens no. No. We’d struck Mr Nordmeyer’s black Budget when my father died, so I’m afraid there was no …

No frivolity.

There certainly wasn’t – no. It was very hard on my Mother – she was penalised with the finance.

‘Cause what year was that?

1959. It was just too late for Dad to do anything to fix it. He thought he had things right, but …

He hadn’t.

No. Not when that came in, and that was only six months and he was beyond thinking about it.

So then were you running the farm more or less?

Now – well I can’t say I ever ran … no, at one stage he’d leased some of it to one of my brothers and that eased the burden shall I say – we just had a hundred and fifty acres to look after but he decided rather than sell it he’d lease it, so that gave …

And what year did you and Tom get married then?

1961. He’d got a ballot farm … Returned Services ballot farm at Patoka. And I knocked off work to carry bricks I think.

I think you did too. And what about Mum? [Cough] When that happened did she still stay out there at the farm?

Yes she did, and I used to employ help to keep an eye on her, but that didn’t work for too long. The helps got too lonely out in the country, so I had to find the money to buy a place for her. I got one at Bay View which was a bit nearer to me too, and the help seemed to stay better at a beach, where they had company.

And when did she die then, your mother?

’64 … ‘65 – I couldn’t tell you.

‘Cause Dad died in ’67 and so Mum still kept on going out to different farms looking after the households while the families were away. But your Mother wouldn’t have done that?

Oh no, no, no – she was beyond it. No I had to have someone with her. Actually she was about six weeks on her own at one stage and she loved it and I think it did her good. You see she had to remember.

Had to remember to do things. If she found she was hungry she had to cook a meal?

Yes. I think in her own heart she enjoyed that six weeks. Well, let’s face it – rather than have someone you weren’t entirely compatible with – it would.

Did she still go to Women’s Division?

No, she was never really a taker, shall I say. She didn’t like that sort of thing. I seemed to revel in it, but she – no she was a member but she never took any part in anything.

Meanwhile you and Tom were raising children?

No, we had no family unfortunately.

Did you take in social welfare children?

Well, we didn’t have much time. We were on a pretty strict budget – £8 a week. We had to stick to that under the Rehab auspices … State Advances. They were very good, they used to come round and do a budget for us twice a year.

Now I’m interested in that because I’ve never heard of that before.

Oh. Well when you had a Rehab loan I suppose one would term it, they put you on a budget and allocated you so much money for farm expenses, petrol. I think our petrol allowance was £45 a year. Yes, you’d hardly get filled up for that now. I think that was right. And we had an allowance for electricity and farm stores, stock, hay. £8 a week for food that was mandatory, nobody got any more. Mmm. Whether you had ten children or none, you still only got £8 a week.

What about when you had to go to the doctor or anything like that, did you get extra for that?

We could – if it was a big thing we could. They told us that if there was any big thing yes, they would pay for it, but we never applied for that.

So you would make your own butter?

No we didn’t milk a cow on the farm. Tom had left school and gone out milking for his neighbour for five shillings a week, and he vowed then if he ever got a farm he would never milk a cow. [Chuckle] I used to pick up the milk when I went to town and then later on we had a paper car came every night and we used to get milk on that.

What about chooks?

Oh yes, I liked my chooks.

And a pig?

Yes, we had a pig.

To fatten for Christmas? Could you go fishing?

No, there was …

Not close enough to the beach for that.

No. No. No, we used to … sometimes the fishing boats’d come in, we’d buy a bundle of fish, but no, we didn’t do any personal


No. Oh no, that Rehab Scheme was very good. It trained us. And you know …

So how long did you stay with the Rehab Scheme?

We were three years on budget. Some of them were five.

There’s two farms out from Masterton that were under that scheme but I never knew anything about how it worked.

No – it was good. It taught us to sort of budget everything. See that you could do it, and allow for your tax and all those things. I remember the … when we went up there we were just in an old fencer’s whare, sort of thing we were in – and the stove was terrible. If I turned on an element for the oven it just shot up to 500 without … And if Tom would come in and say “come to the yards I want you to draft some sheep”, or something, I’d always have to turn everything off before I could leave the house. I was terrified to leave. So at the end – it must have been at the end of the second year – the farm appraiser, Eric Tansey, said “now I think it’s time you had something, Leonora”. And he said “what would you want in particular?” And I said “a new stove”. He said “well that’s one thing I can’t give you.” He said “there’s a State Advances rule – as long as the stove goes it can’t be replaced”. Because you see with the State houses if Mrs Jones got one …

They’d all have to have one.

Yes, so that was their rule, so he thought very hard, and he said “I’ll give you £200 bonus and you can do what you like”. Oh, where that £200 went was absolutely incredible. [Chuckle] It was our money but you know … and I got my new stove and I got two or three other things as well. It was that stove really worried me.

Did you have a copper to boil your clothes?

No, [speaking together] we had the copper taken out. No, we had a washing machine. It’s one thing I insisted on before when we went up there.

And how long did you stay there before you moved again?

We were in that old house for ten years, and then by that time we’d stockpiled timber, and … Tom had gradually, you know, stock piled timber from the farm and that sort of thing and then we built – I thought I was home and hosed. [Chuckle]

So you helped build the house too?

Well I suppose indirectly I did.

Well did you do any painting?

Oh yes. Yes.

Do the sewing for the curtains and things like that?

Yes – did a lot of the … yes.

So you contributed to the house considerably, probably. And where was that – still on the farm?

Oh yes … yes. We were there for what – thirty-six years or something. So then old age caught up and we came to town.

Did you love it coming to town and being close to things, or did you wish you were back on the farm?

Oh glory! Well … yes, I think I – well, having a back section and quiet one and a big section I don’t … I really didn’t feel we were in town.

‘Cause you still had trees around and quietness?

Yes. Yes. There was no one looking over our shoulders or anything.

So you and Tom, how long were you married?

Just on forty-two years.

Then he died, did he?

Mmm – got cancer and that was it. I’m still here, much to my amazement and everybody else’s I think.

You’re ninety-three now – have you outlived most of your contemporaries?

Yes. I’ve got one or two in their nineties, but a lot of them seemed to have departed this life.

And any cousins who are of a similar age or anything?

I’ve got one of my Menzies cousins, she’s in the … oh, in the home in Wellington. She’ll be a hundred in June or July or something.

Oh you might get to a hundred then too.

But no, the strange part is that my father was the last of his generation and this cousin, Paddy Bassett, dubbed him the sole survivor and now it’s a race out of us. Well Dad was eighty-four and everybody thought he was [a] terrific age but now, that was quite young.

Yes, how do you find life now when you can still get out and about? And you can still drive your car?


And do you read a lot?

I’ve got trouble with cataracts at the moment, I don’t read like I used to.

Are you going to get those cataracts done?

Oh yes, I hope so. Yes. No no, no – it’s something that’s on the agenda.

So, overall for your life, you’ve really enjoyed life, although its been hard work?

Well I hope I’ve enjoyed it, and I hope I’ve fulfilled whatever purpose I was put on earth for, I suppose. [Chuckle] You know, you can only do as you see fit. People tell me I’ve helped them a lot … a lot of children have come to me and said “you’ve help me through different things”.

Now we’ve got these photograph albums. The Knowledge Bank have already taken copies of the family photos, and if you’ve got any more you will get in touch with the Knowledge Bank. 

I don’t think there are any more that would be …

Interested in it.  

Yes. They’re probably to modern. No, they had five albums, so I don’t know what they picked out of them, I’ve got no idea.

Well it will be interesting to see what goes online.   

Well I won’t know, ‘cause I haven’t got a line.

Oh, but I’ll make sure you see it.  

So it will be interesting.

Do you use a cellphone?  

Yes. I have a cellphone in the car for safety.

And have you an iPad or anything like that?


How do you view the modern technology?

Well, hearing a talkback this morning and somebody complaining because they had no cellphone coverage and they wanted to alter a booking or something, and I thought ‘it’s our own fault that life’s going so fast because we have no patience to wait to get to something to alter it. We just want to do it there and then. No, I’ve coped so far without these – perhaps if I was confined to a wheelchair or something I might look at it differently, but at the moment I can cope the way I’m coping. I’m a bit afraid of computers and things. I think they’re a bit dangerous – they know too much.

[Chuckle]  Okay, we’ll leave it at that shall we?

Thank you.

Original digital file


Additional information

Interviewer:  Erica Tenquist

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