Mackay, Bruce & Margaret Edith Interview

Today is 17th June 2019. I’m interviewing Bruce and Margaret Mackay of Wairoa, and also Elizabeth Tong, their daughter. Bruce would you like to tell us something about the life and times of your family.

Bruce: Yes. I’m Bruce Mackay. I have a sister, Margaret; there were only two of us in the family. My father, James Norman Mackay, was one of nine children and he actually took up land in 1929 at Waitangi Station. This was after his father had died and the land was split up by the boys.

Bruce, where was Waitangi Station?

Waitangi Station is ten miles south of Wairoa on the main road.

Is that before Waihua?

That’s correct, at the bottom of the Waihua hill.

And so your great-grandfather managed Putere?

That’s right – he was Murdoch Mackay; he went to Putere when he was nineteen and he managed for Murray Roberts. From there he went to work for Mr Chambers at Kiwi Station which is in the Wairoa area, and he managed there until …

Libby: Not sure of the date, Dad, at the moment; it’s in here – we’ll find it.

It was subdivided into many farms …

Bruce: Yes. It was subdivided into the farms for Alexander; for Murdoch Gordon; for James Norman in the Wairoa area …

Margaret: Selwyn?

Bruce: Selwyn, Robert Selwyn; and also for John Williamson; Jock Mackay of Waikari – he got Te Kara, which actually was land that his mother owned, and she was a Tait from Waikari.

It must have been a big station at that stage, when he was managing it?

Libby: Putere, are you talking about?

Bruce: Yes. And I had it down that I would have known, but actually, reading his diaries, some of the days from Putere he would go on horseback right through to Maungaharuru.


That’s going more towards the Tutira area, on that range that was there. And when he left and came to Kiwi he actually managed for Chambers; and when he took over the property in 1929, he bought from Chambers the land that the boys were settled on. And the only one that wasn’t settled of course, at the time, was Alec, that [who] was killed in the war.

Yes. So how big were those farms?

The farms would’ve roughly been round about … well they varied in sizes, but from eighteen hundred acres, twelve hundred acres, down to a thousand.

The Kiwi Station you referred to, does that have any relevance to the Kiwi Road?

Yes, it does; it is at the end of the Kiwi Road.

So things link everything up.

Yes. After that it was bought by Lane when Murdoch left there; and then I think, from there Mulcaster purchased it.

So then the farm was broken up. And your association with Mohaka was after that?

No – that was through … Elizabeth Sutherland was the one that came from Scotland, and they went to Petone. And from Petone they got a block of land, and they farmed at Mataikona near Castle Point; and she married James Tait … Elizabeth Sutherland married James Tait. They had four children. James Tait was bringing mail to Wairoa; he had over-indulged going home on his horse, and he was drowned just off Poututu Station. And so left her with four children, and the youngest was only nineteen days old.

So Elizabeth was … actually, this is at the time of the Hauhau uprising, and she had these four children that she had to care for. And she took them away in hiding to care for them until the Militia from Hawke’s Bay was coming through. And that’s when, no doubt, she was met by the Militia. And she, in the end married Mrs McKinnon’s brother, and Mrs McKinnon was from Aropaoanui, and she was a McIvor and had come from Scotland. And it was her brother that came to her at Aropaoanui and met Elizabeth with the four children, and they in time married. And they had another three sons …

Libby: Matu, Donald, Robbie.

Bruce: That’s right. Yes. And they were the McIvors, and they were the ones that … she must’ve bought the land, and they settled at Mohaka. And there was Ron [Robbie] and Matu and Donald; three boys.

Because the Bee family were there at that time …


and he was way up the Maungaharurus, and he told them that if anything happened – there was an impending assault by Te Kooti – he had a cave that they all went in. And that was the time that the sixty-seven were killed.

Libby: At Mohaka?

At Mohaka.

Bruce: Yes.

And another family …

The Lavins; that was 1869 when the Lavins were killed.

The Murphys had the hotel.

Yes, yeah.

It was shifted back from where it was at the river. It was interesting that no one else in Hawke’s Bay knew about [it]. By the time it became news it was not worth talking about.

Yes. That’s quite true, yes. Can I say before we just move on from that, that we as a family, and Mary Brownlie which [who] was Mary Tait, and her family – we gathered at Mohaka; we went across the Mohaka River, and we built a cairn there in memory of the Lavins.

Libby: Which is still there.

Bruce: And that cairn is still there – I’ve been back to it. And it’s built of Mohaka stone out [of] the river.

I’ve stepped right into history, haven’t I? Real history. So then after Putere was subdivided …

Libby: Kiwi. Kiwi was subdivided.

Bruce: Kiwi … subdivided for the boys.

Yes, that’s right. Did your father have one of those blocks?


And that was the block that you farmed …

That’s correct.

forever and a day, and you had the house with the scissor-clipped lawn and the beautiful gardens?

But that is where the history comes in again. My father went to the farm at Waitangi. It was originally called Te Matai, and the farm where Murdoch and the family were was Te Maire. And Dad always said that [the name] Te Matai was too close for mail, and so he changed the name of the farm to Waitangi which was the stream that ran down the centre of the farm to the Waihua River.

So you had both sides of the road then?

No. No.

Libby: Mainly the right-hand side of the road. Te Maire, Awaho and at that time, Te Matai, were on the right-hand side going to Napier.

Bruce: We were all on the right-hand side of the road, but the Te Maire house which was the one where Colin Gott and Mary live, and where they came from Kiwi to go to settle, and the family came round there; that was on the right-hand side by the creek.

So you had a sister?

Bruce: Yes, one sister.

You grew up from that house …

No – not Te Maire; from the Waitangi house. Actually there was no power – we didn’t have power there until I was eighteen years old. And we actually first started school at Wairoa Primary, and we were picked up by the Savers Taxis which took us into school. And there was [were] two other Mackay girls, and there were two McKinnon girls that lived down the road, so there were six of us that went to school. And then as the years went on we changed to a bus and we went to Turiroa School, and we were there at the time of the war. And there was a Miss Compton and a Mrs Tansey that were the schoolteachers there, and she was in the WAFS I think it was … the Women’s Auxiliary Force … a big heavy woman with a voice that matched it. [Chuckle] And at the back of the school and down the side the fathers had dug big trenches, and we used to have to go to those trenches when she blew the whistle and said that it was a raid or an air raid. And as kids we were quite petrified of this, and we had to lie in the trenches face down with our hands over our ears until she blew the whistle and gave the all clear for us to return back to school.

And so my father came to the stage where he was not happy with Miss Compton and her ideas and us, and he didn’t think that we were getting anything of a great education, so he decided to send us to Waihua School which was three mile further on over the Waihua hill; which was a Native [Māori] school with twenty-six pupils. And Miss Lomba, Moa Lomba, was the school teacher there at that time, and she married a Wickins who was the postmaster at Wairoa. And she used to come out to school on the bus in the morning that was going south, But actually, in that book you will notice we had no apples; we had no milk that was being to delivered to school in the morning; we had no power, and our smoko in the morning, especially in the winter, was a kerosene tin half filled with water on the steel stove; it was one room in the school and was heated and cocoa was made and we all went forward and dipped our pannikins into the bucket of cocoa and …

Libby: Kerosene bucket of cocoa! [Chuckles]

Prior to that, we were lined up – the twenty-six of us – and we had the teacher with a flagon of cod liver oil; and we were given a dessert spoon of cod liver oil every morning and it was by the same spoon. It was wiped with a piece of paper, and it was you, and you, and you; and that was our well being to keep us well and happy.

And you look it! Yes, so did you go to high school?

Yes, after leaving school. And we rode bikes over the hill, my sister and I, on a metal road; had some huge accidents in those days with the metal road. But we … actually, my sister left school and went to Napier Girls’ High, boarding, and I left school … secondary school … and went to Wellington College as a boarder. And that was our schooling. And then when I left school I came back to the farm, and there was never any thought that I would go to do anything else but to stay on the farm.

And so those days the farm would’ve been just beef and cattle?

That’s right. Beef and cattle, and lambs. And mainly we farmed … at that stage when I had left school, Dad farmed with us, and they [there] were big mobs of them on the country, And we had black cattle; bred the Angus, and they used to go off as three year old bullocks.

Libby: What about saying, Dad, about the American soldiers when they were here training?

Bruce: Now – thank you Lib – in the years that the Americans came and landed at Mahia, they were training … there were hundreds of them, thousands of them; and they actually all went to Tarawa [Republic of Kiribati] to fight the Japanese. And our father wouldn’t let us bike to school, because for two days and two nights on the metal road the trucks just went past incessantly. And we used to go and sit down at our cattle stop at the road and just spend ages down there, with not being at school, waving to the soldiers. And they would throw us chewing gum and candy and anything that they had that they could fire out onto the road. And I’ve never forgotten that, because I always think, ‘I wonder how many of those mothers and fathers lost those boys that went to Tarawa’, and in many instances we may’ve been the last that had seen them out in an area.

Libby: Did you also used to go through the railway tunnel to school?

Bruce: No, we didn’t go to school …

Libby: No, no – when you were going to school?

Bruce: Well no, no – we used to go through the tunnel because the tunnel … the Waihua Tunnel … was just adjacent to the Waitangi house. And if any of my mates and that came we used to grab those push me/pull you jiggers, and get on the jigger and go right the way up through the tunnel and on the railway line, and then come back home again. [Chuckle] Yes.

Libby: You didn’t know when the trains were coming. [Chuckle]

So what about sport at school – did you play rugby or anything?

Bruce: Rugby at school … didn’t play a lot because in the days when I was at Waihua School we had no playgrounds; there was nothing that was there … and a lot of tennis, a lot of swimming; and also I learned the bagpipes.

Did you? And do you still play them?

[Chuckle] I’ve got them there but I – no, can’t do it now. I learnt the chanter from a boy, Thompson, who was a day boy; and I used to meet him at lunchtimes and he was teaching me the chanter for the bagpipes.

And did you ever march in a band?

Down there? No. No. Because I had left, and I came back to Wairoa. But we certainly had a band in Wairoa, and kilts and everything, we were all rigged out.

Libby: So there’s actually a display at the Wairoa Museum regarding the Wairoa Highland Pipe Band.

It’s been disbanded, has it?

Yes, many years ago.

Bruce: Yes, it’s been disbanded. Yes, everybody’s gone, and … yes.

Yes. So when you came back you then started to work on the farm?

I did.

And became a farmer?

Yes. Yes.

Did you have any other interests?

Well, at that time it was difficult just after the war, and with the petrol rationing and that sort of thing, and the way it was going – and I didn’t have a vehicle. And the petrol was precious, and so it was one of those things that we could never do.

Libby: Dad, just talking about not having a car – when you did get … you bought that truck.

Bruce: Yes, yes; so the old truck, and that sort of thing …

Libby: And then – yes. You were selling it or something, and Nana ended up giving you a loan. What’s that about?

Bruce: Yes. Well I had to get a loan off my mother, because I’d seen this truck that I wanted to buy. But I’d had one that was pretty old and I tried to do it up; and Acme Motors were in Wairoa, and they had a garage. And I drove this old Capital Chev [Chevrolet] into Acme Motors that [which] was buying and selling at that time. And I pulled it into the side and the guy was watching me as I was driving in; and I said, “I’ve brought the truck in – I wonder if you’re interested, because I’m looking to sell it.” And with that the truck lurched and it went into the drain and the front wheel fell off, [chuckle] and he just said, without even a smile on his face, “Take it away, I’m not even interested.” [Chuckle] So that was the end of the Capital Chev, and that did go to the knacker’s yard.

So what was the truck you bought to replace it?

A National – that was the Capital Chev; I bought the National Chev, and that was [a] 1928 model.

Libby: Is that the one Nana gave you the money for?

Bruce: Yes, and I had to go to my mother and ask if she’d give me a loan so I …

How much would that truck have cost those days?

£130. [Chuckle] It certainly was 1928; it wasn’t new, but it was … yes.

It was new to you.


Where did you meet Margaret?

I’ve known Margaret since she was six years old. [Chuckle] Actually, her mother and my aunt, Gladys Mackay that was … Gladys Spence … were very great friends. And my aunt had a boarding house at Morere called ‘Sunny Ray’, and Marg used to go up there with them. And of course Gladdie Spence, being a Mackay, was my father’s sister, so she was my auntie as well. And Marg would be there, and that’s how we came to meet and know one another; and Marg would’ve been six or seven, and I would’ve been … oh, about eight or nine at that stage.

Margaret: Mind you, I used to hate him because he used to call me ‘Fatty’. [Laughter] I’d go home and Dad’d say, “Oh – good time?” “Yes, but that Bruce Mackay was there and he calls me ‘Fatty’.” [Chuckles]

Oh dear. And so it was a long courtship then?

Oh, well it sort-of has been, yes. Yes.

Bruce: Yes, well we’ve known one another – Marg had been to Aussie and back – and I would say it was one of those things that [was] meant to happen.

Margaret: Sixty-two [years] coming up in November.

Bruce: Sixty-two years.

So in a place like Wairoa … socialising as a young couple?

Margaret: Very much so. Our house at Waiputa was … well it was open to everybody; anyone and everybody.

There were country dances no doubt?

Bruce: Yes.

Every little area had a hall …

It was mostly tennis parties really, that we sort-of had. And when the kids were away at school – Lib and Meg went to Iona, and Jamie was at Lindisfarne – but we’d have the tennis parties, and everybody’d bring lunch, or we’d supply the lunch and have a real day of it.

Libby: And also a lot of community involvement with our rural school; huge amount of family involvement with that.

Margaret: And Bruce, you started your rugby when you were eighteen or nineteen.

Bruce: Yes, yes, that’s right.

Margaret: When he got the new truck. [Chuckles] And that truck, I think it sort-of – didn’t you say it sort-of went up all the back roads with the pipe band on the back, or the footballers on the back? One or the other.

So eventually you took the farm over from your father – what age were you, and what age did he retire at, Bruce?

Bruce: I was thirty-six, was it? When I took it over?

Margaret: Might be a bit later?

Bruce: Yeah. Thirty-eight, and dad died when he was eighty-two, and he would’ve been …

Margaret: You’d just come back from Canada. [To Libby]

Libby: ‘78.

Margaret: ‘78, ‘79 when he died … 1979 [1978].

And so how big was the farm when you took it over?

Bruce: Fourteen hundred and seventy-eight acres.

Did you ever know Sam Stone?

Oh! Yes, [of] course I did. Yes, the great horseman.

We had the Bola Storm; and we drove down and we saw all the slips going down the Waihua Valley … the hills; just wouldn’t believe that it would ever grow over again.

We never, ever had a fence standing; we were just completely wiped out. Yes. We had … not the Piper; what’s the other big plane that used to be the ? The single engine … anyway, sowing the seed and that – the Beaver. But it never really came away well, and it never … we got grass growing I suppose, over time, but it took an awful long time for the country to respond and to come back again. It was just a huge hiding. It was one of those occasions that when you got up in the morning and you saw it, you just couldn’t believe it. You couldn’t believe it!

Now, Margaret’s going to tell us about her side of the family and her school days …

Margaret: Hello, I’m Margaret, and I’m the daughter of Sid Gillies and Annie Riddell, and I was born at the port [Ahuriri] and lived there until I married Bruce and came through to Wairoa to live.

Growing up, I can’t really remember very much. We lived next door to Mum’s parents, we rented their extra house. Nana was one of those – she was a Miss Fabian, and Grandad was born at the port; but once we were through the gate that went between our two houses you were safe, because Nana said no child was ever wrong. [Chuckle] Yes, so that was my start off in pre school days. Well, I went to the Port School, and it wasn’t a big school at that stage, I think there was only two of us in my class; Ken Piri was the other boy. And from there I went on to Napier Intermediate which hadn’t been opened that terribly long; had two years there and loved it, and then went to Napier Girls’ High School in – 1948 I started. And that of course was the year of the polio epidemic, and the first six weeks we had … what do you call that? Home service learning at home?

Libby: Correspondence.

Margaret: Correspondence. Yes, so that was my start at Napier Girls’ High School and went into Three Special; I don’t really know coming from the port why I was called [put] in Three Special, but it was just a name; I think there were about a dozen Commercial girls, and the rest were Professional. And I had four wonderful years there at Napier Girls’, we seemed to just gel, and we just all had the same thing; we all were good at sports … when I say, took part in every sport that was going at school, and we had four years there – I did.

Bruce: You were the Sports Captain at Napier Girls’ High.

Margaret: Oh yes, I was [chuckle] … I was the Games Captain at Girls’ High in my fourth year, and a prefect, and loved every moment of my year. I remember at the end of my fourth year I cried because I had to leave school. Dad said I could go back and Mum said she was sick of wearing mended stockings, so Margaret had to go and get a job so … which I did. And I went and had the appointment with Wood, Sorrell & Dobson, Solicitors in town; and anyhow, that was for four thirty or quarter to five or something, and we had cricket practice that day; [chuckle] and Margaret decided that she left it a bit late to get herself tidied up and run down Shakespeare Road and go for my interview. Anyhow I got the job, and I stayed there until I married Bruce in 1957.

Now there’s something you’ve missed out telling us – the school you met this boy at …


Libby: They met at Morere.

Margaret: Yes. Mum used to take me up to Gladdie Spence’s at Morere, right from … oh, what? Before I was even five we used to go.

Right, so it was Morere?

Bruce: That’s when I mentioned that it was Gladdie Spence, and she was my father’s sister; she was Gladdie Mackay.

[Of] course, that’s right.

Margaret: And I think I went up right until about my second or third year at high school and I went up for my six weeks’ holiday every Christmas … I used to have Christmas. And I came to the Mackays for Christmas dinner – Colin Mackay, so Marys – not so much your people, ‘cause you had all your [?Rowlings?] there. [Chuckle] Yes, that’s just … sort-of the way; and six weeks; she had the boarding house, and I used to come up on the railcar.

So where was the boarding house?

They shifted it, because the road went through, just before …

Bruce: Do you know Possum Bend? Interrupting …

Yes, I do.

Well there’s an old home there on Possum Bend, and that was the house that Gladdie owned, but it was up on the hill.

Further up, and they shifted it down?

Yes. And they brought it down to the flat.

Margaret: When they put the road through. Well she had, didn’t she … what was it, a Chev [Chevrolet] car? Three-seater?

Bruce: Three-seater Chev, yeah.

Margaret: And whenever we went anywhere, came to town to Wairoa or whatever, if there was a crowd of us, [the] kids’d all be in the boot with the …

Dicky seat?

No, not …

Bruce: No dicky seat; the back held up by battens, [chuckles] and you all had to sit in the back with blankets over you on the dusty roads. You wouldn’t even get away with it now, no way.

Margaret: And while I was – I think I must’ve been about three or four or five or something, that we used to go away with Gladdie for holidays; and my place was across the back window. It was [chuckle] Gladdie driving, Mum in the passenger side, and Molly, Gladdie’s daughter, was in the middle ‘cause she was older than me. And I lay across the back until I got too [chuckle] big to do that. [Chuckles]

Did you ever go to Mahia for holidays?

Margaret: No. I didn’t.

Bruce: Not at that time, but we did go at Morere, and we were there – would you know the Taits? Mary and Gordon Tait, that lived across the river on the swing bridge?

That’s probably where I’ve heard the name Tait mentioned.

Yeah, well they were part of the Taits from Waikari, and he purchased land up there at – what’s the big hill at Morere?

Libby: Bartletts?

Bruce: No, the Māori hill. It’s the big one with the limestone and all the rest of it that’s down there. Well anyway, that’s where his farm ran off and it ran right out to the Nuhaka River Road. [Possibly Moumoukai]

Bruce: What did I say?

Libby: No, it wasn’t the Whareratas. It was at Nuhaka.

Margaret: But Gladdie’s house was on the hill. It was something that I’ll always remember – we’d come home from somewhere, and she’d let one of the kids out at the corner, because it was a terrible corner, wasn’t it? And she’d park over here and you’d have to run across the road and open the gate so she could … and then you’d say, you know, “It’s all clear”, and she would drive in, and she’d go just through the gate slowly. And you went up a hill like this to her car shed, which was manuka?

Bruce: Mmm.

… sides and back, and over the end of the back was that cliff …

Bruce: Yes.

… so you had to close the gate, [chuckle] run like hell to follow her up the road, if she was going up the hill to the car shed. And she had a block of wood; and she sat with her foot on the brake until you put the block of wood behind the car. [Chuckle] And at the end of that car shed was this bluff, so that if she went too far, she was a goner.

Bruce: My job whilst I was there – we collected firewood and all that sort of thing. I used to have to get up in the morning and milk the cow, and I used to have to wear Gladdie’s old sack apron because the cow wouldn’t know you if you were there; and I would milk the cow in the old sack apron; get the wood in to light the fire, which … she was a great one on lighting the fire; and empty … I was the night cart man; go in the neighbour’s [chuckle] place, take the shovel, dig the hole and bury everything. And it was just over Gladdie’s fence, so [chuckle] he had all of that in his paddock. Whether he knew it or not, I don’t know.

Margaret: But the guests had a flush toilet. But all us kids … whoever was staying there … she always had oodles of kids there, didn’t she? But we all had jobs. And it was during the war I can remember, you always had to do something, even if you only had to walk all the way round to the Morere Store to see if the mail was there … if there was any mail, or if she wanted a half pound of butter, you had to do it and on your way back you could have a swim, but not until you’d been to the store. Imagine going all that way, walking, for just that small whatever. But you had to do it. But we all learned to swim in the Morere Baths, or I did anyway.

Bruce: Yes, we all did.

Libby: But we spent a lot of time at Mahia because Mum had a bach out there.

Margaret: I was left a house – my grandparents … Dad’s parents, or Dad’s mother – left me a house at Westshore. Dad had the life rent of it; and she died, I think when I was about twelve or thirteen. And anyhow, we sold it and bought this place at Mahia. And I think it was just after decimal currency came in, ‘cause we got $3,200 and something for the Westshore place, and we paid … or was it the other way round … more for Westshore, about $2,500 more for the Westshore place than here … than we bought at Mahia. But it was just an old … somebody from Hastings owned it; he was a returned serviceman, wasn’t he?

Bruce: He was from the Clive Hotel, and he had one leg; can always remember that. He had one leg and he was at the Clive Hotel.

Libby: But those were in the days where, you know, there was only … ooh, how many [chuckle] baches out there?

It was just a little seaside village.

And it was fabulous, you know, it was right.

Margaret: We had that for about forty-four years, didn’t we? And Meg and Riley had gone – left Wairoa – and Lib and Wayne had the yacht and they used to go to the lake. And anyhow, it was sort-of really of no use; Bruce always thought he was the gardener. Every time he went out there he had to mow the lawns, and the lawnmower wouldn’t start, or something’d go wrong.

Well, we need to talk about your children now …

Margaret: Do you want the truth?

and grandchildren. Yes, I do.

I’ve got a brother, Campbell, who lives in Taradale … Campbell Gillies, and he is with Marg Wheatley at the moment, and they’ve been together for quite a few years. And Dad always said [chuckle] that – I was born five years after they were married – and he always said I was their love child; and Campbell was born six years later during the war, and he was the war effort.

I’ve interviewed Basil Wheatley.

Basil was Marg’s husband. [Laughter] I bet you’re in a mess.

No. In fact d’you know, this is the most exciting thing I’ve done. Do you know why? It’s about people.

Bruce: Yes.

Because we never stop to talk about our yesterdays.

Libby: No, you don’t.

Margaret: Yes, well Dad was born at Westshore, and his father was Duncan Gillies, and they were Scots of course. And he married Maggie Nicholson, and she at one stage I think, was the postmistress at Westshore, I think. And Grandad Gillies had Piper & Co, [Company] which were sailmakers and whatnot … canvas people and whatnot there at the port. And Piper & Co’s still going, though well and truly not in the family, but we just wish … sometimes we go past and see Piper & Co, and wish we still had it.

I know.

… had our names on it.

Specially where it is.

But yes, that was virtually them. I didn’t ever know Grandad Gillies, but Nana Gillies I knew; and yes, I think I was about fourteen or something when Nana died … Nana Gillies died. And Dad had … Neil Gillies was a brother, the eldest brother; Ava – Aunty Sue Kirkham from Eskdale was a sister; and Rona Mackay, Bruce’s auntie and my auntie, [chuckle] is a sister, and Ian – he was the youngest brother. But Ian died of asthma, just sort-of … during the war or after the war? Yes, I can’t remember now. But that was Dad’s family. And Nana was a terrific Scot and spoke Gaelic fluently; and as Dad said when all the family were together there was no English to be spoken, it was only Gaelic at the table. And Uncle Neil, when he started at Westshore School I don’t think he could speak English very well, because he was the oldest boy, and he was the one [chuckles] that had to learn the Gaelic.

And I know at one stage the Education Board were going to close the Westshore School and send them over to the port, which they did at one stage. And Mum’s father was the chairman of the Port School at that stage, and of course the Westshore School was closed; and Nana Gillies went to the meeting and dressed everybody down in Gaelic, [chuckles] and stamped her feet, as she could do when she became very agitated. [Chuckles] Anyhow – yes, and I know it was quite a thing with the Riddells and the Gillies, you know, that the Westshore School was closed and they had to go all the way over to the Port School. [Chuckles] But no, it was good days growing up at the port.

And you mentioned sailing?

Yes, Dad … they were terrific sailors, all had boats, built their own boats. And Sunday they weren’t allowed to hammer a nail, or do anything with their boats while the church was going at the back, which I think they might’ve given the land for, I’m not sure; there’s a Memorial Church. But yes, they owned quite a bit of land at Westshore ‘cause the Riddells of course had land at the port, and Grandad had – how many brothers? Had eight brothers I think, and one sister.

And your own family?

I had Libby [Elizabeth] and Meg and Jamie; and Libby had two children, Kate and Daniel. Kate’s married to Tim Wright and they have two children, a girl and a boy, our great-grandchildren in Christchurch; and Daniel is over in Perth, and he’s an engineer over in Perth, and I don’t think he’ll ever come back here to New Zealand will he, Lib?

Libby: I don’t think so, no.

Margaret: Anyhow, that’s the way of the world these days. And Jamie has Callum and Lachie … Lachlan … we call him Lachie of course, and he’s in Wairoa still. Callum works in Hastings – he’s a landscape gardener and he’s down there; he’s twenty-five and Lachie’s twenty-three. And … yes, and that’s our family.

Libby: Meg.

Margaret: Megs … [of] course, Meg. [Chuckles] Meg’s son Alec’s over in Perth as well, and he’s an engineer; and I don’t think he’ll come back because he’s just bought a house there over in Perth. And Annie Brown is in Waipuk. [Waipukurau] She’s the …

Well spread around, except for you.

Libby: Well … well no, Jamie’s still here. Even though the family farm has gone now – he sold it – he’s retained the old house with some acres around it, so he’s still out at Waihua.

Are you going to just tell us something about your ..?

As in just growing up or ..? Right.

Yes. ‘Cause we’ve heard the older history.

Oh, school days and that; well, I can remember when Dad was playing rugby for Athletic, and we had an old green Cortina station wagon. And I can distinctly remember being out at Mahia – must’ve been playing rugby against Mahia or something – and we had a hangi; there was a hangi put down for us all. [Chuckle] And there was always a group of us – like, the fathers were playing rugby and the kids were all playing and running around and everything like that – and we used to be put on a big mattress in the back of the car and would go to sleep while Dad and Mum were with everybody else, [chuckle] and living it up, and all of us kids were in …

But that was normal …

Margaret: Oh, it was! Yes.

… we had one in our car.


They thought this was quite normal.

Libby: Yeah, yeah. But yeah, ‘cause we were involved with the rugby; obviously remember the tennis parties at home, you know; lots of community sort-of gatherings for different occasions. The school we were at was Turiroa, and it was only a small country school when we were there; and we used just to do all sorts of things really – you know, fundraising for trips, and all sorts of things. But it was just like one big family, everybody was all involved, and helped, and volunteered.

Oh – actually, Mum and Dad, you’ll have to tell about the night – was it the night I was born or something? And the rugby team was up at Ruakituri, or something?

Margaret: Oh, yes!

Libby: What was that?

Margaret: Oh, that was dreadful. The Annexe here, or the Home here in Wairoa, as they called it – just across the road actually; it used to be where the college is. And visiting time had gone, and these had all gone up to play rugby at Ruakaturi. And well after closing time at the Annexe, the bus pulls up and they all come in to the Home; [chuckle] and we knew the matron, didn’t we? And she shot them [chuckle] out of the place smartly – all as full as can be; silly as chooks. And in they came to see us mothers to [?] of their babies. [Chuckle]

Bruce: But that was interesting talking about rugby in the country; that was cold. We played uphill because that was the field; we all washed in the creek which was absolutely frozen; they stripped the battens off the fence and lit a huge big fire in the middle of the road. We had a galvanised bucket with a tin pannikin, and the galvanised bucket went round and you dipped in and had your beer out of it, and you passed the bucket and the pannikin to the next man. It came out of a keg, but you can imagine the tin pannikin and that, and … well; and then of course I’m off to the Home here, afterwards.

Margaret: Well you had, what, sixty-odd years tied up with Athletic, and you’ve only just retired from being patron after forty-something years.

Libby: And that was it too, you know, the rugby and the tie-up with the football club; and it was just all those …

Margaret: Our kids were all brought up at the football club there.

Libby: Yeah, we were. But many of the locals as such were brought up doing that. Like, as a family we all went to the rugby, and here, there and everywhere.

Margaret: Well I think Cliff King played for Athletic, didn’t he?

Bruce: Yes, he did … played for our team. But Lib, you went to Iona for four years.

Libby: Oh yes. Yep, yep, that’s right, I was at Iona for four years, and I actually got a Rotary Scholarship to go to Canada as an exchange student, so I was over there when I was seventeen.

Was that through our Club?

No, through the Wairoa Club. And I was seventeen when I went over there; came back and Wayne, my husband and I … local boy … were married and … yeah; had our business and home here, and ten acres of land, and … Children were brought up here, Kate and Daniel, and went to Turiroa School as well, so we’re sort-of like, third generation through this small school which has since closed in the Labour government’s great big reshuffle, and closing small rural schools.

Okay – so sporting wise?

Oh, no! I’m a great armchair critic of any sport.

Oh, that’s good – there’s quite a few teams of those around the country …

[Laughter] Yes, so I enjoy that. Oh, when I was at Iona I played tennis and swam, but no, nothing sort-of since that. So that’s me.

Jean Ide what relation is she to you?

Bruce: Jean is my first cousin, and Marg’s first cousin.

Margaret: That’s Rona and Selwyn …

Bruce: Because she’s Rona and Selwyn’s daughter, and of course Selwyn is Dad’s brother.

Margaret: And Rona’s my aunty.

Bruce: And Rona’s Marg’s aunty. [Laughter] Yeah …

Oh, no, no – you’re scrambling my mind! [Laughter]

Margaret: And I usually say … ‘cause they look and wonder what’s going on; and I just say, “Well they’re actually, you know … they’ve got the same aunty and uncle in common, so figure that one out.”

Well at Stoneycroft they had these maps, and we got talking; and initially I said, “Oh yes, I know a Mackay up that road”; but it was Ross Mackay.

Bruce: Oh yeah.

Margaret: He’s related too.

Bruce: He’s my cousin. [Laughter]

Margaret: Your second cousin.

Libby: ‘Scuse …

He was the head prefect at Napier Boys’ when I was there …

Bruce: Was he?

He met the Queen.

Go on! Yeah?

His claim to fame.

Margaret: We met the Queen when she opened the branch – the Wairoa branch …

That would’ve been in ’53.

Margaret: Yes.

Bruce: Did you know Bill Clark? Went to Napier Boys’ High?

Margaret: No, he was ahead of me. You’re only … eighty-three? I’m eighty-four.

Bruce: Yeah. Oh well …

No, he’d left obviously. For them to all of a sudden … [talking about Ross Mackay]

Margaret: She’s a great one.



Libby: Mmm.

Margaret: Well getting back to my [??], I was Teacher’s Aide at Turiroa School three times, because I was closest to the school as mothers. And I think I only got … it was two hours a week or something or other. And anyhow, I got three going away presents.

Did you?

[Chuckles] When I retired each time I got a present. [Chuckle] The third present, I think I [was] starting to play golf, and I was playing it just about every day of the week when I could. And Buck was a great … Bruce’s father … was a great golfer, and he’d take me over to – the house that we’d be in, they had to shoot across the gully to the dam, and he was coaching me. And I know one of the people out there said, “Don’t for God’s sake let him teach you to putt”, because he had the oddest way of putting, didn’t he? He stood sideways and … yes. [Chuckle] But anyhow, that’s where I sort-of used to do my long hits.

Now Lib, you didn’t say what you did?

Libby: I work as a special needs teacher, and I’ve been working at Kids House, our community childcare centre, for probably about thirty years, working with children with special needs. And I also have a child I support at another centre in town called Lighthouse Kids. So I used to work full time, but I’m just now down to three days a week, which is just the way I like it.

That’s great. Now, we were talking about the valley and all the trees. Have you been to Rotorua in the last two or three years and seen [the] conversion of those pine trees back to the most beautiful farmlands?

Bruce: No, I haven’t.

Libby: Stunning! It’s all been converted into dairy farms. It’s incredible! Incredible.

Just thousands of acres – just amazing. And we will see these farms come again.

Bruce: Oh, it must, surely to goodness! Yes. If they’ve all been re-stumped [de-stumped] and everything, well they’re back into production, aren’t they?

That’s right, so all is not lost. Now, have you thought of anything you’ve forgotten to tell me?

Margaret: Find some more rellies? [Chuckle]

I’ll bring the stud book back. [Laughter] But you’re involved with the museum, aren’t you?

Margaret: Mmm.

Bruce: Yes.

I’d like to come back and have a look with someone that’s familiar with it.

Oh, do that, yes. I’ll arrange that with Mike, who is our curator, and we’ll go.

I think you’ve retired from all your other posts?

Yes. Yes.

Margaret: Only just …

Bruce: I’ve only just retired after forty-three years of being the patron of the Athletic Rugby Football Club.

Libby: ‘Scuse me – what about your time on the Hospital Board?

Bruce: Yes, I had nine years on the Hospital Board; I had Wairoa when it had its Hospital Board, and had three of those years on Hawke’s Bay with Sir Edwin Bate, Sir Hallam Dowling; Bert Lee was the Secretary at that time; Dr Jim Grimoldby was the Medical Super [Superintendent], and – yes, I could name the rest if I went through them. But I thoroughly enjoyed that period of time, but I gave it away because Colin had died. And he was at Waiputa, which is at the old home, and I had Waitangi as well; and I took over part of Waiputa and so I knew that there was no opportunity of me to be going to the Hospital Board meetings. So I retired, but I thoroughly enjoyed that and so did Marg. We were nine years on there, and I was with Nimon, and I was also with … oh …

Was that Joe Nimon or John Nimon?

He was the one that … did they have the buses?

Yes; well they both … Joe was the father, and John had Roadair Transport, and the buses.

Did he?

Joe would’ve been older than you, I think.

Yes. Yeah he was when I was there, and also …

Margaret: Mrs Jeffares …

Bruce: Yeah, Mrs Jeffares was on, and …

Margaret: Pam Coburn …

Bruce: Pam Coburn, she was on …

Margaret: I was a bridesmaid for her. [Chuckle]

Bruce: Yeah, Marg was the bridesmaid for them when they were married, yes.

Margaret: And Jo Coburn – I was a bridesmaid for her too. [Chuckle] If you see these people please remember me to them, because I don’t write letters any more.

I retired at seventy-seven and I took this up. But it’s wonderful, you know – where would I ever have the option of sitting down with three nice people …

Libby: Who you could be actually related to after all this. [Chuckles]

If I come back I should bring my stud book.


Bruce: Yes. But fancy! You’re the brother of …

No, my half-brother; Sam …


was my half-brother.

I see.

Margaret: Was he the one we were talking about the other day?

Bruce: Yeah.

Margaret: Remember, that horse?

Bruce: Yeah, he’s Pat’s father; Pat Cooper’s father, and they lived down from Graham.

Margaret: Oh for goodness’ sake!

So almost related.

Yes. Pat was hard, wasn’t he? Remember when he was one of the agents? And you had all your three-year-old bullocks in the yard – you’d just left school? Bruce: Yes. [Chuckle]

Margaret: Oh, you tell the story, you don’t need to mention names.

Bruce: Anyway, Dad was selling these three-year-old bullocks; and all of these things you took in mind – they were like a learning curve. And Dad said, “Bring the bullocks in, Bruce; bring the cattle. Don’t jam them in the yard, just bring them in.” And so I did. And I brought them in, and the chap that was there – he was a Bousefield from Gisborne, and he was Ron Redmond’s father-in-law; and he was the stock agent. And Ron Redmond had the farm over the hill.

Libby: Yeah, Fernleigh.

Bruce: And he just said, “These cattle are not the cattle that were quoted to me.” He said, “I don’t think that these cattle are as good as what I’ve been told.” Barney Williams was our agent that [who] was selling them; he tried to talk him into taking them, and then they started to get down to a price. And of course you didn’t do that with my father, because when his mind was made up it was made up. He said, “Open the gate, Bruce, and let the cattle out.” Anyway, I said, “Oh – are you going to let them go?” He said, “Yes please; just open the gate and let the cattle out.” And he turned round and he said, “Well gentlemen, I have brought you here”, he said, “to look at these cattle and to purchase them.” He said, “I have not brought you here to criticise them and to say what they are. You can come to the house – I will give you a drink of tea, but we will not mention the cattle again.” So that was okay, they came. “Oh, Buck”, said Barney, “just a minute!” And he said, “No, come and have a cup of tea.” Do you know, they rang Dad that night to say they’d take the cattle, and he wouldn’t sell them. [Chuckle] They did; they did. They rang him and they said, “Buck, we’ve been talking about it – we want to take these cattle. We’ll make arrangements with trucking and all the rest of it.” And he said, “No – they don’t leave the property.”

Good on him. Did you know Mason Horne?

Margaret: Yes.

Bruce: Here we go again. Mason Horne’s daughter is our daughter-in-law.

Libby & Bruce together: Yes, she’s married to Jamie.

Mason Horne … oh! Extraordinary …

Margaret: Yeah, he was, wasn’t he?

Bruce: Wasn’t he? Yep.

Libby: And my husband used to go up there and do digger work at Rotongaio, up at Putere; and oh, the thing was, you know, Mason used to tell him he worked too long – he was working past the G&T [gin and tonic] hour. And Wayne would stay in the quarters up there, but he’d always have to go across to the house and have a drink with [chuckle] … with Mason. But he reckons, oooh! He had some bad nights. [Chuckle]

Bruce: You know it’s on the market again? Yeah, Rotongaio, yep. The guy and his wife have parted, and it’s on the market again.

Did you ever fish?

Margaret: No, we didn’t, no.

You never went to the lake?


Bruce: No. Marg hated it.

Margaret: I hated the lake. Not for me.

Bruce: No. We did plenty of surf fishing at the Waihua beach – we were forever down there, taking lunches and going down on Sun[day] …

Margaret: What did you catch one day? Snapper?

Bruce: Fifty-two. Fifty-two snapper.

Off the beach?

Off the beach. Yeah. And the Māoris’d come down, and they’d say, “Oh, gee, Bruce, had a good day!” And [I’d] say, “Yes – away you go, help yourself – take what you want.” If we’d go down and go fishing and they’d had a good day, “Go and help yourself, take what you want.”

They were different days.


Okay, look I think this is important for Hawke’s Bay, so thank you for doing it; and thanks for the contribution you’ve made in this little corner of the woods, because you haven’t been sitting on your hands, have you?‘

Libby: Definitely not.


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Interviewer:  Frank Cooper


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