McGaffin, Margaret Anne (Peg) Interview

Today is the 4th June 2015. I’m interviewing Mrs Peg McGaffin formerly of Elsthorpe now of Havelock North.  Tell me about your life from where your parents came from, grandparents, so forth.

I grew up in the Sherenden district. I was a Dysart before marriage. There were a family of 5 of us. My father came out from Northern Ireland when he was a small child and went to Mahora School.  And the interesting part is that now my granddaughter is teaching at Mahora School [chuckle] so it ties it up that that’s going on.

But anyway, I rode a pony to school. It was 2 ½ miles to the Sherenden School and I did that right up to when I went off to High School and boarded at Napier Girls’ High.  Then I went to Training College in Wellington, came back and I taught at several local schools. Then I met my husband, Bill McGaffin – William McGaffin – and I married and I went to Elsthorpe.

Now if you start, and go back to where Bill’s people came from.

Bill’s father came from Northern Ireland and his mother came from way down south, Goodwood I think it was called. His grandfather had come out from Scotland so we’ve got quite a Celtic history, haven’t we?  [Chuckle]  Quite a Celtic history there.

And anyway he was the youngest of eight children so his family were all a lot older than he was. He had a brother that was twenty one when he was born.  His father was a roading contractor with horses and scoops, building roads in Hawke’s Bay.

You must like to develop that a little bit.

Oh, yes, well he built the causeway – I don’t know whether it’s called the causeway – out from Napier to Westshore and he did a lot of building on the Taupo Road. He had a team of I believe sixteen teams of four horses and he lived in Tollemache Road and he grew all their oats for their chaff and feed, and that all had to be harvested. And he had teams of men that had come out from – a lot of them had come out from Northern Ireland.  I think they had to have a job to come to to get their passage assisted to come to New Zealand, and so they came and they worked for him. Most of them ended up with farms which were … Government lease are they?

I don’t know what they were originally but they bought most of them.  Yes, yes, that’s right.

They did end up buying them but they went into them with Government lease, so they didn’t have to have money to go into their farm all together but most of them had the right to buy them and they ended up buying them.  That was about the main part of his family.

And Bill, my husband, when he first started working, was a contractor until he took over the family farm which he had to buy from the family.

This was at Elsthorpe.

Yes, at Elsthorpe.  They went there in 1922 or ’23 – about then.

What was the farm like those days. Was it all broken, or ..?

It was fairly open but it had a lot of kanuka-ry stuff on it – quite big kanuka-ry stuff, not the little wispy stuff.  And it has got a natural creek that goes right through it which was a blessing in lots of ways.

And apart from that I’ve had a very mundane life.

Well, you might think that but let’s go back a step or two. What was it like growing up in Sherenden?

Oh, growing up in Sherenden was great. It was through the war and we had all this rationing. I don’t think I ever wore shoes unless I went to town. I had to wear shoes if I went to town.  And Mother said she’d find us sitting with our feet in the gutter to cool them down and took our shoes off [chuckle] because our feet were sore with the shoes. Gutters in Hastings then were flowing all the time so we’d sit with our feet in the gutters. I don’t think she was very impressed.

And – horses play ..?

Oh yes, we had horses all the time ’cause I rode a pony to school.  We still ploughed with horses and we still had a dray that we used to cart things round and the horse pulled.  Because during the war you didn’t get tractors – there were tractors but they were … mainly contractors got them.  So the horses were a big part of our life as children. When you tell someone you’ve ridden horses for seventy-odd years they don’t believe you.

And so, you know – growing up at Sherenden I suppose the Sherenden Hall would be a centre for a lot of functions?

Oh, the Sherenden Hall was a great centre of everything, and now it’s almost redundant.

Is the Sherenden School still going?

Yeah, the Sherenden School’s still going. It amalgamated with other schools. It’s got Crownthorpe people, it’s got … the Otamauri people have all come down, and I don’t think it’s very big at the moment.  I know some of the … two of the boys have come down to Twyford because they were the only boys in the upper part of the school.

It’s amazing, you know, with the change of farming practises and less people working on the farms how it all changed didn’t it?

It’s all changed, and a lot of the wives are working too and they come into town or whatever to work, and – you know, it’s an entirely different life style.

Did you play any sports when you were younger?

Yes, I did play quite a lot. I was good at sport at school, very good. I was on the school cricket team [chuckle] because we played cricket at Sherenden, and a lot of the town girls didn’t play cricket. I’ve been talking to some New Zealand cricket boys lately and they were astounded to think that we had ladies’ cricket in Hawke’s Bay that far back, because we played Hastings High School as it was in those days, not Girls’ High. We played Woodford and we played Iona in cricket – which is astounding to think, that far back, that we had our cricket going and the New Zealand cricket boys were really quite interested in that. I met a few of them at my niece’s wedding – she married one of them.  I said “I played cricket at school”, and they looked at me as if I was … [chuckle]   And I was in the netball team at school … tennis team.  So I did play a lot of sport.  Mind you, boarding – your sport was … I found it quite a relief to get out of the hostel to play sport.  And I found at Napier Girls’ that everywhere you went was concrete. There was very little grass, and to get onto grass was quite something. It’s really quite an eye opener for a country girl to go into a school where everything is concrete.

So you’d be in the hostel at Napier Girls’ when the earthquake ..?

No, it was after the earthquake.  I was born just after the earthquake. My mother wasn’t even home at the earthquake time. She had taken her two daughters down south to visit her mother and my father was there on his own.

One of the highlights of the year would be going to the A&P Show?

Oh, the A&P Show – yes, we always did, and we always had to have a new dress and hat and whatever … new outfits and take all our own food and …

Would you meet other family members at a certain place?

We did to a certain degree but I rode horses at the Shows. I was always doing … in the horse events.  We rode our horse down from Sherenden. Rode one and led two, one on either side, to go to the Show.  And I stayed with the Doreens that were out at what is Flaxmere now.

Yes he was a golfer later on – one of them was.

Yes, John was.  So I did used to ride in the Shows.  Can’t believe it now can you?

Well no. I was interviewing some ladies yesterday and they were showing me some photos of them sitting down for the picnic with all their hats on and all their lovely frocks – this is at the A&P Show.   And I always remember my mother and sisters getting all these dresses down.

It didn’t stop with us at the Show though, because I even dressed my daughters as little things.  They’d have things right for the Show.  It’s amazing how things change over the years isn’t it?

So then we’ll go back to the farm and Bill.  So the farm was about – yes, you said it was at the start of Valley Road.  It had quite a lot of flats. 

Yes, flats in the front.

What did you run on the ..?

We ran sheep and cattle.  We bred our own cattle – with the McGaffins you had to of course.  Angus cattle.  So we had cows and calves and weaners, and …

You wouldn’t grow any crops?

No, we didn’t grow crops as crops, but Bill did plough the paddocks up and put them back in new grass. He did have a small crop for the lambs, because they would put them in the crop first.  They’d put it in choumolier or rape – choumolier for a while, and then they’d plough it down back into grass.

While you were there obviously the centre point for the community was Elsthorpe or Patangata?

No, it was Elsthorpe. The hall and the school were all together and the church – all together – and a lot of the things were down to Kairakau. A lot of social stuff went on down there. We always had our school picnics down there and things like that. When you’ve got a local beach as they called it, you do use it.

Oh, absolutely.  Well a lot of the families that had beach houses down there for a long time, haven’t they?  A lot of them have been shifted.

Yes, and they all got taken away.  It’s actually quite a sad sort of thing. It’d be quite interesting to talk to somebody about that, because apparently they were on one side of the road and when they finished up they were actually on the – they moved themselves back but they were actually on what was a temporary road in the end. So that’s why they lost their right to be there.

I know I sold one of the Bibby houses that was down there and set a new price. Dick Brodie – would he have been in your area?

Yes, Dick Brodie was there.  Bill put in a lot of work for Dick Brodie. I mean, Dick was running – he was the manager of the Station down there.  Bill did a lot of contract work for him.

When Dick moved from up there down to Thompson Road, we lived two houses away from him.

Oh, did you?

Yes, so we got to know Dick and his lovely lady very well and the kids. Lorna. She’s still in the village isn’t she?

Yes she is.

So during the period at the farm you had some children.

Yes I had two daughters.

And so what do they do?

Oh, well my daughters … really interesting.  One’s a deputy principal of a school in Taradale and the other one is the main office girl at Te Mata School.

So you haven’t moved far from teaching.

No, I haven’t moved far from home, and my daughter that’s the teacher – her son … my son-in-law and her have bought the farm right opposite my home farm at Sherenden.  And that’s where we used to go rabbit shooting when we were children, my brothers and I used to go rabbit shooting always – the rabbits were so bad.  And my father was very strict about the use of guns. They were never ever to be carried loaded.

I think a lot of farm children grew up with a good respect of guns. They were taught.

They are – just feel they’re not taught today.   You hear about these kids shooting themselves, climbing through a fence with a loaded gun.   It’s so wrong.   I used to go with my brothers, ‘cause I had two older sisters and they were great mates, and then I had a brother, then me and then another brother.  So I used to go everywhere with the boys, so I was a bit of a tomboy.

There’s nothing wrong with that.  You get the enjoyment from both sides, don’t you?

Yes, well yes.   Unless I could do things as well as them I wasn’t allowed to go with them.

Now does a family member still have the farm?

Yes, a family member still has the farm, our farm.   Our farm – Bill and my farm – we’ve leased it.   At the moment it’s leased because I only had daughters.  I’ve got a son-in-law a builder,  and one that’s – he’s a farmer at Sherenden.    But he oversees it.  So I’ve got it leased at the moment, so …

How big was the farm?

Six hundred acres.

Because it’s good strong country isn’t it?

Yes, it is.

So what else can you tell me?   Have you been on a lot of trips?   Have you travelled around New Zealand?

Oh, I’ve been all – well my mother came from down the South Island, so I know a lot of the South Island because we’ve been down visiting relations.   A lot of them are around Pleasant Point area, and down in Otago.  She grew up in Otago, mother, she was a school teacher and she actually taught at Otamauri School which is just up from Sherenden.  That’s where she met my father.

It’s interesting going back because girls either became teachers or nurses.

Yes, they did.

And quite often the teachers met their spouses.   Because there was probably not much else for ladies to do those days.

My granddaughter that’s at Mahora, she’s the 4th generation of teachers in our family.

You said she’s deputy ..?

No, my daughter is the deputy principal in Taradale.   But my granddaughter is teaching at Mahora.

Yes I know the Deputy Principal who retired last year, Fran Flynn.  She was at Mahora for many years.

I just thought it was funny that my father should have gone to Mahora School and here she is teaching there.   He came out from Northern Ireland … the family came out, and they actually lived in the house that is part of J J O’Connor’s.   The house is still there.

Is it really?

Yes, that front old house that’s sitting there.

It’s interesting isn’t it, when you look back.   And so – do you play mahjong or chess?

I only play the fool.

Play the fool?  With ease [chuckle] or with great difficulty?!

When I get the chance.   No, I don’t play … I don’t go out much at all now.  I got very sick last year, and I haven’t been … my lungs have packed up a bit so I haven’t been out much.

And you said earlier that you still drive your car?  

Yes I still drive my car.

Which is wonderful isn’t it?

I have no trouble with driving.   And I like the open roads better than the town to drive in, having always driven more on the open road.  [Phone rings]

The Elsthorpe Sports have been going for many years, I’ve forgotten – it’d probably on their sports thing that you get each year.  But they’re still going and they’re usually the second weekend in January.   So they have a lot of FEI things now – they still have the local events for the local things, and they have dog trials and that sort of thing. But I think they’re … they’re having a bit of trouble getting entries now apparently, which a lot of them are.  But they’ve still kept going.  So that’s the Elsthorpe Sports.  The old hall isn’t getting used like it used to – it used to be used a lot.  They had … used to have badminton there and they’d play badminton, and they’d have a cards game going, and bowls going  at the same time.  But it was mainly badminton, and between your games you could go off and play these other things.  It was really quite an evening to go out to have your …

Whereabouts is the hall – right in the village?

Right in the village.   Up the side … as you go out there’s a road goes up called Kenderdine Road – well up Kenderdine Road is the hall and the church and then the school, all up that one road and you’d go past it without even seeing it.

Yes, ‘cause I’ve either come in from Patangata or come from Kahuranaki Road.  The other thing I was going to ask you – talking earlier about … there was a store there run by the McAuleys.

Oh yes, there was.

And then the cartage business was Nockalls.

Yes the cartage business was Nockalls.  They’re still doing a certain amount – I think they still do the paper run.  They used to do all the mail but that stopped  – not that long ago – be oh, I suppose, 10 years?  But I think they still do the paper.  They used to do milk and all that sort of thing.  But as I say they’re still doing the paper and they go down to the beach with the papers too, so that was the local things out there.

Have you been to the beach lately to see how … all the little new houses that are built?

Well, yes I have been to the beach.   My daughter and son-in-law have got a house at Mangakuri which is their local beach as well.  And so – not so much Kairakau – I sometimes go down for a drive just to have a look and then we go off to Mangakuri.   It had such a nasty … in that bad storm – when was that?  Not that long ago.

Three or four years?

It altered the beach completely.

Yes, it did.  Certainly did.

They had to make another waterway and all sorts of things.  But it was really quite astounding  – I’ve got photos of it where there’s a great big sand bar out to sea.

Now just one other thing – Ross Dysart & McLean.  The Dysart was your ..?

Ross Dysart & McLean – that was my uncle, and he was a JP for years and he sat on the bench all the time.

Always remember because my father bought a car from him, an old Oldsmobile Straight 8 1936 that he drove for probably the next thirty years.

We had an Oldsmobile too from him.  We had it all through the war.  It was the most modern car through the war I think.

We used to think it was a big car.  It had the spare tyres on either front mudguards.

Oh, I’m not quite sure how it was – I can’t remember that all together.

We used our horses a lot.  We used to have to unsaddle them and unbridal them when we got to school, and they had to be hang [hung] up properly.  And then we had to catch them in the school paddock afterwards and saddle them all up ourselves.   And I had this little Shetland pony called Brownie and he loved taking off under the trees so you couldn’t catch him.   He was as cunning as anything.   And of course when we got home our ponies were all saddled and we’d take off to find our father on the farm somewhere, and keep on riding. We rode the horses a lot so we really got into the way of riding at a very early age.  I was … I rode by myself, not doubling or anything,  to school when I was five.  And I had to catch my own pony and look after it completely although I had older sisters – they’d check that I was right but they wouldn’t do it for me.  So, I couldn’t see a five year old doing that today.

No, I couldn’t either.

By anyway, that’s how it happened.

And your father would obviously have a horse.

Yes my father had horses.  My father broke in horses, and I used to help my father because – he broke these horses in and I didn’t have any nerve whatsoever.  They used to talk about nervous riders – well I wasn’t nervous around horses and I’d be the first one he’d put on their back.  Because … well he had them very tame – he’d never let us near a horse that bucked or anything.  He got them very tame.   And then he’d lead me on the horse – on this one he was breaking in – he’d have it on lead and he’d be riding beside me leading this horse so it didn’t take off on us.  But I was usually the one that rode it because as I said I wasn’t scared.   ‘Cause the slightest bit scared … ‘cause horses pick up on it very easily.  That was our horse time, and wouldn’t have … don’t know how we would have managed without horses.

Original digital file


Non-commercial use

Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 New Zealand (CC BY-NC 3.0 NZ)

This work is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 New Zealand (CC BY-NC 3.0 NZ).


Commercial Use

Please contact us for information about using this material commercially.

Additional information

Interviewer:  Frank Cooper

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.