Pindar, Elizabeth Rose (Liz) Interview
Today is the 3rd May 2017. I’m interviewing Liz Pindar about her family in Hawke’s Bay and wherever else they may’ve been. Liz, would you like to tell us something about your family, please?
Well, my parents were both born in England, and so I’m really only a half-pie Kiwi – but I’m definitely a Kiwi because I was born right here in Hastings. My parents met by a lovely coincidence which is a really interesting romance story in itself. My father went to Durham School in Durham, which is one of the private schools, and it specifically takes boys from the local area and from Norway, and particularly people who are interested in agriculture. And my father started off on the Classics I think, but changed over to Modern in the second year there.
But he always had been interested in farming as one of our uncles had a farm, [traffic noise in background] and when he was at school he learned about the Farm Cadet Scheme, which was particularly based in Hawke’s Bay, as far as I understand. And the idea was that you learn farming from the basics upwards – you start off at the bottom and work up to be a manager or owning your own farm if you can get to that point. And he was interested, and so he came out to New Zealand in either 1928 or 1929 – I can’t think off-hand.
But the reason why I’m here is because the Matron at Durham School for his House, the Caffinites … which was his House … was my mother’s aunt, Bette … Elizabeth Higgins. She was Matron there, and when she found out that one of her boys was going to New Zealand, and to Hawke’s Bay, she gave her sister’s address (my mother’s mother) to my father and said, “Oh, if you’re over there and you want to get in touch with someone from home, they’re there.” And so Dad got in touch fairly soon, and after ten years or so married my mother, which I think is rather a nice story.
So my family come from The Midlands – from Northamptonshire and Durham, North Yorkshire, and possibly into Northumbria [Northumberland]. So I’ve got two pieces of British history mixed up in my mind, so I don’t know whether I’m Anglo-Saxon / Viking cross or something even worse – who knows? But that’s my background.
My mother’s side of the family, [the] Higginses, had been yeoman farmers in Northamptonshire, the north part of Buckinghamshire … but of course the locals call it ‘Buckmanshire’ … and over into … oh, golly! Worcester, I suppose it would be … some of them may’ve even been from Worcester. But they’d been there … oh, since Adam was a boy, or possibly even before. I know that one of my ancestors, who was a John Higgins, was Church Warden of one little place in Little … little village in north Buckinghamshire, which is right on the Northamptonshire border … in 1701. But we were in that area forever. They were long-term yeoman farmers … tenant farmers; I don’t think they ever owned farms, but they were long-term tenant farmers who inherited one from another, one from another, and so it was basically their land.
What does yeoman mean?
Good basic, salt-of-the-earth working farmers. The people who … not a grand farmer, not one who sits back and tells others to do the work, but a person who takes responsibility for his own work. I would say that would be the best …
One of my grandfathers on the Higgins’ side … sorry, my great-grandfathers … bred horses for hunting – beautiful hunters apparently. And one of my great aunts, Aunty Con, took over looking after a mare’s foal. The mare had died giving birth, and Great Grandfather said “Oh, the foal will die – don’t worry.” But Aunty Con said, “I’ll see if I can help it live.” And she did, and apparently that was quite unusual, for anybody to be able to rear a foal whose mother had died giving birth, but she did. And after that she apparently had a marvellous way with horses, and – although she was never paid for it, of course! You didn’t hire your daughter out to be help! She would be called on by other farmers in the district to help with their horses, so she must’ve been one of the original horse-whisperer types. So Aunty Con was a brilliant person with horses.
My great aunts were all very independent women, and I think I’ve got a bit of their bloody-mindedness, I think you’d probably call it, in my own makeup. But there were nine children in my grandmother’s family – eight girls and one boy. My grandmother was the only one who married and produced offspring, [background traffic noise, reduced] except for the uncle who married and produced one offspring. Unfortunately I’ve lost touch with them because the young ones don’t seem to want to try to keep in touch. Besides, he married ‘below himself’; he married a barmaid, [chuckle] which wasn’t The Thing. I gather she wasn’t much of a woman anyway.
But Aunty Ethel was the youngest, and she was a teacher – a very good teacher. And she wore glasses and she drove a car, and my other great aunts, when they met me, kept on saying, “You’re just like Aunty Et!” She died before I ever met her … she died in 1945. I have an idea she probably got pneumonia from underfeeding while she was trying to be a teacher.
And Aunty Vi, who was the next youngest, always said I was just like Aunty Et, which was really rather entertaining … just because I had glasses and drove a car. She also was the first one in our family who went out of England – on her own, an overseas holiday! She went to Switzerland and I have a little brooch that she brought back from there, which was some time in the 1930s … I don’t know when. But Aunty Vi married but didn’t ever have children. She married John, who was a chauffeur – or the driver I should say – to the Colonel who was in charge at … oh, darn! What’s the name of the place? The intelligence place – Brackley. [Bletchley (Park) – there is a market town called Brackley, also near the border but in Northamptonshire] And John was very good with birds. He knew every bird in the country, I think, and where they nested. And the Colonel … whoever the Colonel was at Brackley [Bletchley] – that’s the … you know, the intelligence place – he was fascinated by this and he loved birds. And quite often when the Colonel was being taken by John somewhere, he would say, “Oh, let’s go past that wood and stop for a minute.” And they’d stop there and look at birds and listen to birds. And I think that’s a lovely little sideline on the birds at Brackley. [Bletchley] And once they stopped in the evening and they heard a nightingale, and the Colonel was absolutely thrilled.
John didn’t tell his wife where he was working; he just said he was driving for the Army. I gather he went home most nights because it wasn’t far away. And he didn’t tell Aunty Vi that until 1986, I think it was – when I was over there on holiday, anyway. He said, “Oh – I’ll take you for a drive and show where I worked during the war.” Brackley [Bletchley] Park – for goodness’ sake! Aunty Vi said, “I never knew you were there!” I said, “John! For goodness’ sake!” You know? It was fascinating. [Chuckle]
That’s where they had the code-breaking system.
Yes, yes. So that was how well the secrets were kept.
That was Aunty Et, Aunty Vi, Aunty Con – she did office work with Barnados. I don’t know exactly what she did, but she had a house with another friend who also did office work for someone in the end, ‘cause I stayed with her at one stage. She was a country girl but she had to live in the flat and share, because she had to have a job.
Aunty Gert! Aunty Gert became a governess – a very good governess. She taught them not only their ABCs but also their Ps & Qs – she was very much on that line, very correct. She was very nice and she had a great sense of humour too. She mostly taught English to French children. She ended up by being in Egypt during the war as a French [English] governess to a French family based in Cairo, and she was one of the people who was in charge of organising the evacuation of women and children by ship to Kenya when it looked as if the German Army was going to get into Cairo. So she was obviously a very capable woman. She met Uncle Eric, who was a friend of the family – they’d lived next door to each other in England, and she was in her forties at that stage I think. Eric’s wife had just died, and left him with a little girl, and Eric asked her if she would look after the child. And she said, “I’m not looking after any child unless I’m married!” And he said, “Oh – will you marry me, please?” [Chuckle] He was a bit younger than she was, but they had a very happy life, and she danced at Hunt Balls when she was in her late eighties … I think eighty-nine … I have a photo of her dancing.
Probably kept her young.
Oh, I think so. [Chuckle] She was very nice … very particular, but very nice.
And then there was Aunty Bette, who was a nurse. She nursed in Belgium during the war … The War …The Great War. And one of the reasons why she got on so well with the boys at Durham School when she was Matron there was because she’d served in Flanders, and they all admired, you know. I’ve got a beautiful little embroidered handkerchief with ‘Ypres’ on the corner, and a brass shell case – 1916 was the date on the bottom of it – and that’s over with my cousins in Australia, if they haven’t lost it. But I never heard any more about it than that, except that I know she was over there.
And … Vi, Et, Gert, Con … oh heavens! I’m forgetting some of them. Aunty Emily, the eldest of the family, ended up by being … the housekeeper I suppose it would be, of a gentlemen’s club in London – I don’t know which club. About 1923 she was a housekeeper at some big hotel in London, and then she got this job at some gentlemen’s club, which I imagine made her a fairly capable woman. She was the eldest in the family, and she hadn’t had the … I mean obviously, the girls of the family didn’t go in for being trained for a job, but when you’re a skilled housekeeper I suppose you could do that.
My grandmother went as a governess. She had a horrible first place where she was governessing, where she was “allowed to eat with the family if there were no visitors. But you do realise, Miss Higgins, you do not take fresh fruit from the bowl!” [Quiet chuckle] But the gardener, who was a Scottish gardener, thought she was rather nice and always saved for her the best peaches from the glasshouse. [Chuckle] So she had some nice peaches anyway. [Chuckle]
Then she got a lovely job with Lady Salvesen, who was a Norwegian – they were a Norwegian family, but they were based in Edinburgh. And they went over to Norway, inland from Kristiansund, every summer, and they went up into Sætre, up in the hills, where they lived in a little wooden house and drank lots of milk. And that was where Granny was first introduced to sour milk as a … [?you drink it?] straight, with bilberries. She didn’t like it. And she had a lovely time with them, they were really nice people and they kept in touch … oh, well until the war, anyway – the Second World War … when mailing just got so hopeless.
And I’m sure I’ve missed out one of the aunts. But they were an interesting lot, and they were all capable women who stood on their own feet. Well, they had to. Because … I know one of them was engaged, twice … I think that was Aunty Emily, the eldest one … to a curate who died, because the curates had apparently such a rotten way of living, with very little pay and expected to do all the meek jobs, and they tended to die of pleurisy or things.
And then she got engaged again. And he came up to the window one day; all [the] aunts looked very alike. And he was a very shy young man, and he had a little box of chocolates, and saw the girls sitting there and he said, “Here you are!” And went off again, quietly. And he gave it to the wrong sister, [quiet chuckle] which is a lovely story, I thought. But he died too, before they were married. But these two paintings [shows paintings] my grandfather did for Aunt Emily’s wedding present, but of course as Aunt Emily never married, the paintings stayed with Granny. But I think that’s rather nice, that those two paintings were painted for her sister’s wedding present.
And Uncle Peter joined the Army of course, in the First World War; got pneumonia when he was on Salisbury Plains; developed a very bad chest and was invalided out. So he always had a weak chest. But in 1923 he was going to come to New Zealand “by the next ship,” he said, as he saw off the family from Southampton. Promised them he’d come by next ship, but he went and married – Flora? Dora? Flossie? Something like that – the barmaid. I think she might’ve got him into a situation where he felt he had to marry her [chuckle] … not necessarily his child – I don’t know, but [chuckle] anyway … So he had to marry her, and then he died within a year. Yes. So he didn’t ever get to New Zealand, and the family was very upset at him marrying ‘below himself’ and … you know.
But that side of the family more or less lost touch, but I did get in touch with Leslie, the son. Well, I don’t know whether it was the first … must’ve been the first son, so he must’ve been the father. But anyway, Leslie was so like my Uncle Tim – they were cousins. They even had the same interests. It was quite funny seeing them. They actually met over in England, and both of them apparently were amazed at how alike they were to each other. So that’s that side of the family.
Poppity and my grandmother were actually cousins, because [of] the Higgins family – Hugh and Thomas Higgins – and they were cousins. And of course there wasn’t a lot of circulation round districts, and you tended to meet lots of cousins at family weddings and things like that. So Thomas and Hugh married sisters, and at one of the weddings … some wedding … the offspring of both sides met at another wedding. So my grandfather, Thomas Higgins, and my grandmother … getting my mothers and grandfathers mixed up. My grandfather, Thomas Higgins, and my grandmother Mary Higgins, were cousins, and they met at another family wedding or something, and they married. And the children are quite normal. [Chuckle] But it was rather limiting in the sense that you did tend to move in the same circles, because you didn’t move into the circles above you – well, there wasn’t any way of connecting – and you certainly didn’t want to move into the circles below you, did you? [Chuckle]
Communities had this common factor of all these people knowing one another and intermarrying.
And you did stay in your same … your same group of interests, too. I mean … all farmers’ families, and they had the same interests at heart.
Anyway, Poppity took over his family business. They were farmers as well, but they’d gone into … suppose you’d call it agricultural contracting now. They had a traction engine which … they’d dig the grave[s] during the autumn part, and then in the winter they would cut firewood. Anyway, he took that over very young – he was at school actually, and he had to leave school and take over the business ‘cause his father died quite young. And he … oh, he was only what? Probably about sixteen or something, and there would be four or five other men he’d have to be managing.
And then, when he met Mary, his wife-to-be, his mother didn’t see why he should have any more money to live on. He asked her for an extra half-crown a week, and she said, “No. If you marry you can manage.” [Quiet chuckle] Which was rather mean because they were fairly strapped. And anyway, he said, “Well, in that case you’ll have to get a manager in.” They did, but he wasn’t satisfactory, I gather. And he went driving pantechnicons, which apparently were steam-driven lorries, covering the southern parts of England – well, just about all of it. I’ve got a whole lot of postcards which he sent to Granny saying when he’d be home next, ‘cause he’d be away for a week at a time, sometimes. And he went over to Wales, up through Lincolnshire, and all over that area. This was in the … oh, 1910-1911 period. And then he went back home and took over the family business – presumably his mother decided that it needed more of a hands-on family manager, and so he was doing that. And he was doing that all through the war, so he wasn’t … because he was [an] essential industry he wasn’t called up.
And they never owned their own place, but they always had good leasehold places. [Shows photos] That house is one of the ones that they lived in … beautiful place … Cogenhoe, which is called ‘Cugnoe’ – it’s in Northamptonshire too – and then in Great Houghton which is only about two miles away from Northampton, but on the other side of the River Nene.
And when they got to Great Houghton the eldest girls, Joyce and my mother, they were ten and eleven, I suppose. And Granny, who’d been teaching them herself – after all, she was a governess – she decided it was time for them to go to school. So they joined Northampton Girls’ High which was a very good school which was started in about the 1850s, educating good middle-class girls for a good education, and it went in for sports and things like that, and good science teachers and mathematics. And they were trained properly, and they had a good time – it was a lovely school and my mother hated leaving that. But she and Joyce really enjoyed that. They walked to school each day to Northampton from Great Houghton – a good two miles walk down quite a steep hill, over a big bridge, over a busy piece of road, over another bridge into the Girls’ High – and walked back again, no problem.
And then in 1922 my grandfather realised that agriculture in England was going downhill rapidly. I don’t know, I mean there may’ve been other reasons as well – I’d never know, but I think it was mostly because he realised that there was not much point in trying to hang on through the conditions that were going on then. He had cousins already out here, living in Havelock North, and they sponsored him, so he and the family came out. They were originally going to be leaving at the end of November, but the shipping got confused in some way and they didn’t leave until the beginning of January 1923. So they were having to fill in time staying in cousins’ houses for a while, which was a little bit disconcerting.
Who were the relations that were sponsoring him?
Oh – the Slades in Havelock North.
Which family of Slades?
The family of Slades who were related into the family by … my great-great-grandmother was a Slade, and she married a Higgins. And so the Slade family have been connected to the Higgins family since the 1840s or ‘50s … something like that. They were all local people, all from around in that area of North Buckinghamshire and South-eastern Northamptonshire. In fact, one of the churchyards in Buckinghamshire … it’s just over the border into Buckinghamshire from Northamptonshire … every second person in the graveyard’s a Slade, so I mean I’ve got a lot of dead relations [chuckle] in England.
Yes … my family on that side is quite complicated because there are so many cousins marrying cousins, or sisters marrying brothers – not their own! I mean a brother will marry a sister, and then another brother will marry another sister of that same family! So it gets a little bit complicated at times.
Anyway, so Poppity and Granny and the children got on board the ‘Paparoa’ in early January and came out to New Zealand, and in six weeks’ time they landed in Wellington. And they came up by train to Napier and got met by the Slades, and were taken to Havelock North where they stayed with assorted Slades. Two of them stayed with Cousin Tom and Cousin Mary and Carol, who was a little girl, and others of them stayed with one of the other Slades, probably Randall, I think. Yes – Poppity had originally been intending to perhaps buy an orchard or something like that, but he hadn’t ever run an orchard so the idea was that he’d get a job and you know, learn about it before. But Cousin Randall came across a place in Arataki Road which was for lease, and suggested that Grandad lease it – Teddy Kane’s orchard, which apparently was, I think probably the worst move that he could’ve done, because it was on that bad part of Arataki Road where the pan’s very close to the surface, and the trees either die of drought, die of wet feet, or get blown over in wind. But he stuck it out for a couple of years and then all the money had gone.
D’you know exactly where it was on Arataki Road?
I don’t know exactly where it was because Tim, my uncle, could not quite place it. But I know vaguely where it was – it’s probably roughly where there’s a paddock with horses. I used to think it was where the old shed was on the upper part of Arataki Road, but I’m not sure. I still think that it could be there, and the old shed may’ve been where the packing shed was which is now next to the Arataki Apiaries.
Anyway – well, that was no good, so he was fairly desperate for a job at that point, and of course the Depression was hitting here. And he tried for various jobs using his steam ticket … he had a steam ticket for driving traction engines. He was very good, and very experienced for that, but there was nothing going there. And he had a job with the Works Department or whoever … whoever it was at that stage … making the Havelock-Hastings Road. But after two weeks he had to give that up because he got such frightful blisters from wheeling wheelbarrows and packing around – he couldn’t cope with that. Then he got a job with Meissners at the orchard there, and then later on with Ficklings, and he worked with Ficklings – oh! Until he retired I suppose – it was in 1945 or ‘46.
And they never owned their own house in Havelock North, they went for various leased places or rented places. One place on the corner of Scannell Street now, was where they were during the earthquake, and I’ve got some funny stories from Mum about that. But that was McLeod Street then, and the house was owned by two old women called Bran, and they called the house Brantubs, because it was such a funny little place. It was a very small place, you know the old style with a verandah across the front … it was too small for them. But it had a bit of ground, they could have their chickens off the back – they always had chooks. And they had another place up … Hilltops, up … I’m not sure what the road is now. Durham Drive? Where it’s a promontory that looks out over Fulford Road. That was a nice place but they weren’t there for very long – about four years. The place they were at the longest and wanted to buy was up Lucknow Road – the old house on the right-hand side as you go up – there’s an old villa there, just up on the bank. And they had five or six acres there and the cow paddocks, which is now full of houses. And they had several cows and chooks, and they made quite a nice living from that as well.
So although it was the Depression, after the first part where it was pretty hard, they weren’t too badly off because they made butter and packed eggs and things like that. They had to take the eggs to town in a basket on the bus. They never had a car. They all had bicycles and they’d go down to the Tuki [Tukituki River] for picnics, and the kids would go down there and camp on banks, and have a lovely time.
They were good friends with the Claytons, who had an orchard down there. And … oh, they had tennis parties and get-togethers, ‘cause the house in Lucknow Road had a big tennis court and they’d have a lot of tennis parties up there. Young Dr Reeve, the old man … the one who’s died, the father of Cherry … Tony Reeve, that’s his name. He was one of the boys who used to go there, and Darcy Clayton, whose name is on all the war memorials – he got killed in the desert. But they’d go along, have tennis parties … not parties, just tennis games … and really had quite a good time.
In the worst part of the Depression when they were still living at Brantubs, Scannell Street corner, there were various friends who were quite good with [music] – one had a violin and another had an accordion; my grandmother played very well; the family could all sing; my grandfather had a lovely tenor voice; they’d have musical get-togethers, you know, just sing … just friendly sing-alongs.
Well there was no other sort of entertainment.
And apparently it used to be quite funny – you’d have half of Havelock North sitting on the other side of the hedge, listening. [Chuckle] Apparently they’d have up to about ten to twelve people sitting outside the hedge, listening.
Now these were your grandparents?
These are my grandparents, and my mother and her sisters. So they had quite a nice time – they were never part of the ‘social life of Havelock North’. When my grandmother first went to St Luke’s – this must’ve been not long after arriving in 1923 – one of the ladies who thought herself part of the Establishment, said to my grandmother, “My dear Mrs Higgins – we do not wear flesh-coloured stockings to church here.” And my grandmother, in her best governess’ voice said, apparently, “Oh! But we have been wearing flesh-coloured stockings to church in England for many years!” I’m not sure of the exact words now, but … “Why should New Zealand not be up to the standard of England?” [Chuckle] Which rather stopped my grandmother from ever being taken into the ‘higher circles’.
Now just a question while it’s on my mind – Kim Clayton is married to Coline Higgins. Is that Higgins any relation?
No. That Higgins is no relation. Kim Clayton is part of the Clayton family that my mother was great friends with. Yes, Mum and Joy were great friends right from primary school. Mum was disgusted when she arrived in New Zealand to learn that she would have to go to the ‘village school’. [Chuckle] So she was put in Standard 5 and my Aunt Joyce was put in Standard 6, which was far below the level that they had been in at Northampton Girls’ High. I mean their French was far superior, but their maths wasn’t particularly good, but my mother was never very good at maths. So that was a bit of a disgust to her, but when they went to high school in Hastings they quite enjoyed that, and they enjoyed sports and the activities there.
And then – well, Mum went to Training College, and she was there in the year that they stopped taking them on to the next year – apparently there was a funding cut and the girls who’d been there for one year couldn’t go back the next year, and so she was on hold. So she came back and had to get a job – mind you, she was half-starved by that time, because at that point they’d been living on the smell of an oily rag. And she came down with goitre apparently – probably because she hadn’t been eating enough. So she was quite sick for a while, but then she obviously picked up by having some proper food to eat. I suppose she was given iodine or something like that, and she never had any problems with that afterwards.
And then she got a job as cook-housekeeper, and my mother was neither a cook nor a housekeeper. [Chuckle] But she managed – I mean, she had to do something, she couldn’t live at home because Joyce was already teaching – she’d got her first teaching job at that time. She was at Havelock North Primary School. Mum had done her Preliminary … ‘cause they had to do a year’s Preliminary before they went to Training College. She’d done that at Havelock North Primary, too. And anyway, she went housekeeping for various people including old Ma Leatherbritches, down somewhere in Central Hawke’s Bay, who was a real cow of a woman. Mum was there over Christmas. Ma Leatherbritches’ brother came over from New Plymouth or somewhere with a goose for being cooked, but the goose had got rather hot on the way over and it was green and smelly. And Mum said, “This isn’t fit to eat – I can’t cook that.” It had to be gutted as well … it hadn’t been gutted. Anyway, old Ma Leatherbritches said, “Game is supposed to be high.” And my mother said, “Game is not supposed to be liquid” – or something to that effect. And so she wasn’t very popular.
She was expected to sleep in a little outhouse, which probably had been used by the general hand or something. It was full of fleas … very dirty. And old Ma Leatherbritches said, “You’ll clean the boots of course!” Mum said, “I’m the cook-housekeeper – I’m not the boot-cleaner!” And anyway, after a week or so she got kicked off; well – maybe two weeks. But the brother who’d come over from the West Coast, saw … and old Ma Leatherbritches said, “And you can go without any wages, and I hope you miss the Service Car!” The brother felt so sorry that he got his car out and took her down to the main road to where the bus went along, and waited with her until the bus did come. He was decent; it was only old Ma Leatherbritches who was the shocker. I haven’t said the name of her, but [chuckle] you can guess, possibly.
And after that she had various other jobs – not many, actually, I think she was only with two other people. But one place, a nice woman … Parkhill, that’s right, the Parkhill family … where the wife wasn’t very well after having had the children. I think she had twins or something, and Mum was there for several years. And that was quite a good job.
And then she and Dad finally got engaged. And she kept on working and Dad took a job as fencer on Motere Station for two years. Contract fencing, which meant basically living in a tent all that time. But he saved up and got married in 1940. My grandmother said, “You shouldn’t be getting married now – there’s a war on. I know what happens to people who get married when there’s a war.” But they got married nevertheless. [Chuckle]
And Dad was in the Territorials for ages, and he was at Trentham and Waiouru and Dannevirke, and all – you know – around here, and got home at weekends and saw Mum.
Mum at one stage had a little … When they got married they had a flat in Twyford, in the big house on the corner of Raupare Road – the bottom of it was divided up into a flat. And Dad at that stage was working at Twyford – he was grass seeding, and he was working with Lester Masters and various other people around there. Oh! That’s how I got the connection with Twyford you see, because it goes back to before we were there … living there. And that was quite good, but then Dad got called up, presumably, and Mum was living – this is before I was born. I’m not quite sure of the dates. Mum at one stage was living with one of her friends in Hastings, in a spare room. Actually, it was the teacher who’d been her superior when she was doing her Prelim year at Havelock School.
Then they managed to get a State House in 401A Awatea Street. A single-bedroomed house. Fine! A nice little place. Dad was away overseas by this time, most of the time, and Mum and I were there. And we went out to Havelock North most weekends I think, to stay with Granny and Poppity, who by this time had a house in Middle Road – next but one to the bridge on Middle Road – which was a nice place, and they had a big chook run. And there was a lovely gum plantation out the back which I was allowed to play in, because by that time I was about three or something, and was able to run round. And I knew perfectly well not to throw myself into the stream. I mean – why can’t kids learn that nowadays?
And then Dad came home when the men were brought back from the Pacific, and because he was thirty-five and had a child he wasn’t sent to Italy, so he was man-powered onto the land … onto orchard[s]. And he worked with Sykes’ place on Pakowhai Road, and I can vaguely remember him going off on his bike every morning in the cold, howling, wet winter.
We had a lovely holiday in Rotorua on Returned Services leave … given train tickets, and we went to Rotorua. We left Hastings and went down to Palmerston North; we changed trains; we went to Frankton junction; we changed trains; and then we got to Rotorua two days later. It was quite a trip, I can remember that. I can remember it, very clearly. I must’ve been three and a half … three, anyway … I was three. And some kind woman realised how bored I was, and gave me her fur to play with. She was sitting on the train with a fur … one of those fur – you know, with a head and legs and things – and I pulled one of the legs off. She said, “Never mind, it’ll sew on again.” [Chuckle] But it was a lovely-feeling thing. And there was a big Samoyed dog who lived at the Frankton Junction change, and it was in the waiting room. There was the men’s waiting room and the women’s waiting room, so Dad couldn’t stay in the same room as Mum and I. We sat by this miserable fire which wasn’t burning very well, and the station master or someone, whoever looks after people … the guard? Came and put a slab of coal on the fire, and I can still remember the slab of coal – it was as big, if not bigger, than the fireplace, and it put the fire completely out. It was a huge slab of coal. Anyway, I curled up on the mat with the dog [chuckle] which was nice and warm.
And then we got into the train the next morning and we drove through acres and acres and miles and miles of grey country with burnt-out trees sticking up, which must have been recently cleared. But it was so miserable! And I can still remember that so clearly – of the miserable country. And then we got to Rotorua, and it was fun. We stayed in a hotel and had eggs for breakfast – real eggs. Ooh! Proper eggs – they were lovely. Because Granny at this time was selling most of her eggs, and we were being a bit canny on how many we had to eat ourselves.
And there were some Land Girls there, and I’d never seen such plump women, because all my family tended to be fairly flat-chested. But these ones – they were amazing! They had bulges in strange places, and I wasn’t used to seeing women with bulges like that! And they were in very tight khaki overalls. [Chuckle] I don’t know whether this is the kind of stuff you want to have on that. [Chuckle]
And we went to see the hot bubblies, and they were lovely, seeing the hot bubblies. And we asked about this lovely shiny black rock, and Mum and Dad were told it was obsidian. And we were in a shop later on and Mum was looking at some rock samples or something, and she said to Dad, “Do you remember what this rock’s called?” And he said, “Oh no, I can’t remember.” And I piped up … “Obsidian!” And the shopkeeper was amazed. [Chuckle] I can remember that so clearly. It was quite fun. We walked through an area that wasn’t … I suppose the area that’s now Kurow Park. But at that stage it wasn’t a park – it was just wild manuka with bubbling stuff underneath things, and it was free so it was a good place to walk. And we walked around all the other things, and we had a look at the Bath House, and all the birds. It was a lovely holiday. And then we came back, but because it had taken us two and a half days to get there they decided to come back on the Service Car, and apparently I was car-sick all the way. I can vaguely remember misery. [Chuckle]
And then Dad started work, and Mum and I helped in the garden, and I taught my little friend next door to eat worms. She was a very suggestible girl. I pulled them out, pretended to eat – out of the compost heap – pretended to eat one, and said, “Would you like one, Fay?” She said, “Ye-es” – and she ate it! And then went home crying that I’d been making her eat worms. [Chuckle] And her mother said, “Well, you silly little girl – you shouldn’t’ve.” [Chuckles] And we had quite a bit of fun there. The kids next door and I played together, and one family down the road – forget their names – they had some little girls too, and we used to play.
And then Dad was on the list for the Rehab loan and … he had to find the place though. He was graded for cattle, sheep and horticulture, but not for dairy, and Mum would refuse to have anything to do with dairies anyway. But he had to find the place, so he used to – all his spare time when he wasn’t working, he’d go out on his bike, and bike around to see if there were any places available. And he finally heard of a place down Hill Road, which of course was Twyford – that was great. And it wasn’t a very good orchard; there was nowhere to live on it, but there was a shed. And so Mum and I moved up to stay at Mangatahi where my Aunt Joyce was by then teaching – she was sole charge teacher. And Dad stayed on the orchard to get the orchard under control and to get the house built. And Mum and I stayed at Mangatahi in the school house with Aunty Joyce for … must’ve been most of 1946, I think. I know we had Christmas there; I started school there, so it must’ve been 1946, because I started probably in the third term when I’d gone five.
That was the year there was a tremendous drought. And the schoolhouse had a rainwater tank and it was dry. And I think the school probably had a rainwater tank and it was dry as well, and a farmer across the road, Mr Reynolds – lovely man – he and his wife had the farm ‘Au Coin’, it was called, because he’d been in the First World War and over in France, and he called the place ‘Au Coin’, because it was on the corner – good name. And he brought … and I think it was a horse pulling it – think it was the old chestnut horse – he brought a sledge with a big water tank on it over to the schoolhouse, and probably to the school, but I can’t remember – so we had some water, ‘cause he brought it up from the Ngaruroro River right across the farm and across the road to the school. But we were so short of water we had one bath a week, on the Friday night. Dad would come up from the orchard and I can imagine he’d be pretty filthy. I had the first bath, Joyce the second – to save water – I had the first, Joyce the second, Mum the third, then it was Dad’s turn, and by that time I think it was probably fairly thick. [Chuckle]
I don’t remember whether there was a proper flush toilet or not but I know there was a long-drop in the garden. I wasn’t very keen on using that because of the … all the spiders, and it was a bit awkward to get up onto the seat. I have an idea I had a long [log of] wood to stand on, so I could get onto the seat. But I mean we would’ve had to’ve used that anyway, because there was no water for flush.
But it was quite nice. Before I was actually at school I was allowed to go and sit in the schoolroom and watch Joyce teaching. She had a mixed class from … you know, Infants to big Standard 6 boys. One of the boys once pinched the keys for the school – Robert somebody his name was. For some reason he got hold of the keys and walked off with them. And it was a little bit of a problem until Joyce managed to get somebody else to come open the door – by force presumably. It was a nice little schoolhouse … lovely big windows, sun poured in. And I don’t think there was a tennis court at that stage, but shortly after Mum and I left, I think the locals all got together and made a tennis court for the school, ‘cause I know there was a tennis court there.
And there was a row of big pine trees which are still there. The school’s gone entirely now, but this huge row of pine trees, and the wind in them was amazing at night. That’s the place where I … the only time I’ve ever seen the Aurora Australis, that winter. It was a very cold, clear winter. Mum and Joyce woke me up one night … “Come out and see this.” And there the sky was all green, shimmering … oh, it was so beautiful – absolutely beautiful! I’m so glad they woke me up.
And then by that time the house was nearly finished. A firm called Johnson and Jordon were responsible for building it, and they took about eighteen months. Okay – they said it was hard to get materials, but I don’t know what … it was also hard to get the morale to do anything. The house was fairly basic – two bedrooms, one kitchen-living room, which was supposed to be two rooms but it would’ve been terribly small. Dad managed to get them to not put the dividing wall in, but because it was still on the plan as being two rooms we were able to have two lights, one at each end. Because with the wartime restrictions and the limitations after that, there was such a scarcity of copper wire apparently, and you were limited to one plug and one light in each room, and so we didn’t have many bits and pieces. Later on another bedroom and a living room with a nice big fireplace was built on in 1953, which was great. But that was quite a nice house actually, in the end.
But Dad had been baching in the shed. How he’d been managing I don’t know, ‘cause it wasn’t exactly a comfortable shed. But we were very lucky in some ways because the house actually managed to have a corrugated iron roof, because the shed had been clad in corrugated iron, and Dad was able presumably to get a portable saw from somewhere. And there was a row of macrocarpa trees at the back along one boundary. I don’t remember this myself, but I know it happened. Dad was able to take the corrugated iron from the shed so that the house could be roofed in corrugated iron. Normally they had to be roofed in that black bitumen stuff. And the shed was rebuilt with slabs of wood saw cut from the macrocarpa trees. So that was good – we had a proper roof.
Apart from that – there was a dairy farm across the road – Mr and Mrs Groom and their son, Alec. They had … oh, I don’t know, maybe forty, fifty cows … not sure, never did count them … and a very fierce Jersey bull that we were all terrified of. Everybody down the road was terrified of it. And I used to go over there and get the milk every morning and evening … well, in the weekends Dad would collect it … in the mornings when I was going to school.
And of course I started school at Mangatahi, and I then had another … and I don’t know how long, whether it was a few weeks or whether it was a term … at Havelock North Primary School. Because Joyce, I think, probably had had enough of us staying with her by the end of the year, so we went and stayed with my Uncle Tim, Mum’s younger brother, and his new wife Lorna, who had just finished getting a house built for them in Lucknow Road in Havelock North. Mum and I went and stayed with them while our house was getting brought up to scratch. I think it was while they were putting power in and so on. So we were there for not very long, but I started school there … well, went to school there for a short time. I tried to find out when I started, but I couldn’t find out the details – they seem to have lost the records at Havelock School – when it came up to the time for the jubilee. I wanted to find out the details, but I couldn’t.
And then we went back out to Twyford – at last, into our own home. The kitchen still wasn’t finished so Mum did the cooking on the old kerosene stove in the shed. And we had a long drop. I have a feeling that I was only allowed to go there in the daytime with somebody else so as I didn’t have any problems with it. I know I had to use [a] pot. [Chuckle] And the toilet … every … where the toilet was going to be was a hole in the floor waiting for it to be put in. I mean the septic tank had been dug – there was a big hole for the septic tank and that had been actually installed, and then they couldn’t get the porcelain toilet. [Chuckle] So that was a bit of a problem. The hole in the floor was rather funny because the dog used to come up through the hole in the floor. [Chuckle]
But we couldn’t get a bath – a porcelain-coated bath, you know, the normal white bath, but somehow Dad managed to find an old … well, I think it was old … a zinc bath, which was actually zinc, you know, with the grey metal, and it had vertical sides. And it was quite uncomfortable and it got cold terribly quickly, but it was certainly okay – I mean it fitted under the taps and you could have a bath. And then when we finally got the bath in, that was great.
They also had a great problem with finding a hand basin, but we had this peculiar yellow hand basin – a yellow porcelain hand basin. It was definitely not very elegant. It was very heavy, very thick and quite small, but it was a hand basin; they got it from somewhere. The difficulty of getting things just after the war for buildings in 1946 or so … don’t think people realise now how difficult it was. That was quite funny.
And then I started school at Twyford School, and that was lovely. Dad used to take me in the … we had a funny little truck that Dad got, a little … I think it was a Studebaker truck. It had open sides with windows made out of … oh, I think it was American cloth or something, with some kind of a plasticky film in the sides to keep the rain out. Anyway, he took me to school until I was big enough to bike, but that was good. Originally, you could take a short cut through the orchards, but someone … anyway, made a nuisance of themselves when they pulled some grafts out or something, and so then we had to go right the long way round. Originally we’d been able to go down the bottom of Hill Road and bike straight through, which was maybe half to three-quarters of a mile. But then we had to go around by the road – it was up Hill Road, along the main road and down Twyford Road, which was about three times the distance. But it was good. And there were some exciting puddles you could bike across too, ‘cause in the winter, sometimes they’d be frozen enough to bike across and that was fun! Except I never dared to bike over the deepest one because it was a really deep one, and if you didn’t manage to get across the bike would stop half-way, and you’d fall off.
None of us had fridges at that stage, and this ice on the top … oh, it was fun, you could break off pieces of ice and suck it. Yeah, I mean we did know that cattle and sheep were driven along the road – we didn’t care about things like that, you know. None of us got any problems.
There were two big, really tall pine trees half way along Omahu Road, and two of the boys who lived at Fernhill – very respectable garage owners they were later on – used to climb these trees and pull the pine cones off and throw them at us girls biking past, [chuckle] which was not very pleasant. But they were good fun, those trees, because those two same boys … this was in the era when the pea vines were pulled out of the paddocks intact, and taken in to be shelled at Wattie’s. They used to go up these trees with a rake on the end of a piece of rope, and you’d throw it out and you’d catch the pea vines; then you’d pull them off the back of the truck; then you dashed out and picked all the peas. Yeah … be a bit difficult to do that in Omahu Rd now. But that was some of the things they got up to.
We had fun at Twyford School; that was a really nice school, and especially the later teacher that we had, Mr Warren, was wonderful. The boys did try to play tricks on him, like balancing a bucket full of water on a board across the door between the door and a cupboard, hoping that it would fall – would’ve been damned painful if it had – a whole bucket. But they never succeeded in catching him. He knew … somehow knew to come round through the other door. I wonder why! Another time one of the boys got his strap out of the drawer and cut it … silly boy, he didn’t think … he cut it into long strips. If he’d had any sense he would have cut it crossways. But anyway, he somehow knew who it was … “Come up here! You know what you’ve done. You’ve earned yourself the strap, haven’t you? Right – you’ll have it!” So he got the strap with these long thin pieces. [Chuckles] And somehow or other he always knew who to look for, for trouble. “You, you, you – and you”, pointing at me. “Ouch!” [Chuckle] Well, you deserved it – so what? I mean it didn’t teach you not to do it again, but it taught you to do it less clumsily.
But Twyford School was great fun. We had a little classroom library of mostly 1930s books, Boys’ Adventure Stories – they were fun. And then we started to get the School Library Service library collection, and that was marvellous. A whole bushel case of books … oh! Absolutely marvellous! Of course I read them all through, you know? Then I decided I’d have to read them all through again, but that’s all right.
One of the girls … we had [a] lot of Plymouth Brethrens living around Twyford at that stage … well, three families anyway. And one of the girls took a book home once. She knew that she wasn’t allowed to read books from the library, so as she was biking up the side of the house she dropped it through her bedroom window, but her mother was suspicious and saw her doing it, and she couldn’t sit down for a few days when she came back to school, and the book was destroyed. So I don’t think that that was particularly Christian in behaviour … I don’t think it was. But poor Karen – she never dared read a book again at school unless it was one that her mother already approved of. Mind you, she did try to read books at school, but she was married off at sixteen, so she probably lost her desire to read books after that. Oh, gosh! When we were at high school they moved into Hastings so they were out of the bad influence of other people. There was a little congregation of them who lived in one particular place in Hastings. But one family who had an orchard next door, they were still there when we were going to high school. Alicia was sitting in a seat, and one of the boys – ‘cause we shared the bus from Boys’ High and Girls’ High – and Alicia was sitting in a seat and a boy sat beside her. She had no say in the matter, goodness gracious! And her mother always stood at the gate waiting for Alicia to get off the bus. Alicia got a hiding for having had a boy sit alongside her in the bus. She was married off at sixteen too.
No, we were a good crowd at Twyford – had all these great games like bullrush. That was fun. I’ve still got a dent on my shin where … forget which … we were playing softball and one of the boys flung the bat behind him as he went to run, and it caught me across the shin. Ooooh, that hurt! [Chuckle]
And we had vegetable gardens where we were supposed to try to grow things … for learning about growing things. And at one stage we had grass plots to grow, and I had the grass called ‘Timothy’, and seeing my uncle’s name was Timothy that was rather fun. I can recognise Timothy grass. And there was the horse paddock, where some people rode to school. I was lent a pony at one time, when I was in Standard 6, but it was never a cooperative pony – it was the pony of a friend of Dad’s, who had been a drover. And the pony had a mouth like leather, and it refused to take any notice of me. [Chuckle] I had a lovely time … I thought I was going to have a lovely … and I loved ponies, not horses. Still do. But this one never really deserved any affection. It wasn’t the slightest interested in eating carrots from me or anything like that. It didn’t want to be ridden. It wanted to try to wipe me off under branches when I tried riding to the orchard. And I rode him along the main road once – I mean you could do that then – got as far as Twyford Road. What I had been going to do was to ride right round the block and come back to the orchard, ‘cause I would’ve been allowed to. And he wouldn’t turn. And I finally managed to get off him and haul him to a stop, and then I had to drag him all the way back from Twyford Road to Hill Road along main road, along the fence. I’d get my arm around a fence post and haul him; get my arm around the next fence post and haul him. And I was overtaken by someone on a motorbike who stopped and laughed and laughed. Aw! Most embarrassing. [Chuckles] And anyway, in the end he threw me off into a patch of blackberry on the side of the road, down Hill Road. And Dad got on him to give him a proper lesson about how he should be behaving, and he tried to throw Dad off – and Dad was a good rider. Dad wasn’t having any of that, so the pony was just not good enough so he went back to his owner. Then I don’t know what happened – probably dogs’ meat. But he just wasn’t a nice pony. But it was lovely having the school pony paddock … the horse paddock … and if it started to rain, of course the kids who had their saddles and bridles out sheltering under the big tree, had to dash out and bring them in under cover. It was a good opportunity, you know, for a break. [Chuckle]
No, Twyford was a good school. We earned money there, too, because as there wasn’t a cleaner, the senior classroom, Standards 4, 5 and 6, was divided up into teams, and we did the cleaning – I think it was week and week about. We had to sweep the floors … there were three rooms there because it was the … the Infants’ room and prefab, but that was put into the place quite freshly, you know. There was a team of four, so we had the three rooms to sweep; if it was winter you had to get in some more coke into the fireplaces; and you had to clean the lavatories. Well, obviously the boy would clean the boys’ loos and the girl would clean the girls’ loos. That was all right, you just had to make sure they worked and flushed and so on, and maybe threw a bucket of water through them. It wasn’t [a] dirty job. And you got … I think it was seven and six [seven shillings and sixpence] a term. Money! It was brilliant! I mean none of us objected to doing that – it took about half an hour, I suppose. It was great. And it gave you a good sense of responsibility, and it also made sure that you did try not to be mucky. You realised that if it wasn’t you, somebody else would be having to clean it up. And you know, if you had sisters or brothers there, you made sure that … if they were in the junior classes … you made sure that … “If you see someone making a muck, just remember that you’ll be having to clean it up in a few years!” So that was good.
We had to play basketball against Convent girls. This was basketball, not netball – of course it was called basketball then – against Convent and against Fernhill, ‘cause it was called Fernhill School then, not Omahu School. And the boys had to play football against them. And that was horrible, because the Convent girls always had long fingernails and they’d gouge at you, and the Fernhill kids [were] mostly Maoris – and they were a lot bigger than we were. And oh! You’d come back so bruised and battered, and black eyes and bruised jaws and everything. And the boys – the same thing from [for] them – they got kicks and scratches, and at one time the Fernhill boys had to play barefooted, and our boys had to play with tennis shoes on … just gave them a slight advantage. But we didn’t have enough boys to make two teams to play each other, so the girls had to play them sometimes, but we were allowed to play with tennis shoes on and the boys had to play bare-footed, which gave a great advantage to the girls because there were big pine trees along the boundary, and the pine cones were uncomfortable in underfoot with bare feet. [Chuckle] And that is where I learnt how to tackle, and how to get through a crowd, and I found it very, very useful when going on a Cusco Railway – you just put your shoulder down and tuck your head in, and shove with your shoulder! And it was very useful; it got myself and Marion through the crowd very easily. [Chuckles] So never say that football training – rugby of course – isn’t good training for [?future?] life. [Chuckle]
School was easy. I never was able to do maths – I think I’ve got something lacking in my brain when it comes to figures. But oh, the rest of the stuff was great … very easy, ‘specially – I remember in Standard 1 or 2 or something … we had cards with a picture and a story on one side and questions on the back. And oh, good grief! I mean they were supposed to take up half an hour or something to do it, and I’d done it in five minutes. So I’d have to pull a book out from under my desk and read it surreptitiously on my knees, wouldn’t I?
So you went off to High School ..?
In 1955. I went to Hastings Girls’ High. That was the year that it first became a single sex school. It wasn’t official until the next year. We were the Third Form intake which went there, just as a crowd of girls with seven teachers. And it was weird! There were three girls from Twyford going – Judy in General, Gail in Commercial and me in Professional. So we didn’t see each other during the day, either. But it was strange – three hundred girls, for goodness sake! Oh! I’d never seen so many people before – it was weird. Seven teachers … we had a nice one for our Form Mistress – Miss Trotter, she was lovely. Caught the bus at the top of Hill Road; there was one very nice bus driver who, if I got there just before eight, he’d pick me up on the way to Fernhill while he picked up the girls and boys from Fernhill. And that meant I got a seat, because by the time we got down to Twyford School which was the next major stop, all the seats were full. And if he didn’t pick me up I often didn’t get a seat.
The first year we were dropped off at the corner of Stortford Lodge and we had to walk down to Girls’ High. And then coming home we had to wait until half past four, when we were picked up at the corner of Stortford Lodge. There used to be a cool store there … we had to wait outside the cool store. The next year they altered the bus route slightly so that we were dropped off at the corner of St Aubyn Street and Pakowhai Road and picked up on the corner there. It’s now the Lotus Healing Centre or something; there’s a stone wall there, anyway. That’s quite good, ‘cause you could sit around it and get on with your homework while you were waiting for the bus.
And then by … oh, it must have been the Sixth Form I think … they actually had the buses coming down Pakowhai Road and picking us up, because there were a few more girls then, and the girls had a separate bus, not having to share with the boys … a lot more boys or something, I suppose. Sometimes we had it with the boys and sometimes we didn’t, but it was a good way of keeping in touch with the people you were at school with, and for the boys.
And it was a fairly basic year, the first year there. We couldn’t use the grounds because the grounds … then mostly shingle … were ploughed up and they’d had a crop of potatoes in to see if they could get the soil to pick up a bit. They were making the tennis courts, and there was a constant noise of the bulldozers and the rollers and things like that there; it was very noisy and we had to have the windows shut sometimes, which was so hot in summer, because of the dust flying in. And one of the things that made us laugh – Miss Trotter, our Form teacher – one day it was particularly noisy and she said, “I’ll just have to stop until they knock off and have their smoko“, using these slang expressions which … a teacher who was actually willing to use slang, you know! [Chuckle] No, she was nice, and actually she let us read sometimes because it was too noisy to do anything.
What was her first name?
I think she was Rosemary … Rosemary Trotter.
From Trotter Road?
No. No connection with that Trotter family.
‘Cause they were all connected to all the Trotters nearly.
Yeah. Yeah – I think Miss Trotter came from down south somewhere. No, nothing to do with the Trotters. I was at s… yes, when we were at primary school if I was particularly badly behaved I had to sit with the Sandy Trotter in the front row. [Chuckle] ‘Cause Sandy was always badly behaved and he had to sit in the front row. [Chuckles] It was a real punishment, that.
Girls’ High was … I don’t know, it wasn’t particularly … it didn’t inspire me. It wasn’t like Twyford School, which was quite enjoyable really. We had some good teachers, and the history and the geography were good; the English was generally boring; the French sometimes was all right … depended on the teacher; I was no good at Maths, but it bored me stiff to have to do silly things like sewing and homecraft. I mean why on earth would you have to do that? Who cares, you know? And as for sports – no it wasn’t much fun. I never did like team sports, and Phys Ed [Physical Education] was boring. I did learn to climb a rope but I never learnt how to come down. Mrs Pickenell was our Phys Ed teacher. I managed once – this was by the Sixth Form when we finally had the apparatus – I managed once to climb the rope and I couldn’t remember how to get down, so I kind of hung on there thinking about ‘how did I do it?’ And she blew the whistle for our changes of corners … changes of activities … so I let go the rope. I came down quite rapidly. [Chuckle] She was worried. [Chuckle]
I wasn’t allowed to play hockey after a while, because I kept on forgetting and running with the stick over my shoulder, and you’re not allowed to do that, are you? I liked hockey – I thought that was fun. I enjoyed the … it was rather like playing chess … the strategic angle of it, which is why I hated basketball ‘cause you couldn’t be strategic about that, it was just force. I wasn’t allowed to play that after a while. But I was quite good at cricket – I was nearly into the First XI. I bowled Mr Marriott out. Mr Marriott was one of our few male teachers – by the time we got to the Sixth Form we had a few more. And he was giving a demonstration of how to hold the bat, so he threw the ball to me because I was the nearest I suppose, and said, “Right – bowl!” I bowled down … hit the wicket! Bowled down again … He said, “Oh, well, I wasn’t holding the bat right, was I?” So he improved his position and checked up the crease you know … bowled down again! Bounced over his bat and hit the wicket again. “Well, you won’t [can’t] do that again, can you Elizabeth?” And he was just making sure that he wasn’t going to be caught out next time. [Chuckle] And I did. I’ve got … it’s a fairly slow ball, but it tends to bounce and swing in – I don’t know how I do it. But I did it three times. I’ve never forgotten that. [Chuckle]
Yes, I can imagine. Were you an incessant reader at ..?
Yes. Yes. Read on the bus going home; read on the bus going … I used to ride a bike back from Twyford School along Omahu Road with a book on my handlebars, so yes, I would think you would say I was an incessant reader.
So when did you decide you were going to become a librarian?
I never did decide, but … I didn’t even want to teach. I don’t like children. I mean, I suppose they’re all right in [as] individuals, but en masse they’re little devils. I mean I know what I was like. [Chuckle] [??] I thought ‘well’ … I know I was good at English, history and geography – those are the things I was interested in. So ‘right – if I can do that, maybe something’ll turn up.’ I wanted to see how good I was at languages, but my French was only average. It wasn’t good. So … finished, got the degree … ‘What the hell am I going to do now?’ There was someone, must have been half way through my final year, The Library School had a talk or a … I can’t remember exactly what it was originally, but it was a display or something like that … it was quite interesting. And one of the women there talked about the Country Library Service, and that sounded quite interesting. So I thought ‘well, I like reading … suppose it’s something I can do.’ And the beauty of it was that at that stage they said it was interchangeable all round the world, if you got the diploma, okay – it was an acceptable qualification worldwide. Well, it wasn’t, but never mind. So … well, thought it over … had to do something, couldn’t stay on. I wasn’t brilliant enough to make it worthwhile trying to do my Masters. I mean I was only a very average student. I didn’t do all that well in exams because sometimes I ended up by getting papers that I … questions that I didn’t actually know, which was a bit disconcerting. But I got some quite good marks during the course of the year [for] various assignments. I loved geography, and I would’ve loved to have gone on in geography but my maths wasn’t good, and when it came to doing graphs and pie charts and things like that – and even worse once we were supposed to use a slide rules – I had to get someone else to help me with that one.
And the other disadvantage about geography was to go on in geography, which I would’ve very much liked to do ‘cause geomorphology is really one of my passions, but the only opportunity for doing Masters was to go down to the Antarctic and study there. And women! To the Antarctic! How can a woman go to the Antarctic?! This was in 1961, ‘62, which was absolutely stupid. “How can a woman manage in the Antarctic?! What about the toilet facilities!” [Chuckle] And so, I mean – what can you do? I didn’t really want to go into town planning although that would have been a feasible option, because I would’ve probably been stuck in Wellington. My main ambition was to basically get out of big cities. [Chuckle] Although Wellington was quite nice, I didn’t want to live there. And so I thought … basically I was thinking the Country Library Service could be quite interesting. So – I had to do some practical work before I went down – so I did it at the Hastings Public Library, which was pretty boring … pretty dull. Nice people, but pretty boring.
Did they have the new library then?
Just. It was not very professional, but it was a good library, you know. And so I went and endured the Library School Year, which had its high points – we were in a very, very old building, and I can’t remember the name of the street, but it could’ve been Molesworth Street or something, ‘cause [it was] very near Parliament Buildings. And it was an old building; it must’ve been just about condemned. There were actually holes in the floor on the upstairs landing just past the stairs – there was only lino over a patch of rotten wood. We actually drew a mark around it with ink so we knew not to walk there because there was no floorboard underneath it. We did tend to have a few rats; one of the boys caught a mouse once and put it in one of the girls’ desks. It was dead, but … oh, she did carry on! [Chuckle]
It was a terrible old building and it [was] just about falling down. Full of draughts – one room was just about unbearable in the winter. Mr Podstolski, who was – oh, he was a Pole. He spoke with a very Polish accent, but he was a lovely man, telling us about all of the technical books we needed to use for reference and so on. But we were so damned cold we could hardly bear to write anything down. You’d sit there with your scarf on, [chuckle] you know. [Laugh] And he would say, “Ah! Zis iz nuzzing compared wiz Poland”, when he’d see us all shivering. [Laugh]
But my ideas of Country Library Service came to an abrupt halt. I found I couldn’t get into the Country Library service trucks. They were old army trucks, and I would’ve had to’ve carried a stepladder around with me.
Yes, you would too.
I couldn’t get into the darn thing. You’d grab the handle, try and get your foot onto the step – still couldn’t get there.
They were very high.
And it was just impossible, and the idea of carrying around a little stepladder was just not on. So I gave that idea up.
So I took on the … oh, there were various options, so I took on the Public Library option because I didn’t want to get stuck in Wellington in a Government Library, although I would’ve been better to do that, because the Public Library’s definitely not my thing. So I did that.
Oh, I did all right … did all right at Library School. Mary Fleming, who took us for cataloguing and classification, was very disapproving of me. She was ‘the’ person – she was brilliant. But I treated it as a joke. My idea was to get as many possible Dewey decimal classifications in as possible. She didn’t really like me treating it as a joke; I was supposed to treat it seriously! “This is work, you do understand!” “Oh yes, but why not make it fun?” Grrr! [Chuckle] So – I liked it all right … I didn’t like it. It was quite fun, we went on a few library trips to see other libraries, sitting in the back of a little van, bouncing around because it had a broken screw on one side. The conditions wouldn’t’ve been acceptable now, that’s for sure.
We went out on a few school library trips and things like that, and I had to do an assignment in the school library … oh, it was holidays, I think it might’ve been. For three weeks I worked in the Wellington Public Library in the Schools Library Department, and then I had to do a bibliography or something with books, dealing with a certain subject while I was there. I didn’t do very well on that because I was a bit bored. [Chuckle] And oh! It was all right … it was all right, you know, one or two people were quite nice but it wasn’t really … it wasn’t really something that I got myself engrossed in. But the beauty of it was that I could still use the varsity facilities – I could play badminton still, there, and I could go to some extra lectures and things like that. ‘Cause that was at the period when they were just working out the plate tectonics business, and Wellington was really keen. Auckland didn’t approve of it, didn’t believe in it, but Wellington was really keen on that, and that was where I got really interested in things like that – really, because something was coming out all the time and they’d have lectures in the evenings sometimes, and that was marvellous.
We had a flat up in Karori – myself and one of my friends from varsity … oh, two friends from varsity, but one of them was a particularly good friend. Oh, that was quite fun because I stayed in with the varsity crowd, you know. We went to the international dances and things like that – oh yes, and … was it Antony and Cleopatra? Done in modern dress as if it was in Cuba … and things like that. [Chuckle] I never got into the political side because I thought it was all so silly. I was never into the New Labour line – I just thought it was so silly – I mean I’ve got a farming background, and to me all the silly politics down in Wellington and all this … oh! You know – it just seemed so unrelated to real life. I still don’t know what makes people in Wellington or Auckland, or all those big cities, tick – I cannot understand their mindsets. To me, the only wealth is the wealth that comes from land. I could never be a banker. [Chuckle]
So eventually you came back to Hastings?
Oh, I got a job up in Auckland for a year. That was quite interesting actually. I was with Schools Library Service. It was broken up into two lots of six months, what I was doing there. The first lot I was doing was books to Maori schools up in Northland, and that was actually fun because you’d be given the roll of how many children in each class, and how many boys and how many were girls – I mean there were only twenty or twenty-five kids altogether in the whole school. And you’d send off a box of books for them and you’d think, ‘Oh right – there’s the teachers’ kids and they’ll be probably having a good reading level. Right – the rest of the kids probably would have a very low reading level’, and so you’d have to try and find six books that were of interest to kids with good reading, and the rest were basic books, and books on how tractors work and things like that, and the elementary diesel engine, and books like that that boys might’ve been interested [in]. And then things like – oh, there was the Cowboy Sam series – quite a good story, very simple words and a picture on each page, which might have been quite good for kids who were not really into reading. And … well, you got letters back from the kids saying how lovely it was to have the books, and once they sent back a parcel of eels. Unfortunately they had put it in the same box, and of course it had taken about a week to get from way up the top of Northland, so it wasn’t very nice by the time it arrived.
And another time, a flatfish had got caught in the bottom of the box as it came across [in] the ferry to catch the bus. [Chuckle] That wasn’t very nice by the time it arrived, either. Don’t know what the flatfish was doing in the bottom of the dinghy, but … [Chuckle] That was from Parerengarenga … the most northerly school there is.
And the next one was just basic, selecting books for requests a school would send when they wanted some books doing a certain subject, and that was quite good. So you’d try to find a few fiction which would tie in, and the rest were sensible non-fiction.
And I didn’t want to stay in Auckland any longer – I mean I had a year there and I’d hoped for a job in Napier or Hastings. And a job was advertised in Napier so I thought I’d apply for that; and then I heard from Hastings that one of the girls there was going overseas, – that’s right. And so I came and took over Betsy’s position, which was fine ‘cause I was [?held?] straight into cataloguing, which was good. And the only thing I really did enjoy about Auckland – oh, I did get my first car at the end of the year, which was rather fun. I took part in the Mt Eden Operatic Society’s production of ‘Die Fledermaus’, because one of the other girls in the library was into musical … so that was really lovely. That was great – I thoroughly enjoyed that. I spent the first couple of weeks in Auckland in the YMCA hostel while I found a flat. I answered an ad, and funnily enough it was one of the girls I knew from varsity. So that was great – Sylvia and Patsy and I – we got on great, and we had a flat up in Mt Eden, one half of the house. And it was quite good, and it was reasonably simple to get into Auckland.
And then I came back to Hastings, did a year here and by that time I had served my two years that I was bound for from the Library School. So after I had done my two lots of three hundred and sixty-five days – and I counted it exactly, to make sure I wasn’t cheating – I went off overseas, [chuckle] which was absolutely great. I’d been left a little bit of money from one of my great-aunts in England – the one who died before I even got to see her – oh! Aunty Alice – that’s the one I’d forgotten. Aunty Alice, who’d also done … kind of … oh, I suppose it was office work … for a charity.
So I got a ticket to England, and I went over on the dear old ‘Rangitoto’. It cost me £300 for a return ticket by sea. So I had nearly two years in England which was great. [Background engine noise]
Working, yes. Oh, the first job I was going to do was lettuce thinning in Surrey, but then I got a phone call from one of my friends, Patsy, who I’d been flatting with anyway, in Auckland. She and her husband had just arrived over there, and she got a flu bug and she hadn’t picked up from it, and she was feeling miserable. And she said, “Oh, Liz, come and see me.” So I said “Oh, blow this – I’ll go over and stay with her for a couple of weeks”. So I went and stayed over with her in Wales for a couple of weeks while she got back on her feet, because … very miserable feeling crook in a strange country. And then I went back and I got a job in London, temping at Her Majesty’s Inspector of Taxes, Soho Square. I could only be there three weeks at a time, but I could be renewed so I had nine weeks there which I thoroughly enjoyed. They were a nice crowd; they were all very friendly; there was a lovely boss in charge. It was rather fun working there actually, because my job was filing – I mean I was a filing clerk, for goodness’ sake! I mean, what better job for a librarian? I knew my alphabet, and I had to put things in the folders in the right date sequence.
And oh! There were some gorgeous stories that came up. One of them was a young boy from Crete wanting to have a tax exemption because he had to pay for his sister’s dowry. Well, fair enough – it was allowed. They got a signed affidavit from the priest in Crete, and … yeah. And I had great fun because that was in Greek, and I had to file in the right place, so – my Greek alphabet isn’t very good, but I at least was capable of doing the Greek alphabet. So I could work out the capital letters no problems, and I had to check that the name was the same as the one that was written in English, and all that. And another one was … oh, this was a funny one … it was a businessman applying for a tax deduction for his necessary stays for him and his wife as he travelled around in England. Yes – well, we also found out – I can’t remember how it was – but we knew perfectly well that his wife and children were at home at that time, so it wasn’t his wife he was applying for. So that one got turned down. [Chuckle] I’m sure I can say those without breaking the Official Secrets Act.
And so after these excitements in England, you came back?
I came back because I felt … oh, I felt I wanted to get back to New Zealand. So I came back on the ‘Northern Star’, which was great – not as much fun as the ‘Rangitoto’ though, because it was full of passengers, but it was quite nice all the same. And Dad picked me up in Wellington. We got home and found out that there was going to be a frost that night – this was mid-September, which was late for a frost. And Michael, who was working for us at that time, hadn’t put the fire pots out, although Dad asked him to make sure he put the fire pots out in the early stone fruit. So before I’d even changed my clothes I was back on the tractor … driving the tractor while Dad put the fire pots out that night. [Chuckle]
So I somehow stayed then on the orchard, full time. I did apply for a job in the Forestry Service in Rotorua, because I thought that might be relatively interesting. It wasn’t a big city – but I didn’t get it, and I’m so glad I didn’t because one of the girls from varsity who had been in the same hostel as me was also working there, and she was a wet drip [chuckle] … a nice girl, but a wet drip. And it would’ve been awfully boring working in the same place as her, and especially since I would’ve been subordinate to her. I mean, she was perfectly nice, but … you know. So I stayed working on the orchard for seven years, which I loved. And I got into the tramping club.
And at that stage, Massey University would do evening or weekend classes up here, and I had some very interesting geomorphology trips. That was really good, and it’s a shame that kind of thing ever stopped … was obviously too expensive.
And then Dad turned sixty-five, and the bank suggested it would be a good idea if he retired rather than rely on the old age pension paying off the rest – you know, the costs, and so on. ‘Cause that’s one thing with the Rehab system – you never really got yourself clear of it. It was a thing for the next generation. If I’d been a boy …
It was just like leasing, wasn’t it?
If I’d been a boy I’d have taken on the orchard, and that would’ve cleared it. But I didn’t really … I didn’t think I was capable of running the orchard, especially as things were getting so much more complicated then. They were very fussy about all the paperwork, and Dad would be up three or four hours every evening, trying to … you know, clear the paperwork up, having done a hard day’s work. So I thought, ‘Well I just don’t think I can cope with all that’. And a job came up at the Library because Betsy, who’d replaced me, was going again, overseas. So I applied and got the job, and I stayed there at the Library until I was made redundant after seventeen years or so, And now … it was just brilliant because I was my own boss again! [Chuckle]
So I decided that, ‘right, I’m not going to try for a library job, because I’m not giving up [a] perfectly good freehold house and land here, and go and live in a flat in Wellington for the rest of my life.’ And it would’ve been [a] scruffy, horrible flat anyway … wouldn’t’ve been able to afford Wellington prices even then. So I took up gardening for old ladies, and using the orchard as a … well, an orchard! It was a productive orchard because until the supermarkets spoilt the auction system, there was a good demand for small lines of good fruit. It was good – I never starved. I did make sure the cat was fed first, and sometimes it was a bit of a scrape, but I did manage. I had to draw a little bit of money out of the bank sometimes to pay the insurance, but basically I lived on what I could earn – may’ve only been $6000 a year, but it was enough.
Well you cut your cloth to suit, don’t you?
You’ve been retired for ..?
Since 1991. I was only forty-nine, so I … in theory I had another fifteen years or so of earning ahead of me, but what the heck?
Tramping? You …
Oh, yes … oh, I love it. At one stage, I was probably out every second weekend with the trips. But they used to go a long weekend … you know, a two-day weekend, and then a fortnight afterwards a day trip, and I’d be on all of them if I possibly could. And some of them used to go out in some pretty horrible weather at first. The first trip I went on was ANZAC Day 1965. No, wait on … I’m getting my years mixed up, I’m sorry. Anyway, it was the year I came back from Auckland and worked in the public library here. And it was a lousy, lousy weekend – a day trip. We went up … it was northern Ruahines … and we went up Golden Crown, that’s right, and came back down Bob’s Spur, and it was mist and rain on the top, and one of the boys insisted on trying to light a fire so we could have a hot drink. And after about half an hour of making a little bit of smoke and nothing else – yeah, we gave up on that. But we were so wet and so soggy! And so we came back down, but we couldn’t find the way through the bush, so we came back down Bob’s Spur which had the shingle slide on it. And the beech trees at that stage were only young saplings, and we had to push our way through these wet beech trees, and we were so wet! I remember – my first shingle slide – I’d never been down a shingle slide before! Yes! [Chuckle] That was fun. And then when we got to the bottom of it, we had about … oh, I suppose it was about half an hour’s walk over boulder-strewn land, and by that time I was so cold and tired I could barely lift my legs up. And when you got back to the truck, changing out of wet clothes – my fingers were so cold I couldn’t undo the zip on my trousers. It was very embarrassing – they had to get somebody else to undo it for me. That was when I discovered that every other person on the trip was a boy. [Chuckles] Well we’d all been kind of, figures in parkas, at that point. [Chuckle] But it was quite funny, because everyone on that trip reckoned that I would never come out again, and I was there on the next trip, [chuckle] which was a beautiful day; a weekend trip, pulling up pine trees on part of Mt Ruapehu. It was extremely funny though, because one of the people who were in charge of making sure we pulled the right block out, rested the compass down on a rock to make sure the bearings were right, but what they forgot about was that the magnetic nature of the rock meant that the compass wasn’t pointing in the right direction. So we did half a day’s clearing on a piece of a Maori block which we were not supposed to be on … which very much needed clearing anyway. [Chuckle]
Those would have been the days of Phil Baines and Les Hanyer?
Yes. Actually … it was just before them actually. 1965 that must have been. Old Angus was still alive but he wasn’t tramping at that stage. Morrie, whose daughters came out later on when they were big children – they came out as little children at first. Yes, and Les Hanyer would probably’ve been there, ‘bout that time anyway. Graham Thorpe, Peter Lewis … oh, it was great. I mean I was very much the inexperienced one, but they were fine.
Yes, there’s something about getting out there and feeling it and experiencing it that you can’t learn from just looking at pictures or anything.
You said you’re still a member of the club, while you don’t participate, except for the easy walks …
So what else do you do then, besides ..?
Well I played badminton for a long time, at Twyford, because there was a good … the Twyford and Raupare Badminton Club, which played badminton in the Twyford Hall. And they also played darts, indoor bowls and something else … so that you weren’t just sitting around between games, which was good … good fun, we were a good crowd. And that kept me in touch with the boys I went to school with for … oh, we had a boy I was in primary school with which was really rather nice, and got to know their wives and everything. That folded, oh … ‘bout ten years ago, I think, because people were getting older, and also wives were having to go into town to work …
It all changed.
Yes, everything changed. Because we used to have great competitions with … particularly with Sherenden. We used to alternate visits between the two country places. And it used to be … apparently back in the thirties Twyford and Sherenden would play cricket against each other, so it was really rather nice to carry on that tradition. But that gave up because Sherenden just couldn’t get enough people to play. The wives were too exhausted after having worked in town all day, and the men were too busy trying to do all the paperwork that they had to do. But that was good.
And then – I’ve always liked singing. And in fact, I even … one year at high school I did a year’s singing privately, which was good. And then I got … in Auckland I sang with the Mt Eden Operatic Company. That was fun. And then when I was at the library, the Gilbert and Sullivan Company had just got themselves going in Havelock North, and they did a concert in … the Exhibition Room? Or whatever it is, next door to the library – that area, when it was just an odd place. And that was nice, I enjoyed that. Someone in it was also a member of the library, and I said, “Oh, well what about joining?” “Oh yes, come along”, you know. So that was great, and I got into the Havelock North Gilbert and Sullivan group from 1975 to … ‘bout 1986 I think, when we did our last performance. We did most of the operas, and a couple of them twice, and then the last year, because Jim Lawson, the person who was running it – he got a little bit elderly – at ninety-one he thought it was a bit much to be making the scenery and taking the leading part. [Chuckle] So I knew people who were in the Hastings Choral Society. Both the Gilbert and Sullivan group and Hastings Choral had rehearsals on a Tuesday night, so you couldn’t be in both. So then I joined the Hastings Choral Society, so I’ve been a part of that since.
Now you haven’t mentioned your parents – they’ve both passed on?
Oh yes. Dad died very suddenly, he just dropped down when he was making a cup of tea. They think it was a broken blood vessel – embolism? In 1980 – just died suddenly like that. So I took on running the orchard as well as working in the library, which was quite busy. I stopped being able to get out on very many weekend trips at that point ‘cause I didn’t have the time, although I kept on going on day trips – I could manage them more. And then Mum developed cancer and was ill. Oh – Mum and I went over to England in 1982 because she and Dad had been planning to have another trip. They had managed to get their overseas trip in 1976, after we’d moved here a couple of years. They saved up their pensions and they went over to England and they were there for the School Reunion Dinner at Durham School, which was absolutely wonderful for him because he’d always been very enthusiastic about … I think he enjoyed Durham School. And he gave the toast to The Queen at the dinner, which was rather nice. And that was actually really rather nice the way it worked out, because I had got in touch with Durham School when I went over to England in 1966 – because the Lions had played here in 1965 and Mike somebody had been a member of the Lions team – and he was from Durham. And Dad had gone in to see him … you know, old school chums, that style of thing … and he had given me his address to look up in Durham, because he knew I was going over to England the next year. So I looked him up. He was actually too busy to see me because he was going through business problems or – oh no, a divorce problem or something – and he couldn’t really see me. So he took me around to see Norman McLeod, who was the Housemaster of the Caffinites, which had been the school House that Dad had been in. And Norman McLeod and his wife – they were just absolutely gorgeous – we’ve been strong friends ever since. Norman and Sheila have both died now, but I was still a close friend of Janet, their daughter. It’s really lovely; they were like my parents in England.
Is Durham University in Durham?
Durham School is in Durham, yes.
Yes. Now just one thing – these apples of yours, are they normal varieties or are they special varieties?
They’re normal varieties from the sixties. But unfortunately, some of the trees are getting very old now. I’ve got one tree which is a Lord Nelson on one side and Red Astrachan on the other. Now the Red Astrachan is an early apple; very popular as a pollinator, and we had one or two stuck in the orchard just for pollination. Lord Nelson is an early cooker – it’s a beautiful early cooker, but unfortunately the tree fell apart in the wind last winter and I’ve only got a little bit left, and I’m trying to get a sapling just to graft onto. I’ve got a Sturmer … good old Sturmer, but that tree, it suffered in the drought and I don’t think it’s going to survive. They’re good trees; I like Sturmers.
That’s another apple they’ve forgotten that has got flavour.
Have you got any Rome Beauties?
I did have, but it died which was a shame because it was a lovely cooking apple.
Yes, it’s still alive – not very good, but I still produce …
[Speaking together] It is an old orchard, isn’t it?
Yes – I’ve got a Cox’s Orange; I’ve got an Oratia Beauty and a …
No, I haven’t got a Gravenstein. And what’s the other one? I’ve got another early apple anyway.
No, I haven’t got Ballarat. I’ve got a Granny Smith; I’ve got a Spartan; I’ve got a Splendour; Red Delicious, Golden Delicious – that’s only a graft but I’ve got some … got one tree with four varieties on it; Spartan, Granny Smith, Oratia Beauty and Splendour.
And do you prune them?
Yes. But they’re looking pretty tatty at the moment because they’re getting … old trees. The only one that’s looking really good is Gala, just an ordinary Gala, not the Royal Gala, it’s looking good … it’s the only one that’s now really looking good. It’s not too sweet, it’s a nice apple … got a good flavour. The Queen apparently was very taken with it when … one of her visits they gave her one to eat and she said “Oh, that’s …” Yeah.
Well that’s probably just about wrapped up the story of your life, hasn’t it?
Well – the superficial angles of it anyway. [Chuckle] Well I love travelling; I’ve been to some interesting places but that’s not really relevant to Hawke’s Bay history. One of the things that is so funny, is that when you’re travelling you meet other people most unexpectedly. I was on top of Ben Nevis in 1966, with a friend whom I’d met on the ‘Rangitoto’ going over to England, and lo and behold, one of the other people on the top was a New Zealander who taught with my friend Joy, from Girls’ High. Yes, there were only four of us on the top and one of them – yeah – like that.
So was Geraldine Travers Principal when you started school?
No. Miss Miller. And Jean Kelt was our geography teacher who later became Head. Connie Miller was a very nice lady, and she “hoped that her gels would behave themselves like ladies.” [Chuckle] Some of us didn’t. Miss Trotter was a slightly more down to earth person. But it was so funny there, because the grass was being established between the individual blocks at the school. And we stood up at Assembly – we didn’t have Assembly in the Hall, we had it outside on the concrete, in one place. “No single girl shall walk upon the grass!” And of course, then we got “What about the married girls?!” [Chuckle]
I haven’t mentioned anything about my dad’s side of the family – I just haven’t got around to it.
Well, maybe give us some of that?
Well – a very quick rundown – Dad, George Brian Pindar – his father was George Henry Pindar, who was a merchant marine captain. His father, Edward, had been a printer. I don’t know how the generations go back quite, but my great, great, great, great, great grandfather was a Baltic pilot during the Napoleonic Wars. I’ve seen his log book, and he was responsible for getting ships’ timber – spars and masts – through the Kattegat and the Skagerrak, over to the English ports, so he was quite a well-established person I should imagine. And I believe later on he was in command of one of the little fly boats, or one of the little boats that took messages from the fleet back to Portsmouth, because the story goes that he was at Trafalgar. But he obviously wasn’t fighting at Trafalgar ‘cause he was … I would imagine that he’d be one of the little boats that was hanging around the edge to take messages. I don’t know any more than that because unfortunately a cousin has the log book and I’ve lost touch with him, and I can’t contact him.
Dad came out here from school – worked with one of the friends of his from school, Ben, who came out at the same time. It was either 1928 or 1929 – I can’t think offhand – and they went immediately up to Tutira – not Tutira Station, but up to Tutira area. The Heays family was one of the families that Dad worked for. Another one of the families he worked for were the Barrys. Funnily enough, Cath Barry who took the Choral Society – Cath had married one of the sons of that family. Dad remembered them as real little brats. He was at Tutira when they were putting the railway through – I’ve got some photos of that.
He went over to England – this’d been allowed, I mean he came over here the first time. He went back over to England for his twenty-first birthday which was rather nice, because his father died shortly afterwards. And they went up to London and he saw ‘No No Nanette’, on in one of the theatres. He came back, and at that time the Depression effects really hit New Zealand. And it must’ve been Mr Heays, I think, said, “Brian, I can’t have you full time here, but if you’re willing to be shared around the farmers in the locality you can stay here in the whare, and you know, you’ll be paid for what you do around …” So Dad stayed there for a while – he was up there during the earthquake. He only just escaped that, because he was in the shearing shed and he was just about to go down the steps when the earthquake came. He must have hung on to the doorway and not gone down the steps because the five hundred gallon tank fell off the tank stand and smashed the steps. So Dad wasn’t underneath the tank!
But the next few days were apparently horrible, because they had to go around all the farms, not just one farm but all of the farms, pulling sheep out of cracks, and they had to cut the throat of the ones who were badly damaged, and then try to look after the horses who were scared out of their wits. And one horse had to be sold to someone down on the flat, because it couldn’t bear hills and it would never walk on a hill again. [Traffic noise in background] It just was unable to walk – it just shook and trembled. And he didn’t know whether the Higgins family down in Havelock North were alive or not … took him a couple of weeks to be able to find out.
And it was shortly after that that he came down to Twyford and got a job – I think it was with the Masters, but I’m not absolutely certain ‘cause he worked for various people around the Twyford area, grass seeding, harvesting, all kinds of jobs – orchard work, you know. And by that time he’d joined the Territorials, in ’34 or something like that, and he did a lot of exercises out at Roys Hill with a horse-drawn gun and things like that, which I’ve got photos of too, and he was very much involved in that.
But I don’t know a lot about my father’s side of the family because my grandmother didn’t … she came out in 1953 to stay with us – 1954 it might’ve been – she wasn’t interested in stories very much, but I did get a few relating to my grandfather Pindar. One of them was defeating a pirate attack on the coast off Augusta. They had mostly a Chinese crew … a Hong Kong Chinese crew. They shut them all down below decks for safety. They had the donkey engine on stand-by, and he and the first officer … first mate … had the gun that was issued to them for emergencies. And when they heard the boats coming out from shore … local fishing boats would come out and try to attack the ships that were lying off. They started the donkey engine and lit up all the lights they could on the ship and fired a few shots into the darkness, and they heard the boats getting away. [Chuckle] They actually were starting to climb up the anchor chain.
And another time – he was normally on the South American run, later. First of all he was on the Baltic run, and over to Antwerp. And Dad used to go over on the Antwerp run occasionally run occasionally, if it was right for school holidays and so on, because he liked to visit Holland. And he loved that, and the crew were all rather gorgeous.
Then on the South American run it was very interesting, because he called into places like Punta Arenas and Valparaiso [Chile]. He ended up by getting typhus and was nursed by nuns in Valparaiso at one stage, which was rather against good, strong, Low Church Anglican. [Chuckle] And he met the – and I’m not sure – the son or the nephew of Sarah Siddons [eighteenth century English actress] in Punta Arenas, who as an elderly man was living in Punta Arenas where a lot of English and Scottish people were living – still are. And he was hard up, and he wanted to sell something but he only wanted to sell it to the right person.
And after three voyages, and because my Pindar grandmother was a very good performer, singing and playing the piano – and she used to raise money in concert; they’d have public concerts and things like that. She wasn’t performing for money but they were public concerts for raising money for Mission to [for] Seamen, and particularly for the Lifeboat Societies in South Shields – that area. And because she was a performer I think, the nephew or son finally decided he would sell the ring to my grandfather, which was given to Sarah Siddons by the Prince Regent. [Quiet chuckle] It’s a beautiful ring. It’s a big ring – it fits on my thumb. She was obviously a big woman.
Mmm. I mean I have no literal proof; no written evidence, but it’s a good story, you know. But unfortunately I don’t know whether it was the nephew or the son, because my grandmother never seemed to make that sure.
I’ve also got a lovely gold bracelet made up of Peruvian coins that [chuckle] my grandfather accepted as a quick payment from someone to get out of the country quickly because there was a revolution going on. Which tended to happen.
And he was also in the Baltic, in 1906 it must’ve been, when there was the duma and that business of the previous revolution in Russia. And he was in Riga and someone needed to get out very quickly there, and I’ve got this beautiful amber necklace that was part of the payment. Real Baltic amber. But, I mean when you need to get out of the country and you haven’t got the money on hand quickly [chuckle] …
So then your father came back after his trip ..?
Yes, after his twenty-first birthday trip; carried on up in Tutira for a while, and then worked down in Twyford. And then when he got engaged to Mum he realised he couldn’t get enough money by working so he went contract fencing. After two years of that he got enough money to afford to get married. They had a weekend honeymoon in Palmerston North. [Chuckle]
Absolutely! And then he went off to the Territorials. Oh no – then they went back to Twyford. They were renting a flat in Twyford in 1940. But then he was so busy with the Territorials – I think it must have been [with the] Terrritorials most of the time by then. Mum didn’t want to live out in Twyford by herself … well, by that time she was probably pregnant anyway … so she went back and stayed with one of her friends in Hastings for a while. And then she and Dad became eligible for a State house, ‘cause by this time she presumably was just about having the baby. Mum did teach in a kindergarten for a while, so she did finally do some teaching. [Chuckle]
Yes, and then we settled out at Twyford.
I don’t know enough about Dad’s family, which is rather a shame. I’ve got some interesting bits and pieces, I know, because there’s another branch of the family – my grandmother was Bertha Kirkbride Laverick before she married. The Lavericks were corn merchants – quite well-to-do in the South Shields area. Their house is now under one of the main roundabouts in the vicinity of Sunderland. Dad remembered seeing this house when he was a little boy. The area for roads was sold in about the 1920s, and he can remember this beautiful house – it was a really nice house.
The Kirkbrides are quite an interesting connection of the family – that’s a real north country name. And I’m trying to work out the connections, because my cousin June in England – her great aunt was Marjorie Kirkbride before she married. She married quite late in life to a farmer she’d been keeping house for. The Kirkbride name – I can’t quite work out the relationship, but I think Rebecca must have a sister, and so that’s how the Kirkbride family comes down to June in Somerset, and me out here. We’re cousins, even though we are about sixth cousins. [Chuckle]
The Kirkbrides and the Garbutts are connected, presumably by marriage. But Uncle Alf Garbutt – Dad always talked about him as Uncle Alf – Uncle Alf and Aunty Rose – they had a farm in Beamish in Durham. But Beamish is now an open-air museum. The manor house at Beamish was the farm that he was in as Dad remembers him as a small boy. This is just before [the] very beginning of the First World War, presumably. Dad remembers this – he actually either saw it happening or was told first-hand about it. The horse team was ploughing, and the plough and the team sank into the ground. One of the underground mines collapsed. At that point the farm was declared as being too dangerous for farmland, and the Coal Board or some organisation, bought the farm – or compulsorily took the farm, but paid Uncle Alf enough money to buy another farm, and he bought the farm at … it’s just out of Bedale anyway, in North Yorkshire. And he lived there, and Aunty Marjorie whom I met, who was my cousin June’s great-aunt – she lived with them. I think she must’ve been a cousin, possibly her mother was ill or had too many children. Anyway, as the eldest girl [she] went to help her uncle and aunt who didn’t have any children. And she kept the farm going during the Depression by raising turkeys and selling them.
Well coming back to your father and Twyford, he was working ..?
When we were at the State House Dad was mostly overseas in the 36th Battalion, and later on up in the Islands. But when he came back we were living in Awatea Street and Dad was working for Sykes’ Orchard along Pakowhai Road. That was in 1945. Yes, Dad worked there, I think probably for about a year and a half.
And so when did he come back here then, and plant the apple trees?
Here? 1974, when he retired from the orchard at Twyford.
Now the orchard at Twyford – you haven’t told me much about that.
Well, it was a ten acre block, and I loved it to bits, and I knew every individual tree on it. And it was just my idea of heaven. Apples, William bon Chretien pears, peaches and plums.
Can you remember whereabouts it was?
Yes – halfway down Hill Road on the right-hand side going down, between Arthur Winters’ and Jimmy Hope’s, opposite what is now … I don’t know who the people are there now, but it was opposite Groom’s chook farm and Steven Burns’ place. Michael Burns later on was orcharding across the road where Grooms were. Friis’s was down Twyford Road. Arthur Winter’s farm was an orchard and chooks, down there. There was Edelsen’s, Winter’s, Pindar’s, Jimmy Hope’s.
So how many years was he at Twyford?
Twenty-nine years, I think. He got it in 1946 and we left in 1974. But I still think of myself as a Twyford-ite.
Does the name Carrington ..?
Oh yes! Yes, Jimmy Carrington – he was a friend of Dads. And I went to school with Janice. Yes, Carringtons were just down the road from the school. Twyford is my area. At the bottom of our orchard there was a depression and that was part of the water race that the Russells originally had running from the Ngaruroro River right across, down into Twyford.
Okay. Well now I do think we’ve got the lot of you. Thank you for that.
Original digital file
This work is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 New Zealand (CC BY-NC 3.0 NZ).
Commercial UsePlease contact us for information about using this material commercially.
Interviewer: Frank Cooper