Robert Jasper Herrick Interview
It’s the 29th November,  and I’m interviewing Robert Herrick. Robert and the family have been very old time settlers in Hawke’s Bay, dating back to the 1800s. Robert, it’s very good to be able to get a story from you today. I’ve told you what I want – we’ll just go from there; you just keep talking.
Right. Okay, my great grandfather, Jasper Lucas Herrick was born in County Cork in 1833, and entered the Army in England in 1852; he joined the 62nd Regiment of Foot. In November 1858 he sailed to New Zealand; there were two hundred passengers, and he arrived in Auckland in 1859. He was commissioned as a Captain in the Napier Militia in 1863, to fight New Zealand Wars serving under George Wigmore [Whitmore] … Sir George. During the years that followed he was in charge of the Napier Volunteers, and led them into the engagement at the Ruakituri River in northern Hawke’s Bay.
In 1869 in the Ureweras he was commissioned and commanded the Second Armed Constabulary with Whitmore and Chief Ropata, his friend. The Māori marched from Poverty Bay to rout Te Kooti. The army split into three; Jasper Herrick was in command of the contingent sent to Lake Waikaremoana, consisting of six hundred men. Anyway, just briefly, they chased Te Kooti and couldn’t catch him; and they came up from Wairoa with small boats and dragged them up through the bush; and Te Kooti shot across the lake and they couldn’t get hold of him, and the boats weren’t suitable. So they cut down three trees and made longboats out of them. He evaded them and they didn’t capture him, so they sunk the boats. And if you get up to Onepoto Bay, which is at the southern end of Waikaremoana, and you look down, on a fine day you can see the boats that are sunk at the bottom of the lake. Anyway, he didn’t catch Te Kooti so that was the end of it.
Then in 1865 he got out of the Army and joined J N Williams at Kereru Station, where he lived and worked between his periods of military service. In the same year he married a Lydia Clark, and they lived at Kereru together until she died in 1868. It must’ve been very lonely for her, ‘cause it was a long way from Hastings in those days. He was also the Postmaster between 1865 and ‘69. Left Kereru soon after Lydia’s death, and moved to partnership with J N Williams at Kereru, where they had a run of over twelve thousand sheep.
In 1870 he joined Russell Duncan at Forest Gate, a property of some thirteen thousand acres, carrying six thousand seven hundred sheep, situated just out of Waipawa on the Ruataniwha Plains. Forest Gate had been taken up by R J Duncan of Wellington, and he had put his son, Russell, in charge. The Duncans had come from Forest Gate in Essex in England and had named the property after their old home. At the end of the year Jasper married Emily Duncan, Russell’s half-sister. Russell lived in Napier where he founded the general merchants, Ellison & Duncan, 1885. They went back to live at Kereru for a while where the eldest child was born, who was Hettie, in 1870, Oswald in 1872, Frank in ‘73, and then Edward; the first Edward was in 1877. Oswald and the first Edward died at a young age, one at six and one at six months. And they had eight children: Hettie, Oswald, Frank, Minnie, Edward Henry and Edward Jasper – that’s my grandfather – and Arthur and Ruth. He [Jasper] was elected to the Provincial Council, the member for Hampden, shortly after he opened the first Ongaonga school. Ninety years later the school became a small period museum; in 1966 the sword presented to him by Queen Victoria before he left England was put on display, which we’ve still got.
Edward [?Jasper?] farmed Forest Gate until December 1890, when he died as the result of an accident. He had organised a picnic to Oporae, which is just out of Dannevirke, on other friends’ [?land?] with his daughter, Hettie. Robert Hughes, a packer employed by him, acted as a guide. They had a picnic below the Waihi Falls, and after lunch Jasper settled Hettie with her sketching pad. Anyway, he went off and grabbed a flower that she wanted. He slipped and he fell ‘bout fifty feet, hitting his head on a rock; and he didn’t survive.
Anyway, after that his wife went back to Forest Gate; and they lived at Forest Gate until 1902. In 1900 they decided to buy St Lawrence Station at Patangata. This was a much more manageable property as it was small, less remote and easier country. The asking price was £5 an acre; but the Seddon Government had passed the Land for Settlement Act in 1900 whereby big property holdings were compulsorily purchased and split up. The price offered by the government for Forest Gate was below the current value, so their offer was not accepted. Then in 1901, a letter from the Minister of Lands, which created a considerable sense of outrage among the farming community that a widow with six children had been forced to sell to the government at such a low price. It was therefore decided by the trustees J N Williams of Frimley and Sydney Johnson from nearby Oruawharo, Takapau, to contest the compulsory purchase. They duly upped the price and they ended up by getting £5 an acre for it. So with that they bought Tautane Station, which was purchased in 1902; and the family left Forest Gate. [?Hettie?], Minnie and Ruth went to live with their mother at 3 Lighthouse Road in Napier, and the three boys went to farm at Tautane – Tautane being on the coast at Herbertville, just outside of Dannevirke at Cape Turnagain.
Righto – shall we go on to Edward’s side of the family? His brother, Arthur … this is quite interesting … Arthur was born at Forest Gate and he went to Wanganui Collegiate School. And he farmed with his brothers at Tautane, and then he went to Gallipoli in the First World War; and he served in Gallipoli, then he went on to Palestine where he was recommended for a VC, [Victoria Cross] but the Brits were sick of giving the colonials VCs, so they gave him the MC [Military Cross] instead. He was killed in Palestine. Now do you want to know about the station?
Well, Tautane Station was nine thousand acres of good sound country. The first owner of Tautane was a Mr Wallace. The second was Major – not a major in the army – Major Slingsby-Bell … [it] was his christian name … and was badly farmed, then sold to Roberts & Company; Sir John Roberts … that’s of the late Murray Roberts. And Mr Handyside owned vast acres of land in the Seddon Government Land Settlement Act in 1900; made it necessary to pass in some of their land holdings. So they duly bought Tautane from the Roberts, and the three boys went on farming it until they [their] demise. Frank [?Edward Jasper?] Herrick, my grandfather, went to live at Lindisfarne – he wasn’t that interested in farming; so it was left to Frank to farm the place.
When you say Lindisfarne, that’s where Lindisfarne College is now?
Yeah, yeah. He bought that from his father-in-law, but I’ll get to that in a minute. And Tautane Station has been in the family since … There was [were] too many in it; there was two families. We sold it in 2012, which was the best thing that ever happened. Yeah, yeah. I supervised it with my cousin … my second cousin, Edward Elworthy … for thirty-seven years, and thoroughly enjoyed doing it which was great. And my father before him supervised the place for years. They had an Angus stud there, and they decided to disband it; so my father said, “Well, bugger this – I’ll take it into Waipukurau.” So we went to a place called Taimate, which is in the Hobin Road just out of Waipawa actually. So we bought the stud in there, and he managed it for his brothers and sisters, yeah – which was quite interesting. Oh – they were the wrong type of cattle at the time, and they decided in 1972 to sell the stud. And then he left Taimate and came to live at Muritai in Havelock North. He lived there until he died, which was in Duart Road in Havelock North.
Tell me, when you had the wool clippings and that, how were they taken off the farm?
Oh – [of] course there was [were] no roads in those days, they were very bad; well they were. And so they used to dump the wool … they had a wool shed on the beach at Cape Turnagain with Burnview Station and Pipi Bank Station … they shared the dump. And they dumped the bales into single dumps, and the bullocks … they blasted a channel out the Cape which is still there, and that’s where they launch all the boats that people have; launch all their boats from the beach. And you know, the bullocks … Richardson & Co would sit off for some days on end, because it gets bloody rough down there. Apparently they lost a few bales overboard but they managed to get them back. And they used to light it up to Napier. Yeah.
But yeah, it was a beautiful property, still is; we sold it to the Ngāti Kahungunu, the Māori bought it in the end, which … I don’t know why they don’t farm it themselves, but they’re not. So anyway, that’s beside the point … nothing to do with us.
Anyway, Eddie, my grandfather, went to Lindisfarne, and he bought it from his father-in-law who was a relation of Tommy Tanner’s. His wife was a granddaughter of Tommy Tanner – Tanner Street down here’s named after him. And he was one of the founding fathers of Hastings. And he bought the property from his father-in-law; he had eight children so they had to extend the house. You’ve been to Lindisfarne, haven’t you?
Well the western end was the original, and then when Barbara Gordon, his daughter, was born, they added on another wing; doubled the size of the place. Yeah.
Yeah, I played squash there.
Oh, did you? Yeah, they had a squash court … first squash court in Hawke’s Bay, I think.
Yes, it was.
Yeah. And then the earthquake buggered it a bit. It cracked the walls. It’s not used as a squash court now but the building’s still there, which is quite interesting.
Anyway, Eddie … great deerstalker, and he went deer stalking. He used to go down every year with a fellow called Jim Muir, and he went down there from about 1923 till about 1946 I think, and shot the first two moose that’s ever been shot in this country. That’s the hoof of the first one he shot; one of them’s at Clifton Station, at Angus Gordon’s, and he’s got it hanging on the wall; I don’t know where the other one’s gone. All the heads he had at Lindisfarne … the trophies he had … when he died, when they left Lindisfarne I mean, they sent them to different deer stalking places round the country. But yeah, there was one very good one which Charles Gordon’s got now, which was a wapiti head – one of the finest wapitis, sixteen pointer – it was one of the best wapiti heads ever shot in the country. Yeah. And yes, they’d go down there – used to get the packet steamer into Dusky Sound. They’d go down there every … oh, not every winter, but in the autumn … and they had some pretty hair-raising times, I might tell you. But they survived, and he loved it which was good.
Then he also was one of the founding directors of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, Eddie; and he was the Chairman of Williams & Kettle for yonks. He was on the Board of Trustees for Te Aute College and Woodford. Anyway, he died in 1964; no, he didn’t …
Tell me, you mentioned Ellison & Duncan earlier on – you were involved in that, the Herrick family?
Yeah, the Herrick family, ‘cause he was a director. And the old man was a director as well. And they were merchants – you know, they were general merchants and booze merchants, you know …
And did they amalgamate with somebody?
Yeah – who in the hell took them over?
Dalgety’s or someone?
Dalgety’s or one of them, yeah; that history doesn’t relate, I can’t remember.
My good friend Bill McKenzie was the manager of Ellison & Duncan when they were down at Ahuriri …
… in the liquor department.
Cocky King we used to call him.
Huge man; a hell of a nice man. His daughter was the music teacher at Woodford for years – Jo King. Yeah, apparently.
Anyway, we’ll get on to Eddie – had six boys and two girls; and we’ll start from the beginning. Jasper was my father, he’s the eldest; then there was Terry; and then there was Brian. I knew Terry and Larry ‘cause they were in the Navy. Jasper, Terry, Dennis, Brian, Larry and Michael. Then there was Julia, was the eldest daughter, and Barbara Gordon, the youngest.
You said ‘in the Navy’ – what did that have to do with the story?
Well, they were born in New Zealand you see, and they were Eddie’s kids. And Terry went to the Royal Navy; he went to Hereworth, and when he was thirteen they bundled him off to Dartmouth. Yeah; ‘cause he wanted to go, he wanted to join the Navy. Yeah, that was why he did that. And then Larry, he joined the Navy as well, the Royal Navy, but he came out to New Zealand and commanded the [HMNZS] ‘Pukaki’ at the time; [it] was a frigate, and he was Commander of that for a while. And then Terry came back to New Zealand and he was a Commodore at the Devonport Naval Base up in Auckland. And yeah, they did well.
And the other three boys … they wouldn’t let Jasper go to the war, my father, because he was the eldest and somebody had to run the [?cutter?]. And he joined up, but he joined the Army, he was a Corporal, and went down to Linton. And anyway, there was a hell of a hoo-ha and that, but yeah – the family wouldn’t let him go, so he took them to court. [Chuckles] Yeah. I’ve got all the letters in there, oh it was a helluva hoo-ha, yeah. But anyway, [George] Maddison was the Mayor of [Hastings]; he wouldn’t let him go either, and so that was the end of that. But it affected my father really, ‘cause he had three brothers killed in the Air Force; Dennis, he got killed; Brian got killed; and Michael got shot down. But they all did well; they all got their wings and flew Mosquitos and Kittyhawks and … yeah; so that was that.
Their eldest daughter, Julia, she married an army type; an Englishman, a fellow called Poett … Nigel Poett … and he became the British Commander of the Far East Land Forces based in Singapore for years. Yeah, and Barbara married John Gordon from Clifton Station. She doesn’t live on the station but she lives in Te Awanga. So yeah, And anyway, then I suppose you want to get down to me, do you?
Okay, now we’ll get back on to you, Robert; and you’ve had a wonderful life and got a great story to tell.
Oh, well I haven’t really; I’ve been pretty ordinary, but I’m eighty-one years of age and I’m still alive. I take no pills and I take no potions. But I went to Hereworth with Jim, he’s a bit older than me; how old are you? Are you eighty-five?
Eighty-seven. Galen asked me this morning, and I didn’t want to malign you … I think you might be eighty-six.
Well I’ve only just turned eighty-seven in October.
Oh … well done. Yeah. But you were at Hereworth when I was a new boy in 1945?
‘45 … yeah, I left in ‘45.
Yeah, at the end of ‘45. You were there for one year …
No, I was there from ‘39 to ‘45.
Yeah, but you left at the end of ‘45.
Yeah, you were there with George Lowry and Bruce McKenzie …
Oh, yeah, yeah.
… and all those bloody characters.
And before them, too.
And before them?
I went to Hereworth at the beginning of the war, 1939.
Right. Well how old were you when you went?
Six and a half.
Six and a half. Yeah, I was seven. Too young, wasn’t it?
Yeah. But anyway, no, that was all right. I enjoyed Hereworth, and then went on to Wanganui Collegiate School, and then went farming. And sort of been a farmer all my life and thoroughly enjoyed it; and as I said, looked after Tautane Station. We ran deer, sheep and cattle; and anyway – I suppose I can say this – but anyway divorce got in the way, and I had to sell the farm.
Not Tautane though?
No, no – Taimate, which is out of Waipawa.
Did you live at …
Tautane? No. No, we never lived out there. That was farmed by Frank Herrick, you see, ‘cause he was the brother. But Eddie and Frank were in partnership together of the station, ‘cause Arthur was killed.
So where was Taimate?
Well, it was at the end of the Hobin Road between Onga Onga and Waipawa. Going towards Onga, there’s a dead end road, you turn sharp to the left; comes right down to the river bed; the Tukituki River. Yeah, down there. And so I left there, and in 1985 Dalgety’s – I farmed deer, as I said – and in 1985 Dalgety’s wanted me to go over to England; they were importing deer from Sweden, and I went over there for seven months to look after them, which was a great experience. And it was marvellous; it was great; it was terrific. Yeah – was there for seven months.
Was that your only trip to England?
No, I’ve been to England four or five times, yeah. Because my mother lived in … my father and my mother were divorced; goes in the family a bit. [Chuckles] She left; I only saw her three times after … she left New Zealand in 1947, and I only saw her three times after that. Yeah. She went to live in Brazil. She married a psychologist, and she went to live in England first. He was a psychoanalyst, yeah – not a psychologist; a shrink you might say, and he was half Brazilian by extraction. Anyway, the University of Sao Paulo offered him a job which he couldn’t refuse, and he lived there for a while. And she died, my mother, over there; and he asked us to go with the kids … my two kids, Michael and Julie … to go over there. And so he shouted us a first class trip around the world, and we went to Brazil which was fascinating. We were there for three weeks then France, and it was great.
And then I went to England in … time flies … 1957, the first time I went; the big OE, [overseas experience] just after I left school. Yeah, that was the second time too, when I went to Brazil; and then looking after the deer was the third time. And then again Galen and I went in 2008. So I’m never likely to go back again – sitting on an aeroplane at my age – no, terrible. Not good. Yeah.
And so here we are. My second wife, Betty, died, which was very sad; had an aneurysm. And so yeah – I went to live in Waipuk [Waipukurau] for a while and bought a house, and then she died, and … yeah. And I met Galen … Galen Smith as she was. And we’re still together, been married for twenty-four years … be twenty-four years on 23rd of December. Yeah, yeah. As I say, here we are; and I’ve done all sorts of things, you know …
You’re a handyman, aren’t you?
I’m a handyman, yeah, I’m a handyman.
Well known, and have a great name around Havelock North …
… Havelock North and Central Hawke’s Bay.
Yes, I was a handyman; well, I enjoyed it. Yeah, it was good. We used to build deer sheds with a fellow called Joe Rossiter, and you know, help people put up fences, and … yeah, it was good. Yeah, it was fun.
So here we are. And I’ve got two children, Michael who is [a] great mate of … well he was, they were at school together … Sam; and my grandson, Tom Cooper, is flatting with your grandson in Auckland.
Thoroughly enjoying themselves, I think.
Yeah – I can remember taking Michael and Sam round Waikaremoana for their Duke of Edinburgh [Award].
Oh, is that right? Gosh, that was a long time ago. Yeah.
It was a long time ago.
I can remember Peter Wilson, you know – remember Peter Wilson?
From Hereworth; when Michael was in Hereworth we did a tramp one day – right up to the … we took about … ooh, I don’t know, six boys; no, ‘bout eight boys … up to the Shuteye Shack. It’s long gone now; up at the top of the Ruahines. Yeah. It was interesting. Beautiful day. God, you get a great view from up there. Yeah.
And the daughter, Julie, lives in Dunedin, she’s married with two children. And young Tom – I think they’re still enjoying it; they’re still flatting together, aren’t they? Young Tom Cooper and your grandson?
Yeah – with James.
James, yeah, that was a great photograph of your daughter-in-law in the paper yesterday or the day before, wasn’t it? Lovely.
Yeah. Spelling was wrong again.
Yeah. [Chuckle] No, it’s all fun. So anyway, that’s about … well I’m still hale and hearty, so it’s all good. Yeah. So that’s about my life, I think, Jim.
Robert, I thank you very much for that talk and we’ll get that programme; and as you haven’t got a computer we’ll give you a hard copy of it.
Oh, that’d be lovely – thanks.
Original digital file
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Interviewer: Jim Newbigin
- Robert Jasper Herrick