Taylor, Keith Thomas & Dianne Mary Interview

Today is 23rd January 2017. I’m interviewing with Keith and Dianne Taylor, retired farmers. Keith’s family used to farm in the Havelock North area. Keith, I’m looking forward to hearing about the life and times of your family, so would you like to start off?

Well, my great-grandfather, Joseph Taylor, was born on the 10th of July 1844 in Staffordshire, England. His early working days was spent working on farms, and later in mines, preparing the timber and pots for the workings underground; after this [a] spell with the Railways. On his arrival in New Zealand with his wife Mary and their three children – fourth child born in New Zealand – Joseph was employed on farms for the first two years until he settled on a property he purchased in Napier Road.

So Keith, he came by sailing ship to Napier … this is where they landed?

Yeah. I’m not sure where they stayed in Napier for a start. But that was the house you talked about at Napier Road – your [?] that lived there. Oh, I can’t think … that’s where they were.

He worked as a contractor at various ways and also had a very successful bacon curing project for a number of years. He was always a very willing helper when there was work to be done. He was a very loyal and devoted supporter of the Anglican Church, and a service he gave for over twenty-four years was to clean and fill the kerosene lamps every Saturday afternoon. Joseph was the holder of a rather unique record. Despite advancing age the complications of motor driving held no terror for him, for he purchased a Ford Model T truck and learnt to drive on his eighty-fourth birthday. Joseph departed this life in his eighty-fifth year, 8th September 1928.

So that was before you were born, so you never knew him then?

No. Mary Ann Taylor, nee Harvey, was born 9th of July 1843 in Little Hay, Staffordshire. She married Joseph Taylor at Lichfield in the parish of Shenstone, Staffordshire, 2nd May 1864, by the Reverend R W Essington. During her early working days, Mary was employed as a servant.

Settling in a new country with her husband and family, she adjusted easily. Mary was a wonderful homely person and the most hospitable one could wish to be. A memorable occasion was when Mary celebrated her ninety-fifth birthday, and many happy returns were recorded from all parts of the province. Mary passed away six months later, 15th of January 1939. She was described as being one of the oldest and most respected persons of the district.

Joseph and Mary Taylor with their children Agnes, William and Mary, departed from Plymouth, England in the ‘May Queen’ on August 9th 1879 commanded by Captain Tatchell. During the ninety-day voyage to New Zealand the ship was becalmed in the doldrums, and it was quite an ordeal going through the tropics when the tar melted on the decks. The ship did not provide any food, only water, and the immigrants took their joints of pickled pork and beef to the ship’s galley where it was cooked for them. They touched the Canary Islands en route but did not see land again until the morning of the 7th of November 1879 when they landed at Napier. The ‘May Queen’ was wrecked at Lyttelton on her sixteenth voyage to New Zealand in 1888. She was blown up on a reef. A tug began to tow her off but in vain, for she had gone aground at nearly high water.

Agnes Taylor was born 21st September 1865 at Staffordshire, England. Agnes celebrated her fourteenth birthday on board ship during the voyage to New Zealand with her parents. On leaving school she went out to work doing housework and cooking. One situation was working for the Nelson family at Waikoko. Agnes married Arthur Tickner and they raised a family of three sons and four daughters: Arthur, Elsie, Ruby, Frank Marshall, Harold William, Agnes Vera, and Mary Rita. During these years it was a very rare occasion if she was not home to greet her family on their arrival home from school. The family milked their own cows and made butter. Agnes died in April 1949.

What an experience it must have been for her as a fourteen year old, coming out in a sailing ship.

William Taylor, my grandfather, was born 17th May 1868 at Little Hay near Shenstone, Staffordshire. He was ten when his parents decided to immigrate [emigrate] to New Zealand. Following in his father’s footsteps, when he left school he worked as a contractor for various farmers. William married Charlotte Cook. In 1900 he bought land and built a house for his wife and family of three sons and a daughter: Jack, Thomas Eric, Doris Maude [Muriel?], and William Joseph, in Middle Road, Havelock North. A grandson owns and farms this property today. William was the first farmer to introduce the revolutionary practice of smoko in 1900. There was some grumbling among other farmers but they soon followed suit. William Taylor died 28th of March, 1952 in his eighty-fourth year.

Those old farmers, they were tough. It was all manual work.

Must have been hard going. I just gave a photo to Wayne the other day of the place down there in Havelock, and the whole paddock, the whole area is stacked up with big sacks of spuds. And the story goes – I don’t know what year it was, there’s no date on it – but he loaded a boat for Australia and went with the boat to Australia. So that’s the story he gave. But you know, just to get those big bags of spuds from there to Napier …

Well I always remember my father used to talk about your father growing potatoes, ‘cause he was renowned for growing spuds down there. Were you ever able to grow potatoes at the level that they did?

Yeah – well probably, yeah. This particular time looks like the whole place was potatoes, but I mean we had paddocks of them, but not …

‘Course they didn’t have forklifts …

Oh, I think they contracted people to dig it out and pick them up.

Mary Taylor was born on 1st May 1871 at Little Hay, Staffordshire, England was eight years old when she came to New Zealand with her parents in 1879. On leaving school Mary worked as a housekeeper. For a time she was employed by John Chambers at Te Mata. Mary married Joseph Pomeroy, and they had three sons. Joseph William, Charles Henry and Frederick George. During these years they resided at ‘Tremelmon’ in Middle Road Havelock North, where they milked cows, grew vegetables and had an orchard. This property is still owned by a son, Fred, and most of the trees are still bearing fruit to this day. What year was this?

Dianne: ‘81 was it? I’m not sure. Have a look in the front of the book.

Keith: 1979.

It must have been quite a commun[ity] … it was a meeting place, because there weren’t many families.

Oh well, Dad found work down on Tuki Tuki Station.

That was the Coops, wasn’t it?

Dianne: Yes.

Keith: Yeah, and he would have … I mean, rode his horse through the river every day.

Well you know, they took the old homestead from the Lawn across the river by traction engine. Have you got it?

Yeah. We’ve had the photo of the fire then …

Dianne: Not the traction engine …

Because when they took it across the river, some sparks from the traction engine set the house on fire.

[Looking at photos] There’s the old house.

Keith: Alice Taylor was born 3rd of December 1880 in Hastings, just a year after her parents arrived in New Zealand. Leaving school, Alice helped at home making butter and delivering milk. She sang in St Luke’s Church choir at Havelock North, and also taught Sunday School. Alice married Walter Webb and they had four sons and a daughter: Walter Fredrick, Florence Alice, Douglas Harvey, Arthur Taylor and Leonard Joseph. They established the nursery in Nelson Street Hastings, on the grounds presently occupied by Wattie’s Canneries. A son and grandson now operate the nursery in Middle Road Havelock North. Alice Webb passed away on 11th August 1963. That’s just about that lot.

Most of the Taylors then would’ve gone to the Havelock North Primary School?

Yes. Two sons went to Havelock North High, and the daughter went to Napier Girls’ High School. And the last son … he was partly handicapped … he went to St Luke’s School.

So Jack Taylor – he carried on farming on his own account in Middle Road for a few years, and he lost the farm in the Depression years, then worked for Nimon’s until he went to the Wairarapa and worked for the Williams.

My father – he got an apprenticeship with Eastaugh & Treneman, and in the Depression times he went and worked for Shrimptons at Matapiro as a farm mechanic/chauffeur …


… and then carried on and worked for the Shell Oil Company for a long time before moving to Taupo – it had a commercial launch.

I remember you talked about your father being in Taupo with the launch. He owned some of the land in Havelock, Middle Road, didn’t he?


He owned twenty acres of it, did he?


And your uncle owned the …

Other twenty-odd acres.

Did they farm it while he was away? ‘Cause you were … still been a mechanic at that stage, weren’t you?

Yeah. The farm was leased out after a while to the Mason … until he – Mr Mason – got killed, and the thing was folded up. Then we leased twenty acres for a while, and we eventually bought the other twenty-five acres.

So you were born and lived in the homestead on Middle Road?


Dianne: You weren’t born there, were you?

Keith: They were there at the …

Dianne: Oh, were they?

Keith: … then they bought the house in Hastings for many years before going to Taupo. My father ended up being an engineer for DSIR at Wairakei when geothermal power [?].

So that brings it to you and your brothers and sisters. Are you the only son?

No. No, there’s two other brothers, and four sisters. There’s Michael, and he was with [?] Tractors. They [??] Fergie tractors.

Mike Taylor? Was he a brother of yours?

And Ross was an engineer at Wattie’s. [Speaking together] I’m the eldest one, you see. There was four sisters, and then they were after that – a younger family, you know. Eight years or something …

Dianne: Yeah, but there were two girls in between the boys.

Keith: Four girls.

And are they still alive?

No, two sisters died, and one resides in Wellington, and one’s in a home in Taupo. She’s got MS.

And what about Mike?

He’s residing in Hastings – he’s in Lascelles Street.

So you went to school, and your brothers and sisters toddled off to Havelock North?

No. No, my parents shifted to Taupo in 1948 the year of the polio … And Taupo School was only a native school in those days, so I came down to live with my grandparents and go to Havelock School. My sisters eventually went to Taupo School and Napier Girls’ High School.

I always remember Keith at school – he brought along these pamphlets of these E27N Fordson tractors [chuckle] – half tracks and all those things, and we thought he was just so smart that he actually knew someone to even get the pamphlets. [Chuckle]

Well we had the tractor … oh, we got one on the farm. An E27 – we would have had it those years.

And you eventually went off to …

Napier Boys’ High School, as a boarder.

And then became a …

An apprentice in Hastings … Monarch Motors.

Did you start out as an apprentice on tractors or were you on ..?


It was much less complicated then Keith, wasn’t it? There were no computers …

Yes, things were different altogether. And it was easier … reasonably easy to get a job in those days, you know, for young people – compared to today.

So you did your time there, and obviously at some stage or other you met Dianne – while you were an apprentice or had you finished?

Both: Oh, no.

Keith: I finished that.

And you carried on at Monarch Motors?

And I was there for ten years, and then some of the family farm came up for lease, and I leased that for a couple of years. Then we got married and lived at Pakowhai for another ten years, before moving back to Havelock for thirty-two years.

So where did you meet Dianne? Did she bring her tractor in to get it serviced? [Chuckle]

Dianne: Just through family friends.

Keith: In the street.


Friday night … I was up the street with John Beale. She was up the street with Elaine …

Dianne: The Gray girls.

Keith: Webb, it was, and Pauline Gray. And it sort of …

[Speaking together] Yes, I’d forgotten about your friendship with the Grays.

Dianne: They’re related.

Through which ..?

Dad’s family.

Mrs Gray ..?

She was Dad’s first cousin – no, second cousin.

So anyway, you married. Now I’m going to ask Dianne where her folks came from?

Well my [great] grandfather, John Flanders, he was born in Lincolnshire – Boston in Lincolnshire in July 1855. Sadly, we didn’t know anything about his descendants [ancestors] because he was illegitimate. Anyway, he was married for a short time in England, and his wife died. And when he was about twenty-eight he decided to come to New Zealand, and on the ship he met his future wife, who was Margaret Wiggett. She was born in 1864 in Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire. Her parents were William Wiggett and Mary Gardiner.

Then they were married later in the year after they arrived in New Zealand. They came out on the ‘Coptic’. And they had six family … during the next twenty years they produced six family.

Their first association – when they arrived in Havelock North – with the district, was a residence, ‘The Lawn’, and it was a well-known homestead near Clive. A short period in the Waipawa area followed and then they returned to the Lawn before settling at Mangateretere in 1900, making their home at Riverslea. He bought, they bought seventy acres from Thomas Tanner for £40 ($80) with a deposit of £50? and established an orchard which gave John a full time occupation. John’s time on the land was short as he parted [departed] this life on the 4th of November 1908 at Riverslea, in his fifty-third year.

Well, that’s interesting ‘cause seventy acres would’ve encompassed all the land that the other Flanders eventually …

… bought and added on to that area. They call it Flandersville out there now.

So your father was a brother of George Flanders?

No, he was a cousin. Yeah, there weren’t many years between the two of them. Dad and Uncle George – they got on so well together.

Margaret Wiggett was born at Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire on 15th February 1864 to Mary, née Gardiner, and William Wiggett. She was a domestic at home until she decided to emigrate to New Zealand in 1884. And it was on that trip that she met her future husband, John. When John died in 1908 Margaret took over control of the orchard with the help of her eldest son John, who actually was my grandfather. She also grew flowers and sold these to a market.

An early settler, Margaret was associated with the Mangateretere-Clive district for sixty years, and she died at Riverslea Hospital on October 3rd 1945 aged eighty-one, after living a very full life. She was of quiet and retiring disposition and was well-known in the area, and held in the highest esteem by the whole community. As I said they came on the ‘Coptic’ to Napier, and I’ve just got a note here … when they berthed at Napier the ‘Coptic’ was loaded with three hundred carcasses of mutton, besides other cargo.

Lizzie, their eldest child … the eldest child of John and Margaret … was born at ‘The Lawn’, Clive, 1885. She attended Clive School, and then for a short time at Pourerere, before returning to Clive and Mangateretere. School days over, she remained at home helping her mother. Very interested in handwork, she did many fine pieces, and a great lover of flowers and a very keen gardener, an interest she continued through her life. Lizzie married Walter Bye and they had one daughter, Alice. For many years and until her death they resided at Te Awanga. Lizzie passed away 1962, August 22nd aged seventy-seven years.

Then my grandfather – the second one – John William Flanders – he was born at Clive in May 1886, and at an early age his family moved to Pourerere and when he was about eight they returned to ‘The Lawn’. He attended the Clive School. School days over, he worked at home on the orchard until 1926 when he took over a portion of the land, continuing there until his retirement. Now that was the block they bought on the corner of Riverslea – Flanders Road. They bought that house there – it’s an old house, I remember it.

It’s on the right-hand side of the road.

As you turn into Flanders … right back down to the river. And then Mum and Dad built a house … couple of hundred metres down the road on that bend, and Dad worked in the orchard there with his father for many years.

John married Mary Franklin, and that’s another big family, and they had six children, two sons and four daughters. During these years John served on the committee of the Mangateretere School which his family attended. Seemed funny, some of them went to Havelock School and some went to Mangateretere, wasn’t it? One son, Charles, he died at the age of three – that was my uncle. John retired in 1946 and moved into Hastings to live there. During these years he and his wife were both keen bowlers. John parted [departed] this life at his home on the 27th June 1964, age seventy-eight.

The second of the family of John and Margaret named their daughter Margaret. She was born at Pourerere in March 1888, and when she nearly nine her parents returned to live at ‘The Lawn’. After attending Clive School, Margaret worked at home … she loved the garden, grew flowers and vegetables. Prior to the death of her father, they used to travel around Scinde Island – Bluff Hill as it is now known – selling their wares from an old cart. She also had an interest in tapestry and fine needlework. Margaret married Herbert Webb and they have two daughters. Margaret passed away on the 8th of July 1960.

Another son, Charles, was born at Pourerere in March 1894, and was only a few months old when his parents moved back to ‘The Lawn’, and he attended Mangateretere School. He was only fourteen when his father died, and upon leaving school at this time, he remained at home to help on the orchard. After a short life, Charles accidentally shot himself while climbing through a fence on the 1st of May 1913, aged nineteen years. It was the first day of duck shooting.

Then there was Ernest. He was born at Clive, 2nd September 1895, being educated at Mangateretere School ‘til thirteen years old. He then took up the carpentry trade. Enlisting in service of the first World War on his 21st birthday, Ernest served in France and Belgium with the 4th Rifle Brigade. Wounded in France, he returned from war on the [?‘Matarea’?]. He was then Foreman carpenter at the Whakatu Freezing Works until 1926 when he took up orcharding on the Riverslea property at Mangateretere, where he remained until a week before his death. A son and grandson still are on that land to this day. Ernest married Elizabeth Cunningham and they had one son and a daughter. He was the eldest [oldest] member of the Napier Cosmopolitan Club and also member of the Returned Servicemens’ Club. At the age of fifty-eight Ernest passed away, on the 11th of February 1954 at the Hastings Memorial Hospital.

Then there was George Nairn. He was the youngest of the family. He was born at Riverslea 7th of May 1905 and attended Mangateretere School. School days over, George went to the Whakatu Works where he did an apprenticeship as an electrician. In 1926 when he was twenty-one the family orchard was divided amongst the three sons. George taking over his share, continued orcharding until his death, although he was an ill man in the latter years. George married Maude Summersby and they had a family of eight, five sons and three daughters. George Nairn Flanders died at Royston Hospital Hastings, 14th March 1958, aged fifty-two years.

What was Ernest’s son’s name?

Colin. There was Colin and Betty. Betty married Ken Swanwick

And Colin married …

Loma …

He actually used to work at Eastaugh & Treneman.

What was his name? He was at Pukahu.

It’s fascinating how these families divided and worked.

Keith: Well they had to get on.

Dianne: Poor old Uncle George – well it’s Dad’s uncle – he was you know, riddled with arthritis in his latter few years. He looked an old man from the first time I ever met him, you know.

You had three children?

We had three children, yes. Graham, who has two children, and Wayne married in later life and had two step-children at that stage. And then Marie’s got two children … the youngest daughter.

Well that probably covers the family to that point. After you came back and leased the land and grew crops for Wattie’s …

Keith: We farmed in Middle Road for thirty-two years growing crops for the market and for Wattie’s – potatoes, tomatoes, beans, sweet corn, everything that Wattie’s required. So then we retired from the farm and moved to Highway 50, and had a lifestyle block and bed and breakfast business there. And now we’re retired to Greenmeadows.

You used to run a bed and breakfast at Havelock too, in Middle Road?

Dianne: Twenty-eight years.

Now, ‘course I know Mike Taylor, but he seemed so much younger than Keith.

He’s eight years …

Yes. I always remember Keith coming down to your place, and amongst the few trees at the edge of the property there was an old tractor. I think you said to me recently that one of your sons is mothering it at the moment.

Keith: It needs a lot of work. It’s possible, but improbable. [Chuckle]

Dianne: Kids got in and smashed all the front of it with sticks … the radiator and … hacked it all up.

Keith: But they had that old tractor from 1917, with a big four-furrow plough. Cut out a lot of acres around Havelock North, ‘cause they had areas that they leased down Middle Road and then another block down further, opposite the Webbs … block in the back of there.

Imagine taking that down the road with those big caged wheels.

That was old metal road of course – one gear forward, and one gear reverse.

Not many horses, but the horses had big feet.

Yeah, for a four-furrow plough. My father took a photograph of it ploughing in the early days, and had a photo in the Auckland Weekly News. They supplied a photograph of them ploughing with horses in the South Island; he put the photograph of the tractor ploughing in the North Island, and said “this is how we do it”. [Chuckle]

We talk about the children, and working, but we don’t talk about socialising. What did you do at night? If you went out, did you go to balls, or what did you do?

We went to the local dances, and went to different societies, to their annual balls. Belonged to the Junior National Party, which was a monthly get-together.

Dusty old hall down Warren Street.

Dianne: Premier was it?

No, Buffalo Hall.

Premier’s where we went to dances.

It’s a Catholic hall.

We used to go to a lot of dances there.

All the men stood around the entrance, [chuckle] and all the women sat like [chuckle] caged hens round the edge of the dance floor.

We used to go over to Napier to the dances over there.

Majestic … Top Hat?

Yeah, Top Hat …

The Cabaret Cabana?

Both: Yeah.

But they were quite exciting times really.

Dianne: Yeah, much better than I think what the young ones have … you know, they don’t go to dances or anything these days. I think we were brought up in the better years.

What did you do for your holidays? Where did you go?

Keith: First few years before we went to Taupo, with my parents living there. In latter years we got a caravan and ventured further afield.

Dianne: We used to have lot of family holidays – we’d go away with the caravan, all around New Zealand.

Keith: But our lifestyle I suppose was our caravan to Tutira quite often, to get away from our twenty-four/seven working days. And our annual holiday was caravans up north, and South Island or somewhere.

Keith, you must have noticed a great deal of difference when you started as a mechanic working on motors of tractors, they didn’t have hydraulics …

Yes with [?] we could get a Fordson tractor for £308 pound I think it was, on steel wheels and no electrics. And returned servicemen could afford to buy those tractors, and a lot of them used them for crushing scrub. A Caterpillar tractor was worth probably three times that amount in those days, and they couldn’t afford to use them. Yeah, the tractors when I first started did have hydraulics but only just a lift, not a system like the Ferguson system. That came later.

Are the Fords still being built … Ford tractors?

Well they all went into the New Holland setup. Well of course now there’s New Holland, John Deere, Claas I think is still on their own. But the ATCO company own nearly all the other tractors, and they own Caterpillar, Ferguson …

And that’s part of Allis Chalmers, wasn’t it, originally? They bought Allis Chalmers out, ATCO.

Yes. They’re [??] green something or other company, part of it there. And that was sort of tied to Allis Fiat – they own Caterpillar Perkins and all those companies now.

I often wonder when I see some of these people with these huge tractors how they ever make them pay, or whether they just move the hire purchase on when they buy the next one.

Well, I look at it … you know, we had the old Fordson, a set of discs, set of harrows and roller, one behind the other. It didn’t cost a great lot of money, and now they’re using tractors that cost a couple hundred thousand, plus a machine on the back that does the whole lot in one pass – it costs a lot more money as well.

Now is there anything else?


Original digital file


Non-commercial use

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

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


Commercial Use

Please contact us for information about using this material commercially.

Additional information

Interviewer:  Frank Cooper


Accession number


Do you know something about this record?

Please note we cannot verify the accuracy of any information posted by the community.

Supporters and sponsors

We sincerely thank the following businesses and organisations for their support.