Trewheellar, Jeanette Margery & William Herbert Fomer (Bill) Interview

I’m interviewing Jeanette Trewheellar of Ahuriri, Napier. The date today is 17th July 2019. Over to you, Jeanette.

My great-grandparents, Thomas and Elizabeth Bayliss, left England and sailed to Wellington on the ‘Bebbington’, in 1879. They went to Eketahuna and broke in land for their farm. In a small cottage they brought up a family of five children – Lizzie, Ada, Mabel, Alfred, and my grandfather, Daniel.

Daniel and his brother bought land nearby where they farmed as young men. Daniel met Alice Ridgway from Napier, whom he married. Soon after, they sold their land and moved to Central Hawke’s Bay. Alfred went to Hatuma, Daniel and Alice to Maharakeke. They named their farm ‘Rosewood’. They had a family of four children, my father and his twin, Rhona; Edna, and lastly, Bernard. They were educated in a one room school nearby, which Daniel was instrumental in getting started. The school was also used for the weekly church services at which Granny Bayliss was the organist. Each week her pedal organ was transported to church by horse and dray.

On completion of his primary schooling, Dad worked for his father on the farm while the two girls had further education at the Girls’ Friendly Society in Napier, and Bernard went to the Dannevirke High School. After some years, the boys bought a thousand-acre farm near Ashcott Station, five miles from Takapau. They named their farm ‘Ashley’. They were fortunate to have their sisters come and housekeep for them in a small, old cottage.

In 1930, Dad met and married my mother, Minnie Moore, a trained midwife whose parents lived at Pukehou. They built a new home where they raised a family of five. The farm was at that stage divided in half, being farmed independently between Dad [and] Uncle Bernard. As young children, we visited our grandparents at ‘Rosewood’ a lot, and enjoyed picnics at the river.

I was born on February 2nd 1938. I had two older brothers, Barrie and Neil, and later two younger siblings, Alison and Ian. We all attended the Takapau School; the boys later becoming boarders at the Dannevirke High School, and we two girls were boarders at the Napier Girls’ High School. Despite times being financially hard, we had a happy childhood. Barrie worked for my father, and married Judith Brooks from Waipukurau. He later took over the farm after my dad’s premature death.

When my grandfather retired, Neil married Mary Scheele from Otane and took over the ‘Rosewood’ property. Alison married Bryan Taylor, a farmer from Wairoa, and Ian entered the ministry and married Elizabeth Keall, from Wellington.

In 1956 I started my general nursing training at the Hastings hospital, and graduated in 1960. During this time I had met Bill Trewheellar, who was employed on the farm of Tony Robson at Poukawa. Bill was born on November 19th 1935 in Sydney. When he was sixteen, his family were transferred to Wellington for his father’s work. We were married on 27th February 1960 at St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Takapau.

We worked for Bay de Lautour at Te Uri for a short while, then moved back to Poukawa, at Tony Robsons, for eight months. While we were there, my Dad made it possible for us to buy our own property on Station Road, Maharakeke, with further mortgage assistance from Williams and Kettle in Waipukurau. The farm was a two-hundred-acre block which had been cut up from the Orua Wharo Station for soldier settlement farms. We named it ‘Coolibah’. It was lovely for us to have my mum and dad living not far away, plus two brothers and their families; and Bill’s parents also came to visit us from Auckland when possible.

We had four children, Sandra, Lynette, Philip and Grant. They all attended the Takapau School, travelling each day by bus; followed by secondary school education at the Central Hawke’s Bay College.

We ran sheep and cattle, ploughed paddocks to grow crops, harvested grain and seed and made hay. Bill did our own shearing, assisted by family members. It was a great lifestyle, joining in with friends in community activities. One event was the local ploughing match where many tried out their skills. We attended our church regularly until it was sold and moved, in the early eighties.

Our main interest was at the Takapau Art Centre, where we became very involved. Pottery was what we enjoyed most. We had our own wheels and kiln in a studio at the farm. We took an interest in the children’s activities: school, horses, sport, bikes and motorbikes. When times were harder financially, it was necessary for Bill to take on outside work in the area, doing shearing, fencing and haymaking for local farmers.

Once the children had all left home, I went back nursing to the Pukeora Home for the Disabled, where I worked for several years.

Regretfully, after twenty-six years, we decided to place the farm on the market. It took a year to sell, and in 1987 we bought a home in Havelock North. We had been able to pay off all our mortgages and had freeholded the property.

Bill was asked by Doug Clarke in Longlands Road to help set up an apple orchard. He stayed with him for four years, and then started doing gardening and lawns for a number of people. I once again went back nursing, this time at the Duart Hospital. I later had the opportunity to be a courier driver for Medlab in Hastings. I was next asked to work in the laboratory in Napier as a phlebotomist, which I really enjoyed.

It so happened one day Bill saw that the house he had always admired in Breakwater Road Napier, was for sale. We managed to buy this, sell our Havelock North home where we had lived for six and a half years, and moved to Napier in 1993. The house was a gracious home built of kauri in 1910 for the assistant harbour master, Captain Sharp. It was close to the port, with [the] sea across the road. It had a lovely garden which we enjoyed maintaining. After we had both retired we enjoyed the lifestyle, with Bill being able to enjoy his love of boating and fishing.

We had been happy there for twenty-one years when a medical glitch occurred to Bill, which forced him to give up the maintenance of the house. Coupled with the noise and increase in the number of trucks and trains to the port, we decided to relocate, but wanted to stay in the area. We were lucky enough to buy an apartment in Barry Street Ahuriri, in 2014. It is in a quiet location, and we can walk to the local shops. We do a great deal of walking; our favourites being the Pandora estuary, and Bluff Hill.

We are members of the local choir who entertain at Rest Homes; members of the Hearing Association; and the Hawke’s Bay Founders Association. Bill attends the men’s Probus, while I go to the Ahuriri Ladies’ social group. I attend the monthly Napier High School Old Girls’ meetings, and the weekly Pakowhai spinning group; and mahjong at times. We are both involved once a week at our local Knox Church Opportunity Shop, pricing goods for sale. We’re both avid readers and have a large collection of books, and enjoy occasional films at the local Globe theatre. We are blessed with good health, and shall remain here for as long as possible, before maybe moving into the Princess Alexandra Retirement Village.

Now the Medlab couriers – were you taking the bloods from the hospital …


to the lab?

I was. I was collecting specimens from all the doctors in the area and delivering requirements for their needs as well.

Was that once or twice a day to each place?

Once a day.

I’m very interested in that because now it’s a whole different way of doing it.

It certainly is.

The Sharp’s house address – the Captain?

No 4 Breakwater Road.

Back further, Minnie Moore – what was her proper name?

Selina Minnie.

And … the death of the father, what happened with him?

My dad had a massive heart attack.

And the work of Bill’s father when he first came to Wellington?

Bill’s father was involved with Wormald Brothers fire protection.

And then he went to Auckland after that?

He went to Wellington initially, and then was transferred to Auckland.

And your church at Takapau ..?

Was a Presbyterian Church.

Jeanette’s just going to add a piece about her nursing experience.

My training at Hastings hospital was for three and a half years until I graduated in 1960. I then stopped nursing because we’d moved onto the farm. Going back a step, when we were doing our training, we had to have two months across at the Napier hospital to do our isolation training, because Hastings didn’t have those facilities.

When it was necessary for me to go back nursing at Pukeora, Waipukurau, I had to reapply and pay my fees to be re-registered, and this I had to do regularly to maintain my registration as a nurse.

And did you come across June Opie? The one that was in the iron lung for polio?

No, I didn’t know of her but I do recall very vividly the iron lung machine, which was at the top of the Women’s Medical Ward.

It looks a ghastly contraption, doesn’t it?


And did you have any time at all at Waipukurau in the TB ward … the sanitorium?

No, I didn’t; but that’s where the Pukeora Home for the Disabled finally started up again when that had closed down.

And then when you went to Duart you’d have had to re-register again?

I was able to carry on then, ‘cause there was not a long distance of time. I think it was an annual thing, probably.

So anything else you would like to add?

My grandpa Moore, Albert Moore, set up an orchard in Orchard Road in Hastings, and was a great experimentalist in those days. He had been orcharding in his homeland, in England, and always enjoyed growing things. After some time when the children had their education part-way through, he moved to Pukehou and set up a new orchard on top of a hill, and had a farm as well as that. He had a huge cherry orchard which he had completely covered in bird netting, and he used to have people in to pick the cherries; would load them into their boxes, load them into his little old car and go down to the Pukehou Railway Station where they were sent to town to be sold. I think it was 1947 from memory, there was an enormous snowstorm and the whole netting was flattened by the weight of the snow, and he really didn’t pursue that any further.

Visiting Grandpa at his orchard and farm was very exciting for us as children. My brothers, being older than me, were able to go prior to my visits. Our other cousins from Lower Hutt used to come up and the two girls and the two boys would have a great time. When I was old enough, which was still pretty young, I was allowed to join them. The girls looked after me so beautifully as Grandma was no longer with us; and the girls gave me my first doll which their mother had dressed beautifully, and it was one that I had for many years. We used to go up to the bush and we’d be given a paper bag of gingernuts and something to drink; and we also went down to the creek and searched for yabbies. We also were allowed to set jellies in the old wooden tubs in the wash house, and so we had a great time as children.

I think that covers most of my life.

Thank you very much, Jeanette.

Jeanette has now handed over to Bill, who is going to tell us his story about the farm.

Bill: My name is William Herbert Fomer Trewheellar and we live at Ahuriri, Napier. Our farm and all the others around it were just two hundred acres, having been subdivided after the Second World War as dairy farms from Orua Wharo Station, five miles from Takapau. The small block was ideal as it meant that I could do outside work to give us a cash flow. I was working a third of my time off the farm doing fencing, dagging, crutching and shearing; also helping in stockyards and working on harvesters. I bought a hay baler so I could then mow, rake and bale for other people. Jeanette’s family were all farming nearby so we all used to help each other at busy times such as crutching, drafting, docking, dagging, shearing and carting hay.

We moved onto the farm in January 1961 with our six weeks old baby, Sandra; pet lamb Larmy, three sheep dogs and six chooks. Over the next month we purchased sheep from the Waipukurau Ewe Fairs, totalling approximately one thousand mixed-age ewes and twenty rams – Southdown, South Suffolk, Poll Dorset and Border Leicester. The ewes averaged two pound three shillings and ninepence, [£2/3/9d] and the rams averaged eighteen pounds one shilling and tuppence. [£18/1/2d]

We had cattle grazing the property initially, then in May we bought twenty-five weaner steers at £21 each. We made a paddock of hay and filled the hay barn with a thousand bales, so we were now ready for the winter.

Our farm in Central Hawkes Bay was on Station Road, Maharakeke, near the Hatuma Lime Works, five miles from Takapau and eight miles from Waipukurau. Originally it had been part of Orua Wharo Station. After World War I it was one of the farms subdivided for returned servicemen. They were to be dairy farms but proved to be too wet. The farm was well situated with access to lime and fertiliser at the nearby lime works. Sheep could be walked to the Takapau Meat Works or to the railway yards at Maharakeke, with school bus and rural delivery at the gate.

I had spent eight years on hill country farms in the Wairarapa and Hawke’s Bay, mainly sheep and cattle and cropping, with contract fencing and two seasons shearing with a gang. My dream was to have a bush-clad hill country farm, however the good folk and firms who were backing us financially with one hundred percent mortgages and borrowing, would only agree to a small property that could be sold easily if necessary. We named the property ‘Coolibah’, and moved there in January 1961 with our six weeks old daughter Sandra, a cat and pet lamb Larmy. ‘Coolibah’ was two hundred acres, with a roughcast house and car shed, sitting in a paddock. There was a small two-stand woolshed with sheep yards, a hay barn and cow bale. The buildings were adjacent to the road and across the road was the main railway line between Gisborne and Wellington. It was busy with the freight steam trains and daily railcar; also the track maintenance gangs with their jiggers; and railway buses. Many a fire was started by the steam engines in the long grass during the summer. Station Road was a three mile straight with a gradual incline from the station, and the engines billowed out black smoke on the incline. Old Jim Scully had fenced off the grass strip for miles by the track, to graze his dairy cows.

There were seven farmhouses along our road. An aerial top dressing firm had a huge fertiliser shed and airstrip over the road. They used a Dakota Loadstar plane. It was like a DC3 but had a twin tail.

It was the close association of the Bayliss family, Williams & Kettle, and the law firm in Waipukurau that enabled us to get our farm with a hundred percent mortgage. And it was close by the family so we could all help each other. This proved to be a good decision for we were surrounded by family and friends and lots of small farms for me to work on. We worked in well with Trevor and Marilyn Jane next door, and all the Bayliss family farms in the early years.

There was a small two-stand woolshed made of rough-sawn untreated pine, with sheep yards. There was a thousand bale steel hayshed with a single bale cowshed attached. We soon had a dairy cow and weaner pigs to drink the excess milk. For the first year or two on the farm we used to share killing for the house with the next door neighbours, Trevor Jane and Marilyn – they would kill a nice hogget one month and then we would do the same the next month. But after our family started to grow it seemed best to just kill ourselves, when necessary.

And did you still get mail delivered five days a week?

Yes, we were getting the mail delivered five days a week, and we used to invite the mailman in for a cup of coffee if it was appropriate.

Would you all go to town for Friday night shopping?

Yes, Friday night shopping was still a big part of our life, but probably as the family grew we did that less and less.

Did you have a local hall for dances and things?

That was very much the case when we lived at Poukawa before we were married, but once we were married and settled in we didn’t seem to go out at night as much. But we did have a group of friends, and we used to go to their places and take the children in carrycots, and we did have wonderful parties, yes.

You’d all take a plate, or the women’d take a plate?

That’s right, and the men take a bottle.

And would you play cards and things like that?

We mainly sang around the piano. Yes, we loved it.

Cause that I think’s most important, that they’ve partly lost at the moment, haven’t they?

Yes. I just love singing around the piano. [Chuckle]

Could you play the piano?

No, but Jeannie used to play the piano. I used to play myself to sleep with the mouth organ when I was on my own … when I was first on my own, shepherding.

You didn’t have a squeeze box?

Both: No. [Chuckles]

Bill: No. They were also popular.

So for your other entertainment – Jeanette, I never asked you, did you go to Women’s Institute?

Jeanette: I didn’t ever go to Women’s Institute, no.

Bill, [did] you go to the Young Farmers?

Bill: Yes, I was very involved with Young Farmers both in the Wairarapa and at Poukawa and Otane, but not at Takapau. We then joined Federated Farmers, and we were very involved with the Presbyterian Church. And then we got very involved with the Arts Centre, doing pottery.

Tell us about the pottery?

Jeanette: Oh, yes.

Bill: Well, we both … we initially thought we would be artists [chuckle] and we went and had a year with Pod Harrison; he was Sir Richard Harrison’s brother who was a very talented artist. He was trained at the Royal Academy in London, but neither Jeannie or I felt we did justice to art. We tried pottery which we loved, and eventually got our own kiln and had a workshop on the farm, and dug our own clay, and made glazes from ashes, etcetera. So that was a big part of our life.

And the clay, some of it would be different colours, wouldn’t it?

Yeah – our clay was an earthenware, so it ended up you know, a terracotta … the red … when it was fired.

And did you try glazing on some of it?

Yes, we did. We tried making our own glazes too, with ash from the fire, and experimented with all sorts of things like that … very satisfying, and a fun group to be part of.

How long would you have done that for … about twenty years?

Ohh … no it might be …


Yes – ten or fifteen years, yes.

And did the children take it up as well?

No – no, they had more lively pursuits. [Chuckle]

And did you take them to Pony Club at all, or anything like that?

Not to Pony Club. Our second daughter, Lynette, she just wanted a pony so much that in the end we bought an old pony and an old racehorse, Jessie and …

Jeanette: Blaze.

Bill: … Blaze. And the kids had a lovely time for two or three years with them, but we chose not to get involved with Pony Club. It was really a little bit out of our league, and … While I mention that, Lynette … she was a very keen gymnast and wanted to do ballet, which she started in Dannevirke. And that was all going happily, but then she had to go to the ballet school in the May holidays, and we always, then, took our family holiday in May so it wasn’t possible and she wasn’t allowed to continue. But she then got very keen on gymnastics and got her gold medal and teacher’s medal in gymnastics, so that served her well through life.

How many boys did you have?

We had Phillip, and then Grant, his younger brother, and they got involved with Cubs and then Scouts at Takapau, and we got involved with the committee and had a lot of adventures with the kids. [Chuckle]

Did you have a flying fox on the farm at all?

We did! We did, for … [chuckles] There was a creek with big willow trees down behind the house, and we did have a flying fox which was a great adventure. Other good times with the children – I was involved with the school committee, and they used to go up to the camp at Camp Kaitawa, and Jeanette went up as mother on at least one occasion, maybe more; and I went up as one of the fathers on one occasion.

And that’s by Lake Waikaremoana?

That’s right, yes. Yes, so that brings back very special happy memories of being involved with the school. Yes.

So you didn’t feel you had to stay home on the farm all the time?

No, I think as we got a little more established that we did have more time to ourselves, yes. I ended up not doing outside shearing, but I still did hay baling … that sort of thing.

Thank you, Jeanette, and Bill.

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Interviewer:  Erica Tenquist

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