I Was There 1948


Tuesday September 28th 1948 – 7.15pm – 2YZ.

My mothers family came to Wellington in 1842 from England. There were no white children in Wellington at that time, so she played with Maori children and learnt a bit of the native language. This is important to know because later on, when she was the only white woman in the districts in which we lived, she was able to act as interpreter.

My father came a few years later, about 1852, with the idea of sheep farming.

On arriving in Wellington he found that most of the land, both in the Wairarapa and the Rangitiki [Rangitikei] districts, was already rented from the Maoris in large blocks. The idea of a run in those days was no less than 25 or 30 thousand acres. My father was then advised to come to Hawkes Bay. In the meantime he had met and married my mother in Wellington. They eventually got to Napier by schooner. They were delayed a long time in Napier before they found a block of land available and this was on the south side of the Porangahau river. To get there was the problem. By native tracks it was fullt [fully] 120 miles and there was no transport of any kind whatsoever, so eventually my father and mother engaged some Maoris to convey them as far as Patangata. First of all they walked from Napier to what is now the Black Bridge at Haumoana – it was then all mud and swamp, also scrub, and took them a whole. Day. Then they were taken in a canoe up the river. The Tuki Tuki at that time was a comparatively narrow stream, not filled as it is now with acres of shingle. It took two days to get to Patangata.

My mother was very keen to get to Patangata – possibly because Patangata means, translated, “Mens Pa”. Conditions were such that my parents had to stop at Patangata until the family was born – I being the family, and I was born in 1855.

In due course then, the Maoris took us again in hand, carrying me and the other belongings on their backs from Patangata to Pourere [Pourerere]. There we stopped at a native Pa. We always stayed at native Pa’s as they were the only places one came to.

The next day we went south along the beach to a little Pa called Aramoana. At this Pa we met our first white man since leaving Napier. His name was Sam Onions, and he had deserted from a whaling ship. Sam Onions died at Waipawa only a few years ago at the age of 95. One afternoon, when my mother was sitting in the sun with a Maori Rangitira [Rangatira], he said to her, “I would like to buy that boy from you”. She said “What will you give for him”. He replied “I have no money but plenty of land – 500 or 1000 acres”. My mother then asked him what he would do with me. The old fellow said “I always think that when they are cutting their teeth they taste the sweetest”.

Next morning the family proceeded south along the coast, getting round Black Head at low tide. At high tide these rocks – 4 or 5 miles of them – are covered by three feet of water. At the mouth of the Porangahau River we were met by another Maori canoe and they paddled us up to the site of the present Porangahau township. This was easy because they went with the tide. Well, we now had again to seek Maori accomodation as there were no buildings on the land which was just the other side of the river, and there were no building materials either. For the house which was built on our own leasehold, land posts were cut in the bush, some slabs fastened on to those, and the walls were pressed clay. No sawn timber was used as the only sawn timber you could get came from Hobart in Tasmania. The roof was made of toi toi.

My first recollection of our new station was the arrival of a cow from Australia – it came from Sydney and was a milking shorthorn. I can remember as clearly as possible tasting cows milk – the first of that kind since I was weaned and I was then about two years old. I have been told that the reason of my being small is that I was weaned on water.

We had, of course, to buy our ewes, from Sydney too. The high range of our country was very suitable for sheep because it was often snow covered and any land much under snow was clear of fern and in very good native grass.

The other thing I can remember very clearly was the big earthquake of 1862 which came on in the middle of the night. Our house contained three rooms, me at one end, the main room in the centre, and parent ‘s room at the other end. When the quake was carrying on at top my father attempted to come across to see how I was getting on. He fell over the chimney which had come down and fallen into the room. I had my first escape here – or perhaps it was my second, as the Maori Rangitira might have had a sweet meal off me when I was cutting my teeth. The bed I was sleeping in had

a wooden bar across the top and the shake brought a huge chunk of ceiling down, and this had smashed the top of the bed to bits but missed me altogether. In the morning there was very little lrft [left] of our house, just heaps of clay and slabs of wood.

Our neighbours were the Hunters, the Cannings, and the St Hills, and of course the Maoris.

During the years up to 1868 we were completely dependant on Maoris for labour. They mustered our sheep on foot – we did’nt have horses at first – and shore them and took the wool down to the river where eventually it was picked up by the schooner which plied along the coast.

I might tell you here, too, that during the journey up the river to Porangahau the Maoris were most obliging and honest – excellent workers. The only currency in those days, were sticks of black tobacco, about two inches long and about the thickness of ones finger. The Maoris would do a good days work for two sticks. The tobacco came from the Southern States of America and we would order about 50 or 60 pounds of it from the merchants in Wellington who would saw off what was sufficient from the whole barrel and this would come up to us solid.

If we were short of wheat to grind the Maoris would supply it. When we were short of meat they would go into the scrub or hills and get a “Captain Cook” pig, dress it perfectly, and sell it to us for two sticks of tobacco.

The only time I can remember the Maoris being what you may call a bit sharp, was when father, in a dry season, set fire to the scrub and flax. A wind got up and the fire burnt for weeks, and didn’t stop until it got to the Wainui river. About a week after this fire an old fellow came along to see us and said “Korohi” (this being the nearest they could get to our name) “Korohi, you have done us an injury”. “In what way” my father said. The old Maori then related how my father had burnt his pig, so out came two sticks of tobacco in payment. Soon more and more Maoris came along all claiming we had burnt their pigs. We learnt later, however, that pigs were not allowed in Maori Pa’s.

I might digress here a moment to talk about Maori place names, as I feel very strongly about this subject. The trouble is that many of these names have become so mangled that they have lost their original meaning. The names used today have no real meaning, whereas the Maoris never named a place without a meaning.

KAHURANAKI used to be three words, and Naki means to be kissed. The translation of this is The Hill with the Sunkissed Robe.

Another name quite close to here which has been shortened is PAKOWHAI. It is really two words, the two words being Pa Kowhai – The Kowhai Pa.

NGARORORO [NGAURORO] is not Maori at all. I hav’nt spoken to any Maoris about it but I am quite certain it should be Ngarara Roa. Many years ago the river ran all over the plain, so the Maoris called it, The Long Lizard.

TUTAIKURI [TUTAEKURI] : has, as you know, an unpleasant sort of meaning, but it is rediculous to call it that as there were no Kuris (or dogs) when the place was christened and I am sure that the real name would be Teuti Koura which means, a freshwater Cray Fish.

Another name that annoys me enoemously [enormously] in its present pronunciation is Pahiatua. It should of course be pronounced PaHIAtua. The reason it is called that is because it used to be a good place for native food, and translated means Gods Pa.

PAEKAKARIKI : really three words – Pae (good) Kaka (big fat parrot) and Riki (sweet) – the Good Sweet Fat Parrot.

TAUMARANUI : should be four words. Tau Ma Ra Nui which means the White Year but with Much Sun.

WAIMARARMA : should really be two words. Wai Marama, meaning the Watered Queen. These are only a few examples of the many place names which have become so distorted and mis-pronounced that the original meaning is completely lost.

However, to come back to my own memories of those early days, I will tell you of a family that took up land at about the same time as mine, but out at Waimarama just to give you some idea of the hazards of pioneering families. They occupied a Maori Whare on the south side os [of] the stream, and their run was on the opposite side. Their only means of transport was a pack bullock. One morning they were going out as usual to their land across the stream, when the Maoris met them and said “You’d better not go out today, its going to rain very hard and this stream will

BE IN HIGH FLOOD in the afternoon”. The man and his two sons said it would be all right as they would hang on to the bullock’s tail and get across that way. However, when they were coming back late that afternoon the stream was in high flood, and in crossing it one of the sons was washed away out to sea.  That was just a typical incident of the life we had to live in those days.

TUESDAY OCTOBER 5th 1948. 7-15pm.   2YZ

Last week I was telling you how we settled in Porangahau and of our lives in the early days. To continue with my recollections of childhood, I was nearly 9 years old when my parents decided that I must go to school. It happened that a small school had been started in Napier toward the end of 1863, and that is where I went. There were still no roads of any kind and the only transport then was on horseback. My father brought me along the grass country to Waipukurau and then, where the river flooded, we got to Waipawa. We then had to strike across to Patangata, travelling down the Tuki Tuki river again – on land this time – coming out through the hills at what is now Havelock. Havelock contained about four buildings in those days, and Hastings was nonexistent – it was all swamp and raupo and toi toi, making a fine duck shoot. From there we had to go back to the Tuki Tuki river and then down to the beach again. There were no bridges of course and we had to cross the Ngarororo river in a punt, swimming the horses behind us. We then struck inland and eventually got back to the beach again at Awatoto, arriving at Napier about eight o clock in the evening – travelling since 5am that morning. The journey took 5 days from Porangahau.

The school I went to was in a room just alongside the present Presbyterian Church. It was the first school of any kind in Napier. Napier was very small then ; three buildings on the south side of Tennyson Str and all waste land between that and Emerson Street. I can’t remember the exact population but it was very small indeed. The Hon James Carroll was a school friend of mine and we sat together on the same form.

At that time Napier was practically an island. The surf used to break over what is the present railway line from the Bluff to Awatoto. During easterly storms I can remember seeing the white waves breaking over the lagoon from the railway station out as far as Waitangi.

To show you how different it was at the Bluff when I was at school it was always impressed upon us that we must on no account try to go round the Bluff. Naturally that was what we were determined to do, being boys. I and two other friends, – Russell Duncan and John Grant – decided to go. The waves only used to go up to the foot of the Bluff and back. Russell and I bolted across when the wave was out and got over dry; Grant, however, slipped on the Papa rock and of course got wet, giving the show away when we got back to school.

One of our great school boy interests were the soldiers. The Maoris could never speak of them as “soldiers” because in those days they could not use either our soft C or the letter S among others. They either spoke of them as “Kahau Wheru” (red coats) or the “Kikitifif” (the 65th)

My second year at school was spent on Barrack Hill, which was so called because the soldiers were there. This was on the same spot as the hospital now is. Our school was close to where the present Hukarere girls school now is.

My principal recollection of that time was the great flood of 1865. There were no trees planted round the Herataunga [Heretaunga] Plains then, and the whole country seemed to be covered with a brownish water, except the few clumps of bush, one at Mangateretere and the other, which was alluded to by Capt Cook, was close to Meanee [Meeanee]. It was that flood that altered the course of the Ngaroro [Ngaruroro] river by breaking through the Fernhill instead of coming round by Havelock. The river as I first remember it in 1864 was a magnificient placid river running from Havelock down to the sea through flat land. There was no ford then between there and the sea.

During my boyhood when I was at home I had to do all kinds of work on the station. When I was ten we got a colt from somewhere and I had to break it in. We had no horsebreakers so had to do it all on our own. We also had to break in steers to use as a bullock team. At that time a great deal of Porangahau country grew a lot of that poisonous plant, the Tutu. One night a team came home tired and hungry, and in the morning 8 out of 10 bullocks were dead of this poison. Whenever cattle travelling got hungry and eat [ate] a patch of tutu there was always a danger of them being poisoned. The only cure was to bleed them and as soon as they began to improve they would charge the first object in sight, for some reason or other. We often used to lose numbers of our sheep too from the

same complaint. At that time there were very few Merino ewes in the country, and my father like many others had to import them from Australia. This also applied to the majority of cattle. I think the port they sailed from was “Twofold Bay”. We only had Merino sheep for many years. I was farming at 15 and it was only then that we began to cross our sheep.

I remained at Porangahau until I came to Hastings in 1890. My father was killed when he was only 42 so I had to take over the farm when I was still very young.

It is hard for people to visualise now how primitive things were in those days. There were no telephones or telegraph of course. I can well remember the poles being laid down the east coast toward Wellington for the electric telegraph wores [wires]. These poles were all of Totara and had to be about 25 feet long. They all had to be hand cut by pitsaw wherever they could be found in the bush along the coast. They were generally growing in the most inaccessible places and had to be hauled out of the bush by the valuable bullocks. The bush in Hawkes Bay was very patchy. The nearest bush to Hastings for instance was Te Aute. There was plenty of Totara down the Wairarapa however.

The only possible route down the east coast in those days was along the beach. When I was twelve years old there were still no trains to Wellington, and I rode all the way down with my father riding along the beach most of the way. The only road was the Manatatu one [Manawatu], and I travelled along that one in, I think, 1871. There was no metal on it and it really was a terrible road. In one place we had to cross the river on a wire in a sort of bosun’s chair.

The Scandinavians came in about 1868 and they went straight into the bush and felled it to make way for dairy farms.
I remember that Woodville was the first dairy factory this side of Manawatu.

I am afraid I have rather rambled away from telling you about the road to Wellington. The road, if I remember rightly, was opened in about 1871, and in about 1872 the first railway started from Napier. I remember that just on the eve of the opening of the new railway to Farndon I came down on the mail coach and the driver, when we came round to Farndon, close to the new railway line, said “I hope that when that darn train comes round here the first time, it will topple over the bank”. The building of the railway was a slow business as it had all to be done with pickaxes and spades.

My first trip Wellington was in 1867 and it was. I think, it was in that year that they started to call the beach, Lambton Quay. The sea used to go up to the cliff at high tide and the first reclamation was being made just about where the Dominion Framers [Farmers] building is now.

The principal port was quite close to the present Post Office. All the ships that came in were of course sailing ships in those days.

Up to a very late date the present Empire Hotel had retained the tidal water, and a good boat was always kept in their back yard for the guests to go out into the bay for a bit of fishing.

To return to early Hawkes Bay and to sheep farming. I think it was between 1882 and 1883 that freezing was discovered, and that naturally altered the whole idea of sheep farming. Every sheep farmer was most interested in the new discovery. Previously all their surplus stock were practically useless – the only use they could be put to was boiling down to extract the tallow. Very often after boiling down the tallow and shipping it to England, the farmer was found to be in debt. My own father suffered this way. He boiled down I remember 2000 wethers which grossed him 1/6 each and of course left a debt. The legs of mutton had hardly any tallow in them and they were hawked about the district in large numbers and delivered at the door for 1/- each. I, like others, was very interested in these frozen carcases at home, so I decided to go to England in 1884. As the freezing of meat for export had been discovered, fine steamships had already been built to carry home the carcases. These ships for various reasons carried much less risky cargoes than out [our] own windjammers.  I took my trip home in the first steam ship to carry frozen meat, the Rimutaka, and I think we took 56 days to do the journey which was considered a good passage. We went by the Horn. It was in the early days of electricity and it was quite a common occurance to have a black out during dinner.

After looking carefully into the selling of the meat when in England I started back to this country in the Tongariro – another steamship. We had rather a scare on the voyage because at Teneriffe [Tenerife] it was discovered that there was a dangerous crack in the main shaft. However, this was patched up and we steamed very carefully down to the Cape. There the engineers said the patch we had put on the shaft seemed quite

sound and they had no big shafts like our [ours] available at Cape Town so that if we did not sail as we were the ship may be detained for over a year. We arrived back at New Zealand however quite safely with our patched shaft. I enjoyed my trip back as it was on this voyage that I met my future wife. We were married in 1885 and settled at Porangahau.

The result – if I can call it that – of my marriage was responsible for 13 grandchildren, which, in Maori are called Mokoponas -Mokopunas], and 4 great grandchildren – Mokoporinas.

In my 93 years in Hawke’s Bay I have seen a great many changes and very many improvements and I have seen Hastings rise out of what used to be a very good duck shoot. Unfortunately I have recently lost my last real old friend – Mason Chambers. I do hope that some of the younger generation will carry on the same generous work for this country that my old friend did.

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