Family celebrates 150 years
A 100th birthday celebration adds to the Lowry family’s weekend reunion.
About 400 people are expected at a double celebration at Okawa today and tomorrow.
On Wednesday, November 13, Beet Chapman (nee Lowry), celebrates her 100th birthday and it is 150 years since the Lowry family arrived at Okawa to take up the land the family still farms.
Reunion organiser Tom Lowry says the get-together is for family, former staff and friends of Okawa.
There would be only about 100 direct Lowry descendants attending.
“We are shy breeders,” he says.
A highlight was a cricket game at the family’s famous cricket ground – The Grove – today.
The Grove was originally established in the 1880s so staff and families from the neighbouring stations such as Matapiro, Tunanui [Tuna Nui] and Whanawhana [Whana Whana] could get together after church at Puketapu and socialise by playing cricket and tennis.
An army garrison stationed in Napier also often came out to Okawa to play and entertain, Mr Lowry says.
Mr Lowry’s father, Thomas Coleman Lowry, captained the New Zealand cricket team from 1929-31.
As well as organising the reunion, Mr Lowry has been involved with other station-owners in writing a history of the area covered by the RD9 rural delivery route, which includes Okawa.
The book West to the Annie, will be launched at a ceremony at the Sherenden Hall on Tuesday.
Okawa was settled by Thomas Lowry, who arrived in 1852, bought 6500ha – some of it very hard country – for £8000, and built a house.
In 1860 he married Maria Beamish from nearby Whanawhana station and they had five children.
Their son, Thomas H, married Helen Watt, of Napier. They had three sons and two daughters.
The three boys were Thomas C, James and Ralph.
Thomas C is the father of present family patriarch Thomas R Lowry.
The two girls were Gertrude, who became Mrs Beet Chapman, and Marion, who became Mrs Bettington.
The famous Okawa Stud was established by Thomas H with the the support of his brother-in-law and keen racing man E J Watt.
The stud was substantially reduced in 1996 and is now run by the youngest Tom Lowry, or TGW.
Many famous names in racing have Okawa bloodlines.
They include Mop, Key, Humber, Rover, Super Snipe, Lilt and Game.
Japan Cup winner Horlicks has Okawa bloodlines through her mother Malt. Horlicks is also the mother of the 2000 Melbourne Cup winner Brew.
In the 1970s Mr Lowry’s stallion Three Legs, who was imported from Ireland, was champion sire for three years.
The Lowry farms have also traditionally hosted Hawke’s Bay Hunt meetings and the centennial hunt was held at Okawa in 1990.
About 500 horses and riders ranged far and wide over the original Okawa block.
The Lowry sons have traditionally gone to Christ’s College, in Christchurch. In the early days they would have got there by coastal ship, sailing from Napier to Wellington and then to Christchurch.
Mr Lowry says his research was hampered by long gaps in the family diaries between 1846 and 1854, and the fact that records of land sales between 1885 and 1931 were lost in the Hawke’s Bay earthquake. However, he did uncover many stories about personalities of the district.
One story he tells is of a Mr Cartwright Brown, who held the land of Matapiro Station before Walter Shrimpton.
Mr Brown one day received a message that someone had broken his leg up the Ngarururo River in the Whanawhana Valley.
He rode into Napier to find a doctor and eventually he and an Army doctor rode back to Matapiro, arriving about midnight to find a note on the kitchen table pointing out that the date was April 1.
History does not record his reaction.
The reunion starts with the cricket game and visit to Jamie Lowry’s neighbouring property Oreka today, a birthday lunch for Mrs Chapman tomorrow and a celebration tomorrow night at the Okawa homestead.
Photo caption – TOM LOWRY works on the flooring inside a marquee in preparation for the family reunion which starts today.
HBTODAY PICTURE: ANDREW LABETT