Mason the anchorman of his community
Mason Arthur Horne
24-2-1930 – 29-04-2017
Mason Arthur Horne was the youngest child, and only son of Percy and Ella Horne, pioneer farmers who, in 1926 purchased 2000 acres of largely undeveloped land at Putere known as Rotongaio Station.
Prior to Mason’s birth, the young family camped in a tent for three years.
The district at that stage comprised mainly of soldiers returned from World War I and struggling, together with their families, through a severe post war depression.
Several families abandoned their farms, but Percy and Ella were made of sterner stuff, and they survived the 1920s and another great depression through falling stock and wool prices, often working off farm and droving to sustain themselves.
They were survivors.
Mason and his sisters grew up in a loving family at Rotongaio amongst picturesque surroundings of large lakes and towering limestone bluffs.
This attractive environment, however, was to some extent offset by its testing back country location which involved living remotely for years from the amenities of power, telephone, and a reliable all weather road.
Mason, from 1936 until the outbreak of war attended the tiny Putere primary school with its single teacher.
He later went on to board at Gisborne Boys’ High School for two years to complete his limited education.
While at high school Mason, being thrifty, kept three sheep dogs and worked after school for local farmers. However, he was needed at home on the farm so, from the age of 15, he began working with his father, hunting deer and pigs in his spare time.
Finally, the wool boom of 1950 enabled employment of another shepherd. Mason’s typical comment to his father on the first day; “Do I catch his horse, or does he catch mine?”
That hired hand went on to become Sir James Stuart, the Chancellor of Lincoln College!
In 1956, after 30 years at Rotongaio, Percy and Ella retired from the farm and moved to Hexton to be near their two daughters, Pat Witters and Judith Tietjen, who were both married to Gisborne farmers.
Mason stayed on the farm and launched into its development, improving both stock numbers and quality, enabled by fencing and fertiliser.
He established the first airstrip and super bin in the district which was used by all the neighbours.
As an energetic single man, Mason soon developed a high threshold of tolerance for alcohol often unmatched by his fellow revellers.
Socialising in Gisborne occasionally brought Mason into contact with Margery Nicklin, to whom he offered a cooking job.
When asked, she replied, “Is this a proposal?” Mason responded “I suppose so!” How typical of the laconic laid back country character we came to know and respect.
They married on July 1, 1961 and set about creating a family. Tracy, Angela and Guy soon followed bringing joy not just to the family but to the whole district.
The Lands and Survey Department commenced settlement of neighbouring stations with young civilian farmers who, with their children, breathed new life (and strife at times!) into the district. This caused the little school to expand to over 40 pupils requiring two teachers.
Mason was in his element during this period of expansion, chairing the school committee, the district committee, the dog trial committee and roading committee.
He was a member of the Hawke’s Bay Pest Board and drove the school bus.
Mason was the anchorman that nourished the whole community and kept the district together and moving forward.
He did this always with a smile and a mischievous sense of humour.
He also sponsored several environment initiatives including trout and Canada geese releases and associated farm/ environment field days.
The Hornes’ new house replaced the ageing cottage his father built, and it became a focal point for the district and by then, many visitors.
The board of Williams and Kettle Ltd held a brief meeting at Mason and Marge’s house as a mark of respect for the staunch loyalty from the family to the firm over for 50 years.
For his entire life, Mason mixed freely with all levels of society – he simply loved the company of others.
The local Maori affectionately called him “Meihana” as a mark of the high esteem they held for Mason.
While he loved to tease, and play pranks, his sense of humour knew no limits.
Injuries suffered in an unfortunate car accident in 1995 forced his premature retirement from active farming and a move to their Mahia home where Mason and Marge spent 20 active years by the sea.
“I never bought a boat. . .‘cause I won three in raffles”
The legacy of Mason Horne is that the very thought of him brings a smile to the face of everyone who knew him.
“Mason mixed freely with all levels of society — he simply loved the company of others.”
Photo caption – HARD CASE: Mason Horne and his sisters grew up in a loving family at Rotongaio. PHOTO/SUPPLIED