By Gwen Tennent
Mrs Charles Gordon was an accomplished horsewoman and frequently rode with her family, or drove them to visit friends.
A day’s outing to Hastings was quite an undertaking. The family travelled in a high-built four wheeler break, or in a double-seater dog-cart with the seats facing fore and aft, generally with the groom and the children facing aft and so missing most of the fun.
There were 12 gates between the Taurapa boundary and Havelock North – the last of them about where Hillsbrook Home now stands.
The road wound up hill and down, then over the crest of Zig-zag Hill and steeply down the Tukituki which was forded at an angle of about 45 degrees, down-river towards the Havelock North bank.
The river crossing was safe enough in good weather, but could be treacherous after even a small amount of rain.
“I remember many occasions,” said Mr Michael Gordon when the water was swishing under-foot, and the horses almost swimming.”
“When the river was in flood the Gordon family rode to town, via the old Black Bridge at Haumoana, with their gear strapped to the pommels of their saddles.
“My father kept a loft of homing pigeons” said Mr Gordon, “and in uncertain weather always took a couple to town.
“He released one, with a message tied to its leg, when he left town, and the second when he reached the Tukituki, to let us know whether it was safe to cross the ford.”
His most celebrated pigeon was Captain Guy – named after his close, personal friend Sir Andrew Russell.
Continued next page.
28 bullocks haul engine from river
On one memorable occasion in the 1890s old Dick Lamb was bogged in the middle of the Tukituki River when his bullock team was towing Mr G.P. Donnelly’s portable steam engine.
The engine was wanted at Waimarama for shearing, and his seven yoke of bullocks were powerless to move it.
Dick out-spanned and rode to Waimarama to get another 14 bullocks, yoked them up and drove them to the bogged engine.
Hitching both teams to the engine old Dick soon had it on the move again. It was an amazing sight to see all 28 bullocks, yoked and two abreast and strung out in a long line, hauling their unwieldy load slowly and laboriously up Zig-zag Hill, and down again to Taurapa, to wait there for the ebb tide.
Stayed for ‘cuppa’
Although there was a bridle track over the hills from Mokapeka [Mokopeka] to Waimarama, the only coach route was along the beach at low tide. Taurapa, the last homestead before the beach, was a regular stopping place for all travellers, most of whom stayed for a “cuppa” or a meal.
A favourite visitor was Miss Meinetzhagen from Waimarama. She was a large, warmhearted and friendly soul, widely renowned for her horsemanship.
On one occasion, when driving a tandem pair of spirited horses in her gig, she bid the Gordon family a hearty farewell – leaped up into the gig and plunged both feet straight through the floorboards.
“Father was holding the horses,” said Mr Gordon, “so was powerless to go to her assistance. Mother tried to help but hadn’t the strength to lift her, and was further hampered by the fact that everyone was helpless with laughter.
“Finally,” Mr Gordon said, “mother had to hold the horses while father extricated Miss Meinetzhagen.”
Some time later, when Miss Meinetzhagen was driving a well-laden carriage down steep Waipuka Hill, between Taurapa and Ocean Beach, the brakes gave way.
Without hesitation she whipped her horses into a gallop and, driving magnificently, kept them ahead of the madly careering carriage, swinging round the bends like a charioteer.
A swagger seeing her coming, opened the gate at the foot of the hill and stood awestruck while her equipage lurched through and came to a stop, unharmed, on the beach.
Taurapa had more than a fair share of swaggers, sometimes three or four in a week. There was always a meal, or a hand-out of tea, meat and ship’s biscuits for them.
Only three were ever employed on Taurapa – one as a fencer and two to cut rushes through the winter.
These two caused a bit of excitement by disappearing completely during a visit from Mr Gordon’s friend, Captain Greenstreet, master of the Remuera.
After the captain’s departure the boys reappeared on the job and rather samefacedly [shamedfacedly] admitted that they had “jumped-ship” from the Remuera on her previous voyage to Napier.
About 1906 a telephone was installed at Taurapa. The line was erected by Mr Gordon, himself, at a time when the Tukituki River was in flood.
Undaunted, he got astride a draught-horse and swam it across the river, paying out the line as they went. From the river he brought the line in over Tauroa Road to Havelock North where it joined up with the Government connection.
The exchange telephonists stopped work at mid-day on Saturday for the weekend, so the Gordon family frequently asked them to plug the Taurapa line into that of one their friends.
In this way they enjoyed many an uninterrupted chat whenever they could get a few moments leisure.
There were few telephone connections in Hawke’s Bay in those days – the Taurapa number was 147 – and the operators were mostly a friendly lot. On one occasion when the alarm clock was out of order Mr Gordon asked the exchane [exchange] to call him early. They did – at 3am.
The postmaster in Hastings at that time was a Mr Hazard, who would not tolerate carelessness on the part of his staff. On one mail day one of the sorters failed to put the Taurapa evening papers in the mail bag and was sent out to deliver them in person – on a push bicycle.
One trip over Zig-zag Hill on a one-man-power machine was enough – the papers were never forgotten again.
For the Gordon family another thrill in 1906 was the acquisition of their first car a de Deon which they bought from Mr Philip Kenway of Gisborne.
The car had pneumatic tyres, but judged by today’s standards was far from an “all-weather” conveyance. Nevertheless, the Gordon family proudly bumped to town in it for several years.
The trip round the hairpin bends and up and down the steep grades of Zig-zag Hill was sometimes hair-raising in winter weather.
The chances were just about even between causing a stampede in a drover’s mob, or getting stuck to the axles and impeding everything else on the road.
Recreations for the Taurapa family were largely centred in the home and immediate neighbourhood. Picnics were popular and a favourite spot was the limestone caves behind Craggy Range. These have now been destroyed by the excavations for lime, but at one time were extensive caves and widly [wildly] exciting for venturesome small boys.
A ride to town for an afternoon’s roller skating was looked upon as quite a usual outing even though it entailed several hours riding tacked on to some fairly energetic exercise.
A trip to Hastings, without the restraining presence of adults, took nearly two hours over the hills, via Tauroa Road and through Havelock North.
Many changes have come to Taurapa through the years. The house has grown with the size of the family and now has another storey. Modern conveniences have made life easier for women, and mechanisation has simplified the work on the farm, but still it holds the old-world charm of a home that has been lived in and loved by all the members of one family throughout its entire existence.
Mr Michael Gordon has faithfully preserved the history and tradition of the early days and one cannot help hoping that future generations will follow in his footsteps.