Story of Fanny Harrison

Harrison

Joll

THE STORY OF FANNY HARRISON

BY S.G. JOLL

1939

Now that the Centenary of the founding of the Colony of New Zealand is fast approaching, it behoves us to pause and consider the debt we owe to that sturdy band of men and women who by their industry and courage, blazed the trail for us who followed after.

Most of these pioneers have long since passed away, and it is a fitting tribute to their memory that any of us who are able should place on record the trials and hardships they endured that their descendants might enjoy the comfort and peace that we are heirs to.

One of this band who lived till recent years was my grandmother, and as few, even of her contemporaries, had the varied experience she did, it is in affectionate remembrance that I write the following sketch of her life and background.

FANNY JANE JOLL (nee HARRISON) was born at Waiwakaiho, near New Plymouth, in 1846, being the only daughter of Valentine and Jane Harrison (nee Ebbsworthy) who landed at New Plymouth from the “William Bryan” in 1841. The Harrisons were of farming and seafaring stock and a slight digression at this stage will perhaps help to explain the wanderings the family later indulged in.

In those days, when everyone was striving to build up a new life in a virgin country, many children, especially those who had lost their mother, heard very little regarding families in England, and very often what was left unsaid was more eloquent than what was handed down; such to a certain extent was the case with my grandmother. What she did hear, however, and what the family subsequently ascertained, open up a most fascinating field of conjecture. Valentine was born at Bedworth near Nuneaton in Warwickshire in 1792 and on the death of his father was broutht [brought] up by and [an] uncle who arranged for him to embark on a commercial career. This did not appeal to the boy and in 1807, at the age of 15 years, he ran away and joined the Navy. During his naval service Valentine visited many countries whilst operating against the French Fleet in the Napoleonic Wars, and he told his children many stories of his adventures during that period. There were no anaesthetics in the Navy in those days and amongst the duties falling to the boys was to keep hot tar boiling in which stumps of arms and legs would be dipped after the rest of the limbs had been amputated. Strangley [Strangely] enough many of the unfortunate victims survived this ordeal only to be dumped ashore at the next port to fend for themselves if it was not convenient or practicable for the ship to return to England after the battle. After one engagement Valentine’s ship called in at Gibraltar and as was customary, the sailors were treated to fresh meat, vegetables and beer after months of salt tack. The effect might well be imagined. On this occasion the boy had an experience which left its mark for the rest of his life. Whilst the older members of the crew were indulging in the usual orgy, he and another boy decided to explore the town and, while passing a house, they saw a man beating a woman unmercifully. Valentine rushed in and felled the man to the ground whereupon, as he heard later when he regained consciousness, the woman picked up a log of wood and hit him a blow which fractured his skull. As a result he impressed on his sons never to interfere when they saw a man thrashing his wife.

On the termination of hostilities in 1817 he received his discharge and returned to his native country where he shortly married and apparently settled down for some time. For the next twenty years or so we know very little of his doings save that his first wife died and he married again and settled in Devonshire where in 1839 his second wife died.

Now his adventures really began. He had hardly lost his second wife when, according to one story he eloped with the daughter of an old Devonshire family called Ebbsworth or Ebbsworthy and he found that England was a bit small for him and her family, in the meantime at least. It happened fortuitously that the New Zealand Company had recently been formed and was fitting out a number of ships to colonise that country, and he accordingly arranged for a passage for himself, his wife and infant son on the “William Bryan” which left Plymouth in 1840 and arrived in New Plymouth in 1841. His two elder sons and their wives and families also came to New Zealand about the same time. Few people these days would care to land in a surf boat in the reef strewn beach in New Plymouth, but in those days there was no alternative and the feelings of the unfortunate women can hardly be imagined. Here they were, after months of buffeting at sea, arrived at the Promised Land where there was not even a jetty. Around the ship paddled canoe loads of half naked tatooed [tattooed] savages, rolling their eyes and shouting their songs of welcome, which to the settlers must have sounded more like threats of violence. Is it any wonder that many a heart must have quailed at the prospect of the life ahead.

Soon all were safely landed and escorted to their temporary homes which consisted of long raupo and fern whares built just above the beach. Here the settlers lived until they ascertained where the land they had bought in England was situated. Some of the Harrisons settled at Omata and Valentine nearer New Plymouth.

Those were hazardous times in Taranaki and the mothers with young children were under constant strain, though most of them stood beside their husbands and many worked like men on the farm and in the bush.

One of those whose health began to wilt under the strain was young Mrs. Harrison who had been accustomed to a very different life in the “Old Country” and a few months after the birth of her daughter in 1846 her husband decided to leave his interests in Taranaki to his elder sons and to take his wife and four youngest children, three of whom had been born since the parents arrived in New Zealand, and try his luck in Auckland. There were no roads between Taranaki and Auckland in those days and the only means of transport between the two places was by ship or overland on foot.

Ships sailing between New Plymouth and Waikato Heads were few and far between and booked far ahead, consequently the young mother and the children went by sea and the husband and a companion went on foot.

Just what Valentine had in mind is not clear but he apparently had some connection with the Missionary authorities since the next we hear is that he is at the Rev. Maunsell’s station at Waiuku where, according to a family tradition, the wife was severely injured during a raid on the Settlement by hostile Maoris. Suffice to say that she died shortly after her arrival there and was buried under what is now Symond [Symonds] St.

Her only memorial now remaining is the words “Mrs Harrison” on the stone listing the names of those whose graves were covered or shifted during roading operations.

The widower was left with three young boys and a girl a few months old and according to my grandmother he built as a home a stone house at Otahuhu, possibly the first one there, and also acquired property in various parts of Auckland. In fact, again according to family tradition, one of these properties was the block on which the Dilworth Building in Lower Queen St. now stands. However, this section together with other land which he acquired in various parts of the world, he abandoned when he moved on and never bothered to claim when he returned.

 When the family had been in Auckland for two or three years, news arrived of the discovery of gold in California and once again Valentine decided to move on. This time the family rowed down what is now Queen St. in a whale boat and boarded a sailing ship for the diggings. What an extra-ordinary man the father must have been. According to modern standards he must have appeared thriftless and reckless, and yet until they grew up he took his four young children everywhere with him. Only those who have travelled with children in these days of convenience can imagine in any degree the worry and trouble they must have been in those days. (And yet this man who would take a three or four year old girl half way round the world thought nothing of leaving her teenage brothers at the diggings at Collingwood whilst he went off to Hawke’s Bay, then an almost unknown wilderness. One boy, Frederick, then aged 15 years felt lonely and after crossing Cook Strait in a Maori canoe, walked up the coast from Wellington to Clive to join him.)

After an uneventful voyage lasting some weeks the ship at last arrived at its destination and great was the excitement of the New Zealand born children who had never seen a town. It would now be regarded as a shanty town, but it was no doubt like Paradise after the long sea voyage. The town was agog with excitement and ship after ship arriving from various parts of the World while those of adventurous spirits were making the difficult and dangerous journey overland. Whether Valentine had relatives in America is not clear, but he certainly appeared to have influential friends, since he left his daughter and her nurse, whom he had brought from New Zealand, at the home of the “Governor” in Otehaiti, now the Sandwich Islands.

My Grandmother remembers that this was one of the largest houses in the town and had vivid recollections of the disastrous flood which occured while she was there. Her home was on high ground and above the flood level but many houses were carried out to sea and many people and numerous animals drowned. About this time, word was received that the children had fallen heir to an estate in Devonshire through their mother, but whether they met someone in California who gave them the news or whether they received word direct from England is not clear. As soon as they could collect the necessary stores and gear the father and the boys went to the Sacramento diggings where at first they had very good luck, but

after being held up and robbed and after a brush with Indians, two of whom they shot, Valentine decided to leave California and try his luck at Bendigo in Australia where a rich gold strike had been reported. This would be about 1851.

Back aboard ship they sailed to Otehaiti where they had previously left my grandmother and her nurse while the father and the boys went to Australia, once again in quest of gold.

What happened there I do not know but either there or in America, Valentine heard that his family had fallen heir to the estate in Devonshire, and he and the boys proceeded to England to lodge their claim.

As regards this property which had been the family home since time immemorial, there was a tradition that on Christmas Eve there could be heard groaning and chains rattling which appeared to come from beneath the floor. Be that as it may, shortly before Valentine left England with the heiress an old part of the house was pulled down and beneath the flagstones in the hearth an ancient skeleton was found. This and other stories of ghostly hauntings I often heard at family gatherings when I was a child. According to my grand-uncle, Frederick Harrison, they lost no time sight seeing in England but procceded [proceeded] straight to their objective where the boys were greatly awed by the size and age of the ruined house. When their father asked them if they would like to live there they said they wished to return to New Zealand as soon as possible. “That is all I want to know”, said the old man, and they left without taking any action to establish their claim. Incidentally many years later my grandmother sent a solicitor home to investigate the matter and he said he was so certain that she and her brothers were the rightful heirs that in consideration of a half share in the proceeds, he would be prepared to institute the necessary proceedings and pay half the costs. By this time, however, my grandfather had died and his widow felt that she could not afford any further expense in the matter.

After calling at Otehaiti to pick up his daughter, Valentine returned to Auckland about 1852 or 53 and for the next few years appeared to lead a more settled life and once again he apparently renewed his association with the missions, so much so, that in the middle Fifties we find him travelling up and down the Waikato River supervising the building of churches at the various Mission Stations. Even here he took his children with him and his daughter was left at Kihi Kihi in the care of the Maori wife of one of the few white men in the district. Once a month the man rode from Auckland to Rotorua and back with the mail. Not surprisingly my grandmother was a fluent Maori linguist, in fact she told me that as a child she often thought in Maori and then translated in her mind to English. She was the friend and playmate of the daughters of the principal Chiefs of the Ngati Maniapoto tribe.

The mailman had somehow offended the Maoris at Kihi Kihi and they resented his riding through the Pa unless the white girl led his horse to insure [ensure] that he did not transgress any of the Tapu

places. According to grand-uncle Frederick the Maoris eventually killed this man, and he told me that one day whilst he and his brother Alfred were having a meal at a Maori gathering, they were shown the remains of a white man whom they understood to be the mailman which they had salted like a pig and put in a barrel. They were then at least theoretically Christians, but they regarded the pickling of him like pork was the greatest indignity they could subject a pakeha to, for blantantly [blatantly] infringing Tapu.

About this time Frederick said that he and his brothers were the victims of a practical joke which the Maoris played on them. They were the only whites present on this occasion and in most respects were accepted by the local people as one of themselves. However the presence of the white man in pickle and the white boys in the flesh was an opportunity too good to miss. When the boys sat down for their meal of pork and potatoes, as they fondly expected, to their horror they saw a human hand on each of their flax “plates”. As might be imagined they both felt violently ill to the great amusement of their Maori hosts. Subsequent explanations that it was only intended as a huge joke was hardly appreciated by the victims. In those days before the tragic, for the Maoris at least, Waikato War, there were numerous thickly populated Pas along the Waikato River and my grandmother used to reminisce about the journeys up and down from Maraetai at the Heads and to Te Kohanga, Kihi Kihi and Rangiaowhia. The canoes would be manned by stalwart paddlers and before the war, would be laden with wheat, pigs, potatoes and other porduce [produce]. As they passed the Pas along the river bank they would hear loud cries of welcome and the canoe chants of the paddlers, lent a carnival air to the scene. Towards the end of the Fifties the Maoris were becoming disillusioned and restless, and visionaries like Tamihana te Waharoa and other leading chiefs felt that the only way to preserve the Maori way of life was to appoint a Maori King and declare a dividing line between the lands owned and occupied by the Europeans and those to be declared the Maori Kingdom. Here again the Harrison family were slightly involved, inasmuch as Frederick told me that as a boy of about 14 years he drove King Potatau to his coronation in a bullock dray. He said that the old chief sat on a chair in the wagon with a flax crown on his head and talked to himself, complaining that he was too old and saying that they should have chosen a younger man.

Many of the young men whom the Harrison family knew and associated with had gone off to fight for what they believed to be their lands by right of conquest at Waitara and the chiefs told Valentine that it would be advisable for he and the boys to get out before the more fanatical element became too violent. As regards the daughter, they assured him that she would be quite safe to remain. Many a time she remembered in those days seeing parties, sometimes numbering many hundreds, doing war dances prior to setting out on visits which often ended in bloodshed. She said that you could feel the ground shaking for quite a distance on such occasions. The majority of men in those days were fully tatooed and must have presented a fearsome sight. She said, however, that she was never afraid and that she and the Maori girls used to prance around in front of the men as though it was great entertainment.

Towards the finish of their stay there, however, the father and the boys were advised to keep out of the way on such occasions.

About 1855 or 1856 the family again moved to Auckland and took up their abode at the Governor Browne Hotel, which was owned by the Sheehan family, one of whom subsequently became Native Minister.

Here my grandmother lived for some years and attended the Convent school with the Sheehan girls, and here she received her first formal eduation [education], the quality and thoroughness of which was apparent for the rest of her long life. Well she remembered the crowds that gathered on the streets to witness what she believed to be the last public execution in Auckland. According to Frederick, he and his father and brothers lived the lives of gentlemen for the next year or so and then took off for the goldfields at Coromandel. The father was now approaching 70 years of age and apparently felt that it was time that he thought about settling down. Somewhere about this time he had become friendly with William Couper who had taken up a large block of land in Hawke’s Bay and the next we know is that he had built a home for himself in the infant village of Havelock North.

In 1857 Frederick, then about 15 years of age, who together with his brother George, had been left at Coromandel, decided to follow his father, and set out to do so on foot. There were no roads and he and a Maori crossed Wellington Harbour to Pencarrow Heads and walked up the coast to the outlet of Lake Wairarapa, now called Lake Ferry. Here they struck inland to an accommodation house on the edge of the bush on the site of the present town of Masterton and then proceeded on Maori tracks through the bush to the clearing at Tahoraiti near Dannevirke. Here the Maori left him and here his first troubles began. As might be imagined, he was a fluent Maori speaker but he spoke the Waikato dialect which proclaimed him a stranger to the local people and possibly brought back unpleasant memories to the older men of the Waikato raids not so many years before. Be that as it may, it was the first time in his experience that he had been coldly received at a Maori settlement. He pushed on to Waipukarau [Waipukurau] and Waipawa. and here again his reception was not very friendly, and when he asked for a canoe to ferry him across the river, which was in high flood, he was told that the fare was a shilling. He attributed this display of “Progress” to recent Missionary influence, but as he did not have a shilling he gave them his shirt instead. He arrived at the trading store at Waipureku (East Clive) about dusk the same day and was greeted with ribald laughter and considerable surprise by the motley collection of whalers, settlers and Maoris gathered there and it took him some little time to convince them who he was and that his story was true. Quite understandably a shirtless youth speaking English with a distinct Maori accent, appeared to them to be at best a Pakeha-Maori and probably a fugitive from justice.

The next day Frederick found his father with Couper near the swamp at Kohineraka (Mt. Erin) and was immediately given a job at Kahuranaki across the Tuki Tuki river.

This involved keeping the cattle from straying into the bush and from then on for months at a time he never saw a white man nor even another Maori, but the one who accompanied him as a fellow boundary rider. About three months later his companion died and he was at his wits end to know what to do. However, he eventually loaded the body on a pack horse and took it across the river where he was told to bury it on the side of what is now Middle Road.

In those days Hawke’s Bay was a vast wilderness of swamp and flax on the plains and fern and scrub on the hills. Hastings had not been thought of as yet and Napier was in its extreme infancy. The principal settlement in the district was known as Waipureku, situated at the mouth of the Tuki Tuki river, and thereabouts was a hotel, Mission station and Whaling station. There were also several Maori Pas in the vicinity and law and order had not yet reached very far. Wild pigs roamed the hills around Havelock North, and the only settlers away from the coast were the sheep grazers who had leased large blocks from the Maoris.

The elder brother obtained employment on Captain Rhodes “Grange” property and subsequently took over the management of Waipuka-Okaihau near Waimarama for Francis Bee. Here his sister joined him about 1860, and here and in Havelock North she lived till 1865 when she married.

Travelling in those days of bullock drays and Maori tracks was a very different matter from what it is now. The usual route from Waimarama to Clive was along the beach via Haupouri and its whaling station through one of the gullies near Cape Kidnappers and again along the beach via the whaling station at Clifton to Waipureku. There were no proper roads and the settlers had to be forded or ferried over.

Hospitality to travellers was however extended freely and many an hour was spent with Felix the French Whaler, and his Maori wife at Haupouri. On one of these visits, the lonely white girl had an experience which exemplified the exceptional memories of the old-time Maori. Up to this time she had never spoken in Maori to Mrs. Felix, who lived in the European fashion and kept slightly aloof from her Maori neighbours. It did not surprise her guest, however to see that on this occasion she had another visitor in the person of a Maori girl, who sat on the floor some distance away. This girl watched the white girl intently, and whenever her hostess went near her she spoke to her in low tones, of course in Maori. “I know that Pakeha”, she said, “and she speaks Maori as well as you or I. Is her name not Pane?” “Yes, her name is ‘Pane'” she said, turning round. “Is this true? This girl says she knows you and that you speak Maori.” “Who is she?” parried Pane. “Ani Kanara,” said the Maori, and the white girl gasped in astonishment. Here was one of her childhood friends from the Waikato whom she had not seen since they were young children. There was no more English spoken then and much good humoured banter on the part of the hostess regarding her friend’s duplicity in not speaking Maori before. However, it was a happy day

About this time other adventurous spirits from the Taranaki and other parts were arriving in Hawke’s Bay, and one of these, a

strapping young Cornishman who had arrived in New Zealand with his parents in 1841, met and fell in love with her. The attraction was mutual and it was not long before in 1865, they were married and later settled in their new home at Havelock North where she experienced her first real happiness and peace.

Havelock North was then in its infancy, though by reason of its position on the borders of the back country, it soon blossomed into a thriving township with hotels, stables and a race course. Here the settlers from the surrounding districts were wont to congregate for their relaxation and many a wild scene was enacted when Te Hapuku and his followers ran riot after they and the wilder spirits amongst the whites over-indulged at the race meetings. There were many strange characters there in those times, and it was not very diplomatic to enquire to closely as to many of their antecedents or even their names.

The young couple had taken up a fine property at Pukahu, and in 1870 they built a home and for some years lived the ideal country life. There were always men working on the farm and interesting characters many of them were. There were also girls to assist in the house, since a farmer’s wife in those days was kept busy supervising the dairy where butter and cheese were made, preserving stocks of fruit and vegetables and in many other duties that modern methods have eliminated. A farm was then largely self supporting and open house was always kept for travellers and friends.

About this time the Maori wars which had been smouldering since the forties, flared up afresh. Many of my grandmother’s Maori friends in the Waikato had already been concerned and some of her brothers had taken part in the fighting in Taranaki. Her husband was a member of the Hawke’s Bay Militia and her two younger brothers were members of the Armed Constabulary.

The fanatical cult of Hauhauism which Te Ua had founded in Taranaki had spread through the country like wildfire and the reports of terrible atrocities were making even the local Maoris uneasy. Events were occuring swiftly and though the Hawke’s Bay Maoris remained for the most part loyal, the memory of the fight at Mangateretere between Te Hapuka and the chiefs of Heretaunga was still green in many minds, and those living in places like Pukahu, on the main route from Te Hauke to Clive and Havelock North were extremely anxious. Fortunately nothing happened from this quarter, though for years naughty children were told they would be given to Te Kooti if they did not behave.

Many of the young men were at this time engaged in the East Coast campaign and wild rumours were abroad of a plan to sack Napier and drive the Pakeha out of Hawke’s Bay. How nearly the first part of this plan succeeded is not generally recognised, but had the Maori plans not miscarried. Hawke’s Bay might have suffered an even more terrible experience than Poverty Bay.

How vividly did the women of the past generation remember the

night of the 11th of October 1866, the night before Omaranui. It was a still clear night and though everyone’s nerves were tuned up to the highest pitch, the sound of a galloping horse approaching from the direction of Clive did not cause undue alarm. The members of the Militia however, had been warned that they might be called up at any moment, and when the rider drew rein in the middle of the village and sounded the call to arms on the bugle, they knew the great day had at last arrived. We, in these days, cannot possibly imagine the feelings of the women and children that night. Many of them had had experience of the Hau Hau fighting methods already, and when the men left in order to attack Omaranui at daybreak, they were almost frantic with anxiety. Fortunately for Napier perhaps Te Rangihiroa from Tarawera was intercepted near Petane and killed with several of his followers, thus completely upsetting the Maori plan of action and the fight ended in a complete victory for the Pakeha. The Militia men immediately returned to their homes but it was years before the brothers in the Constabulary returned from the chase after Te Kooti.

From this time on, the Heretaunga District was free from active hostilities, but bands of Maoris, both local and rebel, were continually passing through on their way up the coast to join one side or the other. Hau Hau recruiting parties occasionally endeavoured to obtain converts in the local Pas and although Te Kooti appeared to be on the run, the Pai Marire religion was still a power in the land. Every time the rebel succeeded in eluding his pursuers and bringing off some fresh raid, the local friendlies became more anxious, since many of their own relatives were very lukewarm in their affection for the Queen. One of the largest and most important Pas in the district was then, as now, Paki Paki and as this was not very far from her Pukahu home, my grandmother frequently visited it.

As she was a fluent Maori linguist and a skilled nurse, she always received a warm welcome and many a sick Maori obtained relief from her home-made remedies. Imagine her surprise therefore to arrive one day to find the Maoris in a wild state of excitement and to see her old friend Hirini Pirika ride past without even recognising her. Something unusual was obviously astir, and although she had been accustomed to the dancing and chanting at Maori gatherings ever since she could remember, she sensed rather than saw at first that this gathering was no ordinary one. Full of curiosity she drove her trap through the Pa gates where an unforgetable sight met her eyes. There in the middle of the Marae a pole, similar to a Maypole, had been set up, and crowds of Maoris were marching round and round, dancing and gesticulating, whilst all the time chanting a jargon of Maori and pidgin English –

 “Ora te mene rauna te nui.
All the men round the nui.”

She had heard enough of the Hau Haus and their strange practices, but this was the first time she had actually seen their ceremonial ritual and she watched fascinated. The local Maoris did not know what to do. They did not want to offend their not too welcome guests, yet they were afraid to show any active

sympathy with them. The rhythm of the chanting seemed to fill the air and many of the local people could resist the urge no longer and joined in the throng. The chiefs however, merely looked on anxiously, Hirini riding round and round outside the circle of dancers, each time increasing his sweep until he approached quite close to his white friend. Without turning his head. he told her quietly to go, but knowing the Maoris so well, she felt no fear, thinking he was only a bit ashamed of some of his people’s weakness. She accordingly disregarded his command in her anxiety to see all she could of this extraordinary performance. The dancers were becoming more and more frantic and excited, and many were the threats and imprecations she could hear being hurled against the Pakeha. She had often heard this before, in the Waikato, however, and never felt that it could apply to her personally, but to the white race generally. Who knows what might have happened had old Hirini in his next round not ordered her away with menace in his eye. She was astonished and offended at her friend’s behaviour and more out of pique than anything else she turned her horse’s head and drove away. The sequel was not long in coming and had it not been for her perfect knowledge of the Maori language and temperament the local Maoris assured her that she would most likely have been killed.

It was a busy time of the year and the men were all some distance away at the back of the farm, when a large body of Maoris could be seen approaching from the direction of Paki Paki. After her recent experience the young mother was a bit apprehensive and accordingly went out and padlocked the gate in the hope that the Maoris would thus be less inclined to try and enter. Keeping well out of sight the watcher saw the party stop in front of the house and a big half-caste walked up to the gate and gave the lock a cut with a tomahawk, at the same time contorting his features and shouting threats at the white woman whom he could not see. She waited silently though almost petrified with fear, but when the Maori again brought his weapon down and shattered the chain, her maternal instincts conquered her fear and she let forth a torrent of invective which Maori alone can supply and which almost surprised herself. Well she knew the Maori mind. “So you are famous Hau Haus, eh?” she said. “I have heard of you from somewhere. I thought as great warriors from Taranaki, from Urewera and from Waikato. But no, I must have been mistaken. Warriors, at least warriors from the Waikato when I lived there, did not try to frighten women and children when they thought their men were away. However, we meet cowards amongst all races. Kill me.” she said. “But if you touch my children, vengeance will sure follow you even to the Urewera and far Taranaki

The Maori gasped in astonishment. Who was this Pakeha with the sweet tongue? His arms dropped to his sides and shame took the place of anger in his face. Was this not the old Waikato tongue, the language of his loved ones far away? The women urged him on, but a chord had been touched and he dropped his head, reciting a tangi chant for those who had gone.

Seizing the psychological moment the relieved woman took the offensive and addressed the party, now squatting on the side of the road. She told them she was sorry that her husband and the

men from round about had not been there to fittingly receive such a distinguished delegation, but assured them that they would return at any moment and would make amends if they cared to wait. Should they be in a hurry however, she said she felt they might appreciate some milk to refresh them of their journey and cement the friendship which she felt sure must exist between them. This was a let out which the Maoris were quick to accept as the import of the speech was quite apparent to them. They had no desire to run into trouble with armed settlers at this juncture. Buckets were at once collected and on the understanding that the men kept outside, the women filled them from baths of haytea-milk which had been mixed for the calves. What their feelings were when they tasted it is not recorded, but they quickly departed with their store, very pleased to be able to save their faces.

The war on the coast dragged on for some years afterwards, but the settlers in this district had no further trouble and in the glorious climate everything bloomed. Very soon the family began to prosper and gradually acquired more land and goods. Six fine sons were born and the eldest were sent to Mrs. Shepherd’s school at Havelock North. Apart from the death of one of these by drowning, the clouds seemed to have passed away for good and the young mother’s cup of happiness was brim full. The greatest tragedy of her life was soon to come, however, and the blow which fell left its mark for the rest of her long life.

There were no motor cars or lorries in those days and since all heavy transport was done with bullock teams. so almost every farmer was accustomed to handling and working with these animals. They were for the most part quiet, patient beasts and before the bush at Te Aute and Waimarama was cleared away a regular stream of bullock wagons used to pass through Havelock North.

My grandfather had been amongst bullocks since his earliest childhood in Taranaki, and being a man of exceptional strength and physique he would handle the most fractious. One day, however, he was caught unawares and received a painful kick in the back, from which, though no one worried at the time serious complications set in. Medical science was then very far removed from what it now is, and when the pain began to grow worse and a doctor was summoned from Napier, he stated that it was merely a bruise. However, as the patient became steadily worse and soon was unable to walk, his wife became alarmed and summoned the best medical aid available but all to no avail. The doctors did not know what to do, though their fees became a great strain on the family resources. Cash soon ran out and as the bills mounted up, titles to sections of land were transferred over until she became almost distracted. Hopelessly she watched her loved one sinking, while she was powerless, and though doctors still held out hope she felt in her heart that all was over. At last in desperation she sent for Mother Mary Aubert who had a great reputation as a nurse and physician amongst the Maoris. This old French Nun placed her hands on the injured back and immediately said. “It’s all gone. He’ll never walk again.” and such was the case. In 1878, after a long and painful illness, my grandfather passed away leaving his widow with five sons and a woefully depleted estate. It was then that the young woman of 32 years showed the qualities which characterised the pioneers throughout

the land. She was too proud to accept help from her friends, but determined to build up her resources again and give her sons the best starts possible. Unfortunately her husband’s oft expressed intention of sending them to college was no longer possibloe [possible], but she gave them the best education she could afford and eventually had them all apprenticed at skilled trades. My grandmother and the boys returned to Havelock North and lived there for some time after the death of her husband. These were heartrending times for a young woman who until her husband’s illness had always been spoilt and petted. She was determined to pull through however and worked at nursing and sometimes teaching Maori in order to augment the slender income she was receiving from the land. She was a strikingly handsome woman and despite her family had several offers of remarriage under such circumstances as would have ended her financial worries. She could not bear to think of any other man taking the place of her children’s father and worshipped his memory until she died.

By dint of strict economising and hard work all the debts contracted during her husband’s long illness were finally liquidated, and the family once more returned to the farm at Pukahu, where they became known throughout the district for their hospitality. Despite his restless and adventurous spirit my grandmother’s father took care that his daughter was given a good moral and religious training and throughout her life she held strong views on some subjects, which she never departed from. She disliked smoking and abhorred strong drink and in order that her growing sons might look to their home, rather than to the towns, for their pleasure, she opened her house every Saturday to the young people of the district. The drawing room was cleared and polished for dancing and there was always (and) music and wholesome fun. Some of the boys and their friends rode over twenty miles on horseback for these dances and they remain amongst the happiest memories of their lives. At twelve o’clock sharp, the hostess would close the proceedings on account of Sunday, and everyone would reluctantly depart for home.

From time to time during these years, nephews and nieces from Taranaki came to stay at Pukahu, and there was never a person of her own or her husband’s blood whom she did not welcome as her own. How she would have loved to have kept her boys with her forever, but the inevitable time surely came.

Valentine announced that he intended to be married. This was the news that she had almost dreaded and she used every endeavour to dissuade him from such a step. However, the great event took place in due course and it was a proud mother who watched her eldest son take his vows. English customs were deeply engrained in those days, so that it was taken for granted that the eldest son and his wife would eventually take over the farm that his father had owned. The mother therefore again moved to Havelock North, where the property which she owned there had considerably improved in value, and there she spent the rest of her life.

One by one the other sons married and left home, and as each one departed she became more and more lonely, but she still retained her independent spirit and when grandchildren commenced to come

along, she bucked up again. What stories she used to tell them of the days of old, of the Maori wars and of the birds and bush! What a mine of information she was on Maori names and folklore! Who of us can ever forget those Christmas parties at Pukahu when once again the old lady would take over the reins and entertain her sons and their wives and families. She seemed to introduce an old-world atmosphere, and when she cooked a meal in a Maori “Hangi” as she did on one occasion for the delectation of an English visitor, her grandchildren could not imagine a more talented person. Time passed quickly on and as each of her sons took up land of his own and raised families, she began to feel that she had fulfilled her mission in life. She had lived to see her eldest grandson go off to take his part in the Great War as her husband and brothers had in the Maori wars, sixty years before. She had nursed many of her grandchildren through their minor illnesses and had watched over her eldest son when he passed away at the age of 60 years. She was an extraordinarily proud and independent woman and though she could well afford it, she would not have anyone assisting her in her old age. She always claimed that she could do her work far better herself than anyone else. One by one, her brothers passed away and as she lost her old friends and relations, she began to feel very lonely and disinterested in the things around her. She longed for the peace and rest she sincerely believed awaited her beyond the grave where she would at last be united with her John again. Hers was a long life of courage and usefulness and when she passed away after a short illness at the age of 83 years, she was accorded one of the largest funerals ever seen in Havelock North. With her passing, New Zealand lost a true pioneer who set a high standard for her four surviving sons, seventeen grandchildren and sixteen great-grandchildren to live up to. Times have changed but the fighting spirit cannot yet be dead, so let us all strive as she did to leave our country a better place than when we came into it.

Photo captions –

ALFRED HARRISON   FANNY JOLL   FREDERIC HARRISON   SYDNEY JOLL

GEORGE   VALENTINE   WILLIAM   ALFRED
EVA nee FULFORD)   FANNY   JOHN HENRY
STANLEY (first grandchild)

Original digital file

JonesG872_HarrisonJoll.pdf

Date published

1939

Format of the original

Typed document

Accession number

872/1984/43754

Do you know something about this record?

Please note we cannot verify the accuracy of any information posted by the community.

Supporters and sponsors

We sincerely thank the following businesses and organisations for their support.