Phyllis Burrows


Phyllis Moffatt was my mother-in-law, and a lady. Our first introduction was over the matter of some shells, for she was a dedicated collector and took her family everywhere in search of more unusual specimens for her collection, and it was on one of the northernmost trips that I met her and her youngest daughter. A fateful meeting indeed, now well in the past, but with considerable impact on my life.

It was some years before I even knew of her background, and only in recent years that I learned of her family history. Phyllis lost her own mother at an early age and grew up on a farm on the Kaipara Harbour in the North Island of New Zealand.

For those who have no knowledge of this sprawling harbour with a thousand twisting inlets and bush covered valleys stripped now of the original timber, I could tell you it is the second biggest harbour in the Southern Hemisphere, which it is, or about the Portuguese helms found in the shifting sands of the harbour bar, or perhaps of the hardy people from England who came to make the area into exceptional farmland...

Instead I will let Phyllis tell you in her own words of living on a small peninsular on this magical place, and the trials and hardships she suffered growing up there...

The following is taken from her nown handwritten notes with some minor editing to make meanings clearer...

My grandfather Mark Burrows was born in a small village called Margate, in Kent, England, where his family was engaged in market gardening. Mark was 21 when he emigrated to Adelaide in 1873 on the 'Forfarshire', arriving on 8 Febuary, 1874. On the same vessel were the Knott family, and one can only surmise that this led to his marriage to Elizabeth Knott on 10 August, 1876, when she was 19 and he was 24.

In Adelaide he again worked as a market gardener on his own land at Deep Creek, in the Basket Range. This was a smallholding, being only 3 hectares in today's terms, but the area is now known as Knott's Hill.

I think Mark had two other brothers, Charles and Henry William, and one sister who also travelled to Australia, later moving to the South Island of New Zealand. I have found no trace of any of these except for a chance meeting in my daughter Treana's Rock Shop with a Burrows from the South Island, whose physical resemblence was such that I am sure they were related to us in some way. Unfortunately this Burrows man was not interested in family history and has since died.

Again, the Burrows family had some acres in Basket Range, Aston, Adelaide, growing flowers etc and some relations of Granma, the Knotts, still have land there to this day. The climate in Adelaide did not agree with Granma, for she found it hot in summer after England, so in 1886, when my father was 6 yrs old, they moved to Howick or Whitford in New Zealand, on the eastern extremity of Auckland city.

Mark and Elizabeth's first-born was Caroline (Aunt Carrie) who married Albert Pearce in NZ. He was with the lighthouse service; Arthur was their first son. Eadie or Aunt Edie Wilkins (Bob)[Wilkins ?] was also in lighthouse service and lived for a long time at Nugget Pt. (Sth Is).

Henry (Harry) was the next born, and he married an English War Bride Nellie (in 1918). Amy married Melville Crispe of Waiuku, a 4th generation NZer. Mary married Oscar Clausen of Whitford. I think she was the only child born in Howick, NZ after their arrival in NZ.

My father Arthur was born in Basket Ranges, Aston, Adelaide, SA, on 1st Jan 1880. Although he was only about 6 when he arrived in NZ he remembers seeing the glow of the Tarawera eruption and often spoke to us about this.

Grandfather was managing an ostrich farm in Whitford and later they owned 60 acres west of Howick, being a dairy farm and having fruit trees. Doris Wade took us to this area in 1987 and we explored the house and photos, it being little altered over the century. Later our grandparents retired to a house in Sale St., Howick that still stands today.

Dad told of orchard work on the farm and went to school there somewhere close to Howick. I have photos of Mark Burrows milking a goat.
Dad later obtained a Marine Engineer's ticket and was working on coastal ships, on trips to Australia, and on the paddle ship 'Minerva' on the Wanganui River. He was on a run from Auckland to Thames where he met my mother who was at that time managing a boarding house in Thames. The gold rush in the Coromandel was just subsiding in those days prior to the 1914 war, but water transport was at its peak as few roads existed.

My mother was born Isabella (Bella) MacDonald in Fortrose Shire, Rosemarkie, Black Isle, Inverness, Scotland. The Black Isle is thus named on account of the colour of the soil, I believe.

Isabella was either 1st or 2nd child of Gran Jean McKenzie (née Cameron). Gran was married to a ??? McKenzie who owned a farm in Fortrose and had 3 children. Auntie Jean married Tom Gwillim in NZ , producing children Rod and Hector. When McKenzie died she married William (Willie) MacDonald, a man who was working on the farm, by trade an excellent thatcher, but also a man who liked his whiskey.

Five more children were born, being Isabella [duplication of name?] Sarah, Frank, Duncan and Willie.

Sarah died of TB aged 22. Duncan was killed in WW1 in France in the 'Seaforth Highlanders'. Frank married Jessie and they had 3 children. Willie married Nancy, a Canadian, they had no family. We met Uncle Willie and Aunt Nancy in Inverness in 1982 when Willie was aged about 85. He was Mum's younger brother, and he died in 1988.

As Jean McKenzie [the one who married Tom Gwillim] (Mum's step-sister) had travelled to NZ as a nanny with a family in 1905 and wrote of the conditions then, my mother who was a manageress of several hotels and boarding houses or similar, decided in 1909 to come out here as well, paying her own way on a steamship.

To digress, Grand-nana Cameron was a very blonde, pale-skinned lady whose ancestors were probably all Norse or derived from fair-haired invaders from Scandinavian countries who settled on the east coast of Scotland.

Granpa MacDonald was dark-haired and had an olive skin, showing a heavy black beard in photos. I think generations having lived on the west coast of Scotland, around Skye and Glencoe.

I'm told that the olive skin of mine and of my brother Harry is a legacy of the Spanish Armada and the attempt to invade England in 1588. After the battle fought in the English Channel the Spaniards were totally defeated by a violent storm which swept the British Isles and sent many ships to the bottom and wrecked many more in places like Tobamory Bay and on the outer Hebridean Islands. Any sailor or soldiers that survived had to integrate with the local population, thus we still have traces of Spanish features and characteristics in our family after 500 years.

Auntie Jean Gwillim's family are all very fair-haired and had to watch the hot NZ sunshine, while Mum had dark hair and went grey at very early age. She worked at several small towns including Hukerenui and Whakaparara, which were huge sawmilling places in those days. She was managing a boarding house in Thames when she met Arthur Burrows, and lived at Howick before Dad signed off on boats at Tuakau.

Duncan was the first born, and lived only 2 yrs before dying of diptheria when an epidemic swept NZ about 1916. He is buried in Auckland. Harry was born July 4 1917 [or 1918] and Jean on Jan 20, 1920 at Aratapu, a small settlement 8 km from Dargaville on the banks of the Wairoa River, where huge sawmills were working and gum washing plants were using steam engines which Dad operated.

During WW1 he was a Territorial in Trentham near Wellington for years; a heart murmur kept him from overseas service duty.

A shift was made to the lighthouse service, a trade already employing family members A. Pearce and Bob Wilkins. He was stationed at Cape Maria van Dieman Island [near Cape Reinga in the far north] and at Cape Brett, that I know of. Sickness forced a change to the gum washing plant, again with steam engines, this time at Te Hapua. He also ran the Govt. launch at Paua on the Parengarenga Harbour for a few years, then returned to Auckland where I was born on March 22 1924.

Sickness at an early age, and diabetes in his 30's again changed his direction in life and after 18 months on a farm alongside Coates 'Kennedy's', then later bought a farm in 1924 at Hukatere (not to be confused with the Hukatere on the 90 Mile beach further north).

When I was 6 weeks old we came north on the 'Turangi', landing on Matakohe's long wharf. This farm of 115 acres was on the waterfront on the Kaipara Harbour and was originally owned by the Webers, a large family from Germany who moved here about 1880. The whole original farm was 500 acres or more including 'Weber's Hill', and was divided between 3 members of the Webers when the old couple died.

Gretchen Weber sold her piece to a J. Skinner who farmed it for a few years before he sold it on to Dad in 1924. Prices were high then, post-war, and houses hard to get. There were some good years before the devastating depression hit worldwide about 1929, when no alternative was available other than a heavier mortgage to the bank, or to lose the farm.

The farm was actually bounded by 2 tidal channels, one leading up to 'Ruatuna' of Ada Coates, and the other to Rocky Creek. A boundary fence of ¾ miles long across the foot of the peninsula was all that was necessary to enclose the farm. In front of the house were about 50 acres of oyster rocks which the daily tide covered. When the tide was out there was only a small strip of water left in the harbour, which was normally 4 miles across to Pahi peninsula and the channels leading to Matakohe and Paparoa.

Of course the house was at the farthest end of the farm to take advantage of the tidal water, as this form of transport was the only one available at the time. Water transport had opened up the North and the Kaipara Harbour during the timber era but had also kept the roading development behind times. No road was made to the farm gate from Rocky Creek until after 1930.

The old Weber homestead was situated on a flat area close to the water and had an excellent orchard and vineyard which were developed in the early 1900's. Traces of all of this were still visible when I was young. Walks on tracks through the bush, terraces for vines, and hundreds of bulbs of all kinds every year gave evidence of the splendour which had once existed for garden parties etc. Loquat trees and many other fruit trees were still bearing; palms and oleander still grow to this day, and roses were still blooming profusely.

A large concrete cistern dug into a bank alongside the house saved fresh water, but in our time this was leaking and little water was held in it. There were no water springs or freshwater streams on the farm and this caused problems for many years until about 1947 when Harry and Bill shared a pipeline put in from Rocky Creek bridge, where there was a pumphouse beside the creek.

A huge English walnut tree was a feature of the old orchard, continuing to give excellent crops of large nuts long after I had left home in 1945. Often sugar sacks of nuts were dried in the sun in Autumn, and the skins were often saved for dying homespun wool, giving it a lovely golden shade.

At the time the farm was divided up the original homestead structure was dismantled and the timber used in building Hall's house, plus some was used on Bruno Weber's house. The large barn which stood on a rise above the house was later converted into a house for Gretchen. It was built of hand-pitsawn timber milled and sawn on the point at Totara paddock. Old sawdust was still visible in the bank by the large rock at totara, and as this area is being steadily eroded by tides with 2 chains at least gone over 40 years, more of the old mill site is exposed.

Two bedrooms with match lining for ceilings were added by Mr Skinner, but there was never any ceiling in the main (20 x 12) sitting room, or in the kitchen. The loft was a favourite haunt for us kids who could climb the wall, only having to step carefully on the rafters. Old glass plates of photos were stored there amongst other old things. I think hay had been stored in the loft originally, for it had a very steep roof. It was always very scary in a gale. Mum's potato yeast, which was stored beside the stove and used for her bread making, often sent many a cork skywards into the rafters.

In later years Bruno Weber put in a plaster ceiling for us, with exposed beams. This did much to warm up the vast rooms. A double chimney held a wood stove and a single grate in the sitting room. The kitchen stove was a favourite place in winter, with only candles or kerosene lantern to read by.

A few shelves, a tin dish for washing up on a kauri table were all the kitchen facilities in those early days. Washing was boiled in kerosene tins on 2 bars of iron on a bank outside. Homemade soap was used. With a shortage of water over the summer months the tin bath was seldom used as the tide was only 200 yards away and we swam daily anyway. A single galvanised tank caught rainwater from the roof of the house, along with one at the cowshed; they didn't last long.

When there was a shortage of water in the summer, empty cream cans were filled with water at Rocky Creek and carted home by horse and sledge. No road existed into the farm until after I had started school; there was only a sled track across to Hall's place and a fascine [NB: 'a bundle of long sticks used in the construction of roads, etc] crossing at Weber's small creek, usable only at low tide.

At this time Dad had the loan of Skinner's dinghy for rowing up to Rocky Creek for mail and in the times of drought would fill the punt under a small waterfall and row back a mile or more to the farm where the cows would meet him at the sandbank, and drank directly from the punt. A few wells held some water in mid-winter, but this was not enough to last over the dry summer months.

Although my father was then in his early 40's, his diabetes was advanced and he had to be injected with insulin 3 times a day. This had to be ordered up from Auckland Hospital quite often, but fortunately was paid for through the Manchester Unity Lodge, which he had attended when he was living in Auckland.

My earliest recollections of life there was of being in a cane cot with one side broken. I must have been about 2 or 3 years old, and I was often told later that I had milked my first cow at 3 yrs old, and properly, too! 'Peggy' had long 9" teats and an even longer bag which always dragged in the mud, plus she had horns which fortunately for me stuck out sideways from her head, thus saving me from being ground into the dirt when trying to pat her nose. They told me I had no fear of animals at all, and rode every draught horse on the farm. Early cows were named Jersey, Bethy, Ruby, Clover, Strawberry, Swance, Creamy who ate toot and died [NB 'toot' is tutu, a native NZ plant that has new growth that can be poisonous to cows and other farm animals], and of course Redwing who got stuck in the mangroves with a rising tide. From memory Dad had to kill her and she was our corned beef in brine for some weeks thereafter. After about a year or so 12 more cows were purchased from Mr Ellis from Dargaville (Rita Hansen's father). Among these we named Tiger, Daisy, Leopard, Floss, Roana, Ginger, Rosie, Diamond, Pearl and Lily. The two horses were Bess, a beautiful light Clydesdale which Dad adored; she used to walk hard on his heels with her head over his shoulder. The other was a horse called Don, borrowed from Harry Robson. There was also Clover, on loan from Halls, and which Harry drove at a very early age, taking the cream on a sledge out over the back of Hall's to Rocky Creek where it would be collected by a Mr Neems in his gig.

Although the road to the Hukatere school and hall was formed, no metal {gravel} existed and the mud in winter was covered by ti-tree fascines [made by bundling the thin ros together and placing them in ditches with soil on top; the water would flow between the stalks]. These were made by tying long thin stakes of ti-tree and brush together with flax, then laying them across the road. All kids attending school walked barefoot over this same road for many years. Sometimes we walked over Weber's Hill - over the back of the farm and across the Halls property, a distance of 2½ to 3 miles each way.

This was when I was 5 yrs old, and the teacher was one Mr Caterly. I remember staying after school at Mayall's the night he was married to Anne Mayall in the Hukatere Hall.

The next teacher (while I was in the primers) was a Mr Charlie Pollard. Hukatere was a sole-charge school teaching pupils up to Standard 6, with about 30 students. Mr Pollard had a piece of supplejack vine which had been hardened in the sun, and which was well used.

It was during the years when Jean took me to school (she was 4 yrs older than me) that our new road from Rocky Creek to the farm was formed, a distance of about a mile. All work was done with spades and barrows, horse scoops and plough. Concrete pipes for culverts were brought up by barge and dumped off in the small mangroves nearby Weber's Landing, where Bruno Weber kept his boat the 'Swan'.

The bridge over our part of the road, just 200 yards from Rocky Creek Bridge proper, was constructed using timber taken from the long wharf at Matakohe when it was reduced in length by a third, and subsequently barged up the creek. Joe Hall contracted for and made the short piece of filled road connecting Rocky Creek bridge and the new bridge, by using a railway line and a (hand-operated) tip truck. This he filled from a high bank and then pushed out over the already built up area.

Joe was not a successful farmer, I think, being a blacksmith by trade, and with an excellent trained singing voice. He came from an orphanage in England, I believe; It was Mrs Martha Hall who owned the farm.

About 1934 metal (gravel) was crushed at Bourne's Quarry, which was a volcanic plug with very hard blue metal, and McBreen Jenkins laid a base course in to the start of the farm, although we still had to sledge things to the other end of the farm, where the house was. There was no simple solution until in the 50's when Harry moved the house in pieces closer to the boundary fence.

Mum was gardening a piece of ground on top of the cliff overlooking the shingle beachwhich had earlier been fenced with netting. The site had obviously been a popular Maori feeding place as pipi shell middens were 3 to 4 ft deep, overlaid with black soil, an oasis in what was otherwise heavy limestone country, making it a great winter garden for cabbages etc, and for early beans.

Later on a netting fence was constructed around the house to keep out the hens and pigs, and a vegetable garden was also started there. Drains consisted of trenches dug away and down the south-westerly slope of the home paddock and filled with green ti-tree lengths. These proved very successful.

Every spring Dad ploughed up some acres for pasture, first growing crops of maize, swedes, mangels [?] and chowmallier for the pigs, or potatos and pumpkins for household use. We were never short of vegetables; yummy corn with butter in winter and Mum's scones and Yorkshire pudding will be remembered forever.

We were always short of fresh water and I remember every summer having to drive the cows out to Rocky Creek to drink. For this I used to ride any draught horse until at about age 15 or 16 I had 'Ngati Paroa', so named by Dad. He was an excellent small stock horse when he was able to be caught! The best way was to bail him up in the yard with the other horses, but a rope that was permanently tied to his neck often left me with burned fingers when he decided to run...

In the early days at the cowshed a copper in a 44 gallon drum was boiled for washing the hand separator, buckets and cream cans. All cows were milked by hand until about 1933 when a second-hand LKG milking machine was put in, then later a 'GANE', both powered by an Anderson Engine petrol motor. This had a heavy crankhandle very unkind to wrists when the engine often backfired. A cowshed was added later with a proper separator room with concrete floor.

How many hours of turning the separator handle and keeping the bell ticking over evenly as our 'sister' filled many a cream can? Ah! Warm cream, straight out of the spout! All this of course done before anyone left for school, a walk of 3 miles, then the same again when we returned.

Floors were scraped with a square-mouthed shovel and the muck tossed over the yard rail. All (skim) milk was carried by bucketful over a muddy and slippery slope to feed the calves a chain away through a fence. Likewise for the pigs 3 chain away until eventually a pipeline was put in to gravity feed a 44 gallon drum at the pig fence, which was below (downhill from) the milking shed.

A bonus for us kids was to groom and train a jersey calf to lead for the local Calf Club show at school breakup. We did manage to pick up some certificates for this, but it was a long time before we could purchase pedigree calves, although Dad was always particular in buying good pedigree bulls.

All cream was taken by sledge about 1 mile to a collection point where in early years a Model T truck usually took it the Maungatoroto Dairy Factory. About 1938 there was a change to Ruawai which also had a good factory store.

About 1934-35 Dad had a long spell in Te Kopuru Hospital when he'd sliced his foot open. This wound never healed and pus was always leaking out, requiring daily bathing and dressing. I think that otherwise gangrene would have set in and that amputation would have been required. I can never remember him being able to walk without one stick, and more often two. No complaints were heard, and he always carried on doing what he could.

He was a very thoughtful and good farmer and I can't help wondering what a different life we all would have had if his health had permitted. As it was, Harry, who was six years older than me, left school after gaining a Proficiency Certificate and after a 2 year agricultural course drove the car and managed the farm with Mum from a very early age.

At about 1935-36, when I was about 10, Dad purchased a secondhand Model-T Ford, and as more roads were metalled we managed to get to some Pahi Regattas and Paparoa Summer Shows where we stayed late to see some early silent movies such as 'Dad & Dave' and Steel Rudd's classic Australian films. Later the wheels and axle of the old Ford were used to make a Konaki with rubber tyres, used for carting manuka, stones, etc. It tended to be extra fast going downhill and sometimes caught up with the horses, much to their horror.

One particular episode nearly saw the demise of the konaki when the 'Te Tui' arrived at high tide to unload a few tons of superphosphate in our manure shed, which was built on the beachfront. Hector and Tom, the two horses, were driven down the roadway ready to take a load of super (fertiliser) up to the paddock from the beach. All was fine until the winch on the boat backfired and one large Clydsdale and hack disappeared at the gallop to the far end of the Totara paddock, leaving traces of their flight shrewn behind them in the form of broken reins, swingletrees, chains and konaki. I cannot recall if the S & D couplings were ever found...

In later years the original Model-T was replaced by MA [?] with side screens and glass. We always needed a heavy car such as an Oakland, to negotiate mud and rough tracks.

The worldwide depression was slowly losing its grip on the country and butterfat prices were rising, thus bringing a little more comfort for those who had been able to retain their land. Although money was non-existent we had always grown our own food and with fish and many a feed of flounder speared at night, life was better for us with our acres to roam over than for many city people.

If we had relations up from Auckland to stay over Christmas holidays Dad sometimes killed a pig or calf, and this was shared among neighbours as we had no electricity or refridgerator in those days. In fact, I never used electricity until 1949 when we moved into our house in Bedlington St. (Whangarei) and after my daughter Christine was born.

When Dad was ill we were visited by several of his brothers and sisters, who until then I had never met. I had never seen Uncle Harry from Taranaki, or Auntie Mary and Uncle Oscar, nor Uncle Albert from Wellington. Mum's sister Jean (Gwillim) lived in Auckland at this time and our cousins Bill, Cam, Bruce and Iris often came up for the school holidays and helped with the haymaking and cows etc, plus we spent hours swimming.

After the Grandparents passed away in Howick, Auntie Mary (my favourite) sent us up (in a 44 gallon drum) an Edison phonograph with round cylindrical records, our first contact with music and some of the great singers of that era.

Other social nights remembered were of visits to Hall's place where we spent hours singing around their piano. Mrs Martha Hall played and Maris was taught by Miss Dolly Coates. If a dance was held in the Hukatere Hall it meant a walk, both ways, sometimes returning at 1 in the morning, mostly with a hurricane lantern as our only light. Often Bruno Weber played dance music on a small accordian before the local Maori from Arapoa formed a 5 piece band they called 'Kuki Manuka'. Members Boots Brown and Ned Waiapu and the others were all talented musicians.

Our large room (20 x 12 ft) was often cleared of furniture and we spent hours polishing the floor for dancing at night with the young Webers, etc, using sacks and powder. This was how most of us learned to dance, the dance evenings being somewhat boisterous and energetic affairs. Most young people had mouth organs, and gramaphones were in their heyday. It is only now that I can realise how homesick Mum must have been for her native Scotland when we played bagpipe music and asked about dances.

After seeing Scotland and meeting Mum's only brother Willie I felt a strong tie there. Mum was never able to go back and must have missed her family very much indeed. In later years, about 1950, Aunt Jean did return to visit Inverness. If Mum had lived to that time the farm was good and prosperous and she would have been able to enjoy a trip away.

In 1935-36 a radio was purchased from Nichol's Store in Paparoa. It ran off a 12 volt car battery which of course had to be kept charged up by the milking machine or sent to the Ruawai Dairy Factory on the cream truck for the same purpose. We rushed home from miking etc to listen to exciting episodes of 'The Black Moth', etc and to hear concerts of famous singers in Australia, as Sydney shortwave stations were easliy picked up in those days. 'Comandy Harmonisch' from Germany were popular; Melba, Dawson, and Gallicura could be heard through the static.

Later years saw us with a flat turntable gramaphone which worked fine after many broken springs were riveted up or replaced with hand-wound ones. We started buying records of cowboy songs on the rare occasions we were able to visit Ruawai or Dargaville, and these I still have.

In winter the work with the cows was less although we always kept a few milking for home supplies. In earlier times we did that to keep a butterfat cheque coming in over what were otherwise lean months. About 1939-40 we were able to see all cows dried off until spring. There was always plenty of feed on our limestone ground, but of course it was also very wet, and even in summer droughts our farm always appeared green.

I can remember that before any metal (gravel) or limestone were spread for all-weather tracks or cowyards, many cows were dragging through mud up to their bellies and were sometimes having to be hauled out by the horses. A large part of the enlarged cowyard was metalled by sledging loads of hard stones up from the beach below the house, up through the orchard to the shed, all loaded and unloaded by hand. Later the area was covered by a layer of limestone taken from the bank at the end of the totara paddock.

The totara paddock ended in a flat of about 2 acres which I can just remember being gardened with kumaras and potatos. I believe exceptionally high 'king' tides covered a lot of it once and the crops were lost. It was never gardened again.

This area also had a sandbank which was a favourite place for flounder, but has radically changed over 50 years of tides carrying shell from farther along the farm frontage, building up a large sandbank and allowing mangroves right inshore. The area is now quite high and mainly dry land which the cows now camp on. Dry stock now run on the rough ground close to the waters edge.

One bitter blow was the loss of Bess the mare, which was serviced by a horse from Rodney Coates. She was in foal, but something went wrong and she was in intense pain until she was finally killed by strangling herself in the wire fence. There was no such thing as a vet in those days and such losses were accepted as part of farming. We also lost many calves with scours, etc.

We always had many pigs to rear and Dad owned the first large white boar in Hukatere. It was 9' 6" from snout to tail, and 3 ft high, the largest pig I have ever seen to this day.

The grip of the depression was slowly easing and we had that Model-T Ford, which Harry drove. I was then about 12 years old and in the May holidays of 1936 Mum and Dad went for their first holiday to Auckland by train, staying with Aunt Jean in Parnell. They also went out to Whitford to see Uncle Oscar and Auntie Mary Clausen, and we were never to see Mum alive again.

Uncle Oscar was taking them back to Auckland in his heavy car when a truck hit them at the 'Harp of Erin' corner. All suffered minor injuries to knees, and various cuts, but Mum was thrown from the back seat on to the concrete roadway, suffering severe head injuries and concussion. She was taken to the Mater Hospital where they tried to operate and relieve the pressure, but she never regained consciousness. Thus her life ended at the age of 47, on 29 April, 1936.

This was an unbelievable tragedy for Dad, especially as he had been largely dependant on her during so much sickness.

What a changed life we had! Uncle Oscar was upset and never again drove a car. A court case followed and some compensation was granted to us kids, being dependents. I know a sum was used to keep the family going over winter months. Jean was then 16 years old and had to take over the running of the house, doing all the cooking, washing, etc, and helping Dad, as well as helping milk while I was still at school.

By this time Mrs Dyer was the teacher; she was an elderly widow who believed in the individual effort and motivation. At this stage I needed encouragement, and was instead put down, and I know this had a lasting effect on my life. I was not her favourite pupil, but when Charlie Keys became teacher I topped the school, although I was always late in the morning for arithmetic, which I could never catch up on. I had to help with the milking and get a lunch of sorts and walk miles before nine. I always enjoyed Arts and Crafts, History and Geography. There were seldom sports; rounders and a basketball existed, but the playground was very wet.

Cocoa was boiled up on a wood stove during winter months, every family bringing a bottle of milk at times. Earlier year saw me winning all the running races at school picnics because of being tall and pretty strong for my age, but later, after having growing pains in my hips, I became more interested in swimming. Charlie took us down to Weber's Creek, to a large pool below diamond bridge, or to Rocky Creek when the tide was full.

I wanted to do more schooling but after I got my School Leaving Certificate we couldn't afford High School, the nearest of which was in Whangarei anyway. I had to stay home at 13 and worked on the farm full-time. Every type of job was expected to be done, and in those days we were brought up with a conscience and a sense of dedication, doing whatever was necessary for keeping the farm going regardless of any other, more personal wishes in life. No wages were ever seen until the final year (1944) I was on the farm and Bill and Louis were there and then that was 30 shillings a week.

Mrs Joe Munroe encouraged me to start gardening so from 12 years onwards I was digging clay around the house and saving precious wash water for the plants. Loads of cow manure were collected by sledge and hoed into the heavy soil, as was superphosphate fertiliser, readily available from the farm, for Dad never scrimped on this necessity. Also added was basic slag.

All of this was landed on the beach, having been brought from Auckland by the 'Te Tui', operated by Capt. William Moffatt and his youngest son Wilfred who was later to become my husband. 'Te Tui' was a flat bottomed vessel especially built at the Te Kopuru shipyards for Kaipara Harbour conditions, and was able to sit on any mud or sand beach at high tide, allowing easy unloading when the tide went out.

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...and bathroom heated by a chip heater. The open verandah faced East and the sea, and was also boarded in. Lino was also bought for the kitchen, a dark hole where the stove was. Teatree wood for the stove was cut by axe every day out in the bush paddock.

Dad's last year or so was spent hand-sawing in a frame enough firewood every day for that stove. By that time his eyes were going, but not before he had hand-made a fishing net beside the sitting room window. I remember helping to roll and hammer on the lead line [bottom edge sinkers]. The net was afterwards tanned with wattle bark. At this stage we had also repaired an old fishing punt named 'Nancy' given to us by Archie Baker; it was a heavy brute to row.

About 1938-39 Harry and Dad procured the plans for a 'Z'-class yacht as Harry always loved sailing and idolised all the sail boats in Auckland. All the frames were put together on the kauri dining table and later taken to Webers' where Bruno built the outside and rigging.

It was launched in 1941 (?) and many a Sunday was spent on the tide, with me being roped in as crew. This was now a way of getting to the Pahi regattas, the highlight of our Summer, being held mainly in January or February on a high midday tide. There were launch races, rowing races, swimming races as well as land sports, plus the flagship steamers such as 'Tuirangi', Wairoa' and 'Ruawai' from Helensville and Dargaville were a big attraction.

There were many sideshows from Auckland, set up on the acres of flat land at Pahi, which at that time boasted a Hotel and Chadwick's Store. These things I remember of the years 1935 to 1941, after which time the Regatta was discontinued until 1946 when peace was declared.

One year I went with Joe Hall and saw a float plane arrive with J.G. Coates, PM of NZ aboard. I would have been about 9 or 10 at the time. I remember too that Eppie Shelfoon (sp?) and his band from Auckland sang 'Happy Days are here again' all day long with banjos.

When I was about 15 or 16 I won the swimming race and the 10 shilling prize. Another favourite competition was the Greasy Pole, which was often won by Boots Brown.

A dance was always held afterwards at the Whakapirau Hall, across the river, but I was only ever allowed to go once, with Ron Slack; too young, of course. Whakapirau in earlier days had the largest timber mill in New Zealand and hundreds of sailing ships from all over the World traded in the Kaipara Harbour. I can still remember seeing the acres of sawdust in the gully behind the store and wharf, and rusting machinery laying about everywhere.

It was Wilf's home town, for although he'd been born in Helensville his family shifted to Whakapirau in his childhood as Pop's Capt. W. Moffatt's 'Te Tui' traded...

[break in pages after page 53 resumes next page 58]

...the way home from taking out the cream in the mornings. Harry sometimes dug heaps of these rushes out but later found that mowing weakened them and they finally died out.

With a borrowed scoop and plough a huge dam was dug out in a hollow not far from the road boundary, below where the house now stands. Also scooped out was a dam in the very back paddock, in bush where a small creek did run in Winter. Sometimes, if the Summer was not too dry, these dams held enough water for the cows, but not very often.

There were no bulldozers available in those days to dig larger dams, and so it was heartbreak to be short of water later on in the Summer after having had them overflowing in the Winter.

When WWII broke out on September 3 1939 dairy products were once more in demand overseas, so the dairy herd was increased and more pigs raised for bacon etc. By this time Dad was confined to the house, so Harry was exempted from overseas service for several years but did 3 months Army Service in the Winter when the cows were dry, during which time Jean and I did all the farm work required.

At this stage I had severely sprained my wrist starting the milking machine engine, and couldn't do much farmwork. Not long after the 'Battle of the River Plate', which we followed on radio on May 20, 1941, Dad had a severe stroke and we had to get Gordon Hammond down to help us. Dad was taken from the farm by Ambulance to the Te Kopuru Hospital, where he lived only three more days.

At the time Harry and Ron Slack were away on a holiday to the Matamata and Rotorua areas, as well as visiting Phil Munro in Tokeroa, but we managed to contact Harry who made it to the hospital only a few hours before Dad passed away. He was later buried with Mum in Hukatere cemetery.

With Dad gone I was entirely without parents at the age of 16. Jean was 20 and Harry 22, and since Jean had taken over the responsibility of nursing Dad plus generally running the household since she was 16, she now decided she wanted to see more of life, and went to work in Auckland at about 1943.

This left me having to learn about housework the hard way, plus I still had to help with all farm jobs, which in fact I much preferred, along with growing vegetables. Since petrol was rationed for milking purposes only, my only means of transport was my horse or my pushbike, but I still managed to get to the Ruawai pictures when a good film was on; Bobby McBreen, Nelson Eddy and Jeanette McDonald were favourites in those days. Occasionally patriotic dances were also held to raise war funds, or there were card evenings.

We sailed the Yeddy (?) [David Reynolds comments this was probably 'Zeddie' and the vessel described earlier in the story; commonly known as a Z class or 'Takapuna'] over to Matakohe Store several times but always had to watch the tides as it was a matter of pushing the boat out over knee-deep mud if we were late. One day while coming home from Patu [Paatau?] with an easterly wind Harry simply lifted the centreboard and sailed home over the mud. Fortunately the channel was still level and full of water, so there was scarcely a bump and only a few scratches on the plywood bottom where we sped over pipi beds.

Once when Wilf was home from Fiji on Army leave they rescued Lionel Quaife from his sailing boat which had capsized in a gale by Mum's [unreadable]. Since petrol was rationed and only available for fishermen, all Regattas were cancelled, and Moffat's 'Te Tui' made her last trip in September of 1941 mainly through lack of diesel. Pop Moffatt went to work in G West (?) sawmill in Helensville.

At this time Gorrie Pratt was the cream truck driver for the Ruawai Dairy Co. on our run, and I got to know him and his wife Molly (née Skelton) very well. I often babysat his family when I was in Ruawai overnight, although we often had the kids down on the farm with us.

This was at the time I always took the cream out with Prince or Hector to Webers' back gate, a quarter mile in from [unreadable] corner bridge. Nigel Hall would carry his Kero tin down, and Basil Weber had horses. Generally it took from 1 to 1½ hrs after milking, while Harry fed the pigs and calves and washed the milking machine and cream separator plus of course the cowshed itself.

Harry was never an early riser and was often very late in the morning. Mum had always been the person to motivate the household, of necessity, and this was missed very much indeed as no amount of pushing by Jean would help at times.

It was only after the arrival of Laurie and Bill Gwillim that I managed to get some order into my own work. There was no lack of work; I had to catch and harness every draught horse, usually barefoot unless in Winter we could buy our ration of gumboots.

We also had Ngati, an excellent small, stocky stock horse who could spin or stop on a sixpence, and often unsuspecting riders would continue onwards after he had stopped. The horse was fast and surefooted and often helped Arthur Hawkes on drives to the Paparoa Saleyards if I had him shod at the time. Fitting horseshoes meant a ride of 16 miles to Ruawai and E. Williams who had his blacksmith business there. I would stay at Pratts overnight and ride home the next day.

Country & Western music was at its height then, and with a horse and a saddle to ride it made my day. I collected loads of records and yodels, and at the age of 15 was writing to a Colin Grace in Bowraville, NSW, who was also on a farm. Forty seven years later, in June 1983, I finally met him and his wife Jean. I am now so pleased we did, for 18 months later he died of a heart attack. Who knows what might have happened if travel had been permitted in those days.

In the early part of the war Jean and I did a course in St. Johns First Aid, finishing off with a week in Te Kopuru Hospital with Shirley Coates. The course was held at 'Totara House' in Matakohe, where Mavis and Claris Smith lived. All the young girls met to practice bandaging etc and a Mrs Williams, a St. Johns Ambulance officer from Dargaville came down to coach us.

In addition, Ivan Coates took a class of local girls through a basic Mechanics' course, and I still hold certificates for both of these. The threat of Japanese invasion was very real in those days.

About this time the Rt. Hon. J.G. Coates, who was the Minister for War at the time, had a heart attack in Parliament and was buried in Matakohe cemetery. We all attended in Auxillaries uniforms, a khaki drill button-thru tunic with a red tie.

Our farm actually joined 'Ruatuna', the original Coates farm [David Reynolds, who for years managed the property for the NZ Historic Places Trust, makes a gentle correction here and tells us the property was actually 6 km from the museum existing today], at the far back paddock where a shallow creek and mudflat ended in a tidal flow from Webers' Gully. There was an old orchard facing eastwards that had a big selection of apples and old plums, which made temptations for many kids. Miss Dolly and Miss Ada Coates, sisters of J.G and Rodney Coates, lived there and held many garden parties for fund raising. Miss Ada was a successful farmer with sheep and Hereford steers, some of which often strayed across the mud and appeared to like the taste of our grass.

In spite of clothes rationing and a shortage of many small items a lot of improvising was done and nobody really went short in this country, especially food. We bought or packed many parcels for overseas Red Cross Parcels, and sent loads to England.

When power finally came through to Hukatere we were unfortunately too far from the line to connect economically. Joe Hall could not afford to have it in, and we would have had to get a line from Webers or from Rocky Creek. It wasn't until Harry rebuilt the house at its present site that the line could come across the boundary from Bill C [Coates?] cowshed, some time in the 1950's.

Lacking power, we bought Webers' hanging kero light and benzine iron [My mother says that a benzine iron had a small flame with an exhaust exiting from the rear of an otherwise normal iron shape.]. Flat irons were always used on top of the wood stove and water for a tin bath was heated in a copper outside or on the stove itself inside. These flat irons had another use in the milking shed where they were used as weights on the milking machine cups. I remember that Mum was a member of the Womens Institute which met monthly in the Hall beside the school, and her curls came from a hot poker heated in the stove, although her hair was already white in her late 20's.

Only recently (1990) I have seen photos of the first Weber homestead, the one at the point. A picture taken from a punt a few hundred yards offshore shows a smokehouse set in against the cliff by the sandstone rocks, a fertiliser shed next to a jetty which was built out towards the small single rock and then under the quince trees on a small flat stood another shed. A lot of that ground has in fact washed away since I left there.

Looking towards our cowshed were hundreds of cabbage trees, so all the real bush had been cleared by then. Who owned this land before 1888? And where did the native trees come from which I know were pit-sawn by the young Weber sons on that very site, known as Totara Paddock?

Bruno was born in Auckland and went to school in Parnell until he was 7, so a family of 8 must have arrived at Hukatere. There are photos of Bruno and his brothers as young teenagers, with draught horses and boats featuring in many of them. Fruit trees and gardens were flourishing, and terraces were covered in grape vines.

The Macrocarpa trees surrounding the garden were then only 10 ft high, but when I was young they were already fully grown and many were felled for posts and battens. This called for half a day spent with huge cross-cut saws to get one down, and then many hours splitting logs 8 ft through with cordite and detonators.

Large Pine logs were cut and milled at Helensville and thus we built a wash-house and workshop and finally put in a copper and tubs under cover, complete with concrete floor.

Thus the war years passed with Harry being exempted from overseas service for two years on account of dairy produce being a top priority. 1944 saw him on final leave [query; leave before going overseas?] but the war in Europe was ended and later Japan was bombed.

Three months of every Winter Harry spent in army camp. Wilf was posted to Fiji for 18 months, then home, and finally to the Solomons, was wounded and sent home in late 1944, but by then the Moffatt family had shifted to Whangarei so Wilf followed, working on a farm at Marua. We were married in July 1945. {at the Anglican Church at the Regent}

We started our married life while the country was still under manpower restrictions, and were on a farm at Whareora owned by Henry Donaldson. Rationing was still in force and there were few imports, so there was a shortage of building materials and cars. Wilf fixed his Royal Enfield motorbike he'd had pre-war when he'd been working on the 'Tui' and this was our transport. We stayed in Whareora for 9 months until Henry married. Whareora was a great district.

We then had a small flat in a Fraser house {owned by Aunty Kitty Fraser} [query; define please] in Maunu Road for 25 shillings a week, and Wilf started at Busck Concrete until he joined the Rehabilitation project for soldiers to learn as an apprentice carpenter.

By the time I left home and at the age of 21 came to Whangarei, Joe Gwillim had bought Joe Hall's farm for 650 pounds bare and went into partnership with Harry [query; was this in addition to the original property?]. After the war years the farm prospered and tractors, trucks and machinery in general made farming a lot easier. A water pipeline was laid from Rocky Creek and concrete troughs were then placed in all the paddocks, plus all the races and roads were paved with limestone.

The house was shifted to the front road end of the farm and rebuilt; Harry had housekeepers until he met Margaret {who had a son John and daughter Judy} and married at the age of 40. They went on to have another 4 boys. Later they sold the farm and lived in Auckland where Harry eventually died at 63.

Sister Jean worked in Auckland and Christchurch, and married Norm Nicholson in her 30's, also subsequently having 4 children. Since Norm worked in various dairy factories, she has lived in numerous houses around New Zealand, but has now settled in Whangarei.

If you have read the above in its entirety you will realise that there are bits and pieces missing and unexplained details.. It would be wonderful if people recognising any missing or unclear items could contact us and help extend and clarify the story.

Phyllis has now passed away and is buried in Whangarei, but her memories live on in what she has described of a life now almost incomprehensible to modern young people.

Ships mentioned
  'Te Tui'
List of persons mentioned in the text
  Brown, Boots
Burrows, Amy
Burrows, Caroline
Burrows, Charles
Burrows, Henry William
Burrows, Henry (Harry)
Burrows, Mark
  Hawkes, Arthur
MacDonald, Bella
MacDonald, Willie
Mayall, Ann
McKenzie, Jean
Moffatt, Wilf
Moffatt, William (Bill)
I have recently (2010) back to the area of the properties mentioned and now have a better idea of the geography involved; the Kaipara Harbour has fingers of land usually running north-south, and the main peninsula in this case is now known as the Tinopai Peninsula.

Off this main finger of land are many smaller ones, and in between are countless bays of water and mangrove inlets. The outlook from the farm was largely to the east or nor-east, towards the next peninsula where Pahi is situated, hence the description of 'over to Pahi'

To get to the old farm one must drive to Matakohe where there is an outstanding Kauri museum at the site of the old 'Ruatahuna' property, once owned by the Coates family, then further south along the peninsula to Hukatere, where one turns east. A Coates was the first NZ born Prime Minister for the country.

From Matakohe drive further down the peninsula unto a signpost points left to Hukatere, and some kilometers later another, also on the left, directs one to the cemetery.

The cemetery is on a small bluff that overlooks the Rocky Creek crossing mentioned, and the property is on the road to the left.

Following the now gravel road around the edge of the mangroves you soon find the entire peninsula has been cut up into 'lifestyle' blocks and that nothing remains of the original buildings.


Cordite & detonators:,

The method of splitting macrocarpa logs was also used in many other places. The Macrocarpa (known as Ponderosa Pine in the Americas) is a large tree with greenery very similar to the cypress, The timber has beautiful yellow wood that tends to be very twisty.

Once a tree is felled and a post length of trunk sawed off it is necessary to split it over and over again to arrive at post-sized sections. To achieve this a cylinder of steel that had a narrow end is hammered into the cut face of the bole, filled with coarse gunpowder, and fired with a short fuse and detonator. The resulting explosion often flings the device many tens of meters away, but the wood can then be worked with steel wedges.

  Clausen, Oscar
Clausen, Mary
Coates, Ada
Coates, Dolly
Coates, Ivan
Coates, J.G.
Coates, Rodney
Crispe, Melville
Donaldson, Henry
Fraser, Kitty
Grace, Colin
Grace, Jean
Gwillim, Bill
Gwillim, Joe
Gwillim, Laurie
Hall, Joe
Hall, Nigel
Hall, Martha
Hammond, Gordon
Hansen, Rita
Keys, Charlie
Knott, Elizabeth
  Munroe, Phil
Munroe, Joe
Pearce, Albert
Pearce, Arthur
Nicholson, Norm
Pratt, Gorrie
Pratt, Mollie
Pollard, Charlie
Quaife, Lionel
Robson, Harry
Skinner, J
Slack, Harry
Slack, Ron
Smith, Claris
Smith, Mavis
Wade, Doris
Waiapu, Ned
Weber, Bruno
Weber, Basil
Weber, Gretchen
Wilkins, Bob
Wilkins, Edie
Williams, E